The makeshift family gathers outside the school for the end of year awards ceremony. Meghan was up all night rehearsing the speech she will give as chairwoman of the debate club. Lize is showing in her pregnancy and very glad to get out of the house for something other than work. Being a paramedic is especially challenging in her condition and she'll have to take time off soon. She doesn't get to see her husband often enough, and is pretending that this is a date.
Loki was at a separate ceremony and sees them on his way out. “Good luck with your speech,” He says to Andrea. “Call me afterwards, I found a couple more options for us.”
She nods, focused on what she's doing now and offers a small smile as she walks by. It's a low maintenance relationship so far.
“Dustin, you should really think about going with us. There are some great co-ed dorms, but with three of us we could just rent a house.”
Like I want to be intruding on your love nest. Dustin thinks disgustedly, not really wanting to talk now.
“At least attend some vocational program, learn how to build more things? Wasn't there a project you had in mind?” Loki reminds him.
Dustin nods imperceptibly. “Yeah I'm pricing them out now, but I wouldn't be able to work on something like that in college anyways.”
Loki shrugs. “Just go with technology man. That kind of degree would suit you really well and you'll have a lot of different options. We can talk about it after the party this week? I'm sure we can find you a scholarship too.”
“I'm not really interested in that Loki but thanks.” He hedges. He knows that Meghan will be getting a free ride to university for her accolades in genetic research relating to biology. The fact that she has half a dozen actual stars with her name on them didn't hurt her either.
“I'll bring the application paperwork.” His friend tells him, not one to take no for an answer. They separate.
Dustin tries not to mutter impolite things under his breath. University with Loki and 'Andrea' was the last place he wanted to be, and he had run out of things to improve around Eugene's place so he was getting antsy. Maybe he'd buy a plot of land somewhere, and simply start building. He needed something to be accomplished when he felt this way, not to go off with friends playing an exaggerated version of 'house'.
The ceremonies went well, Meghan nailed her speech and they leave with their awards. Dustin is overcome with a feeling he can't explain and reaches for Meghan's hand, only to hold himself back at the last second.
She notices his hesitation and asks him what's wrong. He's just staring.
“Nothing,” He walks past her, inept as ever.
He was frustrating her so much right now. She feels an episode coming on and with great effort stamps it back. We're all under stress, she reminds herself sternly.
She didn't realize how much he used to share with her until he didn't anymore. The sense of belonging they had was there but it was strained. Maybe a good kick in the teeth would open his mouth. Why was he being such a moody jackass lately?
She grabs his arm, not willing to let him get away with tiptoeing around her anymore. “Dustin. We need to talk, will you just look at me?”
He shrugged. What was the point of this anyways? It would kill him to have to watch the two of them together at university. Why was she so damn clueless about things?
It was actually pretty easy to get him to talk though. She manages to peg him with a snowball in the neck and he can't stay angry.
“That's for being a mopey jerk!” She says laughing. He's facing her now so that's good.
One look at each other and they're back to this. It's a roller-coaster in a way, but not horrible. Is he really so upset about the university thing?
“We can go together.” She tries to tell him. We're going over the details after our birthdays, come with us. I know Loki asked me, but we both agree it wouldn't be the same without you.”
“Meghan...” He says her voice cautiously as if it's precious. Because she is Drea at school and only Eugene's family calls her Meghan, her birth name is something special to them. It reminds her that they are family in a way.
He always manages to make her feel that she's important to him, even if he doesn't know he's doing that directly. She wonders if there's any way she can do the same thing for him.
“There are grant programs, scholarships- it wouldn't be a problem- we won't have to borrow a lot from Eugene and Lize. You wouldn't be a burden to us if you come along I hope you know that.” She doesn't want him to feel abandoned, but she doesn't want to be without him either. It's complicated now. Everything is.
Dustin smiles a little at the urgency in her voice. He knows she's truly excited about it, the future is all open doors and adventure. He's too practical to believe careless things about the future, or maybe she just knows she can make every one of her goals happen. She'll be fine without him, even if she doesn't believe that right now. He finds it obvious.
He chooses his next words carefully. “I think... you're a very smart person Meghan. You'll do very well there, a place that can satisfy your curiosities, hold your attention for more than three seconds... whether Loki and I go with you or not maybe University is a good fit for you. You'll be a field researcher like you dream about, not chained to a desk but to ideas. As for me... I'm not going to uni.”
