Friday, October 30, 2015

Generation One —Chapter Five ReBoot: A Parent’s Nightmare

Erik slipped his key into the lock on the front door and let himself in. Just in approaching his home something felt off.  He took a quick look around. The house was unmarred. There were still very few windows for a thief to break into, no sign anything had been disturbed, yet it seemed eerily empty. The afternoon was waning and he realized he was just going to have to put a light on the front porch. Pushing into the foyer, he quickly glanced around in the dimness of the interior. What few lights they had were all set to auto, to help save on the bills. With two of them working and gaining promotions, they were still barely scraping by. Which is why, to his deepest regret, little Patrice was left alone after school. They couldn’t even afford to put her in the after-school care program. Without so much as a television to keep her occupied, she was left on her own.

Everything was happening so fast.
He seemed to have missed Patrice’s toddler years. When did she learn to walk, talk and use the toilet all by herself? Suddenly, in the wink of an eye, as if she’d jetted straight out of her little bassinet a full-blown child, she was off to school. Unable to find so much as a teenager willing to spend a couple of hours in the afternoon to watch their little girl, for just a few Simoleons, this was the quandary.  He had attempted more than once to talk to Zoe about his fears …
“I’m not comfortable leaving Patrice alone while we’re at work,” Erik said one afternoon.
Erik could feel the tension mounting, could almost see her hackles rising. Again, he blamed the tension on the never-ending building process. Both of them snapped too quickly at each other.
“I’m not quitting my job, Erik.”
“No, and I wouldn’t ask you, to. We’re barely scratching by on our combined paychecks, as it is.”
“Then, why bring it up?” Zoe raked a hand through her long, dark brown hair, pulling it off of her forehead, and then let it go again to tumbled about her slender shoulders. She looked tired to Erik. He knew she was working just as hard as he was.
“You’re my wife, the mother of our daughter. I thought we could talk about it. Voice our concerns. I have them. She’s spending way too much time on her own. Alone. We don’t even have a television to ‘babysit’ her. I’m very worried one day I’ll come home from work and she just won’t be here.”
“Don’t be so dramatic.” Zoe said, dismissing his fears. “She always gets her homework done. Her teacher tells me she’s a very good student.”…

“Patrice!” Erik said, his voice echoing off the bare sheet rock. They still had no proper flooring, merely cement. The walls totally unadorned. On the upside, they had managed a nice matching set of furniture for their little progeny. A bed, a bookcase, a dresser, a lamp. And, she had an over-sized stuffed brownish-gold dinosaur, she often punched—which was also a concern. Currently, set up in what would become their living room, Erik worried about any number of things when it came to Patrice. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but she certainly wasn’t as easy as her mother presented her. Zoe sometimes lived in a nice little bubble of her own making.

Walking down the wide hallway, he turned right at the bend and then walked through the archway on the left, expecting to find his little daughter sitting on a stump at their kitchen table, sipping a glass of orange juice and eating chips. The lights came on with his movement. She wasn’t there. He crossed the room and rapped on the closed bathroom door. No answer. Checking, in disbelief, there was no light coming from underneath the door, either. He opened it anyway. No Patrice.
In a panic, the father ran back out of the house, down the block, through the ethereal space continuum, until he reached Magnolia Blossom Park in the heart of their neighborhood. Glancing about him, he could see several Sims milling about. He checked the chess tables first. There were three of them, occupied, but no Patrice. As he crossed the wide park, his long hurried steps turned into jogs as he ran around looking everywhere for a small, blonde girl. “Patrice! Patrice, where are you? It’s Daddy! Patrice!”

Suddenly the little girl appeared out from amidst the bushes, wiping her hands on her shirt and shorts. “Daddy!” she hollered and ran over to him. “Here I am. I was hungry and I found some yummy grilled fruit on the picnic tables over there,” she pointed to the creek just beyond the fence railings.
“You scared Daddy half to death,” he said, hugging her to him. “What did I say about leaving the house when Mommy and Daddy are at work?”
“But I was hungry.”
“Patrice,” Erik said, sounding way too much like his own father, just then. Taking that firm, stern, you’re-really-going-to-get-it-now, tone. The very same tone he’d railed at as a kid. His mother was right. She’d cursed him years ago: I hope you get one just like you! Patrice certainly was stubborn enough to be just like him. “Mommy always leaves food in the fridge for you. She cooks just before she leaves for work. So, don’t give me that line of malarkey.”
“Oh, okay,” she said, digging the toe of her tennis shoe in the dirt lane. She peeked up at him every now and again to see if he was really mad. In that way, she was just like her mother. “I was lonely and I wanted to play some chess.”
“Okay, see? I like that. Just be honest with me. Let’s get home, it’s getting dark.”
Once they got home, Erik made her some dinner. While she sat at the little kitchen table, on her very own stump, he decided it was time to share the news. “You should know that Mommy is having another baby.”
“Is that why she’s getting so fat?”
Erik grinned, flashing a look at his daughter. “Don’t let Mommy hear you call her fat, okay? But, yes, that’s why her tummy is so big.”
“Oh, I thought she was just eating too many cookies and cakes.”
Erik placed the plate of food before her. “Here, eat your mac and cheese, you little minx.” He rumpled her short hair. “Then you can finish your homework, take your shower and —”
“I know, I know. Brush my teeth and go to bed.”

