With Love Day a few days away, festivities began popping up throughout the week in the city. I grew more and more anxious about what to get Joseph. I knew I had to get him something. I already knew what he got me, but I stuffed the bear back under the bed into its selected hiding place so I could pretend to be surprised.
John continued to live like a slob on our couch. After finishing all nine seasons of Specific Hospital, he started binge-watching Roaring Vice, but he was still mad about any love scene.
“No! She doesn’t love you!” he screamed and threw a bowl of food at the television, but it missed and splat on the floor, the bowl rolling underneath the coffee table.
I sighed. “John, you can’t do this anymore. It isn’t healthy.”
“I don’t…” he looked down at his hand, rubbing his wrist. “I don’t want to be happy.”
“So you want to be miserable?” I said, my eyes widening.
“Don’t you?” he dropped his head in his hands.
I blinked rapidly. “What?”
“It’s easier to be miserable,” John said. “…than it is to pick up the pieces.”
“Okay, well, you have to pull yourself together and shower or get off that couch,” I said firmly.
“I’m sick,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest like a petulant four-year-old.
“Lovesick maybe…” I tilted my head. “There will be other women.”
“Stop it!” he raised his voice. “Stop trying to fix it. You can’t. You can’t even fix your own marriage. Don’t try to fix my love life.”
My face fell. Hot tears pricked the corners of my eyelids. I stood, covering my mouth, as I walked into the bathroom and shut the door.
“Lizzie, I’m sorry that was uncalled for,” John called through the door, but I wouldn’t open up.
He was right. I didn’t know how to fix my marriage. Joseph and I weren’t exactly fighting, but we weren’t happy. I knew he did the best he could. He tried to remind me of the little things we used to do. He made breakfasts. He played the radio. He made me my favorite coffee. I couldn’t remember ever tasting anything better. I thanked him every day. We snuggled together on the bed before falling asleep, but anything more than that, I felt nervous. I was worried because I didn’t remember everything. I was worried that I would mess up. I was worried that Joseph would leave me.
S’moogle became my friend. I searched for things like “good presents for him for Love Day.” Top search results came back with leather gloves. I grimaced. It didn’t sound like romance to me. And he wasn’t an ax murderer. He didn’t need gloves. I chuckled awkwardly, wincing as I felt the pressure settling into my head. The doctor said headaches after a ghostly condition was normal. I suffered from four to five a week. It was aggravating. I tried pills. I tried hot showers. I tried to sleep them off. John’s television programs blasted through the walls. I yelled at him to turn it down and covered my ears with my pillow.
I searched for more information about my condition. There weren’t a lot of reputable articles out there, which wasn’t surprising. The doctor said certain things that stimulate the senses might trigger a memory. I listened to music while I browsed the Web. I liked music. Akira and Riley tried to convince me to do karaoke with them every weekend. I declined. I wouldn’t want to be embarrassed when I forgot the words.
And I hope you don’t forget this
You were born for better things
So if you ever…
I found myself humming along to the playlist.
…and you can’t get back where you started
with no strength to stand…
“I’m gonna reach for your hand,” I sang as if it were second nature, and then stopped, my face slackening.
Why was this song so familiar?
The doctor suggested mild exercise. Akira bought me my own annual pass to Skye Fitness. He said it was the least he could do to pay back the favor. I didn’t know what that favor was, but I assumed it was pretty big because a year’s worth of gym visits wasn’t cheap. I happened to see Karleen when I arrived for the first day of my workout regiment. I was bound and determined to lose the baby weight.
“Who’s this?” I asked, reaching down to pet the beautiful big black dog bouncing by my side.
“That’s Dash,” Karleen said. “He’s Munter’s pup.”
“Aw…aren’t you a beaut!” I smiled happily.
Dash rubbed his head excitedly against my hand.
“So did you move in with him?” I inquired.
“Who? Dash?” Karleen giggled.
“You know what I meant,” I frowned. “I think you should know John is super depressed.”
“I… um…I’m sorry…” Karleen sighed, her expression rapidly changing. “I really do feel bad.”
“Then go apologize to him in person instead of acting like a coward and sending him pizzas with mixed messages,” I snipped. “And stop jerking the chains of multiple guys and make up your plum mind.”
“Gawd! I can’t believe you said that!” Karleen exclaimed. “I thought we were best friends.”
“Yeah, and best friends tell each other the truth,” I said, defensively.
“Okay, here’s some truth,” Karleen narrowed her eyes. “You used to be more fun.”
“What on Simterra is that supposed to mean?”
“Just that you weren’t a llama with a stick up its butt. Ms. High-and-Mighty, you dated more than one guy at the same time before.”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t sleeping with both of them. I made my choice.”
“And then you jerked the chain and went back to Joseph.”
“It didn’t happen like that,” I shook my head. “Rob broke up with me. He picked his kid. I don’t blame him. I made the better choice.”
“Yeah, and we don’t all get to have Josephs,” Karleen snapped. “If you weren’t so hung up on remembering absolutely everything, you’d see how plum lucky you are.”
“That’s not fair,” I gasped. “I can’t… my mind it doesn’t work like it used to.”
“Maybe you need your eyes fixed too because you really can’t see how much that guy loves you…” Karleen flung a finger accusingly toward the gym window where Joseph was busy hitting a punching bag.
“Maybe you need a heart transplant because you are being a bitch!” I exclaimed. “And if you weren’t such an ice princess, you’d see how torn up John is and break up with him like a proper adult would.”
“Don’t call me again!” Karleen growled. “Like ever!”
