Friday, September 28, 2012
[Prologue] Chapter 2: Love Struck Idiot
Ever since Luca became a real, bona fide doctor, women have been all over him like bees on a honeypot, and in fact not a single male resident shows up for today’s vaccination clinic.
Elizabeth Davenport, daughter of the fabulously wealthy Harold Davenport, is single and interested. Her father owns the hospital where Luca works, and although she’s seen him around town before she’s never paid him much attention. Until he became Dr. McKinley, that is.
But Luca is far too busy for a relationship right now. Or at least that’s what he tells himself anyway when he turns down Elizabeth’s offer to attend a charity benefit with her tomorrow night.
Instead, he spends his Friday evening laying around the house in his underwear catching up on the latest medical journals. One article in particular grabs his attention.
Last month, two children died of a mysterious illness in the rural swamp lands on the outskirts of Jericho. Their deaths made headlines all over the country as the first confirmed cases in Sim Nation of a rare and so far incurable new disease known in the medical community as Necrotizing Leukopyrosis, or the White Fever. While information about the illness is scarce, its symptoms appear to resemble early descriptions of the Great Plague, a devastating pandemic that swept through this area during the Dark Days, wiping out two-thirds of the Sim population and leaving chaos and fear in its wake.
However, the pandemic ended almost as soon as it began, not even a decade after the first case appeared. Modern historians theorize that the king’s healers must have discovered a cure, but scientists argue that the survivors had a natural immunity to the virus. In all honesty, no one knows why the plague vanished so suddenly, but at the time most people believed magic was at work. For centuries after the outbreak, the Sim population became highly superstitious, bordering on fanatical, and anyone suspected of practicing witchcraft or sorcery was mercilessly executed. Yet, as the old monarchies gave way to modern democracies and the world transitioned into the industrial age, people gradually forgot their fears, and the focus shifted to science and logic. But vestiges of the old superstitions remain, and to this day people still panic at even the slightest mention of the plague.
With medical technology on the cutting edge, people rarely die of anything other than old age or electrocution these days, but every so often an obscure new virus emerges, inevitably killing some of its victims before a cure can be discovered. In every such instance, the media publishes radical reports comparing the illness to the Great Plague, often setting off bouts of mass hysteria. Such is the case with these latest deaths, and in an attempt to prevent any undue worry the government has decided to fund a small research study into this new disease. And since both cases occurred near Jericho, the hospital that Luca works at was awarded the task.
Although he just earned his medical license a few months ago, Luca dreams of being assigned to the research team. The mystery of the Great Plague fascinates him, and if he were able to discover a cure for the White Fever (and definitively prove it's not a return of the plague) he’d earn the respect of doctors all over Sim Nation. And so, he reads and reads and reads some more, until he can’t think from exhaustion.
Saturday afternoon, Luca takes a break from his studies in order to take Emily to the horse ranch. A few months ago, she saw a little girl riding her pony at the park, and she hasn’t been able to talk about anything else since.
Luca watches uneasily as Emily steps right up to the stall and begins stroking the horse’s muzzle.
“Be careful,” he warns her, eying the large animal warily.
Emily giggles. “Are you frightened, Mr. K?” she asks.
Luca glances up at the horse and shudders. In all honesty, the idea of trusting a half ton animal with his life scares him shitless, but he’d rather die than admit that to Emily.
“No,” he replies curtly. “I just don’t think you should get that close until April arrives.”
Emily grins at him deviously and continues petting the horse.
When Luca mentioned the outing to Gibson, his best friend demanded to be brought along. Gibson shows absolutely no fear of the giant, temperamental animal that April, their friend and resident horse expert, gave him to ride.
…Even after falling hard on his butt.
Seeing Gibson’s struggles, Luc decides to sit this little excursion out. He’s fine keeping both feet on the ground, thank you very much.
They take a nice, easy stroll around the ranch, with Luca leading Emily’s horse and April leading Gibson’s horse (or steed, as Gibby likes to say).
“Faster!” Emily hollers impatiently.
“Absolutely not,” Luca retorts, purposely avoiding eye contact. Emily has long since mastered the art of the pout, and she knows just how to get what she wants from him.
“You can let her take the reins,” April tells him in a whisper. “That horse is steadier than a rock.”
“Yes, well, Emily’s never been on a horse before. She could fall and hurt herself.”
“Good thing you’re a doctor then, right?” she replies with a wink.
Luca just glares at her in response.
Anxious to get home and continue his reading, Luca is hurriedly ushering Emily back to the car when his eyes land on a gold-headed figure in the distance. As though pulled by a magnet, he stops dead in his tracks, staring at her, utterly and completely mesmerized.
“Whatcha lookin’ at Mr. K?” Emily asks, trying to follow his gaze.
“April?” Luca calls out to his friend. “April, who is that?”
His voice sounds distant and strange, Emily thinks, and she wonders what is going on. She scratches her head, pondering the situation, when it hits her. That’s how boys act whenever they see a pretty girl, or at least that’s what happens in the movies whenever the prince sees the princess for the first time.
