Winter has been bleak and unforgiving at Sim Downton Abbey. The family is nearly destitute, and the biggest holiday of the year, Snowflake Day, is just around the corner. It wouldn't be Snowflake Day without a gift-giving party, but parties aren't cheap -- the cost of a proper holiday tree or even a few modest plates of cookies would put the family in the red.
But where there there's a will, there's a way... No series-appropriate pun intended.
After some careful bulldozing and rebuilding, the park is no longer packed with dozens of off-duty proprietors, and Mary finally gets her chance to audition for her first real performance. Mary's been the family's breadwinner during this crisis, and a full-scale show seems like the perfect way to keep that gravy train going.
It goes without saying that Lady Mary aces her audition. Considering that the Crawley family happens to own this particular park, I can't say I was worried.
The Hoppcrafts are visiting the park, too. Not only does Sybil's former beau have a wife, but he also has a baby boy.. A baby boy with wings, but let's just pretend those are a trick of the light. He doesn't seem particularly fond of either of them, constantly sulking and glaring and stopmping around, and I have to wonder if his pursuit of Sybil wasn't the first step towards a segment on a trite "Crimes of Passion" show on whatever network the sim version of Oprah runs.
Bullet dodged, Sybil dear.
Bates is nearby as well, enjoying the seasonal activities. And wherever Bates goes, Vera follows.
Where he builds a snowman, she's there to destroy it immediately, because she is a horrible person. I suppose everyone finds joy in their own ways.
Even Thomas is feeling festive, from the looks of things. Though his hair still shows as entirely black in the styling window, in-game he's sporting some very chic ice-blue tips. It's not what I would have chosen personally, but who am I to get in his way? Not that the game will even let me fix it...
I'm also getting a tad worried about Li'l Branson. He hasn't moved in a few days except to but his head down like he's depressed (or dying) and it's kind of cold out...
Thankfully the Abbey seems to have acquired a spare gnome at some point, so if Li'l Branson happens to bite it before the spring thaw (if that's even possible) Branson 2 seems ready to fill his adorable little gnome shoes.
Maybe I'm a horrible person, but it's very tempting to sell either (or both) of them. They're worth about $1000 each... It's not enough to save the family altogether (and it kind of feels like cheating) but it would be enough to buy them a little more time until they can collect some earnings from the property they own in town.
But... Gnomes are rare -- maybe even lucky -- and right now the Crawleys could use as much luck as they can get.
Robert's been keeping himself busy (and keeping his mind off of the family's financial woes) by building an igloo directly in front of the Abbey's main entrance. It's not the most discrete place, but there's something tragically poetic about building a mini-house while the estate itself is on the bring of ruin. Maybe it's been his Plan B all along?
In case you think Robert's not pulling his weight during this crisis, he's sent his beloved retriever Isis out to hunt. Isis is exceptionally well trained, but in the past she's only ever returned with garbage -- chip bags, mostly, which don't exactly go for much on the open market. There's always the chance she could dig up gems or rare minerals, though, and that's a chance worth pursuing.
And that's when the first of a series of small Snowflake Day miracles strikes.
It doesn't seem like much at first; just a large, ugly rock. Robert's logic skill is high enough that he knows a little something about rocks, though (just go with it.) After a fair amount of deliberation, he discovers that the rock that originally seemed to be worth no more than $20 is actually a rather rare meteorite worth nearly $700. Under happier circumstances it would be a treasure worth donating to the town museum alongside the gargoyles, pottery, and gems from Sybil's tomb-raiding. Times being what they are, it's sold instead.
It's not enough to pull the family out of ruin, but it is enough to put a proper tree in Sim Downton's music room.
I'd say that alone is worth celebrating, and Robert and Cora seem to agree.
Anna's a bit less optimistic. I'm not sure if she's weeping over the cost of the tree, knowing how little's left in the family's balance, but a true aristocrat knows that it's crucial to keep up appearances, especially around the holidays. One way or another, there would have to be a tree.
Anna's sobbing does sort of spoil the moment, though, so Cora and Robert retreat...
... To the igloo...
... For some private time.
The next day it's time for the family to celebrate together. It's the day of Mary's concert, so they all head to the winter festival to unwind a little beforehand. Cousin Isobel and Molesley are there as well, and they joing Cora and Robert for a snowball fight. I'll agree that the sides they've chosen aren't exactly what I expected, but surprisingly enough Cora and Molesley trounce Isobel and Robert, beating them 100 to 40.
