After a couple of days settling into life in Champs Les Sims, Betty was already bored. It was all very well sampling the local food, drinking the locally grown nectar and getting to know the locals... but it was all just a bit... local.
So she hired a scooter for the remainder of her stay - it took the majority of what was left of her cash, and she knew it would only be a matter of days before she either had to find some other form of finance for her impromptu trip... or return home to her parents.
Having the scooter meant that Betty could travel a little further afield than the village square and she checked the village notice board to see if there were any adverts for places of interest. She'd just decided to go visit the Art Museum or something equally dull, when she spotted a small note pinned to the board - asking for help... with the promise of a reward. Of course, Betty saw what she thought was a quick and easy way to earn a few simoleons and do something vaguely more interesting than oohing and aahing over various works of art... so she got in touch with the merchant who had posted the notice...
... and just a few short hours later, found herself stepping into the depths of a burial mound in search of a lucky baseball. Perhaps this hadn't been one of her brighter ideas. Maybe she should just turn around and go visit the bloody museum? Seriously... who was stupid enough to take a prized possesion into a burial mound? In fact - who was stupid enough to go into a burial mound in the first place?!!? Weren't these places supposed to be filled with... buried people? Weren't buried people... dead?!!? She really, really hoped so! And weren't dead people just a tad more scary than her mother was going to be when she got home???
Ah well... in for a penny.
It took Betty almost two days to find the baseball. Two days where she dug her way through piles of rubble...
... muscled her way around various strategically placed obstacles...
... investigated wall holeage...
... and floor holeage... but eventually she was able to return to the village and collect her reward.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (in the non literal sense of the word)... Fatima was unable to sleep. Her daughter was off on her own galivanting around the world, doing God knows what with God knows who! There'd been one hurried, garbled phonecall from France in the middle of the night a couple of days back to say "Don't worry mum, I'm fine. I'm in France. Be home soon. Rented a scooter. No time for postcard. Love you, bye!"
Not particularly reassuring under the circumstances - Fatima still believed that Betty was nursing a broken heart and therefore not in any state of mind to make sensible decisions... or decisions of any kind at all.
Vadim did his best to comfort his wife... "She'll be fine, Fatty - Betty know's how to look after herself. She'll be home before you know it!"
But there was no one to reassure Vadim. Fatima had always been a fairly self involved individual, and was completely unaware that her husband was suffering too. Vad began to spend his evenings in the pub, instead of at home with Fatima. Privately, Vad felt that Betty was very much like her mother... a born survivor - she'd be fine. She'd sail the fleeting wind of excitement, then she'd come home.... it wasn't an empty house that Vad was avoiding... it was his melodramatic wife.
Back in France, completely unaware of her parents concern (as most teenagers are), Betty's time was running out. Her visa was due to expire and she was going to have to return to a life that suddenly seemed so very far away... in more than just miles.
She spent her final day in the hills, fishing at a beautiful spot that she'd discovered when she'd first arrived - contemplating what her next move would be. This had all been quite an adventure (if a short one), and returning to the urbane mundanity that was her real life, held little appeal.
... still... regardless of what she wished could be - it was time to say goodbye to Champs Les Sims, and return home. To Riverview. She spent one more night under a European Sky, then flew home the next morning.
Vadim could hardly believe his eyes when he walked in the door on Betty's heels that evening. After much hugging and enthusing over his daughter's safe return, he phoned Fatima at work and told her to come home - that there was a surprise waiting for her!
Fatima took one look at her daughter, hugged her painfully tight... then spent the next three hours injecting the words "young lady" in a scornful affronted tone - into sentence after sentence, with much finger wagging, harrumphing and "Why do we bother?"... there was also the odd "How could you?" thrown in... you get the gist, we've all been teenagers (if not pixelated ones).
Of course, Betty's whole response was fairly "Whoa... Chill, mum". Which only made the flame that was Fatima burn brighter, hotter and longer. So Betty shut up and took her dues until her phone rang...
