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Chapter37
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Chapter37

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  • 1. Dear reader, welcome back to the Bookacy Family Alphabet Adventures! This is, at long last, chapter37. If you are new to the Bookacies, I suggest that you start at the beginning, which is, naturally,chapter one. We arent going anywhere.At this point, Id also like to apologize for the even-longer-than-usual wait. I had some pretty severecomputer troubles, and basically, the internals of my computer had to be replaced entirely before Icould get back to playing and writing with my machine. However, now its fixed, and hopefully now Ihave a simming machine thatll last for years to come.But, what is going on in Alphabetia? Its wintertime, and after the dramatic events that occured atCyrus and Chris wedding, everyone seems happy with some quieter time for a change. Lets getdown to business, shall we?
  • 2. For Cho, Baudolino, Marylena and George life was taking a new, more peaceful turn and they allthoroughly enjoyed it. Now that all the dramatic turns of events were over, it was time to enjoy thehome, each others company, and especially little Dirk, who was growing up fast.Speaking of Dirk, they werent the only ones enjoying him. Eric was over frequently, and in fact, it washim who saw Dirk taking his first steps. Even though their relationship had not worked out, both Ericand Cho were determined to stay in civil terms for the sake of their son, and perhaps to the surpriseof them both, it was succeeding quite well.
  • 3. Beside looking after her son and patching terms between her and her ex-fiancé, Cho had also otherthings to keep her occupied. She had been looking for an opening in the Gamer career for a while,but so far with no luck. Her occupation as a World Class Ballet Dancer was nice, but she wasinterested in other things as well.
  • 4. She also kept herself busy with studying, especially keeping in mind the possible change of careersin the future.
  • 5. But naturally, that didnt mean she didnt have time for a bit of fun every now and then.
  • 6. All the happiness, peace and quiet didnt mean that shed forgotten certain things, or that they hadstopped bothering her.”Dad”, Cho said one day, sitting next to Baudolino in the living room, ”we should talk about bringingCharlie back.””Bringing Charlie back?” asked Baudolino, more to buy himself some time than genuinely surprised.He had hoped he would never have to have this discussion with his daughter, but deep down, hedknown that was just wishful thinking.
  • 7. Baudolino sighed. ”Honey, I thought weve been over this. Charlie cannot be brought back. If thefamily ever brings anyone back from the dead, that is, anyone who does not have the protective aura,the gypsy spell Sunny placed on the family will break, and Salahuddin will be able to reunite with yourgreat grandmother. Not only would that place all of Alphabetia in danger, as Sunny has explained, butitd also be against her wish.”Cho knew all this, of course. She hadnt mentioned the matter again since she graduated butBaudolino knew what she had in mind, and couldnt blame her for it. Hed found the same thoughtcrossing his mind in the last few days.”I know, Dad, and I understand”, Cho started patiently. ”But Salahuddin Chamcha was caught inCyrus wedding, we all saw him. Hes in jail now, from what I understand. How could he possiblyresurrect anyone from jail? And hes a murderer, so its a life sentence, Dad!”
  • 8. ”Yes, he is in jail”, confirmed Baudolino and sighed again. ”Hes waiting for his trial, and Ramin, whois the Law, told me hes been deemed a dangerous criminal so hell have to wait imprisoned. But itsnot that simple, honey.””You dont think theyre going to let him walk?” gasped Cho, only now thinking of the possibility.”Ramin says that with the testimonies from Aadam, Rebecca, Marsha, Beth and count Pao, as well asthe tape which the count supplied, thats highly unlikely. But we cant really know the result before thetrial.””Well then well just wait until its certain that he stays locked up and...””Sweetie, Im sorry, it wont work.”
  • 9. ”Why not?” aked Cho, frustrated.”First of all”, started Baudolino, having gone through the same train of thought numerous timeshimself, ”technically, Salahuddin Chamcha is not a murderer.””He killed my brother! He killed great aunt Rebecca! He nearly killed his own daughter!””We do not know those things, Cho. We cannot even place him at the scene where Charlie died, forall we know he was likely in Alphabetia then. Technically, were lucky that Cyrus doesnt get chargedwith his brothers death. And as per Sunnys thorough knowledge on these matters, it is very unlikelythat a vampire of only Salahuddins age would be in such strong control of his powers that he wouldbe able to do such a thing on purpose. And the important thing is, even if he did do it on purpose, wecant prove it. The same is true for Rebeccas case. There were witnesses present, and all they couldsay was that she stood up herself, walked through the gate that was supposed to be locked andgrabbed the bait cake herself, while Salahuddin stood well out of touching range, on the other side ofthe room. No verbal coercion was to be heard, either.”
  • 10. ”In Marshas case, as well as that of yours”, Baudolino continued, ”the evidence is somewhatstronger. We have eye-witnesses who saw and heard Salahuddin verbally coerce Aadam into takingoff the swimming pool ladder, which would have lead to Marshas death had the police not come intime. We also have witnesses who saw him point his wand at you at the wedding, as well as a taperecording which reveals that his intention was to kill the Bookacy family heir. Of course, another thingthats in common between you and Marsha, is that neither of you died.”Cho was about to say something, but Baudolino went on. ”That means that Salahuddin can becharged with Rebeccas kidnap, coercion of Aadam into doing his bidding in the cases of Rebeccaand Marsha, involuntary vampirification of Cyrus, and two attempted murders, yours and Marshas.””So my brother wont get justice?” asked Cho angrily? ”Or Rebecca?””Honey... Its not really justice if we dont have the proof. Rebecca is even alive now, and she herselfcannot remember anything resembling Salahuddin telling her to take the cake.”Cho didnt have an answer to that.
  • 11. ”So in summary, Chamchas crimes are serious, and depending on the judge, he may even serveseveral lifetimes if we are lucky. But he wont be locked up forever.””Wont? But... several lifetimes...””You forget that hes a vampire, dear”, Baudolino said patiently.”Hes still a vampire? They havent cured him?” asked Cho, horrified.”They cant”, her father explained, ”Much as making someone a vampire against their will, also curinga vampire without their consent is a against the law. The same goes for all supernatural beings, thatis, Salahuddin Chamcha is still a vampire, and hes still a warlock. As you might guess, curing himfrom either would be against his will, and thus itd be illegal.””But hes a known criminal!””Its considered a basic right. None of the supernatural being kinds are evil or dangerous to others assuch, and the state can benefit the sim who acquires it. Back then when sims were kind of prejudicedtowards the supernaturals, force-curings were a problem, especially with vampires, and thats why itsnot legal anymore.”
  • 12. ”But cant magical creatures easily escape from prison?” asked Cho, confused.”I asked Ramin about that, since I didnt know the specifics of the law and prisons either. He said thatwhen the law was changed to illegalize force-curings, they had to take these matters into accountwhen designing the prisons. Modern prisons are equipped with anti-escape technology that works forany and all magic, including warlocks and vampires. I dont know the specifics, but from what Iunderstood, it has to do with force fields. They do confiscate wands for the duration of theimprisonment, and the force field takes care of vampire magic, so it would require quite some trickeryto get out by force. But thats not the real problem.”Cho didnt say anything, just kept listening.”The real problem is, Salahuddin Chamcha is a vampire, and the law does not permit to cure him”,continued Baudolino, now getting to his actual topic, ”In Alphabetia, a life sentence is actually asentence of certain length in years – fairly difficult to calculate – it does not necessarily mean beinglocked up for the rest of ones life, particularly in cases in which the prisoner is immortal. Whichmeans, even if Chamcha gets the so called life sentence, or even several, sooner or later he willwalk. And when he does, he is going to be very angry, and very dangerous. Not to mention he maystill have supporters who could possibly do some dirty work for him while he is in prison.” He sighed.”I know getting him behind bars was the best we could do, but I still wonder if it was wise.”
