They say things about her sister, things that they don’t say about Ella, like how smart Marisol is, and how well-spoken. Adults have already spoken with Mari about great things like higher education and careers. The twins didn’t remember their Mom, but Manny had always been sensitive to the loss, while Mari had been bold enough to say she was glad to not have been raised in poverty by an alcoholic.
Despite Manny always being kind to her, there was a bond with the twins that she envies. A life full of halves. Half siblings, half parents, half friendships.
Mari boasts that she’ll be nothing like their Mother, and in the same breath, she complains that Ella is too much like that “old deadbeat”.
It’s dangerous territory for Manny, he doesn’t feel a loss for his Mom, not after learning what life had been like. Likewise, he feels for Ella, and the childhood she’d had before Cesar had rescued her. Though, she still had to deal with her biological Dad, Matt more than she wanted, it was much less now that his sons were grown.
Ella is mildly embarrassed that her siblings are smarter than her, they pick up the books and it seems they absorb all the information without effort. She puts her pride aside, and allows Manny to help with her studies. Cesar approves of this, always striving to build a strong family relationship among them.
Junior year is a big deal. It’s full of giant events, like SAT tests, scholarships, and early applications to universities. There’s time in the next year to pull something together, but the track has to be laid out now. Ella doesn’t believe in great things, but Cesar and Manny do, and they insist that she apply for scholarships.
Everyone believes in the twins, their grandparents, teachers, Cesar, but it’s uncomfortable for Ella when the guys in her life believe in her. She forces her facade of being a tough girl, but inside, she’s being eaten by anxiety. How can she dare to hope for more? She can’t deny that she is like her Mother, even as she hates the accusation, she acknowledges it like an embedded legacy.
Manny is always there with a boost of words. He’s in-tuned to her subtle shifts in emotion, and she’s beyond grateful for her brother. They’re nearly cut of the same cloth, but he’s of a finer material, and is evolving into a higher quality person.
She starts working at Cesar’s used car lot after schools, she doesn’t relish seeing Cesar’s Mom on a daily basis, but the money is nice. Some kids might not allow their step Dad to pay them for work, but Ella is fine with the arrangement. In quiet moments, when she timidly allows herself to dream, voice lessons is her dream, and the money she earns can help with that or at least she’ll be capable of getting her own place after graduation.
Cesar is not on board with her getting an apartment; he fears that isolation would treat her poorly, but he is a fan of a dormitory for her down at EU.
She likes the quiet work of restocking, but it pays less than selling, which is based off commission.
So she tries her hand at it with Ezra Gavigan. Everyone knows he’s spoiled by his parents, and him coming to buy a vehicle just cemented that fact.
With her first sale under her belt, Cesar readily offers a promotion to the floor, but she declines. Selling to a classmate was uncomfortable enough, she couldn’t imagine an adult taking her seriously.
Monroe comes by after school to visit. She’s never told him, but she’s grateful for the invite for the band. He offered her a line in a sea of darkness. She’s not unaware that some of her bandmates have a crush on her, but she does her best to ignore it, even though she fails to understand it.
Even when Monroe gives her his impish smile, he believes he can have her if he just asks.
She admits that he is charming., but he’s her best pal, and she doesn’t want to jeopardize the band. A relationship with any of the boys could ruin her greatest happiness. The band, their practice and performances, those are the only things that she truly cares about.
Before closing, she works on the books and inventory. She struggles with all the graphs and dealer price versus value, and is forced to triple check her work, or Cesar’s Mom, Maria will complain the next day.
It’s nice getting a ride home with Cesar though, she doesn’t call him Dad, even if he is the only real Dad she’s ever had. She doesn’t call Matt, her Dad ether. If she were to ever say Dad aloud, it would be to Cesar, but too much time has gone by that it seems awkward now. She wishes she’d been brave enough as a child to say it, maybe the title would have been worn in by now.
Monroe books the band for a Tuesday night at the Millwood pub. There is zero crowd, just a bunch of parents and a few classmates. Everyone knows that Lily-Mae is crushing hard on Jake Grimsley; she comes to every performance and exuberantly claps. Cesar comes too, because he’s that kind of supportive guy.
Manny eagerly comes, and Marisol is generally dragged. It upsets Ella when she notices that Jake isn’t returning Lily-Mae’s affections, but turning them toward her sister. If she can’t date any of them, neither can Mari.
Jake mostly does our sound these days, so I’m occupied when he makes his move.
She watches while Mari rejects Jake, and while Ella is relieved, she’s also terrified. Two rejections in one month seem to spell doom. While they all claim that the band is a democracy, it is well known that it’s Monroe’s show. Him and Ella are the most deeply invested, then maybe Roman.
She stumbles on the song while her mind focuses on her fears, and forces herself to concentrate on the performance. Monroe’s parents are on the floor, lighting it up like the rocker that his Dad is, and the groupie that is his Mom.
