"What happens in a certain place can stain your feelings for that location, just as ink can stain a white sheet. You can wash it, and wash it, and still never forget what has transpired - a word which here means happened, and made everybody sad."

The Sedler trio of Arthur, Rebecca, and Sloane lived in a house that was both expensive and homey, refined and lived-in. Contrary to what one might've thought, the back of the farm house was not actually a farm, but rather a yard with a large tree that held a tire swing, adjacent to a garden where Rebecca grew tomatoes and Arthur complained about pests. Across the street there were no neighbors - unless you counted Champ, the monster that lived in Lake Champlain, where Sloane first learned how to swim. All in all, it was a lovely house, one that any family would've been proud to live in, but one that no family ever would.

In 1994, Rebecca Sedler died in her home state of Vermont after giving birth to her second child, a son named Leo. In a huff, her last words were: "Remind me why you did this to me again?" to which her wry husband Arthur responded by holding his wife's hand and laughing, until suddenly he wasn't laughing anymore.

Sloane spent her childhood at Cambridge dreaming of her old house in Vermont, unsure if her memories came from actual events she'd experienced, or solely from the now-damaged video tapes she'd stolen from her father after he'd thrown them in the trash. Could she remember her mother's long hair getting stuck underneath the kitchen flooring she'd put down on her own because she was there, or because she saw the events unfold thanks to a small VCR her Aunt Rose had given her for Christmas?

It was absurd to buy a house you had no intention of ever living in, in a country you had no intention of ever living in, of this fact Sloane was incredibly aware. Maybe it would've been different had she been in a franchise, but she hadn't, and she wouldn't. Thus, in this case, purchasing and abandoning a house at twenty-four years old was not seen as the behavior of an eccentric millionaire, but rather interpreted as just another weird thing about a very, very weird girl that nobody seemed to be able to crack.

Down the road from Sloane Sedler's permanently vacant lakefront farm house lives a woman named Helen, who takes care of the house in exchange for access to the garden in summer. At the turn of each season, a wave of nosey vacation rental brokers increase their offers from the last, all vying for access to such a desirable piece of seemingly uninhabited property. Each time, Helen relays this, and each time, Sloane turns them down. In late October, following two years of discretion, Helen finally asked Sloane why she bought a house just to keep it empty, to which Sloane replied, "Because I don't want anybody to ever live in it."

"Everyone, at some point in their lives, wakes up in the middle of the night with the feeling that they are all alone in the world, and that nobody loves them now and that nobody will ever love them, and that they will never have a decent night's sleep again... the best thing to do in these circumstances is to wake somebody else up, so that they can feel this way, too."

Leo was moving out. It was high time, really, considering he was twenty years old and had never been without Sloane, and the fact that he'd been living off the generosity of one Chuck Walken for several months too many. The month of October marked Leo's first days as an official American university student, and Sloane couldn't have been more proud. He had a license, a car, a bank account, and a bag full of textbooks - a flat somewhere between campus and home base was the last box begging to be checked, and tomorrow was officially moving day. It wasn't until half four in the morning, unable to sleep and unable to clear her head, that Sloane came to a very sudden, very upsetting conclusion: if Leo was twenty years old and had never been without Sloane, didn't it stand to reason that for twenty years, Sloane had never been without Leo?

"Leo," Sloane whispered loudly, wanting to wake him up, but not so loudly that she'd be unable to claim she thought he might've been awake. It didn't take long for him to stir, groaning loudly and rolling over, prompting her to approach the bed, as if it'd been an invitation. (It had.) His sleepy utterance of wot led to her climbing in next to him and reciting from her usual script: Sorry, I thought you might've been awake. He mumbled no you didn't and chuckled, then groaned once more before sitting up languidly, rubbing his eyes. Now he was up.

