Meanwhile in Another Part of Town(MAPT) is my attempt at a TS4 rotational story. Set in San Myshuno, MAPT will follow the colorful lives of Sim families in the town’s lovely apartment living situation. It is my goal to follow each Sim family for at least one Sim week through a mixture of autonomous and directed actions (like when they need a nudge in the right direction). I will begin with the Martinez family, a recreation of the TS3 SimBin couple, Pablo and Jennifer. You can read more on my Simblr.
Billy approached his tired girlfriend on the couch. He had helped her father to his bed so he could sleep off the excitement. She stared up at him with wide, grateful eyes.
“Thank you,” she said, slipping out of her boots and socks, and digging her polished toes into the thin beige rug.
Kass closed her eyes. He felt his heart twitch. She looked so comfortable, like she belonged on his couch. He wondered how he got so damn lucky. He didn’t deserve this woman.
“Oh here,” she scooted on the couch. “Did you want to sit?”
“No… it’s okay…” he shrugged. “I wanted to see…”
If you love me? I thought you did. But maybe you don’t. Not yet. But you could. If I don’t screw this up. Oh who am I kidding? Billy chuckled awkwardly and ran a hand through his hair as he settled on the coffee table, like where she had been sitting earlier.
“…if you were hungry.”
He grinned. “I could whip us up some pasta. Or I have that leftover steak from Han’s Tavern.”
“Sounds great,” she smiled, wrapping her arms around herself.
“Cold?” he asked, walking over to the thermostat. “I’ll adjust it.”
“Not really,” he thought he heard her say.
Billy frowned as he walked into the kitchen. Something was wrong. He sensed it. Dude… cut your losses and run, his gut was telling him. It was still early enough in their relationship. He wasn’t going to get his heart trampled. It might sting a little, he winced as he opened the refrigerator.
“Which is it?”
“Pasta or steak?”
“Steak? From Han’s Tavern?”
He said that already. He tried not to read into things. Too late, he rubbed his jaw as he perused the shelves in the cold storage.
“I didn’t think you saved our leftovers.”
“Of course I did,” he reached for the correct item. “Do you want the baked potato or fries with that? I didn’t know what you’d want so I had both boxed,” he was saying when she walked into the kitchen.
Somehow the image of her nearly knocked him over. The fading sunset caught her hair at just the right angle, her ponytail light and loose as it swished in the golden light. His heart echoed the pitter-patter of her bare feet on the wooden floor. He had to stop feeling like this. He couldn’t feel like this. He needed to nip his feelings in the bud before it blossomed to something outside his control. It was already outside his control. He glanced away.
“Fries,” she answered simply.
Billy cleared his throat. “There’s an unopened bottle of Ranch in the second cupboard to your right if you want… no, not that one…” he shook his head and pointed. “…that one.”
She found the right one, pulling out the dressing bottle.
“It’s good on steak and fries,” he remarked, popping the leftover steak into the microwave.
She opened the takeout box, snagged a fry and dipped it in the squirt of dressing she squeezed in the box.
“Mmm…” she smiled, and closed her eyes. “…actually it’s amazing.”
“You’re cute,” he smirked.
She opened her eyes and glared at him. “Billy Caspian! Don’t call me cute.”
“Okay, okay,” he lifted his hands in defense.
They ate the warmed leftovers at the kitchen table before returning to the couch. Kass, despite her attempts to act like nothing was wrong, kept her distance. He obliged. He needed distance. This wasn’t going to be easy.
“Are you really a Racket?”
He needed to be honest. At least about something. She twisted her lower lip. He had a hard time reading her.
“Did you?” she began. “I mean…have you?”
“Suspected. Alleged. Tried. Never convicted.”
“Oh,” Kass ran a hand through her hair as if trying to process the fact that her boyfriend faced criminal charges and most likely went to jail, albeit briefly.
“Your name is Lawrence?” she squeaked.
“Yes. I was born Lawrence William Racket. But I took my mother’s name for years, and then I settled on Caspian because it sounded cool.”
“Cool,” she repeated. “Cool…” she looked down at the floor. “And Deon… he’s not just your friend, is he?”
“He’s my bio dad.”
“Um… so that means…”
“… he’s a Racket too.”
Any number of things could be barreling through her mind from the look on her face. Billy winced.
He wanted to tell her everything. She deserved to know everything. But he wasn’t ready. He couldn’t do it again. He couldn’t open his heart and his life to another woman, especially one as young as Kass. She was barely nineteen. He already hurt her twice. She had a life ahead of her, and a life that would be better without him. Ironically, Gage’s sudden appearance helped make sense of things. At least the guy loved her, and they had history, probably better history than he did with Kass. He needed to fire Gage, but he was worried. If Gage could figure out who he really was, it was only a matter of time before others might, and that could jeporadize his business dealings. Maybe he could just demote him. He could bring in someone else to run Octagon House. Perhaps his dad’s acquaintance, the world famous Harwood Clay. Mr. Clay owed his dad a favor. Billy mentally flinched. He needed to deal with what was in front. Kass. He would have to make a choice, and his head would always win over his heart. It had to. It was the only way to survive. Billy swallowed hard. It was now or never.
“Look Kass, I get it. I’m not what you expected.”
He cut her off. “It was fun, but we both knew it wouldn’t be more than that, right? The other night was great, but it was a mistake.”
Oh the lies! He could tell by the look in her eyes that she was startled and crushed by his statement. Better now than later. Better her than me…
“A mistake?” her voice caught.
He hated that he was hurting her even more.
“I mean… I had my doubts, but…” she blinked.
He looked away, afraid of the direct eye contact. “Red… you…”
…could do better than me. I can’t protect you if you stay. You wouldn’t stay if you knew… just do it, already! Rip off the band-aid.
“Kass…you’re not what I want,” he said coldly, instantly regretting the words when they left his mouth.
Kass stared at him in shock. She looked about ready to cry but was unable to… the emotions clearly frozen in her big brown eyes, both pain and anger. He wondered which would win out first. When she slapped him hard across the face, he figured it out.
