"Dad, I think you should move your-,"
"Shhh, I can work it out myself," Marko stubbornly waves off his son's attempts to help him. He's been playing chess for longer than Paolo's been alive! He'll figure it out himself.
While out on a produce haul, Persis runs into Xara. She gives her daughter a warm hug.
"The weather is so nice right now! I wish I could go to the beach, but I work so late at night," Xara pouts. While she has been promoted, her shifts are still late in the evening. If she sleeps enough, she wakes up well into the afternoon with only a few hours to eat, shower, get ready, and practice guitar. So not fair!
"There will be other summers," Persis sighs. That's what she tells herself every fall and winter, anyways...
Unlike Marko, who seems preoccupied by his daughters' lack of a love life, Persis doesn't even ask if Xara's been seeing anyone. And Xara's kind of relieved too; she's not sure her mom and dad would approve of Bertram, a man old enough to be her father and is the father of two of her old classmates...
After some more small talk about Xara's housemates, the mother and daughter part ways with another friendly hug.
Back at home, Paolo and Krista have breakfast. She hasn't been officially invited to stay over this long, but no one is asking her to leave. Krista doesn't know how long the "business" will let her ignore them like this, but she's going to take every second with Paolo she can get.
"I'm going to head to the gym. Do you want to come with me?" Paolo asks.
Krista laughs, "No, you go on ahead." Like Persis, Krista isn't exactly too fond of exercise.
So Paolo heads down to the gym by himself. He quickly finds a rhythm to jog to and pants as his legs pump up and down.
He's actually glad that Krista decided not to come in hindsight; he loses himself in his workouts, often spending hours "feeling the burn". He would have felt bad about ignoring her.
He would feel even worse if he knew what she was doing while his back is turned. She gets a text from Pablo minutes after Paolo leaves.
Come down to the warehouse. We have another shipment.
After taking a few minutes to compose herself, Krista hops onto her motorcycle and drives down to the abandoned factory. If she's right, the new "shipment" will be the money from that bank that was robbed.
It's not like I stole it myself... the money would be here whether or not I helped them, she tries to tell herself. The sick feeling in her stomach doesn't seem to be listening.
Her siblings and some of the higher ups angrily shoo her out after she miscounts her fifth box of cash. It's barely in time before she vomits all over the side walk.
I can't keep doing this, she thinks with tears pooling in her eyes, I can't...
Paolo eats dinner with just his father, completely unaware of Krista's extralegal activities. He's sure that she'll text once she's heading home.
"So... are you and Krista going to give me any grandkids?" Marko subtly inquires.
Hahaha, yes. Apparently that "sick feeling" Krista had wasn't just guilt.
Despite what he said to his father, Paolo is quite excited to be a dad. Sure, they might be pretty young... but he's sure they can handle it!
"What's wrong? Aren't you happy?" Paolo asks when Krista's expression becomes vacant.
"Yeah, it's just... I wasn't planning on having kids so soon... we're not even married or anything," she says, omitting that she also doesn't want to have a kid while she's under her family's thumb. Plumbob, what am I going to do? Krista swipes a hand across her forehead. She's screwed.
"Then do you want to get married?"
She gives Paolo a watery smile. "I don't want to make a decision like that just because we're having a kid. I love you, so I'm willing to wait before we make a commitment like that." She also doesn't want to tie Paolo to her criminal family than she already has.
Paolo nods, not phased in the slightest by her "rejection" of his "proposal". He's too shocked from her pregnancy announcement to process any of his feelings clearly.
He looks up from her barely rounded belly and smiles.
"We can do this, I know it!"
If only I knew it, he thinks miserably several hours later. He's going to be a dad and he doesn't even have a job! Krista doesn't even have a job! What are they going to do?
For the time being, his parents are letting Krista move in with them, but Paolo still feels bad. He doesn't want to be one of those people, the ones who mooch off of their parents and treat them like a free babysitting service. He needs to figure out what he's going to do, and fast!
Marko is ecstatic about Krista's pregnancy, and makes her feel as welcomed as possible.
"We're going to have our first grandchild and that's what you're painting?" Marko asks incredulously.
Persis shrugs. She's seemed luke-warm about the entire pregnancy. She remembers how hard she and Marko struggled financially while Paolo and the twins were growing up... with two unemployed parents and grandparents who are elderly, she's worried the situation is going to repeat itself with potentially worse results.
Seeing that she's pregnant, and so horribly inattentive that she botches most tasks given to her, the "business" relegates Krista to home-bound work. She's to make toys and other "knick-knacks" with hollowed out spaces inside of them. They don't explicitly tell her what this is for, assuming that the purpose is obvious, but Krista barely registers the implications of their request. What she's mad about is that they expect her to become a toy manufacturer with no training!
