Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Chapter 7-5: Falling Back

                Hanley rolled in her sleep, trying not to disturb Ben as he snored softly beside her. No matter which way she twisted, she couldn’t get comfortable. What is wrong with me? As she shifted to her side, she felt Ben stir beside her just before his elbow connected with the back of her head. Grumbling, she grabbed her pillow and huffed her way down to the couch.

                His return was nothing like she had thought it would be. Sure, the first night had been amazing, beyond words even. They had lain in each other’s arms, content with the silence. No words were needed. Now though, she couldn’t even sleep in her own bed at night. After having the space to herself for almost a year, the body lying beside her felt foreign.

                There must be something wrong with me. What woman feels this way when her husband comes home from a deployment? A bad wife, that’s what kind of woman.

                It wasn’t just the bed either. She found herself constantly watching him with Isaac and, worse even, scrutinizing his actions. It’s not like before having Isaac she had any experience with babies. Nonetheless, she constantly corrected him when he spent time with their son.

“Ben, honey, can you tilt the bottle up a bit more? If you leave it at that angle, it gets bubbles.”

“He likes the dinosaur toy in the bath, not the truck. Here, I’ll switch with you.”

“Oh honey, let me take him. If you don’t use just the right amount of powder, he gets diaper rash.”

 “He prefers good night moon instead of singing. If you don’t know the words, I can tell him the story.”

                He was a good father. She knew that. She could see it in his eyes when he held his son. So why did she feel the need to constantly supervise the time he spent with Isaac? Worse yet, why must she find fault with every way he interacted with him? It made her feel ridiculous but no sooner than vowing to stop would she catch herself at it again.

                “Good morning beautiful. You weren’t in bed when I woke up.” She felt Ben’s arms around her waist and turned to give him a kiss. There was nothing she could criticize about the kisses.
                “Sorry. I had trouble sleeping last night so I came downstairs. I didn’t want to keep you up. I made breakfast,” she gestured to the pancakes on the counter before grabbing a few plates from the cabinet.

                “It’s hard, huh?” She looked at him quizzically as they sat eating their breakfast, waiting for him to continue. “Adjusting again. You’re not that good at hiding your feelings baby.”
                “Oh Watcher! I’m sorry! Ben, I’m so happy you’re home. And I love you. Please don’t be mad.”

                “Han, sweetheart, I could never be mad.” He turned in his chair and reached up to stroke her cheek. “This is normal. If you’re that worried about it, we can talk to someone. But I promise, everything will be fine. We just need time.”

                The few weeks that Ben had home for his post deployment leave were soon up. He went back to work which made pretending that he had never left much easier. Their old morning routine fell back into place: the two of them waking to the alarm, Ben going out for his morning run while Hanley took a shower. When he got back, they would share a cup of coffee before he had to leave. The biggest difference being that both Hanley and Isaac would send him off with kisses before work now.

                “How was your day?” Hanley met Ben in the driveway, like she used to when they had first moved to town. Despite the tension between them sometimes, the sound of his truck pulling into the driveway still made her break into a huge grin.
                “Nothing too exciting happened. Mostly boring meetings going over the training schedule.”
                “Would you like to go out this weekend? Emme said she could watch Isaac for us.”
                “That sounds great sweetheart,” he agreed giving her a kiss. “Did you have anything in mind? If not, I’ve got an idea.”

                That Friday night, the two of them headed over to Andromeda’s. Ben had heard the bar was bringing in some live music, a band called Minor Wolves, which he wanted to check out. Hanley had never heard of them but she rarely turned the radio on and, when she did, it was usually some form of cartoon music for Isaac.

The place was pretty packed and the band already on stage when they arrived. Hanley found them a seat at one of the high tops while Ben grabbed them a couple of beers from the bar.

                “You know, I think I might  actually recognize them.”
                “Maybe. They’ve become a pretty big thing. They’ve toured a couple times, mostly overseas. And they won the last Battle of the Bands.”
                “The blonde one with the glasses is really cute!”

