Malik groaned and rolled over, forgetting that he was sleeping on a sofa. The hard thump as his head hit the ground soon reminded him. He sat up, wincing.
“Lor? Are we expecting visitors?”
Over the noises of the nursery, Lor’s voice carried through the door. “Not today, no. Could you get the door? Leo’s not feeling too well.”
Malik rubbed the bump on his head and stood, walking towards the front door. Who could it be?
“Mum?!” Malik rushed forwards, hugging her tightly. “Where have you been? I thought something awful had happened.”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Just having a bit of trouble breathing” she said, laughing. Malik loosened his grip with a sheepish smile. He couldn’t believe she was here. He hadn’t seen her in nearly ten years.
“What happened? Did Ciara..?”
“Your sister thought that I would be safer in an underground bunker when she unleashed her plan for world domination, so she locked me in one. She kept saying that she’d bring you, too, but it never happened.”
“Yeah, she ended up in an Evil Rehabilitation Centre. Were you alone this whole time?”
“No, I had company. She hid some of her friends there, too. We got on quite well after a while, even though they had terrible taste in music.” She looked around, admiring her surroundings. “So this is where you live now. I’m impressed! Did you move in with that friend of yours? I hope he’ll be ok when you get married and move away, I know that our house feels empty without you.”
Malik shook his head. Where to start?
“Actually, mum, Lor and I are engaged. We’ve got four children together, already.”
His mum blinked in shock. “Ok, I wasn’t expecting that. I thought Lor was a boy.”
“He is. I’m engaged to a man, mum.”
She went silent for a while, and Malik started to worry. Was she going to be angry at him? Then she looked up and smiled, and relief washed over him.
“Well,” she said, “it’s a different world nowadays. Can I meet this man of yours? I’d like to say hello to my future son-in-law.”
Malik grinned. “Sure, mum. He’s in the nursery, so you’ll get to see the babies, too! They’re so cute.”
“Four grandchildren already” she murmured, following him inside. “What else have I missed?”
Lor wasn’t in the nursery when they walked in, but Malik could hear a tap running in the en-suite, which was reassuring.
“Ok, here they are! This is Leo, that’s Lyra, and that’s Altair.”
His mum stepped forward, excited.
Malik watched as his mother peered into the cradles, and he saw the shock and… was that fear on her face?
“Son? What’s going on? Is this some kind of joke?” The smile on her face seemed forced, now.
“Dad! I found the- oh” Ellie stopped, staring in awe at the woman in front of her. “You’re so tall!”
“That’s my eldest daughter,” Malik said, a warning note in his voice as he addressed his mother, “her name is Ella.”
“You can call me Ellie, if you like! Are you my grandma? I’ve not had a live one before!”
Malik pressed his hand to his forehead. Why did she say these things out loud?
“It’s… nice to meet you, Ella” she said, her voice as strained as her smile. Luckily, Ellie was far too excited to care. A real live grandma!
“Mal, love, I just washed the… oh! We have a guest.” Lor turned to smile at the woman in the room, before noticing her expression. Had something happened for her to look so angry?
“This is my mother, Lor. Mum, meet my fiance.” Malik was busy changing Lyra, and didn’t see the discomfort on everyone’s faces. Everyone except Ellie, anyway. She was telling a story about space pirates.
Leo started whimpering again, and Lor bent over him, relieved to have an excuse to break the awkward eye contact that was going on.
“Malik? A word, please.” she said, standing up and beckoning him to follow her. Mal threw an apologetic look at his family before following her. This couldn’t be good.
He was right.
“What the plum is going on, young man?! An alien? I was willing to accept a man, but I was expecting him to at least be a normal sim!”
“I wouldn’t have encouraged your friendship if I’d known. I thought ‘Ahh yes, he sounds like a nice boy, what could possibly go wrong’. I didn’t expect this!”
“I love him, mum. If you just give him a chance, you’ll see-”
“Couldn’t you find a nice sim man to settle down with instead? I mean, look at him! And Ella’s eyes… will they all grow up like that?”
