One evening, a week or so after my encounter with Ren Master at the park, I returned home to my apartment after a long day of sing-a-gramming around the city.
In the days since then, Julie and I had hung out together quite a lot, and I was beginning to think of her as my best friend. Today, though, I had been so busy I hadn’t even had a chance to call.
As I entered the lobby, I was surprised to see Julie herself standing next to the callbox, waiting for me.
“Nicole! I’ve been waiting forever!”
“Ah, sorry Julie… I didn’t realise you were coming. Did you call?”
She giggled. “Nope, I wanted to surprise you.”
“Well, I’m surprised…” I stifled a yawn behind my hand. I was tired, but I didn’t want to offend her since she obviously really wanted to see me. “Did you want to ask me something?”
She grinned. “You bet I did! You’re going to tell me all about the other night with Mr. Bigshot. I know there was more to it than you let on, and now we’ve got the chance I insist you tell me all about it!”
I rolled my eyes, but couldn’t help chuckling with how excitable she was being. But Ren and I… was there really anything to tell? I looked up to see Julie grinning expectantly at me, and sighed.
“Fine, but I’m not telling you anything here. Come up to my apartment and we’ll talk,” I said.
Once my door was closed behind us, I told Julie everything that had happened.
“He asked for your number?!” she yelled the moment I had finished.
“Well, yeah…” I couldn’t keep the smile off my own face now. Julie’s enthusiasm was contagious.
“Well, I gave it to him, and he said he’d call me some time.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet!” she gasped.
Then her face fell slightly, and she bit her lip nervously.
“What’s up?” I asked, concerned.
“Well, I’m just a little worried.”
“Huh? About what?” I was confused now. Wasn’t she so excited about all this a few seconds ago?
“Well, uh, it’s just that… some wouldn’t consider Ren the most trustworthy of men.”
“Meaning?” I demanded… I was starting to feel a bit worried now.
“He… has a bit of a reputation.”
She sighed. “Let’s just say he’s a player, Nic. Just don’t get your hopes up is all I’m saying.”
I hesitated slightly. “Of course, I get that,” I finally responded. Ren was a gorgeous celebrity I had talked to once, and I had made a total fool out of myself then. I wasn’t really deluded enough to believe that anything would really happen between us.
I had to keep reminding myself of that.
“Say, Nic, I’m sorry to rush off like this but I really gotta go home. I’m expecting someone tonight.” Julie finally said.
“Ooh, who are you expecting?” I asked teasingly, having been interrupted in my thoughts.
She just smiled. “I gotta go. If you’re not busy, I’ll call you tomorrow and you can come over and meet him. See you then, yeah?”
“Sounds great!” I called after her as I watched her walk out the door. I was curious now, and looking forward to meeting this mysterious man of hers.
So I was predictably disappointed when I was woken the next morning by the usual call from my boss.
This time there was only one job waiting for me, so I was hoping I’d be able to finish work early and visit Julie in the afternoon.
Today’s job was a congratulatory song for some rich sim who had just finished a workout, so I was on my way to the gym. Although it wasn’t the most fun I’d ever had, I did take my dream seriously and so I almost always performed well no matter what the job was.
I didn’t have much of a chance to work out most of the time, so I figured while I was here I might as well get some use out of the treadmill.
Not five minutes into my jogging routine, however, I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. Fearing another job, I got off the treadmill and swiped the screen to accept the call.
“Nicole!” Thank God, it’s just Julie.
“Hey Jules, what’s up?” I said with a smile, even though she couldn’t see me.
“Have you forgotten already?” She teased. “Are you available today?”
“Yep,” I confirmed happily. “Shall I come ’round now?”
“Sure thing, I’ll be here.” She disconnected the call.
I quickly changed out of my gym clothes, deciding to skip the shower since I hadn’t really done any exercise in the end. I walked the couple of blocks from the gym to Julie’s apartment and was at her door ten minutes later.
“Nicole! I’m so glad you could make it.”
Over her shoulder, I noticed a young man watching us. He looked about our age, and I couldn’t help noticing that he was pretty cute. So this was Julie’s mysterious guest.
Julie noticed me looking and rushed to introduce us.
“Ian, this is my best friend Nicole. She just moved here a few months ago.”
Ian gave me a small smile as she introduced me. “It’s good to meet you, Nicole,” he said quietly.
“Nicole, this is my cousin Ian,” Julie continued. “He’s staying in Bridgeport with me on a business trip. I want us to all be friends!”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Ian,” I said, trying to sound confident as I shook his hand. Even with all the experience my job was giving me, I still hadn’t gotten over my shyness around strangers.
While Julie made lunch for the three of us, Ian and I chatted together. I had offered to help, but she insisted that we get to know one another instead, an idea with which Ian seemed happy to comply.
As we talked, I found out that Ian was a book-lover who currently worked in Science, and was staying in Bridgeport temporarily to experience first hand some of the advanced research going on in the Bridgeport Science Facility.
By this point, I had shared my story with so many people I met that it was beginning to feel tedious. But with Ian, I found myself chatting freely and interestedly about not only my job and my dream to become a Vocal Legend but also the other aspects of my life and my plans for the future outside of my job. I didn’t mention Ren, since I thought it was too soon to start assuming anything would come out of our brief meeting.
I was surprised by how well Ian and I managed to get along during our conversation, especially given how different our lives and hobbies were.
Just before lunch, Ian excused himself to go to the bathroom and Julie took the opportunity to sit down with me on the sofa.
“So, what do you think of Ian?”
Straight to the point, huh?
“I liked him,” I told her. “He seems like a really nice guy. Although I must admit I was surprised. I was expecting him to be your long-distance boyfriend or something!”
“Nah, definitely just cousins,” she giggled. “And he is a nice guy. We’ve known each other all our lives – he used to stay with me and our grandparents when his folks went on vacation.”
“I think it’d be nice to all be friends,” I added. “How about we all hang out together sometime?”
“Sounds like a great idea!” Julie responded enthusiastically. “We’re going to have so much fun together! I know he seems pretty shy, but it looked like the two of you were getting along pretty well earlier.”
“Yeah, I thought so too. And I totally get the shyness thing, I get like that all the time around new people as well.”
Julie smiled. “Seems like you two have more in common than you thought, huh?”
In the end, my suggested ‘some time’ turned into several months of hanging out together at the park and at Julie’s apartment. Since the Autumn Festival was now in town, the three of us often went to the park where it was held to enjoy a picnic lunch and take part in the various festive activities they offered.
Ian was the most adventurous out of the three of us and happily sampled all of the games and contests, even the Haunted House! Occasionally, he was able to convince Julie and me to take part in something simpler like apple-bobbing – which, let me tell you, is not as easy as it looks!
For a first time, I thought I did pretty well catching the apples in my teeth, especially considering how deep the water was.
But Ian always managed to catch even more!
The pie-eating contest was another favourite of Ian’s, although I could never understand how anyone could eat so much that quickly without being sick. I certainly couldn’t, so instead I cheered Ian on from the sidelines.
“You look like a vampire with raspberry juice all over your face like that!” I joked.
“Maybe I am!” Ian retorted, pulling a ridiculous face. We both laughed.
Since we met several months ago, he and I had become very close, and frequently teased each other like this. Even though he acted silly a lot of the time, he was always lots of fun to be around.
I was really grateful to have friends like Ian and Julie in my life. So grateful, in fact, that I had almost forgotten completely about Ren.
I realised way after I took these pictures that Ian was wearing two different outfits in them. The one with the jacket is actually his formal outfit, which he kept changing into for some reason! Sorry for the mistake. – Fibi