                He turned to look at her with a smirk. “You do know your husband is sitting right here, right?”
                “I’m married, not blind. And let’s be honest, they’re all attractive.”
                “Touché. And I’ll tell you what; if he tries to pick you up, you have my blessing.”
                Her brow furrowed and she tilted her head, eyeing him with suspicion before the truth dawned on her. “He’s totally involved with someone, isn’t he?”
                “Happily married to the guy in the blue shirt.”

                “Aww, good for them! Sad for me because I guess that means I’m stuck with you.” He grinned, grabbing her hand. “Where are we going?”
                “Well, if you’re stuck with me, I might as well at least try to show you a good time. Let’s dance!”

                 “Do you remember the first time we did this?” They’d picked Isaac up from Emme’s and settled him into his crib. They now sat outside in the dew kissed grass, just beyond the halo of light from their porch and gazed up at the stars.
                “At the beach, when you told me that you were falling for me?” She grinned at him, enjoying the memory of watching him squirm and the butterflies she’d felt in her stomach as she realized she was falling for him too.
                “I’ve never spoken truer words.” He turned to her with a furrowed brow. “You’ve changed since I’ve been gone. We both have. You don’t need me anymore. Not that you needed me before. Crap, I’m saying this wrong.” She shifted in the grass, suddenly feeling fluttering in her stomach again. The memory of fluttering butterflies suddenly morphed into a swarm of angry wasps. He said we just needed time. What’s he saying?
                “I mean, you’re stronger. I’m so proud of you. You’ve given up so much to be with me. You gave birth to our son while I was gone and you make the best of whatever situation we’re thrown. Back then, I was falling for you and when we got married I never imagined I could love you anymore than I did then. I was wrong.”

                With Isaac’s birthday just around the corner, Hanley had enrolled in a cooking class at the local bakery. She couldn’t believe her tiny boy was going to be a toddler. With direction, she was soon weeping over a perfectly iced birthday cake.

                “Come on in. The present pile is on the counter in the kitchen.” Emme and Todd arrived with Darcy and Kelli in tow. Josephine and Jesse had arrived a bit earlier with Felix, who would be celebrating his own birthday in a few more weeks.

                Even Flynn and Gemma with her daughter Sherry had managed to squeeze in a trip to town for Isaac’s birthday.

                Having so much of her family together made Hanley miss the others that much more. Hal had wanted to come but was playing in an away game across the country. And, the absence of both of her parents was strongly felt. Milo had passed away shortly before Ben came home. She was thankful that he at least got to meet his first grandchild and had been there for her when she needed him most.

                About an hour into the party, Hanley decided it was time for the birthday boy to blow out his candle. The party was already trudging into afternoon and nearing Isaac’s naptime. Though the party was, of course, in his honor, it was important to keep to their routine. Letting him skip nap time was a risk, and epic meltdown, she wasn’t willing to chance.

                Ben handed out the noise makers and joined her at the side of the counter. She blew out the candles with her boy and, in the blink of an eye, she and Ben were the proud parents of a toddler!

                “Get together, get together! Before long he’ll be going to prom and you’ll be sad you don’t have more pictures,” Emme urged pushing them towards each other. She always carried a camera with her and insisted on taking dozens of pictures of everything. Both her daughters were still toddlers and they already had two photo albums apiece. Knowing Emme would never rest until she had at least one family photo that she approved, Hanley and Ben gathered Isaac between them and smiled for the camera. Despite her careful plans, Isaac was still fussy and, after about a dozen takes, they called it quits and Hanley hurried upstairs to get him down for his nap while Ben thanked their guests for coming.

                After Felix’s birthday, Josephine and Hanley often met at the park during the week to catch up and let the little ones play together.

