The city of Townsville's forest, a young couple sat underneath a tree in a secluded spot. They weren't doing anything "improper", just laying in the tree's shade, his arms wrapped firmly around her, enjoying each other's company. The man, a black-haired young male in his early twenties, was sitting on the grass with his back against a tree. The girl, a redhead with bright green eyes, was in front of him, using the man's chest as an impromptu pillow. She held up a yellow wildflower high above her head and, using her thumb and forefinger, twirled it around.
The couple sat there for a while, just enjoying everything around them. It was actually quite a while before one of the young lovers, the woman, spoke.
"You want to know what I've always dreamed of?"
"What?" asked her companion, his curiosity piqued.
"Children?" the young man asked in surprise.
"Yes," she said, sounding a little offended, "Is that such a huge shock to you?"
"You just never struck me as the happy homemaker type, that's all. You've always been so adventurous."
"Well, what bigger adventure is there than raising a child?"
"I suppose you're right there," the man said with a laugh. "Still, Townsville isn't the great place it was when we were kids. Why would you want to raise a family here?"
"It's because Townsville's so lousy now that I want kids." the woman said, the conviction clear in her voice, "If I had children I could teach them right from wrong and maybe, just maybe, when they grew up they'd be able to do some good for this town."
The man sat silently for a moment, contemplating this.
"Now I feel kind of silly." the man said with a blush. "My dream was to one day turn apples into oranges."
The young woman worked hard to stifle a laugh and, just barely, succeeded.
* * * *
It was a typical night at the Utonium household. The whole family was there for Professor Utonium's lovingly cooked meal. For once, there was no global emergency forcing the girls to leave. Everybody was in high spirits. Blossom had set the table just like one would expect at a fancy restaurant. Bubbles put a picture she colored of the family up to act as a centerpiece. Buttercup went through the whole meal without flinging mashed potatoes at anybody.
After dinner, the family was settled down in the living room to play a gam before bedtime. The game of choice this time ended up being Picture Charades. And Elizabeth McKay-Utonium sighed as each girl started arguing over who was going to be teamed up with her.
"I wanna be on Momma's team!" Bubbles said.
"No! Me!" said Blossom.
"You were on Momma's team last time!" Buttercup yelled at Blossom.
"Was not! That was Bubbles! This time it's my turn!"
"I wanna be on Momma's team!" Bubbles said again.
"I'm gonna be on her team!" Blossom shouted.
"Why would Momma want you on her team? You can't even draw!" Buttercup told Blossom.
"I can too draw!" Blossom retorted.
"I wanna be on Momma's team!" said Bubbles.
"Hold everything!" Liz shouted over the arguing voices of the girls. These arguments were to be expected when you had three young children. But the fact that they were common events didn't stop them from frustrating both Liz and the Professor. Primarily because they were difficult for the parents to resolve without looking like they were playing favorites.
"First off. Bubbles, last family night you and me were on a team. So it wouldn't be fair to your sisters if you were with me twice in a row."
Bubbles sulked, but didn't protest.
"Now," Liz turned to Buttercup and Blossom. "I think the usual method will be enough to settle this."
With that, Liz reached into her pocket and pulled out a quarter. The usual method was a simple coin toss. Whenever two of the girls were arguing about something such as who should do what first or who should sit where in the car, it was often the quickest, fairest way to decide.
"Call it in the air!" said Liz as she sent the quarter flying.
"Heads!" Blossom called. Both Blossom and Buttercup watched anxiously as the coin landed. It was heads.
"YES!" Blossom cried out.
"Aw, nuts." said Buttercup, "Well at least I'm with someone who can draw."
"I can draw!" Blossom asserted.
"How do you know, I've never seen you complete a picture!"
It was true. While Blossom could draw, she often was such a perfectionist that, if even one mistake was made, then the picture was ruined. Blossom would toss it out and forget it rather tan carry on despite the mistake.
"I'll show you Buttercup! Just you wait!" Blossom muttered as she and Liz sat down next to each other on the couch.
"All right, girls, settle down and we'll start the game." said Professor Utonium, who was in charge of giving the drawing players their words, "Since Blossom won the coin toss to play with Momma, Buttercup and Bubbles can go first."
"We'll win this easy." Buttercup said confidently, "Right Bubbles?"
