Oh, the joys of becoming a teenager. Bloom remembered the first time he found out he was able to bury himself underground to photosynthesize. But Cypress seemed to take the ability to a whole new level - by burying himself right under the concrete tiles outside the apartment building.
Afterwards, Cypress always did the laundry though. He had become a proper young gentleman and did not want little bits of dirt and concrete soiling his impeccable clothes.
Clover, now finally big enough to hold the guitar, grabbed it straight out of Bloom's room without even asking. Bloom didn't mind. He had a feeling she was going to rock.
Darwin had become a permanent fixture in the house. He fit right in with the family, his face always glued to the screen.
Well, when it wasn't glued to Clover at least. Citrus did his best to ignore the two.
It was more comfortable for everyone when Clover decided to play another tune on the guitar. She had a real knack for it!
Citrus was more interested in painting and photography than music. Bloom was so impressed with the great portraits that Citrus took of his siblings, that he hung them up beside the other family photos.
Citrus and Cypress got along really well and said that they were going to be "BFFs".
Clover and Darwin shared a great love for the outdoors and usually spent their afternoons at the park. Their dates were innocent though, from what Bloom gathered. Most of the time, Clover would whip out her guitar mid-sentence and just start playing, leaving Darwin to stand there and listen to her for hours.
When she played, she seemed to be in another world, not noticing anything going on around her. It usually took Darwin to gently tell her that it was getting late and that they both had to get home before curfew.
One evening, however, Clover did not go home. She wanted to know what the clubbing scene, which her hometown was famous for, was all about.
The Brightmore was apparently the place to be that evening, so that was where she went. As one would expect of a teenage girl, she was quite shocked to find her own father dancing there!
But very much unlike other teenage girls, she joined him for a while before they both headed home together.
"This is how you have to do it, Clover!"
"Um... sure dad."
Well, Bloom hoped that this at least stifled her curiosity for the clubbing scene a bit.
Being the head of one of the largest game developing studios now, Bloom was expected to attend gaming conventions, which he gladly did. The crowd was always very diverse and strange, but Bloom sincerely hoped that the angry-looking vampire with the baby was just a cosplayer and not... well, an angry-looking vampire with a baby.
Then again, even that would not have been the strangest thing he'd ever seen at a convention.
That particular day, however, Bloom was stopped in his tracks when he saw a particular group of attendees. It was Beryllium, Bismuth, Ginny and Tyree!
"For your birthday party, of course, silly!", Beryllium answered when Bloom asked why they were here. "First we'll visit your convention, and then it's off to your apartment with Broccoli and Sedrick!"
"Shh mom!", Tyree hissed. "It was supposed to be a surprise for uncle Bloom! Uncle Broc said so!"
"Oh." Beryllium said. "Uh, surprise, Bloom!"
And so Bloom's surprise birthday party took place that evening! Broccoli and Sedrick still looked sad about Aria's passing, so Bloom was especially grateful to them for coming.
There was a lot of food, music and dancing. Broccoli mainly stuck with the food, but who could blame him? Even a party animal feels a bit down sometimes, though he obviously did his best to be cheery for his big brother's birthday.
Everyone came dressed very nicely. Little Tyree even wore his best pink slippers - maybe a hand-me-down from his sister Ginny?
The party really had everything! Even a weird guy relaxing in the hot tub while everyone else was in formal wear.
"Just ignore that guy, kids. He might be dangerous."
But Clover was more interested in Citrus' recently completed painting.
"Hey Citrus, who's that supposed to be?"
"It's you, sis!", Citrus called across the dance floor, grinning. "If you were a regular Sim, that is."
"That's illogical...", Cypress muttered.
But Clover did seem intrigued, Bloom thought.
When it was time for Bloom to blow out his candles, everyone cheered and did their best to ignore the guy in the hot tub.
But even he got out and stared in shock like everyone else when Bloom aged up into an elder, with the leaves on his head turned white. Somehow that wasn't what they had expected.
After a quick trip to the bathroom and some fresh water, it turned out that he white had come from some sort of dust or pollen. Bloom's leaves looked a little more wilted, but they certainly weren't white. That would have been just too weird.
After putting away his slice of cake, uneaten, Bloom finally had a chance for a longer conversation with his daughter's boyfriend. His mother, Hannah Smyth-Gordon, who had recently married had been invited to the party as well.
"So you also took your mother's new husband's name?"
"Yes, I'm Darwin Smyth-Gordon now. Dan Gordon has been more of a father to me than Lil Bling ever was, so I was happy to."
Bloom could tell that Darwin was a sweet boy, much too nice to state the obvious. It had been more than fortunate for him that Hannah had never married Lil Bling. Darwin Smyth-Bling? No, the boy had really lucked out there.