“You. Used. Me…” she said bitterly. “Again!” she jumped up from the couch. “I can’t believe I… fell… for it… you used me… again. I’m such an idiot!”
He wished he could take back the words. He wished he could write his wrongs, but he was in too deep and she didn’t deserve to get dragged down with him. He stood.
“Red…come on, we both know you’re not a good fit. You’re too inexperienced for me,” he continued, saying the lines he rehearsed a half-dozen times in front of the mirror, even if every word sounded like a horrid lie.
She narrowed her eyes. “And you’re too experienced for me, is that it?”
She walked right up to him until she was inches from his face. He wished he could take everything back. He wished he could lean in and kiss her soft, sensuous lips. He wished he could change his past. But he couldn’t.
“I was just a piece of tail to you, wasn’t I?” she glared at him. “A fix on your full moon night so you wouldn’t starve? I want to hear you say it.”
She was practically standing on his toes, and he half expected her to stomp on his foot.
“Say it, Billy!” she demanded, through gritted teeth. “Tell me what I was to you.”
You could’ve been my angel.
“A good time,” he swallowed and forced a devious smile. “Nothing more.”
Kass walked toward the bedroom, and opened the door, checking in on her father. “We’re leaving in the morning.”
She disappeared into his room, waking her father, and helping the groggy Howard out into the living room.
“It’s okay, Dad, I’ve got you,” she said quietly, glaring at Billy over her shoulder.
“What’s going on?” Howard inquired.
“Don’t worry about it, Dad. We’re going to see Marisol,” she replied.
“Why?” Howard rubbed his eye and winced as the skin below had formed a blackish-purple bruise.
“Because I’m a good time.”
She walked out the door with Howard, and quite possibly out of his life forever.
As she promised, Kass hitched the trailer to her father’s truck and they drove away in the wee morning hours. Billy was too much of a coward to face her after his horribly bad break-up speech. He merely watched through the faded window blinds. Once the Fullbrights were out of view, Billy wandered outside, shoving his hands into his pockets as he leaned against the porch railing. The front door opened.
“Whoo!” Dennis made a face. “It’s cold out here.”
He rubbed his hands together. Billy prepared for a lecture.
“I offered to help her out,” Dennis said. “I gave her an exclusive from inside the Racket crime family.”
“Do you think that’s the wisest idea?” Billy narrowed his eyes, wishing he had the nasty habit of smoking or that he’d brought a cup of coffee onto the porch, something to occupy his hands.
Dennis shrugged. “I felt bad that she got fired. She said she wouldn’t reveal her sources, but I gotta say she was surprised when she learned who I really was.”
Billy didn’t say anything, instead choosing to stare out at the yard.
“You didn’t have to break that poor girl’s heart,” Dennis said quietly.
Here we go. Billy resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
“I didn’t,” he twisted the toe of his tennis shoe into the porch floorboards. “She didn’t love me.”
But she could have… if you weren’t such a llama-sucking moron! he balled his fists inside his jacket pockets.
“Billy, if there’s one thing I know at my age is that love is rarely what you think it is,” Dennis said, almost disapprovingly.
“She didn’t want to be what I need,” he shrugged, realizing his words sounded lame, empty, and hollow as soon as he spoke.
He recalled saying those exact words about someone else before.
Dennis sighed and placed his fist against one of the wood posts. “The beginning of love,” he began. “…is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
Billy’s jaw dropped open in shock. “What kind of shit are you spouting?”
“It’s from a book… by Merton Thomasim. He was…a monk…” Dennis explained.
“A monk?” Billy repeated, arching both brows and waving his hands. “Dude, I’m no monk. Are you freaking kidding me?”
“You’re missing the point. It’s not about what you need. You should’ve been more honest with her,” Dennis remarked. “Even if you were breaking up with her… but if you don’t fix this…” he pinched the bridge of his nose. “…I’m worried.”
“You should be more worried about your other kids. You have for most of my life anyway.”
“Son, I’m…” Dennis trailed off.
Neither one of them wanted to talk about their past. How Dennis left his mother behind because of his family obligations. How his mother drank herself into oblivion because she couldn’t handle life. How his aunt took over raising him, amusing herself with him like he was her personal plaything. How Dennis didn’t come back into his life until he was sixteen and a runaway.
Billy grunted and kicked the porch railing. “I’ve got this handled.”
“You do? Really? You just sent your girlfriend packing because she’s not what you really need, but see, I think she is. I think she is and that’s what scares you.”
“You don’t know me.”
“Oh but I do. You see… I was you once. Except I didn’t stand a chance…” Dennis tilted his head. “You do.”
Billy dug his nails into the porch railing, the frustration threatening to boil over like hot lava into a snow bank. He didn’t want to think about his losses. He didn’t want to think about what would happen if that cowplant-brained ex of hers actually did know who he was and reported him to the authorities. He didn’t want to think about what would happen to their relationship if she knew everything about him.
“I think this is a facade,” Dennis said. “You’ve done this before, but this time it’s different, I think.”
“It’s not different… it’s exactly the same,” Billy snipped. “The same old me. The player. What boyfriend plants the idea of a boat in his girlfriend’s head and then pretends the motor isn’t working to get her alone on an island? I bring all my girls to your place. Kass is no different.”
Dennis frowned. “Did you plant the idea to have sex in her head?”
Billy shook his head in horror. “Never. I never do that to any of the girls I’m with. I know…” he trailed off.
He knew what it was like to be forced and coerced into doing something against one’s will. For all his manipulation and vampiric mind tricks, he had a cardinal rule, and that was that the girl had to want to have sex with him before he’d ever take it to the next level. She had to be willing and give consent. And he knew for certain Kass had wanted him the other night. He could practically feel her desire oozing from his pores. That was the thing about being a hybrid. All his senses were heightened. He used it to his advantage, but he never took sexual advantage of anyone. It was wrong on so many levels. He couldn’t live with himself if he did. Billy was glad Dennis was only a were and couldn’t see into his head now.
“I can’t protect her if she stays.”
“You won’t be happy if she leaves.”