  • 13. ”And when it comes to our poor Charlie”, said Baudolino, sighing, ”its not just that. Even if there wasno danger of Salahuddin Chamcha, no magical protection to consider, resurrection is still a riskybusiness at best. You are so young that you dont know her very well, but you do know whathappened to your great aunt Rebecca. She never complains, but what happened to her isnt exactlyoptimal.”Cho nodded in silence, thinking of her beloved brother as a zombie in horror.”The only sims that I am aware of that have anything resembling sufficient knowledge on theresurrection process are Aadam, Adson and Abraham. To my understanding, it was Abraham who didthe bulk of the work, and well, hes been dead for a long time now. And even with the combinedknowledge of the three of them, well, Rebecca became a zombie. I understand that you feel horribleand guilty, and miss Charlie enormously, I do too, but sweetie... There are simply too many risks.”Cho nodded, unable to speak. She knew her father was right. As the conversation died out, tearswere glistening in both their eyes.
  • 14. From then on, Cho tried her best to accept that there was no way to bring her brother back withouttaking risks that the family could not afford to take. She was still sad, and knew she would always be,but she had to accept the facts.After discussing matters over with Baudolino and Marylena, Cho did her brother what she consideredto be a final favor: Charlies grave was moved from the Greek House ground to the family graveyard,where Charlie would rest together with his ancestors, and where also the current members of thefamily would one day join him. The thought of Charlie being closer to his family this way gave Chosome comfort.
  • 15. But life wasnt all about sadness, and even in their darkest moments, the family was cheered up bylittle Dirks charming presence. Tragical events may have occurred in the immediate past, and eventhings with Mommy and Daddy may not have been simple in Dirks case, but thankfully he was asunny, warm personality, showing the amazing ability of children to adjust.”Hugs!” was one of Dirks favorite words once he learned to speak, and everyone was definitelyalways up for some hugs.
  • 16. Life had slowly started to settle into a pleasant routine, and everyone had their preferred pastimes.George naturally kept having dates with Count Pao, and he was a common sight at the Bookacyhousehold. Now that there were no immediate worries about Paos safety, George found himselfmuch more relaxed.
  • 17. Whenever the count wasnt around, George was usually to be found in the garden. The family had amaid as well as a gardener, so although George liked to help them, he wasnt needed in that terriblymuch. Gardening was one of his favorite pastimes, it was relaxing and also useful at the same time.Being a fully artificial creature himself, George found it fascinating how nature worked.
  • 18. The new grandparents, in turn, spent a lot of time with Dirk...
  • 19. … whenever they could pry him away from Cho and Erik, of course.
  • 20. As for Dirk himself, he seemed to be quite content. He had a Mommy, and then there was his Daddy,who came over to play with him a lot. And Gramma and Granpa, who were old, said Mommy, so thatDirk shouldnt tire them too much, but it didnt really seem Mommy knew much there, since Granpaand Gramma were always playing with him. And then there was George, who made funny beepynoises, and looked sort of funny too, but hed play with Dirk too. And then there was uncle Cyrus.Uncle Cyrus was nice. Hed tickle Dirk a lot, and tell him funny stories.
  • 21. Dirk didnt really know that in most cases Mommy and Daddy would live together, or that in his caseMommy had been pretty mad at Daddy at some point, or had he known, he probably wouldnt havefully understood it. On Marylenas advice, Cho was open to her son about the situation, but tried toact as if there was nothing odd about it. And really, she thought to herself, there wasnt. Plenty ofparents were divorced, or lived in all kinds of arrangements. It really was one branch of perfectlynormal.She knew Dirk would have questions as he grew older, but for now, he seemed perfectly happy theway things were.
  • 22. In addition to duties at home, Cho was taking care of the family bakery. Baudolino had gotten it tolevel ten, naturally, but she didnt want to just let it sit, either. It was a good opportunity to meet newsims, and of course, catch up with friends and relatives.”Hi Joshua, nice to see you!””Hey, Cho. Good to see you too.””How are Calista and the kids?””Oh just wonderful. Calista just got a promotion, shes advancing quite nicely, and the kids aregrowing up fast.””Great, great. May I tempt you with some freshly baked cheesecake?””Well, Calista isnt currently pregnant, so I think she might appreciate it, actually...”
  • 23. Other than socializing, though, running a business was hard work, and Cho still had a lot to learn. Butgladly, learning was a second nature for Cho, and she enjoyed every second of it, even if itsometimes lead to slight embarassment.”Now mr. Landgraab, please excuse me, Ill just have to find the correct button...””Take your time.”
  • 24. Baudolino was nearly always there to help Cho with the bakery. It was a busy business, and hisdaughter would have had a hard time trying to run it all by herself. Besides, he quite enjoyed beinginvolved in the business still; it kept the mind sharp, and of course, it was a prime opportunity tospend time with his daughter.
  • 25. Not that Baudolino minded meeting someone new every now and then, either. He was friendly with arather large portion of Alphabetia residents, and with his excellent connections, he was ever thesalesman.With Baudolinos skills and the booming businesses the family had accumulated quite a nice fortune.Baudolino was now urging Cho to spend some of that fortune, reasonably of course. With hisassistance, she went on the market to search for a vacation home in Three Lakes, and in the end,found a nice one and bought it. They were also considering purchasing one in Takemizu Village,especially as Marylena dreamt of visiting the location, but had not found one they liked enough yet.
  • 26. One winter day, the family was in for a nice surprise.”Cyrus! So good to see you!””Hi dad. I was passing by, so I thought Id come and see if you were home.””Great, son. Come on in to see your mother. Shes been hoping someone would bowl a round or twowith her, I bet shed be excited.””Sure, why not. Sounds fun.”
  • 27. And a few moments later, Cyrus did indeed join his mother at the backyard bowling alley.”Excellent throw my dear!” said Marylena approvingly, as Cyrus threw an impressive strike. ”So,sweetie”, she then asked as she walked to grab a ball for herself, ”how are you doing? Hows marriedlife treating you?”
  • 28. ”Oh, just great”, Cyrus replied, smiling. ”The wedding took some recovering from, in more sense thanone”, he said, referring to the action-filled turn the family celebration took, ”so weve been taking iteasy and just enjoying each others company.”
  • 29. ”Really, nothing actually changed when we got married. You know how it is.”
  • 30. ”I did catch a bit of a nasty cold recently”, Cyrus continued. When Marylena looked concerned, hequickly reassured her: ”Oh Im fine. It took me a couple of days, but I rested enough and drank hotliquids, and here I am, as good as new. I would have quarantined myself so that Chris wouldnt get ittoo, but shed have none of it.””Well its good to hear youre doing better”, said Marylena. ”And how is Chris doing?”
  • 31. ”Oh, shes great. Didnt catch the flu, either. Shes working hard to become a professional athlete,shes always wanted to be one. She trains every night on that punching bag we got recently. Shesgetting really good.””Thats wonderful to hear”, said Marylena.”Yeah”, said Cyrus, falling silent.They continued playing the game in silence for a while, and Marylena had the feeling that her sonhad something on his mind.”Mom?” he finally asked, glancing at her while waiting for his ball to be returned to him.”Yes, sweetie?””Theres something... something I suppose I should tell you... And Dad. I mean, Chris...””Yes?” asked Marylena, worried what she might be about to hear.
  • 32. Cyrus hesitated for a moment and said: ”Shes pregnant.”Whatever Marylena had expected, certainly not this. Knowing her son, she was accustomed to theidea that she would not have grandchildren by him. Apparently, shed been wrong.As Marylena didnt say anything, Cyrus repeated: ”Shes pregnant. Were having a baby!” And slowly,a wide smile spread on his features. ”Shes all excited and telling all her friends already, but she wasof the opinion that I should be the one telling you guys.”Marylena was so stunned by the news that she nearly blurted out the question that floated to theforeground of her mind, but again, knowing her son and seeing how he had to gather courage evento tell her, she got hold of herself again and decided against it. Instead, she returned Cyrus brilliantsmile and replied: ”Thats absolutely brilliant news, dear! Congratulations. Wait until your fatherhears!”And both beaming, they returned to the house for dinner.
