He felt a little stupid in the red superhero costume, but grown-ups would coo over how cute he looked in it, and that normally helped with sales, so he gritted his teeth and got on with it.
During quiet periods, he would go and entertain himself with the different activities available at the festival. He particularly liked the haunted house because it was fun to go in and laugh at how lame it was.
One day, Jennifer received a call from Joey. "You want to meet at the festival grounds? It would be good to see you."
Jennifer couldn't keep the smile from her face. Even though it was pouring with rain, it was the first time her sort-of girlfriend had asked to see her since aging up, and Jennifer was relieved that she was still interested and hadn't forgotten about her.
When she arrived at the festival, she gasped to herself. Joey had grown up into a beautiful woman, even more beautiful than she'd been as a teenager. But there was an odd sadness about her that, like her beauty, had also seemed to increase since her teenage years. Warily, Jennifer walked over to the tree that Joey was underneath, sheltering from the rain.
"You look... amazing, Joey."
They stood for a moment in awkward silence, and Jennifer knew something was wrong, because silence between them had never been awkward before. "Did you want to hang out or something?"
"Actually," Joey started, and then sighed. She looked away, blinking, and Jennifer saw something shining in her eyes that definitely wasn't rain. "Look, Jen, you... you deserve better than me. I know I said that I would wait for you, that things would be different when we were older, but I'm leaving Appaloosa Plains. There are too many bad memories for me here."
Jennifer felt like she'd been hit with a ton of bricks. Joey was leaving? That wasn't possible. They were meant to be together, weren't they?
"I don't understand."
"I don't expect you to. You're so strong, and you don't give a damn what people say about you. Me? I've never been like that. I allowed my school years to become a misery because I was so hung up on the views of others. The views of my parents, who told me that nobody at school would want to be friends with a... well, I'm not going to say it, it isn't a nice word. And the views of others at school who only seemed to confirm what they said."
"But they're just opinions. They don't mean anything."
"It's too late to tell me that. The damage has been done, and I'm not going to continue living in a poisonous little town when there's a whole world out there. You are the one good thing that has happened to me here, and if you ever want to make a go of things somewhere else, when you're older, then I would be with you like a shot. But I know how important your family is to you, and it's not something I'm going to ask you to do now."
Jennifer sighed. "You've already made up your mind, haven't you?"
"I'm so sorry, Jen. I'm sorry for not being stronger."
Jennifer reached out her hand and took Joey's slightly lager one in her own. She wanted to cry, to beg Joey to stay, but she knew in her heart this was something the older girl needed to do. "Will you just do one thing for me?"
"I want our last memory to be a happy one. Can we..." she felt silly for asking, but it was important she didn't remember her final meeting with Joey as something to be sad about. "Can we go apple bobbing?"
Joey laughed. "You are such a strange girl, Jennifer Cantrell. I'm really going to miss that."
Then don't go, Jennifer wanted to beg. But Joey had already walked on ahead.
It took Joey a while to get into the swing of it, but Jennifer found she was pretty good right from the start. They both giggled and spluttered as they dunked their face into the water, rescuing apples as they bobbed around the rippling tub.
They both laughed long and hard, until all the apples were gone and Jennifer was declared the winner. Then, with a small squeeze of the hand, and a promise that she would write as soon as she was settled in Bridgeport, Joey walked out of the festival grounds as the rain beat down heavily on Jennifer's hair, soaking her right through until she felt numb from the cold.
The day after Chloe aged up into a pretty, extremely petite teenager with the Good trait...
...Anastacia officially started work at Appaloosa Plains' only fire station. On her first day, she arrived to find a cranky old sim, who looked well past her retirement age, waiting impatiently for her.
"Thank the Watcher you're finally here. Do you know how long I've been waiting for a new sim to take over from me? Years! You're the first sim whose chosen this career since, well, me. Beats me why. Well-paid job, hardly any fires in Appaloosa Plains, and you get to jump on that big old trampoline out back while you're hanging around for the alarm to ring. Best job in the world!"
"I'm really excited to start," Anastacia said, somewhat taken aback at the elder sim's brusque manner.