“I’m a big boy. I can handle it.”
“But I don’t know if she can. You crushed that girl.”
“She’ll get over it.”
“Billy… you have so much to learn.”
“I’m my own man,” Billy replied in annoyance. “I’ve learned that life is cruel and you don’t always get what you want, but the only way to survive is to stay ahead of the storm and look out for uno número.”
“That’s a lonely existence,” Dennis shook his head. “Trust me. I’ve lived it. You don’t have to.”
“Kass and I are a fairy tale.”
And fairy tales give me the creeps. Billy shivered, thinking of his aunt’s penchant for reading Jacksim and the Beanstalk to him before bed, even in his teens.
“We don’t belong together.”
“I’ve seen the way you look at her.”
“Kass and her dad… they’re good people… they’re not like us, Dad… She deserves someone better.”
“What she deserves is an apology.”
“Shove off, llama’s ass,” Billy growled, stomping off the porch. “Who asked you? It’s better this way. She’s…safe… and we can carry on our business here.”
Dennis didn’t say anything for a moment and Billy wondered if he was going to respond.
“If that’s what you want.”
“It is,” Billy said, knowing that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Author Note: And round two of Billy and Kass failed. It shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, Kass is single and pining for Davis at the beginning of 2.0 Kassiopeia Fullbright and the Lost Legacy. I wanted to explore the concept of returning to partners after a break-up. It’s not to say it doesn’t ever work, but I wanted to explore the idea of people who go back to bad relationships. I’m specifically referring to Kass and her second time around with Billy. I’ll continue with this idea again in the future, probably in another Kass crossover chapter, or in KFLL. This time, Kass was more confident in her confrontation. She’s learning, albeit slowly.
A leopard often doesn’t change its spots. However, this time around, I wanted to give more context to Billy. He’s not this one-dimensional bad boy. He’s got his reasons, misplaced perhaps, and he could’ve picked a better way to break things off with Kass. The quote about love is attributed to Thomas Merton, a real world Catholic monk and mystic, who in my Simworld is named Merton Thomasim and is a Jacoban monk and mystic.
In case you were confused, Billy is both a werewolf and a vampire. The context for this was first mentioned inInterludes: Bad Memories. In my Simworld lore, some vampires have empathic abilities, and others have telepathic abilities, and very few have the ability to do “inception,” that is project or plant an idea in someone’s brain. I got this concept from the “make Sim think about me” option in game. Yes, Billy was, in part, manipulative in setting up the circumstances for their rendezvous, but as he admitted above, their woohoo was consensual. As you can probably tell, Billy is very much torn about Kass. He does care about her, though at this point, it is unclear whether either of them have deep feelings like genuine love for one another, and it’s unlikely they will find out anytime soon given Billy’s stubbornness.
Nothing like a hefty dose of Simspeare first thing in the morning. Kass had been reading on her tablet – the story of the star-crossed lovers – while lying in bed. It seemed almost appropriate given she and Billy were destined not to be. Somehow she knew this deep in her heart. Why do I always jump in head first without thinking? First Davis, then Billy, then Gage, and then Billy again. As she slid into the booth at the table in the trailer, Kass found herself face to face with the very flower Billy had given her a few weeks before. If only everything had stayed so happy and innocent. But she wasn’t naive anymore. There was so much more to the world than she had ever realized, and while this time, it wasn’t entirely Billy’s fault, she knew things couldn’t continue like they were.
They still hadn’t really talked in the last few days. Billy had been busy with his art lessons with Pierce Shawkti’s daughter and Peter Winterly’s son and doing some kind of job for or with Deon Merton, which Kass was pretty certain that wasn’t his real name. As she still hadn’t worked up the nerve to tell him she was freaked out by sex, she realized she couldn’t hold it against him if he didn’t think anything was wrong. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he would understand. Who am I kidding? Kass poked at a strawberry in the fruit salad. He’s been with a dozen plus one women. He won’t want to go without.
Kass finished her breakfast. Howard had left her a fruit salad with her favorite berries, toasted coconut, pomegranate seeds, kiwi, and roasted almonds drizzled in a raspberry poppyseed dressing. She was grateful after all these years he was still making her food. This morning he headed to the gym for an early start with the therapist, and then was planning to swing by Dr. Rhoen’s home for a EXCES support group session. She was glad he found camaraderie and encouragement. He needed it. She did too, but she wasn’t sure she was ready to reach out. Taking the pills was the first step. So far, she felt okay.
Frozen water chunks dropped from the sink head. Great! Kass hit the faucet a few times but to no avail. The water refused to re-liquefy, the downside of trailer pipes in winter. She only had a single dish to wash and a coffee cup, but she hated to leave it unwashed. Perhaps she could sneak over to Billy’s house and grab a roll of heat tape. He said something about it working wonders. She glanced at her watch. And he wouldn’t be home right now as this was his normal session with Miss Shawkti.
Kass stepped outside, neglecting her coat as she was only going a short distance. The view from Billy’s yard was spectacular, everything was covered in a glorious white. Azure Lake reflected everything like a mirror on its smooth icy surface. She wished she had a pair of skates, but then again, she had never been great with the balance issues. The evergreens were coated with a light layer of snow, making the woods appear practically magical. It was such a pristine and beautiful day. Kass almost felt melancholy. It was too perfect. Nothing’s that perfect, she thought cynically.
Without knocking, she walked in the back door of her boyfriend’s home. He usually left it unlocked and seeing as she was the only one home, she figured the knock was a useless gesture. She perused the kitchen drawers, but was unable to find what she was looking for, and then tried rummaging through the hall desk. Nothing. Kass wrinkled her nose as she stared up at blank walls. If she would stay with him longer, she would spruce up the place. The walls could use some paintings, and the tables, some fresh flowers, the shelves, some books. Since it was only a rental, and Billy was a guy, she figured he cared little for pretty fixtures. And yet the emptiness of the place induced even more sadness. Are these working right? she wondered about her pills. Aren’t I supposed to feel less upset?
