Hope stared down at the food on the plate in front of her, absentmindedly pushing around a few of the small tortellini with her fork. It was the exact same recipe she’d once helped Zayne perfect years ago. Somehow, that already felt like another lifetime.
“Hope?” A gentle voice called from across from her. “Are you okay?”
She forced a smile. “Yeah… Just tired, I guess. I had a shoot that ran pretty late last night.” It was also only the third job she’d managed to book since moving back to Windenburg… But Hope didn’t mention that part.
Parker laughed as he took another sip of his drink. “Y’know, I still can’t believe I didn’t realize you were a model… I’m not sure if I would’ve had the courage to ask you out if I did.” He confessed.
“Pfft!” Hope couldn’t help but laugh. “Are you kidding?”
He shook his head. “I’m serious! Luckily I didn’t find out until it was too late…” He gave her a playful smile as he spoke.
Hope returned the gesture, but said nothing. Parker was the total package — sweet, funny, incredibly hot… They’d known each other for a few weeks now, ever since he first struck up a conversation with her by one of the weight machines down at the gym. He was a really great guy… So why was it so hard for her to enjoy their date?
Hope took another bite of lobster tortellini, fighting to keep her smile. She knew exactly why, of course. But the truth was almost too embarrassing to even think about.
The whole reason she’d started going to Parker’s gym in the first place was because it was just down the street from Zayne’s apartment. It was the same gym she’d always gone to when she and Zayne had lived together.
It was nearly fifteen minutes further away than the gym by her new apartment, but that didn’t bother her. It was safe and familiar, which was exactly what Hope needed right now…. And it also gave her ample opportunity to run into Zayne.
Sure enough, nearly every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Zayne would still show up, even now. At first, it was a great chance for them to reconnect with one another. And now, well… It was the only time she got to see him anymore. Thanks to her.
Hope stabbed one of her chunks of lobster meat with much more force than necessary. Thankfully, Parker did not seem to notice.
“God, this food is amazing!” He continued, his voice calling Hope back to the present. “I’m really glad you suggested this place.”
She tried her best to suppress the twinge of guilt she suddenly felt at his words. “Yeah… it’s awesome, isn’t it?” Hope forced a smile as she spoke.
“Hey, look!” Parker gestured toward a tall figure who had just stepped out onto the patio and had begun talking to some of the other diners. “You know that guy, don’t you? I’ve seen him down at the gym before…” He paused for a moment, and seemed to be taking note of the man’s clothing and demeanor. “Is he the manager or something?”
Hope felt her stomach twisting and turning. Shit. She knew Zayne circulated among the guests several times a night to introduce himself. This had been exactly what she’d been counting on, but now that it was happening, she wanted nothing more than to turn back time and make sure none of this ever happened. God… What the hell am I doing?!
Before she even had a chance to answer Parker’s question, Zayne had made his way over to their table. “Welcome to LuzLicht! I’m the owner, Zayne — Hope?!” His eyes went wide as he realized who he was speaking to.
She wished she could sink into her chair until she disappeared. “Hi, Zayne.”
“Hey.” His professional demeanor quickly melted away. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
She laughed weakly. “Yeah… surprise!”
“Hope told me this was the best restaurant in Windenburg… But she never mentioned she’s friends with the owner!” Parker smiled.
Zayne looked at Hope’s date as though noticing him for the first time — and for all Hope knew, maybe he was. For just the briefest moment, she saw an expression she knew all too well flicker across Zayne’s face. His jaw clenched, his eyes narrowed…
Then just like that, it was gone.
Despite everything, Hope couldn’t suppress the satisfaction she felt at the sight. And she regretted it almost instantly.
“Oh yeah, um… Parker, this is Zayne. Zayne, Parker.” She nodded across the table toward her date.
“Yeah, I think I’ve seen you down at the gym before.” Zayne smiled kindly down at the other man. “I hope you’re enjoying everything?” That professional demeanor from before had suddenly returned, it seemed.
“Definitely! This is really amazing.” Parker replied, gesturing down toward his half-empty plate.
Zayne turned his gaze back toward Hope, but said nothing. She found his expression very difficult to read.
“Delicious, as always.” She said softly.
“Great…” He smiled. “Well, I guess I’ll let you get back to your date. It was nice to meet you, Parker.” Zayne gave him a small nod.
Hope watched as Zayne headed back inside.
Parker instantly dived back into their small-talk as though nothing had happened, and Hope tried her best to do the same. But even as she smiled and nodded and laughed at Parker’s stories, her mind was so far away.
Well, there you go. She told herself bitterly as she replayed the exchange with Zayne for what felt like the hundredth time. You got exactly what you wanted. How does it feel?
When Zayne had first met with her to explain Abigail’s wishes, Hope hadn’t put up much of a fight. She’d wanted to, of course. In fact, she’d had a few choice words for Zayne about his new girlfriend that she’d been dying to share… But she didn’t. She was calm and reasonable and mature about the whole thing…
On the surface, at least.
What was going on inside her was a different story.
Hope just couldn’t believe how petty and childish she’d been. It was already pathetic enough that she’d resorted to practically stalking Zayne at the gym. But parading her date around in front of him? Trying to make him jealous?
Jesus, am I thirty or thirteen?!
“Do you mind if we ask for the bill?” She asked Parker softly, interrupting a story about his latest case. “I’m… I’m not feeling too great.”
In fact, she felt sick… with herself.
The caring and concern with which he replied simply made her feel worse. It was a huge mistake to bring Parker here… And so was agreeing to a date with him in the first place.
I’ll have him drop me off at home, and let him down easy. Hope told herself. Parker was a great guy, but he deserved someone who was actually looking for a relationship with him. Not some petty idiot trying to make her ex jealous.
Jealous… Ugh! Hope had quickly come to hate that word. It was exactly how she’d been feeling from the moment she met Abigail. And it had only gotten worse since. The green-eyed monster seemed to rear its ugly head at any opportunity lately. And it was making her miserable.
As she followed Parker down the sidewalk toward where he’d left his car, Hope couldn’t help but think back on Zayne’s jealousy all those years ago. He’d become more bitter and angry than she’d ever seen him before. It had torn their relationship apart. It had changed him completely…
And now, it seemed the shoe was on the other foot.
Having fun with cameos lately, apparently… Thank you to OrangePlumbob for letting me use her sim, Parker, as Hope’s date 🙂 (He is a TS4 version of a character from her TS3 simlit, Different Rain)