  • 33. Soon after the happy news from Cyrus and Chris – which made both Baudolino and Marylena quiteecstatic, they were constantly planning how they would spoil the child rotten when it arrived – therewas another important event in the family. Dirk said his first words.”Can you say mommy, sweetie?” Cho asked, sitting on the floor with her son.”Mommy!” repeated Dirk happily.Cho gasped. After all the trying shed already done on the speaking, she hadnt really thought hedsay anything. Cho beamed at her son, and turned to look at Eric, whod just walked into the nursery.”Hey”, he called. ”Im a little early, the boss let me off work earlier today.”Cho beamed at him too. ”Listen”, she said and turned to Dirk. ”Can you say it again? What you saidto Mommy just now?””Mommy!” said Dirk again, and then he did a surprise encore, turned towards Eric, pointed at him andsaid: ”Daddy!”Cho and Eric couldnt but beam at their son, and at each other.
  • 34. As winter turned to early spring, Baudolino decided it was time to arrange a small, casual party tobreak the monotony of everyday life. Nothing too big for the moment, as Dirk was still quite little andmight be upset by a huge crowd of unknown sims. No, just close friends, family, relaxing, playingpool, fun activities and time to catch up a little bit.
  • 35. As she found herself in the upstairs lounge alone with Eric, Cho realized that part of her fathersmotivation must have been to get the two of them talking to each other.After the initial awkwardness, as they realized that they needed to discuss something that wasnt ofimmediate, practical importance, such as when Eric would come to see Dirk again, they somehowfound themselves immersed in a discussion about their favorite movies – even if getting marriedhadnt been such a great idea, they found that they did, after all have some things in common. As shewent on to explain what she thought of the latest action movie, Cho smiled inwardly. Getting alongdidnt seem to be as difficult as she may have feared.
  • 36. It was also a chance for some old friends to meet again. Bill was as happy as ever to see Chunni, thefamily parrot.”Hi there”, he said gently, stroking the bird. ”Did you miss me?””Did you miss me?” repeated the bird, bouncing up and down happily.Bill smiled. He took that as a definitive ”yes”.
  • 37. ”Beth!” exclaimed Marsha, as she found her best friend on the porch. ”Its so good to see you!””So good to see you too, Marsha”, Beth replied warmly, ”Its been way too long. I dont think weveseen each other properly since...” she thought for a moment, ”since Cyrus and Chris wedding!””Thats true”, said Marsha, shocked. ”Well have to remedy that. But from what Ive heard, youvebeen quite busy recently”, she said, grinning.”Oh yes”, confirmed Beth and returned the grin. ”Three little kids are quite a handful, even with fivegrownups in the house. You wouldnt really think that, but with jobs and everything...””I can imagine.””Thanks for the first-step shoes, by the way. Theyve been heavily used.””Dont mention it”, Marsha said. ”So how is it, being a grandmother of three?”
  • 38. ”Oh, I love it”, said Beth, with a warm smile. ”The fuss around the house is quite some, but happilynow that Im retired, I can fully enjoy it all.””Oh you retired? I dont think you mentioned that at the wedding.””No, that was shortly after the wedding only.””Ah, I see. Im glad youre enjoying it.”
  • 39. ”Oh I definitely am”, said Beth. ”Id anticipated it for a long time, and when we found out bothVeronica and Audrey were expecting, I was all the more thrilled.””I can imagine”, said Marsha. ”So, everything went well I guess?””With the pregnancies?” asked Beth. ”Oh yes, quite smoothly in fact. Veronica had some backproblems towards the very end, I mean, after the wedding, but the doctor was of the opinion that itwas not dangerous, just ordered her to rest enough. And I suppose its quite tough for the back ifyoure expecting twins as she was.””Yes, it seems so. It was a bit difficult for Cissy, too, towards the end, but she too managed just fine.How was it for Audrey?” asked Marsha then.
  • 40. ”She mostly had it a bit easier than Veronica. She helped Veronica in any way she could, and in thevery end, after Veronica had already given birth, she was mostly just a little bored and hoped to getrid of the belly soon.”
  • 41. ”So the twins are a bit older?””Yes”, said Beth. ”Devon and Daniela are a little bit older, but not by much. They were still infantswhen David was born.””Wow, that must have been some fuss in the nursery”, said Marsha. ”Weve got plenty with just Deanand Dane, and Chip says he and Sunny had their hands full with just Damien.””Oh it was a challenge”, said Beth smiling, ”but luckily there five of us to take care of them, too. I wasa little overwhelmed at first, but really, so far everything has gone swimmingly.”
  • 42. ”So... Do you have any recent pictures?” asked Marsha.”Thought youd never ask”, grinned Beth, and dived inside her purse. ”Lets see... Heres one ofDevon”, she then said, giving Marsha a picture. ”Its fairly recent, though hes grown a bit from that.””Theres quite a bit of Veronica in him”, said Marsha.”Yes, he looks quite a bit like his mother”, Beth nodded. ”Sean is quite proud though that both he andDaniela have his blond hair.”
  • 43. ”And this must be Daniela then?” asked Marsha as Beth handed her another picture.”Yes, thats her. Shes got a little more Carl in her I think, but the blond hair comes from Sean andVeronica.””Theyre sweeties”, said Marsha adoringly. ”So not terribly much younger than Dirk then?””No. Im sure they can play together as they all grow a little. Now let me just see... Ah, heres a pictureof David, too.”
  • 44. ”Little David has his mothers eyes”, said Marsha right away, ”So very bright blue.””Oh yes, he takes a lot after his mother.”Both women turned to look when they heard the door close. It was Marylena.”Ladies, whats the occasion on the porch?” she asked smiling.”Oh, were looking at grandchild pictures”, explained Marsha, pointing towards the pictures Beth wasnow holding.”Oh splendid!” said Marylena. ”Youll have to let me in on that! And I have a couple of new ones ofDirk I could share. But wouldnt it be more comfortable to do this inside, in the warm?”And the chattering grandmothers went inside, where Marylena promptly went to look fo her photoalbum.
  • 45. And so, grandchild pictures were shared, fun and relaxed discussions were had, between sims andbirds...
  • 46. … immediate family bonding took place...
  • 47. … and of course, some Dont Wake the Llama was played. Dont Wake the Llama was always a signof a great family gathering.All in all, it was a very nice afternoon and evening. All was well.
  • 48. Meanwhile, on campus at Sim State University, life was looking much sunnier to Nicholas Charvatthan it had for a long, long time. This was true both metaphorically and indeed quite concretely: eventhough it was still early spring, there were some quite sunny days, when one could just go outsideand enjoy the beauty of it all.
  • 49. Life was also quite busy for Nicholas. When he wasnt studying, he was working on his flowerarranging. The Bookacy Greek House Greek House had had a flower bench for ages, and now thathe had some energy to spare, it caught Nicholas attention right away.
  • 50. But there were also other things to take care of. First of all, seeing that things had recently changedsomewhat dramatically, it was likely that the Greek House would need a replacement placeholder.Luckily, one of Nicholas friends, Robin Andrews, was currently pledging and seemed interested in thejob.
  • 51. Second of all, Nicholas had been somewhat neglectful about his friends lately, and especially afterthe deserved verbal spanking hed gotten from Chris, he made sure to remedy the situation.
  • 52. As a fortune sim, Nicholas was always also looking for ways to earn more money. After a chat withRyker, whod studied wishing wells, he realized the potential of the well that resided on the back yard.
  • 53. And apparently, there was plenty of potential there.
  • 54. But most important to Nicholas was Cho.
  • 55. After what happened at Cyrus and Cris wedding, it wasnt exactly a surprise to anyone that Chobecame a frequent guest at her old Greek House as Nicholas studies geared towards their end.
  • 56. In this new, peaceful phase of their lives, neither Cho nor Nicholas were in a rush of any kind. Notmuch was said about the future, and the two of them were happy to simply spend time together.