She remembered that Billy once said that he liked to keep tools in the bedroom. Top dresser drawers. It was an odd habit, but Billy wasn’t exactly the average guy. Kass wandered into the bedroom, almost tentatively. This was where Billy slept. Somehow it felt private, even if she was his girlfriend, a girlfriend with whom he had been intimate. She stared at the bed longingly.
That’s probably where it should’ve happened. Is it normal to obsess like this? She tugged at her sweater sleeves. She needed to focus. The tall standing mirror next to the dresser rocked back and forth. She frowned. That’s odd. She shivered, and realized the window was open.
Running over, she slammed and latched the window. The mirror continued to squeak for a moment, still rocking by the sudden rush of air. Kass stepped over to steady the looking glass. As she slowed its movement, another frame caught her eye. Something was under the bed. Kass turned and knelt down out of curiosity.
She tugged the white frame with the blue matte background from beneath the bed. It was a photograph of Billy, a younger version of Billy, lovingly holding a woman, presumably a girlfriend. Kass frowned. Though her hair was longer, she looked familiar. I know her. Kass’s eyes grew wide. It was Constance Shelley from Riverview, that friend of Gage’s.
She flipped the frame to read the inscription on the back. It was dated Valensim’s Day nearly seven years prior. The words read, “To Bill. All my love, Connie.” Bill? Connie? Kass grimaced. Was this the long lost love of Billy’s? She gasped, the photograph nearly slipping from her hands. Was this his… mate? The woman he was supposed to be with forever? The one he abandoned? It couldn’t be. She couldn’t be. Kass sat down on the edge of the blue blanket on the bed. She didn’t know what to think or feel. She was pretty sure Constance was a lovely woman, but she had never suspected she was werewolf or anything else for that matter. And she was pretty sure Gage had a crush on her.
Oh the complications! Kass grunted and flopped back on the bed, throwing an arm behind her neck. It’s like a love-triangle-square-hexagon thingy. Gage liked Kass. Kass liked Billy. Billy once liked Constance. Gage liked Constance. At least she thought he did. But he also liked that Anita woman. At one point he liked Natalya. And Billy liked many other women too. I can’t… even… Kass tugged at the edge of her sweater. It was suddenly too warm in the house.
Simnadia was beautiful. She felt like she was in a painting and couldn’t find the frame. The only thing that isn’t supposed to be here is me, she thought woefully as she collapsed on the bench. She wasn’t sure where she belonged. She wasn’t sure where she was supposed to be. Or how she was supposed to feel. She swiped at a lone tear. The frigid air nipped at her exposed skin and through her sweater, jeans, and boots, but she didn’t care so much about the cold. She stared out at the powdered sugar mountain across the frozen lake, dotted with trees that looked like toys from a distance. Everything looks better under snow. It hides all the imperfections, she decided, all the jagged edges no one wants to see. Yet Kass knew they were still there. They were all still there.
She returned to the trailer before coming back to the bench in Billy’s backyard. She needed something to make her happy. The lime green photo album was just what she needed to laugh, to smile, to cry. All of it. She needed to feel all of it. It was the only way to move forward. She had to close this chapter of her life, and let go of her past. She was a very different girl than she was a mere eight months before. Kass smiled sadly as she wistfully brushed the pages of pictures of her two best friends and her in high school and graduation. If only she could go back…
“What are you doing here?”
She dropped the book in the snow, startled by a vision of her former best friend and former boyfriend, breathing heavily. She stood up and walked toward him, almost afraid it was a mirage, and then hoping he wasn’t really here. He couldn’t be here.
“I see you were looking at my gift,” Gage said softly.
“Wha…what are you? Why are you? Oh!” she smacked the sides of her face. “You can’t be here.”
“But I am,” Gage stepped forward, reaching for her, but she stepped back.
“Ga…Gage… you can’t be. We’re done. We’re through. We’re over. Oh gawd!” Kass leaned over and seized her knees in shock, breathing in quick, erratic patterns. “You have a child coming. You have… Natalya!”
Gage shook his head. “She doesn’t make me feel like you do. And you needed me.”
“Wha? Oh…fudge…Gage, you can’t…” Kass placed a hand over her heart. “You can’t be here. You can’t come running like this.”
“But you called me.”
“It was a mistake.”
“You needed me,” he said, forcefully, as he took a step forward.
“Maybe I did… but I shouldn’t have called you…I…” Kass clutched at her sweater, trying to calm her wildly beating heart.
Despite the cold, she could feel the perspiration on her neck. Her ex-best friend and ex-boyfriend just flew to or drove to…she wasn’t certain… Simnadia at the drop of a hat… because she had a moment of weakness and called him. It would be romantic or sweet if she felt anything for him. Anything. But where her heart was…instead was a lump of coal or a block of ice when it came to Gage Briody. She wanted to feel better. She wanted to feel more. But she couldn’t. And she never would. Why oh why didn’t he understand that? Why didn’t he get it?
“Gage… you should go,” she said quietly.
“What? I just got here,” he reached for and squeezed her hands.
“I…uh…” her voice cracked and she felt trapped, and then she saw Billy marching down the back steps of his house, and he didn’t look happy.
“Oh hell,” she murmured.
“Gage Briody! What the hell are you doing here?” Billy began, waving his arms frantically.
“Um… Billy… I can explain,” she said, weakly, staring at Gage.
He either didn’t hear her or he chose to ignore her. “I got a call from Joab, the security guard, and he said you didn’t show up to work yesterday or today… obviously, not today… you’re here.”
Kass placed a hand over her heart. Oh good! He thinks this is about work! This can still be salvaged. She felt a temporary relief.
“If you came to beg for your job in person, you could’ve saved yourself a wasted trip,” Billy grunted. “Dude, I gave you a break and you blew it. Last month you missed a major shipment that cost us thousands of Simoleons because you ran off to Simlaska and this month, you flew up to the Springs because what? You got cabin fever and you wanted to ski? What the hell are you doing here? You better have a damn good explanation.”
“I. Love. Kass,” Gage bit the words out and whipped his gaze to her.
