A morning of domestic bliss. Tula has done extensive reading on painting techniques and has watched many videos. It seems easier when she doesn't have to worry about shading so for now she divides her paintings into pentagons and paints by rows.
"That's a very clinical approach to art," Paolo comments as he waters the spotlight mushrooms.
"Not all of us can be grandma," she replies with a smile. She ponders her painting, "What do you think?"
Paolo chuckles, "You're asking the wrong guy here. I painted maybe once..." he trails off, remembering the one painting he did as a way to inspire Krista during her inventing struggles. It was so long ago, but the memory is painfully clear.
"Hmmph, no one in this house has a sense of aesthetics. Well, except for maybe Haliya, judging from her fingerpainting. Where is she?"
Haliya, under her mother's instructions, is cleaning up the front yard. She's not allowed to play sim gnubb before all the newspapers are in the trash.
Halfway through her chore, Haliya looks around the yard. It's hot, and the heat is making her memory a bit hazy. What was she doing again?
...Sim Gnubb! Of course! She runs happily to the backyard, the other newspapers forgotten.
Meanwhile, Sun and Tula are sampling Haliya's efforts in baking.
"She's getting good," Tula says approvingly.
Sun nods in agreement, "Reminds me of when I was her age. I spent so much time with my easy-bake oven..."
"Not too good for our teeth though..." Tula remarks. She's noticed the enormous quantity of sweets around the house.
"A little sugar never did anyone any harm," Sun says, fidgeting a little. Tula wonders if she's had this argument before, maybe with Paolo.
"Well, no, but there are limits. Aside from ballet, does Haliya exercise? Do you?"
Sun coughs, clearly taken aback, "I, uh, garden a lot. That's pretty labor intensive, you know..."
"You know, if you planted more produce, dad could make meals with fresh, healthy ingredients!" Tula suggests brightly, "I missed that when I lived in China..." living on a small budget meant eating from food carts on the street daily. While definitely tasty, Tula doubted the food's healthiness.
Sun gives a wan smile, "I'll suggest it to your father..."
She then turns to Tula, eager to change the subject, "It's the summer festival today. It should be fun- soccer, water balloons, rollerskating... want to come?"
"Maybe later tonight, Ephraim invited me to hang out at his place. He has a pool and I never really got the chance to swim in Shang Simla..."
Sun nods eagerly, "Of course. Just text us when you're done."
True to her word, Tula heads over to Ephraim's. She wasn't too surprised to get his text, inviting her to catch up. From his change in address, and now his children and wife no where in sight, she suspects that Ephraim's found himself kicked to the curb lately. He's probably lonely.
"Hey there, stranger," Tula greets, a sweet smile on her face. She resists the urge to smirk as Ephraim's eyes rake over her body. She was right about him being lonely.
"You like the bathing suit?" she remarks, a wry smile on her lips.
"It's uh...flattering... probably too flattering. You could get away with murder in that," Ephraim admits, lightly blushing.
She grins cheekily at Ephraim before changing the subject.
"How's work? Save any lives recently?"
Ephraim laughs, "Nothing more serious than a couple of broken bones here and there. Not much happens here," thinking of the last "big" incident he looked at, Tula's altercations with Guy, he tacks on, "Thankfully."
Tula's eyes dart away briefly, knowing exactly what he means, "Well, there's things to be said for small-town living. Sometimes in Shang Simla, I missed how quiet things were here," she lies, "It's so crowded and busy there."
"Really?" Ephraim has never left Simnation, or even Appaloosa Plains for more than a weekend trip to Bridgeport for his bachelor party, "But it must be nice to get out of here once in a while. Sometimes I think this town is just a bit too small," he grumbles.
Tula lays a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, "Sometimes it's like everyone knows everything about you here, doesn't it?"
He looks up at her, and flushes guiltily. He's just going through a messy divorce. What Tula went through, and then everyone knowing about it, must have been hell.
His housemate, Laura Lansing-Whiston, laughs several meters away from them, unaware of their conversation.
"Bad boy!" she scolds their dog, now swimming happily in the pool. Her laugh undermines any levity she could have had.
Ephraim rolls his eyes at the dog, "Scott, out!"
Scott glances at Ephraim briefly before reluctantly complying. Why do humans have to ruin all the fun?
Scott hovers by the pool, giving a long side glance to the humans. Seeing that they aren't getting out, he slinks away unhappily.
Tula and Ephraim bob in the water for a few silent seconds.
Tula decides to break the silence.
It's an effective method.
