Winter melts into spring. Fireflies begin to congregate outside Polaris's house, reveling in the warmth of the spring nights. Their flashing feebly pierces the darkness, the bobbing lights of their nightly dance reminiscent of will-o-wisps. It's been quiet in Lucky Palms--no signs of alien life, other than Polaris and her brood.
One glorious morning the triplets decide to sleep in, leaving Polaris with enough time to actually make herself something decent to eat. She searches the bare cupboards and finds pancake mix: just add water. As she cooked her pancakes, she fans smoke away. "Please don't catch on fire, stove," she requests, jonesing for a hot meal.
Luke begins to fade away from Polaris's mind. He has been gone so long, and her life has been engulfed by the triplets. The talk occasionally on the phone, but his voice sounds hollow and ghostly through the receiver. He becomes so spectral that Polaris is nearly frightened to death when she sees him running up the path to the front door one rainy morning.
"I've always wanted to kiss a woman like that," he murmurs.
"I'm glad I could help you realize your rather uninspiring dream. C'mon, you have kiddos to meet."
Polaris leads him into the house and to the nursery, where the triplets are sleeping. "Shhhh," she whispers. "they usually sleep in shifts." Luke meekly peers into each crib, a goofy smile on his face. "I like them best when they're asleep," Polaris admits, leaning forward to look into Elysia's crib. The toddler is sound asleep, drool dribbling from her mouth.
"And all it took was one night of fumbling, awkward passion."
"It wasn't the best night of your life?" he feigns pain.
"It was a close second to giving birth by myself. So, are you going to stick around for awhile? Or are you going to run off and play rock star again?" Polaris wants to be cruel, but the words come out teasing more than anything else.
"I told you I wasn't going to be a deadbeat dad, didn't I?"
Luke stays true to his word. Polaris is impressed by how good he is with the kids. He plays with them and reads to them, though he leaves the dirty diapers and vomit to Polaris. "You're better with those types of things," he explains as Polaris rolls her eyes.
Luke enjoys playing the 'claw game' with the kids--he pretends to be a bear and attacks them. They scream accordingly, and fun is had by all. While he plays with Elysia one afternoon, Polaris inquires about the toddler's complexion.
"Where does her hair color come from? I mean, I expected our children to be brunettes. She's like a Village of the Damned child," Polaris says.
"Please, Polly--the children in Village of the Damned had much lighter hair," he replies, "besides, her eyes aren't creepy enough...yet."
"I really don't want a child with terrifying psychic powers, Luke."
Luke laughs. "My mother had blonde hair. She also had gray eyes, like me. I look more like my dad, but Elysia looks a lot like my mom," he explains as he continues his imaginary claw assault.
Luke doesn't just play with the children. He also tries to teach them basic life skills: he helps them take their first steps, he's there to hear their first words, and he even potty trains Luna despite his aversion to general yuckiness. Despite his work, the girls' language skills fall behind. The litter has created their own tongue: Tripletish. While Solaris is fluent in both Simlish and Tripletish, it takes some coaxing to get the girls to speak Simlish. Polaris and Luke decide to work with the girls separately on their vocabulary.
"Lulu no puna wat-wat," Luna replies.
"How about you tell me about the book daddy read to you earlier," Polaris suggests.
"Lulu no puna wat-wat 'bout stor," Luna says with a sweet smile. Polaris sighs and leans in close to Luna.
"Listen, darling child of mine: I already know five languages. I am not interested in learning a sixth. Now, for the sake of my sanity...let's talk," Polaris whispers to Luna.
"...'kay," Luna agrees, obviously uncomfortable.
"Mommy likes fi'eflies, too. And mommy thinks 'bout purple man lots," Elysia casually babbles, "she thinks of stars and a shiny place and the fi'eflies and purple man. She's scared, too--of tha boo man."
"What? What are you talking about, Elly?"
"Purple man is the man in her dreams," she explains slowly, her gray eyes unblinking. Luke looks over his shoulder at Polaris, who is unaware of Elysia's chattering. He turns back to Elysia, looking into her deep gray eyes.
"You shouldn't make up stories," he finally says.
"Mmm, it's quiet," Polaris says in a dreamy voice, "I wish it'd stay like this forever, don't you?"
"Is there another man?" Luke blurts out.
"What's with the non sequitur?" Polaris replies, sitting up to look at him, "where the hell did you get the idea that there's another man?"
"Nowhere," Luke lies, "I just...I worry. I was gone for months, Polly. I'm afraid sometimes that someone took my place."
"No one could take your place, dummy. Besides, who would want a weird-looking woman with three children?" She leans forward, draping her arm on his chest.
"I do," Luke smiles at her. He leans forward and gently kisses her forehead
"Shucks, thanks...wait, you agree that I'm weird-looking?"
"Get them to stay still," Luke says, "the pictures keep coming out blurry."
