One month had passed since the night with Glory Ann. One month since he had painted one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. One month since he had sent his girlfriend a vague text message. The memories of that night still haunted him as if the memories were pinhead needles and his brain was a pin cushion. Billy shook his head vigorously, trying to knock the cobwebs of two failed relationships from his mind, before resuming his painting. He dipped his brush in the black, brushing the edges of his canvas, touching up the night sky. He couldn’t let it go. He didn’t know why, but something wasn’t right. Kass wasn’t like the others. She was… special. Otherwise, he wouldn’t keep coming back and trying to perfect the painting.
He had made nine replicas, intending to sell, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do so, even though he considered this painting some of his highest quality work. Ever the perfectionist, he wasn’t satisfied. Every time he came close to completion, he found some other flaw, some other imperfection, some other issue with his work. He couldn’t capture her essence in a way that did the woman justice for her creamy skin and vibrant red hair and tiny proportional curves.
Grunting, he stepped back to examine the work. He was fixated on her, but he couldn’t explain why. He could’ve made a pretty penny on this painting… on all of them, but he hadn’t. Something whispered inside him, tugging at his heart unnecessarily, making him long for the sweet kisses of the woman he let slip through his fingers. Something made him want to hold this one back for himself, as a reminder of better days. If the subject in the painting were anyone other than Kass, he would not have hesitated. He had sold paintings and sculptures of Glory Ann and the others.
She had called him. Kassiopeia. A half dozen times. She left messages. He had been too chicken to listen to them, afraid of angry rants that he well deserved. Instead, she sounded sad, disappointed, even, but never angry. She told him they left the Palms and she wanted him to call her. He hadn’t. She deserved better, he told himself.
Kass wasn’t the only one who called him. He received twice as many calls from Ethan, that annoying kid from the Palms. Somehow he had gotten Billy’s number, and every message he left was more threatening and bewildering than the last. Billy wasn’t in the Palms anymore. Neither was Kass. Why was Ethan still bothering to call him? What could he possibly have to gain from harassing Billy? He frowned, and glanced over the balcony, feeling calmed by the sea of white coating the trees and caking the ground. Winter had already arrived, but given the high altitude he wasn’t surprised.
As the magazine had boasted, Hidden Springs was a breathtakingly beautiful place. He had an abundance of natural landscapes to paint, each one more inspiring than the last. A sunset above the Simoraine Lake was one of his favorite to capture, the crystal clear waters reflecting the sky’s shimmering oranges, reds, pinks, purples, and blues. The fresh mountain air of the Simnadian Rockies seemed to be helping his energy and attitude. He had slept better than he had in years in the small guest room at the Winterly estate.
Billy packed up his supplies, careful to avoid smudging as he removed the canvas from his easel. He slowly carried the wooden crate down the snow-laden steps of the Redwood Peak Vista Pointe, grateful for the gripping soles of his new winter boots. He had purchased weather-appropriate attire for the season with his commission from Adele Winterly. Perhaps his text message about a hefty-paying job in Simnadia to Kass had been a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Even so, the full moon was approaching, and with its impending return, he felt a sense of doom seize his heart. He wouldn’t be sleeping well that night, if at all. It would be best to spend the night away. He didn’t want to frighten the Winterlys and lose his potential commission. He was also nearly out of patches and it was impossible to get the Vamp-D in Simnadia without insurance. A trip to the SimNation was in order and soon.
Arriving in early Simvember, Billy stepped off the bus with few possessions. He had wandered through the wooded hamlet in the heart of Simnadia, strolling up and down streets until the rains began. Billy didn’t mind getting wet typically, but the high altitude made the rains much colder than the sticky afternoon drizzles of the Palms. He wandered into a local eatery, Han’s Tavern and Cafe, settled at the counter on a bar stool, and picked up a menu.
A pretty waitress with swirly brunette ponytails, cute smile, and smattering of freckles asked him “Whaddaya want, stranger?” He had replied, in his best flirtatious tone, “Whatever a pretty lady like yourself would recommend.” She had giggled and poured him a big cup of coffee and brought him a plate of scrambled eggs and cheese and maple-baked sausage. It wasn’t half-bad. He gulped down the coffee while scribbling drawings on his napkins. The freckle-faced, blue-eyed waitress, who said her name was Marcela, came over and rested her chin on her hand, and told him adoringly that she liked artists.
Somehow that led to the two of them crashing through the back door of the diner, kissing madly and rarely coming up for air in the back by the dumpsters. Not the most ideal place for a makeout session, nor his best rebound choice, Billy noted as he shoved his crate and easel in the back of the black Electrol 3X belonging to the Winterly’ butler, Jesse Pena. He was grateful the man allowed him to borrow his electric car in the afternoons while the Winterly’ son, Charles was doing homework and Mr. Pena prepped dinner for the household. Once he was certain the crate was secure, Billy walked around to the driver’s seat and hopped in. The vehicle turned over noiselessly, and within a minute, the cabin was warm. Billy drove down the hill, ready to return to the Winterly estate, his home for the past month.