“Earth to Mr. K!” Emily exclaims loudly, bringing him back to reality. “Come in, Mr. K. Do you copy?”
“Yeah, squirt?” he asks as he reluctantly turns toward her.
“Why don’t you just ask her out and save us all the heartache?” she demands crossly.
Luca flushes ever so slightly. “What do you mean, Em? Ask who out?”
Emily rolls her eyes. “You don’t fool me for half a millisecond,” she declares. “If you looked any more lovesick, I’d have to call a doctor.”
Luc glances over his shoulder. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he lies.
“Fine,” Emily glares at him. “I’ll do it for you.”
And so she does, defiantly marching up to the mystery woman before Luca can stop her.
“Are you really going to let a ten year old play cupid for you?” Gibson smirks. “Not even I am that brave.”
Luca frowns. His friend makes a fair point.
Feeling like a fool, Luca awkwardly wanders over and introduces himself.
“I’m Luca,” he tries to say, but the words stick to the roof of his mouth like peanut butter.
The woman smiles at him sympathetically, and Luca wonders how often she gets harassed by love struck idiots such as himself.
“I’m Maeve,” she tells him, shaking his hand in greeting.
The touch of her skin against the palm of his hand leaves Luca feeling breathless and lightheaded, and he finds himself holding on for longer than strictly necessary. He stares at her dazedly, as though bewitched by her presence, but his gaze never once leaves her face.
“Your eyes,” he says suddenly. “They’re- They’re purple.”
Maeve glances away uneasily. “So I’ve realized,” she answers, not hiding the discomfort in her voice.
Realizing his mistake, Luca backtracks. “No, I just- They’re beautiful,” he whispers.
Maeve blushes, smiling in spite of herself.
“So!” Emily chimes in, not wanting to be ignored. “What do you think, Ms. Maeve? Would you go out with him?”
“Emily!” Luca exclaims. Turning toward Maeve, he adds, “I’m so sorry. She and I are going to have a long discussion about manners tonight, and I-”
“Manners are overrated,” Maeve grins. “I think your daughter is adorable.”
Emily scowls at her. “He’s not my dad,” she tells her stubbornly. “And I am NOT adorable.”
“I see,” Maeve replies, adopting a serious tone. “Well, I won’t make that mistake again. Forgive me?”
Emily giggles. She’s not used to being spoken to like an adult. “Okay, but only on one condition.”
“Yes?” she asks, quirking an eyebrow.
“That you go out with him.”
Maeve pauses and surveys Luca carefully, her eyes twinkling mischievously the whole time. “Well, I suppose I could make the sacrifice…”
“Oh, no!” Emily exclaims, horrified. “He’s actually super nice most of the time. I think you just make him nervous.”
“Well, maybe you can talk some sense into him before our date,” she laughs.
Luca looks taken aback. “D-date?” he croaks. “With you?”
“Only if you want to,” Maeve answers, her voice suddenly soft and shy.
“He can meet you tomorrow night,” Emily butts in. “Can’t you, Mr. K?”
“Uh, yes, but-”
“That sounds wonderful. How about the Bistro Verdis? At 5:30?”
“I’d love to,” Luca smiles weakly, not believing his luck.
Sunday evening, he arrives at the bistro a few minutes early, but Maeve is already there waiting for him.
“I brought you some flowers,” he tells her bashfully, presenting her with a large bouquet of white roses.
“Oh, Luca, they’re beautiful,” she cries.
“You like them?” he asks hopefully.
“They remind me of my home out east,” she smiles, burying her face in their sweet scent. “My mother and I had a huge garden, full of roses and daisies and lavender and all sorts of other flowers. When I was a child, I would spend hours playing out there.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Luca sighs. “I grew up in a desert, where the only flowering things were cactus and not to be touched.”
Maeve giggles. “I couldn’t live without some greenery,” she replies.
At the restaurant, they decide to eat outside on the patio in order to enjoy the fresh night air. They spend the entire meal talking about everything and nothing at all, and for the first time in a long time Luca feels himself begin to relax. He tells her about his childhood, his family, his friends, his job, and Maeve listens in rapt silence, eagerly absorbing every word he says as though starved for companionship. As the minutes turn to hours, time becomes irrelevant, and Luca’s world seems to fade around him. He sees only Maeve, hears only the sound of her voice, the lilt of her laugh.
When the restaurant closes, they head to a nearby park, not wanting to say goodnight just yet. They walk together in silence for a while, stopping on an old wooden bridge to watch a pair of turtles wade in the stream below.
“You’re quiet,” Luca observes, admiring the gleam of her golden hair as it shimmers in the pale moonlight. “What are you thinking about?”
Maeve sighs. “This has been wonderful, Luca,” she mumbles absently, trying to work up her courage. Too wonderful, she thinks with a pang of regret. She takes a deep, steadying breath, willing herself to tell him, but the words just don’t seem to come.
