Kass blinked as the sudden light leafing through the the curtains filtered across her freckled face. As she turned on her side, she realized Gage was no longer in the bed, and she didn’t have to strain her ears to hear the water running in the bathroom. Ah! He’s showering, a sleepy smile stretched across her face. Absently, she laid a hand on his pillow. Last night, sleeping in his arms had been comfortable, more so than she cared to admit. She was starting to wonder what was keeping her from falling in love with the guy. Flopping onto her back, she lifted an arm to her forehead, and remembered exactly what was keeping her from feeling for someone. Davis. She pinched the bridge of her nose and sat up, self-consciously covering her breasts even if she was wearing her Edgewater Saints tee shirt and shorts. She half-expected her blonde-haired, blue-eyed ex-boyfriend to be staring at her disappointed from the doorway. Thankfully, he was not.
But ghosts of memories are, she dangled her legs off the side of the bed. Kass wondered what it meant when she had been with two guys, one who was fantastically passionate, even if he was a jackass, and the other who was in love with her, adorably so, and neither one of them could satisfy the longings of her heart. Is it because I always want what I cannot have? she thought abysmally. She lingered on the bed, wiggling her toes, as she tried to figure out how she was going to explain her feelings to Gage.
He was a great guy. A wonderful guy. A sweet guy. He had made Christmas magical for her. She hadn’t recalled being that happy in a long time. But something was off… something was missing. Her heart was somewhere else, and it wasn’t fair to him. She felt like she was lying to herself if she believed she loved Gage now. After all the nice things he had done for her, after hugging her and kissing her, and rescuing her last night, after sharing a bed together once more, she didn’t know if she could tell him the truth.
When her feet hit the wooden floorboards, Kass stood with purpose and determination. I will be honest with him, she walked to the window, and glanced out at the frozen wonderland and the families running about and playing in the field across the street. One of the kids stopped, his eyes widening, but then he looked up and laughed, waving to Kass. She gasped, whirling quickly, and leaning against the wall out of site. I’m dressed. What am I so freaked out about? she chided herself. She should at least figure out what she had done with her bra. She couldn’t very well wander downstairs and face her dad without that essential piece of lingerie. I will be honest with Gage, she told herself forcefully as she yawned and stretched, walking over to grab her bra from the rocking chair. After I’ve had a cup of coffee.
Unfortunately for Kass, the coffee maker wasn’t working. She flipped the switch several times, confirming her suspicions. The room had experienced some kind of brown-out. Come to think of it, the refrigerator isn’t humming either. Kass reached into the freezer, and pulled out a bucket of chocolate caramel ice cream. Right as she did, as if expecting something, Tigris and Euphrates curled around her ankles, meowing and purring.
“Aw,” she said, picking up Euphrates and kissing him between his ears. “You want fed, don’t you? Well, this isn’t for you.”
Kass smiled, snagging two spoons from the drawer, still holding the kitten, and perching one spoon between her teeth while she reached over to kick the freezer door closed with her foot. This was the ice cream with the cinnamon pecans. That was the surprise. While double mint chocolate chip was her favorite, she enjoyed the thought of eating chocolate caramel surprise for breakfast. Something about it was exciting and grown-up. Yes, I’m an adult, and I eat ice cream for breakfast.
Euphrates wiggled out of her arms and she let the kitten go as she settled on the couch with a self-satisfied smile. This was going to be a good day, she figured. While maybe she didn’t love Gage, she did care for him, and she enjoyed spending time with him. Perhaps she would wait until after the holiday to tell him the truth. New year. Fresh start. No use messing things up so soon, Kass. Maybe if she gave herself some time, she could grow to love him with the same intensity and feeling as he did.
Forty minutes later he was calling her a jerk because she told him she wouldn’t wait while he ran off to Alasimka because Natalya was pregnant. Gage was going to have a baby. He was going to be a dad. This… was… big. She gave him an entire speech about why she might be selfish, but he was being selfish too asking her to wait for him to figure out how a baby and Natalya and a relationship with her fit into his life. She started panicking, wondering what she would do if she waited here. She couldn’t exactly live in the home of his former lover and roommate with her father in tow. She couldn’t exactly stay in Riverview and get a job and live her life.