Kass gasped. No, no, no, no, no. This can’t be happening. Not again. How come he wouldn’t give up? Why couldn’t he take a hint?
Billy released a forced and odd laugh, running his hand through his hair. “So that’s what this is about? You can’t let the girl go?”
Kass’ heart rate accelerated. This wasn’t good.
“You flew all the way here to see Kass. Why?” Billy laughed mirthlessly.
“Because she called me,” Gage stuck his chin in the air.
“Is that true?” Billy looked at Kass.
She winced. “Um?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Gage walked over and took Kass’ hand. “Even if she didn’t call me, I would’ve come anyhow. You hurt her, you bastard!”
All the color drained from Kass’ face. No, no, no! I can’t. This can’t. Say something, Kass.
“I hurt her?” Billy’s eyes widened. “You risked your job for a girl who doesn’t even love you? Who never loved you?”
“Billy, stop…” she partially found her voice.
“You need to go home and think about your priorities,” Billy said. “If you can’t tell, Kass is with me now, and she left you because she doesn’t love you. Only a loser chases a person they can’t have.”
“GAH!” Gage angrily shoved Billy back in the snow. “I love her. That’s all that matters. And you… can you say you do?”
“What’s going on here?”
Howard appeared in the yard, surprised to see Gage. Kass ran to his side.
“Daddy!” she wailed, feeling like a helpless child the moment the word left her mouth, but somehow the use of a childlike term of endearment was justifiable in the moment.
“It’s okay, sweetie. I got this,” Howard patted her shoulders reassuringly before stepping around her. “Gage, why are you here?”
“Kass called me.”
Kass looked helplessly between Billy and Gage. “I…did…” she admitted. “But it’s not what you think, Billy…” she continued, and narrowed her eyes as she looked at Gage. “…or what you think, Gage.”
“I think the guy’s trying to win her back,” Billy shrugged. “You don’t get any points for showing up for a girl who doesn’t even want you.”
Gage lunged for Billy.
“Whoa, son, you wanna back it up?” Howard lifted his arms as he stepped into referee the two men.
Billy took a step back. Gage continued forward, much to Kass’ dismay.
“I’m not your son,” Gage bit out, bitterly. “Back off Howard.”
“Gage, stop this!” Kass wailed.
“You lost, man, give it up,” Billy waved his hand apathetically.
“Gage… calm down, son…” Howard said, laying a hand gently on the young man’s shoulder.
“I said… BACK OFF!” Gage roared.
Billy dodged. Unable to stop his momentum, Gage whacked Howard. Kass cried out in horror, covering her face, almost afraid to watch as her frail father plummeted into the snow, sitting down so hard so was afraid he broke something, after Gage hit him square across the jaw. Billy stepped between Gage and Kass in a defensive posture, snorting as the frustration pummeled through his veins, but Kass brushed past him first preventing a follow-up blow.
“Dad!” she shrieked.
Howard moaned, holding his face. Gage looked mortified.
“You better leave,” Billy snarled.
“I’m… sorry…so….sorry…” Gage stammered, reaching both hands down to help Howard up, but Kass angrily batted them away.
“Leave,” Billy said, fiercely.
“I’m sorry…Howard… I didn’t mean to hit you…” Gage said, balling his fists as he stood his ground with Billy. “But my business isn’t done here.”
“Yes it is,” Billy reached down and helped Howard to his feet and then, a stunned Kass. “I’m calling the police.”
“Good, so they can arrest you, LawrenceWilliamRacket!” Gage spat in the snow.
Kass narrowed her eyes. Racket? As in the Racket crime family? As in the mafia of the South? She looked at Billy bewildered.
“That’s right,” Gage declared triumphantly. “I know who you are! I did my homework. Did you know you were dating a wanted man, Kass? You can do better than these criminals, Kass. Come back to me.”
Is he out of his mind? Kass whirled about while Billy helped her father to the back steps.
“Get outta here, Gage,” she snapped.
“Oh don’t baby me! You can’t be serious!” she made a disgusted face. “You hit my father!”
“I meant to hit Billy.”
“Yeah, you have a nasty habit of hitting my boyfriends. Go home, Gage…” she waved him off. “Go home to Natalya. Go home for your kid.”
“Go home before we press charges,” Billy called from the stairs.
“Press charges? Oh that’s rich!” Gage snorted.
“Gage…” she gritted her teeth, coming within inches of his face as she made fists at her side, her tone as icy as the frozen lake. “Go home.”
“Or what?” Gage jeered.
“Or I’ll kill you!” she said, darkly, smacking him hard across the face. “You hurt my dad…” she hit him again, this time, hard enough to draw blood.
Gage teetered, startled by the sudden impact.
“Kass, I’m…trying to protect you,” he wiped his lip.
“Are you deaf?” she screeched. “I never want to see you… ever again… leave me and my family… and my boyfriends… the hell…alone!”
Gage stood, staring at her, in shock.
“Leave, you son-of-a-bitch,” she shrieked. “Or so help me God, I will wring your neck faster than a spring chicken, Gage.”
She pivoted on her toe, and stomped toward a surprised Billy and Howard on the stairs.
“Remind me never to piss you off,” Billy said, quietly as he grabbed Howard’s hand, leaning into him for support.
Kass huffed, puffing a piece of hair off her forehead as she slid her arm around her father. With the help of Billy, she guided him into the house, abandoning a sad Gage to do the only thing he could do. Leave.
Kass and Billy helped Howard to the couch in the living room. He groaned as he sank into the red and gold couch cushions, shading his eyes from the bright overhead light.
“Dad…” she cried, her tone softened. “Get the ice pack,” she ordered Billy as she plopped on the coffee table.
“Yeah,” Billy replied, shuffling to the kitchen and returning moments later with cold compress.
“Here Dad… take this… are you okay? Do you feel okay?”
“I’m fine…sweetheart… that Gage…” Howard sighed. “…he’s got a lot of anger issues.”
“I don’t care about Gage,” she said, through gritted teeth, her eyes welling with tears. “Daddy… he hurt you.”
“He needs help,” Howard winced as he laid the compress on his eye.
