Characters: Phily, Alex, Katie (Kaylynn), Peter, Lenora, Isaac
Summary: Phily goes to visit her twin brother.
Notes: Alternate universe, as Phily never did make it to Simta Fe. If it were canon, it would take place in the range of Chapter 14 or 15.
Word Count: 1,843
The train slowly came to a stop, and Phily straightened her hat. Travel by train in Simerica was vastly different than it was in SimEurope; she wished once again for the private compartments she’d enjoyed with Meadow that afforded a little peace and quiet. Instead, she was forced to put up with a loud, overcrowded car that contained far too many men leering at her.
She wished once again that Meadow had agreed to go with her. At least then she’d have her love by her side, and someone who appeared as a travelling companion to outsiders. But Meadow had insisted that she couldn’t leave Henri to care for the children alone. So Phily was left to make the weeklong journey by train to Simta Fe by herself. It would be worth it, she knew, once she saw her brother again. It had been far too long.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” the conductor said, pulling Phily out of her thoughts. “This is Simta Fe.”
“Thank you,” she replied with a smile. She rose, and picked up her satchel. “Who do I see about my bags?”
“The station master, if your brother hasn’t already.”
Phily nodded, and moved down the rows of seats towards the door of the rail car.
The sun was blindly bright, and she lifted her hand to shield her eyes as she stepped onto the block and down to the floor of the platform. The scenery was so very different from the lushness of the East that she knew so well. The desert air was warm and dry, and the streets were covered in a reddish dust. The train station was to the far end of the main street, and looking down it, she could see what appeared to be a hotel, a bank, and a saloon.
She turned around to see her brother running towards her, followed by a walking Katie and a young boy who could only be Peter. She smiled and raised her hand in greeting.
Alex reached her side, and swung her into a hug, spinning her around the platform, much to the amusement of the others milling about. After a few twirls, he put her down, but didn’t remove his arm from around her waist.
“Did you have a good trip?”
She nodded. “I don’t like the trains here – I got spoiled in SimEurope with the private compartments.”
“Anyone give you any trouble?” he asked, his eyes narrowing slightly.
“No, Alex. I’m fine.”
At that point, Katie and the redheaded boy made it over to them. “Hello, Phily,” Katie said.
“Hi, Katie,” Phily replied, hugging her sister-in-law. “You must be Peter.”
The boy nodded. “Hello, Aunt Phily.”
“Peter, why don’t you come help me with your aunt’s things? Katie, you can take her to the wagon.”
Alex and Peter headed down towards the baggage car, where several workers were unloading trunks and suitcases. Katie looped her arms through Phily’s and steered her off the platform to a waiting wagon.
“Was it a bad trip?”
“Just long,” Phily sighed. “It’s a long way from Massimchusetts. But I shouldn’t complain. I had the luxury of a train the entire way.”
“Train travel isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. When did you give up on your bustles and hoopskirts?”
“Sim Louis. It felt silly to wear my fancy silks and brocades once I saw how…rustic the West really was.”
Katie’s face fell. “I was hoping to get a glimpse of what the latest fashions are.”
“Then you’re in luck. I have a Simmy Ladie’s Book in my trunk that I’m leaving with you.”
They pulled up at the homestead. A young girl came out the front door, followed by a brown-haired man.
“Hello, Isaac,” Phily said as he helped her out of the wagon.
“’Lo, Phily. This is Lenora.”
“Hello,” the girl replied, and then hid her face in Isaac’s trousers.
“You can go back in the house,” Isaac said, patting her on the head. “I have to help Uncle Alex bring in Phily’s things.”
The little girl turned and ran back into the house.
“Sorry about that,” Isaac said. “She’s really shy. The kids at school are kind of mean to her because of her mother.”
Phily smiled sympathetically. “Poor thing.”
Isaac then helped Katie down from the wagon. “Thank you,” she replied. “Phily, why don’t you come inside with me? I’m sure you’d like to wash up and change before dinner.”
Katie led her inside to the large room that served as their parlor, dining room, and study. “It’s not much, but it suits us.”
“Katie, it’s beautiful.”
“The kitchen’s through there,” she said, pointing, “and Alex and my room is through that door. The stairs go to the attic, where Peter and Lenora’s rooms are. And this is normally Isaac’s room, but it’s where you’ll be staying. He’s going to share with Peter while you’re here. We would have put you with Lenora, but you saw how shy she is.”
“It’s perfect, Katie,” Phily replied as Katie opened the door and she survey the room. The bed was clean and spread with a quilt. A washstand and towel stood in the corner, and there was a dresser and mirror.