Edith, meanwhile, demonstrates a surprising aptitude for snowboarding...
Thomas kept busy gathering some frostbitten wildflowers from the area to sell, earning a fairly tidy sum on the Crawleys' behalf, while Anna took a break from being the responsible one for just a bit, wrapping up the outing on the skating rink with Molesley. He's incredibly fond of her of course, but her interest seems purely platonic. Regardless, they make a pretty cute couple on the rink.
The family leaves the festival and arrives at the park early. The stage needs to be decorated, and the money earned from Thomas' flowers is just enough to cover a gothic-inspired backdrop, props, lighting, and even a fog machine for ambiance.
It would probably look a bit cooler without all those igloos out front.
To be fair to those igloos though, her performance could have easily been a bit more seasonal, given that Snowflake Day is tomorrow. In spite of that, Mary does well enough to earn a promotion (and a raise) mid-performance. Another small miracle, and more good news for the family.
... Not that Edith cares. She's on the phone with Param Singh the entire time. He's a gawky man with an awkward tophat who seems to have taken an interest in her. One of the few. Maybe he has a wife, maybe he has a kid, I don't know for sure.
Frankly it's not like Edith can't afford to be too picky. Even Violet has had more flirtatious advances than her at this point.
Suffice it to say the concert has its fair share of distractions. Rude younger sisters on phones, flaming-baton twirlers honing their craft just off stage during moving a moving ballad...
... A dwindling audience with an unfavorable snowman-to-sim ratio. Even most of the other Crawleys have left before the final song.
I suppose it's understandable that, even after being congratulated for her utterly epic (if poorly attended) performance, Mary shares a few choice words with the park's proprietor. After all, who even schedules a 3 hour concert in an outdoor park in the middle of winter with 2 feet of snow on the ground? It tarnishes the good name of Crawley Park! Really, she's just lucky lady Mary didn't see fit to fire her.
With that out of the way it's time to call it a night. They all need plenty of rest if they want to be ready for Snowflake Day and the Abbey's annual gift giving party.
Unfortunately no amount of sleep could fix Edith's face.
I'm not trying to be mean, it's just that, well...
... At some point, Edith seems to have turned into a clown. Tragic Clown, to be specific, and somehow I don't notice until the party's already underway. I'm not sure when it happened, but there's nothing I can do about it. It's literally impossible change her outfit manually since she's been "transformed". Even the leet hax I attempt are fruitless. Meanwhile she lingers in the entrance, hoping for a kiss under the mistletoe from any or all of the incoming guests.
Shockingly, there are no volunteers.
Oh Edith... :(
Once Edith finally gives up, Mary manages to coerce a kiss out of Matthew, who is the only guest who brought a fruit cobbler instead of a gift to this gift-giving party. Oh Matthew, will you ever learn their ways?
Dr. Clarkson's awkward hovering makes it seem as though he's expecting a kiss as well, but... No. I don't think that's going to happen. It turns out that Dr. Clarkson is a bit of a creeper. He uses the party as an excuse to hit on absolutely everyone, from Violet to Sybil to Thomas.
Okay... Everyone except for Edith.
After introductions and chatter, everyone settles around the tree (and Violet alone in a back corner of the room) to take turns opening presents from the large pile nearby as classical music streams from the nearby gramophone.
The gifts are of... uh... varying quality, but if anyone is disappointed they don't let on. Mary seems delighted with the cheap lamp she recieves, for example. Edith gets a repulsively modern houseplant, Robert a tiny mermaid figurine, Violet a painting of a fisherman, and Thomas a "Frosty Waves"... Whatever the hell that is. A painting I guess? Sybil and Edith (no one seems bothered when she steps up for her second gift, given the circumstances) both recieve umbrellas.
Not all the presents are junk, though. Cora opens a rather expensive hot-drink machine, while Anna finds herself with a limited edition chess table.
... And a cutting-edge gaming console.
It really makes all those umbrellas seem like last minute gas station purchases to me, but it's the thought that counts, right?
With the gifts out out the way, the party progresses as you might expect it to. Sybil tries to strike up a discussion about voting, but no one else was interested.
They were all crying.
Just... a room full of people sobbing.
I mean Snowflake Day.
It turns out that this has nothing to do with the shitty caliber of the gifts and everything to do with Edith. It's always Edith, isn't it? It turns out having a Tragic Clown at your holiday party tends to dampen the spirits of the guests. Who would have guessed it?
Once Edith leaves the room, everything's golden.
... Until the bills are due again, that is.
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Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.