"Damnit, Luke, I'm trying! Do you want me to take the fucking picture?" Polaris snaps.
"Ooooooh," Solaris yells, "Bad word! Mommy used a bad word"
"Fuck! Fuck fucking damn!" Elysia giggles as she pulls her mother's arm. Luna joins the chorus of swears.
"Polly, we promised to stop cursing," Luke sighs, "and no, I don't want you to take the picture--I want a photo of all of you together." He snaps another picture. Looking at the screen, he decides it's good enough.
"Are we done?" Polaris asks as Luna accidentally strangles her. Luke nods, frowning as he looks through the lackluster pictures. "Okay, get off you little monsters." The toddlers shriek as they begin to tear around the room, chasing each other. They run circles around their parents.
"Why do you want to get a picture of us anyway," Polaris asks suspiciously.
"That's something I need to talk to you about," Luke pauses, "remember how my band signed with that label?"
"And I need to go to Bridgeport for a month or two. Not that long! We just need to record our album and take publicity shots and all that jazz."
"So you're leaving us again."
"What, no congratulations? This is kind of a huge deal," Luke says, a little hurt. Elysia and Luna begin screeching.
"You're it," Elysia insists to Luna, "Solaris got to base and I tagged you, you're it!"
"Nu-uh, sib-ser! No puna beea eet," Luna babbles. She makes a face at Elysia.
"You have to be it, Lulu," Solaris says, "those are the rules." He nods his head sagely.
Polaris covers her ears. "If you're going to argue, go in the other room!" she yells. The children stampede away.
"You're angry," Luke states the obvious.
"Of course I'm angry!"
"I have to do this."
"I know. Why the hell do you think I'm so angry?"
"How can I make it up to you?"
"Tell the kids yourself. I'm not going to be the bearer of bad news. I'm going out for the day tomorrow. You'll have all day to tell them." As soon as she finishes speaking, she hears yelling coming from the kitchen.
"Higher, Lulu," Elysia commands as her sister pushes her onto the counter.
"Great," Polaris says as she peers into the kitchen, "your daughters are launching an excursion in search of sweets, it seems."
"I'm gonna tell," Solaris taunts the girls, "you shouldn't do that."
"No one likes a tattle-tale," Elysia retorts, uttering the words before Polaris can.
"Ya," Luna agrees, "no beea dick."
Polaris sighs and leans against the kitchen wall. "Yeah, I don't want to be there when you tell them."
"Neither do I," Luke admits.
"Neither do I," Luke admits.
Polaris returns to her oasis the following day after months of absence. Her alone place--no one seems to know about it, which is a shame since it seems like it would be the perfect deflowering place for local teenagers. She wants to spend her day off in silence. As she swims through the clear water, her head spins: the children are growing up, and Luke is going to miss it. She sinks down, letting the lake engulf her. What a familiar feeling.
When Polaris returns from her day of solitude, she finds Luke stumbling down the hallway, a screaming Elysia in his arms and a sullen Solaris wrapped around his leg. "I told them," he says, "I think Elly taking it especially well."
"No, you can't go! NO NO NO NO!" Elysia screams.
"And what about Luna," Polaris asks, "how did she take it?"
"Luna..." Luke pauses, "Oh shit, where's Luna?"
"Bad word! Daddy said a bad word," Solaris hollers. Luke shakes Solaris off his leg and runs to the nursery. Solaris toddles behind him, followed by Polaris. As they scan the room, the lid to the toy box begins to shake. Luna pops out with a grin.
"Spi-spi!" she exclaims. Polaris and Luke looks at Solaris.
"Surprise," he translates. Luna cackles gleefully. She is unaware that her father is leaving again.
Luke decides to leave at night while the triplets are sleeping. "It'll be easier," he rationalizes, "they'll wake up and I'll be gone--no muss, no fuss." Polly walks him to the front porch. Wind rustles through the lantana bushes, brushing up again her bare legs. She stands awkwardly, avoiding his gaze.
"I guess this is it," she says, "only a month, right?"
"Or two," he replies, "but it'll go by quickly." He leans forward and kisses her on the forehead. "Okay?"
Polaris nods. He wordlessly turns, picks up his luggage, and walks to the taxi. She knows she should feel sad, lonely, abandoned, but all she feels is annoyance. Why did he have to leave now?
The triplets' birthday creeps up on Polaris, taking her by surprise. She prepares a cake for them to share, and the Bees dress in their formal wear and have a little soirée. The children blow out their candles in unison as Polaris sings a birthday tune. Time flies--sometimes she looks at them and is amazed at how much they have grown.
After they finish their cake, the family sits in awkward silence."So....are you all excited about starting school?" Polaris asks.
"Yes!" Solaris exclaims, "I can't wait. I wanna see the library! Do we get uniforms? All the kids in the books I read have uniforms."