“I’m glad,” Katie said, relief evident in her voice.
The two weeks had flown by faster than Phily had wanted. She and Alex had gone out riding every morning before the sun got too hot, exploring the territory. In the afternoons, she and Katie had passed the time sewing, tending the garden, and helping the children with their homework. Phily had even helped tune the old piano that Alex had picked up so that the children could play it. Lenora had come out of her shell a little, and had been granted permission to write to Phily when she went home.
Her trunk was repacked. Her train was leaving first thing in the morning, but she didn’t want to go. It wasn’t fair that she got to spend so little time with the brother that she actually cared about. If only Matthew wasn’t such an ass, she though. At least then Alex would be closer to me, and we would be able to see each other as often as we wanted.
Even as she thought it, Phily knew that it wasn’t entirely true. Matthew’s prejudice had only hastened Alex’s trip West. He would have gone eventually, even if he hadn’t married Katie. He’d always been adventurous, reading dime store novels about cowboys and explorers. Alex was like their Grandfather John – he wanted and needed to seek his fortune in an unknown land.
Phily wiped the tears that had formed in her eyes. The rest of the family had scattered after dinner: Katie to clean the dishes, Alex to go over homework and Isaac back to town to get up to whatever it was that he got up to there. Phily had gone to pack a few last things, and now she was finished. She decided to go sit on the front stoop for a while, and watch the stars come out.
As Phily sat there, watching the little pinpricks of light pop out of the inky blue sky, she wished again that she and Alex wouldn’t go so long without seeing each other again.
“Did you make a wish?” Alex asked as he joined his sister.
“Yes, but if I tell you it won’t come true.”
Alex chuckled. “Can you even see the stars in the city?”
Phily shook her head, and leaned against her brother. He put his arm around her.
“I wish it wasn’t like this,” she sighed.
“I know,” Alex replied. “But it was the right decision, Phily. I hope you can see that.”
“I can,” she said, smiling at him. “It’s the only reason I’m able to face going home tomorrow. You’re happy here with Katie. Peter is wonderful, and Lenora needs all of you, poor thing. This is where you were meant to be, Alex. I know it in my heart. I just wish it wasn’t so far away from where I’m meant to be.”
“So do I,” he agreed.
They sat quietly for a few moments, watching the moon rise.
“Do you think you can get back East for a visit next year?”
Alex shook his head. “It’s too hard to leave the farm. Isaac doesn’t look after it like Katie and I do. Plus, the editor of the newspaper’s retiring at the end of the year, and he’s training me to take his place. You’re always welcome to come back, though, and bring whoever you want with you.”
It was Phily’s turn to shake her head. “It was hard enough to get out here this time. Jane’s growing up so fast, and Victor’s practically a man now. It’s really exhausting to travel so far alone, and I doubt that I can convince Meadow or Henri to come with me.”
Phily’s green eyes looked into Alex’s brown ones, each knowing what the other was afraid to say aloud.
“It’s not goodbye forever, Phily. I’ve got my heart set on sending Peter to SimHarvard, and I wouldn’t send him on such a long trip by himself.”
“So I’ll have to wait another ten years before I see my big brother again?”
“I hope not, Phily, but I can’t make any promises.”
She nodded, not trusting her voice.
“You know,” Alex said, “I’ve always thought it was ironic that of all the twins Mama had, you and I were the closest, yet we live the furthest apart.”
Phily managed to smile. “I’ve thought that too. I wish that you had come along before Matthew, so that you’d have been the heir and gotten the house.”
“So do I, but there must be a reason things worked out the way they did.”
“Having you so far away makes me appreciate the time we do have together more.”
They lapsed into silence again.
“If we did come East for a visit, would you have room for us?”
Phily nodded eagerly. “Tons. There are two whole rooms on the third floor that hardly ever get used.”
“I was just thinking that Peter and Lenora have never seen snow. Maybe we could come out for Christmas, provided that the trains can get through.”
Phily beamed. “That would be the best Christmas present ever.”
“Let me talk to Katie about it, and see if we can swing it.”
“If money’s an issue, let me buy the tickets as your present.”
“Isn’t that like buying yourself a Christmas present?”
Phily laughed. “So what if it is? Anything to see my favorite brother.”
Alex smiled at her. “I’ll admit that I miss the snow too.”
Phily snuggled closer to Alex. “It won’t be easy, but we need to make the effort to see each other more. Even if we meet in Sim Louis or something.”
Alex squeezed her shoulder. “We do. Every other year at least. I mean it.”
“Good,” she whispered. “I need my big brother around.”
“And I need my baby sister.”