Audrey’s home was quaint, a pistachio green studio with an attached carport. A sweet wooden owl carving overlooked all visitors, friend or foe. I half-expected to hear the stoic creature hoot a welcoming. My friend and coworker had offered to pick me up and then remembered her car was in the shop for repairs. I didn’t mind walking in the rain. Her home was, at a brisk pace, a mere twenty minutes away, no farther than Sandy Place. The precipitation helped cool the already-too-hot evening for this late in Simtember. My flip flops splashed through puddles, slapping the water almost gleefully. Still, as I heard distant rumblings of thunder, I was grateful I arrived at Audrey’s home. I had heard enough horror stories of Sims’ umbrellas being fried by lightning during a storm.
Audrey answered promptly after my first knock. She was still wearing her uniform from Sandy Place. The inside of her home was cozy with warm shades of red-striped walls, scraggly orange carpet, bright-yellow window trims, and a muted brown dividing wall with Simpanese rice paper shades separating the rest of the room from her sleeping space. In the entry corner laid the mischievous black cat that had caused Audrey such grief a few weeks prior, curled up in sweet repose on a fluffy orange and leopard-print pillow.
“I see you kept the kitty,” I remarked, closing my umbrella.
“Oh Cypher, yep, he’s my little companion now,” Audrey remarked with a chuckle. “And that’s Cypher with a Y.”
“Alright! I’m all for unusual spellings, hence Kassiopeia with a K,” I smiled. “Thanks for letting me come over like this.”
“Yeah, no problem. I totally get the whole no-hot-water thing gets old after awhile,” Audrey replied. “I must’ve fixed the plumbing in this little shack a dozen times before it worked well.”
“Yeah, and our backup generator is out too,” I sighed. “So we’re definitely getting ice cold showers these days.”
“Not to worry. You want to shower now or eat first?” Audrey offered.
“You didn’t have to feed us,” I exclaimed.
“Nonsense, you’re my guests. I ordered enough Simasian food to feed an army so I hope you and your dad are hungry,” Audrey said, walking toward the kitchen. “He’s not with you?”
I shook my head. “Dad’s coming straight from work. He’ll be here soon.”
“Well, in the meantime, you want to help me set out the feast?” Audrey asked.
Ten minutes later, I was enjoying a plate of fried eggrolls with seasoned pork and a ginger soy dipping sauce with steaming white rice. Audrey filled her plate with gingered broccoli, fried rice with carrots, snap peas, and beans, and a side of sesame chicken. We were so hungry that we started eating without my dad. We sat at an outdoor picnic table, even though we were inside, and on folding chairs. Audrey apologized and I shook my head, reminding her we lived in a trailer. I was used to picnic table dinners.
“How was work today?” I asked, in between bites of rice.
“Excellent. I made almost seventy-nine Simos in tips,” Audrey remarked.
“Congratulations, that’s wonderful,” I replied. “I wish I made that much in tips.”
“You’re new to the Palms. You’ll get more tips with time. People have their favorites, but I’m sure they’ll learn soon that you are one hard worker, totally worth big tips,” Audrey said.
“Really?” my voice caught. “Thanks.”
“You are. How’s tutoring coming?”
“Actually the extra income is nice. Dad’s medical bills are outrageous, unfortunately, even with alternative therapies and appointments with Lina. But that’s why we’re stuck with a busted hot water heater, busted backup generator, and faulty electricity at times. We ate dinner in candlelight the other night.”
“Oh, the romanticism of poverty! I love candlelight dinners. Speaking of romance…”
Before she could finish her statement, Dad knocked on the sliding glass door. Audrey called for him to come in. A very wet father of mine emerged from the outside, his kitchen whites soaked to the brim. His beanie hat was also dripping water down his glasses.
“There are fresh towels in the bathroom and soap and plenty of hot water for the both of you and then some,” Audrey directed him to the only other room in the house.