Luca smiles, oblivious to her turmoil. “I’m glad to hear you say that,” he tells her as he walks over to stand beside her. “I- I know I shouldn’t be so forward with you, Maeve. We’ve only just met after all, but I… I can’t help it. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before, and it frightens me. I think I’m falling for you.”
“Luca, I don’t want-”
But before she can finish her thought, Luca leans in and kisses her, so softly, so sweetly, that Maeve feels herself sink into his arms.
He pulls away abruptly and begins to apologize, feeling flustered, but Maeve silences him with another kiss.
“I’ve- I’ve never done this before,” she whispers, her cheeks flushed pink.
“Done what?” Luca asks, brushing a strand of hair out of her face.
She blushes even more. “Kissed,” she admits shyly.
Luca doesn’t even seem to register her words. “Do you want to come back to my place?” he stammers, not really sure how to broach the subject.
If Maeve was pink before, she turns even redder at his suggestion. “I really should be getting home,” she sighs, wishing she could stay with him forever.
Luca nods and offers to catch a cab for her, but she insists on taking the subway.
“Let me at least walk you to the station,” he pleads. Reluctantly, Maeve agrees.
When they reach a fork in the path, Maeve kisses him goodnight one last time, and they part ways. Luca halfheartedly wonders why she left so suddenly, but he doesn’t dwell on it much. His mind is elsewhere, reveling in the sheer perfection of the evening.
A few weeks pass by, and Luca doesn’t hear a word from Maeve.
“And you’re sure she was into you?” Gibson asks.
“Yes,” Luca declares without hesitation. “I felt it. We connected.”
Gibson shakes his head in disbelief. “Then why didn’t you get her number?!” he demands.
“She said she’d call. I believed her. What if something happened to her? What if she died?”
“You’d probably have heard about it, dude, seeing as you are Jericho’s go-to trauma surgeon these days.” Gibson doesn’t hide the pride in his voice. He’s always been rooting for Luca, ever since they were kids, and he’s happy for his friend’s success.
Luca sighs. “Perhaps, but I just don’t know.”
“Aprils says that Maeve keeps her horse at the ranch. Why don’t you just drop by one day and check on her? Make sure she’s alright?”
“Isn’t that a bit… creepy?”
“It’s only stalking if she doesn’t want you to be there,” he replies.
Creepy or not, Luca needs to see her. He craves her presence like a drug, and he feels sick not knowing if she’s okay.
So the following weekend, he heads to the stables, halfway hoping she won’t be there. What if he was wrong? What if she doesn’t want anything to do with him?
Naturally, he finds her right away.
“Hi, Maeve.” His voice sounds pinched and anxious, and he realizes that he hasn’t felt this nervous in a long time.
Maeve jumps back, startled. “L-Luca,” she stammers. “What are you doing here?”
“I didn’t hear from you,” he tells her. “I wanted to make sure you were okay.”
She remains quiet, fidgeting with the brush in her hand.
Luca feels like he’s been punched in the stomach. She doesn’t want him there. She doesn’t want to see him again. “Well, looks like you’re fine,” he chokes out awkwardly. “I’ll just be going then.”
“No,” Maeve hollers instinctively. “Wait, Luca. I- It’s not like that. I just… I lost my phone. The one with your number. I’m sorry. I should have called.”
It’s a lie. Luca knows this. He can see it in her face, the way she won’t quite meet his eyes. But he doesn’t care. He wants to believe her so badly it hurts.
“Do you want to go for a ride?” she asks after a second. “I know this nice park we can go to.”
Luca’s face lights up. “I’d love to. But…”
He eyes her horse uneasily. “I don’t know how to ride.”
He won’t get on the back of a horse for just anybody, but for Maeve he doesn’t hesitate.
“And you’re sure this is safe?” he asks, clinging on for dear life.
“If you don’t suffocate me, then we should be fine,” she laughs. “Cosimo is gentle as a lamb. Aren’t you, boy?”
The horse snorts in agreement.
They end up spending the entire afternoon together, just lying around the park enjoying each other’s company. While Luca goes on and on about his life and his job and everything that’s happened to him while they’ve been apart, Maeve remains unusually quiet.
“Is everything alright?” Luca asks, finally noticing her silence.
She smiles and kisses him, with an almost desperate sort of passion. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
Luca frowns, but he doesn’t press the issue. She’ll open up to him when she’s ready, he decides.
“When can I see you again?” he wants to know.
“Next weekend? Meet me at the ranch?”
A week seems like such a long time to wait, but afraid of pushing her too far too fast he reluctantly agrees. Still, he can’t seem to shake the feeling that she’s hiding something from him.
So, yes, I realize it’s cliché. Love at first sight and blah, blah, blah. But, in my defense, I don’t think I’ve ever done it before (at least not to this extreme), and I do love how romantic it is! (Well, can be…) Anyway, I’m sorry if the sappy sentimentalism was too much. I can try to reign it in if you guys don’t like it.
Cosimo, Maeve’s horse, was created by PharaohHound and can be downloaded here on Mod The Sims.