They talked for half an hour, mostly about Leo's flatmate Charlie who was moving to Los Angeles from Malibu and dressed like he just popped out from 1976. (Aside from his California accent and penchant for stealing brothers, Sloane liked him well enough.) She'd zoned out eventually, leading Leo to nudge her curiously; he knew her face, even when she preferred he didn't. He asked if she was worried, and she said no. He asked if she was sad, and she said yes. Leo was surprised; she didn't usually admit it. "It's an important time for the Sedlers," Sloane concluded, voice hopeful as ever, or as much as it could be at five in the morning.

"You know I know the Sedlers are just us, right? You don't have to do that anymore, I figured it out years ago."

Sloane rolled off the bed and onto her feet, nodding her head. "I know. I reckon somewhere along the road I kept doing it for me." On her way out, she stopped in the doorway, having at least five more things she could've said. I'm proud of you. Dad would be proud of you if he had half a mind. Mum's proud of you because she's here, because you're the last thing she ever did, so now you're all that's left of her. None of it was quite right; all of it would just upset him. "Go to bed, I can't believe you're still awake. Honestly. So irresponsible."

"Sometimes, just saying that you hate something, and having someone agree with you, can make you feel better about a terrible situation."

"So what you're saying is... now nobody's going to hire me?"

"No, that's not what I'm saying. Just one snob with an opinion isn't going to hire you."

Sloane was difficult, she knew that. She could be unreasonable and she was too stubborn, her standards were way too high and she'd been raised never to compromise when it came to her ideals. Really, the only profession she probably would've been less suited for than entertainment was customer service. But ten years into her career, she was starting to get the feeling that entertainment essentially was customer service, but even worse, because it was a long fucking con. You have to please the customer, but you have no bloody idea what it is that they want. At least Sloane didn't. And the people she employed to tell her didn't seem to have a clue anymore either, which was starting to become a problem. A big problem, apparently.

"Wasn't moving here supposed to make everything great? It was supposed to go from good to great. Like, honestly, Patrick's been nagging me on your behalf to move here for years, and I finally do, and now nobody's going to hire me? I struggle with the logic there. I took the big gig, I came here, I took on everything I was force fed. I'm not saying I did it well, mind you, I know I'm shit at anything more than turning up when I'm told. But I did it. And now you're saying I'm worse off than I would've been before, if I hadn't done any of it? What the fuck, Scott! I mean... now what? I haven't done any real work since July!"

Sloane was difficult, she knew that. She could be dramatic and she was too impatient, her highs were way too high and she'd been raised never to acknowledge her lows. But this was crunch time, the time when everything got laid out on the table, the time when a sports metaphor she didn't understand should've come along; that was what she needed, an Eric Taylor status motivational and inspiring speech from her agent, her agent who'd never once delivered bad news without a good news follow up - until now, apparently.

"It's just one no, Sloane. One person with one opinion. You take the good with the bad - we knew that."

Sloane slumped down in her chair, admitting defeat. She felt it in her chest. "This fucking sucks."

"Yeah," he nodded, slumping down in his own chair. He felt it in his chest, too. "Yeah. It really fucking sucks."

"It is very unnerving to be proven wrong, particularly when you are really right and the person who is really wrong is proving you wrong and proving himself, wrongly, right."

It was half past three in the morning, and Sloane was sitting on a rooftop in Queens when her phone vibrated from the inside of her sweater pocket. She'd been sitting next to her Uncle Nigel, listening to the sounds of the city and occasionally talking over them, catching each other up on what was new in the last year and a half, in-between liberally poured glasses of wine. She should've been exhausted, having arrived from Manhattan following a particularly socially exhausting movie premiere, but she found comfort and energy in her Uncle Nigel's presence - her Uncle Nigel who expressed no interest in attending a film premiere as her guest. (It was easier for Sloane to focus on why she liked that about him, rather than why she didn't.)

