2.23 Ghost-Boy Helps Out

Cycl0n3 was just a babies kind of guy. He doted on Adjo and Shanni the same way he had doted on Zahra when she was that size. He dashed in to care for them ahead of their parents.

He cuddled and snuggled them whenever he could, which didn’t always please Lance and Layla.

And sometimes he flubbed it up.

When they kicked him out of the nursery, he tried to help them in other ways, like making sure there was food around the house when the parents didn’t have time to make it. The problem was, he was a lousy cook.

One day, he tried to make waffles for breakfast and produced cinders. So he decided to try for mac and cheese.

And set fire to the stove. At least that was marginally less stupid than birthday candles setting fire to the dishwasher.

And here they learned something about the maid, Kyra, who they’d hired when they got overwhelmed by childchare.

She’s a pretty good gal to know in a pinch. She and Lance made a pretty good team.

Of course, that didn’t help the poor stove much.

Man, the Sims and their cooking fires.

2.22 Dead Things are Cool

With hard work and dedication, Zahra managed to find a kid as geeky as she was. Sure, she had to stalk him at school and track him down at a neighborhood cookout, but Fabian Branch was eager to talk about science when she got him cornered.

Especially space stuff.

But the truth was, ghosts were far more interesting. She started staying up late to catch her grandparents’ spirits when they decided to hang out.

She and Connor got along swimmingly.

He never seemed to tire of her geek talk.

(The Sim Gods decided to shave Connor’s beard *again* when he died, and now I have no way to fix it. *Sob*.)

She was incredibly excited to meet Susie, too. At last, after death, Susie could meet her granddaughter.

Sadly, they didn’t seem to find common ground.

Oh, well, some things are not meant to be. Maybe grandmotherhood wasn’t a big dream of Susie’s. Or maybe she just didn’t get geeks. She led a perfectly happy life with the goals and family she had.

(It’s impossible to get a screen shot of this, but Zahra does a little “this is awesome!” happy dance whenever she meets a new ghost. Other Sim reactions to ghosts are the kind of “talk to the hand” freak out that Cycl0n3 and Connor, amusingly, both do. There’s also the grimace of disgust. I’m sure this is related to personality traits. Oh, and Coward Sims faint. Good thing the family trait is Brave, which is the opposite of Coward.)

2.21 Two for the Price of One

Layla had a textbook pregnancy. Whe she wasn’t enraging spouses, she spent her maternity leave working in the garden. In due time, she went into labor.

It’s a boy! Adjo Sample was born at 12:04 AM.

And, um, it’s a girl too! Shanni Sample was born at 12:06 AM.

Lancelot spent both of Layla’s pregnancies pining for girls, so he was delighted at the second arrival. Not that he didn’t think Adjo was delightful. He just seemed to have fantasies about raising princesses.

Since they’d only planned for one child, there really was no place for two cribs. In desperation, Lance and Layla booted Cycl0n3 out of Jared’s old room to make a dedicated nursery. The ghost moved a bed to the attic and started sleeping there.

Time to do a lot of things in twos.

Time to get half as much sleep.

Good thing babies aren’t babies for long.

(OK, truth is that Layla has had Fertility Treatment since before she got pregnant with Zahra. So it was a surprise to Lance and Layla, but not so much for me.)

2.20 Just a Game

Layla had one in the oven, and it was a good feeling.

Still, she wasn’t as thrilled to be on maternity leave. She missed the bistro. Most of all, she missed her boss Antonio. The two of them had become incredibly close working in the kitchen, and it seemed unfair that she should have to go a whole Sim-week without seeing him. Maybe she could get him to come visit. When she called him, he was delighted to hear her voice, and he came right over.

They stood out on the front deck in the sunlight and flirted.

Which didn’t go very well at all.

Lance shot Layla a heartwrenching look and reamed Antonio out for presuming things about his wife’s virtue.

“But it’s only a game!” Layla insisted. “We don’t mean anything by it. I’d never do anything ot hurt you.”

Antonio decided that discretion was the better part of valor and headed away. Lance, however, was not to be put off. He followed Antonio in hot pursuit.

The bicycle, as much as he loved it, was probably not the best choice of vehicles. Antonio was gone to work by the time Lance got to his his house.

He came home, hurt, sputtering, and humiliated, and set himself to venting his frustration.

Maybe the top branch could be Antonio’s head.

Layla set herself to calming his pride. Look, she was pretty obviously carrying his baby. Did he really think, even if she was so inclined, that she’d be stepping out on him in this condition?

The next day, when things had calmed down, she headed to Antonio’s place to apologize for the fiasco.

Antonio was thrilled to see her and the almost-baby.

And he mentioned, casually, that he’d just gotten married.

Had she met his lovely, um, incredibly young wife, Devin?

