Goal #12: Learn to Love Again, Pt. 4 (LASL)

“Something smells incredible.”

Karleen leaned against the wall, admiring her man as she fiddled with her cake earrings. He wore a neat red apron, white collared tee shirt and thin black tie. She couldn’t believe how great he looked. I think I’m falling for this guy. Uh oh.

She didn’t have the greatest luck with men, like ever. Damaged goods, her high school boyfriend had called her when he broke up with her. But somehow Munter didn’t look at her that way. She wondered if it was only a matter of time. John looked at her pretty special too, but he dumped her when he learned about her infidelity. Munter had been more forgiving, surprisingly so when she confessed everything to him. Well, not everything… she absently laid a hand across her abdomen.

Someone looks incredible,” Munter smiled as he glanced up.

“Thank you,” she said, a hint of pink breaching her cheeks.

She had selected the off-the-shoulder black sweater and floor-length red skirt, and even applied a little make-up for the evening. It was a special occasion.

“I’m sauteing the onions in a butter shallot sauce,” Munter replied, swiveling his wrist as he lifted the pan above the counter. “They aren’t even sizzling yet.”

“Sauteing. Sizzling,” Karleen repeated and swooned. “You make everything sound sexy in the kitchen.”

“I try,” he replied, beaming with pride.

He should be proud. Karleen convinced him to create a feast for their friends. Well, her friend, and his… neighbor. No one should be alone on Love Day, she decided. While he would’ve preferred to spend their first Valensim’s Day together alone, he indulged her because in his words, he “adored spoiling” her. She smiled warmly as the doorbell rang.

“They’re here,” her eyes lit up. “Oh…” she reached back and grabbed his wrist. “I’m stealing those bracelets of yours.”

“Isn’t this nice?”

Her roommate, Ash settled onto the leather couch, and Goober, Munter’s neighbor had plopped next to her on the matching leather loveseat. Karleen was slightly annoyed as he should’ve sat next to Ash, but she decided not to make a bigger deal out of it.

“Munter has a nice… place,” Ash tried, smoothly the skirt of her blue and grey pencil dress.

Goober narrowed his eyes. “Is that the All-in-One Powerful PC?”

Karleen blinked a few times before realizing he was staring straight ahead to the computer desk in the corner. “I guess,” she shrugged. “Goober, why don’t you tell Ash about your work?”

“My work?” he repeated with a squeak.

Karleen resisted the urge to roll her eyes. At least he changed out his vest tonight, blue, to match Ash’s. What a coincidence! She could forgive the blue sneakers.

“Where’s your facilities?” Goober leaped to his feet.

“Leaving so soon?” Karleen teased with a light laugh.

“When I’m around a radiant woman such as yourself, Karleen, I tend to get nervous and can’t hold my bladder,” Goober replied, before wandering around the corner to the stairwell.

“Say what again?” Ash grunted.

Karleen gasped.

As soon as Goober was out of earshot, shuffling up the stairs in his sneakers, without knowing where he was going either, Karleen slumped back against the couch. He did not just say that! she thought in horror.

“Is this a set-up?” Ash said, through gritted teeth as she slid to the end of the couch.

One that’s going to go really poorly if he’s flirting with the wrong woman! Karleen paled.

“Dinner,” Munter called from the kitchen.

“This is nice, isn’t it?” Joseph said.

We settled at a pale pink picnic table since I didn’t feel steady enough to stand. I felt like I was on a first date again. I mean, I knew Joseph, and I knew him, but this was different. This was starting fresh. My heart pounded and my breath quickened and I exhaled sharply,  wringing my hands in my lap and wondering if Joseph felt similarly.

“Yes,” I replied, softly, glancing off toward the festivities. “I’m sorry I couldn’t walk around that long. I should’ve worn flats…” I winced.

“I like you in heels,” Joseph grinned. “You are closer to my mouth that way.”

I flushed, fingering the painted pink flower petals on the table. “It’s a little early to be talking about kissing, right?”

“Not at all,” he said, hopefully. “But I’ll wait, if you’re more comfortable.”

“Maybe some water…” I croaked. “For my throat. I’m parched.”

“I’m at your service,” Joseph said, bowing gallantly as he stood.

The sunset over the Simistral Ocean was so spectacular they decided to eat dinner in the living room. It would be a shame to miss the natural wonder. Ash slid over to the loveseat with Karleen, leaving Munter sitting awkwardly on the far end of the couch because Karleen insisted they leave space for Goober.

“This smells amazing,” Ash complimented.

“Thank you,” Munter said.

“And salmon, my favorite,” Ash nudged Karleen with her elbow. “You must be passing along my secrets. I should get out more often if you’re going to cook like this, Munter.”

Karleen coughed on her water. “Really? Ash you’ll stop being a homebody?”

“For these glazed pecan carrots, I’d do anything,” Ash laughed lightly.

“I wonder where Goober is,” Karleen tried to shift the subject. “I hope he’s okay.”

“I hope he didn’t pee his pants,” Ash snickered.

“I could go check on him,” Munter offered.

“You switched sides of the table,” Joseph remarked.

“The sun… set… was bright,” I replied, feeling my heart flutter as his hand brushed my bare arm.