“If I’m lucky, yes. Ella is a wonderful girl, mum.”
“I’m sorry, but this is just…”
“I’m not leaving them, mum. I’m happy here. I feel like the luckiest man alive to be part of this family, and honestly” he took a deep breath before ploughing on “if you want to be a part of my life you have to accept that. You vanished for ten years. Ten years without any contact at all, then you come here and try to rearrange my life. I love you mum, but I’ve lived without your presence for a long time. I don’t want to have to do so again, but I will if I have to. This is my life now, and I love every moment of it.”
Her face crumpled in sorrow. “I love you, Malik. I just want what’s best for you.”
“This is what’s best for me. I want you to be a part of this, mum.”
“I… I think I need some time to process this. I’m sorry.”
“So am I. I’d like you to be at our wedding, if you can be happy for us.”
She looked at him, blinking back tears and walked out of the room, leaving him alone. He leant against the wall and covered his eyes with his hands. He knew he’d made the right choice, but that didn’t make it easy. He thought of his children, and Lor, and knew he’d make the same decision every time.
“Papa? What are you doing?”
“I’m making a cake. That’s what my mama always did when she wanted to cheer everyone up.”
“Is grandma sad?”
He looked down at her and ruffled her hair. “I don’t know, Ellie. I think so. I hope that’s all it is.”
“I drew her a picture.”
His heart melted as he looked at her hopeful expression. “That’s really sweet, Ellie-baby.”
She screwed up her face at the nickname, but she giggled anyway. She liked it really.
She tapped at the door to the study before tiptoe-ing in. “Grandma?”
The expression on her face made her hesitate, but she steeled herself. “I drew you a picture, and papa’s baking a cake. Please don’t be sad anymore.”
“That’s very kind, Ella, but I have to leave now. Please give your parents my apologies.” she said, standing up and leaving. She paused, and turned back. “I’ll put the picture on my wall at home, if you like?”
Ellie beamed and pressed the paper into her hand. “Yes, please.”
She looked down at the picture in her hands – she wasn’t sure what it was, but it was very colourful. “Goodbye, Ella.”
Ellie watched as she left, her heart conflicted. Had she done something wrong?
“Ellie? Mal? Mrs Miles? There’s some cake if you’re hungry.” Lor said, placing the freshly decorated cake on the table. He heard the front door shut, and Ellie walked into the room alone.
“She had to go.”
They sat in silence, staring at the food in front of them.
“Does she not like us? Did we do something bad?”
He turned to her and smiled softly. “We did nothing wrong. You were perfect, ok?”
She picked up her fork and began to eat, and slowly her mood began to lift. It was a really delicious cake.
“I’m always perfect.”
Lor was taken off guard by that remark, and almost choked on his mouthful of cake. He swallowed and laughed before leaning over and kissing her forehead. “Can’t argue with that.”
“Ellie? Have you seen your papa around?”
“He’s in the nursery. I think he needs a hug.”
Malik looked at her, surprised. “Did he seem sad?”
“He was smiling, but I felt his sadness. It was strange – it felt blue.”
He made a mental note to ask Lor what age Sixans started to develop their telepathy, and hugged her. “Thank you, Ellie.”
“Lor?” he called through the nursery door. He made sure to do so quietly, so he wouldn’t wake any sleeping babies. He heard a sniffle, and opened the door to find Lor wiping his eyes on his sleeve.
“Sorry, I’m probably just overly tired.”
Malik walked over and put his arms around the shaking man. “Lor? What is it really?”
“I know it’s selfish, but I’d hoped that she would like us. I mean, she’s your mum – she’s important to you and I wanted her to be happy.”
“Oh, Lor… I wanted that, too.”
They stood together, holding each other close. “I just want you to be happy.”
Malik moved back slightly and looked into his eyes. “I am. If she can’t see that and be happy for us, then that’s her problem. I love you, and I love our family.”