Silence. She was waiting for him to explain.
His gray eyes searched her face for understanding, possibly even forgiveness. “I- I really like when I can make people happy, encourage them you know?” He began. “Think back to prom for example, why do you think we were voted prom king and queen? It's not because I can dance or I'm really smart. You're smart, and you won because you win over everyone the way the sun does when it bursts from the clouds after a week of rain. You make people feel energized and happy, so they voted for you. I think people find me amusing, simple as that. Did Loki tell you how I tried to intimidate him when he asked you to date him?”
She frowned; so no then.
He continued. “I wanted him to know that he wasn't allowed to do anything to hurt you- everything happened so quickly that I thought he was trying to take advantage or something – I know you're smart so I'm not saying he would have been successful if that was the case- and instead of responding how I expected after I seriously threatened him, he laughed at me assuming it was all just a joke.”
She didn't like where this conversation was going so far. “Dustin-”
“I'm not finished. It made me realize a few things. Number one, you and Eugene are the only people who take me seriously, ever. I naturally inspire people to laugh and I want to embrace that part of myself instead of trying to be who I'm not.'
"Number two, you and I need time apart. You don't need me even if you think you do, and you'll be fine no matter what happens. I'm going to get a job at the theater after I graduate so I can learn to perform on stage. Maybe I'll try a few open mics or something like that. I'll work out here a bit and when I'm better, I'll make a name for myself in Starlight Shores. Once I'm able to support myself, I'll contact my family, let them know that I'm alright.”
Meghan just looked at him, shocked. So, graduation was going to mean they were saying goodbye?
He released her from what was a very long embrace that she realized they had still been holding. The silence that resulted hung heavily, that was when she noticed that everyone had gone home except for them. How long had they been standing out here in the cold like this?
She smiled wistfully, knowing he needed her to pretend that she was okay with this. “I think you'll be really good at that.” She says, biting back a multitude of arguments.
They get home and work on late homework. Leon wishes all classes were music class. Meghan is quieter than usual and Eugene for once doesn't meddle.
Instead of having dessert, Meghan decides to yell at this book.
It has apparently committed a heinous offense against sim kind. Popular theories for this outburst include that the book is refusing to provide the supportive recipes she needs at this stage in her life and also that the book is called 'Dustin' in some social circles.
The next day after school allowed time to process more and Meghan realized that she wasn't okay with any of this. She spent the entire ride on the way home from school attempting to change his mind and feeling panic set in as he refused to.
He was having to work hard to keep ignoring the imploring notes in her voice. Can't he just get a clean break, and leave this drama behind with his dignity intact? It hadn't been easy to tell her he wasn't going with them in the first place.
“I don't want to talk about this anymore.” He groans.
“It's not the end of the world, it's the next step, it's what we're supposed to be doing next. Why won't you come with us? You can get a degree that will help you in the entertainment industry even!”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“Then you can work on mechanical projects, which you love. If it's a free scholarship there's nothing for you to lose! Loki found some good ones yesterday, we're sure you can get in!”
“Come on Meghan we've been over this. And you have, uh, Loki to look out for you now.” He says, snapping her out of her reverie. “You don't need me to be there. You'll be fine.”
She studies his face. He's different now. He didn't look so angry before, or is depressed a better word for it? He was hard for her to read which was infuriating right now.
Is he worried about her again? That she was going to mess something up and he was going to have to fix it? No, that was her worry. But the way he looked... She wanted him to be proud of her, she had done everything right, gotten her life together, a life that she wanted him to be a part of, why couldn't he just go along with it and humor her for a few measly semesters?
But something deeply was wrong and graduating high school was starting to feel like the end of a golden age.
“We'll still be friends, right?” She asks him quietly, and he finally looks her in the eye. He doesn't respond.
She fidgeted, it was quickly becoming clear that Dustin was going to say something she didn't want to hear. She had gone through every scenario trying to find the one where he would agree. Eventually she fell silent, crestfallen, having nothing left to say.
He hated the way she had said that, so afraid. He reached up and moved a few strands of hair from out of her eyes, being careful not to actually touch her. He couldn't handle getting closer than this. “Why do you want me to go?” He asked, his own voice betraying a depth of emotion.
She froze: she didn't know what to say. It felt like there was something exact that he was looking for and she was scared she wouldn't be able to provide the right answer. She didn't want to be separated from him, what was she a child? She couldn't say that after working so hard.