October 28, 2015

Chapter Five:

Erik was quickly learning just how very expensive children were. He now was the father of two, a little girl and recently a baby son. Zoe was excelling in her field and got a promotion. Shortly after that she consented to another child. In the meantime, Erik was constantly honing his craft. He was now into writing music again, this time jingles. Every now and again, when the muse overtook him, he turned out another song. This pleased his boss.
He, too, received a promotion. Still, between them, the appliances in the kitchen had not been upgraded, as he had planned. Zoe needed better appliances, if she was to continue toward her dream of being a chef. He did, however, manage to purchase a nice bar for her, since she was being pressed to learn mixology, too. Her drinks were okay … but he wouldn’t recommend she cater an event or anything. A little more tart in flavor than he liked. Every time he made up his mind to remake their kitchen, or even get Patrice the chess table
“I’m not comfortable leaving Patrice alone while we’re at work,” Erik said one afternoon.
Erik could feel the tension mounting, could almost see her hackles rising at what he guessed she thought he meant.
“I’m not quitting my job, Erik.”
“No, and I wouldn’t ask you, to. We’re barely scratching by on our combined paychecks, as it is.”
“Then, why bring it up?”
“You’re my wife, the mother of our daughter. I thought we could voice our concerns. I have them. She’s spending way too much time on her own. Alone. We don’t even have a television to ‘babysit’ her. I’m very worried one day I’ll come home from work and she just won’t be here.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Generation One —Chapter Four ReBoot: As the Family Grows, So Does the House …

      Erik worked very hard night and day. He gathered the wild fruits and flowers from around his lot, reminding himself of a Cave Man from times past, but the fruit and flowers really paid off well. So cave man or not, it was worth doing. He practiced his music and got promoted, again. A very nice bonus came with this most recent raise, too.  He spent his free time, what little there was in one of two places. He was either at the Box hardware store buying Sheetrock and nails, or he was at home, trying to figure out which end of the hammer to use. More than once he smashed a finger, as he built walls. He could only hope it would look like something when he was done. If it didn’t actually look like the house in his head, that is.

     Zoe also managed to get a promotion in the Culinary field. She studied the Masters as often as she could, made friends with her co-workers, and tried to avoid shortcuts, which resulted in overfilled dishwashers. For a time, she was lucky enough doing this, but one evening, her unwise practices came back to haunt her. She ended up having a sudsy mess, when the machine failed, turning into a mechanical monster spewing forth copious soap suds, veritably frothing at the control panel, which turned the entire kitchen on its head. The suds threatening everything and everyone that came into its path. Chefs were slipping as they made haste taking their completed dishes to the Pass. Zoe was scared someone might fall and truly hurt themselves. “Oh, be careful. Please, don’t run. At least, give me a moment to mop up this mess!” she said, using the mop to steady herself. She almost fell herself, as her feet slid in opposite directions, hanging onto the mop for dear life.
Her boss was understanding enough, but Zoe came home in a very tense mood, and aching all over several of her muscles pulled, wondering if the next day she would still have a job. She walked into the house and found Erik in the bare-bones of their kitchen.

 From the look on his face, she knew something was up. “Okay, so what now?” Zoe snapped. “Did my boss call me or something?”
“No, and just why should he call you at home?”
“I don’t care to talk about it,” she crossed her arms over her chest and turned her back to him. “So what if I over-loaded that freakishly old, poor-excuse of a dishwasher. Half of the time it breaks down on its own. Doesn’t mean I did it!”
“So, …” Erik began, looking up at her. He was seated on one of those little stump chairs, about the only seating besides their bed, that they had. “Are they docking your pay for the repairs? Is that what has your undies in a bunch?”
“W-w-what? Is that what this is about, money? You’re the one who walked away from a lucrative career! Don’t you hand me that.”
“Is that what, what is? I was just sitting here. You’re the one who came in like Hurricane Zoe. What is it with you, lately? Seems I can’t do anything right in your eyes anymore!”