“Dad. Don’t worry about Gage. I got him to leave.”
“I’m worried about you, pumpkin.”
Kass squeezed her father’s hand, touched by the kindness of his words. She knew he meant in more ways than one. However, now was not the time to discuss matters.
“Just rest… Dad… okay?”
Author Note: This chapter has been sitting in queue for days, but I wanted to edit the lighting as I wasn’t happy with it. This was a crazy chapter to write, and a hard chapter to stage. I ended up having to change traits of my characters just to get them into fights with one another. I planned to have Gage and Billy fight, but after Howard and Gage got into a scuffle, Kass walked over and slapped Gage autonomously. It was perfect. Just what I needed. Now that you’re over the shock, like I am… haha… thanks for reading.
When she arrived back at Billy’s house, Kass was furious. She couldn’t believe he had convinced her to interview at Sanguine Sanctuary when he had an ulterior motive all along. After they had been “discovered” by Mr. Deon Merton the other day in his island cabin, she had felt something was off. Deon had offered to take them out at first light, radioing his personal helicopter. While they waited for the remaining two hours, Deon entertained Billy and Kass with stories around the fire. He asked some questions about Kass, but was fairly evasive when she inquired about his connection to Billy. Her boyfriend had been equally quiet about the subject.
When they reached the mainland, Deon offered to take the couple to breakfast at the Redwood Heights Luxury Lodge. Kass was exhausted and achy, knowing she would need to go home, shower, and sleep before her night shift at the Sanctuary, but Deon insisted. Reluctantly, she had attended breakfast, only because she didn’t want to scramble her own eggs in the trailer. She grew suspicious when Deon asked pointed questions about her work at the club, and how people got in. However, Billy had assured her that he and Mr. Merton went way back and they could trust him. That’s when he offered up the story about his son, who would be at the club last night, and he hadn’t seen the boy in almost two years. He really wanted to surprise his kid and make up for lost time. Again, reluctantly, Kass agreed to help him, feeling bad about her own situation with her dad, and putting Deon’s name on the guest list against policy.
After collecting her final paycheck from Shark, she changed out of her work clothes and headed home to confront Billy. She had been unable to do so earlier in the day or last night because he was mysteriously busy. Figures, she sniffed as she climbed the step into the trailer. When she needed him, he disappeared.
The lights were out in the trailer when she stepped inside. She didn’t bother flipping the switch. The darkness felt comfortable to her. It was one of the rare things that did. Right now, she couldn’t stop itching. She had developed a terrible skin irritation in the last day or two. It was beginning to worry her. Maybe it was from the sex. Kass didn’t know much about intimacy, but she did know it was possible to pick certain “things” up. Billy was a werewolf after all. Maybe he had given her something.
At the thought, she began panicking. Her heart raced as she walked to the sink to get a glass of water. It’s not that bad, Kass. Calm down. Don’t…just breathe, she coaxed herself. The thought of woohooing with Billy again made her feel sick and she nearly coughed up her dinner. That was one downside of losing her job. She wouldn’t have a much-needed distraction. Between meeting Mr. Merton and the club debacle and picking her dad up from the airport this afternoon before returning to the club, Kass had little time to think about the long-term impact of the new level of relationship she entered with Billy. And her boss, Ty, unknowingly made things worse when he talked about Billy abandoning his mate.
That’s why he was kicked out? she swallowed hard, coughed, and spit up the water in the sink. In the eyes of the werewolves, Billy had divorced his woman and doomed her to a lonely existence. Kass didn’t know how she felt about that. He did say he had been with twelve women, and obviously this mate… lady… was one of them.
“Oh!” she wailed and smacked the counter with her hand.
He was my first and I was his thirteenth. Lucky number thirteen, huh? Try unluckiest number ever. Kass began pacing in the trailer, grateful that her father was still in his session at the Crystal Solarium until eleven p.m. She didn’t exactly want to explain to him her predicament or why she lost her job. Hey Dad, remember when you asked me if that boyfriend of mine was good for me? Nope. Not at all. In fact, he’s been with twelve other women, Dad, and I just gave him free milk because hey… why the hell not? She felt the tears welling in her eyes.
It was times like these she really needed her best friend. But oh! Ayesha was Billy’s twelfth. That is if he was telling the truth about not being with anyone since her. Kass couldn’t believe how stupid she had been. Giving herself away was supposed to be magical and beautiful and romantic, not done holed up in someone else’s cabin in the woods on their scratchy wool couch. Not done in what felt like sixty seconds. Sure there were parts that were good, but afterward, she felt sticky and sweaty and gross and…
Shame. I felt shame. You’re not supposed to feel shame if it’s good, right? If it’s right, right? With the right person at the right time kind-of thing? Kass didn’t care. She plucked her cell phone from her jacket vest pocket and began dialing only to be met with the “we’re sorry – this number has been disconnected” message less than a minute later. Ayesha! Where are you? Her best friend would know what to do.
Speaking of best friend…
“Don’t you dare!” she said aloud.
But he would know, wouldn’t he? He had been her friend long before he was her boyfriend. They had never been together in the way she was with Billy the other night, but he had been with other women. He would know what to do.
Before she could talk herself out of a terrible idea, Kass dialed. Minutes later she heard his voice. She nearly burst into tears.
“Kass? Are you there? Hello?”
“Yeah, I’m here,” she sniffled.
His Kassiopeia-is-upset radar was on. She almost smiled at the thought.
“Nothing,” she tried to laugh, but it came out in an awkward mumble. “I thought I would check in with you… see how you’re doing.”
“That’s not why you called.”
He knew her well. Too well.
“Oh Gage, I’m so confused. I messed up. I did it… for the first time.”
“What do you mean it?”
She could practically hear his frown. “You know…” she covered the phone and spoke in a hushed tone. “It.”
“Billy… we got back together a few weeks ago. And it wasn’t supposed to happen like this. Not like this, right, Gage? Was your first time magical? Was it special?”
He exhaled heavily. “I got a kid out of it so I guess so… yeah...”
