Yulia Cox Andropova had led a fortunate life so far, but at least--unlike her twin brother, Yuri--she appreciated it.
Though their parents had started with nothing,
by the time the twins were born, Yelena Andropova and her husband, Kennedy Cox, had earned a million dollars and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.
The children grew up with a butler, Berjes Gothier, in attendance,
and Yulia enjoyed the complete devotion of her father.
The children were educated in private schools,
and Kennedy built his daughter a "princess tower" for her bedroom.
Yulia repaid her parents by being perfect--she was a model student, she worked hard in the family's art gallery,
and she was obedient to her parents and nice to her brother (who teased his twin a lot).
At University, Yulia concentrated on her studies,
and ignored boys until she met Derek Vijayakar, a fellow pre-med biology major one year her junior.
She told her parents that Derek was "the one."
The young couple had agreed to wait until their wedding night to be intimate.
This was made much easier, at least for the current summer, by the fact that Derek--who still had one more year at University to complete, was away in a summer program in Germany. Yulia talked to him several times a week,
but she was otherwise free to concentrate on her career, and her finances, without the distraction of a relationship.
She earned decent money as a young doctor, but had elected not to move out of her small 1-bedroom ground-floor apartment for the time being, or even to decorate it,
preferring to save money for the house that she and Derek would eventually buy.
Though she did spend some time with those of her friends who lived in the same apartment complex,
Yulia spent much of the summer focusing on her skills. Though she was well prepared for her next immediate promotion, she thought the summer would be a good opportunity to max out the 3 skills she would need to achieve her Lifetime Wish of becoming Chief of Staff:
So, she picked Knowledge as her secondary aspiration,
and cashed in some Aspiration Points for Thinking Caps.
She acquired the Biotech Station Career Reward and practiced on it until she earned her last Mechanical point,
then read from books till she had earned her last two Cleaning skill points,
and her last Logic point.
Once she had maxed out those skills, Yulia spent most of her off hours working at her beach venue which--since she had opened that business during her junior year at University--was already at Rank 7.
Yulia did her own cleaning at her venue,
greeted her friends when they stopped by (including college friend, Lily Thompson, who had taken a part-time job tending bar in Yulia's brother's new bowling alley venue),
and socialized with her clients,
using the Energizer when her energy got low.
Yulia soon got the venue to Rank 8,
and chose another Business Perk from the Motivation column:
Yulia was not sure how useful this particular perk, "Boundless Influence", would be to her (because she had been a "Master Manipulator"--at the maximum influence level--for quite a while). But choosing that perk did mean that, when her business reached the next level and she had the opportunity to pick another perk, she would finally be able to pick "Rally Forth!" and--so her mother had told her--to raise her admission price from $999 to $9,999.
'Then I'll have a million dollars in no time!' Yulia thought happily.
Ever since the family had gone on vacation to Twikkii Island, Yulia had wanted to live on the beach. One of the reasons she had bought her venue was so that--once she had it filled with paying customers--she could often spend at least a few minutes swimming in the ocean.
Yulia dreamed of a huge house right on the water, where she and Derek could live and raise their family. 'And beach houses don't come cheap!' she said to herself.
In order to get her venue to Level 9, however, Yulia needed 25 more Customer Loyalty Stars. The morning after the venue reached Level 8, Yulia had earned only one additional star.
She mentioned this to her father, Kennedy Cox, when he dropped by later that morning. "Why don't you stop by the house when you have a minute?" he suggested. "Your mother has a present for you that would probably help you a lot with this place." He winked. "Besides, your mother complains she never sees you anymore."
"But we speak on the phone nearly every day!" Yulia protested.
"It's not the same as seeing you, cupcake," her father admonished.
Years before, when Kennedy and his wife were still trying to make their first million, Yelena had hired people to make snapdragon bouquets for her Russian Baths venue.
Yelena had more snapdragons than she needed, so, when her daughter stopped by early that evening, Yelena gave her several plants.
"Thank you, Mother!" Yulia cried. "This is sooooo generous!! Are you sure you can spare them?"
"Sure thing, cookie," her mother assured her. "Russian Baths do so well that I can spare some snapdragons to help out my leetle girl."
"Especially," Yelena added as she embraced her daughter, "if that mean that my leetle girl will have so much money that she can afford to visit her poor mother more often...."
"I promise, Mother," Yulia said, sighing.
The snapdragons made a huge difference in the beach venue's profitability.