"Right." said Bubbles as she stepped up to draw. Buttercup sat down on the couch, a slight distance from where Blossom was sitting. Professor Utonium walked up to Bubbles and kneeled down next to her. He whispered to her the word she was to draw.
Bubbles nodded to show she understood and, after Professor Utonium turned on an egg timer, got to drawing with crayons and a sketchpad that had been set up on a canvas stand in front of the TV in the living room. She started drawing a straight green line and followed with yellow flower petals. Buttercup instantly started guessing words such as "flower," "sunflower," and "dandelion." Bubbles looked frustrated, it was clear Buttercup wasn't guessing correctly.
Her eyes brightened a second later as she seemed to get an idea. She slapped herself on the forehead, suggesting it was something she should have done in the first place. She picked up a green crayon and began drawing a little figure in a green dress. Everyone instantly knew who it was supposed to be.
"Me and flowers..." Buttercup said, thinking out loud.
"Me picking flowers? Ew, gross. Me stomping flowers? Me an' flowers... me an' flowers... oh! Buttercups! You're drawing buttercups!"
"That's right!" yelled Bubbles triumphantly, "Way to go!"
"Good job, both of you." Liz told Bubbles an Buttercup. The two girls smiled a the praise.
"Your turn, honey." Liz told Blossom. Blossom got off the couch and floated over to the sketchpad. The Professor whispered Blossom's word to her and she began her drawing. She picked up a brown crayon and started drawing what appeared to be a tree trunk. But she didn't simply stop at just at tree trunk, she started drawing branch after branch after branch as well. Then, without warning, in the middle of a branch, Blossom stopped.
"That's not right... not right at all." Blossom said as she started tearing off the paper and crumpling it up.
"Wait. Time out!" Liz called as she got up off the couch and kneeled down next to Blossom.
"Blossom, what's the matter?" she asked, though she'd already guessed what Blossom's answer would be.
"It's not right." Blossom said, looking down at the floor.
"It seemed just fine to me and I didn't even know what it was yet." Liz joked. This got a small smile out of Blossom.
"Look, Blossom, it doesn't have to be perfect. We're only playing a game. As long as I can guess what it is it'll be just fine. Okay?"
Blossom nodded her head.
"Time in." Liz said as she sat back down. Professor Utonium restarted the timer from where it left off and Blossom resumed drawing. This time she didn't go all out like she did in her first attempt. She decided to just keep it simple.
"Just as long as she can guess what it is." Blossom whispered to herself. She repeated that phrase to herself, as a mantra, as she started again with the brown crayon and drew two parallel vertical lines. One of the lines wasn't quite straight, but Blossom, still saying her mantra, let it go and kept going. She next took up the green crayon and, above the brown lines, started drawing what was best described as a green cloud.
"Okay, it's a tree..." Liz guessed, but Blossom wasn't paying attention as she used a red crayon to put little dots in the leaves of the tree.
"Oh, I think I see now. Is it an apple tree?"
Blossom shook her head.
"Hmm... strawberries don't grown on trees. So it can't be them. What other red fruits are there?"
Blossom saw her momma having trouble and thought of something to help. Next to the red dotted tree she drew two red circles, with a curved red line coming out of the top of each circle and connecting at a point above them.
"Hmm? I see now!" Liz said, "It's a cherry tree!"
"Yeah!" Blossom yelled happily just as a small ding came from the egg timer the Professor was holding.
"Got that just in the nick of time, Liz." said the Professor as Blossom floated back over to the couch and sat down next to Liz.
"I couldn't have done it without Blossom." Liz told the Professor as she ran her hand through Blossom's hair.
"Yay Blossom!" Bubbles cheered.
"She was just lucky." Buttercup muttered under her breath.
With the game done, it was time for bed. While the girls went upstairs to brush their teeth, Liz went to their bedroom and laid out their pajamas. She also put down next to the PJs the girls' favorite bedtime toys; Bubbles' Octi doll, Buttercup's security blanket, and a stuffed unicorn Blossom had recently grown fond of. After the girls were in their nighties and tucked in for the night, Liz read them a story and sang them their favorite lullaby.
When they were asleep, Liz went downstairs to the living room to find Professor Utonium waiting for her. He sat on the couch, the TV turned on to one of their favorite movies, The Nutty Professor (the Jerry Lewis version).
"The girls give you any trouble?" Utonium asked, knowing that every now and then the girls would put up a huge fuss when bedtime rolled around.
