Gold earrings? Check.
Green jacket? Check.
White and brown dress? Check.
I stared at myself in the teal-edged mirror of the guest house at Casa de la Esperanza. Why did I feel like a phony? I shook my head. This isn’t a date, I reminded. I don’t need to dress up.
Lost the earrings? Check.
Blue water blouse? Check.
Black skirt? Check.
Leather jacket? Check.
Too formal? I wondered to myself in the mirror. It was better than a tee shirt and jeans. I might be too hot in leather, I figured.
Knee high boots? Check.
Kass, this is the Mexsimican desert. You don’t need boots. Next outfit!
I pulled out my typical braided hairstyle and opted for the smooth round bun. I brushed each strand of hair to perfection, and then slipped my silver studs in my ears, much more subtle than my gold hoops. I tugged on a pair of my favorite jeans, pulled an electric blue tank top over my head, and slipped into a casual gray bolero. I opted for a simple pendant on a silver chain instead of another one of my blingy necklaces. Now for the shoes…
I heard my dad’s voice call through the bathroom door.
“Yeah, Dad?” I responded, sticking my head out.
My father was standing in the entryway, wearing a white tee shirt, khaki pants, and a red-and-white checked apron that said “Kiss the cook.” In one hand, he held a platter of medium-rare hamburgers and in the other hand, he held a spatula. He looked pleased to see me.
“You look beautiful,” my father grinned.
“Thanks, Dad,” I blushed as I walked out of the bathroom in my bare feet. “Can I have a burger?”
Dad yanked the plate back above his head and gave me a shake of his head. “Uh uh… you are going on a date. You can eat there.”
“But Dad, I much prefer your burgers to anyone else’s,” I protested, walking across the wooden floorboards in search for suitable footwear.
“Kass, you don’t eat before a date, that’s not the point,” Dad replied. “I don’t want to deprive Brendon of the culinary experience of eating with my daughter,” he added humorously.
“Dad!” I rolled my eyes. “First off, it’s not a date,” I slid into my brown bejeweled sandals. “And secondly, you’re acting like I’m a bad eater or something. I’m not that messy.”
“Sweetie, I’m teasing,” Dad set down the hamburgers and the spatula on the table and walked toward me. “I never got to tease you about your dates before. This is an experience for me.”
Something about his tone of voice warmed my heart, even if I was irritated by his insistence that I was going on a date.
“Heels,” Dad said, kissing me in a fatherly fashion on my head.
“What?” I frowned, adjusting the lapel on my bolero.
“Heels, wear your blue high heels. Those sandals don’t look right with your outfit,” Dad remarked.
I sighed, slipping my feet out of my comfortable sandals, and looking around the entryway for said other shoes. I located the teal heels behind the potted palm.
“Thanks, Dad,” I smiled, after adjusting the shoes on my feet and standing to full height. “This makes me appear taller.”
“Which is a good thing, right?” Dad winked at me. “For a date?”
“Dad, it’s hardly a date,” I corrected him for the hundredth time. “I’m meeting a friend for dinner and drinks in town at a local watering hole, and I’m driving myself there in your beatup pickup truck. He’s meeting me there.”
“Uh huh,” Dad bobbed his head, a grin spreading across his face. “If it’s not a date, why did you spend over forty-five minutes getting ready in the bathroom?”
I grunted and waved goodbye as I stepped out of the guesthouse into the humid Mexsimican evening. Though as I walked across the rock courtyard and around the fountain, I couldn’t help but smile. It felt good to have my dad know about this particular guy in my life, even if Brendon was just a friend, and this wasn’t, most definitely wasn’t, and would never be… a date.
Arriving with five minutes to spare, I pulled promptly into a parking spot right in front of El Gato Amarillo. I dropped the overhead mirror to check my makeup and fix my hair, smacking my lips together and examining my teeth. I was grateful my breath was still minty fresh, but I wished I had spritzed on some perfume and worn a little lip gloss.
Oh Kass, for this get together not being a date, you sure do seem to care a lot.