"Hmm, that's nice, dollface. Not much to tell you, really. Keep the fire engine ticking over, test the alarm every day... that shouldn't be a problem as you've passed the minimum handiness level tests when you came in.... obviously your strength is in fitness, so make sure it stays that way."
"Are you going to show me around the station?" Anastacia asked. She got the impression that she was about to be left alone, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that.
"Look around yourself. Like I said, hardly any fires in Appaloosa Plains, so you've got lots of time to explore. Me? I'm off to Sunlit Tides now, where I'm going to live out the rest of my days drinking cocktails on the beach and eyeing up hot guys. See ya!"
Anastacia blinked as she looked around the now empty station. This was going to be... interesting.
And actually, Anastacia did find the job interesting. She thought it was weird that nobody else worked here, but to be fair to that old lady, she was right - there didn't seem to be any fires in Appaloosa Plains. Maybe people here were just pretty sensible. So in the first few weeks, Anastacia got to grips with the fire engine, which looked pretty intimidating to someone with only basic handiness skills, but actually started to make sense once she'd started tinkering with it.
She also made tested the alarm every day, as that crazy old sim had advised her...
And she found a new, awesome way to exercise: climbing up the fire station pole (which she had no need to slide down, on account of there not being any fires.)
In the evenings, when she returned home from work, she was usually pretty tired and ready for bed. One afternoon, though, she received a text from someone who hadn't texted her in a very long time: Locke. He and Joyce were having a house warming party this evening, and did she want to come?
Anastacia was unsure. She felt like she shouldn't go, because she didn't know how happy Lawrence would be about it (he was away at medical school at the moment, so wouldn't technically know) but more than that, she figured she shouldn't be interested herself.
But, well, there was no denying it, she kind of was. She wasn't romantically interested in Locke anymore, not in the slightest, but the chance to go and see what he was doing with his life was tempting, and she made a snap decision to go just for a little while.
When she returned home from work, she quickly pulled on a dress and blazer and ran a brush through her hair, then drove down to the (okay, she admitted, quite nice) house Joyce and Locke had just bought together.
As soon as she walked in, she began to regret coming. Although Joyce smiled at her, it definitely didn't reach her eyes, and Anastacia felt an awkwardness creeping over her. This is silly, she told herself. But she was here now, and running out when she'd only just arrived would look ridiculous.
"You look good," Joyce said, eyeing her outfit. "Since we bought this house I can barely afford new clothes. You must save a bit living at home still."
Anastacia didn't miss the derision in her tone. She had nothing to be ashamed of; plenty of sims in Appaloosa Plains carried on living at home once they'd aged up.
"And how are things with you and... what's his name? That pale boy? Lawrence?"
"Good," Anastacia said more confidently. "He's not a boy, though, he aged up just after me. He's studying medicine at the moment, but will be back in Appaloosa Plains soon."
"Has he proposed?"
"Watcher, no, we're too young to be getting married! Uh, I mean..." Anastacia had spotted the engagement ring glittering on Joyce's finger. "Well, it's not for us just yet."
"You need to get him to commit, otherwise he'll stray," Joyce said, shrugging. She went back to chopping vegetable savagely, keeping one eye on Locke who was making conversation with someone in the next room.
Anastacia decided to strike up a conversation with a dapperly-dressed fairy that she hadn't seen around town before, and she was having quite an interesting time talking to him about different types of plants when she heard an awkward cough from behind, and she turned round to see Locke staring at her.
"Wow, Anastacia. I mean, you look..."
He stopped when he realised his fiancée was glaring daggers at them from the other side of the kitchen. Anastacia raised an eyebrow.
"Healthy. Strong. Uh, have you been working out?"
Anastacia couldn't help but laugh. Locke Diamond wasn't exactly king of the smooth recovery. As Joyce angrily went back to cooking, Locke ushered Anastacia into the next room. Anastacia shook his hand off her arm when he turned to face her.
"Locke, anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of your fiancée."
"No, that's the problem. I can't. Ana, you look amazing. Seriously. I've been thinking about you for months now... kicking myself that I let you get away."
Anastacia sighed, holding her hands up to try and placate him. "Locke, seriously, you need to move on. It's been years. I don't think of you in that way anymore."
"But you came tonight?"