                “I have some news,” Josephine announced as the two took a seat on a nearby bench. “I’m pregnant!”
                “Oh my Watcher Jo, really? You weren’t kidding when you said you loved being pregnant. I can’t imagine having another one.” She glanced down and shifted her son, who’d been tugging on her hair.
                “This one wasn’t quite so planned. Apparently, some women are more fertile after giving birth.” Jo smiled and Hanley knew that, accident or not, Jo was still thrilled with the news. “We’re not telling ‘people’ yet but I had to tell someone!”

                Isaac couldn’t stop wriggling around so the moms made their way to the sandbox. Isaac would be content for a while with plastic toys to bang and dirt to dig in. Felix was much more docile as a toddler and was content to curiously gaze at everything going on around him.

                “So you and Ben don’t want any more?”
                “We haven’t really discussed it. He missed so much with Isaac and another deployment is inevitable. I just want to be able to enjoy the time the three of us have together now.”

                “Honey, don’t forget that you and Jesse promised to take the boys trick or treating this afternoon before the party,” Hanley called up the stairs to Ben as she fed Isaac his lunch. “I’ve got to run to the store to get some stuff for the party so I’ll see you when you guys get back.”

                After she left, Ben got himself and Isaac dressed and met Jesse and Felix outside to begin the trip up and down the street.

                He dropped Isaac off at the sitter’s house on his way home and then headed upstairs to see if Hanley was ready to go. She was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, still wrapped in her towel but as he entered the room she turned to stare at him, leaning against the doorjamb.
                “Just thinking about how sexy you look. Where’d you find that?” He forgot he hadn’t shown her the actual costume when they’d discussed what to wear to the party.

 “Oh, this old thing? I had it lying around, from my vigilante days, before I went into the honest hero business. Pays less of course but the uniform is much more comfortable.” He glanced at his phone. “If you don’t hurry, we’re going to be late.”

                Hanley dropped her towel and stepped close to him, nudging him until he was sitting on the edging of the bed. “We’ll be late.”

                “Wow! Josephine really went all out, didn’t she?”  The front of the house was bedecked in pumpkins with a scarecrow watching over the entryway. Dry ice seeped out from under the door, lending a creepy air to the porch.

                “There you are!” Josephine beckoned them inside as they climbed the stairs. “Everyone is already here. I was beginning to think the two of you weren’t going to make it.” Ben and Hanley exchanged sheepish grins before crossing the threshold.

                “Have you told her yet,” Jesse pulled Ben towards the kitchen.
                “Where’d your other costume go,” Ben asked, noticing that Jesse was now dressed as a medieval knight rather than simply wearing his work uniform.
                Jesse groaned. “Jo had this waiting for me when I got back. Apparently a firefighter was fine for going around with Felix but not for the party. Stop changing the subject.”
                “No, I haven’t told her yet. I hate giving her bad news.”
                “You know you have to tell her at some point.”

Chapter 7.4                                                                                                                                                      Chapter 7.6

Author's Notes:

* I really was trying to be more timely but...I failed.

* goodnightlittlewing from tumblr was kind enough to let me borrow her band for the date night pictures.

* At least until the end of the generation, I will be duel posting here and on tumblr. I know I mentioned switching to tumblr previously, but it feels weird to just stop in the middle of a generation. There are definitely pros and cons to both (I really like my layout for the table of contents and download pages over on tumblr). And with Blogger deciding against pulling content, I decided against moving everything from here to Wordpress. So if you follow me both places, I apologize for the duplicates.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Liebster Award

I was nominated by two very wonderful simmers, Sunny and Cali, and could not feel more honored. Especially with my stories on the back burner lately. I love that you both love them enough to still think of them, and me, for something like this. Thank you both!

The rules for receiving this award are:

  1. Post the award on your blog.
  2. Thank the blogger who presented the award and link back to their blog.
  3. Nominate 5-11 bloggers whom you feel deserve this award and have fewer than or equal to 3,000 followers.
  4. Answer 11 questions posted by the nominator, and ask your nominees 11 questions.