I tried to relax, rolling my shoulders and rubbing my neck. I looked around for Brendon’s vehicle and didn’t spot it, so I turned on the radio. Mexsimican news program. Mexsimican sports. Simspani opera. A little too much for my ears. I settled on a station playing mariachi band music. I bounced a little in the driver’s seat for the tune was catchy. Then the engine stalled.
“Oh no! Oh no no no!” I gasped. “No!” I tried to turn over the engine.
The truck made a sad whining sound and a faulty revving before growing silent again. I shoved and twisted the key multiple times, but to no avail. The truck battery was dead. I dropped my forehead to the steering wheel and sighed.
I stepped out of the vehicle, now having no choice but to go inside and wait. There was no point in sitting in the truck cab. I stood on the sidewalk in a daze. I can’t go in. What will Brendon say? Will he think this is some kind of ruse? My dead battery? Like I want him to drive me home? Oh llamas! I hope he doesn’t think I did this so I could go back to his place? Oh I hope he doesn’t think I’m one of those girls… the kind that sleeps with a man on a first date. I kicked the tire with the toe of my teal heel that my father insisted I wear. Kass, this isn’t a date.
I looked around the parking lot frantically and up and down the street. The wind had picked up a little and I could see a tumbleweed bouncing across the open field across from the cantina. Still no sign of Brendon. I breathed in relief, slumping against the truck door. Maybe I would be okay. Maybe I could go inside and call a tow company to come and give me a jump. But this was Mexsimco and I didn’t know if they had the same kind of service available down here. Why hadn’t I thought to check the battery before leaving for dinner? Because you don’t normally check the car battery if the car turns over fine, stupid!
I straightened my tank top, and proceeded around the front of the cab. Perhaps this whole thing could be resolved before Brendon arrived, and then I could say I walked. In heels? I don’t think so, Kass. I grunted at my lack of imagination. A cab. I took a cab.
“I took a cab, I took a cab, I took a cab,” I repeated the lie to myself.
The gray stone floor echoed the hollow clicking of my heels as I stepped in the entrance of the bar. I wrinkled my nose, assaulted by the scent of dime-a-dozen perfume, cheap alcohol, and what I could only hope was not urine. The faded ceiling felt much too close, and the yellowed horse-and-tree patterned wallpaper made the room feel more claustrophobic. I held my head up and fixed my eyes on the multitude of mismatched music, movie, athletic, and advertisement posters on the side paneled wall. The room was filled with a cloud of smoke, even though there only appeared to be one wrinkled woman at a table with a cigarette perched between her forefinger and thumb. The music was mediocre, a stereotypical lone Mexsimican horn and a semi-lazy drumbeat, and I cringed as the horn reached high notes.
This was the place Brendon wanted me to meet him? I sighed and glanced over my shoulder, hoping I wouldn’t be robbed by the gruff-looking, tattooed troll of a man leaning over a pool cue in the dim-lit corner of the cantina. Cliche, I swallowed hard. He grinned at me as he passed through the bar to what I presumed were the restrooms in back, his gold fillings abundant in his smile. I shivered and looked away. Two young ladies, close to my own age, stood near the pool table in deep conversation, speaking in hushed Mexsimican tones. The blonde with the tight braids and the pink dress grimaced in my direction. Her friend didn’t look in my direction, but she appeared to be wearing a school uniform under her grey jean jacket and red bracer gloves. I offered a half-tipped smile, trying to avoid appearing too friendly or too out of place. Of course, you’re out of place, Kass, I grunted to myself. I probably looked a little too neat and combed to perfection for this place. I could’ve sworn the dusty rose barstool audibly sighed as I settled onto the seat, a cloud of dust puffing from the fabric. Lovely. I’d have to get the bottle of hand sanitzer from the cab before taking my leave.
“You need cab?”
I jumped startled at the sight of the bartender popping up from below the bar, wearing a snakeskin leather jacket, gray tee shirt and jeans, and a gray hat tipped strategically over his right eye. He was cleaning out the inside of a bar glass.
“Me Juan? You?”
I blinked rapidly, as if I hadn’t gotten over my shock of his sudden appearance or his broken Simlish. I coughed, blushed, and ducked my head, embarrassed by my response.
“You not from around here,” the man called Juan said, before turning to a young girl with long black hair standing in the doorway to the back room.
