Aurora stood before the full length mirror, and remembered her wedding day with a nostalgic sigh. She’d stood in this very same spot, looking into the very same mirror, but the reflection staring back at her today was very different. It wasn’t so long ago that she’d donned her wedding veil, but on the morning of her elder birthday, Aurora was keenly aware of the passage of time. Yet she stared into the mirror, cheerily inspecting the crow’s feet around her eyes and the worry lines etched into her forehead. The worry lines, she knew, were a product of Coralie’s disappearance – a trial that had taken a toll on her both her mind and her body.
But with her daughter returned, and the threat to the legacy behind them, Aurora was far from bothered by her wrinkles. She traced the laugh lines around her mouth, and as she did, she smiled. Today she would spin into an elder, but she would not mourn her youth. Her life so far had been everything she’d dreamed, full of children and family, topped off with a wonderful and understanding husband. And as time marched on – as her children careened toward birthdays of their own – Aurora felt ready to tackle the next phase of her life.
And so, when she heard Palani call her name, she grinned. It was time to blow out the candles. Time to grab the future by the horns!
But Aurora winced as a sharp pain shot through her hip. She knew becoming an elder would mean gray hair and more wrinkles, but arthritis was something else entirely. She pulled out a compact mirror and took a hesitant glance at her new self. Looking up at Palani, she wondered how he would feel about his older, aging wife.
Aurora: Well, honey – how’s it feel being married to an old woman like me?
Palani smiled indulgently and pulled her into his arms.
Palani: You’re beautiful, Aurora. Always were and always will be. No matter how old you are, blonde hair or gray – you’re still you. And I love you.
He winked mischievously and pulled her closer.
Palani: And those hips will never get old, if you know what I mean… I happen to know a really good way to keep them limber…
Xander and Coralie rolled their eyes.
Xander: Yuck, you guys. Could you spare us the dirty talk? Get a room or something?
And that’s exactly what they did.
Over the next few days, Aurora adjusted to life as an elder. She was a grandmother of three, after all, and now at least she looked the part.
As Xander’s and Lola’s birthdays drew near, and as Leo quickly outgrew his crib, Aurora decided that a party was in order. There were preparations to be made, and as the matriarch of family, she made it her mission to throw the best birthday bash yet. First she set to baking the cake, which – incidentally – was a piece of cake, as Aurora had just maxed out her cooking skill.
And as she compiled a mental guest list, Aurora was struck by an idea. Just because it wasn’t Coralie’s birthday didn’t mean she didn’t deserve a surprise of her own.
On the night of the party, just before the guests were due to arrive, Coralie stood over Leo’s crib, taking in his chubby cheeks and tiny fingers for the last time. He was getting big so fast, and she could scarcely believe that the time had come for his childhood to officially begin.
Coralie stood back, and Leo sprung from his crib. He smiled oddly up at his mother, and immediately lunged at her, laughing wildly when she jumped back in surprise.
Coralie stared at him, stunned, looking him straight in the eye – and what she saw there took her breath away. It couldn’t be… could it? Her sweet little boy just couldn’t be…. evil. No, of course not! He was her diabolical little monster, sure, but only metaphorically! No, it just wasn’t possible. Leo was precious, sweet – and as he laughed again – childlike now, innocent – Coralie knew she’d been mistaken. Leo could never be evil.
Coralie hugged him tight, and Leo hugged her back, the way a loving son would, and the two of them walked hand in hand into the party.
(Here is Leo in CAS).
Meanwhile, the guests had begun to arrive downstairs. Auggie and Isaac were both in attendance, as well as Jared and Zachariah, Tabitha, Niko, and even Sherry L’Amour.
Xander had insisted on inviting Sherry, of course, but when Janie Santander walked in the door, he found his attention was diverted.
Auggie shot him a warning look as he walked by, but Xander was undeterred. Today was his young adult birthday, and Sherry was only a teenager. She was much too young for him, he decided quickly. What he needed was a real woman – a woman like Janie. Someone older and more mature – someone on his own playing field. He glanced around, making sure Sherry was nowhere to be seen (no sense in hurting her feelings, he thought), and then he turned to Janie and turned on the charm.
A few flirtatious jokes later, and Xander was sure that Janie was smitten. He pulled out his phone, eager to get her phone number, when singing erupted from the dining room. They were calling his name – time to blow out the candles!
Janie: Come on, Xander! It’s time!
She ran off before he could seal the deal, leaving him no choice but to join them all.
After watching her big brother get his turn at the candles, Lola could wait no longer for her own birthday cake. Aurora laughed at her indulgently, and directed her guests to the kitchen for their second round of the birthday song.
Lola has acquired the Music Lover trait (in addition to her geek trait) and fittingly, an aspiration to become a Musical Genius. Here she is in CAS:
Overwhelmed with pride at the young woman she’d become, Aurora hugged Lola tight.
Aurora: Happy birthday, sweetie.
Lola: Thanks, Mom.
She drew away and looked around.
Lola: But Mom… have you seen Coralie?
Aurora smiled conspiratorially. Because she already knew that Coralie was otherwise engaged….