Ella wonders what it’s like to be Monroe. To have siblings that he’s close with, and parents that clearly love one another. She watches them from the corner of her eye, afraid they’ll see the desperation on her face. They’ve always been kind to her, but she can’t help but think they’d be unhappy if their son dated her. She can’t think of any parents that would be happy to have her at their dinner table.
The performance goes well, Jude insists that when they are legal, he’d get the band a contract. Ella always shrugs, despite that being her dream.
Cesar pulls her into a hug when the Woodfolks disperse from the stage, and whispers how proud he is of her. He is the salve to her wounds. Instead of wishing her Mom dead as Marisol, she wishes that Annie were at the table with her family, that she’d gotten better, and had married Cesar, because he was good, and Annie had deserved some good.
She’s still in counseling. Alice insists that Ella make an effort, and so she does. They bowl with Juan and Maria, and tries to bowl better than Cesar.
Which isn’t difficult.
And once in a while, she’s actually pretty good. She couldn’t join a bowling league, but she’s not exactly vying for that anyway.
She joins in on dinners at fancy restaurants, despite her belief that it’s an utter waste of money. She’ll never forget that she’s had to dumpster dive to stave off severe pangs of hunger. She doesn’t share those memories with anyone but Alice, and even then, she only gives a PG version. She likes Alice, and doesn’t want to feel her judgement, after awhile everyone reaches their limit before they begin to judge; it’s a truth that Ella has found in life, many times over.
She gulps her water, counts to twenty, silently says the abc’s backwards, all little tricks that Alice had given her to cope with anxiety. She opens her eyes, and finds that Juan, Cesar, and the waitress are watching her. Alice tells her that people aren’t watching her, but when these things happen, she has to believe that Alice is misinformed.
The entire night gets worse from there, being forced to order a pasta that she doesn’t want to eat, because Maria thinks its wrong to eat pizza in an Italian restaurant. Ella regrets the pasta decision even moreso when the waitress loses her handle on it.
After the mess is cleaned, she closes her eyes as the others begin to eat. Her Mom didn’t cry, and she had it worse than a dropped pasta platter on her head. She bites on her tongue, and pinches her leg until the feeling of mortification passes.
When they get home, everyone heads to bed while she explains that she has homework to finish. She does, but she doesn’t intend to do it. She calls Monroe, asks if he’d pick her up in a few hours. He always says yes, even when he gets caught by his Mom. He’s never ratted her out. She sets the alarm on her phone, and naps on the sofa.
They don’t do anything when they sneak out. Parents would think they were, but it’s far from her mind. After Monroe’s question to date, she’s not sure he can say the same, but she needs this escape. She hopes that he will be chill, that they can drive around the city, winter wind in her hair, heat blasting, and the whole nightworld before them.
The month ends with Cesar attending one of her counseling sessions. Alice has been trying to get him in, but Ella has stomped the idea out more times than she can recall. She finally relents, idle curiosity has her wondering why Alice insists on this joint session.
Cesar squirms, and it brings Ella great delight.
He flounders, blushes, and stammers on his words when Alice asks him anything. Ella wants to tell him to relax, that there isn’t a test when it is all over, but she says nothing.
Somehow within minutes, Cesar admits that he doesn’t know what he’s doing in raising them. With great shame, he explains his fears of failing her. Ella can barely believe it. She interrupts him, breaking Alice’s golden rule, and says its all nonsense, that he has never failed her in any portion.
It’s not easy to admit those feelings of warmth, even as she speaks, the familiar pang of sullenness begins to fall like a curtain. Insecurities and questions of worth plague her esteem.
She forces herself to focus on Alice, with her gentle face, and kind understanding, and admit what she’d known all along. Cesar had saved her.
An inner turmoil is constantly at battle. She wishes her Mom were alive, but she’s grateful for where she’s at, and who she has, even if Marisol isn’t her biggest fan.
It feels like a betrayal to her Mom’s memory, but it’s Ella’s truth. Annie knew something about personal truths, that somehow, Ella believes that her Mom would understand, even if it did hurt.
Notes: Monroe played some moves on Ella, but she didn’t accept him, which I think is for the best. She does constantly want to sneak out with Monroe (and him with her), so she definitely likes him. As for Ella and Mari, they have never like one another, they’re about a 30 for relationship now, but can’t get through a conversation without getting mad. However, Ella and Manny are very similar and best of friends.
Ella did qualify for a few scholarships, but I haven’t written anything down. I’ll get to the SAT scores with the high school update. She’s a junior right now, but it’s not likely we will see this household again until she’s graduated.
I do wish that Cesar would find someone. He’s such a great family guy.
Thanks for reading! We just started Christmas break, and my obligations are few (minus still working), so I hope to get some quality blog and sims time in!
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