“How are you feeling, Dad?” I inquired, sitting down on the edge of his bed the moment he roused.
Dad rubbed his eyes and stared up at me, looking bewildered.
“I fixed you some tea,” I told him. “And I’ve got some toast for you if you’re feeling hungry. I also got a chance to do some laundry for us so you have clean clothes, and I called into your work and mine to take the day off. And I picked up your prescriptions.”
“You didn’t have to do that,” he grunted, propping himself up on his elbows as he collected his bearings.
“I didn’t have anything else to do, Dad, and I wanted to be here for you when you woke up,” I assured him.
Truth be told, I was feeling incredibly guilty that I hadn’t been here last night. I checked in with Hilary, who said my father was sound asleep when she popped by to look in on him, and when I got home around three a.m. he was still sleeping. Still, I was off gallivanting with a man I barely knew, making out with him, and about to do God knows what, while my father was lying at home resting, freshly released from the hospital after his collapse on the night of his birthday. I wanted to massively make it up to my dad, even though he didn’t know why.
“Kass, thank you,” he lifted his legs and slid off the bed. Sighing heavily, he rose to his feet, and gave me an odd look, “Your lip? Is it okay?”
“Oh,” I rubbed my lip and laughed dryly. “Yeah… I…” I shrugged. “You know this dry Palms heat. I split my lip is all. I’m using lip balm.”
I quickly averted my eyes and stood up to get his tea, embarrassed that he noticed. The whole situation was humiliating. Did I… almost have sex last night? Feeling overwhelmed with dizziness, I grabbed the table to steady my weight.
“Hey,” Dad walked up behind me. “Did you sleep last night or were you up all night worrying?”
“I slept, Dad,” I said hastily.
As I poured his drink, I realized my hand was shaking. Something was rattling in my other hand… the tea cup. I closed my eyes, pulled my lower lip in self-consciously, and reopened my eyes. I could still smell Billy’s cologne – light citrus with hints of vanilla.
“Do you want an orange?” Dad asked, though his voice sounded faraway and tunneled.
I nearly dropped the tea kettle. A splash of boiling hot water plunked on my wrist.
“Careful, Kass,” Dad warned me. “Maybe you shouldn’t stay out so late with your friends.”
I set down the kettle and rubbed my hand. “Yeah,” I chuckled weakly. “You’re right. I should probably nap or something.”
“Did you have fun?” Dad inquired, taking the cup of tea.
“Hmm? What?” I blinked slowly, trying to collect my wits.
“Fun with your friends? Audrey seems like a nice girl,” Dad took a seat at the table and began peeling open an orange.
The scent was overpowering.
“Oh right… Audrey… yeah… we went… to the movies… double showing,” I lied, and rubbed the back of my neck before running a glass under the sink for a cup of water.
I sat down across from my father and gulped down the cool liquid as Dad told me a story about one of the orderlies in the hospital doing a tap dance show for the ward his second night. I tried to focus on his words, but my brain kept getting sucked back to the events of yesterday evening… actually early this morning. Billy and I had kissed, kissed, and kissed some more. Wow! He was hot! But then something went wrong after he bit my lip. I laughed into my glass as Dad said something about a tambourine. Why did he bite me? I narrowed my eyes. And why did it piss him off so much when I didn’t want him to?
“Are you sure you don’t want an orange, Kass?” Dad asked, handing me a freshly peeled slice.
I shivered and rubbed my arms. “I was a bit overzealous with the A/C… and no, Dad, I’m fine.”
“They’re good for blood sugar,” he remarked, eating a piece of the fruit.
“Yeah,” I stood up, and took a step backward. “I’m going to go read the paper outside. Warm up.”
Dad eventually dozed on the outside deck chair, dressed in his navy blue sweats, white tee, and sneakers. I tried to convince him to wear a hat or put sunscreen on his head, and he chuckled and said he wouldn’t die from sun exposure. I frowned, figuring he could be affected by heat exhaustion, but decided it was a losing battle to argue with him. I settled at the covered picnic table and began reading the paper. The words moved around on the page, and I leaned forward, resting my head on my arms.
