Sylvie returned from Sixam feeling more sure and clear-headed than ever. There was nothing to be found in the alien realm – no hidden connection to Elphie’s long-ago disappearance, no secret clues to follow. The alien had said as much, and that was all the proof that Sylvie needed. Perhaps Emmeline had gone crazy in her elder years, imagining conspiracy theories and spinning yarns that would never make any sense. There was no real proof that Elphie Hasslich had ever even existed! It was folklore, family legend – nothing more. The legacy was not in danger, and that was that.
And so, with the matter of Emmeline’s great mystery settled, Sylvie was ready to get on with her life. It was finally time for her and Abe to tie the knot – time to officially become Mrs. Hasslich-Lothario.
They invited their family and friends to the church in Newcrest, and the ceremony commenced.
And of course, after the standard vows and kissing of the bride, the REAL party got started.
But before long, the newlyweds were headed off for their very glamorous honeymoon – camping. No, Granite Falls was not Sylvie’s number one choice for a honeymoon destination, but it turned out they had no choice at all. Their travel agent seemed to know only the one vacation spot – the same place that all Hasslich newlyweds had honeymooned before them.
But Sylvie resolved to make the best of a rather disappointing situation, and Abe did his best to find a rental property that emanated romance rather than the rank stench of bear poo. Luckily for them, the cottage that Abe had reserved was more than perfect. Small and cozy beside a beautiful private pond, Sylvie was reminded to be grateful for all the wonderful things she had and most of all, for her kind (and handsome!) new husband.
And of course, in the tradition of newlyweds everywhere, they kicked their honeymoon off the best way they knew how.
Meanwhile, as Sylvie and Abe celebrated their love in the great outdoors, life went on as usual at home.
Addie – who had attended her cousin’s wedding out of sheer spite alone – had decided that it was time for her to find a man of her own. Not that she actually wanted a man so much – not really. What Addie DID want was a baby. A beautiful, stunning baby girl who would one day grow into the most breathtakingly gorgeous Hasslich woman the legacy had ever seen.
Not that she actually wanted a baby, either – not really. What Addie DID want was proof. Solid, living proof that her mother’s line – her line – of the family had been the ONLY choice for the heirship.
Not that she actually wanted to be the heir, anyway – not really. She only wanted to prove that she SHOULD be the heir, that she COULD be the heir, that any child of hers would put Aurora’s little beasts to shame.
And so, Addie set out on the town in search of a sucker to father her child. He would have to be devastatingly handsome, of course – it couldn’t hurt to bolster the kid’s genetic pool, no matter how beautiful the mother. But he would also have to be stupid….malleable. Someone she could manipulate to her advantage, and who wouldn’t expect a commitment in return.
It took her all day to find a man with the right credentials (stupid men weren’t hard to come by – it was the “handsome” part that was trickier).
His name was Stephen Santander.
Addie worked her magic on him – which meant keeping her usual nasty comments to herself, and assuming a sweet, flirty demeanor. It was an act, of course, but it was an act she did well.
It wasn’t easy for Addie to play nice, but she managed to bite her tongue long enough to invite him back to her place.
When Sylvie and Abe returned from their honeymoon, Sylvie had big news to share with her little sister.
Aurora: Congratulations! I can’t believe it we’re pregnant at the same time! This is going to be so great! They’ll all be able to play together all the time, and grow up with their cousins!
Sylvie: Aurora – I know that you want to have a big family, and I don’t want me and Abe, or our family, to get in your way. Don’t you think maybe we should move out?
Aurora: Move out?! Please don’t! Family doesn’t just mean children. You’re my sister, Abe is my brother-in-law AND my cousin for crying out loud! That baby in there is my niece or nephew! The more the merrier here. I couldn’t stand to lose you! And besides, this way we can help each other with the children.
What the sisters didn’t know, of course, was that their cousin Addie had news of her own to share.
Later that evening, Addie approached her cousins over dinner.
Addie: It turns out that you two aren’t the only ones with buns in the oven! I’M pregnant too!
Jaws dropped all around the table. No one had believed that Addie could be nice to a man for long enough to actually conceive a baby. The shocked silence stretched out uncomfortably, until Sylvie spoke first.
Sylvie: I guess that means it’s finally time for you to move out, then!
Sylvie had no love lost for her cousin, and she often wondered why Aurora didn’t just kick her out of the house already. But Aurora was the heir, and she had the authority to say who would stay and who would go, and so Sylvie kept her mouth shut. Mostly.
Aurora: Addie doesn’t need to move out. Unless she wants to.
Addie feigned sweetness (she was getting better at this), but Sylvie saw straight through her, even as Addie began to cry.
Addie: I’d prefer to stay, if you’ll have me. The father…he left me! I thought he loved me! But when I told him I was pregnant, he ran. I’m all alone in this, now. I’m so….scared!
Aurora, being kind to fault and prioritizing family above all, could not bring herself to ask Addie to leave under the circumstances.
Aurora: You can stay, Addie. As long as you want. This is a good thing! All these new babies! A new generation of Hasslich’s, all under the same roof! But Addie – there can be no more mischief, no more drama. If I see or hear you stirring up trouble again, I will have to ask you to leave. I won’t have my children growing up in a negative environment. As long as you can get along nicely, you are welcome here for as long as you like.
Addie agreed, of course. Sylvie relaxed a bit, and the idea of all the children playing together overshadowed whatever residual resentment she held for her cousin. Aurora mixed them drinks (virgin for the women, of course, and a Flaming Zesty for Abe) and they celebrated their new arrivals long into the night.
But they were too excited, too secure, safe in their family home, to notice the dark figure lurking…watching… just outside their walls.