“Hey Dash,” Karleen whistled. “Hey boy! Come here!”
Karleen turned, wondering why the dog wasn’t following. She was surprised Goober Nerdstrom was directly behind her with a large black garbage bag. The dog barked and growled.
“Hey Goober,” she said, trying to sound pleasant as she fiddled with her key in the door.
Tired and achy from her jog and emotionally distraught about the falling out with Lizzie, she wasn’t exactly in the mood to talk to anyone, let alone Munter’s quirky neighbor.
“Karleen, you are a knockout in red,” he replied.
“Uh… ah… thanks,” she said. “You look nice in your… um…” she pivoted, awkwardly, and did a once-over. “…your tie.”
“Thank you,” he replied, as he dropped his bag down the trash chute with a thud.
“Got any fun weekend plans?” she grinned, trying to make him feel more comfortable. “Maybe a hot date for Valensim’s Day?”
“No… er…uh… um… date?” Goober squeaked.
He was rich, obviously, because he lived in the same penthouse as her boyfriend. He wasn’t bad on the eyes either, the pants and shirt just the right tautness and his vest and tie adding to the air of professionalism. She couldn’t imagine why he would struggle with the ladies.
“…just… er… go over inventory paperwork,” he chuckled weakly, and she could’ve sworn she saw sweat drops form around his hairline.
“That’s no fun,” she pouted playfully.
“What about… you, Karleen?” Goober asked, clearing his throat.
“I’m nonstop fun and games,” she giggled, opening the door and calling for the dog again. “See ya later.”
An hour later, Karleen was curled up underneath soft sheets, sighing contently. Nothing like a good romp to bring her spirits up.
“Come back to… bed…” she moaned. “It’s… better here…the world doesn’t hate me here.”
“I’m starving, love,” Munter replied, snacking on a jelly-filled doughnut on the futon, fully nude.
“You can… eat… here…” she sighed.
“Naw… it’s a pet peeve,” he shook his head. “Can’t eat in bed.”
“Really?” she sat up, pulling the covers up underneath her arms. “You’re a chef.”
“That’s exactly why I don’t eat in bed,” Munter said.
“I don’t… whatever… I’m exhausted,” Karleen flopped back against the pillow.
“Wore you out?” Munter said teasingly.
“I didn’t give you enough sugar,” she pouted coyly. “You have to eat that thing… over there… so far… far away from me.”
“Alright,” he chuckled. “I’m coming.”
“I’m starving,” Karleen groaned, wobbling toward the refrigerator.
“Should’ve had a doughnut,” Munter joked, rummaging through his liquor cabinet. “Do you want the Cabernet or the Merlot with dinner?”
“Ugh… I don’t know, my head’s already kinda swimming,” Karleen sighed, leaning against the fridge door handles.
“We can drink the sparkling water,” he replied, standing up and opening the overhead cupboards.
Karleen smiled. “I like that about you. So accommodating and flexible.”
“You’re pretty flexible yourself,” he grinned wickedly.
“Ha!” she smirked, and swooned as she leaned against the door. “If you say stuff like that, I’ll have to make you come over here and kiss me.”
“Is that a request?” he quirked a brow, a bottle of sparkling water in each hand. “You know how I love kissing you.”
Her smile waned. He kept saying stuff like that. “I love kissing you” was dangerously close to “I love you,” and she didn’t know if she was ready for that.
“Say what does your neighbor do?” she asked, changing the subject.
“Hmm…” he frowned. “I think acquisitions. He does some import-export too, I believe.”
“Explains his interest in the gallery,” Karleen shrugged.
Munter snapped his fingers. “That’s right. He is overseeing an exhibit at the Cabash. A piece on loan from somewhere in the Sim Union.”
Karleen lifted herself onto the counter, swinging her legs over the side, rubbing the delicate sleeves of her red silk robe. “He seems lonely.”
“Ah, what makes you say that?” Munter reached around and opened the fridge to pull out some vegetables for a salad.
“I was thinking we should have him over for dinner, and maybe Ash,” Karleen said.
“Your roommate?” Munter closed the door, eyeing her closely. “Uh uh… bad idea, Karleen.”
“What could go wrong?” she smiled and lifted up her arms in a happy shrug.
“I love how positive you are,” he smirked, walking over. “Now you get that kiss you were begging for.”
“Shoot! I forgot the lights,” Joseph grunted, closing his eyes tiredly as he laid his head on the pillow next to mine.
“Can you leave them on?” I asked, quietly.