Even before the last party guests left, Bloom slowly walked up the stairs to his room, exhausted. He could feel his elderly bones creaking with every step. And still... the other side of the bed remained cold and empty.
The next morning, just like every day, Bloom checked the mailbox, secretly hoping for a letter from her. But just like every day, it was all just fan mail and bills. Sighing, he turned to walk out the door and was surprised to see a familiar face.
It was Broccoli, wearing his swimming trunks for some reason, but looking much happier than he had last night.
"Bloom! We forgot to tell you something last night!", he called, excitedly. "We - that is, Beryl, Bis, their kids, me and Sedrick - we're all moving to Hidden Springs!"
"You're what? Broc, that's not something you just forget to tell someone!"
Broccoli looked a bit crestfallen at that, and Bloom immediately regretted his initial reaction.
"Sorry, Broc, you just caught me a little off-guard. I think that's really awesome!" He gave his brother a double thumbs-up. "I only heard great things about Hidden Springs. It's supposed to be a lovely resort town, and it's even closer to Bridgeport than Twinbrook is!"
"It sure is!", replied Broccoli, grinning again. "You all have to visit us once we're settled in!"
Citrus' collection of family photos kept growing steadily.
Clover spent most of her days out and about. Bloom actually preferred it when Darwin was with her - at least he would remind her to come home once it got dark.
If left to her own devices, Clover would stand outside and play forever, completely immersed in her music.
Cypress showed a great interest in cooking, but he got very frustrated by the fact that he couldn't taste anything he made. Bloom tried to comfort him, saying that he hadn't eaten food all his life and he was fine, but Cypress seemed unimpressed.
Bloom completed yet another painting of his three children. He hung it in his bedroom, above the bed that still remained cold on one half.
Being a single father with a demanding job, he always felt guilty about not spending enough time with his children, so he booked a trip to Shang Simla for the four of them!
Soon after arriving at the hotel, they were off to see the famous local marketplace.
The hotel's receptionist had said that they sold all sorts of rare and mysterious exotic items there, but Bloom took that information with a grain of salt. The kids immediately ran off to investigate the various shops, so Bloom figured he could at least find some gifts for them.
When he walked into a shop that looked like it stocked nice little trinkets and souvenirs, Bloom was startled when a woman suddenly approached him from behind.
"You are looking.", she said. "But you are not finding. It is because you are looking too hard."
"Uh, excuse me? I was just browsing, not looking for anything in particular, really."
"Oh, but you are.", she smiled. "Don't you know, green man? If you want to receive, you have to let go."
Was this some weird sales pitch? If so, it certainly wasn't working on Bloom. It was pretty creepy, actually, the way she stared at him. He was about to mutter an excuse and turn to leave when she grabbed his hand.
"Here.", she murmured, as she pressed a box into his hand. "Take this."
"No, no!", Bloom attempted to step backwards, but her grasp on his hand was firm. "I really don't want to buy--"
She looked deep into his eyes in a way that made Bloom's breath catch in his throat.
"Take it.", she ordered. "No money. It will not give you what you search, for that is already yours. But perhaps it will let you help others attain their desires."
"Hey dad, come check this out!"
Hearing Citrus' voice was like waking up from a strange dream. Bloom tucked the box into his pocket and hurried away from the strange woman to see what his son wanted.
Next, they visited Han's Orchard. Cypress, Citrus and Clover loved being outdoors, so this got them even more excited than the market had. Bloom spotted a couple of beautiful butterflies and was drawn to them.
He really wanted to take a closer look at their intricate patterns, so he tried to catch one. He clasped his hands together...
... but when he opened them, the butterfly escaped immediately.
Bloom stood there for a while, watching the butterflies from afar. As he observed their gentle movements, a sort of calm slowly took over him. He was content just to watch them flutter about. All thoughts of catching one of these delicate creatures were gone.
And before he knew it, one of the butterflies landed on Bloom's hand! It opened and closed his wings slowly, letting him observe it carefully, before taking off again.
They spent the rest of the afternoon in the Scholar's Garden. The children tried to catch fish from the pond and chatted happily while Bloom sat on a bench, watching them. He seemed to recall a similar scene from his own youth - yes, a long time ago it had been him and his siblings down there, with his parents looking on.
But back then it had been both his father and mother sitting on this bench. Now it was Bloom, all by himself. Oh, Matilda...
Looking down at his wedding ring, he remembered the beautiful spring day on which Matilda had put it on his finger. It had been a day much like this one... And now he was old and alone...
But no! Suddenly it hit Bloom. He was not alone. He had three beautiful children, which he had managed to raise all by himself.
Sure he would have loved for them to have a mother, but they had turned out wonderfully either way. It was time for Bloom to stop pitying himself, always remembering and regretting.
It was time to enjoy the here and now, instead of living in the past.