She couldn’t have been more than twelve. He snapped his fingers and said something in Mexsimican and she nodded, averting her eyes, before stepping backward through the doorway. She was in bare feet. I frowned, unable to decipher the exchange that just occurred.
“Cab?” he repeated.
“Um… no… I’m fine, thanks,” I shrugged uncomfortably. “I’m waiting for someone.”
“Cola?” he asked, pointing to a bottle on the counter.
“Oh no,” I shook my head. “I am of age. I can drink.” I straightened on the bar stool, reaching for my identification card in my pocket.
“You don’t need that, my dear,” a familiar voice spoke from behind me, and I felt Brendon’s hand on my shoulder as he leaned dangerously close to my ear, enough to cause a strand of hair to float from its place. “He wants to offer you a rum and cola.”
With that, Brendon took a step back, and broke into a wide smile. “Juan, my man, how’s it going, brother? ¿Cómo estás?”
“Muy bueno, mi hermano, muy bueno,” Juan grinned and shook Brendon’s hand. “Feliz cumpleaños a ti.”
I grimaced, and dropped my hands between my lap, feeling awkward with the sudden exchange of jovial pleasantries in a language I struggled to comprehend.
“Feliz que está aquí,” Juan continued in Mexsimican. “Que bueno verte.”
“I’m happy to be here too, Juan,” Brendon replied in Simlish, much to my relief. “Good to see you also, mi amgio. Juan…” he turned to me with a bemused look on his face. “Muchas gracias for keeping Kass company.”
Juan tilted his head and gave a sideways grin. “Tu enamorada es muy linda.”
I wasn’t fully sure what he said, but I felt heat creep into my cheeks.
Brendon shook his head and chuckled. “This is Kass, my friend,” he motioned to me.
I leaned forward as if on cue to shake the man’s hand now that I had been properly introduced.
“Kass, this is Juan. He bartended at my wedding,” Brendon explained.
“Oh,” I remarked, returning my attention to the bartender. “Pleased to meet you, Juan.”
“The pleasure is mine, Kass,” he replied with a heavy Mexsimican accent, returning to Brendon. “On the house. Two rums and colas.”
“Gracias,” Brendon replied.
“Yes thank you,” I spoke up, leaning in the direction of the two men, feeling awkward at the far end of the counter with all the space between us. “Um…” I swallowed. “Gracias.”
“And Marcela will make tres leches,” Juan announced. “For the special occasion.”
He disappeared into the back, and I straightened on my seat to my full height, glancing over at my friend and dining companion for the evening.
“So you were married?” I said, trying to think of pleasant conversation.
Really, Kass? That’s all you can come up with?
“Oh I’m sorry. Um… hi Brendon. Happy birthday. Did you have a good Thanksgiving? Um… I mean… yesterday… but we’re like in Mexsimco so maybe you didn’t celebrate it and okay… let’s talk about anything instead of that,” I rambled.
Brendon reached over the counter, grabbing a handful of maraschino cherries from the bar stash and popped one in his mouth.
“You’re nervous,” he remarked.
“Me? Nervous?” I shook my head bashfully in denial. “No… um…” I nearly fell off the barstool and quickly had to balance on my heels. “Um… why would you… um… say that?”
“Relax, Kass, this isn’t a date, and yes, I was married once awhile ago, but it didn’t work out. I’m divorced, and no it’s not a supreme sensitive subject or anything,” Brendon grinned at me, and pulled out the maraschino cherry stem from his mouth in a perfect knot. He set the stem on a bar napkin, and tapped the counter. “It was a long time ago. I was young.”
“And you aren’t young anymore?” I cocked an eyebrow as Juan returned with our drinks.
“Ouch,” Brendon patted his chest pocket. “I don’t have glasses in here if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“Oh,” I turned my gaze away, taking a sip of my Mexsimcian cola and rum, and added coyly, “I think glasses are sexy.”
Immediately, a flush crept into my cheeks, but I refused to acknowledge the humiliating statement I just made, hoping Brendon would think that I was warm from the room with an incredible lack of ventilation.
“Happy birthday to you,” I offered my glass up in the form of a toast before he could say anything. “Brendon.”
