“Feliz cumpleaños, Kassiopeia.”
“Thank you, Brendon, and I mean, wow…” I stopped myself from leaning in for a hug as I didn’t want to appear over-eager, even if I was grateful. “Why?”
“Why did I wish you a happy birthday in Mexsimi?” he said, his steely eyes twinkling. “Would you prefer Bernilge? Lá Breithe Sona!”
I wobbled on my heel, wondering what he had just said, and how he could so easily throw me off guard. Taking a deep breath, I tried to formulate actual words of gratitude, but I couldn’t seem to think straight. The music was beautifully distracting and somewhat disorienting. I caught Noel and Rosalie dancing and twirling on the courtyard out of the corner of my eye. I stood before Brendon, decked out in his white tuxedo jacket and sky blue ruffled shirt, different from his usual fare, but somehow oddly fitting for his personality, feeling dumbfounded and unable to speak.
“It’s okay to say thank you,” he leaned in and whispered teasingly.
“Oh… uh…um…” I flushed. “Yes, of course, thank you. Did you say happy birthday in Bernilge?”
“Yes I did,” he declared proudly, tugging down on his suit jacket. “Because you’ve obviously got a tad of the Emerald Isle in ya, Berns.”
I made a face. “Berns? Really? That’s a horrible nickname.”
“Would you prefer Red?” he smirked.
Thinking of Billy’s pet name for me caused me to frown. “Um… no… I’d prefer Kass.”
I grunted. “Really? Brendon?” I wanted to create an equally annoying nickname for him. “…Shore…” I obviously couldn’t think of one.
“Fulbright,” he smirked.
Maybe the watermelon margarita I drank was getting to my head. I frowned and rubbed my forehead with my pointer finger.
“So wait… you speak Bernilge?”
“Do they really still speak Bernilge? Isn’t it a dead language?”
“I’m insulted,” he said. “Of course, they do. Didn’t you ever study your home country?”
“I’m Simtalian,” I retorted, as if that made it better.
“On your mother’s side right?”
“Yes, and Simtannican.”
“And your father’s?”
“I don’t know…” I shook my head. “He doesn’t know.”
“So then why do you deny it?”
“Your Bernish side, Berns?”
“Oh llamas! There’s no way to prove that!”
“But you do have the Bernish fiery spirit, you can’t deny it?”
“You just don’t give up,” I sighed exasperated.
“Never,” he grinned. “…Berns.”
“Gah!” I threw my hands in the air, exasperated, drawing the attention of my sister who was dancing with Brad. “I came over here to thank you and you’re… just… aggravating.”
“My pleasure,” he said, a hint of charming cockiness in his tone.
“Seriously, you are…”
“…a rare delight…”
“Okay, now you’re just being arrogant.”
“Fine, I’ll try to be more humble,” he winked at me. “But just because it’s your birthday.”
“So Bernilge, huh? How do you know it?” I tried to change the subject.
“Can’t get you to stop talking about Simbernia, hmm?” he smiled. “I spent some time there as a boy.”
“Oh really? That’s cool,” was all I could think to say. “I’ve only been to Simtalia once or twice when I was a little girl.”
“Then you should go back to the ole Emerald Isle then next time you’re in the SIm Union. It’s beautiful. You’d like it.”
“Maybe I… this is a weird song…” I made a face.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” he replied.
“That’s why it sounded familiar,” I remarked. “Mamma likes Queen.”
“God save the queen,” Brendon said, saluting.
“Um…” I giggled. “I mean the band.”
“I know. I just like making you laugh.”
“Brendon, can I ask you a question?” I inquired.
“Only if we find something to quench my thirst first,” he answered, taking my arm. “Those shrimp and nachos are salty and the cake was delicious, but I am parched.”
“Okay,” I arched a brow and smiled oddly. “You are random, you know that.”
“Not really. Just thirsty.”
“Okay, if you say so.”
He guided me from under the pergola and across the courtyard. We stopped for a brief moment and Brendon interrupted Noel and Rosalie to offer his congratulations on her pregnancy announcement. Brendon took Rosalie’s hand and danced a few steps with her while Noel spun me around for fun. Brendon seemed to get into the moment, even jokingly putting a rose between his teeth that he plucked from one of the tables. This brought giggles from Juanita and cheers from those still under the pergola and a whistle from Brad. I laughed too. Brendon kissed her hand and told Noel he had a “most excellent partner.” We walked up the steps to the Sombrero Festivo. The restaurant was closed, but Rosalie said she didn’t mind if we raided the bar. I turned to face Brendon.