"Yeah, to see what could have been. And you know something?"
"I don't want it! Okay, I might have moved into a bigger house, but I kind of like living in my parent's tiny little home, surrounded by my family - who, by the way, you were always rude to - if I'm being perfectly honest. This life? It's not mine. I took a different path, one that involves my family, and a career I think I'm going to be really good at, and a boyfriend that actually respects me and doesn't see me as some sort of accessory."
"Lawrence Lum," Locke spat out. "That loser? I got a job in Business straight out of school. I'm heading places. I could have treated you so much better than him."
Anastacia laughed, shaking her head. "Yeah, you're really convincing me I made the wrong decision."
Locke perked up at that. "Am I?"
"No! Good night, Locke."
When Anastacia got home that night, and was settling into bed, she phoned Lawrence up. He answered his phone with a sleepy voice, and Anastacia melted into her bunk bed, talking quietly so she wouldn't wake up Jennifer and Chloe. "Just wanted to say... I love you."
"Love you too, Ana. So much."
On the evening that Jennifer and Harrison both aged up (Jennifer into a young adult, and Harrison into a teen), the whole family - including Yumi, who enjoyed spending lazy afternoons in the Dog Day Plaza across the road from the house - came home to watch the transitioning.
Before they got started, however, Jennifer pulled Chloe to one side to talk to her. "Look, I know you and mum are close, and when you age up she'll probably try and get you to stay here. But if you want a bit of independence, I'm going to be moving into my own place and I would love it if you could move in with me when you're a young adult too."
Chloe was excited to hear this - moving in with her big sister would be awesome! But she knew that Jennifer had a point about their mum; Chloe was definitely 'mummy's little girl', despite being a teenager now, and she realised her mum might take the news hard.
This was all a while away, though, so they both figured they had plenty of time to convince Hailey to agree with it. After all, Jennifer was a responsible, family orientated sim, so she had nothing to worry about!
Jennifer was the first to age up, whilst Harrison waited patiently in the corner for his own turn. Upon turning into a Young Adult, Jennifer surprised nobody by acquiring the Friendly Trait. For Miles and Hailey, the event was bittersweet; they knew that, despite being very close to her family, Jennifer was a far more independent sim than Anastacia, and was eager to find her own identity in Appaloosa Plains. Joey's departure from Appaloosa Springs had hit her hard, and she'd vowed to herself that she would make the most of her life. She was keen to make waves as a business woman.
The next day, Anastacia and Jennifer were required to attend their graduation. Anastacia's year had been delayed, as subscription to the Appaloosa comprehensive school was low and they frequently needed to double up on graduations. Still, Anastacia was glad, as it meant she got to share this special day with her now not-so-little sister.
It rained the whole day. Harrison (who now possessed the Rebellious trait) felt uncomfortable in the too-tight suit he had borrowed from Miles; since ageing up, he was embarrassed to realise that the puppy fat he had carried as a child was now just kind of normal fat that set him apart from the rest of the family. He already knew he looked different to them, with his blonder-than-blonde hair, and his weight only added to the awkwardness he felt.
Chloe, too, felt a little bit awkward. She had loved the dress she'd picked out for her first formal celebration, but across the road she saw a couple of girls she recognised from school giggling at her, and she knew they were making fun of her. She looked down at the intricately designed dress. She loved it - why were they being so mean about her?
But neither Harrison or Chloe voiced their worries, because today was about Jennifer and Anastacia. Jennifer in particular was excited to graduate; to her, graduation meant the start of her real life, and she couldn't wait to work her way up to that big, important manager's office she'd dreamt about for years.
The Cantrell family hurried into the graduation hall, Hailey the last to go in, beaming proudly at her two grown-up girls. She was a very proud parent today, and she was even prouder when Anastacia was made valedictorian and voted 'Most Likely To Fulfil Lifetime Wish' (which, co-incidentally, was to save 30 sims on the job) and Jennifer was voted 'Most Likely To Marry' (which made Jennifer wince a little bit - marriage, after what had happened with Joey, was the last thing on her mind.)
Outside, the two girls celebrated as the rest of the family headed home.
"We made it, sis," Anastacia said, pulling her sister in for a hug.
