Ever since Connor had turned down my advances, I’d woken each and every morning to the most excruciating feeling I’d ever felt in my short existence here in Sunset Valley. I had cried until I couldn’t breathe the night we’d had our date at the diner and then I continued crying, but that was nothing. When the sun began to dapple my bed and the birds began to chirp, when my eyes fluttered open and I regained consciousness my heart began to feel as though it were falling apart. No, not falling, it was being torn first to pieces and then from me. Each morning though, it got a little easier to remember how to function with my broken heart but the pain never lessened.
It was in those first few days that I truly began to understand just how important it was to keep a clean house and just how therapeutic washing dished could be. By the time I left for work each day my bed was made, my toilet was clean, my shower was clean, all the dishes were spotless (even if I had to really scrub at them, twice) and most importantly, my head was clear. I could get ready for my carpool and know that today was I day I could conquer. My stove, however, was still out of commission. I didn’t like the clicking noises it made and I felt as though there was always a warmth coming from the elements that shouldn’t be there.
My job as a Report Processor was going really well, I found my work fascinating and Nancy often complimented my meticulous work, a true source of pride if I get to be honest. Doo Peas no longer felt like an imposing mass of concrete and glass; it felt like home. Nancy, Illiana and Nick had become good friends of mine and whether I was spending time with them at the water cooler or reading over the crisp reports I was really feeling in my element. Actually, I was feeling kind of like the hero of the office. Nancy was impressed by me and my co-workers were extremely grateful when I found the time to give them a hand with over-due work.
My home wasn’t nearly as comfortable a place to be in. It still didn’t have any walls or a roof, Connor still hadn’t called, my food always tasted like my fridge and one day my shower even broke! I nearly just threw in the towel the day I come home to my shower spraying water all over my floor… Or grass I guess. My appliances were plotting against me and they were getting the best of me. I had no idea how to fix a shower and though I tried to yell it into submission, it was no surprise when the only answer was a growing mud puddle at my feet.
“Don’t take pictures of me in the shower! I’m not in the mood for this!” I’d heard the click again, I swear I’d heard it and that camera, that reminder that my life – no matter how much it seemed it – was not my own. I guess that was my breaking point because I don’t remember how my shower got fixed. I mean, I remember smacking it with a wrench in a fury and I remember grumbling and yelling some more at the tiles, but I don’t remember what I did to get it to stop leaking all over the damn place. I do remember cleaning it thoroughly.
Once I’d calmed down and eaten something I decided it was time to finally make a phone call I’d been putting off for a while. I knew I was being stupid, trying to be so strong and independent so I sucked up the pride that I’m so full of and pulled out my phone. It took me three tried to remember his number and three more to carry through on actually dialing it. I hung up once before the phone was answered and once more after he’d already said “Hello?”
For as long as it took me to get through my nerves, the next time he answered I was ready to talk, and talk I did! Since I’d appeared here and gotten a job, Nick Alto had become more than a friend to me. He was constantly supportive, willing to listen to me without getting that kinda judgey look in his eyes like Nanc and Illy and mostly, he was just good company. I knew he had a mean streak, I’d seen him really let Nancy have it, but we had a mutual admiration for one another’s work ethic and I loved Nick.
He was like a father to me. The father I literally never had. Nick and I spoke for a long time, or mostly, I spoke. I expressed my concerns about work, about Connor, about my oven and shower, about the mysterious spots that my plates seemed to acquire between uses, even about the lack of roof over my head and he was nothing but understanding. He was quick to reassure me that it never rained in Sunset Valley and so that I needn’t worry about roofs and I could practically hear the twinkle in his eye when he told me he suspected that my work performance was better than even I thought. It was getting dark by the time I was ready to get off of the phone with him and since I had planned to do all my dishes that night we said our farewells.
That night, for the first night since, well, that night, my dreams weren’t of work. I’d thought I’d gone to bed feeling better about my life and the direction it was heading but the way I interpreted the whirlwind dreams I dreamed said something totally different. One minute I was be stuck, running in place while surrounded by polar bears, moose and igloos, (Canada?) the next I was falling through the air as desert ground rushed towards me. They say in dreams you always wake up before you hit the ground, I never landed, I ended up flying through the sky, spinning the earth the wrong way on it’s axis by my speed. That’s when I woke.
