“Señor Howard! Señorita Kass!”
Juanita ran to meet us with a jubilant childlike smile on her face.
“You look like a handsome father and daughter. And Miss Kass… muy bonita!” the little girl kissed her fingers in approval.
“Yes, muy bonita,” Dad took my hands unexpectedly and spun me around and then danced around with Juanita much to the little girl’s delight.
“Come come,” Juanita pulled him away toward the pergola.
I laughed as my father was claimed as a dance partner. I was about to join them when I caught sight of someone, a figure moving behind the plants on the other side of the fountain. The person dressed in purple walked down the restaurant steps and into the courtyard. I resisted the urge to rub my eyes as I didn’t want to smudge my makeup, but I could’ve sworn my eyes were playing tricks on me. Is that? I caught my breath and then exploded with glee.
I stopped dead still almost afraid I was witnessing a mirage… that or I was going crazy. Well, Sonia did call me chica loco.
“Do my eyes deceive me?” I asked stoically.
“Yes, Kassiopeia, nineteen is ancient. You need glasses,” my sister teased me.
I broke into a big smile. “Come here, you dork!”
“No, you’re the dork!” Andromeda laughed.
“Andi, what are you doing here?” I gasped and laughed and squeezed my sister.
I hadn’t seen her in months since I left Sunset Valley, and we had barely spoken on the phone since I left Lucky Palms.
“Surprise!” she exclaimed and twirled around.
“No, get back here,” I ordered playfully and we hugged again.
“Yeah sure, so you can cut off all my circulation,” she said sarcastically, but I could tell she was just as happy to see me.
We jumped up and down like little kids and squealed and hugged.
“Seriously, what are you doing here?” I asked.
“Well, it’s your birthday. Happy birthday by the way,” Andi replied. “Are you surprised?”
“Surprised?” I repeated. “Try floored. Elated. Overjoyed!”
“You want a dictionary with that,” Andi snarked.
“You mean a thesaurus,” I corrected jokingly.
“Sure,” she punched my arm in a friendly manner.
“Is Cari here?” I asked.
Andi sobered momentarily. “No,” she twisted her sneaker into the cobblestones. “She didn’t want to see Dad.”
“Oh,” I felt a twinge of disappointment.
Carina could have come to see me.
“This place is awesome!” Andi said, twirling around. “I bet you love the fountain.”
“I come out and read by it every morning,” I remarked. “Well, I did… I’ve been…” I trailed off.
I didn’t know how to explain to my sister the whole Billy-Ayesha thing.
“So how long are you here for?”
“Until Thursday. I have a test on Friday and I’m missing school right now,” she replied. “… but this is totally worth it,” she added, seeing my frown.
“So two-ish days.”
“Day and a half.”
“Well, let’s make it count,” I grabbed her hand. “Let’s dance.”
“Nooooo,” Andi shook her head in protest. “No way! That’s Cari’s thing. I don’t dance in public.”
“Come on, you’re here for my birthday, and they have music and everything.”
“But you dance like a goose.”
“A very pretty goose,” I said, sticking my nose in the air.
That remark sent us into a fit of giggles again.
“I’m glad to see my girls are having a good time,” Dad approached.
“Yes we are,” I said.
Dad slid his arm around Andromeda’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “I’m so glad to see my baby daughter again.”
“Dad,” Andi rolled her eyes.
I watched with a smile, and then Dad pulled us into a group embrace. “My girls,” he said emotionally.
“Dad!” Andi and I both exclaimed, somewhat embarrassed.
“Okay, okay,” he let go dramatically. “Let’s go eat.”
“Hey the birthday girl!” Noel said excitedly, and his brother Brad began clapping behind me.
“Feliz cumpleaños a ti,” Noel and Brad began singing in unison and everyone else joined in.
I flushed, unaccustomed to being the center of attention, but I was flattered.
“Thank you,” I said, when they had finished. “Muchas gracias,” I kissed my fingers like Juanita had done. “Really… thank you…”
Rosalie walked behind me, rubbing my upper back in a motherly fashion. “We’re happy to do this for you, Kass.”
“Let’s eat cake, now!” Juanita shouted.
“Juanita, hush, we will eat dinner first,” Noel sent a warning stare to his soon-to-be stepdaughter.
“Oh it’s fine,” I squeezed Juanita’s shoulder. “It’s my birthday. Sure, we can eat cake first.”
“Hooray,” Miguel jumped up and down and clapped joyously.
“That is, if there’s cake,” I looked at Rosalie.
“Don’t look at me, chica. Your father made a flaming angel food cake.”
“Oh,” I gasped. “My favorite.” I was surprised he remembered. “Thanks Dad.”
“Anytime my daughter,” he smiled humbly.
I got the feeling he would enjoy saying “daughter” any chance he could. He had two of his children here tonight and while it was my night, by the look on my dad’s face, I figured it was his night too.
“I’ll get you a plate,” Dad winked at me.
While he was over at the buffet table, Sonia grabbed me and pulled me into a dance, teaching me how to do a Latisimia clap dance.
“Kass, I got you a gift,” Brad spoke up.
“Gifts! Hooray!” Miguel yelled excitedly, and I jumped, startled.
“Yes, yay gifts!” I said, trying to make the pale vampiric man feel included. “You didn’t have to get me anything.”
“Oh, but I wanted to,” he smiled. “It’s the Complete Play Works by Simphocles.”
“Holy llamas!” I replied happily.
“Holy llamas!” Miguel repeated and then began dancing erratically to the music.
“I’ve been wanting it,” I continued.
“I know,” Brad seemed proud of himself. “It includes Oedsimpus, Simtigone, and the Women of Trachisim.”
