Sharla was used to being in the background. In a way, she preferred it like that. It allowed her to mostly do as she liked.
There had been a brief period of time when she was the centre of attention, and then Tommy had been born and taken it all away. Then he was the one to be constantly coddled by their mother and grandmother, and he was the pride and joy of their father. David, being the eldest son, was also expected to do great things. Excel at school, go to college, get a respectable job, and so on.
No one expected much of anything from Sharla.
With the arrival of the twins, she was bound to disappear even further into the background.
Teesha and Tansy eliminated her status as the only girl, taking away Sharla's one important, unique feature, but that wasn't all bad. Perhaps now her grandmother would stop insisting on buying her those frilly dresses she'd refuse to wear.
The house went a bit crazy (or more crazy than usual) after the twins were born. There never seemed to be a quiet moment for anyone.
Sharla's homework often piled up before anyone had the time to help her with it.
Only Tommy seemed to appreciate her company. Although Sharla would proudly declare her hatred for her little brother to anyone who cared to listen, she secretly thought he wasn't all that bad.
With brand new infants in the house, he was no longer the youngest and already, the adults were giving him less attention. This made him more drawn to Sharla, who was often the only one in the house who had any spare time to spend with him.
Tommy's birthday finally put a firm end to his status as "the baby", and Sharla sympathized with him.
The big nursery upstairs was reserved for Teesha and Tansy, and Tommy had to move downstairs and share a room with Sharla and David. It was nothing less than a demotion.
Samantha soon decided it was time for her to return to work. She had to leave right after sunrise in the morning to prepare for her early classes.
She didn't even have time to have (and make) breakfast with her family.
Dora insisted that it was important that Samantha kept her job and her income, and she picked up many of the extra chores, while demanding that the others did the same.
Sharla helped where she could, cleaning dishes and pulling weeds, but she was still too young to handle the babies.
She was quite happy about this, as she had observed David when he fed, bathed and changed diapers on the little ones. He would never complain, but Sharla could tell from his expression that he would so much rather be somewhere else; probably off with his girlfriend.
Their mother was usually the one to assist the children with their homework, as their father worked in the afternoon and had left for work when they got home from school. Then David would have to leave for his job, their grandmother would watch the babies while Samantha cooked dinner, and finally they would all eat together when Peter came home at seven. It was a steady, if hectic, rhythm.
Riverblossom Hills was a small town, and Sharla didn't have a great deal of playmates to choose from. The kids at her own school were all jerks, in her opinion. The boys were all brats who pushed her, called her names and teased her for her short hair, and the girls were all prissy and giggly and also teased her for her short hair.
It wasn't all bad, however. Not too far from the Ottomases' house lived a rich couple called the Roths. Their children went to private school, but Sharla met the son - Xander - in the park one day, and the two of them quickly bonded.
At first, Sharla thought Xander was a bit of a wimp. It was like he had never played any game that involved moving around or getting dirty before.
After a while, she realised that was because he hadn't. Between school, homework and piano lessons, it was video games that took up most of his time.
Sharla wasn't too fond of Xander's big sister, either. Sandra was one of those very "pink" girls, a teenager who listened to bubbly pop music, talked a lot on the phone and worried a lot about boys, how she looked, and how boys felt about how she looked. She was also a very dedicated student who worked part time as an intern at the mayor's office, but these aspects seemed to sort of drown in all the pink, at least as far as Sharla was concerned.
It didn't take long before Sharla and Xander formed a strong friendship. With her influence, he began to behave more like how (according to her) a "normal" kid should.
Sometimes, this backfired on her.
He also brought her into his world of video games. Gaming consoles and computers were luxuries the Ottomas family could not afford, and it made going to Xander's house after school all the more appealing.
Tommy caught wind of this and sometimes he'd tag along, much to Sharla's dismay. He was definitely back to being an annoying little brother.
Soon ("All too soon", her grandmother would say), it was the twins' birthday, which meant the pesky little things would be crawling all over the house on their own.
Sharla didn't detest them too much, though. It was nice to have some sisters in addition to two brothers, and even she had to admit that they were sort of cute.
Or, well... at least one of them was.
Peter certainly hadn't planned it.
He had quite innocently headed to the small photo studio that day, for entirely innocent purposes.
He (or rather, his wife and mother) only wanted to hire a photographer who could take a nice group shot of his family, and since there was only one professional photographer in the town, his options were rather limited.
He hadn't known - or at least remembered - who the photographer was when he told his wife that she didn't need to worry about it, that he'd be happy to head over to the studio and she could just go straight home after work and start on dinner instead.
The thought of the lovely Mrs. Roth hadn't crossed his mind even once, so he was in fact rather surprised when she approached him and asked if he needed any help.
His attention was all the time entirely on the room she showed him.
He listened to everything she said about lighting and backgrounds, answered every question about what kind of photos he wanted, who would be in it, would it be casual or formal, and so on and so forth.
His eventual refusal of the first room and request to see another was not at all an excuse to stay for a while longer, even though his wife specifically asked for the photo shoot to take place in their own yard. After all, how could they make an informed decision if he didn't at least give the studio a chance?
All the time, he was unaware of Stella's attraction towards him.
What happened next just... happened. Animalistic lust. Instincts took over.
They couldn't help it.
A man had needs, after all, and Peter hadn't had his needs properly taken care of in a long time. It seemed to him that no one had been taking care of Stella's, either.
He left the Roths' house long before the children got home from school, had a shower and went to work. Stella covered up all traces of what had happened. It was a one time thing, nothing to worry about, nothing anyone needed to know about.
When her husband returned from his latest expedition, he suspected nothing, and Samantha didn't have a clue either.
During the photo shoot, Stella and Peter behaved like acquaintances, nothing more. No awkward silences and no odd glances.
The family photo turned out perfect, and everything was as it should be.
Therefore, Peter was very surprised indeed when Stella called him at work a few weeks later, saying she needed to talk to him. Peter wondered if her husband had found out.
Stella said that no, things between her and Morty were as they had always been, calm and comfortably dull.
The problem was of a different, and one could say, much more unfortunate nature.
Morty thought it was his, but he was a smart man and Stella figured he would do the math sooner or later, especially if it ever became apparent that the child looked nothing like him.
Peter responded with a prolonged silence, and then he simply hung up the phone.
He certainly hadn't planned this. That was for sure.
Sharla hesitated before she blew out her candles, wondering what she should wish for.
Then she closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, and wished for a future that was different. She didn't know how it would be different, only that it wouldn't be like this. She'd be doing something she enjoyed doing, something she could take pride in. And she would not have five children.
The birthday party wasn't really much of a party, if you didn't count the party that was the everyday life of the Ottomas family. With so many people under one roof, you hardly needed guests. Still, David's girlfriend had shown up for the event. She and David seemed to be pretty serious about their relationship. Sharla was sure Grandma Dora was already fantasizing about great grandchildren.
Being a teenager was different. Not what she had expected. As was the way for a sim, new emotions and wants immediately overwhelmed her, before she could even finish her cake.
Still, some things hadn't changed, and Sharla supposed they never would. Obviously she would need to find a way to cope with other girls' obsession with clothes, makeup and all things pink, or she'd just have to stop trying to hang out with them altogether.
As she sat there on the couch with Jules, the latter seemed like the more attractive option.