“That smells delicious, Zayne.” Carly smiled sweetly at him as he returned to join Hope and her parents in the living room.
He’d just put a rack of lamb in the oven, complete with a brand-new rub he’d been experimenting with lately. Zayne loved spoiling Hope’s family with his best recipes whenever they came to visit, and he hoped this latest experiment would be no exception.
“Thanks!” Zayne returned the woman’s smile as he took a seat beside his girlfriend on the loveseat. “Let’s hope it tastes as good as it smells though.”
“It will.” Hope assured him. “It always does!”
He just shrugged. “Well, we’ll know in about an hour… ” Zayne’s eyes suddenly lit up. “Hey, this could finally be our chance to get your parents hooked on Fangs for the Memories!” He knew Hope had been trying for the past few weeks to convince them to start the first season.
She laughed brightly at his suggestion. “We do have plenty of time to squeeze in an episode or two…”
Ralph raised an eyebrow at his daughter for a moment. “Is this that vampire romance you keep bugging us about?” He laughed, shaking his head. “Your little sister already tricked me into watching that godawful Twilight movie a few years ago.” Ralph almost shuddered. “Never again.”
Carly simply laughed at her husband’s commentary. “I’ve seen a few commercials… It does look kinda cute.” She admitted.
“It’s hysterical!” Zayne smiled. “Even the lovey-dovey parts manage to crack me up.”
“You’d love it, dad.” Hope added seriously.
Ralph eyed the couple uncertainly for a moment. “Fine, let’s put on an episode.” He said at last. “As long as no one sparkles!”
Zayne furrowed his brow. “Well, technically the fa—”
Hope smacked his arm. “Shhh! Spoilers!”
“Okay… That was pretty darn good.” Ralph admitted as Zayne shut off the TV and headed to check on their food. “You weren’t kidding about how funny it is!”
“Told you, dad.” Hope teased. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?”
“I really love that butler.” Carly smiled. “And the actor who plays him is so handsome!” She added with a small wink.
Hope’s entire face lit up at her mother’s words. “Did you know I almost met him once?” She asked excitedly. “I was so mad… I found out he was doing a shoot for an interview with GQ at the same studio I was.” She explained. “But he left like half an hour before I got there.”
Zayne chuckled to himself as Hope retold the story. He could still remember how upset she was when she’d first told him about her near-brush with the famous actor.
“That’s amazing.” Carly marveled at her daughter’s story as they joined Zayne at the counter for dinner. “I’m sorry you missed the chance to meet him… But it’s incredible that you got so close.”
Ralph nodded. “And to think, just a few years ago you were settling for those godawful detergent commercials…” His wife shot him a look. “I mean, you did a great job with them.” He corrected himself hastily. “But –”
“I know what you mean.” Hope smiled. “I’ve definitely come a long way since then.”
“And we’re so proud of you, sweetie.” Her mother’s voice was warm. “All that hard work paid off.”
Ralph lifted a forkful of lamb to his lips before speaking. He closed his eyes for a moment, and Zayne couldn’t help but smile at the look of satisfaction that came to the man’s face. “I can tell someone else’s hard work is paying off too…” Ralph spoke at last. “This is perfect.”
“Thanks. This is one I first tried out out a few months ago… But I’m experimenting with a few new spices this time around. I’m still trying to figure out the right combination.”
“Well I wouldn’t change a thing.” Hope beamed at him. “Dad’s right… Perfection!”
Zayne smiled slightly as he finally took a bite of his own creation. And they were right — It was perfect, if he said so himself.
“So how much longer before you start charging us 20 euros a plate for this, Zayne?” Ralph laughed. “Not that we don’t appreciate the free meals, of course.”
“Any updates about the restaurant?” Carly asked kindly, nodding in agreement. “We’re so excited for you! How’s it coming along?”
Zayne felt the smile slowly vanish from his face. This was his aunt and grandparents all over again. Every time he visited, they asked the same sort of questions Hope was always nagging him with. And now her parents were starting on him too! Why couldn’t they leave it alone? Why couldn’t they let him take his time?
He hesitated before replying. Zayne knew that whatever answer he gave would not be what they wanted to hear. “It’s a lot of work.” He admitted at last, biting his lip. A slight warmth slowly found its way to his cheeks. “But I–”
“Y’know, Carly’s dad owned a restaurant for years.” Ralph interjected, smiling. “I’m sure he’d be happy to help if you give him a call!”
“Oh yeah, dad would love to help!” Carly agreed with her husband. “I know he understands how hard it can be to get things off the ground.”
The red in Zayne’s cheeks deepened. I don’t need help. He wanted to say. And I didn’t ask for any! Zayne opened his mouth uncertainly, his mind still struggling to form a response when Hope’s voice suddenly reached his ears.
“Zayne’s been working really hard.” She told her parents. “And he’s doing amazing… As you can probably tell.” Hope gestured toward their plates. “I don’t think I’ve ever had lamb this good in my entire life… Not even grandpa’s.”
Her mother laughed brightly. “Oh, now don’t tell him that!”
“We’ll call you tomorrow, honey.” Carly pulled her daughter into a quick hug. “Remind me again what time we’re supposed to be there?”
“I told Joce and Mark we’d head over around one.” Hope replied as she pulled away from her. “But they’re usually pretty flexible. Just let us know.”
“Thanks again for dinner, Zayne.” Ralph clapped the younger man on the back for a moment. “Be sure to let me know if that restaurant of yours does transatlantic deliveries someday.”
He forced a smile. “Will do.”
“See you tomorrow!”
Zayne’s calm mask vanished the moment the door closed.
Hope let out a heavy sigh at the sight. “What the Hell’s gotten into you?” She asked harshly, her own smile vanishing just as quickly as his had.
Her boyfriend just shrugged, feigning ignorance. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
It was clear her patience was wearing thin. “Oh, cut the crap, Zayne! You were in such a mood all during dinner… What gives?”
She isn’t gonna drop it, is she? Fine. “As if you don’t know.” He replied at last, scoffing at her.
“If I did, I wouldn’t be asking!”
Zayne could feel his anger slowly rising in his chest. “You made me look like an idiot in front of your parents.” He narrowed his eyes as he spoke. “That’s what gives!”
The girl’s eyes widened. “What the fuck?! Where is this coming from?!”
“Your parents started grilling me about the restaurant and you just had to butt in! Why couldn’t you leave it alone!” He cried. “I could have handled it! And you made it look like I couldn’t!”
“Are you for real right now?!” Hope shook her head as though in disbelief. “I could tell you were getting upset, so I tried to cover for you! I was trying to help!”
“Yeah, well I didn’t need it.” Zayne spat back at her. “Are you really that embarrassed of me?!”
“You are, aren’t you?”
“You’re being ridiculous, Zayne! And it sounds to me like you’re the one who’s embarrassed!”
“Are you fucking kidding me?!”
“Are you?! Listen to yourself!” Hope’s eyes narrowed. “I didn’t make you look like an idiot, Zayne. You’re doing a great job of that on your own right now. So don’t you dare take this out on me!” She turned and headed toward the door without another word.
“What the hell?! Where are you going!” Zayne cried.
“Out.” She hissed over her shoulder. “I need to calm down… And so do you.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down!” He called after her.
But she’d already slammed the door in his face.
Shoutout to ThePlumbob for making over Ralph and Carly (Hope’s parents) from her legacy for me!
And another special shoutout to LadyLobster for letting me reference her amazing simlit, Fangs for the Memories! It’s hysterical, but also so deep and moving as well… and her characters are fantastic! I second Hope and Zayne’s endorsement 😉