     The state of their build was largely at the heart of the tension. As it seemed to Erik, couples should never go into a build, or even a major remodeling project, without first signing a paper stating that they would not succumb to the inherent stress that accompanies such undertakings, by getting a divorce. For awhile there, the honeymoon phase of their new marriage was sorely tested. He learned Zoe could be a little hot-headed when pressed too hard. He also realized he was, too. So, more than a few times he resorted to humor. Telling a funny story or just a good joke would get the two of them back on track and in a better frame of mind. Not only that, but make-up woohoo was the best. Now, he understood what everybody always said about it.  Of course, it, too, comes with its own consequences.

One bright sunny morning when Erik was again up very early harvesting his ‘crops’, Zoe came running up to him. She was all excited, as she tended to get and in only a moment, she shared her good news with him. “Erik! We’re having a baby. I just took a test. We’re pregnant!”
“Honey, that’s wonderful. That’s great,” he said, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tight. “This is the best day of my life,” he said and kissed her.

As the time went by and Zoe’s little belly got bigger and bigger, so did their house. Erik had several walls erected by now. He was pleased with his progress, and the house was really shaping up. So far, he hadn’t received any hate mail for the monstrosity he was building from the nearby neighbors, at least. The City Inspector was kind, too. Erik had made very few mistakes along the way. Surprisingly. Nothing had to be torn down and reconstructed, so he was grateful for that, at least. Money was tight, but in some ways, that was good, too. He was forced to spend very carefully and to plan things out.

They now had an enclosed kitchen, with a bathroom off of it, a nice entry way, or at least the beginnings of it. And a front door. An actual front door. He moved their tree-stump chairs into the corner of the kitchen. Zoe’s promotion also included a gift card for some rather nice kitchen counters. Erik got busy and installed them. He also found matching corner pieces to insert. The old, get-me-by counter was sold and a new matching one put in its place. He could hardly wait until he could replace the appliances. The old refrigerator was just that. Old and refurbished. Most of the time it worked, luckily. But the stove was nothing short of a disaster. If Zoe was going to get anywhere as a chef, she needed better appliances. A real gas oven, not this electric piece of near-junk he bought on the fly.

Erik was now, once again, a headliner.  He brought in a nice salary. Things were looking up. Happily his disguise was yet to be penetrated. The most he read in the local rag magazines, was a complimentary comparison to the long-disappeared Erik Cantrell.  Erik continued to use the sobriquet, Ee-Sea. Only a very few at work knew his true identity. His boss, primarily and his new record producer. He went without an agent, as that would surely blow his cover. And, he preferred that only he and Zoe handle their money. And, Erik did a much better job of keeping track of every Simoleon and smaller, spent.

     He got back very late one night, boasting a promotion for his efforts and finding Zoe in the throes of labor. After several long, miserable hours, Zoe gave birth to a little baby girl. Erik had hoped for a son, but he fell in love with little Patrice the moment he held her. Besides, he had only just turned thirty. Zoe’s birthday was a little ways off, yet. There was plenty of time for more children. Once Zoe got further along in her career, and Patrice was a bit older, he would approach Zoe for another child. And, he’d also like to get more of the house erected. A roof, would be a good addition, too. No telling just how long he had of this great, sunny weather that he could rely upon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Generation One —Chapter Three ReBoot: Full Disclosure