Karleen jogged away, leaving me feeling so dejected. My shoulders slumped. Why did I have to say such horrible things and alienate one of my closest friends? It was like my brain wasn’t communicating fast enough to prevent hurtful words from leaving my mouth. She had made her choice. I was certain. She was with Munter. But I couldn’t stop seeing John’s face in my mind, how crumpled he was because he fell hard for my best friend and she trampled on his heart.
My eyes swept to the window where my husband was working out, effortlessly punching the bag as if it were paper. He was strong. Not just physically. Emotionally. I knew he was. He was holding a lot back. I could tell. I didn’t know why. He probably wanted to protect me. He probably wanted me to be okay before he asked me to meet his needs. Still, I ached for the missing pieces. I wanted him again… but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to love again.
I knew better. I knew I should talk to him. I knew I should kiss him. I knew I should tell him I loved him and ask him if he loved me. Instead I headed to the treadmills as if nothing happened, while the sun set below the city skyline. Sage was running on a machine also. I asked how she was doing and what she had been up to. Only our closest friends knew what happened to Joseph and I over the new year. Sage and I had never been tight, but she was nice to me, and right now I was looking for an excuse to be distracted.
“Busy,” Sage said, breathing hard as the sweat dripped from her forehead. “I’m starting a new cosmetics line.”
“Congratulations,” I said.
“Thanks. It’s fun to do hair and makeup for the stars in town for a movie shoot, but it’ll be even more fun to be my own boss,” Sage added. “How’s your work?”
“Oh… er…” I trailed off.
To be honest, I hadn’t been working much at all. Every time I sat down at the computer, my mind was a blank. Another side effect of amnesia. I stopped returning my agent’s phone calls and I didn’t respond to my editor either. Cathy Tea brought me peppermint tea, but she was the only colleague I had seen since I took a leave of absence from the publishing house.
“I’m sorry we lost touch,” Sage said, changing the subject for me.
I breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s okay,” I swallowed and shook my head, deciding to slow my pace. I didn’t want to overdo it. “You’re busy.”
“You still with that hottie of yours?”
Of course, she meant Joseph, you cowplant brain!
“Yeah… we’ve been married for…” I started counting. When my brain started recounting, I panicked. I couldn’t remember how long. It was under a year, but more than six months, right? “We’re married,” I forced a smile.
“You two still ga-ga for each other?” Sage giggled.
It was more of a statement than a question. Even so, I felt dizzy and nauseous.
“Excuse me,” I said, stepping off the treadmill. “I need some water.”
“Are we in trouble?” Joseph asked as he sat down next to me on the recliner.
“What do you mean?” I chuckled weakly.
I knew exactly what he meant. We were in trouble, but I didn’t want to admit it. He looked so dejected as he dropped his hands between his legs, his lower lip wobbling. I laid my hands against my legs, wondering what was wrong with me. I didn’t know how to make him feel better. It seemed like it should be straightforward. I was his wife. He was my husband. We obviously loved each other enough to get married. Why couldn’t I feel anything? Something… something… I balled a fist.
“Lizzie,” he said softly. “You can barely look at me anymore.”
“I look at you,” I protested.
“No…” he began slowly. “No you don’t.”
“What do you want from me?” I said quietly as I didn’t want to draw attention to us if we started arguing.
There were two kids in the swimming pool with their parents, happily splashing about, and it felt like a knife through my heart watching them. I never realized how much it hurt to long for something you couldn’t have. For something you lost and could never get back.
“I lost someone too,” Joseph said, his voice barely above a whisper, covering his eyes as he lowered his head.
My heart felt like a mirror with tiny cracks. At any point, it could shatter. Everything was different now. Joseph was so sad, and I was powerless to help him because I didn’t know how to function like a normal, whole woman.
“It’s not the same,” I replied, my voice wobbling. “You didn’t hold… that some…one… inside… you…” I clutched my chest, breathing heavily.
“Yes… yes… I did…” Joseph’s voice broke. “Here…” he lifted his hand to his chest. “In my heart… you’re there too.”
“Elizabeth?” he reached for my hand and squeezed, his tone serious. “Please tell me you still want me?”
I stood, feeling utterly defeated. I couldn’t even bring myself to say that I still thought about him all the time, that I still felt things, however fragmented, however indecipherable. Feelings weren’t supposed to make sense, but I couldn’t put three words together to assure him that I still cared.
“I can’t… right now…”
I felt like my air supply was slowly evaporating and I needed desperately to breathe before I could answer him, before I could feel real and normal again, before I could say the words.
“Lizzie, we can make new memories together. Please?” he reached out to embrace me, but I took a step back. “I don’t mean to pressure you.” Joseph reached for my arm. “Don’t pull away. I’m here. I’m safe. You can trust me.”
“What are you saying?” I shoved him away. “Why would you say that? Only someone who has something to hide says that.”
Joseph puzzled. “I’m not hiding anything… what would make you think that?”
“Anne and Annie were talking about us last month. They said you had an affair.”
Joseph looked panicked. “No! No I didn’t. What the plumbot?!”
“I can’t do this right now,” I shoved him away. “It still hurts… too much…it doesn’t make sense. Nothing does anymore.”
Please, Lizzie, I need you,” Joseph pleaded.
“No, I’m sorry…” I turned to run up the stairs. “I can’t.”
Author Notes: These two are making things hard for me. I foolishly assumed the loss of the baby and the ghostifying thing was behind them, and then they do something like this… get into an argument and refuse to hug one another. Oh dear. Sadness abounds. Thank you for reading everyone. This chapter featured LegacySims2017‘s Joseph, Munterbacon’s Dash, Karilan‘s Sage, and John and Karleen.