21. Haunted

This is going to sound bad, but I think Irene dying is the best thing that could’ve happened to this story. I struggled to find footing with Irene and Roman as characters. I didn’t offer them any goals or give them much to do. Now I have conflict. Now Roman can grow.

He seems to be doing a lot better these days anyway. He tries to get out more. Meet the neighbors.

He says hi to the people he passes on the street. He’s starting to make friends.

There’s the elephant in the room that neither he nor Rosemary talk about. There aren’t any arguments or offhand comments made. Just silence.

Now it’s Adam I worry about. The poor kid never really dealt with his mom’s death, and I think he’s getting mean. He seems angry all the time, or tense, or annoyed. I’m trying to give him some friends and things to do. Mostly he’s by himself.

Rosemary’s been struggling a lot as well, though her outlet is the Renegades. She can’t help, feeling, well…

Haunted.

Sometimes it’s a cold chill in the middle of the night, and dreams filled with paintbrushes dipped in red pigment brushed across a canvas.

Sometimes it’s the sound of feet on the stairs when no one else is home, or her mother’s voice in her head.

Sometimes it’s the faint feeling that someone should be in the room, and the hollow space they leave is like an old stain she steps around.

10

And sometimes…

9

It’s a little too real.

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20. Starting Over

Three sim days can feel like three years at times. Those sad moodlets started dropping off, and I wasn’t sure how to play this. On one hand, Roman has lost the love of his life, the star of his ocean, the peanut butter to his jelly. On the other hand, he’s a romantic sim, and almost immediately started getting tense moodlets for not being romantic to anyone while mourning his dead wife. I never intended to play up Roman’s romantic aspects, but I thought maybe a little time has passed. Maybe Roman is feeling better these days. Maybe he’s ready to get back out there.

Roman is just a little vain, and he’s been going to the gym lately to work out, rather than just jog around the neighborhood. His little world isn’t so little anymore, and he likes being around people. He’s trying to get out there.

He works out for a while. My favorite part of his design is his bro tattoo I imagine he got in his younger days, and he’s mildly embarrassed by it now. He at least wants a better one.

Once he’s beefed up his arms a little, he wanders around the gym. He meets the instructor and his wife. He says hi to Nancy as she keeps up her generous physique. He talks to a handful of people and then runs straight into Dina Caliente.

I have to admit, she’s his type. Romantic, ambitious, and she likes to work out and stay active. He talks to her a while, mostly sharing workout tips.

Dina laughs at his jokes. She’s got an easy-going personality but doesn’t hold back.

And, somehow, the conversation turns romantic. They’re both flirty people by nature, and they flirt a little with each other, mention how they don’t have plans on Friday night, how they were looking for something fun to do and someone fun to hang out with.

Which is how we end up here.

Roman didn’t tell his kids his plans this evening. He off-handedly mentioned his book club to Adam and told Rosemary she was babysitting, not that he can be certain she’s even at the house now. No need to rush things. They’re still fragile. He’s not sure he isn’t, and to be honest, he’s not sure if he’s ready for this whole Two Adults Getting Dinner thing. He and Irene were together in high school, when a date constituted a walk around the mall and drinking slushies while sitting on the trunk of his car. Their quick to the point marriage didn’t leave much time for real dates. He’s new to this whole thing.

He starts with the basics: “You look lovely.”

She grins. “This ol’ thing? It’s not like I wanted to impress you. You saw me at the gym. I’m past pretense.”

He laughs. “I’m impressed anyway.”

She looks at her phone while they talk. Not the best sign. He wonders if that’s normal, or if he’s just boring, but she quickly tucks it aside and smiles at him.

“Have you had the food here?” she asks.

He shook his head. “We–I used to go to Villa Bovine. Have you eaten there?”

“It’s fancy, isn’t it?”

He sighs, remembering the high priced wine. “It’s amazing. Though I am a very big fan of seafood.”

“You know all about that stuff, huh?” she says.

“I like food,” he says. “I like good food.”

“Order for me.” She says it like a challenge. “Tell me what’s good.”

He knows if he wanted to, he could spend all night talking to the waiter and picking out the perfect meal, but he opens the menu instead and looks at their options. It doesn’t take long for the food to arrive.

“I had to go with the house wine,” he says as their plates are set in front of them. “I’ve never had this one.”