I jumped startled, though I wasn’t sure if it was from the clinking of glasses or by the way I said his name.
Am I flirting with him? Oh llamas! Kass… stop now!
Brendon grinned almost with a boyish charm. “Happy birthday to me.” He slid off the barstool effortlessly. “Shall we?”
I took his hand and allowed him to lead me to a small table. The young girl I had seen earlier returned with hot plates of chicken wings garnished with limes. She smiled, and returned to the kitchen, her long black hair swishing around her hips.
“Jealous?” Brendon asked me after taking a bite of his dinner and licking his fingers.
“Jealous?” I frowned at him. “What do you mean?”
“The long hair. You were watching Guadalupe walk away,” he remarked.
I wiped my mouth on the napkin and sidestepped his question. “She’s very pretty. Is she Juan’s daughter?”
“His eldest,” Brendon replied. “And you were jealous. I bet you once had long hair but you cut it off to appear more mature.”
“Excuse me,” I protested. “Insulting your dinner guest isn’t the best way to keep company.”
“I wasn’t trying to insult you,” he said, bemused, lifting his fork to his mouth.
“I just was admiring her long beautiful hair. What makes you think I’m jealous?” I asked, defensively as I shifted my nose upward slightly.
“Because you wouldn’t have reacted to my comment otherwise. For the record, I prefer the red hair over the black,” he said, his eyes twinkling.
“This isn’t a date,” I blurted out.
“I never said it was.”
“Well then stop flirting with me.”
“Then stop enjoying it.”
I gaped and waved my hands in the air. “I’m not enjoying it.”
“Sure you are, Kass,” he set down his fork. “But perhaps it’s too soon after…” he trailed off.
“After what? My last relationship? For your information, I’ve had two serious relationships this year. Well, when was your last?” I snipped.
“It’s been awhile,” he replied soberly. “A few years. We both lost our jobs.”
“No, actually,” he answered. “Just another serious relationship, or at least I thought it was.”
“Oh,” I mumbled, and took another bite of my tequila-and-lime soaked chicken wing. “Sorry.”
“Kass, I just want you to know I wouldn’t have asked you here tonight if this was a date,” Brendon said.
My eyes widened. “Thanks? I think?”
“Because I’d be trying ridiculously hard to impress you if it was,” Brendon said, a glimmer of amusement returning to his eyes.
“Oh what?” I raised an eyebrow. “Taking me to your old buddy’s place, the guy who bartended at your wedding to your ex, no less, the rum and colas and the the margarita chicken in a dark cantina south of the border isn’t impressive enough?” I joked.
“What? You’re impressed? Why Kassiopeia Fullbright, you must have low standards,” Brendon teased in return.
“Ouch!” I exclaimed. “And no, I’m just a cheap date.”
“But this isn’t a date,” Brendon leaned across the table and winked at me.
“Of course, it’s not,” I said emphatically.
“You’re easy to please then?” he remarked.
“Um… well,” I looked down at my hands in my lap. “I don’t know about that.”
“Well, then, if I were, hypothetically to take you on a date, the great Kassiopeia Fullbright, what would I need to do to…” he leaned close to me as he spoke. “…please you?”
I laughed, flushing, cupping my hand to my chin. “It’s not that easy.”
“What to tell me what you like?”
“No, to narrow myself down into a technical manual.”
“What? You think I’m writing a dating manual about you or something?”
“No, just all women.”
“You really think I’ve had that much experience?”
“I don’t doubt that you’ve had some.”
“And you, miss I’ve-had-two-serious-relationships-in-a-year, how does that happen? I mean, you’ve got experience then, but you can’t be that irresistible.”
“Ouch,” I slugged his arm, and waved my hands in the air. “I’m… I don’t have to defend myself to you or my dating habits. I was just stating a fact.”
“Let me guess. Your one true love? High school sweetheart? And then the man who helped you passionately awaken all that fiery spirit beneath your prim and proper exterior,” he speculated.
I gritted my teeth and huffed in exasperation. “It’s really none of your business.”
“Okay, so I struck a chord.”
“Gawd… Brendon, you’re pretty rude.”