I couldn’t understand what my sub-conscious was trying to tell me, I just knew that when I woke from a bad dream shortly before dawn there was only one answer. Ice Cream! Normally, I never would have considered eating straight out of the carton I find it fairly disgusting, as a rule, that morning I don’t think I thought about it before I dug my spoon into the Double Fudge Ripple. My head was still spinning as a scooped spoonful after spoonful from the tub and into my mouth. I was eating on automatic while dissecting my dream. Being no expert on anything at all, never mind dreams, I managed to go through the entire liter of dessert before I realized I’d gotten nowhere with the dream.
I’d given up, there was no more ice cream and so, there would be no more thinking. Isn’t it just the weirdest thing when you make your mind up about something and then all of a sudden a light bulb comes on? It was more like a flash bulb for me, but it let me figure out that what I was really dreaming about were my concerns for my future. I’d let too much time go by since I’d last seen Connor and I had a legacy to protect. Also, I was madly in love with a man who didn’t seem to know I existed.
The thought really freaked me out. How could the man I was so hopelessly, senselessly attracted to have not called me yet? After all, he’d turned ME down and I was pretty hot, I was motivated and I would do anything to be with him… Except call him at 4:00am, I’m not a stalker and no one likes to be woken so early by a blaring phone. I idly wondered whether or not we would have the same ring tone, after all, we were perfect for each other and that would prove it. I made a mental note to try and find out.
I spent the remainder of the morning calming myself with my chores. Once more, I planned to leave my house immaculate! I was really craving some hot food, pancakes or waffles or really anything at this point. Stu Surprise would have been a WELCOME Surprise for my belly but my stove was acting up again so I made a mental note, beneath my previous mental note, to have someone check it for shorted wires. This couldn’t be normal behaviour for a stove, could it?
Oh dear Simmer/Plumbob/God/Photographer! What in Grim’s name is that on my television?! By that point in my morning I was certain that I’d made a mess of my life, and somehow, Frank, didn’t help my panic.
The night prior, on the phone with Nick, he’d intimated that I was in line for a promotion. I hardly dared to believe him after the nature of my morning so I went into work feeling a little lost. I buried myself in my work for most of the day, hardly raising my head when my friends came by. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse though, it did. During a particularly dull seminar my poor, overstrained brain decided to take a break and before I knew it, I was nodding off. The next thing I remember is still associated with burning red cheeks – an entire room full of people staring at me after getting elbowed in the ribs by Illiana. Apparently I’d fallen asleep and started snoring so loudly that no one could hear our speaker. Mortified, I fled from the room and back to my cubicle and stayed there until Nancy pulled me into her office at the end of the day.
“You’ve been doing excellent work here, Lily.” She announced with a grin “Not only that but you’re the only one who has ever made that seminar on spiral binding at all entertaining. How would you like a promotion and a raise? We’d really like you to stay on with us here.”
I was grinning ear to ear! “Of course!!” And with that, I, Lily Clarke, was a Corporate Drone.
Feeling empowered after all that being promoted, I called Connor up and asked him if he’d like to grab a bite to eat with me. He’d said “sure” and sounded like he’d meant it but quickly called me to cancel with some lame excuse about shearing llamas. I didn’t feel like being stood up so I wandered the streets until I saw his truck, once I verified that I had indeed reached the Frio residence I stopped to consider my actions.
Like a perfect gentleman Connor opened the door for me with a warm and gracious smile. I could tell that he was glad I’d interrupted whatever he’d been doing because of the way he looked at me. He immediately sensed that something was up and didn’t hesitate to ask. I announced my promotion and he was so excited for me he asked me in immediately. I had never met his brother Jared so I asked, he’d spoken so highly of him that I was sure we’d get along famously, I guess Connor disagreed because when he told me Jared wasn’t home he didn’t seem too upset that I wasn’t going to get to meet his family.
As with every time Connor and I had a date, it took him a while to let loose but soon we were talking up a storm in his front hall. I couldn’t help but feel like things had never been better between us and I was sure he felt it too. I tried laying not so subtle hints about my feelings for him so that he could respond in turn but when he didn’t I just assumed he was no good at reading between the lines. I mean, what exactly is unclear about “I want you to help me with this legacy I’m part of”? And who wouldn’t want to help ME with my legacy?
