Family Ties

City Dwellers Jared De Luca And Andrea Houston Seen At Fancy Mediterranean Villa In Oasis Springs. A Holiday, Perhaps?

Spring, Year 3
“You ready?” Jared asked as they climbed the steps.
Andrea grinned. “I think so. I love your parents’ house. It’s gorgeous!”
“I grew up here,” Jared explained as they reached the top step. He walked over to the door and knocked. “I used to share a room with Riccardo and Emilio. It got a bit squashed, so I’m sure they’ve appreciated the space since I moved out.”

“Jared! Oh sweetheart, it’s so lovely to see you!” Jared’s mother flung the door open and pulled her eldest son into a hug. “And you must be Andrea!”
“Hello, Mrs De Luca,” Andrea said, smiling a little nervously.
“Please, call me Marie. I hate formality.” She beamed. “Come in. Everyone’s dying to see you.”
“Jared!” A voice called from the lounge and a small figure hurtled through the door. “Jared, I missed you!”
“Hey there!” Jared hugged his youngest brother. “Andrea, this is my youngest brother, Che. Che, this is my girlfriend, Andrea.”
“Hi Andrea,” Che said shyly.
“Jared, it’s been far too long since we’ve seen you!” Marie shook her head, mock seriously. “Santa Maria, what’s the matter with you?”
“I’m sorry, Madre. I should have visited sooner.” Jared grinned self consciously. “Work’s been busy and we had Andrea’s parents arrive in the autumn unexpectedly.”

“You must be Andrea,” a voice said. Andrea looked round to see a group gathered in what was obviously a study.
She stepped into the room and smiled. “Yes, I am.”
“I’m Riccardo.” The eldest held out his hand for her to shake. “These are Emilio and Zoe. We’ve heard a lot about you.”
“And me you.” Andrea smiled.
“How long have you and Jared been dating then?” Emilio asked. “He’s been crackers for you for ages. Madre said his emails are so gooey!”
Laughing, Andrea flicked her hair out of her eyes. “Well, just over a year. We actually met at Foxbury though.”
“I’m hoping to go to Foxbury in the autumn,” Riccardo said, cheerfully. “I want to study something to do with outside.”
Emilio laughed. “You can’t study gardening at University!” Riccardo blushed and said nothing more.
“Where did you get your hair done?” Zoe asked suddenly. “I love the colours!”

Magnus had insisted on a barbeque lunch on the terrazza, so everybody traipsed out into the garden.
“You have a beautiful home,” Andrea commented. She begun to feel more and more at ease the longer they were there and the De Luca’s were already beginning to feel like family.
“Thank you!” Magnus’ voice boomed as he sat down.
“I’d like to propose a toast,” Riccardo said. he raised his glass. “To Jared and Andrea. And may we see a lot more of them now!”

“So what did you think of them? I know they can be a bit of a surprise, especially when you first meet them.” Jared bit his lip.
“Jared, your family are lovely!” Andrea exclaimed. “I would definitely like to see a lot more of them.”

Later that evening, Andrea invited the girls out to a bonfire on the bluffs. She knew Ellie needed to start getting out of the house and it was high time she and Rebecca patched things up properly. Andrea had also seen very little of Hollie or Isabella since they’d become mothers themselves, so she thought it would do them good to get out.
A light snow began to fall as they danced, drank and laughed around the fire. Isabella smirked. “And you all mocked me for wearing a hoodie and jeans,” she said triumphantly. “Look at you all!”
Andrea couldn’t help smiling through her shivers. Isabella was right; none of them had dressed really appropriately for a spring evening on the cliffs. “How did you know it’d be so cold?” she asked.
“I live in Windenburg,” Isabella laughed. “I just survived winter here. It snowed nearly all winter,” she explained. “I wouldn’t expect you city dwellers to know any better.”

“All right then, if you’re so clever,” Rebecca said, more than a little huffy. “I dare everyone to jump into the pool.”
Cristina stared in disbelief. “You’re kidding.”
Ellie rounded on Andrea. “Is this why you told us to wear swimsuits underneath?”
Andrea shook her head. “I didn’t know it’d be this cold. Rebecca, that’s insane.”
Rebecca shrugged. “If you girls are too wimpy to do it, I guess I’m on my own!” She went jogging off to the natural pool over the other side of the cliff.
Groaning, but not wanting to be classed as wimps, the other girls followed.
“It’s freezing!” Hayley shrieked as she tentatively slipped her legs into the water.
“This is madness.” Ellie said, furiously. “Rebecca, you’re mad!”
Rebecca simply swam around in happy circles.

The following evening, Riccardo phoned and asked if he could meet Andrea and Jared for dinner. Jared arranged to meet him at the Tudor Tavern and the three grabbed an outdoor table on the patio.
“Riccardo said he wanted to chat with us about Foxbury,” Jared explained as they waited for their meal.
“Yeah.” Riccardo smiled quickly. “I really want to do something in the outdoors. I love gardening and being outside but I’m stuck with what to do.”
Andrea looked at him thoughtfully. “Have you thought about conservation?” she asked. “Because I work in Sulani on the conservation project there. It’s a long job but there’s a lot of work outside in the open air. I’m working with the managers but there are gaps for marine biologists. Either a distinguished degree in Biology or Economics would serve you well.”
“Marine Biology?” Riccardo nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I could do that.”
“If you apply for the biology course at Foxbury, you might get on the distinguished program.” Jared added. “If not, Britechester run a very good biology course.”
Riccardo started to grin. “I think that’s perfect!” he cried. “I love you guys!”

“So what’s the latest? I didn’t get a chance to talk to you properly the other night.” Andrea had met Ellie and Cristina for coffee in Windenburg. Ellie was looking downcast, and the weather certainly didn’t help.
“Not a lot. I loaned Rebecca five hundred simoleons to pay her rent. I don’t think she’d doing so well.” Ellie sighed unhappily. “And things still aren’t good with me and Gerald.”
“How so?” Andrea asked.
Ellie shrugged. “I don’t know. He doesn’t listen to me. Every time we meet up, he wants to head straight for the bedroom. It’s like he thinks of nothing else. It doesn’t leave much room for chatting.”
“Hmm.” Andrea sipped coffee thoughtfully. “Not a good sign.”
“Oh well.” Ellie stood up. “Want another coffee?”
Andrea nodded. “I’ll come.”

“It’s depressing, isn’t it?” Cristina said as Andrea sat down next to her.
“Oh god yes.” Andrea shook her head. “I don’t know why she doesn’t just dump him. Things went really sour when she wanted to tell Rebecca about them. Then Rebecca dropped her bloody bombshell that her and Gerald had been shacking up throughout the summer.”
Cristina sighed. “Why on earth hasn’t she left him? He’s playing both sisters. They’d be well rid of him. He’s never been any good.”
“I think part of the trouble is, Rebecca loves it all. She’s loving the attention he gives her. So Ellie doesn’t want to come across as the boring sister.”
“But she wouldn’t,” Cristina pointed out. “Not to us. She’d be the sensible sister.”
Andrea nodded and sighed unhappily. Ellie’s spiral was beginning to worry her. One night stands, loaning money, drinking excessively. There was something really wrong with Ellie. Andrea was determined to get to the bottom of it.

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