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19 December 2011 @ 01:13 pm
It. All. Changes. Everything./Adult  
TITLE/PROMPT: It. All. Changes. Everything./Adult
AUTHOR: mkrobinson
RATING: PG-13
WORDS: 4140
TABLE: http://babysitters100.livejournal.com/53582.html#cutid1
SUMMARY: Change, like her children moving back to Palo City, was never easy for Sharon to handle. How is she supposed to deal with her house burning down, Karen's belief that she wants to play Lovely Ladies with her, and her best friend from California slowly dying, at once? Scenes from the aftermath of The Fire At Mary Anne's House from Sharon's point of view.
WARNINGS: None really.
NOTES: This is in the same universe as my prompts for "Upset" "Reunion", "Snob", and "Situation". Also I made it so The Fire At Mary Anne's House was the last book that the girls were in 8th grade for, meaning that they enter ninth grade after the summer, also I spread out the events in CD so that Gracie was born in fall of freshman year and Mrs. Winslow died in fall of freshman year.


Sharon Spier was having an awful nightmare.

“I want to play Lovely Ladies!!!”
“Karen, calm down, Mrs. Spier is still asleep.”
“But she said she would play Lovely Ladies with me this morning!”
“Will you be quiet? Their house just burned down, why would she want to play Lovely Ladies with you?”
“Because she and Mary Anne promised, Kristy!”
“Be quiet!”
“Do not tell me what to do!”
“I just want you to-go watch TV.”
“But I want to play Lovely Ladies! I have been waiting all morning!”
“But why would you want to wake Mrs. Spier up when you know that her house just burned down?”
“Because I want to play Lovely Ladies with her! Elizabeth said that there were lots of lovely clothes being donated-”
“Karen Brewer! You know that those clothes aren't for dress up!”
“They are so!”

Sharon Spier thought she was having a horrible nightmare, one where Kristy and Karen were arguing about her playing some stupid sounding game, and she rolled over in bed, trying to stay asleep. She figured that Richie had already gone to work, and that she was sleeping in, just like Mary Anne, because it was a nice summer day.

“They are not! Karen, those are for Mary Anne's family! Remember this morning?”
“I woke up and I was the only person besides Emily Michelle in the house! I got to be a junior baby sitter!”
“You did not! Charlie and Sam were home!”
“But they were sleeping and Emily Michelle and I were not! We were watching television!”
“Because you woke her up!”

She covered her head with a pillow, wanting to make the noise stop.

She woke up enough to realize that covering her head did make the noise stop, and she briefly wondered why, before drifting back off to sleep. She was exhausted, and she noticed her hair smelled vaguely of smoke, which was odd since she hadn't smoked a cigarette in weeks, but she snuggled under the blankets and attempted to remain sleeping.

Said peaceful sleep was interrupted by a most undignified shouting outside of her bedroom door.

This was, much to her annoyance, courtesy of Marjorie's older brother, Watson Brewer.

“KAREN MARGARET BREWER AND KRISTEN AMANDA THOMAS, WHAT ARE THE TWO OF YOU ARGUING ABOUT?!”
“Daddy, Mrs. Spier and Mary Anne promised to play Lovely Ladies with me this morning when they arrived for their sleepover and Kristy said I cannot wake them!”

Sleepover? At Watson Brewer's house? Agreeing to play Lovely Ladies? Mary Anne agreeing to play Lovely Ladies? What had happened?!

“Sharon?”

She sat upright, realizing that they were in one of the Brewers' guest rooms, and that poor Mary Anne was on the floor on an air mattress.

“Yes, honey?”
“Did it really happen? The fire?”
“Fire?”

Fire? Fire? Fire? There had been a fire?!

“Yes, Sharon, the fire. I think it must have, because your hair is all covered in soot and I don't think we'd be in Kristy's guest room if it hadn't.”

Sharon groaned. She had a headache.

“I hear Mary Anne, Daddy!”