Elysia rolls her eyes. "You're such a goody-two-shoes," she sneers. Solaris sticks out his tongue at her.
"Sko-sko terry?" Luna asks shyly, ignoring her warring siblings.
"Lulu, we've talked about this," Polaris says, "you need to speak Simlish. Your teacher won't understand you."
"Is school scary?" her voice is barely audible. Polaris thinks back to her school days: patronizing teachers, soul-crushing rules, boring lessons...things had to be different than on Alcyone.
"No," she lies, "it's not scary at all. It's fun."
"She's lying," Elysia says, "it's scary. At least it was for her."
"Elysia Bee, you better stop right now," Polaris warns her, shuddering slightly--her daughter is good at reading her.
Luna leaps up from the table and runs to the bathroom, locking the door behind her. Polaris sighs and gets up from the table, glaring at Elysia. "Look, you've upset your sister. She'll be in there all night now."
"I was only telling the truth," Elysia protests as Polaris walks away, "aren't I supposed to tell the truth?"
Luna is so nervous about school that she almost misses the bus on the very first day of school. She's the last one of the triplets to board. Elysia and Solaris are already sitting next to each other.
"Elly..." she says slowly, remembering to speak Simlish, "Can I switch seats with you? I wanna sit next to Solaris."
"No," Elysia replies sharply, "I don't want to switch seats." Luna looks pleadingly at Solaris, but he seems unaware of her distress.
Luna settles into a torn pleather seat by herself. The bus makes a few stops and picks up more children, but everyone avoids sitting next to her. She hears whispers about her skin, her eyes, her claws. She wants to cry, but she's afraid to draw even more attention to herself. She picks at some exposed seat stuffing instead, imagining that she's pinching Elysia.
The school building is intimidating. It reaches up to the sky like an cement goliath. Luna waits until most of the other kids go in first, hoping to slip in undetected.
That afternoon, Polaris reclines on a lawn chair and thumbs through a scientific treatise. She becomes so engrossed that she doesn't realize that the triplets are home until she hears wailing coming from their bedroom window.
"Why am I so ugly?!" Luna laments.
"You're not ugly, Lulu," Solaris consoles his crying sister.
"Look at me! I'm teal and orange and yellow," she insists, "I'm hideous!"
"It's genetics. You look like mom."
"I don't wanna look like mom! I wanna look like you, or Elly. Why am I so ugly?!"
"I guess that makes me ugly, too," Polaris remarks, leaning in the doorway. Luna sniffles. "What happened, Lulu?"
"Some girls called Lulu ugly. They said she looks like a monster," Solaris explains, "I told them that was mean and got the teacher, but they still picked on Lulu. The teacher just told her to stand up for herself."
"What about Elly? What did she do?" Polaris asks. Luna bursts into tears. Solaris stands up and looks down at the floor, examining his sneakers.
"She told the girls that I'm a goblin and I live in the air ducts of our house and I eat rats," Luna spits out, "I wish rats would eat Elly!"
"Oh, Lulu," Polaris says, her heart breaking. She kneels in front of her daughter and strokes her arm, trying to console her, "You're not a goblin. You're just unique--it might be hard for some close-minded people to see it, but you're beautiful."
"I'm ugly, mom, and you know it," she cries between sobs, "I have creepy eyes and stupid hair and claws. Why do I have claws? And why was Elly so mean?"
Polaris hugs her daughter tightly. "I wish I could tell you why, darling." She holds Luna as she cries. Each sob makes Polaris's stomach tighten. She wishes she could make it better, but she doesn't know how.
The next morning, Polaris finds Luna hiding behind her bed. The school bus has already left, and Polaris hadn't realized that Luna wasn't on it.
"Why are you hiding?" Polaris asks, entirely aware of the answer.
"I don't wanna go to school," Luna whimpers.
"I know, Lulu. But you have to," Polaris replies, "you need an education."
"No I don't," Luna mumbles, "I could run away and join a circus. I'm a freak, I could probably grow a beard and be a bearded lady."
"That's not a very secure career. Come here," Polaris motions to her. Luna slides out from behind the bed. "The bus is already gone, so I'm going to walk you to school." Luna starts to protest. "Stop, Luna. This is non-negotiable."
It isn't a far walk to the school. Actually, it would make more sense for the kids to walk to school, but for some reason the school district insists on sending a bus. As they walk, Polaris can feel resent emanating from her daughter. The short walk passes slowly. When they reach the school, Polaris kneels down and gives her daughter a quick hug.
"Be brave, my darling," she whispers in Luna's pointed ear. Luna nods, then stiffly walks through the double doors.
As Polaris ambles up the street towards her colorful abode, she notices three figures standing on her front porch. She begins to jog, then runs, then stops dead in her tracks when she reaches the porch. Ghosts stand before her.
"Greetings, Polaris. Any room for wanted criminals?"