“Not like that, Gage. Oh gawd!” she covered her mouth in horror. “You don’t think I’m pregnant do you? I can’t be pregnant? I can’t be a mom. But maybe I am… maybe that’s why I feel so disgusting. It’s not supposed to feel disgusting right?”
“Did you use protection?”
“Well… yeah… I think… Billy did…” she winced, feeling even more idiotic that she couldn’t remember.
How could she make such a big decision and not be sure they were protected?
“You’re not pregnant.”
“How do you know?”
“You’re not, Kass. Besides, it’s too soon to tell.”
“I don’t know. I just ache all over. Is it supposed to ache? After? I mean… that area?” she felt embarrassed asking.
“Kass… did he hurt you?” Gage sounded almost icy angry.
Yes. But not in the way Gage was thinking.
“No… not like that…um…” she swallowed hard, and swiped at the tears on her face. “I just wasn’t prepared. Prepared for how I’d feel after. It’s supposed to be nice, right? Tell me it’s nice, Gage.”
“Kass… I’m coming. Okay… it sounds like you need me.”
She slid down to the floor by the side of the lower cupboards. “No, Gage, don’t come,” she whispered.
“Kass, I’m… you’re not okay. He hurt you.”
“No he didn’t,” she wailed in protest. “I just…” she sighed. “I wanted to talk to my best friend. Forget I called.”
She hit the ‘end’ button before he could say another word. Well, that was stupid. Calling an ex and complaining about a current boyfriend. How low can you go, Kassiopeia?
Kass went to climb into bed. She didn’t even care that she was fully clothed. A wolf howled in the distance. She froze. Because Billy is a were… does that mean? We’re… I’m stuck? Her eyes widened in sadness and fear. She ran over and locked the door. I can’t be… I’m… this isn’t real… I’m… she clutched at her chest. She pulled out her phone again and dialed, and as soon as the recipient answered, she began rambling about all her symptoms and how freaked out she was.
“Kass, I have a doctor friend… a trusted friend… in the Springs…she could come and give you a check-up and make sure you’re okay. She makes house calls.”
“Even this late at night?”
“But my dad… he’s supposed to be back after eleven.”
“Have you considered telling him?”
“No!” Kass protested. “Absolutely not. He can’t know. He can’t…”
Tears fell from her eyes. She felt like a baby.
“Dr. B… I’m scared…”
“It’s okay, Kass. Breathe in… breathe out… okay, breathe with me. Alright… like that… good...”
Kass closed her eyes and continued breathing shakily at first, and then more slowly and steadily.
“I have to hang up to call my friend. Her name is Dr. Emmaline Rhoen. She’s a good woman. She will help you. You are going to be fine. Just keep breathing. I can call back after I spoke with her and stay on the phone with you until she arrives if you’d like that.”
“Yes,” Kass said, her tone more even. “I’d like that very much.”
Two hours later, Kass was sitting on the cushioned couch in the dining room with her primary care physician’s pale green-skinned friend. She had arrived in less than fifteen minutes after the call. True to her word, Dr. Bachelor’s friend was skilled and kind, making Kass feel better almost instantly. Dr. Emmaline Rhoen was a petite, pale green-skinned woman with a mess of short unruly black hair atop her head. She wore a pretty floor-length purple flowered skirt and layered grey shirts and a periwinkle scarf. She didn’t look much like any doctor Kass had ever seen, but she was a consummate professional. Kass was worried about how to pay for the private home visit, and Dr. Rhoen assured her that the first visit could be discounted.
Dr. Rhoen had sent her cousin to pick up Howard at the Solarium and drive him around town so they could have more privacy. The woman admitted she was a PlantSim. When she had been taking chlorophyll treatments she was known as the prominent Dr. Devereaux, the very doctor Kass and her father had been trying to track down when they arrived in town.However, when she stopped taking treatments in solidarity with her fellow PlantSims who had recently moved to Hidden Springs in the past year, she was subsequently pressured out of her position. It didn’t stop her from practicing medicine and helping those afflicted with EXCES and other supernatural ailments. She had picked the name Rhoen after a mountainous region in Deutchsimland that she backpacked through after medical school.
“So what’s the diagnosis, Doc?” Kass asked, leaning forward. “I know you’ve been trying your best to keep me distracted with your stories, but I need to know.”
“I believe you had a panic attack,” Dr. Rhoen replied. It’s normal after going through an intensely stressful situation, and from what you were telling me, it sounds like you’ve had several.”
“But I’m not pregnant? Or sick? Or a werewolf?” she practically squeaked.
Dr. Rhoen smiled. “I do not believe you are any of the above, Kass. We can’t know for sure about pregnancy for a few more days, but I wouldn’t worry.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes…” Dr. Rhoen said. “I have a colleague at a private lab who will run your tests discreetly. We’ll know more in a few days, but Kass… you need to remember you are a very brave girl. You called your doctor. You did the right thing. You are going to be okay no matter what.”
Kass slumped against the couch. She didn’t feel brave.
“I don’t think there’s any cause for concern,” Dr. Rhoen added. “You simply need to take measures to eliminate stress in your life, starting with less worrisome thoughts. Have you considered taking anti-depressants?”
Kass’s eyes grew wide. Like her mother? Am I turning into her mother?
“Because I think…they might help you…balance out your emotions.”
“That’s the problem, Kass. I don’t think you are. It’s perfectly normal to panic a little every once in awhile when something stressful happens, but I have a feeling that’s not the only time you’re worried, am I right?”
Kass didn’t know how to respond. Worry did consume her thoughts frequently. She figured it was normal to feel that way. She had an active brain.
“Do you have trouble sleeping?”
“Yeah… I do…”
“And your boyfriend? This was your first time?”
“But not your first boyfriend?”
Kass wrinkled her nose. Dr. Rhoen was very perceptive.
“No, but I don’t see what this has to do with anti-depressants.”
“Kass, I can start you on a small dose and see how you respond. See if it helps you to feel calmer. My friend at the lab can write you the prescription. You could go and pick it up tomorrow if you want.”