  • 57. At some such occasion, Cho also met Robin, the future placeholder, and they concluded that theycame along very nicely.”Soooo... I take it that you two are an item?” Robin asked over a game of cards one day.Cho smiled a little. ”Well... Im not really sure what we are, but... as long as it makes us both happy,right?””Oh, I see”, said Robin, and continued dealing the cards. She saw it, yes: clearly, they were not in theadmitting-things phase of things yet.
  • 58. Shortly afterwards, Robins pledge period came to an end, and she happily joined the Greek Houseas a full member. Nicholas had a chat with her, and she liked the idea of placholding. After all, it wasonly until the next generation would join, and after that, shed get to graduate and have a life of herown. And who knew, maybe a family, too.
  • 59. As for Nicholas himself, the time of his graduation approached quickly, and indeed, one beautifulspring day, it was time for him to run for his last ever final exam.
  • 60. Nicholas graduated with honors – summa cum laude – which was not at all unexpected, seeing howmuch work he had put into his studies. During his worst times, his schoolwork had suffered, butespecially in the last year, hed done a lot of work in order to catch up.
  • 61. After graduation, Nicholas didnt have schoolwork to worry about any longer, but there were stillthings that needed doing before he could move back to Alphabetia. Having lived in the Greek Housefor a rather long time now, he was already a skilled gardener, and he kept taking care of the garden,and harvesting excellent quality crops when it was time.
  • 62. He also worked on his flower arranging skills, which he had not – unlike gardening – yet perfected.On occasion, he was cheered on, too.
  • 63. Sometimes Nicholas also enjoyed fishing, made possible by the small pond in the back of the GreekHouse lot. He wasnt terribly good at it yet, but occasionally he was able to catch a fish, even. Moreoften though, it was an old boot. But in the end, a catch was a catch.
  • 64. In addition to working on different skills, Nicholas worked on his relationships and the Greek Housereputation. New sims were always welcome inside, and more often than not, someone was sittingupstairs, lured there by the poker table.
  • 65. At that time, it was also time for Robin to move in, for Nicholas time at college was getting short.”Thanks for doing this, Robin!” said Nicholas. ”I really appreciate it.””Its absolutely no problem”, his friend replied. ”Its a very nice opportunity for me, getting to do mystudies and then have a life in Alphabetia. Besides, its great seeing you so happy.”
  • 66. Happy was indeed what Nicholas was. There had been hard times in the past, and probably he couldhave handled things differently, but in the end, that was no longer that important. The past was thepast and now was the present.In fact, if an outsider were to look at the present, it might have seemed that Nicholas did little elsethan spend time with Cho these days.
  • 67. Whenever she wasnt over at the Greek House, hed more likely than not be seen Downtown with her.Bowling...
  • 68. … dancing the night away...
  • 69. … and all around having a good time.
  • 70. Even when he wasnt around Cho, Nicholas was all around much happier now, and more productivetoo. That, he figured, must have been one of the reasons why he managed to achieve the gold flowerarranging badge one of those days.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~As a note to the reader: Im attempting to have Nicholas get all the gold badges at one point oranother. I assume technically hed only need the OFB badges to gain the old rules Pharaoh bonuspoint (platinum death with all gold badges), but Im feeling crazy and thinking I might try to get themall. So far hes got Gardening and Flower Arranging done.
  • 71. One of those days it also happened that the Cow Mascot happened to be at the Greek House whileArcadia Ternynck decided to streak through the premises, and as the Cow Mascot happened to get apillow fight in edgewise, Arcadia decided to stay and hang out.”So youre Arcadia, right?” asked Nicholas, having heard from the cow that he had a new guest.”Yeah, thats me”, she said. ”I dont think weve met before, Im one of the streakers round here.”Nicholas chuckled. ”I could sort of tell. Im Nicholas, Nicholas Charvat. Im the placeholder of thisGreek House for a little while longer.”
  • 72. ”Oh, oh yeah. I met Robin downstairs and she mentioned you live here too. Nice to meet you,Nicholas!””You too”, he replied smiling. ”So... what is it that you do really? You... streak?””Yeah, pretty much. I dont usually have much time to stay in one place, so many places to streak!But its a nice plus that occasionally you get to meet new sims that way.””Arent they... shocked or anything?””Well, some are, though a lot of them just shrug and go on. Though on occasion I do run into acrowded shower room in a dorm, just to see the horrified shes naked! looks. They are prettyhilarious. You know, in a shower room.””I guess, yeah. So, have you met my girlfriend, Cho?” Nicholas asked, noted that said girlfriend hadjust climbed upstairs. Robin was on her way to the hot tub, and smiling to herself, she noted the word”girlfriend”.
  • 73. Arcadia hadnt met Cho, and was delighted to. Thus some time was happily spent playing cards andgetting to know each other. The experiences of a streaker were really quite interesting to bothNicholas and Cho, and they listened with fascination. Even the Cow Mascot hadnt quite heard all thestories.”... and about half of them were cheering on the mascot fight, some were covering in a cornerbecause of the sprinkler that made everyone and everything wet, and the rest were horrified by mynakedness!”
  • 74. And before he knew it, it was time for Nicholas to throw a graduation party and move back toAlphabetia.
  • 75. ”Chris! So good to see you!” Nicholas exclaimed, finding his old friend in the kitchen.”You too, Nicholas”, replied Chris, squeezing him hard. ”Oh, and congratulations!””Thanks. Oh, and I guess congratulations to you too”, Nicholas said, letting go of Chris and curiouslyeyeing her belly, which, truth to be told, didnt yet reveal anything.”Thanks”, smiled Chris. ”So Cho must have told you?””Yeah, shes pretty excited to become an aunt.””You should see how excited the aunts brother is.”
  • 76. It was an enjoyable party with all of the old gang. Carl and Cyrus quickly found the poker table.”Man, it feels like only yesterday we were living here ourselves and playing together.””I know, right?”
  • 77. And the graduate himself engaged in a pillow fight downstairs – because what is a graduation partywithout a good old-fashioned pillowfight?
  • 78. At this point, Cho and Nicholas no longer cared who saw them. It wasnt as if anyone would besurprised really, they figured.And had they asked Cyrus, Claire or Carl, all of them would have told them they were correct. As Carlsaid to Claire while they were peeking through the window: ”About time, right?”
  • 79. But all good things must come to an end, and that is the case for graduation parties as well. It wastime to grow up and get on with life.
  • 80. Not that Nicholas was sorry about that.
  • 81. Robin came to see him off.”Thanks, Robin”, said Nicholas, and drew a long breath. This was it then.”No problem”, said Robin. ”Im sure thisll be fun. Have a safe trip.””Thanks”, said Nicholas and with that, walked out.
  • 82. Seeing the facts and rumors that were already circulating in Alphabetia, when Nicholas cab pulledover in front of the Bookacy family house and he started unpacking his things, that surprised exactlyno one. And really, all of the family were either overtly or covertly rather pleased about the situation.And so was Nicholas.
  • 83. It hadnt really been spoken about that much beforehand, but it was suddenly somehow the obviousthing to do, to have Nicholas move in with the family. Baudolino and Marylena didnt say anythingabout Cho not really preparing them for it, but just quietly smiled at each other. Clearly their daughterwas happy now, and this was not the time to push anything.
  • 84. Life seemed to settle down to its usual paths quickly after Nicholas had moved in. Everyone took it asa sign that he was fitting right in.Cho still worked in the Dance career, and from all the practice she did at home, she finally managedto maximize the body skill. Cho was rather pleased, as after all she was quite interested in learningnew things. Shed perhaps thought that now that she had topped her career a while ago, it had notmuch more to give her anymore, but apparently life was full of surprises.
  • 85. As for Nicholas, he soon found an opening in the Law career, which he figured was a good place tobe if he wanted to make some money for the family.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~Nicholas is a 6/5/8/3/3 (Scorpio) Fortune sim who wants to earn 100,000 simoleans.