Krista is not looking forward to explaining, and actually working in, her "new job".
Local inventor... eugh. It all sounds so dumb. But after she calms down, she realizes that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. She's not actively stealing or hurting anyone this way. She'll just make things and sell them to people. Nothing wrong with that, right? People sell things like knives and they get used to hurt people all the time! But the knife manufacturer isn't responsible for that. This is basically the same thing, right? She's not dealing with any of the harmful operations of the business, like counting stolen money, so it's ok. And with her child and Paolo to think about, leaving wouldn't be so easy...
She dismisses her inner debate, and tries to tell herself that the matter is settled.
But deep down, she knows better.
Persis goes to the consignment store to sell her produce. She's mildly taken aback when she sees a new cashier.
"Hi, I'm Violetta... I'm from Lunar Lakes..." she introduces herself. Violetta is not normally shy, but ever since moving to earth she's gotten a lot of strange stares. She didn't realize that life on-planet would be this different from living on the space colony.
Persis forces what she hopes is a friendly smile. "Hi, I'm Persis. I've come to sell off this..." she swings her bag of produce onto the counter.
Violetta looks up in surprise. Persis is the first person not to notice her "odd" skin, her "strange" hair, or her "otherworldly" eyes.
"I'll make an inventory right away," she promises. She pulls the sack towards her and begins sorting the produce.
Persis makes a hmmmph sound. Violetta can't tell if it's an impatient hmmmph or a vaguely satisfied hmmmph. There's a lot to learn about Earth, it seems!
"Hey you," a man approaches Krista outside of the spa. This pregnancy has been very hard on her back and she went for a massage.
She makes a face, recognizing one of Pablo's lackeys. "I already agreed to the terms Pa- uh, John gave me," she belatedly remembers the alias she's supposed to use for her brother, "Leave me alone," she hisses. She would normally be far more polite, but her soreness has made her exceptionally cranky.
"You think you're a special little snowflake just because you didn't grow up here, or something? News flash, you're not a star here. You work for the business. We want to change the terms."
Krista feels a flash of unease. "W-what kinds of changes?"
He rolls his eyes at the terrified look on her face. "Calm down, we just want you to sell some of your products to other businesses. So it looks more, uh, official."
Krista's fear is quickly replaced by annoyance. That's all he wanted? Why didn't he just send her a message or something? "Ok, whatever. Anything else?"
He shakes his head. "That's all...for now."
Persis pays a visit to Tulip after her consignment haul. Xara is at work and Tulip has assigned reading. They pass some time together quietly reading different books.
Tulip can't really focus on what she's supposed to be reading. Kanoa Parrott recently passed away, leaving the criminal element in Appaloosa Plains scrambling for a new leader. No one in the force will tell Tulip who they think the next leader is going to be because she's so low in the chain, leaving her only with speculation.
Before Kanoa took over, Patricia Bedlington was the "empress", as they call it. When she retired early, she left the business in Kanoa's hands. Both of the Bedlington children are law abiding citizens as far as Tulip can tell, so she's certain that neither of them will be taking over.
Will it be one of Kanoa's children, or are there other major players she doesn't know about?
She shuts her book, frustrated. This lack of information is driving her crazy!
Persis glances up from her book. "Is everything alright?"
"Yeah...I'm just tired," Tulip tells a half-truth, "Training really drained me today, I think I'm going to lay down."
Persis stands up and puts a hand on her daughter's shoulder before leaving, "Rest well, Tulip."
If only I could...
Seeing Tulip, her daughter who cannot go out in the sun, has inspired an idea in Persis' mind. It's a simple painting, but she feels compelled to give it form...
Paolo has finally found a solution to his work dilemma. The military base is always looking for recruits, and the hours he spent in shop club and playing sports definitely work in his favor when applying. He's starting off as a lowly grunt, but he hopes he can eventually work his way up to something that pays better.
Hopefully "eventually" isn't too far off. Krista and Paolo welcome their daughter into the world soon after his first day on the job. They name her "Tula", a shortened version of "Tulip".
As she's giving Tula her first meal, Krista glances nervously at the inventing table. Paolo's family seems to believe her "local inventor" cover story, but she has no idea what she'll do if the truth comes out, especially in front of her daughter.
She pushes the thought out of her mind. If she's careful, nothing bad will happen.
As she places Tula into her crib, she makes a promise to herself.
She will do everything in her power to keep Tula safe.
AN: Just want to clear some things up- Krista is living in the house, and is working as an inventor. She is working for the criminal element in story, but her rolled occupation is inventor.