He may not have clued in all that quickly, but he was still a blast to be around. Before I knew it were were acting like children; laughing, joking around and pulling faces. For a day that had started out so horrible, it had really turned out to be pretty great. I was so glad to be spending time with the man I loved that I hardly noticed the time pass. We goofed around for hours and hours, scampering around his house playing tag, I think there may have even been a pillow fight… No, never mind that, never happened. Shame really.
Our game of tag ended in the bathroom when I found myself cornered with no way to escape short of resigning myself to being It, a predicament that both he and I found endlessly amusing. I collapsed on the cool tiles, a quivering, giggling mess while he tried to catch his breath as well. Once we’d calmed down a bit and stopped being quite so hyper I realized just how tired I was. I figured, if he was so quick to let me know he was alone at home earlier, wouldn’t that mean he wanted company? So I asked to stay over.
I did NOT get the reaction I wanted. Connor Frio turned me down, AGAIN! He said we didn’t know one another well enough, that he wanted to take things slow.
Needless to say, I was properly pissed off. After all we’d been through together, after all the time we’d spent with one another, he still felt like I was a stranger? I was nothing but open with him about who I was, what I wanted and how I felt. It was HIM that was being distant. Not me. Anger rose in me like an inferno, it boiled and simmered and churned and I was consumed by it.
I managed to start off sounding at least reasonably calm. “You don’t know me well enough? Whose fault is that Connor? No matter how hard I try you still keep me at arms length and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it! You’ve never even asked me what my favourite food is! It’s always about this book or that person at work but it’s never about you and it’s never about me. I’M TIRED OF IT!” And, I’ve lost my cool.
“I like SHAWARMA!” I roared (I didn’t know I could do that until I did it) “I don’t even know what it is, but I know I like it. I’ve never tasted it before but I know it’s delicious. And YOU I like YOU but you’re too far off in your own world to even pay attention to the fact that there’s someone standing in front of you willing to give you everything. I would give you shaved meat and lettuce! Tomatoes, tzatziki and garlic sauce! Pita and… Oh…”
Every now and then in ones life they encounter a point in an argument where the only option is to just stop. I’d gone ahead and distracted myself with Shawarma and that was that. I’d made myself look crazy and I couldn’t just pretend it hadn’t happened. Almost immediately after I’d noticed the blank stare he was giving me I felt my ire dissipating. That was the exact same look I’d given to Chris when he’d started regaling me with his fantastical plans. I had to make this right, I had to make him see I wasn’t this nutso who can’t keep her thoughts straight. I had to make him mine! I was getting desperate.
Before I took my chance to make things right, Connor finally decided to speak up. “OK Lils that was a little bit crazy, don’tchya think? How many times have we hung out now? Really? We’ve had a lot of fun but you can’t just go all schizo on me ’cause I know that’s not you. You have your uh… Quirks…” I couldn’t help but notice the way he shifted his eyes left and then right again before focusing on me again. They looked like stunning little emerald hummingbirds. “But I really do uh… think you’re awesome?”
“Oh Connor!” I cried, he’d said just the perfect things to let me know we were going to be alright. “I’m so glad that I met you! I could’ve been so lonely but then I saw you in the park and I just knew that we had to meet and I was right! Just the thought of you makes my days feel shiny and bright! It’s what I imagine it’s like up above rain clouds when I imagine rain clouds. You and I Connor! We’re perfect together. Don’t you see it? Don’t you see me?”
I couldn’t believe the way I was pleading with him, I couldn’t believe he wasn’t saying anything. Something had gone terribly awry and I didn’t understand it. Tears welled in my eyes as I stood there, waiting for him to say something… Anything? Nothing.
I didn’t even have it in me to chew when I got home. I was reeling. I’d lost track of how many times Connor had turned me aside, and while it hurt, I knew that I would have to work that much harder to get him. Or find someone else. I just couldn’t picture myself loving anyone but Connor. Just the thought of him made my heart dance… A sad dance, a happy dance, a dance of love, of hate, of magnetic attractions… Anyone who I was this passionate about I couldn’t let go.
