The airport shuttle dropped them off in front of their house. It was a pleasantly warm early evening--winter was finally over, and spring had sprung.
"Wanna play some pool?" Yuri asked his sister. (They were in the middle of a detente.)
"I would love to," said Yulia, "but I need to get to work in the gallery so I can pay Daddy back for all the money he had to shell out because of my digging for treasure. I don't want that hanging over my head."
Nice to see she's being held accountable, Yuri thought. "I'll go with you," Yuri said. "I need to make at least one sale so I can have some money of my own." Privately he wondered whether, with a tan, he might be more successful at selling.
"Great!" said Yulia. "I'll be there in a minute. I need a change of clothes after that long flight--don't you?"
"Nah, I'm fine," said Yuri, and headed for the gallery. Yulia giggled to herself, wondering if her brother would ever wear anything but white again.
Yulia changed her clothes, being careful to wear her island necklace (which allegedly meant she'd have to go the bathroom less often, and Yulia wanted to be able to concentrate on work with as few distractions as possible), and walked across the lawn to the gallery.
She continued to Dazzle the customers,
though her register skills weren't yet very good--she actually put her hand through the machine at one point.
Still, the venue reached Rank 6 that evening,
and Yuri got his gold sales badge!
He rang up his first sale, recorded the amount of his commission, then told Yulia he was tired and was going to turn in.
He walked back to the house, and discovered that his room had been redecorated while he'd been on vacation. "Finally," he muttered to himself.
Yulia, however, continued to work until she made enough in sales commissions to reimburse her father. She also got the gallery to Rank 7 before closing for the night.
Sunday morning, as she was browsing the web for foreign cuisine, her home venue reached Rank 8.
Yelena had been correct when she'd surmised that the "travel bug" had bitten her daughter. Yulia had heard that maps to secret locations could be found almost anywhere, and so spent most of Sunday afternoon digging up her lawn.
Berjes dutifully followed her around all afternoon, filling all the holes. "You don't have to do that, Berjes," Yulia said kindly. "I can fill them when I'm done."
"It's no trouble, miss," answered Berjes. "A little manual labor now and then is good for the body, and for the soul. I remember a time, once, on the banks of the Ganges...."
Late Sunday night, Yulia spent some time hanging out at the venue, playing pool with her customers.
It paid off--she got a good review.
Yulia enjoyed playing pool. She even sometimes got up early before school to practice trick shots.
"That's a funny sort of hobby for a girl like you, princess," her father commented one morning.
"Oh, I don't know, Daddy," replied Yulia. "If I'm good enough, I could get a pool scholarship to college."
Kennedy laughed. "Oh, princess. You don't need scholarships--leave them for the poor kids. Your mother and I have enough money to pay for college for you and your brother."
Unfortunately, Kennedy had not discussed this issue with his wife.
When Yulia ducked into the venue's bathroom before getting on the schoolbus, Yelena confronted her husband. "What for you say this thing to Yulia!" she demanded.
"What?" Kennedy said, taken aback. "We have more than enough money to send the kids to college. What's money for if you can't take care of your kids?"
"You and me got very different ideas on what 'take care of kids' is," said Yelena. "'Take care of kids' should be 'make them productive adults'. If you give kids everything, they grow up spoiled and lazy. Better they should have to work for it, like we did."
Kennedy didn't know what to say to this. He had assumed for some time that he and Yelena would not only pay the twins' tuition bills and expenses all through college, but that they would also set up the twins in a comfortable--not lavish, certainly, but comfortable--off-campus house.
"Pah--off-campus house!" Yelena retorted. "How they going to learn to deal with regular people if they no live in dorms?"
Kennedy blinked. "They deal just fine with 'regular people', Yelena. Don't you see how hard they've worked on their sales skills at the gallery?"
Yelena gave her husband that pitying look. "Kenny, here they celebrities--rich kids. Customers you and me develop for years buy from them because they our kids. That no way to teach kids to be self-sufficient."
Kennedy paused. "Where did all this come from?"
"I been reading Warren Buffett," Yelena replied, turned on her heel and walked away.
Yulia waited till her parents had left the venue before exiting the bathroom and sprinting for the bus.
Yelena had the day off, and spent it overseeing the final touches on the swimming pool she had ordered after the brainstorm she'd had when the family was visiting the Double Palms on vacation.
The kids came home from school and were thrilled to have a pool, and immediately invited their friends over to play Marco Polo,
while Yelena relaxed in her hammock and read "The Effective Executive" by Peter Drucker.
That evening when Kennedy came home, he and Yelena enjoyed an evening swim together, and the twins took advantage of this opportunity to relax in their parents' hot tub and talk about the college issue.
Yulia recounted to her brother their parents' conversation of that morning.
"I think living in the dorms will be fun, Yuri," Yulia offered.
"Yeah, right," he said, annoyed. "You, who've been living in a princess tower for years, while I had friggin' teddy bear wallpaper till just recently."
She laughed and splashed him. "Oh, come on; you can't be serious."