“Was that the Pasim Doble?” I inquired.
Brendon bowed mockingly, and shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a man of many talents.”
“I’ll say,” I said, genuinely impressed. “Dancer. Comedian. Speaks several languages.”
“And I’m exceptionally good at annoying people,” he smirked.
“Ha ha,” I laughed dryly. “Okay, I get it…” I walked away, looking coyly over my shoulder as I walked into the restaurant. “…compliments make you nervous so you deflect.”
“Don’t you?” he said, quirking a brow. “I mean, if I told you that you look gorgeous tonight, what would you say?”
“I would say you are fishing for more compliments.”
“By giving you a genuine one?”
“Touche. Thank you.”
Brendon ducked behind the bar and pulled out a pretty shaped bottle with a clear liquid. He asked me to grab chilled glasses from the mini refrigerator. I wasn’t sure what he had in mind, but I did and he measured the alcohol into four separate glasses.
“Because we can carry some back out to the courtyard eventually,” he remarked.
“So what is it?” I inquired.
“Poitín, from your motherland.”
I grimaced. “Brendon, we have no idea if Simbernia is my motherland.”
“Yes,” he said, taking a sip of his clear liquid. “But wouldn’t it be fun to pretend it is, Berns?”
I decided to withhold a retort and took a delicate sip. Immediately, I made a face, coughing and gagging, and patting my chest from the pure shock of the burning sensation.
“That’s… terrible,” I wheezed. “God-awful!”
“But it’s a full blown Bernish moonshine,” Brendon said, a wide smile on his face as if he were enjoying the moment.
“Moonshine,” I spat out, my eyes growing wide as little moons. “You made me drink that?”
“It’s a rite of passage,” he replied. “Couldn’t find Absimnthe and this is the next best thing.”
“Moonshine!” I punched his arm in annoyance.
“No, don’t worry… it’s the legal stuff, and it’s not cheap,” he replied.
“God-awful stuff,” I tried to stomach another sip. “Oh no! No! No! No!” I nearly slammed the glass down on the counter. “I don’t care how expensive it is. You cannot make me drink that.”
“Alright, Berns,” Brendon conceded. “Just figured you’d want to try it. My granddaddy gave me my first glass of Poitín when I was a wee nineteen.”
“Wee nineteen?” I smirked. “You sound Bernish.”
“Aye, I am.”
“Huh? Didn’t figure you for it.”
“No really,” he said ironically.
“So why did Rosalie stock that stuff?” I asked.
“She didn’t. I picked some up at Roxie’s Liquor,” he replied.
“Why?” I asked, picking up the glass and gingerly taking another sip, bracing for the taste.
“Because, it’s tradition,” he repeated. “And you need some culture.”
“Oh really?” I stuck my chin in the air.
“Yes,” he matched my movement, hiking his own chin.
“By expanding my alcohol palate?”
“How do you know what I’ve had and what I haven’t?”
“Kass, you’re learning to be a bartender. You need to know what things taste like.”
“Okay, well, now I will know to warn people before they try this drink.”
“Ah,” Brendon set his finished glass on the counter. “The drink of legends.”
“Yes poems and songs have been written about this drink.”
“I’d like to see that.”
“Okay, the poems or the songs?”
“Both, I guess.”
“I’ll FaceMash you some links. Are we friends?”
“What do you mean are we friends?” I reached over the bar, pulling an ice cube out of the bucket to soothe my burning throat. “Of course, we are.”
We linked arms and walked out onto the porch.
“I mean on social media?”
“I don’t know. I can add you when I get back to my room. I left my phone there.”
“Aye, lassie, in your room… let’s head there now, shall we?” he smirked.
“Uh uh… not so fast, mister,” I laid a hand out on his chest before thinking. “You aren’t getting lucky tonight.”
“But it’s your birthday,” he whined mockingly.
“My birthday… that’s right… mine…” I emphasized.
