The day before Aspen’s lifebar began to sparkle and Poplar had her elder birthday, Aspen found her little sister in the kitchen and gave her a big hug.
This touched me, for at the moment, both sisters disliked each other, after Poplar had insisted on following through with a volley of insults and yelling that I’d cancelled from her queue. This gesture showed me that though the sisters might not like each other at the moment, they loved each other. They’re sisters, after all.
Poplar had a fantastic party the next day. Salix hosted it, and invited almost everybody she knew.
Who are these guys? With Salix’s Friend of the World aspiration, she’s been making more friends than I can keep track of, and with her romance trait, it seems that all the Sims drawn towards her are men. I don’t even know half of them!
When it was time to blow out the candles, Poplar thought long and hard over her birthday wish.
And before we continued on with party activities, I checked in with her to see if there was anything I could do to help her bring that wish about.
Me: Hey, Pop! How’s everything?
Poplar: ‘S okay. Could be better.
Me: So, Poplar, how’re you feeling about your life so far?
Poplar: Let’s see… It’s been awesome.
Me: No regrets that you didn’t get romantically involved with anyone?
Me: No regrets that you didn’t have kids?
Poplar: Are you kidding? Can you see me as a mom? Nope, as in no way.
Me: Happy with your artwork? Your skills? Your programming? Your career?
Poplar: Yup. Yep. Yes. And uh-huh.
Me: Then what is it, Sugar Pop? You’ve got just a trace of sadness in your eyes.
Poplar: Oh. It’s just the dust. Or maybe. Ok. If you really want to know. I’ll tell you. But then I’ll have to yell at you. Because.
Me: Not a deal. You can tell me. And I’ll listen. And you don’t have to yell later. Because. Deal?
Poplar: Oh! All right. I just feel a little wistful that–it’s silly. It’s not important. It’s just that. I’m not friends with my sisters anymore. Or with Sugar Maple. I’m only just barely friends with Salix. It’s so stupid. It’s not important.
Me: It is important, Poplar. I can see that it’s very important to you. And it’s something I can help with. But you’ll have to chip in, too, ok? I’ll help load up lots of friendly interactions with them, and I’ll cancel any autonomous mean ones that crop up. But you’ll have to meet me halfway and be sure not to do them anyway after I’ve canceled them, ok? Or if you just can’t stop, and you do them anyway, then for every mean action, you’ll have to match it with five or six friendly ones. That’s how much it takes to swing back the balance. It’s been scientifically proven.
Poplar: All right. I’ll give it a shot. Just don’t tell anybody that I’ve turned over a new leaf, ok.
Me: All right. It will be our little secret.
And Poplar was good for her word. When the party finished, and Aspen, in typical Aspen style, cleared up all the dirty dishes, Poplar didn’t yell at her for missing a few or for carrying such a big pile of them. Instead, she thanked her.
When everybody else went to sleep, Poplar and Salix stayed up playing chess and became good friends. And I didn’t have to cancel a single mean interaction.
Before Sugar Maple headed off to school, Poplar helped her young niece with her homework and fulfilled a whim she’d rolled to become friends again with Shug.
“It’s not that bad!” Poplar told me. “I think I might even be able to get the hang of this! Will you still be around, though, to cancel any sudden mean urges that creep upon me?”
“Of course,” I assured her.
While Poplar was turning a new leaf, Salix began reconsidering a few things of her own.
The night before the party, when Salix was at work, Sugar Maple discovered that the red-headed body builder was evil and had a mean-streak. Before he could let loose his vitriol–and, especially, before Salix got home from work–Sugar Maple asked him to leave.
On the day of Poplar’s party, a few of Salix’s friends from the gym dropped by. Niko enjoyed meeting Ted. He seems nice. He’s built like Salix’s dad, wears glasses like him, and has a little beard. He’s got his own type of style, which is something that the Boughs seem to appreciate.
At the party, there were so many guys to choose from. Ted was there, and so was Quinn. I’m not sure where we met Quinn, or really anything about him. But he’s got a cool name, and I really like the way he looks. We discovered that he’s active, too, just like Salix!
But Salix is her own match-maker, that’s for sure.
She rolled a whim to flirt with Ted.
The party had already started breaking up, and we looked all over the lot for Ted, but he’d already left. I locked in the whim–then, since Eugene had stayed on the lot, I unlocked it, just in case.
But it seemed that Eugene was more interested in Cousin Kourtney’s ghost than in Salix.
Ah, well. Salix still kept the whim to flirt with Ted, and she seems to like Eugene more as a friend, than anything else. Next morning, with the whim still in place, we invited Ted back.
She got to know him first, so we could be sure he didn’t have any mean traits hidden in there. He’s a bro–we knew that the first day we met him at the gym. You know… I just remembered that Ted’s the funny guy that had the nerve to blow her a kiss in front of all those other guys. I thought that was endearing at the time. Guess Salix did, too.
He’s also clumsy. It’s not the worst trait–Salix’s mom was clumsy. So far, the two traits we know are traits that her family members have: bro like Sugar, and clumsy like her mom.
One more trait to discover… Lazy. Lazy? Really? But you’re active, Salix! How’s that going to work out.
“Opposites,” she giggled.
All right. After we checked that he was single, I got out of the way and let her enjoy her flirt with him.
Then Salix wanted to buy something and go for a swim, and Ted decided to do about 20 push-ups, just to show me that he won’t let his lazy trait define him.
Aspen, meanwhile, woke up with champagne bubbles in her life bar. It hit me. I thought I was so ready for this. Now I’m thinking it’s time to divert myself with one of my hundreds of other games. We haven’t checked up on the hippies for a while! How’s little Free-Jon doing, I wonder? And what about all those kids we just adopted at Emerson Institute? Don’t I have aging off there for now? And how about Drifter? I haven’t played that for ages. Poor Jack Bivouac. How about Silduun? Isn’t that an aging-off game? Oh! I know! Dr. Jasmine’s Casebook!
“Let’s just do it,” Aspen says. “I’m so ready!”
She is. She’s been preparing for this all her life. There’s a way of living that makes it so that when your time comes, you’re ready. And that’s how Aspen’s been living.
She’s so fit that she might be around for weeks before Grim comes. But she’s living like he could be the next one to knock on the door.
She’s spending her time with Niko, bringing her meals in to sit with him while he studies. And she’s spending time with her daughters.
“You know I’m proud of you, right?”
“I know, Mom. I’m proud of you, too.”
Yeah. Whatever, right? If music be the food of love, and game be the wine of life, play on, Simmers! Play on.