"Hey, I wasn't ready for that!" Ephraim's laugh robs his words of any annoyance or petulance.
"Well, you'll just have to find a way to make up for it then," Tula taunts.
Ephraim decides on an equally childish method of retribution; a holding-your-breath contest.
Tula knows her lung capacity is far below Ephraim's. There's no fair way she could win this.
Glancing down at their lightly interlaced legs, Tula moves her left foot lightly up and down Ephraim's calf.
In his efforts to kick Tula's legs away, Ephraim inhales a noseful of water.
Coughing and spluttering he surges to the top.
Tula emerges triumphantly.
"Cheater," Ephraim says with a smile. He splashes Tula for emphasis.
Her giggles belie no sense of wrongdoing.
As the sun sinks lower in the sky Tula's stomach begins to growl. Time to go home.
"I had a lot of fun. It was so nice to see you again!"
"Likewise. Who knew acting like a 5 year old could be so much fun?"
Tula wraps Ephraim into a very tight hug.
"I hope we can see each other again sometime. It's been so long!"
Ephraim blushes as he carefully disentangles himself from Tula's hug.
"I could even wear the same swimsuit," Tula teases, her smile coy.
"You could come without it," he says without thinking. As Tula laughs, his blush deepens, "I mean you'd look nice in whatever..."
"I should go before you dig yourself into a deeper hole," Tula says. She pats his shoulder, "I'll see you around. With or without the swimsuit."
As she walks away, Tula wonders how long Ephraim's cheeks will stay red.
Tula heads down to the park festival after some dinner and a change of clothes. She finds Haliya and Sun locked in an intense game of football.
"Haliya, you ready?" Sun calls out.
"Yeah! C'mon, just kick it already!" Haliya is impatient.
Sun kicks the ball and it sails into the top right corner of the goal.
"Well? Did you kick it?"
She realises where the ball is a little too late.
She falls to the ground with a loud thud.
"Mom, I'm fine..." Haliya insists.
With that, Sun finishes their game.
She's not sure that a water balloon fight is much safer, but at least Haliya can't get hit in the head with a hard soccer ball. Sun opts out of this game, eyeing the muddy ground and her sandals.
Seeing Tula knocked easily to the ground by a single water balloon, Sun can't say she regrets her decision.
"Haliya are you sure you don't want one of us on your team?" Paolo gives her a chance to reconsider their uneven distribution.
"I'm sure! You're just trying to make Tula feel better," she sticks out her tongue at her older sister.
Revenge is swift.
But counterattacks are equally quick.
They all make it home dirty, soaked, but smiling. They all settle down for dinner. Since Tula's already eaten she grabs a cookie.
"Haliya, are you sure you should be eating sweets? That's not much of a meal," Tula worries.
"But mommy said I could have one..."
Paolo looks at Sun questioningly.
"One cupcake won't kill her," she says defensively.
Paolo looks down uneasily at his own brownie. Is he setting a bad example?
"Eat your cupcake, sweetie. It's almost time for bed," Sun says quickly.
"I'm not tired," Haliya pouts.
"You need your sleep, sport. How else will you beat me and dad at water balloons next time?"
Haliya frowns then sighs. "Fiiine."
"And don't forget to brush your teeth," Tula patiently reminds her.
"Mommy never makes me brush my teeth," she protests. Paolo's eyes swivel to his wife.
"Ok off we go," Sun says, standing up and ushering her daughter away from the table.
This leaves Paolo and Tula eating in companionable silence.
"So Tula... after this summer, do you have any plans?"
Tula inwardly sighs. She was afraid of this happening. She thought maybe the distance would've cured Paolo's worries, but it seems that they're back.
"I don't know, still thinking."
As she stands up, her father blocks her path.
"Wait, Tula... while you were away I did a lot of thinking. And... if you want to go abroad again, I'll support you. I want you to be happy."
"I even talked to Xara, she could help you go to Champs Les Sims even, if that's something you'd like..."
Pleasantly surprised, Tula decides to tell her father about her real plans.
"Well... I got an offer from some friends in Bridgeport. But I didn't want to make any decisions yet. But basically they'd rent out their room to me for about half the price of a normal room while I work. I could do an internship somewhere. It probably wouldn't pay, but it could land me an actual full time job someday. I'd just need money for groceries..."
Paolo sweeps her into a hug. "We can work out the money later. I'll help you get to Bridgeport, Tula. I want to help you with your plan."
Tula returns the hug. "Oh thank you dad. I'm so glad you understand!"
The gears in her mind start whirring. She has a room and money for the time being. But where will she work?