It seemed to me as though dramatic moments in my life triggered dream episodes and the next one to hit me was a recurring dream that I got night after night for a week. Being no expert on anything at all, never mind dreams, once I’d stopped dreaming about my hands wearing masks and quoting Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet I quite forgot them. Until, well, I remembered.
Life in my not-a-house was not going according to plan. It seemed as though every day another thing broke. If I tried to wash my dishes, my sink broke, if I tried to shower, the shower would break, if I tried to flush the toilet the TV would break. I just didn’t understand it and I wasn’t about to tempt fate by trying the stove. Life in general was not going according to plan, at least social life. I hadn’t heard from or managed to get in contact with Connor since the last time I’d run from him in tears but it had given me the opportunity to really get ahead at work, if I couldn’t have the man of my dreams (right now) I’d at least strive for the job of my dreams. As I contemplated how I would get back on track with Connor I set about my tried and true method for efficiently (if not permanently) fixing things that broke by smacking them haphazardly with a wrench until they stopped doing the things I didn’t want them to do.
“I did it! It’s fixed! Probably…” Everytime I magically repaired one of my appliances it brought me a short burst of joy until I realized it was not going to stick. I twisted the knobs, tapped on the pipes, I ran both the hot and cold water, draino’ed the drain and just generally inspected my handy work. I’d left fewer chips and dents and scratched behind this time, that was a good step, and there were no additional surprise leaks, also good. My relationship? Not good. How was I-
The phone rang, disturbing my train of thought and disturbing me. I still wasn’t convinced that my not-a-sink wasn’t going to start fountaining water all over my not-a-floor again and I still hadn’t decided what to do about my love life. I’d already spoken with both Nancy and Nick today and Iliana was in Champs les Sims so there was no one left who ever called me. With no caller display, the caller was going to have to be grateful that I exercised all my restrained not to snap my greeting at them.
“He called he called HE CALLED!!” He called me! Connor called me! I knew one of us would eventually have to bridge the gap that was growing between us but I assumed it would be me and not him, he always played it so cool, so hard to get… So sauve. He’d insisted on coming over, he said he wanted to see me, to speak with me about ‘the other night,’ I was nervous to be sure, what would he think of my not-a-house? (Note to self: Build a house) It didn’t matter! He called and he was coming over to see me and everything was amazing and perfect and oh no there’s still a mud puddle by the sink maybe he won’t notice oh whoa slow down brain. My feet couldn’t help but echo the dance my heart was tapping as I waited for Connor to arrive.
The moment Connor hopped out of his truck he strode towards me and swept me up in a big, warm, bear hug. He held me close as he apologized to me. “I’m so sorry about the way things went down at my place. I don’t think I’ve been fair to you, maybe sending mixed messages or something. I should have called earlier but maybe it’s not so bad that I waited ’cause I realized how much I miss hanging out with you. You’re really rad Lils, and I hope we can just put this all behind us and… Can we?” Needless to say, I forgave him, the big oaf!
We spent the rest of the evening chatting and really getting to know one another. In the moonlight it was so easy to be genuine with him and I could tell he was just as comfortable as I was. He was amazing and didn’t even mention my lack of house even though I could tell he was thinking about it. Instead he talked about the vistas and about the potential house that could go up like he totally saw my vision for my future home. I had more and more plans, blueprints and ideas as the days went on, but I figure I’ll surprise my probable readers. Connor thought my house would be spectacular though.
It was wonderful finally having Connor in my space, it felt like he made this lot a home, without even bringing a roof with him. His presence had an incredible effect on me and I went half an hour after I’d noticed it before stealthily wiping a fingerprint from my fridge door. I was pretty sure he’d seen me, known exactly what I was doing, but he didn’t say anything, just looked at me with those amazing eyes. I could stare into those eyes forever.
After a while though, his eyes weren’t even staying open. He was clearly exhausted and in no shape to drive, but I didn’t tell him that, I just leaned closer and asked him more or less the same question I’d asked him the last time we were together. “Connor, would you like to spend the night?” I held my breath as I waited for his answer. It did briefly cross my mind that he might say ‘no’ again, that he might pull his keys out of his pockets and drive himself home.