She’s suitably impressed. “This looks amazing.”

“I could get us dessert, too.”

She picks up her fork, looking at him as he swirls the wine to let it breathe, and her lips quirk up.

“No dessert tonight,” she says. “But next time.”

The food is good, the conversation flirtatious, the drinks gone quickly. It’s been a while since Roman has felt good like this. He doesn’t feel guilty talking to her, except maybe for not telling his kids, and it doesn’t feel like a betrayal to share wine with another woman. This is normal. Sane. Enjoyable. He’s not sure the right word, but it’s satisfying.

A waiter arrives to take their dishes, and Roman is so buoyed with good spirits, he calls the waiter over.

“This was a fantastic meal,” he says. “Please, tell the chef he’s doing everything right.”

The waiter nods and promises to pass the message along. Dina leans forward, her eyes narrowed at him but her smile still there.

“Do you do that on all your dates?” she asks.

“This is my first in a while,” he says. “But I like to give compliments where they are due.”

He knows she wants to ask about the first part of that statement, but she doesn’t. He’s relieved. This has been fun, and he didn’t want to damper the night with tragedy.

He pays the bill and they get up to leave. He takes Dina’s hands and thanks her for the company.

“You are a gentleman,” she says, and her tone is slightly suspicious. “Most guys would talk me into coffee, at least.”

“I’d like to take things slow,” he says. “As long as that’s okay. I had a great time tonight.”

“And we should do it again.” She squeezes his hand. “Don’t wait too long to call me.”

“Trust me,” he promises. “I won’t.”

19. Going Clubbing

Poor Adam is so neglected by me. His aspiration is Whiz Kid, so I barely focus on his social, so he doesn’t have any friends and he sits upstairs in his room all the time playing with his science lab. I decided to make him a club to give him a boost towards his mental skill.

These are all the kids he knows. I think they may be all the kids in my world? The story progression is a little weird, and I’m still not sure how MCCC actually works. Adam looks happy anyway.

He jumps on the chess table with his friend, and Fallon watches them play. Bjorn is also slightly off camera. He stood there forever while I let my kids take up the space, and finally I told him to get out. I need to figure out what’s going on with NPCs in this save. Every single time I go somewhere with an NPC, they start jogging, which is very annoying.

Fallon sits down with Adam and they start to play. The two of them get along pretty well. I need to invest more time in their friendship meter.

Adam is pretty focused though. There is a decent chance he’ll be going into the scientist career in the future. He’s so single minded.

But homework and chess isn’t the only thing that interests Adam. When that Sims 4 sale was going on, I went ahead and purchased the Kids Room Stuff pack and finally got to try out voidcritters for myself. Since I started this after that purchase, I actually get to figure out what to do with it. So I started Adam a second club.

All of the same kids (again, I think they may be the only ones in this world right now) meet up at Adam’s house to play voidcritters together!

Adam’s fairly good at it, despite investing no time in his cards. His dad bought him a few booster packs to start out on, since Adam doesn’t really want to dig through trash. Luckily all his friends also have cards to play with.

Though only two can play at a time. I may have to build these kids an arcade…

Rosemary, of course, spends her nights out with her club. Purchasing the rally the troops interaction is a major help with that. She does have to get to level 10 mischief before her birthday, and I think the easiest way to do that is to have her sit down at a computer and troll the forums all night.

It’s not the most exciting. Her club gets a little anxious too, and for some reason tonight there was no one else in the library. Did they scare everyone else away?

Wolfgang gets in on the action too. Normally they break every other computer in the place, but they left these up. Maybe they’re too antsy, because in a minute, a fight breaks out.

Rosemary had been attempting to rally the troops when she saw the dust cloud. To her horror, her boyfriend looks to be the instigator, and he has poor Billie in a headlock.

Everyone rushes out of their seats to get a better look. Max doesn’t play fair, but Billie’s no slouch.

She gets him back as much as she can. Unfortunately it’s not enough.

Max emerges victorious. Billie’s dazed. Max goes to brag to his friends, and Billie sits down after all that.

Rosemary checks on her club member. To her credit, Billie doesn’t look that mad. Rosemary doesn’t want to play favorites, and part of the club rules is to do mischief on others, not on themselves.

Billie doesn’t indicate that she feels any rules were broken. Sometimes you just fight in a library. It’s just what happens.