“Please just come with us. Come with us, Dustin. It won't be the same without you- nothing will be right if we aren't together, don't you feel that way too?” All pretense is broken and she asks him earnestly. It moves him and makes him feel incredibly uncomfortable at the same time. He feels a crack, within the facade that he had created where he'd be fine without her, but he wasn't really the one she wanted to be with, right? Why drag me along!? He wants to scream.
He doesn't know how to respond, and knows he should just head upstairs to get ready for the party without saying anything at all. But everything he's told himself is starting to crumble.
Childhood is the place where nobody ever leaves, no one dies, and nothing gets broken.
If you love someone, you'll let them go.
It all sounds stupid in the face of this moment when he just can't let go and walk away from her. Not when she looks like this.
He sighs deeply, feeling self-hatred begin to well up. “Maybe if there is a good scholarship opportunity...” He mumbles, hedging his bet that he'll be able to back out later when he isn't facing this kind of pressure. He knows he won't refuse again.
She smiles, knowing that she's won. She won't have to decide anything for a while now. Crisis averted! If there's one thing Meghan cannot handle it's separation. It was going to be hard enough leaving Eugene, Lize and the kids behind after this. If Dustin came with them, things would work out, she knew they would.
But dammit, she looks so happy and relieved. This was torture. If Meghan wanted to jump off of a bridge with him, he'd probably do it. The thought should terrify him but it doesn't somehow. It would be so much quicker if she just took him to the top of a nice, tall bridge right now so he could find out.
He excuses himself to go upstairs and do whatever brave young men did when they wanted to cry but were unable to force it. He was not going to let himself hope for something to come of this. That stupid party was later tonight anyways. They shared a birthday, it was supposed to be fun.
All too soon, a bunch of people show up. Karl's younger sister Kristin shows up for no reason, not having been invited.
Loki's family is invited, his sisters and parents. Loki's younger sister Erin just aged up to teen and Dustin humors her with a dance. He leads, thank you very much.
Dustin goes first.
From the left; Dustin, Loki, Lynn's scalp, Kristin, some creeper who's name I've forgotten, Karl, Erin, Edvin's younger brother whats-his-face.
Meghan's in front of course.
Nice pants Dustin. He's now a Natural Born Performer.
Lize, check your five! Yeowch, looks painful!
Yeah she didn't uhhh.... didn't check her five. I mean, her seven-thirty. Whatever.
This old guy is someone's dad, Edvin's I think who we've never met before and also did not invite. But nobody cares because he brought freaking lobster!
Meghan ages up wearing whatever she feels like, as usual. Loki's dad seems unimpressed. She is now a Computer Whiz.
Eugene is excited to get part of the house back soon.
Kristin leaves without even having cake. She must have read Jennika's blog post about how to remove oneself graciously from a party. Classy like.
It can't be put off anymore, he thinks as he watches the dark liquid swirl in his cup. He has to seriously decide now. Is he going, is he not going? He feels resigned, he knows he's going to get dragged along to university.
It's college, it can't be that bad, he thinks.
Also, coffee is crap. Why did adults drink this garbage?
Meghan gets him a gift. How thoughtful.
Except it's one of these.
He sighs dramatically and fills out the application.
Loki is so tiny now, compared to them. How adorable.
That cannot be my competition, Dustin thinks selfishly. He was going to try again, maybe come out on top for once. A lot could change in a few short semesters and he was not going to waste them.
College was going to change everything.
Haha baby Loki compared to everyone else. That was a lazy ass party on my part. Just age up already! >:O
I love Dustin without his glasses actually. And sorry if the drama is too damn high (much like the rent in certain places) I couldn't write them another way with all the faces they constantly make at each other and the random arguments they kept having. Things will get better though soon. For some people (laughs in schadenfreude).
And I can't spoil anything and somewhat I don't even want to mention it, but I'm really glad the three of them met and became friends (especially after literally no one else ever worked out in the whole freaking town). It sort of feels like Dustin, Meghan and Loki vs the world right now which can't continue but I've been so inspired by their personalities even if things will change drastically in the future. That's all I can say about it now. Please pardon the vagueness of that.
Also a few more things; Starlilght Shores is where Gen 1 will take place, and I cannot stand university so I'm hoping they won't be there long. Probably a few posts though. Gen 1 officially starts next post, and Dustin rolled 'Magician' which I think suits him quite well!