Sloane had never been much of a phone person in general, let alone when in such cherished company, and this fact was what prompted her father's older brother to take notice. "Who's sending you text messages at half three in the morning?" he asked, smiling fondly. He planned to tease her without mercy, until he caught wind of her expression staring down at the screen, followed by the sounds of his niece faintly humming - that was what prompted unusual pause. He waited until she'd finished with her correspondence, watching as she tucked the phone back into her front pocket; when she looked up at him bashfully, she apologized, like the English girl he was more familiar with. "You haven't gone and fallen in love with anyone, have you now?" The fond smile returned, with a more mischievous twist at the corners.

"Oh, please," Sloane grimaced, then shook her head, followed by a wave of her hand. Pulling her hat further down over her ears to protect them from the burning cold, she tilted her head in her uncle's direction, questioningly. "You know I'm not interested in falling in love. I'm not interested in love... or falling! Falling, what a thing to aspire to. I'm not keen on that direction. You know, like Margaret Atwood, this downward motion. It's like physics. I'm not about that downward motion. I only go up."

Uncle Nigel scoffed, quite immediately. His mischievous, teasing smile faded, giving way to a more serious expression. He pondered it for a moment, leaving Sloane hanging for what felt like the world's longest sip of chardonnay, until he finally spoke up. "Life's not just some upward climb, you know. It's up and down, and other people are very much a part of that. Whether you love them or not, they're going to love you, I can guarantee that. That's what gives you that little wobble on the map of life. There's no permanent inclines in life, Lola. Everybody's got that downward motion eventually. That's real physics, just ask your father."

After wrinkling her nose, Sloane buried her face in her glass of wine.

Between sips two and three, her phone vibrated again, and Uncle Nigel's laugh was nothing short of a cackle.

"People aren't either wicked or noble. They're like chef's salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict."

It was finally November, and Sloane was finally on holiday. As pleased as she was to be south of the Equator, she was sure everyone she knew was even more pleased, because it meant she'd finally shut up about her grand South American holiday. (Until she returned with photos and gifts and stories, at which point she'd no doubt resume her incessant chatter. That was the plan.) The holiday got off to a brilliant start, music and food and cramped bus rides living up to all of her expectations and then some. Despite her better judgment, she checked her phone nightly before climbing into bed, largely due to her worrying that an emergency with Leo or Mako may arise affected her ability to sleep. On this night, prior to arriving in Argentina, she received a voicemail from her father, the next move in a game of phone tag they'd been playing for several weeks.

In Sloane's last message, she'd gushed about how well Leo was doing at university, making no effort to hide her excitement over her brother's achievements and how truly happy he was, in the hope that maybe some of it would rub off on their father. That was the plan. She invited him to come to Los Angeles for Christmas, and insisted they'd find some place with Christmas crackers. "They've got their own American BBC channel as well, so you and Leo will be all set on the Doctor Who special!" She wrapped it up with an "I love you" and an "I miss you" and "Speak soon" before shouting "There's plenty of guest house space!" and hanging up.

There was only one thing that Sloane and her father had ever fought about. While most teenage girls clashed with their fathers over things like clothes and boys and makeup and studies, none of that had ever really been relevant. Perhaps it was because she'd been raised motherless and peerless, without any outside influence serving to shape her into some awkward, first draft version of herself; Sloane had always known who she was, and that seemed to cut down on the parental conflict well enough. Until Leo was old enough to enter the picture, and Sloane was old enough to understand how poorly their father treated him, and things grew tense.

"Hello lovie, it's Dad. Hoping to catch you to chat about your last message, but our timing's been dreadful lately, hasn't it? I'm... well you know I rather appreciate the invitation, certainly, but I just haven't got that sort of trip in me, I'm afraid. I do wish you'd come home, but I imagine your brother's plenty occupied with his newest endeavor, and it's good of you to stay and tend to him as needed. Maybe a trip home some other time? ...Well, I've put the kettle on and it's calling. I ought to be off. I love you, speak soon."

Sloane hadn't intended to cry on holiday, of course, but things didn't always go according to plan.

Luckily, she wasn't alone, and more surprisingly, she didn't mind it.