Rosemary at least tries to get Max to apologize. She calls him over and asks him to try and fix things up with Billie.

She laughs as he begs for forgiveness. Oh, Billie. You’re such a strange character in this play.

She does forgive him, at least it seems like. They don’t share anymore mean interactions, so I’ll assume this worked.

The kids aren’t the only ones going out into the world. Roman finds himself suddenly alone, with few friends, and with no one to talk to. I’d planned to have this story start primarily in Willow Creek and then expand out, but Roman calls up the Avant Gardes, and they ask him to meet in Windenburg.

Roman’s a little nervous being around a new group, especially because they seem so young and trendy. Not that he’s old, but he’s never been anything but a dad.

He explains this to Gunther, who looks uncertain how to console someone in this situation. The best he can do, Gunther thinks, is offer him a place in this club. After all, Roman’ll fit right in.

Roman goes straight to the small blocky computer and continues his work. He’s pouring his heart and soul into the Lost Lenore. He wants it to be good.

Club activities go on around him. He doesn’t notice.

Yuki sits on the table beside him, setting down her coffee cup and mystery novel. She glances at him as she sits.

“You look pretty serious,” she says.

There are very few times in Roman’s life where someone told him he looked serious. He wonders how old he looks to young Yuki, especially as he pours over the pages of his heartbreaking novel.

“I’m working on something,” he says, trying to smile at her. “It’s personal.”

She nods as though she understands. “I figured. Gunther always says he’s working on his memoirs, and I’m like, of what?”

He laughs a little at that. “You don’t write?”

She offers a shrug. “A couple of fanfics, little pieces of things. I like reading a whole lot though. And my real passion is video games.”

“I’m at a loss for those,” he says. “Maybe you can share some with me.”

Yuki smiles. “Don’t get me started.”

Eventually the day drags on, and Roman picks himself up and gets some food and a coffee from the cafe.

The barista girl is cute and smiles at him as she hands him his scone.

People are gathered around, talking and laughing with each other as they share their own snacks. A few of them wave at Roman, but he declines, choosing instead to sit at the window with his snack.

He watches the town center as he chews thoughtfully. He doesn’t feel so lonely, not here, and writing somewhere else has helped the story breathe. He thinks about the people he’s met today, the stories they probably have. He’d love to write about them.

18. Rosemary’s Night Out

Rosemary’s been having a tough time, what with murdering her mom and all. She’s been down in the dumps for two whole Sims days (don’t worry, the moodlet lasts three), but I need her to up her mischief skill. Last time I pulled the Renegades together for an all night mischief off in the park, she jumped up two whole skill levels, so I send her off again.

Her hearts not in it. Max is flirty, for some reason, but she can’t offer up any romance on her own. She tries to explain to him what’s wrong.

Max doesn’t seem to notice. He wanders off, leaving her forlorn.

Rosemary watches him leave, wishing she could be so carefree. Her chest is heavy, her face is cold, her limbs heavy. But tonight, she has to do mischief.

She tries, bless her. A little anger is better than a lot of sad, but no one wants to stick around for her shtick.

She tries to amuse as well, but no one’s interested in being her friend. After a few failed attempts, she wanders back and finds Max sitting on the bench.

She tries to talk to him again. He was there, he has to understand. If only…

“I don’t know why you blame yourself,” he says, and that makes her look up. “It’s not like you took a knife to her. So your mom blew a gasket? Seems like she’s the one who did it to herself.”

Rosemary gives a pathetic sniffle. “I always argued with her.”

“I always argue with my family.” He shrugs. “We get over it.”

“Dad won’t even talk to me.”

“So screw him! You don’t need him!”

“Look,” he says, leaning into her. “Either your mom couldn’t chill for five seconds, and you’re in the clear, or you did kill her, in which case, you’re a total badass. You think your dad’s going to chew you out for staying out all night?”

She gives him a nervous look. “I doubt it.”

“Then chill.”

Rosemary sighs. It’s the first thing anyone’s said to her that didn’t make her feel like it was completely her fault. After a moment, she looks at him again.

“Do you really think I’m a badass?” she asked.

He nods. “Totally.”

And in this moment, I start writing Max like he’s J.D. in Heathers.

Rosemary sees Billie hanging out by the jungle gym and decides to talk to her. She wants to keep their potential friendship going, even in these tough times, but Billie’s not having it today.

