“What gives, Kass?”
Audrey looked displeased as I raced behind the Sandy Place. The patio was usually dead around mid-morning with children off at school and businessmen and women returned to work. A quick glance through the window showed only an older gentleman sitting at the counter reading the newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. I had hoped to sneak into work with little fuss. Instead, Audrey looked unhappy, yet ready for a confrontation. I hastily apologized.
“Sorry, my dad and I had an argument…”
“Kass, it’s nine-forty-five. You were supposed to be here almost an hour ago,” Audrey exclaimed.
“I know… I know… I’m sorry… it won’t happen again,” I apologized.
“Really? That’s what you’re going to say?” Audrey quirked a brow. “Girl, you’ve been late every day this week. You didn’t even pick up your pay check. I had to drop it off at your house.”
“Yeah,” I sighed. The reason the whole argument started… well, no, it was Mamma… or was it Billy?
“Earth to Kass,” Audrey huffed and snapped her fingers before my face. “Girl, you’ve got to get yourself together. I can’t keep covering you. In fact…” she dropped her arms in annoyance at her sides. “I won’t keep covering for you… not if it has anything to do with… that… that… man…” she spat out.
“Gawd, Audrey, are you jealous!?” I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips. “About all the attention I’m getting?”
“How can you think that?” Audrey sighed. “I don’t care who you’re dating.”
“And I wasn’t late today because of Billy. I was late because of my dad,” I corrected her assumption, putting my hand on my hip.
“Kass, it doesn’t matter anymore. It doesn’t matter why you were late. You’re being irresponsible and everyone here knows it. In fact, I think Romon is about to fire you,” Audrey said.
“What?” I sobered instantly, feeling panic seize my heart.
“Yes, you aren’t doing your job,” Audrey explained.
“Well, why the hell didn’t you give me a heads up?” I snapped.
“Kass…” Audrey laid her hands on my shoulders, speaking the words slowly. “I am giving you a heads up.”
I frowned. “What kind of friend are you?”
Audrey huffed. “The kind that doesn’t keep stuff from you and the kind that calls things like I see it.”
“Oh yeah,” I snipped. “Well, I think you’re a witch…”
Audrey narrowed her eyes. “Kass, I am a witch. Maybe you need to spend less time with Billy and more time following through on your responsibilities.”
“Yeah well maybe Romon needs to know that you’re a witch,” I grunted.
Audrey gasped. “You wouldn’t!”
“I might…” I hated how I sounded, but it didn’t stop me from speaking my mind. “I am so fed-up with people telling me what to do about Billy. I’m a grown woman. I can make my own decisions and I don’t need you or my dad or anyone for that matter telling me how to live. So butt the hell out! I didn’t ask you to be my friend or my mentor or my mom.”
“Oh!” Audrey stomped her foot and made fists. “Seriously… I think you’re the one being witchy here.”
“So what?” I snapped.
Audrey huffed and turned away from me. A small surge of blueish white light escaped her body and tingled around my own like a moderate static shock. I frowned and rubbed my arm.
“Did you just use some kind of spell on me?” I asked in annoyance.
“It happens when I’m angry,” Audrey snipped. “And it serves you right.”
“What the hell is wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Gawd… Audrey… shocking people! That’s so not cool.”
“Well neither is expecting your friends to pick up your slack because you’re over Luna about a boy.”
“He’s not a boy.”
“Well, he’s not a man. If he was, he wouldn’t let you shirk your duties.”
“Ladies!” Romon’s voice interjected, floating from above us.
I glanced upward at our boss standing on the stairwell to his upstairs office. His face radiated displeasure. The absurdity of the situation hit me full force, arguing with a coworker in front of our place of business over a guy. A desert hawk screeched over the distant terrain, surprisingly unnerving me.
“Kass, I need to see you immediately,” he said seriously.
He disappeared back into his office. I turned my back to Audrey, wordlessly, and clanked up the metal stairs, each step punctuated with my vexation. How dare Audrey flip out and shock me! How dare my father try and lecture me about calling my mother! How dare the world…. what? What? I waved a fist at the sky feeling like an idiot. What’s wrong with you?