My Nominees:
  • Any story by spladoum. All her stories are told beautifully, yet each story is unique and has wonderfully developed, and flawed, characters.
  • Pixel Rust by buckley. Another wonderful author with many stories I could nominate. Pixel Rust has beautiful sims and a tangled, interwoven storyline that will keep you on your toes.
  • Witchwolf !AU by fairsteadsims. Adrian and Becca, otherwise known as Beedge, have many different lives but WitchWolf has thus far been my absolute favorite. 
  • Treason-and-Plot's sims. These sims are wonderfully written: each has horrible character flaws that should leave them hated but instead, they're multi-faceted that even the most despised somehow becomes that character you love to hate.
  • Ripples in Paradise by kaleekalo. Despite my disinterest in TS4, this story (like all her others) is really fantastic and was completely worth whitelisting it to make sure I don't miss a post.
Honorable Mentions (stories that have not been updated in awhile)
  • The Beehive by Owl Face. Though real life has taken priority, this story is still well worth the read! Who knew aliens could be so fun? Warning though: once you start, you won't be able to stop until you get to the end. 
  • Bennos World by angiebenno. Sadly, this is another story that has not been updated in a very long time. It was one of the first Blogger sim stories I read though and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Questions from Cali: 
1. What got you into writing stories with the sims?
When I played sims, I typically always had some kind of narration running in my head with plans for each of the characters I created. Writing them down was the natural progression. It also helps keep me invested in my save, rather than tossing it and starting again.
2. If you could pick five personality traits for your Simself, what would they be? I know when I do it, there’s always more than five I want to use, but just think of the first five that come to mind.
I actually already have these picked out! Haha! They're on my tumblr, though I gave myself a sixth (I figured I earned it since I graduated uni). I'll play fair though and just go with my freshly aged to YA traits: Animal Lover, Bookworm, Clumsy, Hopeless Romantic, Loner.
3. Is there a time of day that’s the best time for you to write?
Usually first thing in the morning. As the day goes on I start getting distracted. 
4. If you could jump into a time machine like the Sims can, where would you choose to go and why?
Sims can jump in time machines? :D Just kidding. I'm honestly not sure I would. While the idea is fun, I feel like it'd be like that episode of Supernatural - get back to the Wild West and find out stuff is not nearly as awesome as you thought.
If we're talking about turning back time and actually reliving a part of my life, I'd probably go back to high school: try harder to dissuade my grandmother from remarrying, work harder at figuring out what I wanted in life (career wise) and actually going for it, and enjoying my school years. 
5. Have you got a favourite sim?
Camille is by far my favorite. In part because Generation 5 was my favorite to write so far. I do quite like Ben a lot as well though.
6. Are any of your characters or situations based on real life?
A lot of what I write is based on real life. Maybe not a direct experience. Maybe not an exact model or even parody of a person. But I put little bits and pieces from people I know and situations I'm familiar with into my stories.
7. What made you start playing Sims?
My grandmother. I was in middle school and she got a computer. I can't remember why she got the Sims 1 but I remember we would play together. We occasionally spoke to each other in simlish. Even when I grew up and got married, she would ask me how my sims were. She also always requested that houses I built in the sims have room for the grandmother.
8. Other than Sims and writing, what are some of your other hobbies?
Reading which probably isn't that much of a surprise. I also enjoy gaming of other kinds (Fallout, Elder Scrolls). There are more games I would enjoy playing but I hate leaving projects unfinished so typically my sims come first.
9. What is your favourite aspect about writing?
I love having the world at my fingertips. Through my characters, I can be anything and do anything.
10. What is your least favourite aspect?
Making it all fit together. In my head, it all works so well but getting it from there to paper (virtual or otherwise) is a different story. 
11. What inspires you the most? Music? A great book? A walk outside? Something else?
Random snippets. My best friend can tell me something and all of a sudden, it blooms into a story in my head. Sometimes a book will leave me with questions or thoughts and those twist and turn until suddenly it's become very different and is now my own story. Most of this never makes it on to paper directly but the thoughts spiral around in my head until it finally forces its way out somewhere.
Questions from Sunny: 
1. What got you hooked on The Sims franchise?
My grandmother got me started but what got me hooked and has kept me coming back is the same thing I love about writing: I can be whoever I want to be. I can decorate however I want without any true commitment. And if it all goes wrong, there's always ctrl+z or quitting without saving. 
2. What is your essential CC site? It can offer mods or clothing, or that one piece of CC you can't play without and can be made by you or someone else.
I could not live with NRaas. Just no. The thought is unbearable. I also love just about anything made by Sandy from AroundTheSims. All of her stuff breathes life into my lots and make them look lived in.
3. How do you find your CC?
What usually happens is that I see something I want in someone's screenshots. I hate asking WCIF right off, so I start looking for it. Instead of admitting defeat and asking, I then spend hours and hours scouring google until I am successful and no longer interested in playing. Said item then sits in my computer downloads folder for weeks until I get around to adding it to the game and probably longer than that before I ever use it.
I am a CC hoarder.
4. Where were you when the idea for your story first come to you? What was going on?
I honestly can't remember. I've had so many ideas for stories, some not written down, some not blogged or shared. I've been making up stories ever since I was a little girl. I can't remember not having ideas for stories and that just rolled into sims.
5. Where do you stand in the Oxford Comma debate?
Haha. I use it when it feels like I should. Grammar is not my strongest suit so I probably also use the comma when I shouldn't. I like commas. And ellipses.
6. If you could try one of the foods in the sims game, which food would you choose?
Porcini risotto. I'd actually try to find a recipe to make it myself but mushrooms are a no go in my house. My husband is dreadfully picky.
7. Do you have an all-time favorite sim?
Answered above in #5.
8. What is one thing you can do in TheSims (1,2,3,4) that you have yet to try? If you've tried it all (Geez, I'm jealous) what is your favorite thing to do with your sims?
My gosh, there are so many things I haven't done in the sims. There are careers I haven't tried. I haven't sent sims tomb raiding. I've never even sent a sim to China. I've never played a supernatural sim. I've never made a plumbot. There are probably more things in the Sims 3 game that I haven't tried than I have.
9. How do you deal with writer's block?
Not very well. Usually I try to force stuff, then get frustrated because said stuff doesn't work, until finally just distracting myself with something else entirely.
10. Have you ever based a character off of someone you know? If so, does this person know you based a character on them? Why or Why not? And if not, why?
Going off my answer from Cali's questions, there are little bits of people I know rolled into my characters, including myself. I don't have any single character based on one single person that I know. As for telling people, I don't particularly talk about sims with anyone in my life anymore. Most people I know (in person) don't get it so we do not talk about the game, character development or otherwise.
11. What do you draw inspiration from?
This was the previous #11 as well. :)
Questions for my Nominees:
1. What expansion is your favorite and which is your least favorite?

