Two years ago, after breaking up with her other boyfriend, she ran into Ferguson on the Venice boardwalk. "I guess I was a brazen little brat," she recalls with a laugh, "because I walked up to him and said 'I think you're really cute and I just wanted to say hi.' " Ferguson, who is 23, made some big changes in Erika's life. First, he introduced her to A.A., and she has not been drinking for more than two years. Then, he and Erika plotted to introduce his father to her mother. "Why don't you have your dad drop you off at my house one day?" suggested Erika. "Boom!" she says now. "That's all it took." The two have been an item ever since, and Iris, Erika's mother, now rents a house owned by Robert, Steve's father. "It can get a little claustrophobic," admits Erika. When her first fling at living with Steve didn't go smoothly, she decided to take a breather and move out. However, her room at her mother's had been Steve's room while he was growing up, and just sitting among his memorabilia was painful. Besides, his father was a constant presence around the house, so Erika found other, though equally illogical, living arrangements; she moved in with Steve's mother. Needless to say, that didn't help her forget Steve, and it provoked not a little sarcasm in her own mother: "Sure," she cracked, " go and stay with my boyfriend's ex-wife." Eventually, Steve and Erika ironed out their differences and Erika moved back in with him, but she recalls that period with wide-eyed amazement. "It was so weird," she says, showing a flair for understatement.
Now, they're one big Eighties type of extended family. If Erika and Steve get married first, which is likely, her father-in-law will be dating her mother. If Iris and Robert tie the knot first, Erika will end up marrying her stepbrother. "I'm getting used to it," she says. Despite the wheelchair and the soap-opera family arrangements, Erika and Steve lead a rather typical life. "More than any other boyfriend I've been with, Steve takes me places and does active things. He has a boat and races it, and he drives a van. We're just like any other couple, except that Steve doesn't stand up when we talk, he sits down. And I get the common question, 'Can he have sex?' Yeah, absolutely. Steve has taught me so much," she says. "I've never laughed so much in my life. From the time I get up in the morning to the time I go to sleep at night, I'm laughing." She is also very busy. Her manager keeps sending her on auditions (just in case Baywatch doesn't pan out), her fiancé keeps taking her on trips and she has scarcely enough time to hang out at her mother's, where she can do her laundry and visit with her 15-year-old sister and talk things over with Mom. "A.A. has really made me aware of my feelings. I don't want to hurt anymore and I don't want to be under anyone's thumb. I want to take charge of my own life and I want to be a good person. I've already started acting that way."
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