"No, they went down without a hassle." Liz said as she sat down next to him. Utonium hugged her close as their movie started. They sat in silence as Jerry lewis went from bumbling scientist to lady magnet.
Ten minutes into the film, the Professor suddenly got a strange feeling. It felt as if something was wrong. Something wasn't right. He felt as if there was something horribly wrong. He looked down at Elizabeth. She was leaning against him, her eyes closed. It seemed at first as if she had simply fallen asleep during the movie. But closer examination revealed something far worse.
The front of Liz's blouse was stained dark red. She wasn't breathing. The dark red stain, the Professor realized with horror, was blood.
The Professor started to reach for the telephone, to call 911, only to realize that he and Liz were no longer in their living room. They were in the middle of Townsville Park, on a paved walkway. The Professor was on his knees now, Liz's head cradled in his lap.
The Professor looked around his new surroundings, desperately trying to find someone to help. The only person he saw was a boy running away, a purse in one hand, a pistol in the other. Utonium attempted CPR, but it was no use, Elizabeth was dead.
"Elizabeth..." the Professor muttered, as he held his love close, not caring that the blood was staining his own clothes.
* * * *
"ELIZABETH!!" the Professor shouted as he suddenly sat straight up. Once again, his surroundings were different. Only this time, he was in his bedroom. It was the middle of the night. It had all been a dream.
No... not all of it. Only the happiest part. Only the Utonium family, the entire Utonium family, cherishing a night together, hadn't been real. Everything else had actually happened. The day he and Liz had shared their dreams for the future... the night one of those futures became impossible. Those events had happened.
Utonium looked to his left, at the empty place on the bed. The place she should be lying. Despite being without her for so long, he still hadn't broken the habit of staying to one side of the bed.
Utonium looked to his right, at the nightstand. Out of its drawer he pulled out a small picture album. In it were pictures of himself and Liz together. Her bright green eyes and her smile seemed to shine in every photo. The pictures had the couple in all sorts of places. From theme parks, to national landmarks, even a picture of the Professor, bent on one knee, presenting a ring to his love.
He had proposed to her, and she had accepted. They were to have been married. But the wedding would never take place. One night, after dinner at a nice restaurant, the couple's car had broken down. Utonium had wanted to call a cab. But Liz liked the idea of a nice stroll through the park. While going through the park, a mugger attacked them. He was really just a kid, as panicked as the couple he was robbing. He was waving a gun around, demanding their money. But just as he got Liz's purse, the gun went off, and the bullet went right through Liz's heart. The Professor had tried everything he could to save her, but it was no good. Death had been instant.
The boy who fired the shot was soon arrested. It turned out he was only sixteen years old. His case was sent to family court and he got a lighter sentence then he would have if he'd been just a couple years older.
But Utonium hardly cared who killed Liz, hardly cared about anything after her death. He had sunk into a deep depression. He couldn't do anything. He couldn't do his research, he couldn't perform experiments. He was barely able to care for his chimpanzee, Jojo, who had become a real handful following Liz's death. Jojo had been very close to her. In fact, she was often the only one who could pacify him whenever he got rowdy. But with Liz gone, Jojo wouldn't be stopped. Nothing the Professor did helped. Finally, Utonium just gave up and let Jojo run wild.
As time went on, Utonium started to notice, more and more, the state of Townsville. The crime, the despair. He wondered how he could've been so stupid as to go on that walk through the park. Why hadn't he insisted on calling a cab? The reason was obvious... she had wanted to walk. The Professor, hardly able to refuse her anything, hadn't argued, and because of that she was killed. Killed by some dumb kid who probably hadn't even realized just what he was doing. Some dumb kid who probably hadn't been taught the difference between right and wrong.
He had always dreamed about her after her death. Even now. However, lately the dreams had started becoming more and more frequent, and had begun including his girls. There was a formula to them, often they would go about the same. They would begin with the day he and Liz had talked while camping in the woods, then go to them and the girls enjoying a family activity together. This part was always different, often ranging from a family dinner, to playing a game, tending to a garden, or making an art project. The dream then ended the same as always, with the Professor and Liz in the park, Liz dead in his arms. That was the point he always awoke.
The Professor's thoughts were interrupted by a small voice calling out from the door.
"Professor?" asked Blossom, who stood at the door, Buttercup and Bubbles behind her. They all looked tired, they also looked worried.