  • 86. Meanwhile, little Dirk was growing quickly, and the family knew hed soon become a little less little.Dirk seemed to be excited over this, and although everyone was excited with him, especially thegrandparents couldnt but feel a little sad that hed no longer be their little sweetie.”Wouldnt you like to be Grandpas little boy for a bit longer?” teased Baudolino and tickled Dirk.”No!” exclaimed the little boy and screamed with laughter. ”Gampa siwwy”, he said.Well, I suppose I am, thought Baudolino to himself. But well, there is still a little bit of time, and thenhell be our slightly bigger sweetie.
  • 87. One evening Cho sat down with her son and decided to see if hed be interested in a nursery rhyme.It turned out that he was. Soon Dirk was excitedly singing along and smiling happily all the while. Heseemed to be surprisingly into this new music thing, which Cho was pleased to see. She made amental note to play the xylophone with his son another evening.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~Dirks One True Hobby is Music and Dance.
  • 88. ”So this is the family business, then”, noted Nicholas, as he and Cho were standing outside thebakery on the morning of Dirks birthday.”Yeah”, replied Cho. ”Im still not really used to the thought that its actually mine. I mean, it was Dadsfor so long.””It looks nice.””Dad did some work on it before he passed it to me, that if I want, I could give it more of a facelift. Butso far I havent had an idea what to do about it.””We could toss around some ideas some time if youd like”, Nicholas offered. ”Anyway, should we goin? Its nice of your parents to offer to look after Dirk, but I still think wed better be back well on timefor his birthday.””Yeah, we should”, agreed Cho and gestured, ”Over here, let me unlock the door first.”
  • 89. And Cho and Nicholas set to work, together for the first time. They found out that they in fact did worktogether quite well. Cho continued to work on her sales skills, Nicholas alternated between the cashregister and restocking. He was quite eager to learn both skills.”May I tempt you with some very nice cheesecake, Corinna?” Cho asked her second cousin.”Umm... Well, we already had one set of twins, so maybe not... But would you happen to have anyberry pie? Im sure Weldon would love some.””You bet we do!”
  • 90. Also the reporter paid a visit. Cho and Nicholas made an effort to make his shopping a positiveexperience, and in the end, he did write a positive review for the store. However, the elusive Best ofthe Best Award remained elusive.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~For those who remember, Baudolino completed five top ranked businesses as his Lifetime Want, oneof them being the family business, this very bakery. For four out of his five businesses, Baudolinomanaged to get the Best of the Best Award. The only business in the family that still does not havethe award, and the only one such where Id actually get points for it, is the bakery.
  • 91. Whether the elusiveness of the Best of the Best Award had anything to do with a slightly lessexperienced cashier, well never know.
  • 92. All around, things went well. Jodie Larson, who had been an employee for the bakery for almost fromthe beginning, did a good job and earned herself a raise. Cho learned some saleswomanship andNicholas learned some cash registering, and both were pleased.
  • 93. Before it was time to head back home for Dirks birthday, there was a little bit of time that Cho andNicholas decided to spend on their own in the closed bakery.
  • 94. And so Cho and Nicholas headed back home from the bakery and found that there was still a bit oftime before the celebrations in the evening. As Dirk was currently taking a nap, Cho decided to helpGeorge out in the garden, where he was currently harvesting a big amount of delicious peppers.”Thank you for your help, miss Bookacy. I do quite enjoy the gardening, but it is always morepleasurable with company.””Any time, George. Spending time in the garden really is relaxing.”
  • 95. Meanwhile, Nicholas spent some time studying for work. After all, if he wanted to be promoted, hedbetter be on top of his tasks.
  • 96. After Dirk had woken up from his nap, Marylena gave him a quick bath, and after that Nicholas statedthat it was ”his turn”.”Hey buddy”, he said at the toddler who looked at him with those big eyes. ”Still remember me?”Theyd played together a few times, but Nicholas felt a little unsure on how good buddies the little oneconsidered them to be.”Nicholas!” the boy said instantly, his eyes lighting up.Cho smiled. ”Yes, honey, thats Nicholas. See? I told you he likes you.”
  • 97. Nicholas smiled, perhaps slightly relieved. ”Yep, thats me”, he said. ”And youre Dirk, right?”Dirk nodded enthusiastically. ”Nicholas play with Dirk?””Funny you should ask”, Nicholas replied. ”How about some peek-a-boo?”
  • 98. Slightly later, when Dirk concentrated on his logic shape toy, Cho and Nicholas watched him fromafar.”Hes a sweet kid. You should be proud”, Nicholas said, slipping his arm around Chos waist.”I am. I cant believe hes so well-adjusted, despite everything. And I cant believe hes so close togrowing up”, Cho added.”Yeah.” They stood there for a moment in silence.”Oh, almost forgot”, said Nicholas suddenly. ”You guys have a vacation house of some kind?””Yeah, we have a beach house, and actually, we recently bought one on the mountains, too. Why?””Well, your father mentioned it today when we talked. He suggested maybe we could go for a littlevacation together, just you and I. To get a bit of time on our own.”Cho laughed. ”Its a cunning plan for him and Mom to get Dirk all to themselves for a while”, she said.”But sure, Id like that. Lets talk about it after the birthday is done with.”
  • 99. As the evening fell, it was time for Dirks birthday, and with that, a small party for friends and relatives.”... why thank you, George. We do try with Cho, pretty hard actually, and I think were getting to thephase where we can actually be in friendly terms, and not just for Dirks sake. Only time will tell”,explained Erik while Claire and Trevor were in their own little world.
  • 100. The birthday boy would soon start to get tired, so the adults decided itd be for the best if the partywas kicked off with cake. Cho got the honor to bringing Dirk to said cake.
  • 101. And soon everyone was already gathering around, too.”Ready, Dirk?””Cake!” exclaimed the little boy. Cho took that as a yes.
  • 102. And without further ado, they blew out the candles.
  • 103. Dirk stood on the kitchen floor, looked towards his mother whod put him down, and wobbled a bit.”You can do it, honey”, Cho whispered and smiled at him.Dirk nodded solemnly. Time to grow up.
  • 104. And what would be a better way to grow up than being cheered on by a whole group of sims?
  • 105. And Dirk was cheered on by all his adults.
  • 106. Each and every one of them, and with vigor.
  • 107. So then he went and grew up.”Look Mom, Im big now!”And so indeed he was.
  • 108. While the birthday boy was selecting new clothes that would be fitting for his new, grown up look, theguests entertained themselves.”Ah, so you must be Ramin, right? Baudolino mentioned earlier you might be coming as well.””Yes, thats me. And youre Eric, then?”Eric nodded.”And Im Marsha”, said Marsha who had appeard beside Eric. ”Always a pleasure to meet someonenew.””Likewise”, said Eric, extending a hand.
  • 109. ”Oh, hi Claire”, said Glen, ”I thought I might find you here. Long time no see.””Hi, Glen! Yeah, its been a while. Good to see you”, said Claire, perhaps a tad awkward. Glen brieflywondered why that may be, but then realized it might have to do with the fact that in college, the twoof them had a fleeting fling – before they were both fully seriously committed elsewhere – and Clairewas perhaps remembering that.”Were okay, right?” he asked, just wanting to be sure.”Yeah, sure”, she said, unsure what else to say.”Great”, he smiled encouragingly. ”So, whats up with you and Trevor? Last time I asked fromClarissa, she told me you were pregnant. That was a while ago so I take it that youre not pregnantany more”, Glen continued, eyeing Claires stomach.That broke the ice, and Claire laughed.
  • 110. ”Going straight to the point, are we?” Claire teased. ”Clarissa did say you went slightly gaga once youhad Daniel.”Glen just laughed. ”Now tell me already, the suspense is killing me!” he joked.”Clarissa would be right, I did eventually get pregnant”, Claire confirmed. ”It took a while, and I wasalready thinking that maybe... maybe it wasnt possible or something”, she said, and Glen could tellshe had been worried, ”but Trevor always told me it just sometimes takes time. Not that I minded thetrying.” Claires eyes twinkled.”But yeah, it did eventually work.”