“Max really said that?” she snaps when Rosemary repeats the conversation. “What a psycho.”

“I guess,” Rosemary murmurs.

Morgan takes an interest as well. “I don’t care what happened. At least he’s trying to make you feel better. I’m glad you came out tonight.”

“It’s better than sitting at home,” she says. “It’s dead silence there.”

“You’re an absolute monster, Rosemary,” is all Billie says. That green meter is dropping their whole conversation. Everyone’s tense because a nefarious club is around, even though they are in that nefarious club.

A few kids wander over, despite it being 3am, and Rosemary gives them a taste of the monster.

The kid doesn’t react at all.

Billie is unimpressed.

Rosemary returns home close to six, still depressed and now exhausted. She trudges up the stairs towards her room.

She hears the TV playing some kids program while her dad and Adam sit quietly together, not sharing words but at least sharing their gloom. She feels uninvited to their family time. They wouldn’t want her there anyway.

She curls up in bed and prepares to face the day.

17. Mourning Period

I’m at a loss with what to do now that Irene is dead. I didn’t plan. I may have pushed her, just a little. I told her to argue with her daughter and I told Rosemary to argue back. I’ve yet to have an emotional death in my Sims save until this point. This sort of changes the story. I know where I want Rosemary to go and I know where I’m pushing Adam. Irene and Roman were part of that, in a lesser sense. Now it’s just Roman.

So, like my characters, I am struggling with the aftermath of Irene’s death.

Roman wakes up in a poor mood. He slumps his shoulders as he treads into the bathroom, sleeping in an empty bed for the first time in a long time. He misses the warmth of his wife beside him, being woken up by her kiss, standing side by side as they go through their morning ritual. It’s gone now. The smell of her shampoo tucked into the medicine cabinet burns his eyes. Her towel still hangs on the rack, not yet washed. Little things that make it seem like she’s still here: a hairbrush, an uncapped nail polish bottle, her shoes tossed aside after she came home from work.

Adam has no means of processing what happened. His mom collapsed in front of him, and it’s like no one did anything. All those people, his own father crying out on his knees, and she’s still gone. He mourns at her urn every morning, missing her.

Rosemary takes it worst of all. She tries to chronicle her emotions in her journal, but the truth is she can’t. Her mom had a heart attack in the middle of their screaming match. If Rosemary hadn’t thrown that party, if she didn’t try to argue, if they hadn’t had any of the hundreds of arguments leading up to that, her mom would be alive. This is all her fault. She knows it.

Roman knows he can’t stand still like his kids. They need to be fed, first of all. What the partiers didn’t eat got thrown out in the ensuing days as they put together a memorial and had Irene cremated and started going through her things. They need breakfast, dinner, bagged lunches, basic stuff to get them through the day. He’s already applied to be a writer’s assistant. He makes daily revenue off his books, but he needs to be sure he can provide for his kids. Irene was the money maker in this house. Until he’s sure his royalties will last them, he’ll work as an assistant.

Breakfast is awkward, as it has been since Irene died. Adam is completely silent as he stares into his pancakes. Roman doesn’t know what to say, and Rosemary is nowhere to be seen. Roman looks at his son, who wipes tears from his eyes on occasion. What do you tell a little boy who lost his mom? How do you say it’ll be okay? Roman isn’t sure it will be. Irene may have been short with the kids, but she knew how to keep this family together.

So he says nothing, taking another bit of his pancakes as his son stares off into space.

Eliza stops by. Not much progress has been made in befriending the Pancakes, though I’m still certain Roman and Bob would make good friends. Eliza lets him know she heard about the news. Anything he needs, she says. That’s what neighbors are for.

Roman thanks her for stopping by, but his heart isn’t into it. He’s thinking her hair is a shade darker than Irene’s, and he’s hoping when she gets home Bob’ll hold her tight.

Unable to concentrate on his books, he sits and watches some inane kids show.

He can barely look at it, but it’s all his brain has room for now.

Eventually he goes up to his room and curls beneath the covers.

“Okay,” Rosemary in the mirror says, arms outstretched in a calming manner. “It’s not your fault. Mom would’ve blown a gasket at any second. She barely kept herself together on the best of days. She argued with dad in shops.”

The reassuring reflection offers calm sympathies to Rosemary, but Rosemary can’t shake the truth.