After fifteen minutes, he emerged from the bathroom. Audrey fixed him his first plate of dinner – he opted for the stir fry. We decided it was time for round two and helped ourselves to seconds.
“How are you feeling, Dad?” I asked.
“I’m actually feeling much better now that I’ve showered. Thank you again, Audrey for letting us use up your water,” he said, tiredly.
I noticed the weary lines on his forehead. I didn’t say anything. I had learned that Dad didn’t like to be probed about his aches and pains. He preferred to tell me on his terms and in his own timing. Howard was stubborn like that, and much of his pain was internalized because of it. Still, I knew my father didn’t want me to worry so I kept my questions to a minimum.
“Absolutely. Seriously, anytime. I love the company,” Audrey offered, enthusiastically.
“You’re very kind,” Dad said, wiping his mouth. “This is delicious.”
“From Lee’s Simasian Bistro. I always order way too much food and then I eat leftovers for a week,” Audrey replied.
“All this food?” Dad’s eyes widened.
“Cypher helps,” Audrey said, her eyes sparkling.
The kitten yawned and stretched at the sound of its name.
“He really is a cutie,” Dad said.
“Dad, you old softie,” I gently punched my father in the shoulder.
“What can I say? I like the little critters,” he smiled.
When we finished eating, Audrey began clearing plates while Dad gave me a goodbye hug. I smiled. Dad’s hugs always reminded me of comfort food – warm and sweet and just what I needed. As I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, I realized he seemed shorter than usual. Lina Lancaster had said shrinking could be the result of the EXCES. I hoped my father wouldn’t see the concern in my eyes when he pulled back.
“Call me if you need anything… and I mean it, Dad, anything, even if it’s something like you forgot where you put your glasses,” I said sternly.
“Okay, Mom,” he joked.
“I’m serious, Dad,” I protested.
“And I am too. Now you two kids have fun,” he winked at me and waved to Audrey. “Thanks again for dinner.”
“Anytime, Mr. Fullbright,” Audrey replied, warmly. Once Howard was outside, she turned to me, “Your dad is cute.”
I wrinkled my nose. “I wouldn’t say cute. But it’s nice to have him in my life again.”
All those years. Just gone. I didn’t want to waste my evening feeling remorseful about the past, but I couldn’t ignore the twinge of guilt I felt. Who knew how much time my father had left?
I took an extra long shower and slipped into my Edgewater Saints jersey and shorts before returning to the living room. The hot water felt heavenly, just what my sore muscles needed. Dad and I had been attempting to fix up the trailer with little luck. Making necessary repairs was next to impossible with our shoestring budget. A sleepover with Audrey was just what I needed to get my mind off my problems. My friend and coworker showered next, and I curled up on the couch with Cypher, reading the latest fantasy book I had checked out of the library, The Dragon’s Age.
Forty-five minutes later, Audrey had returned, settling on the buttercream-and-chocolate striped couch. Cypher, irked at the interruption to his nap, hopped down to the floor, but remained close, fixated on Audrey’s fuzzy black cat slippers. While I flipped channels looking for a show to watch, Audrey set out ice cold kolas and snacks for the evening. I settled on an action flick starring the dreamy Vincent Moore.
“Look at the way his brow furrows,” Audrey giggled, and then covered her mouth. “It’s so sexy.”
“Yeah, he is nice to look at,” I admitted. “I don’t even mind the scruff.”
We both laughed. Cypher batted at his mistress’ foot.
“What are these again?” I leaned forward and pulled a fried dough treat from the coffee mug.
“Oh they’re Siminese cruller called youtiao. It’s basically like a breadstick,” Audrey explained.
The lightly salted bread dough crunched in my mouth. “Mmm, this is good,” I remarked. “I can’t believe I’m still hungry. Hand me a bowl.”
Audrey obliged. I plopped two potstickers into my bowl and poured a moderate amount of gingered soy sauce over my snack. I finished the snack with more Siminese crullers and a fortune cookie. Audrey tucked her legs as she unwrapped the crinkling paper.