He didn’t appreciate it when I squealed happily in his ear, I couldn’t help it!
I had never slept as well as I slept that night with Connor by my side. I’d splurged to buy enough room for him to stay and it had been worth it. Throughout the night I’d wake and open my eyes just to check that he was still there and I’d pay attention for a while, listening to him soft breath or watching the moonlight on his cheeks. Then, I’d roll over and return to sleep, dreaming of joining Illy in France with Connor at my side and a glass of nectar in hand.
As we rolled out of bed that morning there was a huge smile on my face. I swear I woke up with my cheeks hurting so much I thought they would split and then I saw Connor and my smile just grew! He watched me as I walked around the bed and reached for me as I drew closer. I was tentative as I leaned forward and extended myself towards him. The meeting of our lips for that first time, our very first kiss, is my fondest memory. His lips were soft and warm and tender with me and thrills ran down my back while my heart beat like a jackhammer.
We were so in love.
I knew that it wasn’t going to be happily ever after for us. Not yet at least. I knew his feelings for me were strong, but Connor talked in his sleep and spent 10 minutes muttering about Claire and I couldn’t bear the thought of another girls’ name on his lips. I confronted him, asked him to tell me the truth and he did. They’d been on a couple of dates behind Jared’s back. It had never amounted to much and now that Claire and Jared were going steady again and Jared seemed serious about being there for his baby (there was so much I didn’t know!) he was going to let Claire know it was over and done with.
There was no hint of a lie in his eyes, I believed him wholeheartedly and was suddenly very much looking forward to the rest of my life. It didn’t matter that I was being followed around by a phantom camera or that I couldn’t buy a toothbrush that worked well enough for the life of me, I had Connor, he was mine and I was his. His sweet smile filled me with joy and I was overwhelmed when he told me it had been a long, long time since he’d felt about anyone the way he felt about me.
Just as I was about to get changed into my everyday clothes for a quick bite to eat at the diner Connor swept me up into another impromptu kiss. I don’t know what was on his mind but I’d never been held so possessively by anyone before. I felt so safe in his embrace.
Hogan’s on a Sunday morning is nothing if not busy. We arrived and were told that it would be half an hour before we could get a table and to stand outside to wait. Waiting with Connor didn’t feel like waiting to me. It was time well spent with a man who really got me but maybe I didn’t get him? “So you’re saying that the hero is going to go up up UP into space and end up on a planet where the aliens look kind of like us but kind of not and they’re going to fall in love with one of them?”
“Yes, Lily, that’s the plot. I’m going to call it Sims in Space and I think I’m going to base one of the characters after you.”
I couldn’t help but blush, Connor who wanted to be a Sci-Fi author, wanted to put me or a character like me or something into one of his stories. The plot wasn’t half bad either, though somehow I felt that it wasn’t exactly original anymore. As we gazed into one another’s eyes I couldn’t help but get the feeling we were being watched… By someone else. I was right, but she wasn’t glaring at me at all, just Connor. If looks could kill Grimmy would have shown up a moment after she spotted us. Obviously she was jealous.
Connor introduced her to me as Madison VanWatson and just from looking at the way she was looking at my Connor I knew she was more than just a little interested in him. My own jealousy kicked in just seeing him interact with her while she was mooning over him like a lovestruck puppy, the more and more they spoke the more I knew I had to do something about it. I needed to let her know who she was dealing with.
I interrupted Connor mid sentence to smack a big kiss on him. Like really, a big kiss. Not a shy little smooch I made out with him shamelessly right there in front of Madison and a diner full of people. It didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would to have such an audience. I wanted everyone to see!
I wanted everyone to know he was mine, so I asked him to be mine exclusively. Maybe I had another motive other than just being reassured but so? He happily and without hesitation vowed to be mine and totally ignored Madison even as she stood there fuming mad. She practically had steam coming out her ears!
and I knew that there was only one more question I needed to ask him today. I could only cross my fingers that he would say yes!
What did Lily ask Connor?
Will he say yes?
What was Madison’s problem I mean like really!?
Just how clean are Lily’s dishes?
How was Iliana’s trip to France?
More questions posed in Chapter 3 of The Clarke Legacy “Home Sweet Home!”