What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? I thought despairingly. I pulled out my cell phone and thought about texting Billy. Maybe I could get him to come over. No, I looked over at my sleeping father, that’s a bad idea. I didn’t want to explain my new boyfriend to my dad. Wait… is he my boyfriend? I mean, we were seriously necking… necking? Oh Kass, who says necking anymore? What an old-fashioned girl you are? I clunked my head against my arms. Maybe I could call him and have him meet me somewhere, but what would I say? Hi, remember me, the girl you bit last night? I’d like another go-around. I snapped my neck up when I heard a vehicle approach. It was just a taxi cab. I sighed. Who am I kidding? No, I don’t want another go around. I don’t want another bite. I just want… I stood up and walked into the trailer, pouring myself another glass of water. I stood next to the sink, allowing the counter to hold my weight as I pondered. What do I want?
I had never felt this way about anyone. It’s called hormones, Kass, I could practically hear Ayesha’s voice ringing in my head. Hormones… right… I can do this. I gripped the edge of the sink. Do what, exactly? I didn’t know what to think or feel or do. Part of me was very turned off by the way things ended last night, and I was hurt that Billy dismissed me so suddenly, but part of me also craved his touch, his arms engulfing me, his hands caressing my skin, his lips kissing mine. At the thought of his kiss, I absently touched my lip. A small scab remained, and as my fingers brushed over the rough skin, I frowned. What’s wrong with you, Kass? I dumped the remainder of the water back into the sink.
“He bit you!” I yelped and threw my hands in the air, partially disgusted with myself.
My phone jingled in my shorts pocket.
“Hello?” I answered gruffly.
“Kass, it’s Audrey.”
“Hi Audrey,” I slumped against the counter. “I’m not coming in today.”
“Oh I know you’re not on shift, but I’m in hot water, and I need some help.”
“Audrey…” I glanced over the shoulder and out the window at my father, who was still zzz-ing away in the chair. “My dad needs me.”
“Oh, I know that… but I don’t know how to get down.”
“Get down?” I repeated, my brow furrowing.
“Please just come over to Sandy Place and help me,” Audrey sounded panicked, and then lowered her voice to a whisper. “I’m on the roof.”
As soon as I hung up with my coworker, my boss called too and said he needed me to work since Audrey was a nervous wreck and wouldn’t come down off the roof of the restaurant.
“So much for a day off,” I grumbled.
I dressed in my uniform, informed dad I’d be back in a few hours, kissed his cheek, hopped on my bike, and pedaled over to my place of business. Romon met me outside.
“I don’t understand,” he was saying as I approached. “One minute she’s fine and the next she’s got this angry look on her face and she said something like ‘oh no you don’t.’ That’s when she leaped over the bar in a single bound and raced out onto the terrace.”
“Wow,” was all I could think to say, shading my eyes as I looked up at the roof to see if I could spot Audrey.
“Yeah and when we came looking for her, she was…” he pointed. “…up there.”
“Okay, well, what do you need me to do?” I asked.
“Well, if you can’t coax her down in the next fifteen, can you work her shift?” Romon requested. “I’ve got loads of hungry customers.”
“Sure,” I shrugged. “I’ll give it a whirl.”
Walking around to the back service entrance, I looked for a ladder or something to explain how my coworker managed to climb up to the roof. I didn’t see anything. I called Audrey’s name softly, but didn’t get a response. I did hear the dippy little tune of an ice cream truck passing by. Perhaps the woman was embarrassed. There was chattering on the back terrace, customers mumbling about the strange occurrences at Sandy Place and the bizarre actions of the bartender. I heard my coworker, DJ walk out the patio door and announcing drinks on the house. That’ll get them to stop gossiping, I figured.
Wandering around to the other side of the building, I decided there was only one way I was getting on the roof. I hoisted myself up on dumpster and stood up. The roof was at head height. I was going to need to pull myself up the rest of the way.
“Here,” a hand reached over the side.
Audrey’s. She lifted me as if I weighed nothing and set me on the gravel roof. I leaned my back up against the short wall on the edge and heaved a heavy sigh.
“What are you doing up here?” I asked. “Are you okay? People down below think you’re nuts.”
Audrey looked distressed. She covered her face with her hands, and moaned as she began pacing. I had never seen her look this upset.
“I’m sorry about my nuts comment, okay?” I stood up and approached her slowly. “Just tell me you’re okay?”
“I’m fine… other than mortified,” Audrey admitted, rubbing the sides of her head. “I just can’t believe it manifested here.”
“What manifested here?” I asked.
“That,” Audrey pointed over to the other corner of the roof.
That was a tiny black kitten curled up, napping on the hot gravel roof. I made an “awwww” face and walked over, dropping at its side. When I began stroking its fur, the creature opened one eye and stared at me quizzically. After a few moments, the cat closed its eye and began purring. I lifted the tiny kitten into my lap and continued my petting.