“Then you need a little ole luck of the Bernish,” he said smoothly.
“Llamas! How do you do that? Does this crap work on other girls?” I laughed.
He almost looked hurt.
“I may be pushing my luck then,” he chuckled weakly, his tone having lost some of its confidence. “I have a gift for you, though.”
“A gift?” I perked and stopped walking. “Brendon… you didn’t have to get me anything at all. I mean, we hardly know each other.”
“I don’t know about that,” he shrugged. “I wanted to.”
“But you…” I felt my throat catch as I tried to formulate words. “…flew my sister out here first class. Why? Why would you do that?”
“Because it’s your birthday.”
“Birthdays are serious.”
I smiled bashfully. “Brendon…”
“I came over the day after we last hung out and your dad said you weren’t feeling well. I wanted to check up on you and make sure you were okay. You seemed off after that phone call with your friend.”
He wanted to make sure I was okay? I bit my lower lip thinking about how rude I must have been, neglecting to offer an explanation for my behavior.
“I’m sorry. I… uh… got bad news…”
He waited as if expecting more. I wasn’t sure how much to tell him.
“Um… my best friend… she was drunk…and she kinda hooked up with this guy I used to know.”
“An ex?” he surmised.
I nodded, swallowing hard. I expected a response, something along the lines of “it wasn’t your fault,” or “they aren’t worth your time,” or even an “I’m sorry,” but Brendon said nothing as if satisfied with the response, and avoided pushing me. Oddly, it made me want to open up.
“So yeah… I was upset,” I said awkwardly. “I mean, I didn’t love him or anything.”
Now why did I say that?
“But we were close… and my friend and I… well, we used to be close before I went on this pilgrimage with my dad. She of all people understands the need to escape every once in awhile.”
Kass, shut up! Why are you telling him this?
“She doesn’t have the happiest home life and all. Not like my life is all peachy either.”
“I think your life is what you make it,” Brendon said seriously.
“Are you a glass half-full kind-of guy?” I said, a hint of snark in my tone.
“No, I’m a glass is a glass kind-of guy. Life can’t be confined to a single glass.”
I thought for a moment, impressed with his response.
“My life definitely doesn’t feel like it fits in a glass. I guess that’s a good thing,” I shrugged.
“Absolutely, Kass, if your life was in a glass it would be rather boring, and I kinda-like the interesting non-glass Kass.”
I resisted the urge to laugh with the rhyme, but I was secretly pleased by the real genuine compliment I had just received.
“You never answered my question entirely…” I knew I was deflecting, but I didn’t care. “…about flying my sister out here.”
“You seemed upset. I asked your dad what would make you feel better. He said you missed your sisters. I offered to fly them both,” he said as matter of fact as if he had just read me the weather report for the next week instead of offering me an incredibly generous gift. “Only Andi wanted to come, and it took some convincing, but your dad got on the phone and they talked for nearly two hours before she made the decision.”
My heart was instantly warmed and I could feel heat rising in my cheeks, and I hoped Brendon would think I was flushed from the warm night or the fiery chandeliers above our heads. In all the time I had been with my father, I never thought of trying to arrange a time for him to talk to my sisters to reconcile as I had. What an incredibly selfish sister I was!
“I did have an ulterior motive,” he added. “I wanted to see you smile again, Berns.”
He was trying to cop-out, but it only highlighted the sweet, serious side of Brendon I hadn’t seen before even more.
“Thank you,” I grabbed his hand without thinking, and planted a kiss on his rough unshaven cheek, the sensation feeling curious on my lips. Pulling back, I dropped my head so he couldn’t see my blush. “Thank you,” I repeated softly.
“Does this mean I’m getting lucky tonight?” he grinned.
I punched him in the other arm this time. “Way to ruin the moment!”
“That’s me. Official moment ruiner.”
I laughed. “So what’s this other present you most definitely did not need to get me but did anyway?”
“Come with me.”
We walked back to the residence, entered my front door, and started up my staircase to my bedroom. I felt nervous all the sudden, wondering what he was expecting or what he would want from me. Maybe he was right. Maybe he wasn’t entirely selfless. Maybe he expected some physical compensation in return for his lavishness. I slowed as I took each step, feeling my legs grow heavier as if wearing lead leg bracers, and my heart began racing as I felt sweat drip from my forehead. I was about to turn around and plunge back down the stairs out of sheer panic when Brendon turned around and reached out his hand to me.