Dear Christ, Karen Brewer was obnoxious. She rubbed her temple.

“I'll go find out what's going on, okay, honey?”
“Uh-huh.”

She got up and gave her a hug, kissing her on the cheek, noticing that she was wearing pajamas that obviously belonged to Kristy-her stepdaughter would never own anything with a sports logo on it. She herself was wearing something that had come from Elizabeth's closet. She sighed, padding to the door and pulling it open.

“Hi Mrs. Spier!”

Perhaps Karen could be useful.

“Karen, I will play Lovely Ladies with you later-”
“You will? Great! Daddy said I was not to bother you about playing Lovely Ladies, so I was not going to ask.”

Dammit.

“Karen, sweetie, do you know what happened last night?”
“Last night? Daddy and Elizabeth took me, Hannie, and Nancy to the movies and afterward we went to the ice cream parlor and got identical ice cream sundaes and after that we brought Nancy home she lives near the little house and after that we brought Hannie home she lives across the street next to the Kilbournes and after that we came home and I made Andrew and David Michael play Let's All Come In with me and then after that Daddy and Elizabeth made Kristy read me a bedtime story because Morbidda Destiny came over to discuss gardening she is our neighbor and she is a real live witch who can cast spells and gave me Crystal Light the Second who is my goldfish and then after that I went to bed and-”
“Karen, why are we here?”
“Oh! You are here because there was a big fire in your house this morning. Stacey McGill called to tell Kristy and Daddy and Elizabeth and I answered the phone because I was getting a drink of water when it rang. She was crying. So I thought that someone had died and I woke Sam up because Stacey used to be his girlfriend and I thought he would be the best person to calm her down but he went and woke up Daddy and Elizabeth! They did not realize that I was still awake and they woke up Kristy and told her about the fire and she cried. And then I snuck Emily Michelle downstairs and we watched some television while all of the adults including Nannie were gone! It was great fun! And then you and Mary Anne and Mr. Spier all came in and Mary Anne was crying and I wanted to make her feel better so I suggested a game of Lovely Ladies because that made me feel better when Amanda Delaney was moving away and you and Mr. Spier said that maybe we could play together in the morning!”
“Thank you, Karen. You were a great help.”
“You are welcome, Mrs. Spier! Mr. Spier is with your insurance people in Daddy's study! He wanted to let you rest!”
“Thank you, Karen.”
“May I see Mary Anne? I made her a card!”
“Of course.”

Sharon really needed to take her medication-she couldn't.

She couldn't take her medication because it was in the house.

Which had caught on fire.

And evidently burned to the ground.

She wanted to cry.

If Andrew Brewer hadn't been standing in front of her, smiling shyly, holding Tigger, she likely would have.

“I think Mary Anne would like to see Tigger, Andrew. I'm going to get a cup of coffee.”

She needed more than a cup of coffee, but that would do for now.

An abashed Kristy was sitting at the table with Watson, and she smiled slightly at them.

“I'm sorry for waking you, Mrs. Spier.”
“It's fine. You can call me Sharon, by the way.”

Kristy looked surprised, though she didn't know if that was because she'd liberally scooped sugar into her coffee or because of the permission to use her first name, and she smiled at her. She sat at the table, sipping her coffee, trying to make sense of all that had happened.

1) Her house had burned down, and they were staying with Marjorie's brother.
2) Richie was taking care of the insurance, which was good, as she was not up to doing that on a few hours sleep and without her Dexedrine, which she needed to somehow obtain without her prescription or license.
3) She really needed to shower, because smelling like this was disgusting, even to her, and she smoked cigarettes and used to burn incense with Betsy Winslow.
4) Her house had burned down, and they were staying with Marjorie's most infuriating niece.
5) She had to play Lovely stupid Ladies!

She suspected that she was in shock of some kind.

Watson spoke, sounding kind, and she stared blankly at him.

“Sharry, I attempted to call your parents-”
“They're in Aruba.”
“Did you want me to tell Tabitha?”
“You can, if you want.”