“Long life is in store for you,” she read and rolled her eyes. “Well… okay then…”
“Do witches…” I paused as soon as I spoke, realizing I might be impolite.
“It’s okay,” Audrey assured. “No, we don’t have extended life like some of the other supernaturals. I’m cool with that. An extra long life would get tiresome I think.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I shrugged, reaching for my own fortune.
“What does yours say?” she asked.
“Hmm…” I frowned.
“No, really… what does it say?”
I set the paper down on the table and popped the cookie into my mouth. “Mmm, these are good. They must’ve used extra vanilla.”
“Kass!” Audrey made a face, and leaned forward excitedly as she snatched the fortune off the table. “Sometimes a stranger can bring great meaning to your life.” She quirked a brow. “Oolala… maybe it’s talking about a certain someone.”
“I don’t want to think about a certain someone,” I grumbled, crossing my arms.
“But Kass, for the past month you’ve talked about nothing but him, non-stop,” Audrey sighed. “Well that and your trailer repairs, but Billy is so much more interesting.”
“I’ve decided to move on,” I stuck my nose up in the air.
“Come on Kass, he’s not that bad, is he? Really?” Audrey exclaimed. “I mean, the guy is pretty dreamy, you have to admit. You said you had excellent chemistry. And he’s trying to win you back. It’s all so romantic.”
“Chemistry isn’t everything,” I dropped my arms in annoyance. “I can think of plenty of reasons not to be with him.”
“Okay, what are they?” Audrey dared me.
“I can think of…um…two…” I swallowed hard, but quickly sat up to affirm what I was saying. “… at least two reasons.”
“Two?” Audrey scoffed.
“We barely know each other,” I protested.
“And that can be remedied so you still need to come up with two.”
“And he bit me.”
“He was excited. Next?”
“I don’t call kicking me out and calling me a buzz kill excited.”
“Hey maybe he’s a vampire or something.”
“I doubt it.”
“Or a werewolf. Could explain the hair?”
“Seriously, Audrey, you’re supposed to be helping me out here.”
“I am. I think you should call him.”
“Because obviously you can’t get him out of your head.”
She had a point. I reread his note a thousand times. His face popped into my mind multiple times a day. I stared at the flowers he gave me, the red Simharan star clusters, standing in a prime position on my bunk bed boards. I dreamed about him nearly every night – his sensuous lips, the seductive curve of his mouth, the sparkle in his eyes, the feel of his body pressed against mine. I shook my head, refusing to believe Billy was the one for me.
“I shouldn’t even be dating right now. Dad needs me.”
“To live your life, Kass. You can’t be with him every second of the day. You’re here with me now, remember? And he works during the day. You are allowed to have a life.”
Yeah, but what life do I want? As fun as Audrey was, I didn’t know her all that much better than Billy. Unlike the latter, I did believe I could trust the former, but that didn’t change how confused I was. I was traveling the country with my ill father, scraping together my income from tending bar at Sandy Place and tutoring my boss’s son, blowing off my scholarship to Edgewater Global Business College much to the rest of my family’s dismay. I was trying to find myself, but in truth, I felt like maybe I lost myself more.
Audrey told me I deserved a life, but does dating constitute a life? Especially to a real charmer with bizarre mood swings. Reminds me a bit of Gage. Gage! I hadn’t talked to my ex best friend, nor thought of him really since that last day in the bedroom at my grandparents. I was pretty sure he had moved to Riverview. In fact, he was probably attending Northwestern University. At least one of us could follow through on plans, I thought dismally.
Why do I feel like I’m cheating? I set down the soda in my hand. It’s been only two months since Davis and I broke up, but I still feel like I’m cheating. I mean, here I talked to him all about being unsure about physical affection and kissing and handholding with Davis, and then I practically jumped into bed with Billy. What’s wrong with me?