They continued talking, and Kass felt her heart sinking, knowing the reality of Gage leaving for Belladonna Cove. They couldn’t be together… not with her plans and his new direction in life. She hated disappointing him. She hated making herself feel worse. She really genuinely cared for Gage, but somehow, in the heat of the moment, she told him she didn’t love him, which was true, but she could have worded it differently. She tried to make up for it by saying she could fall in love with him given time, but the damage was already done.
Kass watched Gage leave, refusing to look at her or give her a goodbye hug. She felt her heart tear from her chest as he stepped into his taxi cab to carry him to the airport. Gage was a special guy. She wanted to still be his friend, but his last word to her made her believe they could never be friends again. His resounding “no” stung with surprising force, and she wondered if she should run after him, to apologize, or take it back. But I’d be lying.
Kass had plans for her immediate and long-term future. Howard was planning to drive up through historic Simnadia, to visit the alpine woods with their windows rolled down even in winter just to catch a whiff of the heavenly scent, to stand beneath the spray of the famous Autumn Falls waterfall at sunset, to drive through the enchanted forest, to roast marshmallows under the stars in the logging camps of Three Lakes, and to shop in the scenic village of Erewhon.
Before her mother’s wedding in Simpril, she planned to drive with her dad down the Simistral coastline from Alasimka to Southern Califorsimia. Howard planned to teach Kass how to fish off the Cape Garner and Salmon Woods islands in the spring. They would visit the dark town of Midnight Hollow at the end of winter when the sun barely stayed in the sky for most of the day in the Bearsim Sea Circle. They planned to do the silly tourist-y thing and hunt for Bigfoot and Nessie in Beach City. Howard said the best elk burgers came from a little town called Great Bear near the national park. They would eat in the darling cafes of Port La Forks, and stay in the best B&B her dad had ever found run by a charming Simirish transplants. And they would drive to Moonlight Falls in the afternoon and drink the delicious red roast coffee at Van Gould’s.
Howard promised they would visit the famous divided city in northern Oresim, climbing the mountains to Howard’s favorite picnic spot above Elmira City. They would visit the Simpanese Tea Gardens in Magnolia Promenade, and sip green tea at high noon, then take the train to the famous rose gardens. They would sip wine in Jack Simdon Square in Oakland, kayak across the bay to Legacy Island, and visit the small, but amazing farmer’s market in Bay City. They would bike across the famous Ruby Gate Bridge in Bridgewood, and picnic on the beach in the semi-tropical Evandale County.
If they still had time left, they would take a quick breeze through of Southern Califorsimia cities, starting with the whale pool in Fairhaven, walk Hollyweird Boulevard in Los Aniegos, take in an early Saints soccer game in Angel City, and while Kass visited some art museums, Howard planned to get in a game of golf in Bellair. Post-the-wedding, Howard suggested visiting Red County’s summer bands festival on the beach, and then popping down to Starlight Shores at the tip of the state for the summer Sim fests and traveling circus.
Kass couldn’t just abandon her dad and their detailed itinerary. She didn’t know how much longer her dad would be in good enough health to travel. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. At the convincing of Brendon Shore, Kass had applied to a few colleges and universities in Califorsimia, and she hoped to return to school mid-summer of this year. She had already received an early acceptance from Legacy College in Bay City. So her plans to go to Edgewater Global Business College fell away! Kass figured her year on the road with her father gave her invaluable experience, and it was only half done.
Gage having an unexpected kid would only interfere with her plans, and she couldn’t be expected to wait for him to figure out all the details. She was worried about her dad, and wanted to spend as much time with him as possible. She was worried about what might happen if her sisters had EXCES… if she developed EXCES. They were still young. They might beat it. There might be a cure in their lifetime if the government ever let up on their ridiculous research restrictions where only military-contracted medical researchers could do any work on finding a cure for the disease that was crippling a small portion of the population. It was still a significant population, Kass decided. My dad… is… significant.