Yuri fixed on her with that laser look she had often seen from her mother. "I am serious, Yulia--haven't you noticed how you get everything and I get nothing? It really rubs me raw. I'm gonna tell Mom and Dad how I feel about this dorm thing."
Yulia had honestly never considered that her brother felt shortchanged. "Oh, please, Yuri--please don't say anything to them. We'll be fine. And Daddy's birthday is Friday, and Mother's been planning his party for weeks--don't do anything to spoil it!" she pleaded.
Yuri stormed off to bed.
Yuri paid enough attention to the daily stock reports to have a pretty good idea of just how much money the family had:
"We make more a day than some small countries," he grumbled to himself. But, he respected his sister's wish that he not disrupt the upcoming birthday festivities--and, frankly, he didn't think complaining would do him any good.
Kennedy was philosophical about getting older. It didn't bother him the way it bothered Yelena. He spent his days off that week digging for treasure, trying to find an appropriate gift for Yulia as she went off to college. Yelena had absolutely put her foot down that he couldn't load up the kids with expensive items they could sell.
He got lucky, twice.
Since Yulia loved to travel, these would be the perfect graduation presents.
Thursday was the last day of school. Yulia and Yuri both had excellent grades and were graduating near the top of their class.
As Yulia was arriving home, her venue reached Rank 10.
Yelena had told the kids that they could invite their fellow graduating seniors to the party, and Yulia busied herself inviting her friends.
Friday, the day of Kennedy's party, was bright and sunny. After closing the gallery for the day, Yulia went for a quick swim and then helped Berjes with the tablecloths and balloons.
The teens' good friends George McCarthy, Tosha Go, and Chloe Gonzaga (all of whom would also soon be starting college) were among the early arrivals, and had a great time with the bubble blower.
Yuri and Meadow Thayer paddled around in the pool while the hired bartender waited for someone of legal age to serve.
Most of the adult guests arrived at the same time as Yelena, who was just getting off work for the day. As evening fell, the assembled guests joined enthusiastically in Yelena's toast to her husband.
They all watched as Kennedy blew out the candles on his birthday cake,
and became an elder.
Yelena, Yulia, and Yuri sat down with Kennedy to eat their cake.
"This is a great party, hon," Kennedy said to Yelena. "Thanks so much." He turned to Yuri. "Where's Brittany?"
"The Parkers are on vacation," said Yuri. "So are the Futas; that's why Alvin isn't here."
"Hey," interjected Yulia, "You'll never guess who's also starting at Sim State with us--Berjes's granddaughter, Calista!"
"Really?" said Kennedy. "I thought she lived in England with her parents."
"Well," Yulia responded, "When Berjes was traipsing around after me filling holes last weekend we got to talking. His daughter and her husband are real bohemians and don't have any interest in formal education. But Calista really wanted to go to college and, since Berjes is a resident of this state, she qualified for the low, in-state tuition rate. And that really helps, because as you know, Berjes doesn't make that much working for us, and her parents have no money at all. Calista's still probably going to have to work several jobs to pay for her expenses, though."
"Is that so?" Kennedy mused. He was silent for a moment, and seemed to be lost in thought.
Yelena interrupted the quiet. "And where is Marsha Bruenig? She used to call you kids several times a day, and now I never hear from her."
"Marsha joined the Peace Corps," said Yulia. "She's not even starting college with us."
"Is noble," observed Yelena, "if low-paying. Have you kids decided what you want to do?"
"I'd like to get a job in your line of work, Mother," Yuri said. "I bet it's exciting, though you sure don't talk about it very much," he kidded.
Yelena smiled. "Is very exciting work, Yuri, and I think you be good at it. And you probably get quick promotions with college degree, especially if you major in right thing and work hard." She privately suspected that Yuri would expect "quick promotions" given that his mother was the head of the agency. "How about you, dearie?" she asked her daughter.
"Well, at school I've really enjoyed biology the most," Yulia replied, "So I think I'd like to go into medicine."
Yelena clapped her hands. "A doctor in the family! Imagine, Kenny, and you and I no even go to college!!"
"We're very proud of you both," said Kennedy, "and have been very impressed with how you've both worked on your sales skills and helped make the home gallery a success." He turned again to his son. "Yuri, you've been very generous with your time and energy, especially since your sister got most of the benefits from the venue. So, as a graduation present to you, your mother and I would like to help you open your own gallery near the University as soon as you feel you're able to do so."
Yuri was stunned. "Thanks, Dad ... and Mom ... I don't know what to say."
His mother patted his hand. "Of course the timing completely up to you. We not pushing you. You might want to concentrate on schoolwork for first year, and just work on painting in your free time."
Walking back to the house with her brother, Yulia grasped her brother's hand and said, excitedly "That's fantastic, Yuri! And of course I'll help you out at your gallery."
"Yeah, great," Yuri said, annoyed, and he shook her hand loose as they entered the house. "Frankly, I was hoping for a car."
Late into the evening, the bubble blowers were still at it.
Yelena finally had to ask them all to leave.
Later, Kennedy quietly swam up to the pool island, where Yelena was relaxing in the hammock.
It was a very good birthday.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week as Yuri and Yulia go off to college!