2. When you write a chapter you're not 100% happy with, what do you do? Publish or continually work it until you're satisfied?

3. How do you deal with the game's surprises: write them in, ignore them, or restart the save?

4. If you could live in any of the sims worlds, which would you choose and why?

5. When you write your stories, are they written first and then staged? Or played and then written to match in-game events?

6. For offspring, do you create them separately in CAS, edit them, or accept them as the game gives them to you?

7. Do you have a favorite sims challenge to play or do you play to the beat of your own drum?

8. Do you discuss your sims and stories with family or friends?

9. We've all accepted that Sims isn't quite what we each want it to be. What would it take for it to be the "perfect" sims game?

10. Do you create CC for yourself? Whether yes or no, is there anything you wish you could do/make but don't have the skills for yet?

11. Let us in on a little secret about your story from an upcoming chapter. :D

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chapter 7-4: Come Home

                “I’m glad you could make it for lunch,” Josephine greeted Hanley and ushered her inside. “How are you feeling these days?”
                “Oh, you know, probably the same as you. Sick of being pregnant. I’m never doing it again.”
                “Really? I love being pregnant. It’s, I don’t even know how to describe it; spiritual or magical. Of course, I can’t wait to meet this little one but he’ll come when he comes and I’m okay with that. Here, you have a seat while I go finish getting the food ready.”