She hadn't even objected to being called Sharry, that was how bad she felt.

“Do you need anything?”
“I have to call Jeff.”

She doesn't want to, but she knows it needs to be done, and perhaps Jack still has that bottle of medication she left at the house when she stayed when Jeff had his appendix taken out. She hopes so. He was always complaining about how scatterbrained she was, and for once it was somewhat useful.

“Would you like me to explain to your ex-”
“No, I can do it. Thanks, though.”
“You're welcome.”

He hands her the telephone and she dials her old old number, unsure of what to say. What if Carol answers? She can make small talk about the baby, but for how long?

“Hello, Schafer-Olson residence, Sunny Winslow speaking!”

Shit. Sunny. She'd almost rather Carol.

“Hi, Sunny, how are you? It's Sharon. How's your mom?”

Betsy has cancer, and isn't doing very well.

“She's okay. She's at home right now, maybe you can call her later? I think she'd like that.”
“Okay, Sunny. Sunny, is Jack home?”
“Not right now. Carol wanted ice cream or something like that. He saw me sitting outside and made me come in.”

She sighs. She hates to do it, but she has to.

“Can I speak to Carol?”
“Sure! Hold on a second!”

Karen wanders in.

“Daddy, who is Mrs. Spier talking to?”
“I don't know, princess.”
“May I say hi to your friend, Mrs. Spier? I can tell her all about the stuff that happened and you can get ready for us to play-”
“Why don't you go see if Hannie's up?”
“Okay, Daddy!”


She mouths a thank you to him, and he nods.

“Hello, Carol?”
“Hi, Sharon. What is it?”
“How are you? With the baby, an' all?”

Her husband's new wife was pregnant, and she was so afraid to say the words out loud that she let her talk.

“I've been okay. Sunny said you called to talk to Jack, is everything alright?”
“I need to know if he still has my Dexedrine. I left it there when Jeff's appendix burst and I need it because I don't know when I'll be able to get anymore 'cause the house burnt down and I wanted Jack to tell Dawnie and Jeffy and please please don't tell Sunny I don't want her to worry about me with her mom sick an' all and-”
“Sharon, it'll be okay. I'm sure we have your Dexedrine here, Jack wouldn't throw it out-”
“Thank you!”

She was beginning to remind herself of Karen!

“-do you want Dawn and Jeff to come out?”
“I don't know. We're staying with Marjorie's brother and oh you don't know who Marjorie is but he's Dawnie's friend Kristy's stepfather and I don't know what to do and I can't-”

Watson takes the phone from her and starts talking to Carol.

She starts to sob.

Karen and her friend Hannie walk into the room.

So does Mary Anne.

Soon enough, Watson Brewer has arranged for Jeffy and Dawnie to fly out that afternoon.

Elizabeth has led her to the shower, where she stays, scrubbing herself until the smell of soot finally disappears, noticing that the water has turned black.

When she is done with her shower, Richie takes her to bed, where they lay together. She falls asleep, curled up in his arms.

Poor Mary Anne plays Lovely Ladies with Hannie and Karen.

***

She doesn't really remember the next few days, but that's because Doctor Reese decided it would be prudent to prescribe her some tranquilizers, which Richie later tells her is a good thing as she insisted on playing several games of Let's All Come In with Karen and her group of friends, and evidently told him and Mary Anne she wanted to move to Pennsylvania and become an architect.

When the tranquilizers wear off, Jeff remembers his father sent her pills with him, and he pulls them out of his backpack, along with a check and a letter, which she shares with Richie, surprised by Jack's generosity.

Her first day fully processing what happened, Marjorie Brewer (she got married at some point, but Sharon can't be bothered to figure out her new last name) and Kathy Kilbourne come over and insist on taking her, Mary Anne, and Dawn shopping, and for some strange reason she accepts. Maybe it's because Kathy's daughter, Shannon, is friends with Dawnie and Mary Anne, and she doesn't want to seem rude, or maybe it's because shopping, even if it is with Marjorie and Kathy, is an improvement over dealing with the insurance people or trying to call her parents or visiting the remains of the farmhouse, which she has done enough, thank you very much.