  • 111. ”And everything went well?””Oh yes, very well. Actually, I think I had it pretty easy overall. Just slight nausea in the beginning,after that if I just rested enough, then I could do just about everything all along. And I got to spendtime with my Dads and so.”
  • 112. ”How are they, by the way?””Oh the usual. Well you can ask Dad, I mean, Bill yourself, hes somewhere around here. But yeah,hes doing great, working, studying the magic, all that.””Hes still working? I mean, he hasnt retired yet?” asked Glen, a bit surprised.
  • 113. ”They both are”, replied Claire. ”Theyre planning on retiring, but I suppose neither is quite ready to doso yet. Especially Ira. I think hes still got a few cunning plans he has to try before he can call it quitson the Criminal Mastermind thing.””I see.””Of course, with grandkids, theyre bound to consider it more closely, but really, theres no rush.”
  • 114. ”Speaking of grandkids...” steered Glen carefully towards what they were originally discussing.”Speaking of grandkids, yes, they now have one. A little girl whom Trevor and I named Dory.””Congratulations!””Thanks.””So Dory is one of the few girls born to the family lately.””Yeah”, agreed Claire, ”The recent rush of boys is somewhat bizarre. As for girls, theres Dory, thentheres Daniela, one of Carls twins, and Ramin just told me that Kevin recently had an aliendaughter... umm... Dana I think her name was.””And Clyde and Margaret just had a baby girl a few days ago, her name is Dorothy”, added Glen. ”Butyeah, thats it so far. All boys otherwise.””They did? Congratulate them for me if you see them.””I will.”
  • 115. ”So Bill and Ira must be excited to have a grandchild?”
  • 116. ”Oh yeah, they totally are, both of them”, laughed Claire. ”Me and Trevor are lucky to get any timewith Dory at all. Sometimes we have to take it by force.””Hah. And Trevor is excited to be a Daddy?”
  • 117. ”Oh yes he is. And hes also bit of a doofus now that we have Dory. Like this one time he almost frozewhen he went stargazing and forgot it was cold. I had to make him a big pot of hot chocolate then.Dory saw him and seemed to be a bit distressed, she kept saying Daddy blue!”
  • 118. ”Hah. So she talks now?” asked Glen.”Yes she does, a little bit. She just recently became a toddler.””Thats neat.”There was a moment of amicable silence.”So I guess I was right to say you arent pregnant anymore”, pointed out Glen.
  • 119. ”I suppose”, replied Claire and winked, ”at least on the anymore part.””You mean...?””It might be, Im not sure yet, but lets say I have a hunch. Just please dont say anything to Dad yet,hes still recovering from the latest bout of grandchild crazy.””Sure thing”, Glen promised and smiled knowingly.
  • 120. Right then, the birthday boy was back from the wardrobe, and everyone got to admire his new jeansand sweatshirt in turn.
  • 121. After that it was time for cake. Dirk ate his quickly, and then he was content to just sit and listen to theadults talk. Not that he felt shy as such, but he was a little bit tired and there were a lot those adults,many of whom he didnt really know properly yet. His Dad was apparently discussing somethingpretty exciting with a green-skinned old man and a black-haired younger woman.”Hey kid”, said Eric and ruffled Dirks hair. ”Have you met your great-uncle Bill? And Claire here? Youmust be cousins of some kind, right?”The adults tried to engage Dirk in a conversation for a moment, but then realized he was in a bit of aquiet mood and just let him sit there and follow the conversation.After a moment, Nicholas sat opposite to Dirk. ”Hi there, Dirk”, he said. ”Did you have some cakealready?”Dirk nodded.”How about some more? Im sure George would give us a second slice each if we asked nicely.”Dirk smiled and the two of them went to get some more cake together.
  • 122. After having another helping of cake, Nicholas found himself cornered by the newly grown up Dirk.”Nicholas, can I ask you something?””Sure, go ahead”, he replied, wondering what was coming up.”Are you going to marry Mom?” Whatever Nicholas had expected, it wasnt this.”Umm... well... It might be? I dont know, it depends a lot on your Mom, doesnt it?”Dirk nodded. ”Yeah. But you like her? And she likes you? Thats when one gets married, isnt it?””Well, it often is, although... its not always that simple”, Nicholas tried to explain. ”Like your Mom forinstance. She and your Dad tried to get married, and it didnt go too well, so she might not be soeager to try it again, you know?””Okay”, Dirk said, nodding slowly. ”I think I do.”Chos son was clearly a very observant kid, thought Nicholas to himself.
  • 123. After that, it was time for the guests to say their goodbyes, as it was clearly bedtime for the birthdayboy. And well, Dirk himself thought as he slipped under the covers, this was really a nice birthday allin all.
  • 124. The next morning, Baudolino and Marylena were up early.”Oh, I forgot to ask you”, said Marylena, ”did you talk to Nicholas about the vacation idea?””I did, and I think he liked it”, said Baudolino. ”Who knows, maybe theyll go.””That would be just great, for both of them.””Absolutely. Unless I start hearing definite plans, Ill take it up again.”
  • 125. He didnt need to. Cho remembered the idea, and as it happened that the next day was a warmspring day, warm enough for a dip in the pool, she remembered how she liked the warmth of TwikkiiIsland, and how nice it would be to go there again. She took the matter up with Nicholas, and soontheir flights were booked.
  • 126. The vacation was quickly approaching, and both Cho and Nicholas were eagerly awaiting it.Meanwhile, they kept busy in all their usual activities: work, studying, hobbies, and of coursespending time with the family. And really, what would be a better way to spend time with the familythan a nice game of Dont Wake the Llama?”So you and Mom are going, just the two of you?” asked Dirk while carefully placing his stick.”Yeah, just the two of us this time. I hope it doesnt bother you?” Nicholas asked in return.”No, not really”, Dirk said, scratching the side of his nose with another llama stick. ”Gramma alreadypromised me we can bake cookies together and do all kinds of fun stuff. She said you and Momcould use some alone time, and that next time I could come with you, so its okay. Can I? Come withyou next time?”Nicholas smiled. ”Absolutely.”
  • 127. Soon the anticipated first day of the vacation was at hand, and Cho and Nicholas grabbed theirsuitcases and left the still slightly snow-covered Alphabetia for the everlasting sun of Twikkii Island.Nicholas was very much expecting this trip, hed never been abroad and was eager to see thewonders of Twikkii. Also perhaps now that he got some proper alone time with Cho, some unsaidthings between them might be settled. One could only hope.
  • 128. And before they knew it, the plane had landed and Cho and Nicholas were suddenly on Twikkii. Theywere both eager to get on with the vacation, so they just quickly left their belongings at the beachhouse, changed into something lighter and headed out for one of the gorgeous public beaches.”So here we are now”, said Nicholas as he found himself sitting in a sun chair beside Cho, waiting forthe waitress to bring them their cold drinks. ”On Twikkii Island.””Yeah”, replied Cho happily taking in all the familiar sights and sounds. ”Are you liking it so far?”Nicholas looked around, then nodded slowly. ”Yeah, its pretty amazing. All the sand and the sunand... everything.””And the sea”, Cho said. ”The sea is something you just have to experience first hand. The waves onyour skin, the sound of them breaking...””Wait, you mean its okay to swim?” asked Nicholas. Hed assumed that the currents would be todangerous and theyd only get to use pools.”Of course its okay to swim! Come on, last one in is a landlubber!”
  • 129. Before Nicholas could say or do anything, Cho had gotten up, tossed her shirt and skirt on the groundand was heading towards the sea. He wasnt much behind when he realized what was happening,and with a little spurt, he caught her.”Pretty amazing, isnt it?” asked Cho. ”Watch out, now the wave rolls back.”And Nicholas felt the sand and small rocks escape under his feet. He couldnt but chuckle withdelight.