After waking up in Marcela’s tiny cabin the following morning, Billy knew he had made a mistake. I didn’t sleep with Glory Ann, but I slept with this random chick? he chided himself, slipping as quietly as he could off the bed that was really designed for one person and gathering his clothes. Marcela had mentioned the previous night about a family looking for a live-in art teacher for their son, and he had somehow managed to remember through the whirlwind of first base, second base, third base, home.
He washed up, combed his hair, spritzed some cologne, put on his best suit, and left Marcela a note saying something like “thanks for last night.” Later in the day, he had sent a blue hawthorn from a flower stand in Fairyfolk Park, hoping that would make up for his unannounced departure. Somehow he had also managed to remember Marcela mention, in passing, they were her favorite flower.
The pale greenish-skinned florist who sold him the flower gushed that the hawthorn was an excellent choice for a new love as the petals represented happy associations and hope and would ward off evil spirits. He chuckled to himself as he adjusted the heat dial in the car, remembering the whole thing sounded like silly sentiment.
Turns out, the florist wasn’t wrong. Marcela was thrilled about his “gift” and easily forgave his sudden disappearance. She had hoped for more passionate nights, but he wasn’t all the interested in repeat. In fact, he recalled a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach earlier this week.
Who am I kidding? Billy gripped the steering wheel tighter. It was still there. He couldn’t help but feel as though he had cheated on Kass, even though they had ended things before he took off for Simnadia. Or had they? He still questioned the validity of a vague text message break-up. He had hoped throwing himself into work would take his mind away from his relationship woes.
Billy had walked from the bus stop in the rain to the Winterly residence after getting more details from a poster advertisement at the City Hall. He had called Mrs. Winterly to schedule an afternoon appointment. Upon arriving, he recalled how impressive the two-storied wooden home was with its multiple porches, lush landscaped yard, and a pretentious water fountain gurgling in the stone courtyard. The middle-aged Mrs. Adele Winterly herself had answered the doorbell after three rings, eyed him up and down sharply, made a thinly veiled annoyed comment about the butler’s day off, sighed heavily, and told him he would have to do.
She invited him into the huge living room and settled onto one of the couches, crossing her legs in proper ladylike fashion, while he nervously chose to sit in a chair across from his future employer. She asked him all sorts of questions about his educational background and experience, and mentioned her requirement of references, of which he had no shortage. He knew a dozen or so people would testify to his skill, half of whom he was sure would give him a raving review over the phone immediately should Mrs. Winterly require.
After thirty minutes of grilling, she seemed pleased with his responses, though displeased about his appearance, mentioning several times that he would need to wear a tie should he wish to work with her son. The Winterlys wanted to hire a live-in artist to teach their teenager the finer details of painting and sculpting. Charles had apparently failed his sophmore art class.
Mr. Winterly, newly arrived home, entered the living room reading a newspaper and coughed, stating his son’s frequent bouts with severe asthma and inability to attend school full-time contributed to how behind he was, but assured Billy the boy could catch up with proper tutoring. Adele had sniffed and claimed her son’s illness was a weakness but not an inhibitor, and her husband should stop using the asthma as an excuse for Charles’ poor grades. He needed a strict teacher and to apply himself more.
Billy had sensed the tense disagreement between the couple then, and in his time working with the Winterlys, he witnessed first-hand their vastly different parenting styles. Peter excused his son’s lack of motivation and blamed the asthma, doting on the boy whenever he was home, taking Charles for milkshakes, despite the propensity for flaring an asthma attack, allowing his son to watch television past his bedtime on the nights Adele played cards at the country club, and letting the boy read paperback mysteries before doing his homework.
Charles was a sickly boy, thin and weak. Billy noticed he limped when he walked up and down the stairs, and suspected the teen suffered from more than just asthma. The Winterlys hoped the healing waters of Hidden Springs would help their son, but after two years, Charles had made little improvement. He spoke of his friends in Big Apple City, and how he missed seeing Simway shows and how he would kill for a slice of City pizza even though the cheese usually triggered his asthmatic symptoms. He said the hot oozing cheese and perfectly crispy crust made it worth it. He missed his friends and he hated that he had been dragged to another country to fix his problems, and he hated being referred to as sick. Billy learned quickly to avoid talking about all the things Charles couldn’t do and instead focus on all the things he could do.
Mrs. Winterly was strict about household rules. She liked to point out the differences between people like Billy and Charles. She made sure every chance she could get to remind her son of his privilege. She would become upset if protocol was breached and was prone to firing staff she disliked. Somehow Billy had managed to maintain his job.
The first day on the job, Billy had brought his things to move in and Charles had shown him to his room… instead of the maid. Mrs. Winterly had angrily lectured Charles outside Billy’s new quarters about doing the job of a “servant.” The maid had been fired. Charles felt guilty and he was moody the first few days of art sessions.