“Auntie Marjorie and Mrs. Kilbourne! Play Lovely Ladies with us!”

No, it was definitely because Karen Brewer was giving her a most awful headache.

Mary Anne looked rather relieved as well, as did Dawn. Jeff had escaped to the Pikes, and therefore had had some much needed “Karen free” time.

Had she been as infuriating as a child? She probably had been, but there was just something so grating about Karen Brewer, with her constant desire to play bizarre games and irritate everyone in the house. It wasn't that she wasn't nice-she had thought that a fun game of Lovely Ladies would distract her and Mary Anne from the fire, after all, but she was a bit...hyper. Yes, that was the word.

Kathy was as snobby as she remembered, but at least her prattling on meant that Sharon herself didn't have to talk, though part of her wished she'd gone off with Mary Anne, Dawnie, Shannon, and Tiffany.

Sharon heard all about the Kilbournes' prize winning dog, Astrid, who came from Switzerland, and about how Ted was some sort of lawyer and how Kathy was so glad she'd married him, and about how they were invited to all of the parties at the country club and about how she was so glad Sharon had decided to join them on their shopping trips, forgetting that she'd pretty much had no choice, as she had no clothes, no money, no credit cards, all courtesy of that stupid fire, but she stayed quiet because for some bizarre reason Kathy and Marjorie were buying the three of them a new wardrobe. And at least the people she was with spoke using contractions.

That night, she remembers her promise to Sunny, and calls Palo to talk to Betsy. The conversation is awkward at first, but when Sharon figures out that somehow Sunny and Betsy know about the fire, it becomes less so.

Still, it is basically one of half-truths and platitudes, that neither of them really believe.

She promises to try to come to California one last time, to see Betsy, and Betsy promises that that won't have to be for a couple of years, because she's going to beat the cancer.

They both know this isn't true.

***

She can tell that Betsy is weaker than she lets on, and decides to take advantage of the fact that Watson installed some sort of internet calling system on his computers when his ex-wife moved to Chicago with their son earlier that year, the same thing that Dawn and Sunny tended to use to talk to one another, and she gains permission to use it, getting the slightest bit of privacy because the girls are babysitting and Richie and Jeff have started to move their things into their rental house, next to Rioko Kishi's, and Karen has a bunch of her little friends over, but they are torturing the various pets, possibly due to a lecture from Kristy, Watson, and Elizabeth.

Sunny is online. She sighs, dreading seeing her Californian best friend on the screen. Sunny herself looks rather bizarre, with her piercings and crazily dyed hair, not to mention the clothes, but she herself rebelled a bit against her parents (okay, a lot, in Rita and Charles's minds) so she wisely knows not to comment.

She chokes back a gasp when she sees Betsy for the first time since Jeff's appendix ruptured. She looks, well, awful, though a less appropriate phrase comes to mind.

“Betsy? Are you-”
“I told you, they have a more aggressive treatment for me, Sharon. They think they can stop the spread.”
“Betsy-”
“I want to try it. I have to. For Sunny. Did you know she won't have a little brother or sister?”

Oh for heaven's sake, was that what she was really concentrating on while in a hospital bed in her dining room hooked up to oxygen and obviously on some sort of painkillers?

“I'm sorry, Betsy.”
“Jack and Carol are being so nice to her. Did you know that they're letting her spend the night there while I'm having my treatments done?”
“That is nice of Jack and Carol!”
“It is. I don't know why everyone is so nervous around me. My doctors were talking to...never mind...”

Betsy had a coughing fit, and she winced, feeling awful for her friend. Even though her house was gone, at least she wasn't dying, at least she wouldn't have to leave a daughter at age fourteen. She twisted her wedding ring on her ring finger, waiting for her friend to regain composure, and quite frankly hoping none of the kids would come in-she knew that she didn't want to have Karen and co barraging her and Betsy with all these questions.

