You grow up hearing “tell the truth.” Truth is often hard. Truth often means swallowing pride, and admitting fault or wrong. Truth is supposed to be freeing, but sometimes it feels condemning. It’s not like Karleen wanted to keep secrets from Munter, or to lie to him, but she was afraid. For the first time in her life, she was genuinely scared of losing a guy who meant a damn to her.
Goober was a mistake.
John was fun.
…plum! Here he comes. Karleen tried to compose herself, but she was on the verge of falling apart. Her lower lip wobbled. I can… do this. She wished she had dressed nicer. Arriving from the gym probably hadn’t been the smartest idea. She hadn’t showered yet, though Munter appeared to be in his workout attire too. What a pair we make! she thought miserably.
“Hey love,” he said.
Karleen turned her head as he kissed her cheek so he couldn’t see the tears welling in her eyes. This was among one of the hardest things she had ever done. Why am I such a terrible person? Munter had been nothing but sweet and good to her, and she treated him, and everyone else like llama crap. She took a deep breath.
“You did what?”
She wasn’t sure what was worse – his accusatory finger pointed sharply in her direction, the sound of shock in his tone, or the crushed look on his face.
“I’m sorry,” Karleen cried. “I’m an idiot.”
He hunched his shoulders and dropped his head. “I knew about John,” he whispered. “But I thought you hadn’t been with him in a long time… and it was before we were exclusive… or so I thought.”
“Yes, yes, I haven’t seen John or slept with him in over a month,” Karleen said, realizing the words sounded way more reassuring in her head.
“But Goober? My neighbor?” Munter exclaimed, locking eyes with her own.
There wasn’t any ire or malice. Just profound sadness. Karleen didn’t think it was possible to feel any worse.
“Did you love… him?” his face twisted. “Them?”
“No,” her voice cracked. “No, I cared about John, but…” she raised her arms in abject defeat. “Goober was a mistake. A stupid mistake.”
“Do they know?” he continued. “About the baby?”
Her head dipped, a sudden wooziness overcoming her brain. “Uh?” she fumbled.
“Here,” he gently grabbed her arms, steadying her weight.
The dam broke, and Karleen began sobbing. She couldn’t formulate any words. She couldn’t think clearly. She could barely breathe between cries. Munter stood there, silently, stoically, holding her upright, a strange sight to anyone passing by. Yet in Uptown, many things go unnoticed. Like a certain citizen in a familiar vest and tie, a gleam of cruelty in his eye, hidden behind a concrete support thirty yards away. He heard the words, shrugged, removed his glasses to wipe the lenses, and sauntered away with Karleen and Munter none the wiser. This wasn’t his first rodeo, and his line of work certainly complicated relationships. He wasn’t looking for the settle-down-white-picket-fence-raise-the-kids-9-to-5 kind-of lifestyle. His one-night-stand with Karleen was merely that… a fling. His business was completed in San Myshuno. He would move on. Munter was more suited for the bed-and-roses-and-baby lifestyle.
Joseph balled his fists to keep calm. A dinner at the hottest new restaurant in the city seemed like the perfect surprise for his wife. Things had been all over the place with them recently and a night on the town had sounded like a great idea. Chez Llama was a fancy sit-down, fine-china kind-of place with a semi-formal attire requirement and a waiting list a mile long. Thanks to Riley’s new beau, Akira, Joseph managed to get a cancellation. Or so he thought.
“Are you certain that you had a reservation under the name Jo-zeph Simself, sir?” the maitre d‘ inquired.
“It’s Jo-seph,” he corrected. “And yes. Dinner for two under the last name Simself.”
Lizzie would be here shortly. He had encouraged her to dress up and meet him after her meeting at her publisher’s office. She would be flying to Deutchsimland next week to meet with a movie producer, and possible future business partner. He wanted to celebrate her good fortune, even though he had little of his own in terms of work lately. After he was laid off, he attended career fairs, consulted a headhunter, and created six dozen resumes, all of which had yet to make it into the hands of a hiring manager willing to give him the time of day. He still hadn’t told Lizzie yet, as she had enough things to worry about. Tonight’s dinner would cost him most of the remaining Simoleons in his personal account, but he didn’t care. His wife deserved the best.