“What are you so afraid of, Kass? That I’m right? That you are predictable?”
I glowered. “If I recall, I predicted some things about you too the other day.”
“Yes, you did, and I’m an open book so go ahead,” he leaned back and interlaced his fingers behind his head. “Ask me anything.”
I scoffed and slid my arm over the edge of my chair. “It doesn’t work like that.”
“Okay, yes it does,” Brendon replied. “When the other person tells you it does. So what do you want to know?”
“Is this the way you treat all your dates?” I asked, glaring at the man.
He quirked a brow and smiled. “So you admit it’s a date?”
“Well, only cuz it’s your birthday,” I shrugged. “That’s why I agreed to come out with you because no one should be alone on their birthday.”
“That speaks volumes,” he tilted his head. “Either you’ve been alone on your birthday or you’re from one of those big families that celebrates every birthday.”
“We…” I tried to form the words. “…celebrate birthdays in my family…even my nonno does.”
“Your nonno? You’re Simtalian?” Brendon raised an eyebrow. “Howard doesn’t look it.”
“Just because a person doesn’t look it doesn’t mean anything,” I tilted my head and said smartly. “I mean, what are you?” I stopped and bit my tongue. “I’m sorry. I’m being rude.”
“Yes, but so am I,” Brendon took my hand. “Why don’t we play some pool and get out this aggression or whatever it is?”
“Aggression?” my eyes widened as I pulled my hand back.
“What you play?”
“Oh I can play pool. I can play…” I trailed off and replied in a husky voice. “…aggressively.”
“Oh really?” Brendon said, amused, standing up.
We walked over the pool table, and Brendon neatly set up the colored balls, carefully removing the wooden triangle. He handed me a pool cue stick and I leaned on it casually as he grabbed a stick of his own.
“I want to warn you,” I said with a hint of cocky confidence. “I’m very good.”
“Uh huh,” Brendon said. “Don’t even want to pretend to let the guy teach you something.”
“If this was a date,” I slid around him coyly and lined up for my first shot and hit the ball. “Sure,” I shrugged. “But this isn’t.”
“Alright, I want to make a bet.”
“What kind?” I said, walking around the table to line up my next shot.
“If you win, I’ll answer any of your questions about my past relationships,” he began.
“A real incentive,” I rolled my eyes. “Since we’re not on a date… why should I care?”
He leaned against his stick and grinned. “Admit it. You’re curious. Okay. I’ll throw in a birthday present. And if you lose…”
“If I lose?” I repeated skeptically.
“If I win,” Brendon corrected. “You have to let me take you out again for your birthday.”
“How is that a prize for you?” I asked, wrinkling my nose.
Brendon laid his pool cue across the edge of the table and took a few steps toward me. When he was a mere few inches from my face, he looked down at me with a warm smile and a seriousness in his eyes that utterly surprised me. I breathed in his spicy cologne, and caught my lower lip, hoping he wouldn’t notice my flushed cheeks once again.
“Trust me, it would be.”
I knew I was in trouble.
Author Note: Another freakishly long chapter for you in Desierto Rojo, Mexsimco. I have way too much fun writing Brendon and Kass’ dialogue. I had a few issues with the game so I wasn’t able to show the scene with Howard and Kass or later on with Guadalupe, Juan’s oldest daughter, but yes, bare feet. Some Sims just can’t put shoes on in public. Lol. That’s Becky Baker by the way in the pink dress in El Gato Amarillo cantina, which by the way, means The Yellow
Jack, (okay actually this means the Yellow Cat… pardon my terrible Spanish translation). my sly-or-maybe-not-so-clever tribute to based on Floraflora2’s lot Sandy Shores stores. I thought about renaming it because Juan owns the cantina, not Jack, but figured it was quirky and left it in. Yes, Kass is dealing with some judgemental thoughts in this chapter. She’s not perfect and that’s part of why I like writing her because she’s flawed. She’s also uncomfortable which is why I think Brendon brought her here, to bring her out of her element. Kass will come to terms with things that are different, and recognize that there aren’t as many differences as she thinks. Btw, margarita chicken wings are amazing. Okay, stream-of-consciousness rant done. Hope you enjoyed.