“Is there anything you want me to do, Betsy? Something you want me to send back with Dawnie and Jeffy?”
“That's okay...the house doesn't look that bad...”
“Oh, this is-you're right.”

It was easier to lie to her, and she didn't really want to upset her and make her cough again. She told her all about her relationship with Richie, her plans for the summer, the fact that Mary Anne and Dawnie were looking forward to ninth grade and that Jeffy was looking forward to going into sixth. She told her about Kathy Kilbourne and about her prized purebred Astrid, and she mentioned that she'd met someone who owned a 400 dollar cat (Karen's friend Amanda, who'd come over that morning) and Betsy managed to laugh weakly about that, and she asked about Sunny, who had come into the room to sit with her mother, and she even managed to make Dawnie's best friend smile.

They talked for the better part of the hour (and when she said they, she was doing most of the talking) and she couldn't help noticing that Betsy looked exhausted, but Betsy wouldn't let her go, and she didn't want to either-somehow she doubted their grandiose plans of seeing each other before Betsy went would happen-and so it got to the point where Sharon was reading her a book (one of Karen's, called “The Littlest Witch”) while she dozed.

It was awful, but she sort of felt better about her situation after talking to Betsy and Sunny. At least she wasn't dying, like Betsy so obviously was.

Finally, Betsy falls asleep, and she decides she has to go, realizing that a group of Karen's friends being quiet and well behaved likely means nothing good.

Much to her surprise, the group of girls (even Hannie and Amanda, whom Watson warned her didn't get along) were quietly making some sort of art project. She breathes a sigh of relief.

Karen notices her.

“Daddy told us to not bother you because you were talking to your friend who is very sick and Hannie and Amanda thought we should make her cards and Melody, Nancy, Maria, and I agreed! Maria says that you used to be friends with her mother until you went to SHS because you went to Stoneybrook Academy together! Did you know that Hannie, Nancy, and I all go to SA together? We are in the same class because I skipped a grade! Melody, Maria, and Amanda go to Stoneybrook Day School, even though Amanda's family moved away earlier this year! Will you mail these cards to your friend? Daddy said that she might not know who we were but we thought they would make her feel better!”
“Of course I'll mail the cards to Mrs. Winslow. That was very sweet of you girls.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Spier! Daddy and Elizabeth said that it was important for us to be good while you were staying here because of that awful fire and did you know that Morbidda Destiny was here for you earlier? You were talking to your friend so I was very brave and told her that you would talk to her later-”
“Karen? What is Morbidda Destiny's real name? You said she was your neighbor, didn't you?”

Karen nodded, thinking to herself, and she had a feeling her Auntie Tabitha had gotten the slightest bit too eccentric in the time since they'd seen each other. Finally, she responded.

“Mrs. Porter, I think! She is in the gardening club with Mommy's mother!”

Sharon couldn't help bursting out in laughter.

Karen looked nearly offended.

“Honey, she's my aunt.”

Karen paled.

“I am sorry, Mrs. Spier! I will never call her Morbidda Destiny again! I did not know she was your aunt!”
“It's okay, honey. I think your nickname is funny. And this explains her comments about your active imagination!”

***

Life returns to normal, or at least an approximation thereof, as Richie says. After they salvage what they can from their old house and move into the new, rental one, next door to Rioko, Dawnie and Jeffy go back to California. Sunny called, begging Dawnie to return, and she agreed, simply because she knows Sunny needs her best friend right now, more than she needs her daughter. She begins selling houses again, quite relieved that Kathy Kilbourne is an agent for Coldwell Banker, and not for Re/Max, like she is. She couldn't bear to work with that irritating snob day in and day out.

Betsy loved her cards from Karen and her friends, and even wrote them back, though Sharon recognized it was really Sunny's writing. She keeps that knowledge hidden, knowing that they really don't need to know.