                Sadie had other plans for Hanley. Plans that did not involve sinking comfortably into Jo’s well cushioned sofa. Hanley didn't mind though. She missed having a pet of her own. With the baby arriving soon though, a puppy or kitten was out of the picture for the near future.

                After the ladies had finished their lunches, they made their way to the back porch. The day was beautiful: the autumn air was crisp and the smell of burning leaves wafted by on the breeze from a few houses down. The leaves had started their glorious transformation and the burnished copper color of the cottonwoods made the whole town look as though it was glowing.

                “Have you and Jesse talked anymore about baby names?”
                “We've talked about them but the better question is have we decided on any. And the answer is no. We still have half of dozen at least on our list. I have no idea— Are you okay?” Hanley’s face had suddenly taken on a confused, slightly pained look.
                Hanley took a deep breath before answering, trying to steady herself. “Just a minor contraction, I’m fine.”
                “Why didn't you tell me that you were having contractions? Have you called your doctor?”
                “I said, I’m fine. They’re probably just Braxton Hicks. I have another week left and babies rarely arrive on their due date anyway.”

                “Hanley Eastman!” Jo stomped her foot and placed her hands on her hips. “Your dress is wet. How long were you going to wait before you told me your water broke?”
                “It’s not. You know as well as I do that water rarely breaks unless you’re in labor. I’m not in labor—” Her words cut off as she breathed heavily out of her mouth, trying to manage the pain of the next contraction.
                “You damn well are and you are going to the hospital.”
                “No! I can’t have this baby without Ben. It’s just pre-labor. I’m sure the baby will wait another couple of weeks.”
                “You better get your ass in my car and let me drive you to the hospital or I’m calling an ambulance and letting them cart you off. End of discussion.”

                Hanley finally relented and climbed into Jo’s vehicle to make the short drive to the hospital. Once they arrived Hanley tried, once again, to insist that she was not in labor. The orderly ignored her and eased her down into a wheelchair to take her to her room where she could wait on the obstetrician with a little privacy.
                The doctor came and did an exam and left again. Hanley was indeed in labor and already 5cm dilated. She wasn't ready to push yet but Dr. Thompson was sure it wouldn't be long now.
                “How’re you feeling?”
                “Like crap. Jo, I’m not ready to have this baby. Ben should be here.”
                “Honey, I know, but that baby is coming whether you’re ready or not. Hopefully Ben can be home soon.”

                The door to her room opened and Noah, Josephine’s cousin came in, carrying a bag. “What’s he doing here?”
                “He is here to bring your hospital bag. While you were being admitted, Jo asked me to pick it up for you. I, uh, also grabbed this for you.” Noah handed her a small framed picture that usually sat on the fireplace mantle. It was the picture of her and Ben at the summer carnival. Before she could say thank you, Noah had already disappeared from the room.

                Fourteen hours and a lot of pushing later, Isaac Benjamin Eastman was born; 6 pounds, 13 ounces and perfectly healthy. Hanley knew a lot of parents tried to label which of the two a baby looked like but Hanley didn't care if Isaac had her eyes or Ben’s nose. He was perfect.

                Unable to contain her emotions anymore, Hanley began crying. “Are you okay?” Josephine was by her side in an instant.
                “Yes.” She hiccuped. “No. Oh, I don’t know and everything in between! He’s everything I could ever want and I’m so happy he’s here. But I miss Ben so much and hate that he missed the birth of his son.”

                After mother and son were discharged from the hospital, Hanley soon learned that having a baby was tough work. Isaac, though not particularly fussy, was not a good sleeper and woke multiple times each night. She would stagger to his room and try to discern exactly what it was that he needed. Most of the time, he just wanted to be cuddled so she would stand and rock him while humming to him until he fell back asleep. One day perhaps they could have an actual rocking chair but the crib and changing table had been the priorities for the nursery.

