Thoughts I’ve had while writing this chapter:
- Writing is hard.
- Finishing is hard.
- My ADHD brain has a lot of reasons why we can’t finish this story and damn if they aren’t convincing.
- Writing is hard.
Really though, it is taking every ounce of everything to finish this story. And the number of times I just have to tell myself, “this is good enough, even if it’s not great, we just gotta wrap it up,” is too many times. I also have a lot of fantasies about abandoning plot points and just fixing them in part two, and that’s when I’m not fighting with myself over all the flaws in this story that my brain suddenly has a great interest in fixating on.
Writing is hard. Finishing is hard. I’m just going to put my head down, try bang out these last two chapters, and then I’m going to take a long, luxurious break where I read all the simlits, play the game for fun, and just soak up some new inspiration.
“Are you up early, or did you never go to sleep?” Cyrus called out from the doorway.
“I didn’t sleep,” Alice sighed, “Whether that’s because I’ve got the personification of my magic hanging out in a guest room or just good old-fashioned anxiety is anyone’s guess.” She decided not to point out how insane it was that her magic had a physical form. Or that that physical form was rude as hell. There was no telling how good Morgyn’s hearing was.
“Well, I think we can firmly put this in the category of ‘not supernatural,'” her dad laughed. “Even in elementary school you would stay up all night before a big test.” He squinted at the papers on the table, “What’s all this?”
“I’m just afraid something will go wrong, so I wrote it all down just to make sure.”
“And?” Her father grabbed a seat across from her, “Did you miss anything? Would it help to say it out loud?”
Alice shook her head. “I can’t find a flaw, which is kind of freaking me out. I mean, we’re making a lot of assumptions based on Morgyn and William’s information. What if we’re wrong? What if Omar doesn’t wait until the award ceremony to try and kill me? What if he ambushes us while we’re grabbing Jimena or—”
“Alice, pumpkin, relax. Plans are always based on assumptions. And I guarantee that Omar will wait until the awards ceremony for an attack.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because this is what I do,” Cyrus reminded her, “Omar believes this is a chance to settle the whole war in one fell swoop—get rid of you before you’re a threat. And if he’s as much of a showboat as Morgyn claims, he won’t be able to resist the poetry of striking you down right when you’re about to claim victory.”
“Well, I hope so,” Alice growled, “Because if not, we are screwed.” She ran a hand through her hair, “Maybe we should just leave Jimena be.” She didn’t mention the part about Maverick wanting them to also leave Miss Hell alive. Tempting as it was to have her parents’ disapproval focused on someone who wasn’t her, Alice didn’t have the heart to set her brother up.
“I taught you better than that,” her father frowned, “In this case, Morgyn is right. Omar has all the alliances and if you want a chance at breaking them, then a valuable hostage is—”
“I know, I know,” she grumbled, “I don’t know why I’m doubting myself.”
“I don’t know why either. I seem to remember a certain God of Five Things telling us to remember the number one rule of reality tv.”
“Thou shalt not see the underdog coming,” they said at the same time.
Alice giggled, “It worked in season 1-18 of the Outstanding Race.”
“See? It’s a good plan. Try to calm down. You should be celebrating! You’re about to bake your buns off.” He winked, “Get it? Buns. See what I did there?”
It was a terrible dad joke, but Alice didn’t laugh. “The Fates are gonna hand me the prize no matter what I bake because I already won. I have The Owl. I don’t even really need to try.” Her eyes pricked with tears. All these months doing this stupid contest and actually getting good at baking, and it didn’t even matter. The old Alice would have been thrilled to find this loophole. But the new Alice? The new Alice was disappointed.
Trying to hide her tears, she scolded herself and got up from the table. Her father followed suit, pulling her in for a hug.
“It’s still a win, pumpkin. And you earned it, just not in the way you thought.”
Alice gave him a watery smile. “You’re probably right. I don’t know why I’m crying. I guess I’m extra emotional right now.”
Her father shrugged. “I’m going to load the last of the supplies into the van. You think you can be ready in 20 minutes?”
“Yeah, let me just change my clothes.” Alice hesitated, “I’m crying for no reason and extra emotional. You’re not going to ask about it?”
She gestured at her stomach.
A wary look passed over her father’s face. “We woke up to Vlad standing over our bed, explaining in vivid detail how disappointed he would be to find us discussing the pregnancy. Apparently, you are very stressed out and haven’t made a decision yet.”
“And you guys agreed to that?”
“Maybe I wasn’t clear,” her father emphasized, “He was standing over our bed.“
Alice tried not to smile. It was almost impossible to explain why she found Vlad’s actions so endearing, especially when they involved his penchant for making terrifying threats. “Yeah, that sounds like something he would do.”