Mary Anne, Kristy, Claudia, and Stacey all start freshman year as SHS, where she met Richie. Abby quit the club, as did Logan, and Mallory and Jessi. Shannon came back as a member when Kristy suddenly adapted a more lenient policy and running structure. Mary Anne breaks up with Logan, and she and Stacey tutor Claudia, who was diagnosed with a learning disability over the summer. High school is good for them.

Jack calls in early fall to tell her that Carol had the baby, and she is quite glad to hear that little Elizabeth Grace is doing well. She is the one that tactfully suggests they call the baby Gracie, at least for now, because she knows that even though it is a rather nice gesture to name the baby after Betsy Winslow, she knows that Sunny will never be able to call the baby Elizabeth, and neither will Dawnie. Much to her surprise, he agrees with her, and suggests that she suggest to Dawn and Sunny a visit over the next summer. That alone tells her that Betsy is dying, that there's no hope of her getting better. Both Jack and Richie comfort her as she cries.

By Thanksgiving, it's Carol calling her to tell her that Betsy is dead, and poor Mary Anne is the one that answers the phone, and finds herself comforting Sunshine Daydream Winslow, even though Sunny knew her mother and Mary Anne didn't. She comes home from work early that day, having done her showings, and finds out the news from her stepdaughter, who gives her a big hug, and tells her that she asked Doctor Reese if they could see her today, instead of the next week. They go to therapy together now, and it helps them both. They all go to Betsy's funeral. Sunny sits between her and Carol and cries the entire time, thanking her for coming all the way from Stoneybrook, and she assures her that she wouldn't have skipped it. They stay with Carol and Jack, and oddly enough it isn't as awkward as it was the last time. It helps that there is a distraught Sunny and Dawn to deal with and a cute baby to cuddle, true, but it's almost nice. Friendly.

Dawn and Jeff stay in California for Christmas. She knows that they have to, and she doesn't blame them. She, Richie, and Mary Anne host Verna, Mary Anne's grandmother, and Rita and Charles, who refuse to even acknowledge the fact that Kathy Kilbourne was more compassionate than they were during the fire.

In the spring they move into the barn, which has been converted into a house, and they start again.
 
 
 
Nikkiimamaryanne on December 19th, 2011 11:22 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, I don't even know where to begin! I love this so much.
1- I'm prett sure this is the most accurate portrayal of Karen Brewer.
2- I love that you connected the events of several books in one story.
3- Sharon's connection to what goes on in CA Diaries. (I especially love this, because I'm pretty sure the Sunny Diary where her mom dies is the best thing Ann M has ever written.)
4- The emotional impact of the fire was gut-punch awesome.

You're a great writer!
mkrobinson on December 19th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
1-Thank you! I originally had her using contractions and then I remembered her complete and utter hatred of them and you just know it was a miracle the Schafer-Spiers didn't go insane living in the same house as her!
2-Thanks-I thought that that would be a nice touch-I'm glad you thought it worked!
3-I thought it was ridiculous that none of them mentioned poor Sharon in them-wasn't she Betsy's friend after all, not to mention that she was Dawn and Jeff's mother-and they could have at least written her into the funeral scene! (Yes, I agree, that Sunny Diary was very good.)
4-Thanks! I thought that it was unrealistic how no one besides Mary Anne was affected by the fire!

Thank you!
cassandraclue: wescassandraclue on December 20th, 2011 02:36 am (UTC)
God. KAREN BREWER. Not the person you want around after going through something devastating.

I wish they had shown more of Sharon's reaction to Betsy's death in CA Diaries. You'd think Dawn would have mentioned her mom more than she did.

But yes, love this.
mkrobinson on December 20th, 2011 04:36 am (UTC)
lol even worse is Karen Brewer being what you'd wake up to before fulling processing what happened!

Same here-or even in the regular BSC Mary Anne could have mentioned Sharon was upset! Oh I agree!

Thank you!