"She's NOT insane," Grace snapped.
"No one is saying that," Félix placated, hands raised in a soothing gesture. He sighed. This was not his field of expertise and he seriously questioned the hospital board's decision to put him in this difficult position. He was a doctor, not a counselor, and these people were his family. How was he supposed to handle this? "However, we cannot simply ignore what happened. The problem is that we aren't equipped to care for patients with..." He paused and cleared his throat while trying to come up with an appropriate euphemism. "anything other than physical ailments."
"So?" Grace asked petulantly. "You've run every possible test on her. As you said, she's not injured. There's no need for her to stay in a hospital."
"Considering she still won't say a word about what happened, we need to assume every possibility and prepare accordingly," Félix attempted to explain, "She'll need constant supervision. Just until we're sure that nothing like this will happen again."
Grace bit her lip, thinking. She could not deny the truth of his reasoning. As much as she disliked the idea, she saw his point.
Félix noticed the assent beginning to form on his niece's face. Now was the time to bring home the issue that the hospital board had impressed on him so thoroughly. "We have a true shortage of specialized institutions in SimNation, but there is one--"
"I'm perfectly capable of taking care of her myself," she interrupted, suddenly indignant again.
Grace had always been a sweet girl, and Félix had never known her to be stubborn. Right now though, her bright eyes fixed him with an icy glare.
"Uhm..." Both Grace's and Felix's heads turned toward Freddie. Having barely said a word since they'd arrived hours earlier, even the tiniest sound from him was notable. He looked disheveled after the sleepless night, much like Grace did herself. Freddie cleared his throat, but his voice still sounded rough when he asked, "But... what about college?"
Grace took a moment to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear before she replied, "It can wait. I'll just..." She felt her throat constrict at the thought of giving up everything she had been working for all her life. Everything she'd been planning for, everything she'd been looking forward to. But this was about Gloria. "Maybe we can enroll again when Gloria is better," she choked out.
"Grace," Félix' voice was low and soothing. "Don't give up your future to take up a task you're not qualified to do. Be reasonable," he pleaded, "and just have a look at this brochure."
Thick fog crept in over the calm sea, silently shrouding treetops and a lone lighthouse in the distance. Faded colors hinted at a sunset, but much like the lighthouse itself, they were nigh imperceptible.
It evoked a feeling of suffocation, of too much moisture in the air to breathe comfortably. An overwhelmingly thick frame around the minuscule canvas didn't help.
The tiny painting felt out of place in the exceedingly large and bright room, surrounded by equally large and bright pictures.
Why was she here anyway? The poking, prodding and scanning had gone on for what seemed like hours. And all the while, the ceaseless questions.
Gloria's lips had remained tightly shut. It wasn't that she wanted to keep a secret. She simply had no idea what to tell them.
Icy waves lapped at her ankles, so jarringly cold that all the muscles in her body tensed for a moment. But she took a step forward, and then another. The weight of her clothes pulled steadily downward as cotton absorbed water. Another step, and she tasted salt. The cold had stopped being painful a long time ago. Now all that was left was numbness. So soothing. And the steady rhythm of the waves.
Gloria remembered doing it, every little detail, but the why still eluded her.
Why had she waded out into the ocean in the middle of the night? What had she been thinking? Had it been an attempt at suicide?
No, that was ridiculous...
There were more questions, of course, but they always came back to this. And Gloria was just as stumped as everyone else.
It was simpler to just rest in this feeling of numbness.
"Midnight Hollow? That sounds... ominous," Grace observed, putting the brochure down again.
“To be honest, I don’t know much about it," Félix admitted. "What I do know, however, is that Gloria needs professional help and that this is the only institution of its kind in all of SimNation right now."
Grace regarded her uncle pensively for a moment before turning to Freddie, "I don't know Dad... are you okay with this?"
"What other choice do we have?"
"This is it," Grace announced superfluously.
Pleasant Oaks Asylum, the sign read. The oak beside it had seen better days.
Freddie studied the battered sign and scratched his head thoughtfully. "This place," he began, but didn't know how to continue.
Grace didn't need her father to finish his sentence to know how he felt. She grimaced. "Well, we came all this way... we should at least have a look inside."
Fred and Grace began to climb the long flight of stairs and Gloria followed without a word. She had been apathetic ever since they'd found her that night, lost in the numbness of mind that somehow made things easier to bear right now.
Finally at the top, they entered the imposing building. Though outdated, the large foyer looked reasonably well maintained.