Kass felt a tear slip down her cheek as she turned and ran into the living room, covering her face, almost embarrassed to be caught crying, even if the only other room occupant was a Christmas tree. Why do I feel a significant ache in my heart then? Am I such a bitch for breaking Gage’s heart? I am...she looked up and caught her sad reflection in one of the Christmas ornaments. Aren’t I? It’s like that song... she thought bitterly, as she climbed onto the couch and curled her hands around one of the throw pillows, drawing her knees to her chest. Last Christmas, I gave you my heart…but the very next day, you gave it away. That’s me… giving his heart away. But it’s not really mine to keep for him, is it? It’s not fair to him. His heart needs to be with Natalya and their baby. The dam broke and the tears flowed freely.
“I could’ve been happy with him,” she bit at her thumbnail feeling miserable. “If I tried… if only I tried… if only this didn’t happen when it did… if only we had been together sooner… then maybe I could’ve mustered the strength to try… to try and be the kind of girlfriend Gage needed…even when another girlfriend of his had a baby. Gah!”
Kass chucked the pillow across the room, startling Tigris who had newly entered the room.
“I’m pathetic!” Kass screeched to herself, throwing her arms on the couch in dramatic fashion.
Hearing the soft squeak of brakes, she leaped to her feet and ran to the window, half-expecting Gage to have returned. Instead, she saw her father step out of a taxi and pay the cab driver. It’s almost ten in the morning, Kass narrowed her eyes. Where has he been? She watched as her father walked around to the back of the house, and she figured he was planning to come in the dining room doors. It was the perfect opportunity to escape to the barn and hide in the shower.
Kass found the song on her playlist to put her in the depressed mopey mood.
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
But the very next day you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I’ll give it to someone special
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye
Tell me baby
Do you recognize me?
Well, it’s been a year
It doesn’t surprise me
With a note saying “I love you” I meant it
Now I know what a fool I’ve been
But if you kissed me now
I know you’d fool me again
“What a fool I’ve been,” Kass repeated, touching the tile wall.
She stayed under the water for a long time, so long that the temperature was no longer hot when she emerged. She didn’t cry anymore, but she still felt lousy as she tugged on her jeans, and pulled her new snow-white puffy vest, a Christmas present from her dad, over her mint-green turtleneck. At nearly noon, she had worked up enough courage to walk over to the main house and tell her dad what happened.
When she couldn’t find him, she figured they must have missed one another. Did he go back out? Kass wondered, plopping down on the side porch bench, feeling exhausted.
“Hey there you are, sweetheart!” Howard exclaimed, rounding the corner. “How about some thick cut ham sandwiches for lunch? I picked some up at a deli counter in Simcago last night. I could make that cherry pineapple glaze you like, and I think we still have dill pickles in the fridge.”
“Uh…yeah…” she sniffled. “Probably a good idea to use up what’s in the fridge. There was a brownout earlier.”
“Oh no! Did the breaker get reset?” Howard asked.
Kass winced, and ran her hands through her hair. “Um… no… I didn’t think about that. I was kinda busy….did you have a good date with Marisol?”
“Yeah, she’s in town to promote her new book and she called me,” Howard offered. “And no…you’re not getting any more details.”
“Ugh! Dad!” Kass replied, shaking her head. “I don’t want to know.”
“So where’s lover boy?” her father teased, sitting down on the bench.
“I don’t know,” she said, sadly. “Halfway to the airport by now, I’d imagine.”
“Airport? Why?” her dad asked, surprised.
“Um… he got some news… uh… I don’t know how to say this, Dad…he’s having a kid,” Kass sighed heavily, feeling the sadness creep into her heart. “…with his girlfriend from the summer.”
“Oh!” was all her father could say in reply.
After a few moments of stunned silence, he added, “Are you okay, my daughter?”
“I don’t know, Dad,” she wailed.
“Here, here,” he stood up and offered his arms for a big bear hug.
Kass collapsed against her dad’s shoulder, pushing her forehead into his collarbone, soaking his brown sweatshirt with her tears. Her father’s embrace comforted, but didn’t take away the incredible loneliness and overwhelming despair Kass was feeling. She couldn’t believe she let another good guy get away, but she knew she made the best decision for both of them, but perhaps not in the best way possible. She could have been more sympathetic. More understanding. More willing to try to work things out, or at least willing to wait until he knew what he was going to do before she broke things off.