  • 130. The same evening the two of them decided to simply relax at the beach house. They had it all tothemselves, after all, and there was a jacuzzi on the balcony.”Pretty cool house you have here”, Nicholas said, looking at the scenery.”Yeah. My grandparents bought it when I was a girl and then it passed onto Dad. Now that hes beenpassing on the family property, its under my name. I always liked this place, but actually, its been arather long while since Ive been here.”After a moment of silence, Cho spoke again. ”Nicholas?””Yeah?””I... really love that I can share this trip with you.”It may have sounded like Cho was originally intending to say something different, and Nicholas mayhave guessed what that might have been, but he didnt protest.
  • 131. ”Me too.”
  • 132. The next days passed over quickly. It was nice to just relax and spend time together. Cho andNicholas found that perhaps one didnt always need words to express how one felt. They were happythe way things were.
  • 133. Time was spent reading a good book...
  • 134. … digging the beach sand for some treasures and sometimes getting more than you asked for...
  • 135. … and of course, swimming. Nicholas especially enjoyed the swimming in the ocean after hed firsttried it.
  • 136. They also went on several tours. Cho had been on some of them as a teenager, but as it had been solong and she barely remembered them, she didnt mind the repeats.Especially as she got to do them with Nicholas.
  • 137. At nights they would dine at a nice restaurant, or perhaps go to the spa. The hot stone massage wasquite enjoyable.
  • 138. As were the evenings after theyd gotten back to the beach house.
  • 139. And then one night, or it could have been early morning, Nicholas couldnt quite tell as it got so brightso early, it happened. He was half asleep, as Cho moved closer to him.”Nicholas?””Hmm?””I love you.”Nicholas smiled to himself. Of course, he already knew that.
  • 140. He rolled over on his back, and wrapped his arms around her.”I love you too.”And like that, they fell asleep.
  • 141. In the morning, Cho was up early. She left Nicholas to sleep and went to sit on the beach and watchthe waves.She was surprised she wasnt more freaked out. In a way, shed given up the idea of love when sheburied her relationship with Eric. She hadnt planned it like this, in fact she had expected to be asingle mother from then on, and dedicating all her love to Dirk. Perhaps shed been naive to think thatshe wouldnt fall in love again.Or really, had she fallen in love again? Was it more that she hadnt really realized how shed alwaysfelt? Was it that she...”Morning”, there was a voice from her side.
  • 142. ”Hey. I didnt mean to wake you up”, she said to Nicholas, who was fully dressed and now sittingdown beside her.”You didnt. I woke up on my own. Sleep well?””Like a log, actually. Hey listen, about last night...” Cho started.”Yeah?””I meant what I said, you know. That I... that I love you.”Nicholas smiled, still looking at the ocean in front of him. ”I know. Or should I say, I knew it already.And you knew that I knew it.””I suppose”, said Cho slowly. ”That explains why I was able to say it.”Nicholas nodded. ”And you know how I feel. How Ive always felt.” He reached out for Chos hand inthe sand. ”I love you, Cho.”
  • 143. After a moment of silence, Cho laughed nervously. ”So, umm... What now?”Nicholas shrugged. ”Not necessarily anything. Weve both known this for a while, havent we? Itdoesnt have to change anything.””I know. And it hasnt, which is nice. Its just... I... I was just wondering...” Cho started to stutter.Nicholas turned to look at her. ”Wondering what?””IwasjustwonderingifyoudfreakoutifIproposedtoyourightnow”, she said in one deep breath.”What?”She swallowed hard. ”I was wondering... if youd totally freak out if I proposed to you, right now. Imean, considering everything.”
  • 144. They both got up without even realizing it. Nicholas tinted his head and smiled at Cho.”No, I dont think I would. Actually, I think Id quite like that”, he laughed.”You wouldnt think its... hasty or anything?” Cho asked, forgetting her nervousness and letting hercuriosity win over.”No. Some pretty bad things have happened to you, but weve known each other for a long time. Andyou wouldnt do it again for the wrong reasons. Youre still dealing with some of the stuff thatshappened, and you might have to deal with it for a long time, but whatever way we go, I want to bethere to support you in that. So if you want to, lets go ahead.”Cho was speechless, just beaming at him. Then Nicholas looked at her closely and said:”Though it might be better if you wait for just a little bit.””Why, whats wrong?”
  • 145. ”Oh, nothing very serious”, said Nicholas. ”It just seems its hotter here than we realize. Looks likeyoure having the beginnings of a heatstroke. Come on, lets get you inside.”
  • 146. Nicholas almost had to drag Cho inside, as she was ”feeling fine”. He made her drink lots of water,and after a while she finally did admit she was feeling a little bit overheated.
  • 147. Nicholas quickly made them a sandwich lunch, and made sure they stayed inside while Cho was stilllooking somewhat alarmingly red. On his insistence, she even took a nap while he turned all the fanson.
  • 148. When evening fell, Cho was feeling to her old self again.”Hey, thanks for making me come inside and rest. I think you were right about the heat stroke.””Youre welcome. So youre feeling better?””Muchly.””Great”, Nicholas smiled.”So... Theres this thing Ive been wanting to ask you.””Sure, ask away”, said Nicholas, still smiling. Hed entirely forgotten the discussion in the morning,and was only vaguely wondering what this was about.
  • 149. Before he knew it, she was kneeling on the floor.”Actually, its kind of a serious question.””Umm, Cho, sweetie? What are you...””Shush, you told me you wouldnt freak out”, she said a bit teasingly, but her light tone betrayed noone. Her hands were shaking slightly.
  • 150. ”Nicholas Charvat, I love you.”
  • 151. ”Will you marry me? Here, on the beach, tomorrow night, with no guests, no ceremonies, no fuss?””Oh my plumbbob, youre serious! Youre actually serious.””Dead serious.”Nicholas heard her unspoken plea for an answer.
  • 152. He took the ring and put it on. ”Of course I will. How did you even get a ring?” he asked, dumbstruck.”Were on an island.””Oh, they sell rings on those jewellery stands. Ive had it a couple of days, Ive been, you know,gathering the courage. Well have to go back to the shops, though, I may not want any guests, but Istill want a dress.””So thats why you said tomorrow night, and not tonight?” Nicholas asked, slightly amused.”Yeah.””Brilliant. Then Ill have time to get you a ring tomorrow.”
  • 153. ”I love you, Nicholas.””I love you too, Cho.”
  • 154. So the next evening, after they both had found some suitable clothes and other accessories (andafter Nicholas had found Cho a ring, he quite insisted on that) Cho and Nicholas stood alone on thefamilys private beach, looking each other in the eye.”So, are you ready?” asked Cho.Nicholas gave a small laugh. ”Cho darling, I hate to sound a cliché but...”
  • 155. ”... I was born ready.”
  • 156. Time passed by fast, but there was still some time left to enjoy the vacation as a married couple. Choand Nicholas went to see the ancient ruins, and Cho made an offering at the fountain of the temple.As she was about to leave, one of the workers of the temple pulled her aside and gave ger a smallbox as a ”small token of appreciation for your offering”. When Cho later opened the box, it turned outto be a souvenir treasure chest.
  • 157. While they were at it, they also tried the hot springs by the ancient ruins. It was quite a relaxingexperience.
  • 158. As Nicholas had never been in a helicopter, they took a helicopter tour. It gave a rather surprisingview on how large and wild the jungle surrounding them really was.
  • 159. They also examined a shipwreck that Cho remembered from her teen years. She feared thatNicholas would fall off the plank, but he just laughed and said that the view was rather incredible fromthere. She took his word for it.
  • 160. Cho, in turn, managed to wake up a rather scary pirate ghost while plundering the captains cabin,and her shriek caused Nicholas to worry maybe she had now fallen off the plank.
  • 161. But being the sociable sim she was, Cho soon found out that the pirate captains ghost was actually arather nice fellow, and they had a lengthy chat on the deck. He even taught her an old pirate song.