"Girls, what are you doing up?" the Professor asked, as the girls floated into the air and sat down on the bed next to the Professor.
"We heard you yelling and we thought maybe there might be something wrong." Blossom answered. They had heard him calling out in his sleep. Calling out for Elizabeth.
"Oh... well... I just had a bad dream. That's all." the Professor told Blossom.
"You wanna come sleep in our bed with us, Professor?" asked Bubbles. The Professor smiled at her.
"Thank you, honey, but I don't think that'll be necessary."
"Hey, what's this?" asked Buttercup, who had spied the photo album sitting ont he bed. Before the Professor could stop them, the girls' curiosity had overpowered their sleepiness. They started flipping through the book, and saw the pictures of the Professor and Liz.
"Hey, Professor, who is this lady?" asked Blossom.
"She's pretty." Bubbles commented.
"Have you been dating someone and not telling us, Professor?" Buttercup asked.
"No." the Professor answered with a chuckle. He suddenly became serious, "That woman is... was... someone I cared for very deeply."
"Was?" Buttercup asked, catching on to the Professor's meaning, "Does that mean she's..."
"Dead." the Professor answered, "It'll be three years ago tomorrow..."
God, it's been three full years, already? The Professor suddenly realized.
No wonder the dreams were becoming frequent.
"That's so sad." Bubbles said, "Who was she?"
"Her name was Elizabeth. Elizabeth McKay. Though she tended to prefer Liz. But if you ever called her Lizzie she'd beat you senseless." Buttercup laughed at that.
"We met in college. A girl my old roomate Dick had wanted to go out with had only said yes on the stipulation that a friend of hers could get set up as well. So Dick set me up with her, and we were stuck on each other from that day forward."
"We dated for a long time, neither of us felt ready for marriage yet so we never actually considered getting married until a few years later. I proposed. She accepted. But shortly after all that, my car had broken down while we were out, we decided to walk home... but Townsville... before you girls came... "
The Professor started to get choked up, and found it difficult to talk about the moment of Liz's death. The girls picked up on it and each decided not to ask for any details. It was clear what had happened anyway, Liz had been killed.
"After she died, I was very distaught." the Professor told them, "I couldn't concentrate on anything, not my experiments, not my research, not even Jojo. For a while, I simply stopped caring."
The girls were a bit shocked at this revelation. It was near impossible to imagine the Professor depressed like he had just described. The Professor continued.
"But, eventually, out of my despair, came something wonderful... Liz had told me once, long ago, that her dream was to have children. In realizing that, I finally found something to strive for. In Liz's memory, I created you girls."
"You... you made us because of her?"
The Professor nodded.
"I wouldn't be able to have my dream of us being together, but I could at least make her dream come true."
The girls sat on the Profressor's lap. The revelation slowly sinking in. It was Bubbles, who after a few moments asked the question that they each wanted to ask.
"Could you tell us about her?"
* * * *
The next day, Professor Utonium and the girls stood in Townsville Cemetary before the grave of Elizabeth McKay. It was fairly late in the afternoon. The Utoniums had been up until nearly three a.m. when the girls had finally fallen asleep, exhaustion overwhelming them. The Professor had let the girls sleep late and miss school today so that they could have this outing.
The Professor stood back and let the girls have their own moment with Liz. They stood before Liz's headstone, each holding a bouquet of Liz's favorite flowers in their arms. He heard them speak to Liz, though it sounded a bit awkward. Neither Blossom, Bubbles, nor Buttercup really knew how to speak to someone who wasn't really there to hear them. But they managed it, and when it seemed like the girls had finished, the Profressor had walked over to them and kneeled down behind them.
"Professor," said Blossom, "Do you think she'd be proud of us?"
"Liz's dream was to have children who could some good for Townsville." said the Professor, "There is no doubt in my mind she would be very proud of you."
The girls suddenly began to get teary eyed. Utonium decided they had had enough for one day and went to get the car ready. As he turned, however, he suddenly heard a sound like a laser beam shooting. He turned around to see a red flash against Liz's headstone.
"Girls! What are you do.... oh, girls..."
The Profressor saw what the girls had done. Using their laser vision, they had written out something on the headstone underneath Liz's name and the years of her birth and death. It looked very close to the writing already on the stone. The Professor gave the girls a hug and, after setting down the flowers they had brought, took them to the car.
The three bouquets of buttercups laid on the in front of the headstone.