Yulia was able to keep both poker tables full with the same players all night--her customers' needs were kept satisfied by the bouquets, and this meant that Yulia didn't have to stay out front at the ticket machine, constantly selling, but could instead relax and socialize with her customers, and so gain more Customer Loyalty Stars.
The Loyalty Stars poured in, and so did the money--by dawn, Yulia had gained 16 more stars, and her Funds were up to $405,804.
By the time Yulia left the venue later that day, she was only 2 stars away from having a Level 9 ranked business,
and her Funds were up to $465,854.
Because of work demands, Yulia wasn't able to open her venue for the next several days. She felt rewarded, though, when she was promoted to Surgeon.
On her next day off, she went to have breakfast with her mother.
"I glad you doing so well, Yulia," Yelena praised her daughter while setting the table for the two of them.
"It's been a great summer, Mother!" Yulia reported happily, sitting down. "Both the job and the venue are going so well. And I think I'm going to be able to handle both of them pretty well this coming year."
"That good, baby," Yelena replied. She was an enthusiastic supporter of her daughter's job and business, and gave her much helpful advice.
"But I notice you no make time to visit Derek in Germany this summer," Yelena observed. "Is good that you doing well at hospital, and at business, but don't neglect you man--you and Derek could get married before he start senior year at University," she suggested.
Yulia was frankly surprised to hear such a thing from her mother, for whom business had often edged out family concerns. "Mother, I can't take time off from my new hospital job just yet!" she replied. "And Derek was very busy in summer school, and he will be even more busy during his senior year at University--you remember what my senior year was like, right?"
"And, anyway," Yulia continued, "Derek and I agreed that we would both concentrate on our work for the summer, and all next year, and save money for a house for when we get married next summer, after he graduates."
"Okay, if you sure, honey," Yelena said. "But I think you should at least find good manager to help you out with beach venue. Even if Derek busy in school, you need to make time for him--keep relationship alive."
"And you know you father want grandchildren," Yulia added. "And it no look like Yuri going to come through in that department--he no settling down at all," she said, sounding disapproving.
Yulia took her mother's advice to heart, so, one day in late summer, she took aside one of her favorite customers, Brittany Wendland, and asked her if she'd be willing to manage the beach venue beginning in the fall.
"Brittany, I'm going to be much busier at my hospital job this fall, and Derek will be back in the country, so I'll want to spend time with him. This venue's doing really well, and I'd hate to have it closed on all the days I can't be here, so I could really use someone to manage this place when I can't be here. Would you be interested in the job?"
"Are you sure, Yulia?" Brittany asked shocked. "I mean, I don't know if I'm qualified. I'm washing dishes at this point, for goodness' sake!"
"Brittany, you're personable, and mature, and a decent card player--but fortunately not so good that you'll beat all of our customers!" Yulia laughed. "I'm sure you'll do just fine." Brittany seemed very pleased.
A bit later, while playing cards with Brittany and a couple of customers, Yulia--who always monitored the ticket machine even when she was socializing--noticed a man outside whom she didn't recognize.
She excused herself from the game, and hurried to greet him.
"Hi!" she said cheerfully, shaking the new prospect's hand. "I'm Yulia, and this is my place. Do you like to play poker?"
"Yeah, I like poker," the man said. "I think your admission fee is a little high, though."
(It was Yulia's policy never to drop her prices. Also, having been raised by a very canny businesswoman, Yulia thought she could recognize an operator when she encountered one. It had often been her experience that someone who could afford the ticket price would still try to get it reduced--it was just part of the game.)
"Oh, it's not that high," Yulia replied. "If, after all, you're a good poker player, you could make it back pretty quickly.
The man ignored her logic. "So, I'm guessing that you play poker...and--" (the man looked her up and down) "--tell me, what other games do you play?"
Yulia ignored the come-on. "I play pool," she answered, leveling her gaze. "Unfortunately, there isn't room for a table here. Maybe in my next venue."
"Well, I'll catch you another time, then," the man responded,
Yulia rejoined her card game.
"Who was that skeevy-looking guy?" asked Libby Do, amused, as she shuffled the cards before dealing the next hand.
"Just someone not ready to 'commit'," Yulia responded wryly.
"What was his name?" asked Brittany, curious.
"Come to think of it," Yulia mused, "I don't think he gave one."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next time, when we catch up with George McCarthy and Tosha Go at Baby Tara's birthday!