I think that’s why I switched sides. The sun did hurt my eyes.  I think if I had some sunglasses that it might have helped. That and I liked watching Joseph while he went to get me a drink.  He was nice to look at. I felt my cheeks burn.  Was that okay to think?

“Sparkling water with lime,” he offered.

“Thank you,” I nodded graciously. “You didn’t get yourself something to drink?”

“Oh um…” he looked uncomfortable. “I’m not all that thirsty.”

“Okay,” I took the glass from his hand, my fingers brushing his. Again with the pounding heart. “You can share mine if you get… thirsty…”

Joseph’s eyes lightened. “I am… thirsty.”

“But you just said you weren’t,” I said. “I’m confused.”

He chuckled awkwardly and fiddled with his hands. “Me too.”

Mixed signals? I surmised. Is he just confused or is he just as nervous as I am? 

“I’ll go get some tea,” Joseph said. “And I’ll corral your parents.”

When Goober finally did resurface, he waxed poetic about Munter’s fancy faucets and how Munter must have required special installation. Karleen cleared her throat awkwardly and Munter just flushed. He didn’t particularly like the attention, even if it was just about his bathroom fixtures. Karleen tried to return the conversational focus to Ash.

“Goober, you won’t believe what Ash does for a living?”

“It’s not that exciting,” Ash laid her fork down on her plate with a humble chuckle.

“What do you do for employ?” Goober inquired formally, and stiffly.

Karleen swallowed a mouthful of wine. She hoped the evening would improve.

“I am an investigative reporter,” Ash replied.

“How fascinating,” Munter piped up.

“Really?” Goober looked uncomfortable. “What do you investigate?”

“White collar crime, mostly,” Ash replied, taking another bite of her salmon. “The occasional fraud story is my favorite.”

Goober coughed, setting his plate down. “And they let you? With your hair… like that?”

Karleen could’ve rolled over and died. “Did you enjoy your dinner, everyone?” she began busting people’s plates.

Goober stood up, plucking his phone from his pocket. “I should show you the pieces that we’ve placed at the Cabash. One is an ancient mask over two thousand years old and it’s been stolen a half dozen times.”

“Ooo… sordid history,” Ash smiled. “My favorite.”

“We’ll have to go over here though so you can see them better,” he stepped behind the couch. “I wouldn’t want the sun to shine too brightly on the phone.”

“Who is that?” Ash leaned over to get a better look at his background photo. “Is that Karleen?”

“Okay, who’s ready for dessert?” Karleen interrupted loudly, her face flushed.

“But dessert won’t be out of the oven for another twenty minutes,” Munter protested quietly.

“Make it be ready,” Karleen said, exasperated.

“Eddie? Essie? It’s good to see you,” Joseph said, filling his glass in the pink punch fountain.

His in-laws flew up for the weekend to enjoy the festival and to check up on their daughter. After the entire ordeal, both the Greens had been extremely worried. They had wanted to come immediately, but Lizzie needed time to recuperate in the hospital and at home before guests, even if they were family.

“I love this,” Essie said in her typical bubbly persona. “I wonder what they put in here. It’s addicting.”

“Delicious,” Eddie said, swallowing half a glass before sighing happily. “Joseph, my boy, how’s things? How’s work? You working hard?”

“Uh… yeah,” Joseph said, suddenly feeling like he was being interrogated. He loosened his tie. “Working hard for the money.”

He didn’t add ...and for the man. He had been passed over for promotion again, but with Lizzie’s fragile mental state and her health, Joseph couldn’t afford to look for another job and risk losing their insurance benefits. The last people he wanted to discuss this with were Lizzie’s parents.

“Lizzie’s over at the picnic tables,” Joseph offered a polite smile. “Excuse me. I need to say hello to a friend.”

As his in-laws walked away, he felt his shoulders relax. They meant well, he knew that, but he still felt tense around them. And guilty. I shouldn’t feel guilty. But I did something wrong. And Lizzie suspects. 

“Geeta,” he greeted.

“Shh! It’s the Looooovvvvve Guuuuuruuuu…” she murmured.

“Oh right,” he winked. “Love Guru? Any good love advice in the stars tonight for Lizzie and I? We could use some good luck about now.”

“I do not take this work lightly…” she huffed, and closed her eyes to concentrate after taking his palm. “The universe opens itself up to me and I am only a conduit for its messages.”

“Right?” he rolled his eyes.

“You doubt?” she snapped her eyes open. “Shame on you, Joseph Simself!”

“Uh… er… sorry…”

Geeta closed her eyes again and appeared to be humming. After a moment, she stopped swaying, her eyes opened, revealing a deep sadness.

“Oh Joseph…” she laid a hand against his chest. “I’m so sorry.”

“What?” he frowned, distracted by some kids nearby playing with sparklers.

“You are to be the recipient of more misfortune. Be wary.”

Joseph grimaced. “Uh…” he retrieved his hand as his phone rang. “I need to be going.”

Author Notes: Dun dun dun…Thanks for reading. This chapter featured Munterbacon‘s Munter Bacon,  LegacySims2017‘s Joseph Simself and Goober Nerdstrom, TheYayToasts Ash Toast, game-generated townie, Geeta Rasoya and my other created Sims, Eddie and Essie Green and Karleen Corey.