“Well, thank you,” I replied graciously as he handed me the thick volume of Simphocles plays. “You’re so sweet.”
“Happy birthday,” he blushed.
“Please forgive me, Kass,” Miguel interrupted. “I mean, you gotta forgive me. Forgive me.”
“Forgive you for what?” I asked.
“I forgot a gift for you…” he hung his head.
“That’s okay…” I said, somewhat distracted by my dad and sister dancing.
“No, it’s not. No it’s not,” he shook his head repeatedly and put his hands in a pleading motion. “No it’s not.”
“I forgive you,” I said kindly.
“Oh you do?” he seemed surprised. “Oh that’s great, Kass. Oh that’s great. You’re a great person. I mean, really great.”
“Thank you,” I laughed awkwardly.
“Yes, and you get gifts for people’s birthdays. I know that, but I forgot.”
“It’s okay, Miguel. You’re forgiven.”
“Oh I could give you my yellow dump truck. Do you like dump trucks?” he asked.
“You can keep your dump truck, Miguel. It’s yours.”
“I know, but it’s not right. It’s just not right that I forgot a gift for you on your birthday… on your birthday, Kass.”
“Tell you what. I’m going to take my sister to the festival tomorrow. Why don’t you come and buy me an ice cream cone and we’ll call it even?”
“Oh that would be great. I love the fiesta. I love the fiesta.”
“I know you do.” I patted him on the back appreciatively.
“Oh, Kass, you’re great.”
“Okay, I will do that. I will buy you the best a leche helada ever.”
“I got you a gift too!” Juanita bounced over happily.
“Oh really?” I smiled. “You look very pretty tonight, Juanita.”
“Gracias,” she said, pink rising in her cheeks.
“I love the pretty orange and golden ruffles,” I remarked.
“Noel thinks I look like a hi-lighter,” she giggled.
“No, you don’t,” Brad called over to us. “You look beautiful, Juanita.”
“Tío Brad helped pick out my dress,” Juanita said.
“That was nice of him,” I smiled in the man’s direction.
He did enjoy fashion, and he certainly had an interesting style. Tonight he was wearing a brown suit, animal print vest, and a gold chain. He looked like something from another era, but he was rocking the look. The man was also busting some pretty intense moves on the dance floor.
“So I got you a gift… it’s not anything big,” Juanita dropped her eyes as if suddenly shy.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s lovely, whatever it is,” I exclaimed.
“Okay, I left it in my room, but I’ll give them to you later. It’s a package of pencils with all sorts of cool designs made from a special Mexsimican wood… uh… mama… what’s the wood called? The pencil wood for Kass?”
“Recycled,” Rosalie called to us.
“Right. Recycled Mexsimican wood.”
“I’m sure they are wonderful,” I hugged the little girl in gratitude. “And I’m sorry about the other day.”
“You’re forgiven,” Juanita shrugged happily and bounced off as quickly as she came.
Rosalie wandered in my direction, waddling almost like a duck.
“Your dress is pretty tonight,” I remarked. “I really like the festive orange colors, and you did a lovely job with decorations.”
“Thank you,” she said and then winced, rubbing her lower back. “Noel and Brad helped.”
“Are you okay? You didn’t put out your back putting up the lanterns or balloons or anything?” I asked worriedly.
“Oh no,” Rosalie waved her hands. “Noel wouldn’t even let me get on the ladder.”
“Worried you’d fall off and he’d have to catch, Your Highness?” I smirked at my horrible pun.
“No, about the baby.”
“What? Oh no!” Rosalie’s mouth dropped open. “Oh lo siento! This is your special day. I didn’t want to ruin it with the news.”
“Really? Are you kidding? How exciting! A baby!” I took her hand and squeezed reassuringly.
“Oh good,” she breathed a sigh of relief.
“When are you due?” I asked.
“In Simuly of next year,” she replied. “Noel and I just told Juanita yesterday. We are thinking of getting married in the church in Simuary.”
“Oh that’s wonderful,” I exclaimed. “Congratulations!”
“Gracias,” Rosalie said demurely.
“Okay, who wants cake?” Sonia announced.
A chorus of “me’s” sprang up followed by happy cheers.
Everyone enjoyed slices of angel food cake drizzled in a rum vanilla glaze with flaming candied strawberries, a special recipe of my father’s. I remembered he made the cake for my twelfth birthday only a few months before he left. It tasted better and sweeter than ever. After dessert first, I sat down and enjoyed a plate of firecracker shrimp dipped in honey and ghost pepper sauce while Andi snacked on a nacho plate.
“Aren’t you going to eat dinner?” I asked.
“I had a big meal on the plane,” she remarked. “I probably shouldn’t have, but they were offering.”
“Really, a plane meal? I took a bite of my spicy shrimp. “Don’t you have to…”
“Fly first class to get a meal?” she finished for me. “Yeah, on most airlines.”
“You flew first class?” I made a face. “What are you saving all your tips from guitar sessions in the park?”
“Actually?” she smirked. “Well, yes, I have.”
“But no, I didn’t pay for the trip,” she replied.
“What? Dad?” I asked.
“No, actually, your friend… Brendon.”
Author Note: Sorry about the odd spacing. I can’t figure out what’s going on with it. I’ll try to have it fixed by the next segment, but I wanted to get this chapter out more than I wanted perfect spacing. FYI, Muy bonita means “lovely” in Spanish. Feliz cumpleaños a ti means “Happy birthday to you” in Spanish. “Leche helada” means ice cream in Spanish. Simphocles is my Simworld version of Sophocles. Oedsimpus, Simtigone, and the Women of Trachisim respectively translate Oedipus, Antigone, and Women of Trachis. Hope you enjoyed!