Dallas Shallow had finally gotten over the whole "Your half naked dad offered me a hot dog" incident and had phoned Betty to ask why she hadn't been in school for a while.
In an attempt to escape her mother's wrath - Betty invited him over and arranged to meet him out the front of her house, away from the prying eyes and snorting dragon that Fatima was impersonating so well.
"I think I missed you." He muttered, slightly embarrassed after he released her.
"Oh - errr yeah. Me too!" Betty stood, suddenly painfully shy, twisting her hands together.
Dallas took pity on her and reached out for her hands to still them. "So... Betty Boo, where ya been?"
And just as suddenly as it had arrived, her awkwardness disappeared as she told him of her recent adventures abroad. He listened and laughed attentively, then bid his goodbyes before his curfew came in to force.
Betty went back indoors to her parents, with a spring in her step and a smile in her heart.
It didn't take long for life to settle back into a pattern of normality. Regardless of Betty's foray into new pastures... old pastures were pretty much the same. Life plodded on in Riverview. Betty's routine at home remained unaltered... school, home, work, home, homework, bed. It all left very little time for anything new and exciting. After the initial warmth she'd felt from Dallas on her return home, she'd hardly seen him. Which left her feeling a little deflated initially, but you could never keep Betty down for long. Not even when the washing machine overheated and boiled her favourite jeans. C'est la vie.
Fatima could sense that, even though Betty had settled back down into life in Riverview with very little protest... that her daughter wasn't happy. She remembered her own teenage years and the longing for something more. Though she loved Vadim deeply, Fatima couldn't help but wonder what if? If only she'd had an iota of the courage that her daughter had displayed, she may well have had a little more adventure and excitement in her own life.
Things came to a head when Vad set fire to the kitchen. He'd been working such long hours that he'd fallen asleep at the kitchen table and left waffles to burn in the oven. He was too exhausted to do much more than panic...
... Betty had been in bed until she heard her father yelling and swearing. When she got up to find out what all the fuss was about, half the kitchen had already been consumed in the flames... using the quick thinking that had gotten her out of a couple of scrapes in the burial mound in France... she grabbed the fire extinguisher from the garage and hosed down the flames before the fire brigade could arrive. Job done, she wandered back into her bedroom and climbed under the covers whilst her father dealt with the firemen who'd arrived too late to help. It was the most excitement she'd had in weeks and the thought depressed her.
That afternoon, whilst sharing a quiet moment with Vlad at Plum Tree Park - Fatima bought up the issue of Betty's unhappiness.
"Vad, I have no clue how to help her. She's so terribly unhappy."
Vadim smiled gently at his wife and said "Of course you know what to do, Fatty...what we have to do. Do you think I don't know that you have regrets over marrying me instead of spreading your wings?"
Fatima's face crumpled with guilt "I'm so sor -"
"Don't be. I understand, and it's part of why I love you - you gave up on your dream for a life with me. I'm sorry it's not as exciting as you'd envisioned." He smiled sadly down at the chess set before him and picked up his queen, "You don't think I gave up on a few dreams too? I did. I was going to become a chess champion when we met... was well on my way to being the best in the county... but then you came along and blew my world apart..." Fatima sat quietly and waited for her husband to finish "Fatty, I love you and I honestly wouldn't change a thing and I know that deep down you wouldn't either... but Betty isn't us. Betty is never going to settle for anything less than everything she wants, and as her parents we have to do our damnedest to help her get it."
"What are you saying, Vad? That we need to buy her a new guitar? Because I don't think that's going to work!"
"No, silly..." he chuckled "that was your dream. Betty wants to travel - for now - see something of the world outside of this village and I think that whilst we can afford it, we should help her... who knows, maybe she'll get so damned rich that she'll look after us in our old age!" He suddenly appeared to remember the chess piece that he'd been holding and he showed it to his wife... "This used to be my queen, my world... but you are all that and more to me." He gently placed the piece on the chess board... "Checkmate, my love. Checkmate."
To Be Continued ...