A woman in white dashed out of the tiny office beside the entrance and reached the middle of the room with surprising speed.
"Welcome," the nurse chirped and opened her arms wide. "You must be the Dutiel family - oh, and this is Gloria, no doubt." With a certainty that spoke of much experience, the nurse's blue eyes flickered to the girl with the disheveled hair and impassive expression. "We've been awaiting you eagerly. We're so very happy to have you staying with us, and to welcome you into our cozy little family."
"Hold on," Grace interrupted brusquely and stepped protectively in front of her twin, "let's not get ahead of ourselves here. We are only here to have a look at this place today, nothing more."
While Grace said this, the nurse darted to the other side of the reception desk and assumed her welcoming stance once more. Ostensibly ignoring Grace's comment, she continued animatedly, "I'm sorry, but we're terribly understaffed at the moment, so I have to take over the receptionist's duties as well."
"Why don't you take a brochure," the nurse offered.
Grace walked up to the counter, taking control of the situation as usual. She picked a brochure from the meticulously arranged pile and glanced over the faded pictures and text. "Oh, we have one of those already," she said.
"Well then, put it back," the nurse hissed. Fred and Grace looked at her with wide eyes.
"Budget cuts," the nurse explained with a simpering smile, her tone friendly once again. "Can't be wasting those brochures now, can we?"
Grace nodded slowly and put the folded paper on the pile again.
The glare the nurse shot Grace came so unexpectedly that her breath hitched for a moment. Grace composed herself quickly, however, and moved to straighten the brochure to perfectly align with the ones beneath it.
"There," The nurse smiled sweetly, "A place for everything and everything in its place."
Gloria let her gaze wander while the nurse spoke, her chipper tone occasionally punctuated by sharp questions from Grace.
Fred appeared not to hear a word of what the nurse said either. Even in her apathy, Gloria felt distress at seeing her usually so carefree father frown like this. He looked ready to burst into tears at any moment - had looked like this ever since... that night.
In a reflex of self-preservation, Gloria's mind tried to plunge back into dullness. This was still much too painful for her to think about. But seeing her father's obvious sorrow kept Gloria's thoughts anchored.
These were the people she loved most in her life, and Gloria had hurt them like no one ever had before. Yet, in response they had shown her nothing but affection and concern.
With a pang of guilt, Gloria knew that she did not deserve any of it.
Lost in her gloomy thoughts, Gloria had no grasp of how much time had passed. Suddenly, the nurse was quiet and Gloria found herself face-to face with her twin, who spoke in an unbearably kind voice.
"Like we've discussed, the decision needs to be up to you. But, this place... I don't know." Grace glanced around, obvious disapproval on her face. "We can go right back home if you want."
Freddie said nothing. He only stared at Gloria with those big, sad eyes. She knew he blamed himself for this, just as Grace did.
She had caused them so much pain. Once again Gloria was overcome with shame and guilt. They were good people, much too good for her, and they deserved to live a life free of her.
The silence stretched out between them.
"Grace, Dad, I..." I'm sorry? It's not your fault? What were you supposed to say in a situation like this?
"I'll stay here," she finally rasped.
Grace looked aghast. She opened her mouth to say something when the nurse chimed, "Well then, we better get going!"
Heels clacked on the tile floor. The nurse was beside Gloria in a heartbeat and wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders.
"Oh, you will absolutely love it here," the nurse chirped as she led Gloria away. "We'll take such good care of you. Don't you worry, dear girl."
There was an audible sob, but Gloria did not turn around. She had done enough damage.
The nurse's grip was firm on Gloria's shoulder, fingers digging into flesh like talons into prey. Gloria barely noticed. She was sinking back into numbness. Painless, comfortable apathy.
"It's alright, Dad. She'll get better." Grace's voice broke on the last word, but she did her best to appear strong for her father, who was falling apart beside her.
And so generation 6 ends on a very somber note...
What am I doing to our poor Gloria?! Well, ever since I read MeganPagan's spin-off of her legacy, I wanted to try my hand at an asylum challenge too. I started one a long while ago but lost interest, so this time I decided to use a sim that I already care about.
You can follow Gloria's journey in Midnight Hollow here: Pleasant Oaks Asylum. (The first chapter follows Gloria through that door and takes us on a small tour of the asylum.)
Obviously this is not required additional reading for this legacy. ;) We will see Gloria again on here, and she'll probably be mentioned often, but she is off on her own adventure now.