                Before Isaac was born, Hanley had struggled to make it through each day with something to do. Now she was lucky on the days that she managed to get a shower before 2 in the afternoon. Often, it felt that she spent all of her time changing diapers, feeding Isaac, and catching naps when he managed to sleep. The days the two of them got out of the house for a walk were good days.

                Bath times were one of her favorite moments with Isaac. He seemed to love the water. She’d fill his little bath and plop him in and he’d grin and giggle. He would only start to cry once she took him out and toweled him off.

                “Dad, what are you doing here? I didn't know you were in town.” Embarrassingly, she had answered the door in her pajamas. It was one of those days and a shower hadn't been squeezed in just yet.

                “I wasn't. I flew in as soon as I could. I had to come meet my first grandchild, didn't I? Where is the little guy?” She led him to the swing where Isaac was playing and hoped her father didn't notice the absolute disaster of the kitchen. “Why don’t you go get yourself showered? Take your time. I promise; he’s in perfectly capable hands.”

                With Miles as a house guest for a few days, Hanley was able to relax a little bit. She even was able to take an actual bath and soak in the tub with a book for a little while rather than hopping quickly in and out. Her father missed having kids around the house and was quick to get up with Isaac when he fussed so Hanley was even able to sleep in some. She wondered if Ben being home would make a newborn that much easier as well or if her dad was one of a kind.

                “That’s wonderful news Jesse!” It had been two weeks since Isaac’s birth and Hanley was ecstatic that he would now have a playmate to grow up with. “No, no. I’ll let you guys have a day of peace before I barge over. I can’t wait to meet him!”

                As she was about to ring the doorbell at the Spencer house, Jesse opened the front door to invite her in. “We just got him settled down,” he added in a whisper before taking his place at his wife’s side.
                “Isn't he beautiful,” Josephine cooed. Hanley could see the tears in her friend’s eyes and understood exactly how Jo was feeling. The gaze of adoration Jesse bestowed upon the two of them was almost more than Hanley could take. “He’ll be home soon, he’ll be home,” soon she chanted to herself.

                Finally, the email came. Ben would be home in a week! Hanley felt like she would explode from happiness. There was so much to do before he got back. She wanted to get a new outfit to meet him with and maybe get her hair cut and clean the house and get Isaac a cute outfit as well. She wondered how she would find the time to do everything. It didn't matter though. Ben was coming home!

                The next morning, Hanley bundled Isaac up and situated him in his stroller for a walk to the department store near the downtown area. It wasn't too much of a walk and though the morning was a little brisk, it looked like a beautiful day for a stroll. The mannequins in the display windows were all dressed for fall. She normally wasn't too fond of shopping but this day she felt a rush of excitement for the occasion.

                As she was getting ready to turn into the entrance, Hanley saw a little dart of movement in front of her. A tiny puppy was rushing towards the street! Hanley quickly applied the stroller’s brake and took off towards the little ball of fur.

                Just in time she scooped him up. “Where do you think you’re going little guy?” She saw makeshift pens on the sidewalk in front of her, filled with all manner of dogs.

                “Oh mercy, thank you! This little sh—ball of fur has escaped three times today. I have no idea how she is doing it but I am sure you can imagine the heart attack it’s giving me, being this close to the street.”
                “I don’t think I've seen you around before. Are you new in town?”
                “Oh, forgive me. I’m Jenny. I run the local dog rescue,” the willowy redhead extended her hand. “I spend most of my time at my house, where I foster most of the dogs myself. Every couple of months though, I’m able to get permission to set up outside a shop to, hopefully, get more public interest and maybe find some of them homes.”

                “Wow,” Hanley looked around at all the dogs, “that must get pretty hectic.”
                “It can but it’s totally worth it,” Jenny waved her hand towards the rest of the litter. “She goes back in there, if you don’t mind. It’s time for these little ones to find homes of their own.”
                “They’re all up for adoption?”
                “Yes. I’ll miss them but I don’t have the attention for everyone so it’s not fair for me to keep them.”
                “How does someone who fosters dogs get puppies though? I thought spaying and neutering was pretty important in rescue organizations?”