“You came up here to rescue a kitten?” I inquired.
“Yes…” Audrey waved her arms dramatically. “No…” she bit her lower lip. “I don’t know…” she slumped next to me. “I think it’s safe to do that.”
“Why wouldn’t it be?” I wondered looking at the sweet sleeping angel. “He… she’s… it’s… cute. And it’s not acting like it has rabies or something.”
“But it’s possessed!” Audrey cried, dropping her arms between her legs.
“Possessed?” I repeated, and laughed. “What? How do you know?”
“Because I possessed it,” Audrey said coolly.
I gave her a weird look. “You look fully human and coherent and the cat…” I lifted the creature up to stare at its face. “…isn’t speaking human. Maybe you’re dehydrated.”
“I’m not dehydrated!” Audrey protested. “I’m a witch!”
“You’re what?” I gasped, laying the cat down at my side.
“A witch,” Audrey bemoaned and covered her face. “I’m a freak of nature… a super human… a supernatural. I didn’t meant to. I was playing around with my powers the other day and I accidentally… somehow… created… that…” she pointed to the cat. “…out of thin air.”
“Wait…” I tucked my legs underneath my body and turned toward my flustered coworker. “Are you telling me you manufactured a cat? A living, breathing, flesh-and-blood cat.”
“Yes,” Audrey bobbed her head up and down in despair. “I don’t know how… but I did it.”
“So you’re a…”
“A witch, huh?”
“Well, aren’t you going to hate me or something?”
“What…” I scratched my head trying to make sense of the situation, and then frowned. “…no… wait… why?”
“Because everyone hates…” Audrey lowered her voice. “…supernaturals.”
She said the name with such disdain as if she hated herself. I had never encountered a supernatural to my knowledge. Dad had EXCES, but that was rejected supernatural and alien genes. Many supernaturals were fully integrated into society and most people wouldn’t have even known except for a small sign or admission from the person. A few caused trouble on the outskirts of towns. There were rumors of underground cults. I had read something about supernaturals committing more crimes than normal Sims, but that seemed like propaganda to me. A supernatural “out” in the public created a mix of reactions from fear and mistrust to shock and awe. I know most people preferred to know if their next-door neighbor possessed superhuman abilities. In fact, they were required by law to register. Tagged as if they were animals. It wasn’t right. But that was the only way the government could control the public.
I had never been in this situation before. What is the proper response? I nursed my split lip. As I looked up into the eyes of my coworker, I realized she was frightened. She was scared of me, and possibly what I would do in response. She was the one with the super abilities and yet she was trembling. She was probably afraid I’d report her as I doubted she was legal. Yet she had called me and asked for my help. My face relaxed into a soft smile, and I reached for her hand.
“Audrey… it’s going to be okay… I won’t tell anyone.”
“Really?” she looked so relieved and tears spilled down her cheeks. “Thank you, Kass. Thank you,” she collapsed into my shoulder and continued to cry. “I was so terrified when I saw the cat appear suddenly downstairs and then when I chased it, I remember feeling hot, like the anger was just surging through my body, anger that I couldn’t control my powers and then suddenly we were both transported up here. I don’t know how I did it, Kass… I just did. I poofed up here like I could fly or something.”
“No magic broom,” I gave a half-hearted laugh, and seeing her confused look, I added, “Sorry. Bad joke.”
“Yeah… well…” she sniffled and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “I thought Mr. Tanner might fire me if he saw me, but I don’t think anyone did.”
“Well, you can just say you were trying to rescue the cat,” I remarked. “And then you’re…” I thought for a moment. “…afraid of heights.”
“Yes, that’s good, I can do that,” Audrey nodded.
“Now let’s get down from here,” I smiled and helped her up and then tucked the cat under my arm, who seemed content to let me carry it. “We can go the way I came. I’ll go first if that’ll make you feel better.”
“Yes, thank you,” Audrey wiped away the remnants of tears from her face and followed me down onto the dumpster.
When we were on solid sandy ground once more, Audrey took the cat and whispered something in its ear and released the creature.
“What did you say?” I asked, curious.
“I told the kitten to go home,” Audrey said.
“I’ll work your shift for you if you want to go home and freshen up. I can explain to Romon,” I offered.
“No, thank you,” Audrey shook her head. “I should go face the music. I’ll tell him…” she trailed off. “…what we discussed.”
She reached over and squeezed my hand, gratitude filling her eyes. I squeezed back.