“Don’t worry. No funny business, I promise, Kassiopeia.”
Hesitantly, I took his hand and climbed the last few steps. He reached up and pulled down a trap door, surprising me with a ladder to the roof, one I didn’t know existed.
“Ta-da!” he proclaimed, clapping his hands as he showed me the beautiful balloons.
From the roof, I could see they spelled out the letter ‘K’ as in my name, Kassiopeia.
“Wow, that’s cool…” I said, surprised that this is what he wanted to show me.
Is this his gift? Kass, don’t be ungrateful. Gosh, he’s done so much for you already.
“Isn’t that neat? It took Noel and I several hours to finish this.”
“I can imagine. Thank you…” I looked up at the night sky. “It’s beautiful up here. And these balloons… this is really cool.”
“So I have something for you,” he reached inside his tux jacket, pulling out a folded manila envelope. “Here.”
“What is it?” I took the envelope gingerly, and opened the sealed flap.
“It’s an invitation. Well, a job offer.”
“A job offer?”
“For the Bay City Buzz… as managing editor, I do have some swing and pull there.”
“The newspaper?” I exclaimed. “Well, yeah, duh! The newspaper. I mean, your newspaper. A job? But I’m here in Desierto Rojo, not on Legacy Island.”
“I know that,” he remarked. “Your dad was kind enough to show me some of your writings and I think you’ve got talent.”
“You do? He did?” I blinked rapidly.
“Yes, and I want you to write a piece about Casa de la Esperanza. Think of it as an on-spec, an audition, if you will. If we like the article, we’ll publish it and you can write freelance for us.”
“But I don’t have a college degree.”
“Honey, it’s all in who you know, and you’ll go to college one day.”
“Oh my goodness! I don’t know what to say.”
“Um… uh… this is an incredible opportunity. I know I can write a good piece for you. I mean, about this place. More people need to know about this place and all the good work Rosalie does here and I did write for my high school newspaper.”
“Kass,” Brendon put his hands up. “I already offered you this piece. You don’t need to interview or anything.”
“Right. Right,” I smiled. “I can’t believe this!”
“Is that a yes?”
“Yes! Yes!” I clapped my hands excitedly. “I mean…” I swallowed hard and recomposed myself. “I won’t let you down.”
“Good,” Brendon shook my hand vigorously. “Just don’t call me sir or anything. And I’m not your boss yet. This is still on spec until the editing team can review everything.”
“Right, thank you, sir,” I said teasingly.
“You’re going to keep calling me that, aren’t you?”
“Yep,” he grinned.
Author Note: The Irish Gaelic language is also known as Gaeilge so Bernilge is my Simworld form of Irish Gaelic. The phrase “Lá Breithe Sona!” means Happy birthday in Gaelic. I hope you enjoyed the fun musical links I used for Simspiration. 🙂 The Bernish people are sometimes affectionately called Berns, which is the reasoning behind Brendon’s nickname of the redhaired Kass. Just as a reminder, Simtalia is Italian, and Simtannican is British Isles. The Pasim Doble is based on the Pasodoble dance. Poitín is an Irish alcoholic beverage that is legal in certain forms. Brendon did give Kass the legal drink, but there are illegal versions of the beverage, moonshine. There really is literature and songs about Poitín. I found this song and this song. No offense to the Irish at all meant by Kass’ reaction to the alcohol. It seemed fitting given it is a strong drink, and Kass isn’t accustomed to drinking hard liquor. Roxie’s Liquor is mentioned, though not pictured, in this chapter, so I thought I’d add a link to the awesome cc lot made by Floraflora2 influenced by the GTA games. Absimnthe is a play on absinthe. I’ve previously featured the other lot, El Gato Amarillo Cantina a.k.a. Yellow Jack Inn, in this chapter. FaceMash is of course Facebook in my Simworld. FYI, the K balloons were way fun to make and it was easiest to see the whole thing from the roof hence the random relocate. It wasn’t really planned but I kept trying to get pictures of it in game and then it didn’t make sense from the roof unless someone was actually on the roof. Hope you enjoyed.