                “If you’re asking indirectly if I’m running a backyard puppy mill, the answer is no. Lola there, she was pregnant when I got her. Seems her owner didn't consider the fact that an unspayed female could, in fact, get pregnant.” Jenny rolled her eyes and motioned towards the other adult shepherd. “They wanted a playmate for her so they got Brutus and, surprise, surprise, she ends up pregnant. They decided they didn't have the time, energy, or money for any of them anymore and dropped them off at my door.”
                “That’s awful!”
                “It could be worse I guess. They could have decided it was a great idea and bred her every chance they got. At least with me, she’ll be fixed and then find a good home, hopefully.”

                “Do they usually find homes?”
                “Sometimes. It’s easier with the puppies. Everyone wants puppies because they’re cute and cuddly and at their prime for training. Trying to find someone who knows what they’re getting into when they adopt though, that’s harder. I’m pretty picky about who my dogs go to. It’s even harder with these guys,” Jenny rubbed the head of another dog in a pen close by. “I’ve had Raggedy Ann for almost two years now. No one wants her because she’s getting gray.”

                Hanley reached out to the scruffy dog, letting Raggedy Ann sniff her hand. She looked up at Hanley and whimpered quietly before licking her hand and leaning in for an ear scratching.

                “I do not need a do, do not need a dog. I’m only here for new clothes”. She argued with herself. “But the dog needs a home more than I need clothes. She’s just been waiting to find someone to love her. Ben would absolutely kill me. Besides, Jenny said she’s picky. I've never had a dog before. We live in an apartment. No yard. Not a lot of space. Or money. And we have a newborn. It’s pointless to even consider it.

                “Are you nervous?” The day had finally arrived and Hanley stood with Emme and their children, waiting for the buses to arrive. “Darcy Brynn, you stay right here and hold my hand!”
                “A little,” Hanley gazed down at Isaac, trying to quell the tumultuous nerves. She almost felt like she was going to be sick.

                “Mama, bus.”
                “Yes Darcy, we’re waiting for the bus. Hanley, don’t be. As soon as they get off—“
                “Mama, mama, look. Bus!”
                Sure enough, the procession of buses was making its way down Falls Avenue and getting ready to turn into the parking lot.        

                The buses braked and men in uniform began pouring through the now open doors like ants in pursuit of a discarded piece of candy on the sidewalk. It was pandemonium on the parade deck as families reunited. Children and women alike threw themselves into their loved ones arms.
                Then she saw him step off the bus and his eyes immediately found her across the crowd. Her heart stopped for a moment before beating out a triumphant, erratic rhythm. She felt her eyes start to burn and swallowed the thick lump in her throat as she watched Ben make his way across the pavement towards her.

                As Ben reached them, his eyes fixated on the small bundle in her arms. “He’s beautiful.” His voice was hushed and reverent as he gazed upon his son for the first time.

                “I've missed you, more than words can say,” Ben pulled her close after she placed a dozing Isaac in his stroller. “Let’s go home."

Deployment Interlude: Part 3                                                                                                                     Chapter 7.5

Author's Notes:

* More Excuses: those of you who follow me on tumblr saw that I made myself some sims new year's resolutions. And then promptly broke them. Less than a week after I made them, my husband and I found out we have gotten orders to move across the country. We leave the first weekend in February. I hope to still get some of my resolutions done, maybe on a slightly altered time line but I'm working on it.

* Ben is finally home! I didn't kill him! I know at least some of you had your doubts. *cough*Buckley*cough

* A lot of this chapter was staged. The pregnancy and baby stage only lasts so long and I didn't really want to increase those in game since sim life spans are short. So while it feels like Hanley was pregnant forever, I promise, it was the standard 72 hours.