“Still having bad dreams?” he inquired.
I nodded my head, wondering if I had enough pins in my bun to keep my hair from getting mussed while I slept. The dreams were a side effect of the medication. It was aggravating how much I couldn’t remember – whether I liked to wear my hair up or down, boots or sandals, one or two cups of coffee with breakfast, chocolate or vanilla ice cream, or cinnamon or jasmine candles. Those weren’t my biggest concerns. Little things disrupted my emotions – the inability to formulate my thoughts in a noisy crowd, to recollect the names of familiar faces, to feel more than mere polite affection for my husband when he touched me.
What was he like? What was I like? I wanted to ask him all sorts of questions, but it was humiliating. I couldn’t remember the man I fell in love with, why he fell in love with me, just that I did, he did. That’s why I took the pills, to try and repair the damage to my mind. I tried journaling. I tried sticky note reminders. I tried memory exercises and brain foods. I tried schedules, lists, and routine. There was still emptiness where there once was a full life. No one tells you the downsides of coming back from the ghost state. I felt like I lost my soul. I silently pleaded with a divine and higher power to remember anything to restore my faith and love in my marriage.
“I should at least blow out the candles,” Joseph said, lifting the comforter to slide out. “Safety hazard.”
“Joseph… Joe?” I murmured sleepily, and then snapped my eyes open.
He whipped his eyes back to my own, his breath catching.
“Why did I say that?” I frowned, trying to make sense of my words. “You’re Joseph.”
“I’m your Joseph… Joe,” he replied, excitedly, but trying to keep things tapered down for my sake.
“You are?” I wrinkled my nose, and it was as if my vision suddenly cleared and I could see, if nothing else, a loving face. “You are…” my mouth relaxed into a wistful smile. “I’m so sorry…” my eyes filled with tears.
“No… no… no… don’t cry, Lizzie,” he said softly, laying down and reaching to carress my cheek. “May I?”
“Yes,” I bobbed my head. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, we’re getting to know each other again,” Joseph replied, shrugging it off as if my earlier words meant nothing. “We’re bound to have some hiccups.”
“Hic…cups?” I hiccuped as if on cue. “Jo…seph…Joe?” I yawned.
“Go to sleep, beautiful,” he smiled. “We’ll talk more in the morning.”
“Our work is done.”
Geeta smiled proudly as she settled onto my living room couch.
“What do you say, Riley?” I chewed my lower lip.
For the last hour, both my neighbors had helped me get ready for the Romance Festival, a staple event of the Spice District. Geeta fixed my hair into a beautiful thick braided bun. Riley picked out my dress and of course, my shoes. She was obsessed with shoes.
“Liz, you don’t have any black pearls, do you?” she frowned.
“No,” I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I can’t be perfectly matchy tonight.”
“Wait!” Riley reached into her purse. “Here!” she plucked out a string of black pearls. “Always prepared.”
“How did you know?” I gasped.
“You look perfect,” Geeta cooed. “Joseph will find you… oh what is the word you Sim Nationals use?” she puckered her forehead. “Stunning.”
“If he doesn’t, he’s blind!” Riley laughed.
“Okay,” I sighed, smoothing my skirt. “And if something goes wrong?”
“Nothing will go wrong, child,” Geeta assured.
“But what if I don’t remember something important?” I said, feeling butterflies forming in my stomach.
“Focus on having fun, Lizzie. Don’t worry about knowing all the steps to the dance,” Riley said, winking over at Geeta.
“You can come find me,” Geeta said. “At the festival, if you need a second to freshen up or breathe.”
I gulped and nodded. “And you’ve got a date with Akira, right, Riley?”
“That’s right,” she stood up, beaming. “You think he’ll like this outfit?”
“He would be… let’s see…” I rubbed my chin. “…in your words… blind… if he didn’t,” I grinned. “You are working your shoulders in that sweater.”
“Great!” Riley strutted toward the door after pecking me on the cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Lizzie. Have fun, dear.”
“And I’ll see you,” Geeta walked over, clutching her purse in front of herself. “…in an hour or so. Gotta go practice my lines.”
“Lines?” I repeated. “Right… the love guru stuff, right?”
“You look beautiful,” Geeta reassured and stepped into the hallway.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “I can do this.”
Author Notes: Thanks for reading. This chapter featured simscognito‘s Riley Cognito, Munterbacon‘s Munter Bacon and Dash, LegacySims2017‘s Joseph Simself and Goober Nerdstrom, and Geeta Rasoya and Karleen Corey.