I knocked on my boss’ door, my heart pounding. I knew what was coming. At the very least a disciplinary report. Romon called out a greeting to me, his tone ambivalent. I sighed, stepping into the small wood-paneled office. Since we were directly above the kitchen, I could hear the chef downstairs, humming and singing bits of pieces of foreign songs between the mixing in metal bowls and opening and closing of the refrigerator. Mid-morning was when the menu changed from breakfast to brunch. I could practically smell the late summer berries for the Championne crepes through the wooden floorboards, and I could hear the maple bacon for the famous bacon and spinach quiches sizzling in large frying pans.
Romon didn’t say anything initially, leaving me to walk the few steps to an open chair before his desk in silence. I settled into my seat, the metal chair legs whining with my weight. I waited for my boss to say something, but instead he continued to scribble on a yellow notepad. I inhaled softly, feeling like even my breath was noisy. My eyes traveled over the wall, noting the floor safe, the canine calendar with a border collie, and out the window to the red dirt hills on the horizon across an expansive sea of sand. A hot air balloon, most likely for the tourists, floated in the distance. Suddenly, I wished I was floating up… up… up… and away.
“Kass, I am disappointed with your performance,” Romon finally said, tearing the sheet off the yellow lined legal pad, snapping my attention back to his face.
“I know college is the time to party and mess around and oversleep and get wasted,” he remarked. “Believe me, I remember those days.”
He was off-base, but I decided to go with his assumptions. I laid my hands to rest on my legs, and straightened, trying to appear more adultlike. I forced myself to make eye contact even though I was uncomfortable, and avoided staring off at the corner bookcase covered with books, baskets, and boxes.
“But there comes a time when we have to leave our childish fun behind, you know,” Romon said. “I don’t care what you do on your off time. You could be doing Mix or Peta or drinking nectar until three in the morning. You could go pole dancing or to strip clubs or really… whatever… but when you come to work, I expect you to be at work. I expect you to be on time. I expect you to serve with a smile. And I expect you not to cause a ruckus on the patio by arguing with your coworker.”
“Yes sir,” I dropped my gaze to my lap.
“I made some poor choices back in the early days so I get it. Really. I do,” he chuckled. “I think I lost a half-dozen jobs because I was tripping out with friends until dawn. I remember what it was like to be eighteen with the whole world at my fingertips. It’s hard to know what to do with all that freedom. I could tell you stories…”
I tried to avoid squirming.
“But I won’t since I’m your boss. You’re Howard’s kid so I gave you a break, but I can’t have you showing up late all the time or not showing up at all,” he said. “You seem like a smart kid so I’m not going to fire you. But I am laying you off until further notice.”
“Okay,” I said, the emotion evident in my tone.
“I’ll let you know when your final paycheck is ready for pickup,” he said. “Final… for now… I think if you take a little time to clear your head, you’ll get your priorities straight. The door’s always open for you.”
I sighed. I expected to be fired. I should feel relieved. Yet with every trudge down the steps, I felt more and more disheartened. I had behaved abominably. I would’ve fired me. I couldn’t believe I let a guy come between me and my work… my paying job with responsibilities.
For the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon, I wandered Lucky Palms. Without my job, I felt silly wearing my uniform but changing meant I’d have to go back to the trailer and that wasn’t happening. I couldn’t face my dad. Not yet.
I finally wandered to the library. Somehow I didn’t feel worthy of walking inside and looking at the books as if they were reserved for people who used their brains wisely instead of jerks like me who temporarily lost their minds. Instead, I wandered to the central courtyard and sank into a bench, allowing the wood panels to comfort my tired, aching body. I watched as a pigeon landed on the Mexsimican orange tiles, pecking between the cracks for a grain of nourishment. Rubbing my forehead, I sighed. I could go for a morsel myself. I hadn’t eaten since I left Billy’s this morning, and the caffeine buzz from the coffee I sipped with Dad had long since worn off. I tried to think happy, positive thoughts, but I couldn’t help but spiral into despair. Not even the cheery yellow stucco walls of the library could cheer me up. I had messed a lot of things up.