“Akira Kibo called ahead,” Joseph sighed.
The maitre d’ eyed him incredulously. “Are you a music producer? You cannot possibly be a singer?”
Joseph straightened his tie, feeling offended. “I’m in advertising.”
“Oh an agent?”
“Akira… Akira Kibo,” the maitre d’ skimmed the guest list once more. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
The hostess seated the couple in an intimate little corner, complete with a padded booth and lighted candle. They perused the menu with all sorts of dishes neither one of them had heard of before, nonetheless, they were open to trying new things. Joseph kept peeking over his menu to catch a glimpse of his wife, a vision in her scoop-neck green dress, their favorite color.
I giggled. “What?”
“What do you mean what?” Joseph quickly averted his eyes and stared at the immaculate flooring, almost shyly.
“You’re staring at me,” I grinned.
“And why not?” he chuckled awkwardly. “You look beautiful tonight.”
I flushed, hoping he would think I was warm from the flickering candle flame.
“You’re not so bad yourself, Mr. Simself,” I smiled softly, returning my attention to the entrees.
“I see you found your ring,” he remarked, taking my hand.
“Yes, it was buried in a jeans pocket. I thought I told you I found it,” I said.
“It’s been missing for so long I almost sent out a search party,” Joseph quipped.
I laughed as he caressed my fingers. It felt good to be out with him for once. We hadn’t been on the closest of terms recently, and with everything that happened, I wasn’t sure I’d ever remember how charming he was, or how he made me laugh, or made me feel good.
“Let’s play a game,” I suggested.
“A game?” he arched a brow. “I wonder where the waiter is. I’d like to at least get some water.”
“Yes, a game. Two truths and a lie,” I said. “I read about it the other day. You tell someone two truths and one lie and then the other person has to guess which one is the lie.”
“Like you’re beautiful, I’m lucky, and I wonder why you picked me,” he joked.
“You’re saying I’m not beautiful?” I playfully pouted.
“No, I’m saying truth is I know why you picked me,” he grinned confidently.
“Oh?” I leaned over the table, curious about his response.
“Hello,” a waitress arrived at our table. “Welcome to Chez Llama. What brought you into our restaurant?”
“We’re celebrating,” Joseph and I began in unison.
We looked at each other and laughed. I felt a sudden pressure form behind my eye, and pressed my hand to my forehead as Joseph continued.
“We’re celebrating. My wife landed a movie deal.”
“Congratulations,” the waitress smiled. “You’re E. Green aren’t you?”
“Yes,” I winced, surprised by the mounting pressure.
“Oh I’ve read your Flashpaper Fiction,” the waitress said proudly. “I loved it. You write such interesting characters.”
“Thank you,” I smiled graciously. “Excuse me? Where’s your restroom?”
“Oh,” the waitress pointed across the restaurant. “Upstairs and to the right.”
“Thank you,” I slid from the booth as my pain intensified. “Joseph, order for us, will you?”
It wasn’t like he meant to trigger a headache. Caelen had been meaning to check in on his patients for over a month now, but leaving the Hollow was tricky. He nearly always had to wear some sort of disguise. It wasn’t like people were jumping to see a pyre-witch-chroniker medical professional, even if he had the proper training. He heard rumors that the patient was experiencing moderate memory loss, and the other recalled too much.
It was possible he got his signals crossed and messed up the procedure. Caelen didn’t like to be wrong. He didn’t like to leave traces of imperfections. He had hoped his procedure would have sent the couple back to life as they knew it without any memory of the problems they suffered. Somehow the husband remembered more than he should, and the wife recalled less than she should. Together this was a recipe for disaster and possibly lawsuit should they ever connect all the dots.
Caelen sighed as he strutted across the restaurant floor, passing by the stage, set for a pianist and singer later this evening. The wife didn’t love music as much anymore, and was cold and distant at times. She continued to have an averse reaction to the medicine his sister had been prescribing. There was sort-of a sad irony to this situation. Lilith, his witch sister, never wanted to be a doctor, and yet she worked part-time as a homeopath at the Celestial Clinic, a known treatment facility for supernatural curses and ailments, and part-time as a street musician. On the other hand, he actually attended medical school, but because of his hybrid genes, no one would let him legally practice outside of a hollow. Lili had called him for a consult, but it wasn’t like he could just stroll up to their home and say, “Ah, remember me? I’m going to treat you now for the illicit memories you’ve regained and for the rightful memories you have not.”