Audrey had a point about that too. Billy is a gorgeous man. He’s funny and charming and affectionate and damn sexy. Those muscles of his… I exhaled sharply. I wanted to be with him. I had an urge to be with him, something I couldn’t explain. The guy was magnetized or something. But it’s all wrong.
“Argh!” I moaned.
“Are you okay, love?” Audrey asked.
“No!” I groaned. “It’s like these… these… crullers… the…” I picked one up. “…what did you call them? Youtiao?”
“Yes?” Audrey looked at me, bemused.
“Yeah, and the fried rice,” I picked up and slammed down the box. “And the fortune cookies…” I rattled the second box. “And the youtiao…” I stuck one between my teeth. “They’re all high in cholesterol… and cholesterol is bad… bad… bad… for you!” I waved my arms dramatically.
Audrey laughed. “What are you talking about, love?”
“But they’re so…” I bit down on the fried dough stick in my mouth. “…damn good.”
“Seriously, girl, draw a road map or something,” Audrey giggled.
“Billy…” I rolled my eyes and threw my hands in the air.
“You’re saying Billy is like bad cholesterol?” she quirked a brow.
“Yes! No! I don’t know!” I said, exasperated.
“He’s bad for you, but he’s good to you,” she deduced.
“Yes,” I slumped against the couch in frustration.
My outburst woke Cypher, and he meowed in annoyance on the carpet.
“Slow down girl,” Audrey chuckled softly. “It’s okay. You’re a bit confused right now. It’s normal. It’s hormones. You like Billy a lot, don’t you?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say a lot,” I muttered.
“Still, you find him attractive and from what I’ve heard, you two have some serious chemistry so there’s at least something physical there,” Audrey remarked.
“Thank you, Simlock Holmes!” I said.
“Kass, I’m serious. So you’ve got the physical down and now if you want a relationship with him, you’ve gotta work on the emotional,” Audrey explained.
“I wish it was that easy,” I sighed.
“Yes, it is. Why don’t you ask him out?” Audrey began, and seeing me open my mouth to protest, she continued, “For a cup of coffee. In a public place. With a table between you two. You do like coffee, right?”
“On an IV drip in the mornings,” I replied.
“See, you can meet him tomorrow morning. Text him or call him now and tell him you want to meet,” Audrey suggested.
“No buts… Kass. If you truly want this, you need to ask him.”
I sighed. Audrey was right. I gave her a hug, and she yawned and stretched and said she was tuning out. She turned off the television, and placed my cell phone in my hands, giving me an encouraging nudge. I stepped outside so I wouldn’t disturb her, and held my phone. I knew his number. I knew what I wanted… sort of… or at least what Audrey recommended. I knew it was late and I probably shouldn’t wait to call.
So what’s stopping me?
I chickened out and texted him instead. My stomach was in knots as I typed each word. My heart was pounding as I pushed send.
Hey Billy, I miss you.
Author Notes: Did you catch the game humor in there? 😉
I enjoyed writing this chapter. Kass needs more girl friends, and Audrey seemed like a lovely companion for her, plus I had to reintroduce Cypher. He did some really adorable things during this chapter. I’ll post extra pics on my Simblr here. Ira Lee is a townie in Lucky Palms and while he doesn’t have the natural cook trait, he only has 4 traits, so it’s my assumption that the fifth is natural cook. He is the owner of Lee’s Simasian Bistro in the Palms. Vincent Moore is also a Sim in The Sims Life Stories. In my Simworld, he is an actor since he looks most like the guy on the television when Audrey and Kass are watching a movie. Youtiao is actually a Chinese cruller, fried dough stick. In case you forgot, Siminese is a my SimWorld version of Chinese, Simpanese is my SimWorld version of Japanese, and Simasian is my SimWorld version of Asian. The title of the chapter is based on a word prompt I discovered on Pinterest. I hope you enjoyed.