One stupid argument, and this is where she was. Shouting at herself in the mirror, dread and guilt and sorrow knotting up in her stomach. She turns away, unable to look at herself anymore.

Mom loved to paint, she thinks as she goes to the easel and lifts her paintbrush. In this moment, she’d have something beautiful to share, something desolate and bleak, but still beautiful. She’d know exactly what to draw.

Rosemary doesn’t know what to draw, so she draws how she feels.

She’s not the only one looking for a creative outlet. Once he’s up again, Roman goes to his computer, and he starts typing out his next book: The Lost Lenore. It’s about sorrow, grief, and losing the love of your life.

And then it’s dinner time. It’s been a while since the remaining family sat together. Adam buries himself in homework these days, and Roman writes late into the night. Rosemary disappears for hours on end, never telling her family where she is. Tonight they sit together, eating a freshly made spaghetti dinner.

Rosemary can’t help but look at her father and feel that guilt creeping back in. I did this, her mind repeats. I’m the reason. Dad hates me. Adam hates me. Why can’t I be better?

Her dad doesn’t say a word.

16. The Party (Part Two)

Rosemary knows she’s in a heap of trouble. She threw a party while her parents were out and now all her friends are crawling all over the house. Her parents just walked in and they look very angry.

Irene wastes no time laying into her daughter.

“How could you!” she shouts. “You’re supposed to be watching your brother! Who are these people!”

Roman steps in as well. “You have to be the responsible one, Rosemary. You have to take care of the house when we’re not here. How can we trust you?”

Rosemary isn’t having it. She’s tired, she knows she’s in major trouble, and she doesn’t really want to be yelled at. Her visual apathy sets off Irene even more.

Irene’s blood pressure is boiling. She’s screaming.

Rosemary shouts back. The two of them argue for a long time, and suddenly Irene marches away.

She takes two steps, ranting and raving.

And her hand flies to her heart. Rosemary hasn’t noticed her mother’s sudden change in demeanor. She’s too busy rolling her eyes. Irene’s eyes roll up.

She faints.

The party is silent as she collapses to the floor. Wolfgang rushes forward. The other partiers aren’t far behind.

A new guest has arrived.

Roman can’t even get to his wife to plead for her. He drops to his knees in the hallway with a mass of people around him, hoping the Grim Reaper will spare her today.

He is not convincing.

The party’s over.

15. The Party (Part One)

It’s hard with dad not working to have time alone in the house, but this Saturday night, it’s managed to work out. Irene’s off to work, and Roman’s meeting his new book club. Rosemary doesn’t have a lot of time, but she’s ready to throw a party.

She calls up all her friends on the phone while she sets out snacks.

Drinks for her friends, pizza ordered.

This party is ready to pop off.

Adam is not really a party goer. He decides to hole up in his room and experiment on his science table. He’s got to make some emotion potions for his aspiration.

Despite her social nature, Rosemary doesn’t have a ton of friends. She invites all the Renegades and some buddies she still knows from her child days. Ulrike and her are wearing the same skirt, but hopefully no one will notice.

When not in a club meeting, she gets on with everyone pretty well, including some people she’s been mean to in the past. Rosemary’s outgoing, though, and very good at making friends.

Adam doesn’t get to stay alone in his room. He’s distracted when Morgan arrives and starts chatting with him. This seems to jostle him out of his anti-party funk, sort of.

Out in the backyard, Rosemary catches sight of her man. They haven’t been official that long, but she knows in her heart what she wants.

Start casual, she tells herself. A hello, a little wave.

She smiles at him. Max smiles back.

A light touch to face. Max melts under her hand. She pulls him closer.

It’s that kind of party.

As the dancing gets a little wilder, she suggests to him that they could find somewhere private to talk.

Casually they walk into the house…

And up the stairs, where they close the bedroom door behind them.

Adam wanders out into the party, clearly annoyed by all the strangers running around. He walks over to the radio and starts dancing with the angriest look on his face.

He can’t enjoy himself for a minute.

The party’s moving into the house anyway. Some couples take up couches, while others wander looking for a snack.

Adam is already cleaning up, giving everyone annoyed looks as he walks by.

Rosemary is elated as she walks down the stairs sometime later, smoothing out her leggings. She stops short as she gets to the end of the stairs.

Mom’s home.