“She still hasn’t come back with our water?”
I returned to the table, sliding onto the bench, surprised by the lack of attention we were receiving in a supposedly five-star restaurant.
“Are you feeling okay?” Joseph asked, his eyes searching mine worriedly.
“Oh,” I broke our gaze. “I’m fine. Just a little headache.” I brushed my hand across my forehead and smiled. “Nothing to worry about. Where were we?” I reached for his hand.
He smiled. “Two truths and a lie.”
“You were about to tell me why you think I picked you,” I probed, teasingly.
“Right. It’s because I’m tall, dark, and handsome,” he smirked.
“Ha! No, it’s because you have a good…” I felt a stabbing pain in my chest. “Whoa!” I gripped the edge of my dress. “…heart…” I finished, realizing the irony of my statement.
“Lizzie?” Joseph exclaimed.
“I’m fine,” I shook my head, realizing I wasn’t, but I didn’t want to ruin our night out or cause him alarm. I slumped against the seat to rest my head. “Just a little heartburn or something. My turn? Okay?” I swallowed before continuing. “…I think your glasses make you look sexy. I hate peas. And I used to be afraid of flying.”
“Since when do you hate peas?” he made a face.
“You’re right,” I closed my eyes with a slight smile. “I don’t. You caught the lie.”
“You like the glasses?” he remarked with a grin, leaning his forearms against the table.
“Yes, I always have,” I replied, and my eyes snapped open. “Oh, I always have… I remembered that!” I said, excitedly. “That and your shirtless jogs around the Springs.”
“You remember those?” he replied, straightening his shoulders with pride.
“Too bad you don’t have a job where you can work without a shirt!” I quipped and began fanning myself. “Is it hot in here?”
“What? It genuinely feels warm in here,” I sighed as I could almost sense my temperature rising.
“You do look flushed,” he said, awkwardly staring at his hands.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, rubbing the back of my neck.
“Nothing,” he muttered.
“It’s not nothing, really? What is it?” I tried to ignore the rising pressure in my head and the pain in my chest as I fiddled with my necklace.
“I do have a job where I can work without a shirt.”
“Since when?” I smirked.
“Since I got laid off,” he admitted, dropping his gaze shamefully.
I wasn’t able to process what he said because of the mounting pain in my skull and a swarm of dizziness enveloping my head. My vision blurred. I could only focus on the last thing I heard, and it wasn’t good news. It was terrible news. My brain fixated on his words as I passed out. Joseph kept crying out, saying my name over and over again.
I felt betrayed. Tell the truth, my brain taunted me.
I felt angry. What a stupid game! Why did I think it was a good idea?
I felt sad. The truth can feel so condemning, so final. Oh Joseph! You lost your job, my heart wailed. Why didn’t you tell me?
“I’m going to get help,” his words sounded muffled, almost as if I were underwater. “It’s going to be okay,” he soothed, walking around and kneeling before me. His face, twisted with fear, was the last thing I remembered.
Author Note: For the record, Lizzie genuinely fell asleep in the restaurant. I thought about going with funny, but she started acting weird when Caelen was wandering around. Their restaurant experience was pretty terrible. I just purchased Dine Out, and managed to play test it for the first time since Joseph kindly asked Lizzie on a date. 🙂 However, the service was slow, the host was rude, the waitress was flighty and distracted, and I don’t think they ever got their food because Lizzie “passed out” first.
Also, Karleen attempted to call Goober three times to chat and he rejected her calls or was never available due to work. I didn’t get a good screenshot of him in the background when she confesses to Munter, so I just had to write it in. Thanks for reading. This chapter featured Munterbacon‘s Munter Bacon, Karleen Corey, Caelen Vatore, and LegacySims2017’s Joseph Simself. FYI, while I was there, CathyTea‘s Cathy Tea came and played a fun jazz solo. You can watch her video here. Excuse the poor quality. I just did it for kicks and grins.