        “Dad!” Erik said, as soon as his father picked up. Joseph Cantrell, Sr., was a very wealthy Sim. While he refused to cripple Erik by bailing him out of his mess, he did keep Erik’s phone turned on just so the family could keep in touch. Erik was very glad, and humbled, by his father’s generosity and he was actually grateful his Dad wasn’t fixing everything for him, this time around, for once, something Joseph Cantrell was inclined to do for his children, all too often. Erik figured this time, Joseph was finally allowing Erik to fail. Already Erik had learned a lot from this experience.
“I’ve got some great news,” Erik said. “I’m engaged. Yeah, her name is Zoe. Zoe Patel. Yeah, I know you’ve heard it all before, but this time it’s different. No, I know. You’ve heard that one before, too. But I mean it. I took your advice and took my time to get to know her. Yeah, I told her about my circumstance. Well, most of it. She knows I’m broke and starting all over. No, I didn’t tell her about my previous career. Okay, okay, I know. I hear you. I’ll figure out some way to tell her. No, I will. I promise, this time I’m not going to screw things up. She’s just too special and I love her too much. Okay, you’re right, I know. Tell Mom the good news and I’ll get in touch again, soon. Love you, Dad. And thank you for everything.”
Erik paced for a bit. He knew his father was correct. The last thing he needed was for Zoe to learn who he was, from some other source. Especially after his very close call at work, when one of those Big Wigs from the Recording Industry gave him a funny look. For a moment, he thought the Record Producer had recognized him and was about to call out his name. Certainly, Erik recognized the executive. He may even have worked with the Sim in the past.
Erik knew, too, he would lose Zoe due to a lie. That’s certainly not what he wanted. But just how to tell her? And how would she react? Would she understand all his reasons for not disclosing this up front, why he had a need to remain incognito? He certainly hoped so. So, as he waited for her phone call, he pondered just what he should do, how he should spring it on her. Then a most intriguing idea, a crazy, wild idea struck him as surely as lightning. He would simply feed her a trail of clues, like bread crumbs and let her figure it out on his own. For starters, he would greet her without his glasses on, perhaps with a bit of five o’clock shadow, wishing now he hadn’t shaved this morning. Then, he would take out his guitar and sing a few stanzas of his signature song. If all else failed, he would sit with her at their little camp fire and let her know he needed to share with her a deep, dark secret …
At last it was time to meet her at her place, so he could help her with her things. Zoe looked beautiful, as always, and greeted him cheerfully. She also wanted to save this moment, and so, whipping out her cell phone, they took a ‘Selfie’ together.

By the time they arrived back at his place, the sun was waning in the sky. Erik realized, it was time to fully disclose to her about who he was, what he’d been doing with his life, and just what prompted him to pull the biggest disappearance act, this side of ‘Valcress the Vanquisher, possibly the most famous of all Sim Magicians. At least in Sunset Valley. Silently, Erik leaned over and lit the fire in the little rock fire ring. Happily, this time he didn’t burn himself in the process, despite having removed his wire rims. Then he beckoned for Zoe to take a seat upon the small stump of a stool.

“Erik, you’re being so mysterious. I have to confess you have me a little nervous. What is it you’ve got up those sly sleeves of yours?” she said, settling upon the stump. Quietly, he took up his guitar and began to play. And when he leant his voice to the music, “Maybe it’s better this way, anyhow, after all those nights alone —”

     Zoe took on a curious expression. “Oh, my goodness, that’s my favorite song — but I didn’t realize you could play and sing it so well. You sound almost like the original artist. Hauntingly so. Setting his instrument aside, Erik sat on the little stump opposite hers.
     “Zoe, we have to talk. I haven’t been as honest with you as I should have up front. I do hope when you hear me out, you’ll understand just why I had to do what I did.”
Zoe felt herself growing apprehensive. She began to nervously twist that huge rock of an engagement ring on her finger. Was he about to break it off with her, like he had those others? Or, was this the ring he’d used for one, or both of them and now for her? She wondered how he’d managed to afford something this huge. She had come to love him so much. He was so sweet, funny and charming. In his own slightly quirky way. Secretly, as she watched his face, his gorgeous hooded blue eyes, she wondered if, like the faerie tale Frog Prince, he’d transformed back into the jerk she decided he was in the beginning. She also found herself wondering, if he was the one calling things off, did that obligate her to return the ring? All of these thoughts and more did a Tango inside her head, until she suddenly caught the expression on his handsome face. Was he teasing her, again? Then she heard him speaking, “That’s because it’s me. I’m the original writer and performer of that song.”

“Hey, wait — What?”  She frowned at him. “No way.”
“Way,” he said, leaning closer to her. “Are you trying to tell me I didn’t even look a little familiar to you? When we were at your place listening to the new album by the Bad Fellows, I noticed you had a nice collection of my albums, too.”
“Of course you do look like him,” she said, “I mean you. You look like you. But I just thought …”
“That and the fact that I have the same name, didn’t clue you in at all?”
“Lots of people out there have the same name. There’s that fellow, a comedian, who has the same name as a Simgressman. And the baseball player who shares a name with that magician. I just figured you were one of many possible Sims by the name of Erik Cantrell.”

