For the first time in years, the limousine didn't pull up at the curb in front of his home. Erik Cantrell found it strange. However, all he had at this moment was a fabulous piece of property that overlooked the harbor. There was no disputing that his was the best view in all of Willow Creek.
He also found himself missing the endless clacking of the cameras going off, the constant flashes of bright lights blinding him whenever he emerged from said limo, or anywhere else. Gone were the Paparazzi, the adoring fans. Erik Cantrell reminded himself that this was his choice. His decision. He was at the top of his fame, playing the biggest venues, to scores of fans who braved the elements just to see him perform.
He’d left Sunset Valley where he’d lived for these past several years. His parents and four siblings still resided there. He missed them. But Erik, despite having it all for a time, was miserable. He'd had quite a life, he couldn't argue that, but it seemed so empty, in retrospect. For the longest time he couldn't quite identify what was lacking, just what it was he wanted, only that he needed something more.
Content for the longest time, focused on fulfilling his need to perform, to sing, to share his music with others, it finally dawned on him what it was that was missing. He had no true partner, a wife, and along with her, his own children. He loved playing with his nieces and nephews, but it wasn't enough. He wanted a family of his own.
He had started off on this path, too early on, just to have his love of music reroute his dreams, for a time. Even then, he’d been too quick to jump into things. Erik made many mistakes along the road to love. Impatience was his enemy. Erik disliked waiting for anything. Wanting to get his life started, he fell in love far too easily, got engaged too early to his high school sweetheart and then went off to university to study the Fine Arts.
While there he made some fascinating discoveries. These Sims were women and they behaved differently. Something had changed inside of him, too. He experimented with herbs, often, got juiced a little too much and in general, participated in some pretty wild dares. Who else would opt to streak in the middle of a rather snowy winter? Burr. Erik shivered just thinking about it, and smiled a little, too, at the nonsense of it. He was quick to take up Causes and protested, readily, until he became the Rebel everyone else looked up to. He was also a top Nerd, with a hint of Jock on the side. His street art earned him some pretty hefty tips, too. Erik Cantrell did what he set out to do. He made his presence known.
When he graduated and came home to Sunset Valley, to Kaitlyn, he knew he’d outgrown her. She also must have changed in some ways, too, as she avoided his calls, avoiding him as well. While this caused him some pain, he was forced to face the truth of the situation. Finally, he broke it off with her. She cried a little, but her reaction was not what he expected. He’d gotten so used to the other girls calling him, asking for dates at all hours of the night, and the flood of love letters from people he didn't even know, it all seemed so hollow. However, he’d expected, had hoped, that someone he’d shared his deepest secrets with to have felt something more at being left behind. Perhaps that’s what they both realized after he’d been away for a time. She just wasn't the One. Nor was he. Together they weren't It.
In the meantime, as he grew as a musician, a singer, so did his following. He began to know no peace. If he had a flood of mail before, from his university exploits, the endless love-letters from strangers exploded. He felt sorry for the Sim who delivered the mail! Recognized just about everywhere he went, he was never really alone. They grabbed at his clothes, all but ripping them off, in an effort to own a piece of him. Both scary and a bit exciting, even fun, at first, it soon came to be that he never knew whom he could really trust. Did she like him for him, or for his sudden fame?
Then Erik met Tatiana, who wasn't at all what he’d call a ‘groupie’ since she hardly knew who he was, which surprised him, in a good way, fell in love, and just as quickly they were engaged. Once again, too fast. Yet, Erik found himself tarrying. Something with this match wasn't quite right, either. So, although the two continued to date, he refused to cement their wedding plans, refused even to set a date. He could tell, too, that Tatiana was growing weary of his constant equivocation. Erik was unsure what it was that held him back. He wanted a family, there was no denying that. Still …
Then one morning Erik woke up realizing what he must do. He had to break free of this life he’d created for himself. He needed a reboot. To start over and remake himself. He made up his mind his gig, set for that night, would be his last concert. He would thank his fans for being so faithful and express how grateful he was to them for ensuring his success and then tell them all good bye.
In reality, standing on the stage gazing out at them and hearing the roar, his hands began to sweat. Tears welled in his blue eyes momentarily and he wondered if this was the right decision. He did thank them for their loyalty, and expressed his gratitude to them by singing his heart out, performing like he had never done before. Magic was in the air. Erik ended the concert with his signature piece, singing, “Maybe It’s Better This Way”, which was by far more poignant than most would understand, since he often closed his gigs with this song. He’d fallen just short of telling them this was his last gig. He wanted an out, just in case his decision proved a faulty one.
The next day he rose, early, as usual. Any doubts he may have carried about this decision, rolled right off of his back like the water from his shower. He carefully cut off his trademark dread locks, shaved his face clean of his signature sculpted beard and exchanged his contact lenses for his old wire-rims. Gazing at himself in the mirror, it was almost like looking at a stranger; it was him and yet not. So that’s how Superman/Clark Kent pulled it off, he thought, grinning to himself. Then after checking his bank account, which to his horror came up incredibly short, he secretly started looking around for a nice piece of property in a neighborhood where he might not be so well-known.