  • 162. The summer was apparently the hottest in years and hot for even a place like Twikkii Island. Nicholasgot to experience this, as one evening he, too, started to experience the symptoms of a heat stroke.This time it was Chos turn to order him to have some cold water and rest.
  • 163. While Nicholas was resting, Cho took the opportunity to stargze a bit, as she was feeling fine, thestars were bright and the house did, after all have a nice, big telescope. Undeniably, life was good.
  • 164. The next morning Nicholas was again fine, and that was good, as it was their last morning on theisland. He headed out early to say goodbye to the beach. As he did so, he stumbled upon somepretty nice clams, which he pocketed. Now he had a souvenir, not bad.
  • 165. As for Cho, she didnt really have much time to say goodbyes to the house, as she was feeling a littlehungrier than usual. But she knew she could come back any time.
  • 166. In what seemed like no time at all, the airport shuttle was there, honking impatiently. The vacationwas over, time to get back to regular life. Cho and Nicholas were maybe a little sad to leave thebeach house behind, but they felt ready to get back.And perhaps, thought Cho as she stroked her wedding ring, the surprised faces back at home wouldalso be worth seeing.
  • 167. ”So how was the trip, dear?” asked Marylena as she managed to corner her daughter and sit herdown on the couch.”Oh it was very nice, we saw a lot, and I think Nicholas especially enjoyed it as hed never been toTwikkii before. There was quite a lot for him to see and experience.””And the house still stands?””Yeah, the house was fine, it was as if wed never left.”Marylena nodded. Then a sly smile sneaked on her features. ”Now let me see that ring, dear.””Umm, what ring?” Cho tried, but in vain.”Well the one that youre trying to hide in your pocket, obviously”, said her mother.Well, that secret may have lasted a whole of five minutes after the shuttle pulled over in front of thehouse, thought Cho.
  • 168. ”Umm... Yeah. About that. Nicholas and I...””Well of course you got married, its obvious isnt it!” said Marylena beaming.”I suppose”, Cho said, looking down at her hands. ”Im not really sure how that happened but...”Suddenly Cho felt unsure whether her mother would approve. ”It just... felt right.””Well does it still feel right?” Marylena asked simply.”Yeah, it does”, Cho said, only realizing it as she said it.
  • 169. ”Well in that case, me and your father are very happy for you. Congratulations dear!” said Marylenawith a smile.”Thanks”, replied Cho. ”Somehow I get the feeling that you already knew”, she then said.Marylena chuckled. ”Well, to be honest, I had a hunch. You and Nicholas were clearly gravitatingtowards each other from the moment you met again in Cyrus wedding, and neither me nor yourfather were very surprised when you told us he would be moving in. Youve been seemingcontemplative since then, so I guessed you might be considering committement, and this time, itseemed to me, for much better reasons. I didnt want to pressure you into anything, so I didnt sayanything either. But I thought you might need a bit of time to think. So lets say that the vacationwasnt originally your fathers idea.””Mom!” exclaimed Cho, apparently horrified of her mothers little plot. ”I... I... Thank you”, she finallysaid.”Youre welcome, dear”, replied Marylena smiling.
  • 170. ”Now”, she continued, ”seeing that you only just got back, I assume that you havent told Eric yet.””Umm... Yeah, I havent”, admitted Cho, biting her lip. ”And Im not sure how exactly Im going to dothat, either”, she said.”Well, I dont want to pressure you into that either, but I would say that its best that he hears it fromyou.”Cho nodded slowly. ”I know. Ill have to take care of that.””I wouldnt worry too much about that, Cho”, comforted Marylena. ”I doubt hes going to take it toobadly.”
  • 171. And to Chos surprise, her mother turned out to be right.”So you finally took the plunge huh?” said Eric the moment he walked through the door to meet Dirkfor the next time, before Cho could even get her mouth open. ”Congratulations!” he said, gesturingtowards her ring.”Thanks”, said Cho a bit uncertainly. ”And thanks, I suppose I now dont have to tell you about it,either.”Eric laughed. ”Well yeah, not really. And I could sort of see it coming for a while.”Cho gave him a lopsided smile. ”It seems everyone but myself could.””I had the feeling that I may not have been the only one”, Eric said and gestured towards the hallwhere hed just seen Marylena and Baudolino disappear.”Yeah, youre right about that”, Cho smiled sheepishly.
  • 172. ”Soo... Im glad you dont seem to be upset”, she said, slightly worried but still keeping her smile on.”Upset? But why would I be upset?” asked Eric genuinely.”Well... I got married to someone else? And its... its sort of soon?” Cho said, suddenly lookinginsecure.Eric sighed and patted her on the shoulder.”Sometimes I forget youre a bit younger than I am. Look, Cho. First of all, youve got every right toget married to someone else. Were not married, and actually, we werent married. We wereengaged, and only for a fairly short period of time. Youre free to marry whomever you like, and if Imay say so, youve made a very good choice there, much better than I would ever have been. Also,do I really have to remind you that I was the one who walked out on you? It would be prettyhypocritical of me to be upset about you marrying someone else after that. And second of all, Cho,its not sort of soon anymore. Our kid is school-aged now.””Okay, I guess youre right”, said Cho slowly.
  • 173. ”Well actually, I know Im right”, said Eric. ”Now, you know were good, right?”Cho just nodded and smiled.”Great. So, is Dirk home yet?”Cho glanced at her watch. ”The school bus should arrive any minute now.”
  • 174. So all in all, life was smiling at the Bookacies. Marylena was often found practicing dance moves inthe sunny upstairs lobby, humming to herself. And Baudolino, who was more often found in the cellarat the toy bench, was also heard humming.
  • 175. Dirk had indeed gone to school, and he was quite enjoying it, although he hadnt quite yet found hisgreatest potential at it.
  • 176. But he was making friends with other kids of his age, which everybody was happy about. Many of hisclassmates were actually distantly related, like Derek Lillard, whom he even brought home one day toplay, and the parents were more than happy to see their kids playing together.~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~Derek Lillard is the oldest child of Chloe and Ryker Lillard.
  • 177. Nicholas, for his part, was progressing nicely in the Law career, and always fond of his wife, hedoften bring her flowers he got on the way home.
  • 178. One sunny afternoon those days Cho was heard having a phone conversation.”Hi, Eric, its me, Cho. I hope its not a bad time?”...”Okay. Ive got a favor that Id like to ask from you. Youre still coming to get Dirk watch that soccermatch today, right?”…”Yeah, good. I was wondering, could you maybe come an hour or so earlier? Wed need your help onsomething.”...”Okay, thats great. Thank you, Eric, I really appreciate it. See you at four then!”
  • 179. Slightly after four that afternoon.”I think that ought to do it”, said Eric to George. ”We only need a bit of space behind the couchanyway.””Yes, I believe that is sufficient”, confirmed George, eyeing the sofa they had just moved together.”So where are Cho and Nicholas?” asked Eric.”I believe they are helping mrs. Bookacy with the equiment.””Very well, lets just wait for them then.”
  • 180. Soon enough all preparations with the painting equipment were finished, and Baudolino helpedMarylena carry the easel to the living room.”Thanks, dear”, she said, pecking her husband on the cheek.”Now could you please take your positions?” she said. And after a while: ”Thank you, now Cho, a littlebit further to the left, please, closer to Nicholas.” She started sketching the view in front of her on thecanvas.
  • 181. ”Now Eric, could you please lean forward a little bit, Im having difficulties fitting you in properly.Excellent.””Thanks for doing this”, Cho said, quickly glanncing over her shoulder. ”The family portrait reallywouldnt have been the same without you.””No problem”, replied Eric. ”Its my pleasure entirely.”~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~And this, dear reader, is where I leave you this time. I hope you have enjoyed your ride with theBookacies and welcome you back again for our next chapter whenever its time may be. Until then,happy simming to all!

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