Erik slipped his wire rim glasses back on his face, and then looked over them at her. “I didn’t really think my disguise would work so well. I just needed to get back to myself. Get back to square one and become a Sim again. I wanted a family. A woman who would love me for me, and not my famous self. I hope you can forgive me for deceiving you. You’re the last person I want to hurt.”

Zoe jumped up. “Oh, Erik,” she said, flinging her arms about his neck. Erik frowned and took half a step back from her, hanging onto her, even so. “I’m so relieved.”

“You mean you don’t mind I used to be a Rock Star?”
     “Oh, that,” she swatted at the air, as if at a gnat. “I could be and should be peeved at you for withholding it, but I’m more relieved. I thought your deep dark secret was going to be that my ring was previously owned by either or both of your ex-fiancees. Now, that would certainly be a problem. Or worse, that you were breaking it off with me. That fact that you were once a Rock Star, not so much. In fact, I thought you looked vaguely familiar when we first met. It was your eyes, but for the life of me, I just couldn’t place you or where we had possibly met.”
“Come here,” Erik said, and hugged her tight. “I feel as if Mount Simverest just rolled off of my shoulders. Not that I had any doubts, but now I know I’ve found the One.”
Weary, from all of the emotion spent, the two crawled into Erik’s tent. They made woohoo for the very first time. Erik slept like a rock, for the first time since he’d left his other life.

    The next morning dawned. Bright light bathed his private glade. He took little time to get to work, gathering up the fruits, vegetables, flowers and anything else he could find. Occasionally, he would dig for buried treasure. Once in awhile he got lucky. He did find an old map. A few crystals, some metal and occasionally a fossil or two. He was anxious to save enough Simoleons to give this wonderful woman, the wedding she so richly deserved.
He worked on his music, too, and landed a second promotion. This one came with a timely bonus, too. Of course, Murphy was still on his tail, inasmuch as the moment they had collectively saved close to their goal amount, the mail came, demanding nearly half of what they had. Erik decided the wedding would take place. He’d pay the bills once they were duly married, with the deposits on the rental furnishings. He did have to make yet another round, collecting stuff, but in the end he got the bills paid.

The evening of the wedding came upon them. Everything was in place. The cake baked, decorated, complete with topper, on display on its own table dressed with a tablecloth. The guests slowly filed in. After greeting them and chit-chatting for a few minutes, Erik and Zoe went to the  decorated wedding arch and said their vows and exchanged rings.

The guests were attentive, the classical music filled the night air. There was much merry-making, drinking and dancing. After a very short time, Zoe went to cut their cake. She brought a piece back with her to share with her new husband. They were both enjoying this little tidbit, when Zoe got a look on her face.

Erik knew her well enough, by now, to realize her playful side had just been unleashed. Before he knew it, the larger portion of cake, she held behind her, splattered all over his face! He laughed and so did she. He couldn’t remember a time when he felt this deliriously happy.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Generation One —Chapter Two ReBoot: Living Off the Land and Learning How Grand Life Is

Erik quickly discovered that living off of a diet of strictly hot dogs got old really fast. Sure they were cheap — especially for one who had very few Simoleons to his name. But, he was starting to hate them. So, every now and again, when he wasn’t acting like the cartoon character, Yogi Bear, and pilfering food left aside on a picnic table, he would spend the time fishing. Very shortly afterwards, he discovered that this nice piece of property he had purchased was surrounded by wild fruit-bearing trees and bushes. Not only that, but that people would pay real Simoleons for them and for the flowers he picked, too.
He also took a job in the Entertainment industry, following the musician track. He always knew he couldn’t give up his music altogether. It was his Gift, after all. He was never one to simply bury his talents.  Loving what he did, he worked hard, and got along well with his co-workers.
One day, he got a bit of a scare, when three big wigs from the Industry came into his place of employment. He was really sweating it out, expecting to garner a bit more notice than he wanted.  "So, whose the new guy?"
"Oh, that's E. C."
"No, E-Sea."
Sad, but yet in a good way, they failed to recognize him.

Coupled with his paycheck, he made enough money selling veggies and fruits to buy the materials to construct two walls. So, now he had two walls of his very own. This was the start of moving away from an endless campout situation to really staring to live again. He always wanted to build his dream house, ever since he was a kid. The plans were all drawn up — at least in his head. Soon, with a little luck, modest success, and Simoleons, he hoped to bring this dream into fruition. Hopefully, it wouldn't take him too long to find the right woman, finish the build and start a family. He was pushing thirty, after all. Somehow that scared him, just a bit.