Three days later he found himself in Willow Creek. After paying for the property he didn't even have enough left for the basics: A sink, a toilet, a stove. Instead, he purchased a good tent, a modest, small tree-stump-inspired stool and a rock fire ring. That was it. This was how he would be living for a time. How much time? He didn't know. His CPA had much to account for. He’d been stealing Simoleons from Erik rather steadily, one at a time, so that it was barely noticeable.
Being so broke scared him. He made money like there was no tomorrow and tried to be very careful with it, as his father advised him. Joseph Cantrell, Sr. was a very wealthy Sim. He well knew the value of a Simoleon and instructed all five of his children on how to handle their funds. Erik listened well. He researched his accountant, the firm the Sim represented and did everything he could to guard himself again the lean times — which, as it turned out, was now. He wasn’t even thirty yet! Basically, he was starting all over.
That was in his past. And this was now.
Erik Cantrell walked into the Park. Part One of the test. Could he venture out, meet a few people, and go unnoticed? He had to try, or this whole experiment was for naught. He ran his hand over his chin and jaw, unaccustomed to the smoothness of his face. He had to admit, he was a bit nervous. The park was crawling with people, of all ages.
He found a fellow busy playing chess and after introducing himself, “Hi, my name is Erik, mind if I sit down and join your game?”
“By all means, please do. I’m Ayden, the City groundskeeper, here.”
There wasn’t even so much as a spark of recognition in the gardener’s eyes. The two got into a rather lively conversation and before long, Erik had a new friend. Excited about the normality of all of this, Erik decided to try something else. Excusing himself, he got out his guitar and began to strum and sing, just a bit. He was happy to realize he hadn’t lost his touch.
He grew marginally nervous when his effort drew a little bit of attention and braced himself. Had his experiment come to a screeching and dismal halt? Was it a total failure and he was trapped forever in a lifestyle he’d outgrown? Happily, after the teen gave him a tip, he realized she hadn’t recognized him. She was simply interested in his playing.
This was cause for celebration. Erik couldn’t really live without his music, and at least for now, it seemed he wouldn’t have to altogether. He smiled and nodded, acknowledging her gratuity. Grateful for it, given his state of financial upheaval. Pretty soon, she simply moved on.
Uplifted by this, he went back to his “campground” because he couldn’t really call it much else. He lit a fire and roasted a hot dog, since all of the playing and mingling with the regular people had made him hungry.
Then, still not ready for sleep, he decided to enact phase two of his great experiment. He would head over to the Blue Velvet Night Club. There was a distinct upbeat that filled the room from the speaker high on the wall, near the piano. Erik was quite the dancer and the music called to him like he never expected, and as there was a group of three women and a couple of fellas already dancing, he danced, too.
After a short time, he introduced himself and struck up a nice conversation with a very pretty woman. Erik’s sensors were on full alert. She was very, very attractive and he found himself experiencing that nagging sense of being in love. “Lust is not love, lust is not love, lust is not love,” he repeated silently to himself. As they talked, and danced, Erik soon realized Zoe Patel, had a rather cheerful nature and she was a bit of a goofball. All fine qualities, he decided. Life required a sense of humor, after all. Certainly, his life did. Before too long, she confessed,
“I’m totally clumsy. Just wanted to give you fair warning.” She was tall, slim, with long dark brown hair that bordered on being black and a nice bronze complexion. He liked her. He really did. By the end of the evening, he was certain he had gained another friend. A lady friend.Feeling fairly secure he finally blurted out, “Say, are you single?”
“Why, yes, how did you know?” She smiled brightly. Erik, all the while, thinking to himself, not for long, if I have anything to say about it.
They talked for just a bit longer and then Erik bid the group farewell. He was quite tired by now, and had the cold, hard ground to sleep on.
The next morning, he went straight to the gym to shower, shave and otherwise see to his needs. Stepping out of the shower, he thought he heard a familiar voice wafting up the stairs. He wrapped the towel about his waist and went to see if it was who he thought it was. “Zoe!” he greeted, daring to flirt, just a little.
Unfortunately, things got awkward very quickly. Erik was uncertain if he had come on too strong, too soon, or if it was his current state of undress that was behind her sudden retreat. Should he pursue this relationship, or look around for someone else? He decided to say goodbye, for now, and after getting dressed left the gym.
He spent much of the rest of the day fishing. He had grown weary of a diet of little more than hot dogs. Finally, after nearly all day, he caught a fish. This was really exciting, in a mundane sort of way. But, he’d had more excitement in his young life than most. Mundane. Mundane, was good. He might even get used to it. He may even learn to like it. Too bad, he still couldn’t light a fire without burning himself.
But, at least fish roasted over an open flame was good.
And tomorrow, he'd see about getting a job …