Antonio, you dog.

At least it was good to get some time to hang out together without the green-eyed monster looking over their shoulders.

Or maybe not.

Maybe there was no place for them to really spend time together except at work. Spouses just didn’t understand.

2.19 Not Quite Right

So, Cycl0n3 wasn’t dead, and he wasn’t alive either. Before his death, he and Sandi French had been a hot item. They’d never tied the knot for some reason he couldn’t really remember now. What would she think of him now that he was back?

Sandi was married, that’s what. They’d been together for years and never really even talked about it. It hadn’t taken her long to get over him. But for all that, Cycl0n3 couldn’t seem to feel hurt. He was glad she was happy. But whatever had been between them was just a memory.

Eventually, he couldn’t resist the tug of his ghost nature.

Zahra, on the other hand, was finding socializing at elementary school harder than she’d thought it would be. She came home and called everyone she knew at school to play with her, but nobody wanted to come.

Eventually she played by herself.

At least she had one best friend.

2.18 Off to School for You

Zahra’s birthday came around just as Layla returned from her trip to Egypt. Layla, now the family socialite in the absence of Susie, threw a big party.

The Ursines were invited. Rachel was married again. Her first husband, Pablo, had been about thirty Sim-days her senior and had died of old age right after they were married, though they’d managed to produce a son, Jess, on their wedding night. Now she was married again to Harvey Jean, a fellow a good 20 Sim-days her junior. I guess that balanced the scales. Rachel, her brother Julian, and Jess, where all invited. So was Antonio, Layla’s boss with whom she got along almost too well.

Layla didn’t have quite the social-fu that Susie had. The guests all lingered out on the front deck, chatting, and didn’t give little Zahra much mind.

There was also a rather large influx of people nobody had ever met before. And they spent a lot of time thanking Lance for inviting them. Hmmmmm.

Zahra aged up!

She almost immediately developed an aversion to the art around the house. With a rock star grandmother, a grandfather who was a successful author, and a father who wanted to be the next Renoir, enough was enough. She demanded that the art be removed from her bedroom.

She turned to math and science, burying her nose in books about logic, astronomy, and geometry.

And Cylcl0n3 won a chess partner.

Layla, OTOH, finally capitulated to Lance’s meaningful glances.

One more child. Just one.

At least the baby-making is lots of fun.

2.17 Postmortem Dreams

Cycl0n3’s lifelong dream was to be a chess legend. In life, he’d gotten wrapped up in his journalism career and not gone anywhere with chess. Now he didn’t really need a career at all, come to think of it, since dead people don’t usually hold down a 9-5. It was a perfect “retirment” to get back to himself.

So he got into the chess club and starting playing ranked opponents.

His first opponent wasn’t sure what to make of him. Cycl0n3 had to spend a good half-hour calming him down before he’d sit down to play. He kept sitting down to start to play, then jumping out of his chair, only to sit down to play again.

Cycl0n3 won! Not a bad start.

He ushered his defeated opponent out the door. The fellow lingered in the font yard, trying to convince himself that he hadn’t lost a game ot chess to a ghost. After night fall, he was still there, staring at the Samples through the office window.

Whoa. He’d have to rethink this chess legend thing if everyone was going to turn into a creepy stalker.

(All true as it happened. WTF with the chess stalkers?)

2.16 Separate Vacations

Zahra was the light of Lancelot’s life. He hadn’t realized how badly he wanted to be a parent until he was one. Layla was not quite so excited about the prospect of more children. She was enjoying her job, and she was good at it. She had really missed her coworkers while she was on maternity leave. Four days off essentially wiped out a whole Sim-week of her career.

Lance could also tell she was homesick, though she didn’t talk about it. With a demanding toddler in the house, she couldn’t exactly claim time to go to Egypt, and Zahra was too young to travel herself. So he offered her a trade — they would take separate vacations and trade off the child care. Layla agreed.

Lance took the first turn and headed to China to study Sim Fu at his dojo.

Ah, one of the hot married chicks he had hit on while he was wife-hunting!

Lancelot started up the kind of easy conversation one has with a hot woman he doesn’t feel any need to sleep with. He challenged her to a sparring match.

And kicked her ass. Not bad for a newbie! She seemed to really appreciate a man who could best her at Sim Fu.

Warning, Lance! You have a loving wife at home! Be careful!

So he talked her into an athletics training session.

Layla, you have nothing to worry about. Nothing, I tell you.

He sparred some more, then started *another* training session with the same girl. It was certainly chemistry, but not exactly romantic.

At least he scored a green belt.

There’s a better look at his new goatee. I’m think it suits him. Opinions?

After a bit of adventuring, he was challenged by ANOTHER hot married chick he had hit on while single.