He also invited Zoe out to Magnolia Blossom Park and in her gracious manner, she allowed him to start fresh with her. They really were just acquaintances. So, he treated her as such.
       “So, remind me again of what your name is?”
“Zoe, silly. Don’t you think you’re carrying this a bit too far? I’ve already told you I’m happy to start again.”
“I was just checking,” he grinned.
Before too much time passed, they were friends. In the space of three months, they were really good friends. A few more months went by. And they were still friends. This was a good sign.

Taking the time to get to know someone, Erik was discovering, was a wondrous process and very, very satisfying. He realized the more time they spent together, without the pressure he’d put on them in his ‘I-don’t-have-time-to-waste’ manner, that things progressed better.
"So yellow and pink are  your favorite colors. And you like rock music," he said. "That's good. I'm rather fond of guitar solos, myself."
     "Have you heard the new album?"
     "You mean the one by the Bad Fellows?"
     "Yes, that's the one. It just came out, I found it at the music store."
     "I would love to hear it."
     "Maybe you should come over to my place and we can listen to it."
     "I would like that very much."
He really came to know Zoe. And the more he learned about her, who she was, what she liked and didn’t like, allowed his attraction to turn into infatuation, which finally turned into love.

They spent many ‘dates’ at the park. In an effort to be open and honest and fair to her, Erik had opted for almost full disclosure, inasmuch as he let her know he was basically broke. She didn’t seem to mind. He also learned as much as he could about her, too. One evening, after they’d had one of the deepest conversations, sharing secrets they'd told no one else, their fears, insecurities, and their dreams for the future, he leaned in and gently kissed her.

That's when he knew he was truly in love with her.
By the way she responded, he guessed, she felt the same way, too. At that time, however, he was too afraid to say the words, lest he scare her off again. So, he determined to bide his time. When the time was right, he would know it.

In the meantime, he would just enjoy being with her. Continuing to explore this mystery called, Zoe. Loving her, doing for her, and allowing himself to hope there was a genuine future for them, together.

Slow and easy was the key. One night, they went to the Blue Velvet Night Club together. Again, not a date, date, just two friends out for an evening of fun. They danced, they chatted, they flirted and suddenly Erik realized she was the One he had been looking for. The moment arrived, and Erik gazed lovingly into Zoe’s eyes, got down on his knee and popped the question. For the third time in his life. Only this time, he meant it. He really meant it. So much so, it was all he could do to keep from grabbing Zoe and running off to elope.

The moment was warm and special, in a manner that was unlike any other time he'd popped the question. Before it had been in haste. This time, he waited, patiently, for the moment to present itself. "Zoe," he began, "I have come to know you like I've known no other. I love you with all of my heart. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"

Zoe’s eyes grew wide, "Oh, Erik, it's so sparkly! I mean, yes. Yes, of course, I'll marry you!" Their hands were shaky as he slid the ring onto her finger. Zoe, like any other woman, admired it, getting used to the feel of it on her hand. The diamond was sizeable. She found herself wondering how he’d managed to afford such a gem. She knew enough about him to know he was starting all over. From scratch. She also was aware, although he owned a rather large parcel of land, he was living like a Nomad in a tent. All of this she knew, and yet she still said yes. She had come to love him so much. He was just so sweet. Not at all the jerk she supposed him to be, in the beginning. She was very glad she’d given him a second chance. Finding it well worth it.

Zoe could tell, too, that Erik was just as excited as she. She jumped into his arms and he smiled. They both laughed and wished they’d had some sparkling juice to help seal the deal. For a crazy moment, Zoe almost suggested they run off and elope. But, the ring was obviously an expensive item. He must have worked overtime just to pay for it. Why not give it its due? A formal wedding was in order. Besides, after all Erik had been through, two previous engagements that failed, he deserved a nice wedding. If they moved in together, she could add her paycheck to his, and then they could make a nice wedding of it. She shared her thoughts with Erik about it, and he agreed.

In between work and living off the land, something in Erik had changed back to who he started out to be before fame got a stranglehold on him. He was definitely more at ease with himself, and those around him. He never realized before just how stressed out his fast-paced life had made him. But, he was grateful for the respite. And he looked forward to marrying Zoe. In an effort to earn as much Simoleons as he could, he worked hard and managed to get a promotion. That brought a nice bonus check with it. He was determined to throw a wonderful wedding for this Sim whom he loved so very much and for them to start a family, just as soon as Zoe was ready for it. Erik had very slowly changed lanes in his life, easing off of the accelerator and easing over a lane or two into a slower one.