“What do you kids to say to a day at the park?”
They cheer and, in the best way I can in my abstract, incorporeal form, I smile. A change of pace will be good for everyone. After weeks of hauntings and stress and the new kids around the house, it’s been fairly tiresome for everyone. A day camping would be better—a real vacation—but considering the lack of significant income, this is the best that can be done.
“Alright, everyone, no shenanigans!”
They all provide their consent. They’re good kids, for the most part. Even Henbane and Rosary, as much as they bother me. They’re good kids.
I haven’t much gotten a feel for Iris and Lily yet, but they seem to be good too. Fairly cooperative, they clean up after themselves and do their homework and get along with everyone nicely (except for Henbane—he still has a bee in his bonnet about that, for whatever reason).
But today really isn’t about them anyway. They’re going to have a fun day in the park, enjoying themselves and having a good time. But the big plan for the day is to let Juniper relax a little—and then to have her find another baby daddy. With Iris and Lily born, she’s all ready for baby number seven.
He looks sufficient. A little messy, maybe not quite up to Juniper’s natural standards. But his spawn should be fine. Juniper is amazing, after all—any of her children are likely to be great, in their own way.
Go talk to him, Juniper.
“If I must.”
“Hey there! How’re you today?”
“I’m fine, I suppose,” the man says. He doesn’t look too excited to be talking to anyone, even Juniper. Which is a travesty. She’s a gem of a woman, anyone and everyone should be excited to talk to her.
“Are you enjoying the park? It’s a beautiful day.”
What an ass. Ignore him, Juniper. Let’s go find you someone better.
Look at that. He’s a bum, anyway. Not at all worth your time.
Juniper goes off to spend some time painting. There are some handily placed easels right in the park, so she’s near enough to watch the kids play on the equipment and race around the grass, but not so near that the raucous noise bothers her.
She takes inspiration from the fountain, I think, and from herself. That portrait reminds me a bit of her.
“It’s not me.”
I didn’t say it was. It just reminds me of you.
“It’s getting dark. Maybe we should go home.”
You’re right, it’s probably about the time. The kids will be disappointed—they seem to have had a good time today.
“They do, don’t they. I think we need to do this more often. Once a month, at least. Those kids spend too much time locked up in the house—and as cramped as it is…”
They don’t seem to mind it—they like each other well enough. But there’s nothing wrong with getting out more when they enjoy it so much.
“I wish I’d gotten more than painting done today though. I didn’t really meet anyone.”
I know, I’m disappointed too. But you’re probably glad for a break from being pregnant though, yeah?
“I don’t know. I kind of miss being pregnant. It’s a pain—especially with the vomiting and the aching joints and the swollen feet—but it’s also an incredible experience.”
You know what, the night’s still young yet. Let’s drop the kids at home—they can fend for themselves for a while—and we can go out to get some man hunting done. Sound good?
“Yeah! Let’s do it.”
“And let’s find a good one this time. The last couple have been… not exactly my type.”
It’s all you, Juniper. Find one you like.
Our first stop was a nightclub down in San Myshuno—an open air venue at the top of a skyscraper. It had an incredible view, and looked like a ton of fun, but… it was empty?
“Where is everybody? This seems like great place, I don’t get why no one’s here.”
Me either. Maybe it’s still too early for people to come clubbing—we’re not that used to the party scene, remember? And you’ve been around just me and the kids for a while. Your perception of a late night and the normal perception of a late night might be very different.
Turns out, it wasn’t just because Juniper had turned into an old lady who likes to go to sleep before dark (though, to be fair, and heart she was, and whenever she could she did).
“Oh my goodness, it’s another human person! I’m going to say hello!”
Mark was kind enough to explain that the reason no one was around was very simple—there was a massive festival going on just down the road. A lot of free drinks, food trucks, and tons of people. And, just our luck—it was a Romance Festival!
“I was just heading that way myself,” Mark explains. “I just wanted to check on Louie—the bartender. He’s new, just finished training, and as his mentor I feel a bit responsible for him.”
“Oh my gosh, he’s so responsible and caring! This one. I want to go after this one!”
“Would you like to come along?” he asks. “Since you’re new to town, I’d be happy to show you around.”
Juniper gladly assents, and in my incorporeal state I giggle gleefully. They certainly hit it off well! And a romance festival—surely there would be plenty of people for Juniper to introduce herself to!
Juniper is as awed by the festival as I am. Rose petals falling every which way, arches everywhere, and so many people. No wonder no one was at the nightclub! Everyone is here!
Juniper bounces a little with excitement as Mark explains.
“There’s a ton of stuff to do here. Get some tea, buy some food at the carts, play some games. Just have a good time! Let me know if you need any help finding your way around.”
“I think I’m going to stick with him tonight! This seems amazing, and he seems to know his way around.”
I don’t know, Juniper. It’s good that you have a guide, but I’m here to help you out a bit to. You don’t need him. And I think it’s better that you meet more people here, while you have the chance, instead of sticking with the one man.
“I thought the goal was to get pregnant again tonight?”
It is, sort of. But you want to have backup men, right? Acquaintances you can call up? If you stick with this guy the whole night, you’ll have to come man hunting again much sooner.
“I’ll stick with him just a little while longer then.”
“I really like him, Creator. I like him a lot.”
Nuh uh, Juniper. Don’t you start getting that way on me. I know that he’s nice and all, but he’s not any nicer than the other guys you’ve met.
“Yeah he is! He’s much nicer. He’s sweet, and he’s kind, and he’s a pediatrician—so he loves kids—and—“
Juniper, no. You know the rules. If you sleep with him, he has to die. If you’re this attached to him, then either reconcile yourself to the fact that he has to die anyway, or back away right now and find someone else. This isn’t going to turn out well if you keep hanging around this man.
“But… do we have to kill all of them? What if, just one of them, we keep? As my husband? What would be wrong with that?”
That’s not how this works, Juniper. You saw how bad it was with the hauntings. The Reaper isn’t happy with us as it is, because of the deaths, but the Reaper at least doesn’t have much power. He can’t do much more than disrupt everyone’s sleep. But if we introduce so much life into the world, without compensating for it somehow? Everyone in this family would be at risk, Juniper. Everyone. I won’t allow it.
“Really? Just once would be enough to mess it up?”
Yes. Now drop it.
Don’t let him sweep you up, Juniper. Disengage now, before you make a mistake you don’t want to be making.
“I heard you the first time! I’m going!”
How did I think that this would never happen? She had a hard enough time dealing with the murders with people she’d known for very little time. But I guess the atmosphere of the romance festival got to her? She got swept up in the moment, by this handsome guy full of charm and charisma who was capable of sweeping her off her feet (and out of her mind).
That’s better, Juniper. Get some painting done. Enjoy the rest of the festival far away from Mark.
Snap out of it, Blondie! You’re glowing again.
“Shit. Right. Okay. I’m focused.”
Good. Try to stay that way.
“Oh wait! There he is! I’m just going to go say hi really quickly…”
What are you doing, Juniper.
Goddamn shit god damn it.
You’re going to regret that, Juniper.
“At least I’m pregnant.”
And now you have to kill him.
“I won’t. He’s too nice. I can’t do it.”
You have to.
This isn’t going to end well, is it?