She kicked his ass, but she offered him some great technical pointers. Then she showed him pictures of her children.

Layla, you really have nothing to worry about.

His adventure master, who had a serious fashion problem, asked him to return to China soon.

Then talked him into a training session.

Ah, you single-minded athletic Sims.

Then it was Layla’s turn. She returned to Egypt and made a beeline for her family home. An unfamiliar child answered the door.

Her sister Aisha had married Sekmet, not long after Layla left home. This was their son Kazim. He was home alone while his parents were at work. He was even a little older than Zahra. Aisha hadn’t wasted any time. How time passes when you aren’t paying attention.

Kazim was a great kid. They got along swimingly.

In fact, he wanted to follow her everywhere.

She headed to the bazaar to meet up with her sisters and catch up on their lives. Aisha thought she looked wonderful. Glowing. They talked about family and the march of time.

As she recounted it to Aisha, Layla saw anew what great life she had to return to. She loved Zahra. She loved Lance and the home they had made. She even kind of liked Cycl0n3. She missed her sisters, and she wanted to be a part of their lives, but she didn’t want to return to Egypt.

She was eager to get home and play with her family.

Emphasis on the playing.

2.15 We See Dead People

Cycl0n3 knew something was different as soon as he returned to the Sample house, but it took him a while to figure out what it was. He felt different, even when he engaged in the same hobbies he always enjoyed.

For one thing, he knew he couldn’t go home. Sometimes he wasn’t sure where home was. And people reacted to him strangely at first, though the Samples had at least gotten used to after a while. He settled into Jared’s discarded room. Lance and Layla moved into the master bedroom where Lance’s parents had slept. The space-themed bedroom was left for Zahra when she got a little older. And though he got some weird looks from the older Samples, they let him stay and after a while talked to him.

There were ghosts in the Sample house. Shadows of Connor, Susie, and Jared lingered about some nights after the clock struck tweleve. They did a lot of the same things they did in life.

And a few things they didn’t.

(Jared’s haunting of the toilet would have been far more effective if anyone had been awake to see it.)

The most reclusive of the ghosts was Susie. Cycl0n3 had only seen in the house once, briefly.

The ghosts had no insight into the afterlife.

They didn’t even seem to know they were dead. And they reacted to Cycl0n3 like he was something weird and scary.

(Cycl0n3 and Connor simultanously freak out at seeing a ghost.)

That’s when it dawned on him. Cycl0n3 was dead too. He just didn’t know it. And he wasn’t the same as the others. He could affect the physical world more, for one thing. And most importantly, he could go out during the day. Susie had done it the day she died, in that visit to the Science Center. He had no idea what she’d done. It was pretty creepy to think about. And he couldn’t even ask her ghost because it appeared so infrequently in the house.

But he was here. He might as well make the best of it.

And someone didn’t seem to think he was so strange.

2.14 Zahra Sample

So, here’s a revised Zahra.

She has a change of clothes and new hair. For the Sims-uninitiated, I have control over a character’s hair color and clothing, but not skin or eye. Since hair can be dyed, it’s something that the player can always change, but whatever you change it TO becomes inheritable to the next generation. I guess Sims 3 genetics is Lamarkian :).

I’m perfectly fine with the genetics model producing combinations not found in nature, but carrot top on Middle Eastern skin tone just clashes. It’s not very visible here, but I did give her red streaks in her black hair.

Her name means “flower,” from her garden-crazy Egyptian mother. Layla bargained with Lance that if she took his name, she would name their children, so all kids will have Egyptian names.

Zahra inherited Lance’s trait of Good, which Lance inherited from Connor. That’s friggin’ enough Good characters! She’s also Brave, the family trait. Her favorite music is Chinese (? where’d she get that?), and her favorite color is turquoise. I initially thought that her eyes were Connor and Lancelot’s amber hazel, but it turns out they’re Susie’s green. That’s nice. Unfortunately, the best pic to see that is the birthday picture :-p

Also note that our older, more mature Lance is sporting a goatee. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good face shot and will provide them later. Comments on whether he should keep it are welcome.

Don’t eat the spoiled, burned birthday cake, Cycl0ne3! Don’t eat it! (He was totally thinking about it.)

“I’m begging you not to scream at night and wake mommy and daddy…”

Zahra’s actual first word is mouse, of the computer variety. I wonder what this says about her future.

Considering the negative effect the lack of it had on Lance’s development, the eager parents got her potty trained first off.

Lancelot’s wish list went bonkers with wishes to spend time with Zahra. He is totally doting on her. Daddy’s little girl.

He also sprouted a fairly high-powered wish to have another child. Layla, OTOH, got a high-powered wish to be promoted at work. I sense some long conversations in their future.

After everyone has gone to bed, Zahra’s special friend reads to her.