"Can you believe it? Both of us, proper grown-ups. Well, sort of!"
"We're not quite there yet, I don't think," Anastacia giggled. "But it's a good feeling, isn't it?"
"It is. You're going to look after them, aren't you? Mum, dad, Chloe, Harrison? I feel weird, being the first to move out. I always thought it was my job to make sure everyone in the family was happy."
"And you've done that, and you'll continue to do that. It's not like you're moving far! We'll be calling you up every time the laundry needs hanging out, you know."
"Nope, that's definitely your job now."
They laughed, as the rain continued to pour down over them. "I'll miss bunking with you, little sis. It's been a blast"
Jennifer tried not to cry. How embarrassing! As Anastacia said, she was only going a little way away. "I suppose I should go home and say goodbye properly."
"Yeah, good idea. I'm going into work, but if there's anything you need, ever... well, you know where I am."
After a short trip down the road to sign up to a business apprenticeship, Jennifer headed back to her home - while it still was her home - one last time. Harrison and Chloe were out, but she'd said goodbye to them yesterday, and that just left two people.
Her mum was out in the garden, not letting the rain prevent her from carrying out her daily money-earning duties.
"It looks really beautiful out here. I never realised how many different plants you've been growing."
"Well, any time you want to come and help me... these hands of mine are growing old and calloused. I wouldn't mind a hand pulling up weeds."
Jennifer nodded, and said that she'd like that. She could see that her mum was finding this difficult - the act of saying goodbye - so after a warm hug, she headed back inside.
She smiled when she saw that nobody had thought to put the laundry on. One last time, she told herself. Whatever Anastacia said, she wasn't going to come round here to pick up dirty underwear after her disorganised family!
"You don't need to do that, you know," Miles told her. She smiled, turning to face him, wondering how long he'd been watching.
"It's okay, I've always kind of enjoyed mundane household chores."
"And very grateful we've been for that. You've never been any trouble growing up. You've given to this family unconditionally, and I'm not sure me and your mum have always thanked you enough for that. So... here. Something to get you started."
"Dad, you didn't need to..."
"No, we do. It's keys to your own place, and a bit of money to get you started. I'm not having my little girl living in crappy rented accommodation miles away from here. It's important to me and your mum that you take this."
Jennifer didn't know what she could say. There really wasn't anything to say, apart from of course...
"Thank you," she whispered as Miles pulled her in for a hug. "Thank you so much."
"I expect you to visit regularly," he informed her. "So consider that the strings attached."
"I'm sure I can manage that."
She pulled away, tears gleaming in her eyes. "Bye, daddy. I love you."
Miles watched his middle daughter climb into her rusty, beat-up old car (another graduation present) before driving away. He knew in his heart that his family were growing up, and he would soon be joining his wife in elderhood. There was nothing he could do but enjoy these years of his life, and prepare himself for the other goodbyes that would eventually come.
Notes: So I spent a LOT of time writing a perfectly normal exit for Jennifer, because I'm lame and it made me sad to see her move out. She isn't the most interesting of the family, but she's been a good 'all-rounder' to play, and the stuff about her doing loads of chores is totally accurate: she didn't really develop many skills as a teenager but she was ALWAYS helping out round the house, despite not having the neat trait. Anyway, she's definitely still going to be a part of her family's life, so this won't be the last you'll see of her.
For those of you wondering why things didn't work out with Joey, well *sighs* When Jen moved out I put story progression on. I figured as her and Joey were in a relationship, they would definitely end up moving in together. The reality? That just didn't happen. In fact, Jen does not seem to be recognised by story progression at all. One day I switched active households to get her to invite Joey over, but I think Jen might actually be bugged now she's moved out. She wasn't able to contact anyone by phone which meant she couldn't invite anyone over or ask anyone out. Major headache. Also, I have no idea where Joey has gone either, as story progression never notifies me about her either. So my sweet little family-orientated Jen is just this sort of lonely spinster right now. :( I think I'm going to install Master Controller to see if I can do anything with her, but atm I'm not playing until I'm a bit more caught up on here, so time will tell.
Anyway, one more picture because it made me laugh and I've never seen it before:
Yes, Freezer Bunny is riding a llama. As you do. :D