“Is this seat taken?” a voice interrupted my thoughts.
I glanced up to see a middle-aged, dark-haired man offering me a half-smile and gesturing toward the bench. I didn’t really want the company. I tried to think of something to say.
“Actually yes,” I heard Ethan, my pupil, as he strolled into the courtyard, backpack slung over his shoulder.
The man grunted an apology and wandered off to find another bench.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Ethan apologized, sitting down on the bench.
“Oh… was I supposed to tutor today?” I winced. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”
“No worries,” Ethan offered a polite smile.
“Look, you’re probably gonna hear this from your dad when you go home tonight, but I can’t tutor you anymore,” I said, trying to keep my tone even.
Ethan looked shocked. “What? Why?”
“Well, he fired me from the Sandy Place today… well, not fired, but laid off, so I’m gonna assume he doesn’t want me tutoring you anymore either.”
“What? No! You’ve been a great tutor!” Ethan protested. “I can’t believe Dad fired you.”
“I’ve been pretty irresponsible with my time,” I sighed.
“No, you’ve been fantastic. You’ve really helped me pull my grades up but I still have a long way to go. I couldn’t do it without you,” Ethan said quickly.
“Thanks, but I’ve missed a few of our sessions also.”
“Yeah, but things happen,” Ethan shrugged. “I’ll talk to my dad. I’ll make sure I don’t lose you as a tutor even if I have to pay you with my own allowance money.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Seriously, Kass, I can’t do this without you.”
“Yes, you can, Ethan, you’ve made tons of progress. You’re smarter than you think.”
“Still, you can’t lose two jobs in one day. Don’t worry, Kass. You’ll still be my tutor and friend.”
“Thanks,” I smiled as I stood up. “Do you mind if we skip today’s session though? I’m not really feeling up to it.”
“Yeah, are you hungry or anything? I was gonna go grab a burger at the Desert Diner if you wanna join me,” Ethan offered.
I really wanted to be left alone, but Ethan’s gesture was sweet. As if on cue, my stomach rumbled.
“See, it’s perfect timing,” Ethan grinned. “We can go and grab a burger, my treat, and forget all about lost jobs and books and studying and stuff.”
“Okay…” I agreed, hesitantly.
“Actually, Kass, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Ethan said, seriously.
“Oh?” I cocked my head to the side.
“It’s my birthday tomorrow, and I’m having a party at the house. I would love for you to come,” he said, enthusiastically.
“Oh…” I was surprised by the offer. “I don’t know.”
“My parents won’t be there if that’s what you’re worried about… running into Dad. They’re going to the hospital for a bunch of tests since Mom’s in her third trimester. Then they’re driving to Arcadia to see my grandma. They’re taking my sister too,” Ethan explained.
“I don’t know, Ethan, but thanks for the invite,” I said, trying to sound positive.
“You can even bring that guy you’re seeing,” he looked down at the ground, twisting his shoe in the tiles. “If that’ll make you feel more comfortable…”
“Oh, well, uh… thanks, Ethan. I’ll think about it,” I replied.
“Great!” he grinned. “Alright, let’s go get a burger!”
Author Note: This chapter got really long so I’m breaking it up into 3 segments. Audrey and Kass legitimately argued in game so I wrote that in. For the record, Mix is another name for Mixzomyatrobride, a drug in the Sims world. I’ve mentioned it before in other Sims stories of mine. Read more here. Peta is short for Nepeta, another drug in my Simworld, and is typically a veterinary prescription used to treat pain in animals. This “drug” is mentioned in this article on Sims Wikia. I thought about having Kass get fired, but instead in game, she was demoted so I went with a variation of that. I once had a boss who gave me “time off” until I could get my priorities straight when I wasn’t coping well with anxiety and stress in high school and her understanding was a lifesaver. I wanted to capture that idea again in Kass’ story. And more of Ethan… he’s so adorable, although he probably wouldn’t like me calling him that. I also wrote in the random appearance by Richard Irwin because it was annoying that he tried to sit down on the bench with Kass when she was waiting for Ethan… unintentionally. Hope you enjoyed! 🙂