Charles was a moderately fast learner when he put his mind to things, and he wasn’t half-bad at painting. Despite the eye-rolling and heavy-sighing when seven-thirty rolled around, Charles was actually a pretty good art student even though he didn’t like it. He would much prefer to escape into his fiction books, and Billy managed to find a few fiction stories about artists for Charles to read at Eloise C. Vanderburg’s Home for Books. Charles took more of an interest in painting after reading The Boy with the Nickel Alloy Ring and The Portrait of Lorien Way. Billy was impressed. Charles was an exceptionally fast reader.
Word of his talents had spread around the Springs, and Billy had received a few other offers for teaching, though none quite as lucrative as the Winterly job. He did agree to teach a sculpting class at Paul A. Wilkes Natural Museum the Friday before Thanksgiving, and another on the upcoming “Black Friday.” Most of the attendees last week had been older residents of Hidden Springs, but one such participant was the young Marcela.
She managed to rope him into a conversation and a promise to go to dinner with her sometime. He unsuccessfully attempted to avoid showing favoritism, trying to make fair rounds and give everyone equal attention, but given she was the only attendant under forty, he couldn’t help himself. She was sort-of cute, and he liked the way her nose scrunched up her freckles when she laughed. Still, he couldn’t help but wish he was enjoying the company of another angel-kissed beauty. Marcela was here though and flirting with him, and Kass wasn’t. His ego was flattered and with the coming of another full moon, he felt his hormones kicking into overdrive.
Somehow this was how he justified another night of messing around, and they inevitably slept together. Still, as Billy pulled into the driveway of the Winterly estate, he couldn’t help but feel sick at the thought of using Marcela. For the first time in his life, he actually cared about hurting someone because of his sexual appetite, and not because he really genuinely liked Marcela, but because he would rather spend his “long nights moon” in the arms of someone else.
Billy looked up at the night sky, determined to make this month different than the ones before. The cold late autumn evening made the stars even more visible, each one a little pin prick of hope… hope that things could be different than before. With newfound clarity, he realized what he must do.
He went straight to his computer and booked his flight. He would return, and beg her to take him back. He would come clean and tell her everything, and tell her his feelings.
Wait, what feelings? Do I have feelings? He was mixed-up and jumbled. He wasn’t thinking straight. He was confused and that was never good. If only he could be with Kass again, and be with her in the way he wanted, his life would make sense. He needed a partner, someone to ease the pain of the full moon and get him through the long night. Kass was just the someone who could make things better. If she takes me back…
Billy quickly threw all his things in his bag and walked downstairs and gave Adele and Peter some excuse about celebrating Thanksgiving late with his family. They planned to go further up into the mountains for skiing this weekend and so they were willing to give him the time he needed to make his trip. Mr. Pena offered to drive him to the airport, but Billy decided not to wait. He took a cab before he could change his mind.
Before he knew it, he was on a plane bound for the SimNation. In a little over nine hours, with two layovers, Billy would be walking the streets of Kass’ hometown. He had no idea what he was going to say to her, or how he would break the silent streak. He didn’t know if he would be able to genuinely apologize without losing his control over the deluge he had fought so hard to hold back all these years. He knew he hurt her. He knew he was a lousy boyfriend. He knew returning just for sex wouldn’t go over well, so he would have to tell her everything before he entered the change. Before the long nights moon returned. He only hoped he wasn’t already too late.
Author’s Note: Okay, another really long chapter for you, and more Billy. I promise you’ll get more Kass chapters soon and I hope to finish out I&S in the next few months so I can get back tot the awesome things I have in store for the latter half of KFLL (because I’m sure you’re all wondering how the mysteries will be solved… if they will all be solved… mwahahaha!) Okay, I digress.
Billy stared at the painting of Kass frequently in game so I thought it was only fitting that he keep it for himself and to weave this into the storyline. Billy moved in with the Winterlys, and though there is no profession for live-in artist, I decided to create one for the sake of the story. Hidden Springs is so beautiful in the winter. I loved all the gorgeous winter screenshots I took, and hated having to pick only a few for this chapter.
Marcela Jimenez autonomously flirted with Billy and then invited him over twice. One thing led to another… and what? She does have the “flirty” and “easily impressed” traits and Billy has the “irresistible” trait, though I should’ve probably given Kass the “irresistible” trait since Billy is mooning over her.
In case you were wondering, yes, Granny Shue sold Billy a flower in the park. She’s a sweet little old lady in Hidden Springs, and selling flowers just suits her. 🙂
Again, if you’re wondering about Billy’s condition, read here under vampire diseases.
Simoraine Lake is a play on Moraine Lake, an actual lake in Canada. The two books mentioned are plays on real-world books – The Boy with the Nickel Alloy Ring (The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier) and The Portrait of Lorien Way (The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde). I should like to note, since I am a nerd like this with information, Lorien or Lothlórien is the realm where the elves reside in Lord of the Rings, and Lorien is also a character, the First One, in the sci-fi television series, Babylon 5.
Hope you enjoyed. 🙂