The new study upstairs is the only unoccupied space to put Haliya's crib for the moment. Right next to the big, expensive, temperamental machine that can splice DNA.
No one seems to worry about this.
Tula spends a lot of time in the nursery. Her younger sister is endlessly fascinating, even if she isn't capable of vocalizing or thinking beyond her most basic of needs.
Tula wonders if anything will make her feel attachment to this small person. It's her half-sister, connected to her by blood, and she's cute and defenseless...
And yet that connection doesn't seem to be there. Something's missing, and Tula can feel it. Something everyone else seems to innately have when they hold a baby, or interact with a sibling.
Smiling at her doesn't seem to make Tula feel any differently. She rocks Haliya, cuddles her, feeds her...
But nothing really changes within Tula. Haliya is just a small bundle of human right now.
One that cries a lot.
Tula changes her diaper, too. But no amount of tending to her younger sister seems to make any difference. She still cries and Tula still doesn't care.
That doesn't mean she stops trying, though. Her father- unsurprisingly- seems to be taking a "hands-off" parenting style once again. Guy and Tula are finding themselves unwittingly in charge of taking care of Haliya at least several times a week. Sun and Paolo can't bear to be in the same room together, it seems, and Paolo spends much of his time working. Sun focuses all of her time and energy on her inventions and widgets, which she churns out and hoards en masse.
Tula usually waves Guy away from her younger sister, not really trusting him to handle anything as fragile as a child. Guy gladly lets her take over, having no idea how to change a diaper or burp a baby.
Haliya gurgles happily and Tula smiles indulgently at her. Such a trusting little thing, her sister is.
Several weeks into their frosty silence, Sun and Paolo find themselves tending the garden at the same time. It's a weekend, meaning Paolo has no work to run off to. He's been trying his best to fulfill his promise to be around more, but with him and Sun not speaking it's just been easier not to be home during the week.
They make eye contact then look away. Both stubbornly stay in place, pretending that the other isn't there.
It doesn't take long for their tasks to synchronize. It seems that they still work well together.
The silence between them is as thick as it is unbearably heavy. Paolo can't take this.
"We need to talk."
Sun pointedly ignores him. He sighs with frustration.
"This isn't a game Sun, we need to talk this out."
"I'm not going inside until you apologise."
Paolo rubs his forehead. "I'm sorry."
"It didn't sound like you meant it."
"Sun, for Plumbob's sake..."
"You were mean to me first," she replies mulishly.
He takes a deep breath, then gets down on his knees. "Sun, I'm sorry. I want to make us work...please. I love you."
Sun stares at him, mouth agape. Did he just say....?
"Let's talk," he says again. This time she does not resist.
"I've thought things over," Paolo says once they've sat down, "and I know what I want from our relationship, but we need to come to an agreement."
Sun is slightly taken aback by his business like tone, but nods.
"What is it that you want, then?"
"I want to be with you. Properly. No more of this upstairs-downstairs business. I realize how unfair that was to you. But I can only do it on one condition... my pictures of Krista stay. She's the mother of one of my children, and I'm not going to hide her."
Sun sighs. She can see that this is a battle she won't win. "Ok, that's...fair. What else?"
Paolo grows quiet, and looks at the wall behind her.
"I want to marry you. If that's what you still want."
Sun's heart soars. Did she really hear that right?
"You mean we'll be a proper couple and everything? Mr. and Mrs. Winterly?"
Paolo laughs, "Yeah exactly. What do you say?"
She just squeals and throws her arms around him.
Tonight is academic achievements awards nights, and the entire household (minus Haliya) is in attendance for the ceremony. Yet Tula thinks that, somehow, her long list of awards and certificates is not the reason why Sun has been beaming all night. She doesn't know what exactly is making her dad's girlfriend so happy, but she wants to find out what it is.
When they all get home, she lingers in the kitchen to talk to her father.
"Oh I'm so proud of you Tula," he says. She scans his face and her eyes narrow. She has no doubts of his sincerity, but she knows there's something else he wants to say.
"Thanks dad. But I have a feeling it's not just my good grades that are making you and Sun so happy tonight. So spill it. What happened?"
Her bluntness takes Paolo by surprise. He was planning on announcing it to Tula and Guy- with Sun present- over dinner or maybe have a family meeting. But it's happening here and now between just him and Tula. For some reason, this makes him more nervous than proposing to Sun did.
"I proposed to Sun. We're getting married!" he beams. A wide smile overtakes his face as he waits for Tula's response.
But she doesn't smile back. She looks away, a neutral expression on her face.
"What's wrong? You don't seem happy," Paolo observes.
"What, you expect me to fucking smile and congratulate you two?! Whoop de fucking doo, you're getting married again! Guess who's been taking care of your kid while you were figuring that out!? I get that mom's gone and that you've gotten over her, but do you think that I have? Did you ever once stop and think that maybe you should include me and Guy in these decisions before you fucking make them?" she seethes.
Paolo is helpless in the face of his daughter's rage.
"Tula..." he looks so hurt that he could cry.
But this is of no concern to Tula. Her father, as smart as he is, needs to re-evaluate his decision making skills. If she's going to have to accept dependence on him, he needs to prioritize her needs too. Somehow having a second child hasn't made this clear to him, and thus he needs some "tough love", as one might say.
"No! Don't give me that face! I'm so damned tired of you just acting like me and Guy don't even exist! What are we to you!? Definitely not your kids. Parents take care of their children. Parents take responsibility for their children. Parents talk to their children. When's the last time you did any of that?"
She takes a step back and wipes a hand over her face.
"You know what dad, whatever. You do you. Do whatever makes you happy, I'm done," her voice cracks on the last syllable and she pushes past him and into her room.
He knocks on the door and pleads insistently to just "talk to him", but she ignores it.
She's so tired. Smiling in front of all of those people at the ceremony, then channeling the anger for this argument... she wonders if actors ever feel this fatigue, the exhaustion of maintaining a facade.
As Paolo's knocks grow less and less fervent, she wipes her makeup off of her face. Tomorrow's a new day, filled with more smiling, micro-managing, and delicate conversational balancing.
She doesn't have time for anything unimportant.