Still, she had awakened this morning with a sense of the air needing cleared, and her intentions made known to Gage. She just hadn’t expected things to end so quickly. She had hoped to tell him how she felt and be honest, but to stay together at least until she had figured things out. But that wasn’t fair to him or her, and this was for the best. Then why did it hurt like hell had reached up from the cold depths with its icicle arms and froze her heart?
“Kass,” Howard spoke first. “Did you love him?”
“Um…no… I really wanted to… I really did, but I didn’t. Not the way I should have. Not the way he wanted,” she explained.
“And that guy from the Palms? Did you love him?”
“You knew about Billy?”
“I’m a father. Of course, I knew. I just figured you’d tell me in your own time and space and when we went to Mexsimco, I figured you broke things off with him.”
“Oh Dad, I’m sorry. I should’ve told you about Billy. He was a mistake…” she sighed sharply. “A huge mistake. I can’t even begin to explain how big of a mistake he was.”
“Did you two?” her father started and then stopped.
“No Dad, I’m still a virgin, I think…” she ran her hands through her hair. “I don’t know… I’m not even sure what that means. If you mean, did we have sex? No. If you mean other things… I don’t know… Daddy… I don’t know what this whole love and sex thing means. I don’t know the difference between a guy who wants to use me and a guy who is genuinely in love with me. I just don’t know…anything.”
She saw her father’s shoulders ever-so-slightly relax, and she couldn’t help but feeling like she let him down, even though she hadn’t had sex with either Billy or Gage. She needed to be more careful with whom she was with, and she needed to make better decisions in general. She was so far from perfect, and every impulsive thing she did seemed to end in disaster.
“Dad, I screwed up. I broke things off with Gage and he said he loved me. He said he loved me and the very next day I broke his heart. He wanted to try and make things work, but he’s having a baby, and I have plans… with you… places we want to go see… and your health and my health to worry about, and college plans next summer… I just couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait knowing I didn’t feel about him the same way that he felt about me. But I still cared about him.”
“Then you did the right thing?”
“But why does it hurt so much?”
“Because it will… and it does… and Kass,” Howard said seriously. “I’ve made my own share of mistakes, and I was a lousy husband to your mother. I could’ve at least separated from her before I took up with Kate. But Kass, mistakes are part of life. They are part of how we grow. And I’m still growing up, okay? So you have a long way to go and many many more mistakes until you get to my age,” he added, almost teasingly as he ruffled her hair.
“Dad!” she laughed.
“That’s my girl. There’s your smile,” Howard chuckled. “But you know, you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did, okay, kiddo?”
“I know, Dad.”
“So it looks like we’ve gotta scoot. We should probably pack up after lunch and prep the trailer.”
“Yeah,” she shrugged, leaning into his chest with a half-hug. “You’re right.”
“Well, before we go…” Howard said, mischievously, his eyes twinkling.
Author Note: Most of the cities I mentioned about Kass’ upcoming travels actually exist as worlds you can download. Maybe I was being lazy, but since I ended Interludes & Solitude early, this is how you know where she is headed off to post this chapter, and before Kassiopeia Fullbright and the Lost Legacy. As always, exercise caution when downloading third-party CC, but if you’re interested… here’s the list:
- Alpine Meadows, Simnadia
- Autumn Falls, Simnadia
- Enchanted Forest, Simnadia
- Three Lakes, Simnadia
- Erewhon, Simnadia
- Cape Garner, Alasimka
- Salmon Woods, Alasimka
- Beach City, Wasimington
- Great Bear, Wasimington
- Port La Forks, Wasimington
- Elmira City, Oresim
- Magnolia Promenade, Oresim
- Oakland, Califorsimia
- Bay City, Legacy Island, Califorsimia
- Bridgewood, Califorsimia
- Evandale County, Calforsimia
- Fairhaven, Califorsimia
- Los Aniegos, Califorsimia
- Angel City, Califorsimia
- Red County, Califorsimia
Hope you enjoyed the appearances of Kassiopeia and her father, Howard, in the FRWL series.
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