“I don’t know,” Kass chuckled humorlessly. “I just… don’t see myself as a pill popper.”
“Do you have a family member who is against taking medication?” Dr. Rhoen inquired, and seeing Kass’s surprised look, she continued. “You’d be surprised the number of patients I see that are averse to taking medication they need because a family member or authority figure told them they didn’t need it.”
She reached across the table and laid a hand on Kass’s. “There’s no shame in it. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. In fact, it means you’re strong… strong and brave enough to accept help.”
Kass sighed, leaning her head back against the cold window. “Okay… I guess so… if you really think they will help.”
“Yes, I do,” Dr. Rhoen stood up and began collecting her things. “You’re going to be fine, my dear. Try and get some rest. Drink a little water when your stomach is feeling better in the morning. And take the next few days easy okay. Do you need a prescription for birth control too?”
Kass shook her head in horror. “No… no… I don’t think I want to have sex for a very long time.”
“It might be for the best,” Dr. Rhoen nodded. “It will give you a chance to recover. I’ll have my friend write the prescription for you anyway in case you change your mind, but it could give you a chance to figure some things out on your own terms… and decide when it’s best to try again.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Kass said, shaking the doctor’s hand. “Thanks for coming out.”
“My pleasure, Kass,” Dr. Rhoen said as before turning to leave. “I’d be happy to call Dr. Bachelor and fill her in if you’d like.”
“Yeah… great,” Kass said, tiredly.
Exhausted, she climbed up into her bunk bed after ensuring the door was locked. Dr. Rhoen did help her feel much better. Perhaps the pills would help too. Kass was grateful the doctor hadn’t made her feel like a little kid or call her childish for wigging out over first-time sex. It was embarrassing enough. She still didn’t know what she was going to say to her dad. Pulling her phone from her robe pocket, she dialed his number.
“Kassiopeia, you scared me half to death! I wanted to come straight over when the doctor’s aide came by the gym. Are you okay?”
“Yeah… I’m okay. I just had a panic attack…”
“It’s a long story… you can come home now, Daddy. We can talk in the morning.”
“Okay, sweetie, I’m coming. Right now. I love you.”
Kass felt a tear splash her cheek, this time from genuine contentment. It didn’t matter what was wrong with her or the world. Her dad loved her. That was all that mattered in the moment. And she knew when she told him, if she chose to tell him everything, he would still love her no matter what.
“I love you too, Dad.”
Author Note: Thanks for reading. There are a number of green-skinned individuals in Hidden Springs so I decided it was the perfect way to introduce PlantSims into the society, although I mentioned one in a previous chapter. I hope you enjoyed.
1 – milk and ginger biscuits (yum! I love ginger… especially this time of year)
Since I was feeling energized by my conversation with Rob, I decided to jog home. Exercise would probably help me to feel sleepy too… seeing as I was awake all night. The sun had risen over the valley of Oasis Springs, casting golden light on the stucco houses with orange tile roofs in my community. I could hear the sprinkler systems of the neighborhood moistening the lawns before the temperature rose too high. Even this late in the season, it could still be blisteringly hot. A few birds chirped in harmony as they fluttered over my head and into the rising sun. It was going to be another sweltering day as I could feel the sweat already pouring down my neck and clinging stubbornly to my hairs. I would seriously need that bubble bath when I arrived home.
“Where have you been all night?” my mom asked me in typical motherly fashion as I tiredly climbed the stairs.
What could they possibly be doing up so early? Fully dressed too.
“I went jogging.”
“All night?” my mom asked shrilly.
Nora snickered as she brushed past me on the stairs.
“What’s in your back pocket?” she asked, poking at a suspicious bulge in my athletic shorts.
Needless to say, I didn’t even get to use the new bottle of honeysuckle bubble bath because I dozed off the minute I stepped into the hot water in my parents bathroom. I was glad I remembered to lock the door before I stepped in the corner tub. That’s the last thing I’d want… my mom… or God forbid… my dad to walk in on me in the bathroom.
I’m not sure how long I was out, but the water was cold when I came to, and seeping over the edge of the tub. Great! My lazy gene, inherited most likely from dad, did not like the prospects of mopping up my parents floor. I wrapped myself in a towel, and snagged another towel from the rack to soak up the puddle I caused. I picked up the bubble bath bottle before slipping into my pajamas. I guess I’ll have to use this next time.
I slept until twelve-thirty before my stomach grumbled and nudged me awake. Wandering downstairs into the kitchen, I found Mom and Nora engaged in lively debate. I opened the refrigerator and pulled out the bag of coffee grounds. It was too early to have conversations with complete sentences.
“Mom, please… you gotta let me go.”
“Nora, I don’t think it’s a good idea. You don’t know anything about this guy.”
“But Ma… he’s nice… and he’s cute… and he likes me. Plus he complimented my hair the other day at the coffee house.”
“And those are always the best indicators!”
“I’m eighteen now. You can’t tell me what to do.”
“Yes, but eighteen isn’t twenty-one, and you’re heading to a club to drink.”
“But Ma the drinking age was lowered to eighteen in the SimNation.”
“Not in this household.”
While my mother and sister carried on their conversation, albeit loudly, into the dining room, living room, and eventually upstairs, I pulled a plate of leftover spinach and egg omelette from the refrigerator. My sister, Lee wandered into the room, her eyes closed and her mouth in a perfect pout.
“What’s up, Lee?”
“Nothing,” she sighed. “Just… everything.”
“Tell me about it,” I rolled my eyes, as I pointed at the ceiling where our baby sister was stomping about on the floorboards.
“Darn it! I was hoping to nap on my lunch break.”
“You still have to work this afternoon?”
Lee worked for a local government branch of the Sim National Intelligence Agency. Currently, she was only a desk clerk, fetching bagels and coffee for the higher ups, answering phones, and filing reports. She wanted to be a data analyst of some kind or at least that’s what she told us. I found it hard to picture Lee as a super secret agent, kicking down doors, spiking the champagne of spies, and beating up bad guys in formal wear, but you never know.
“Yes, Elizabeth… some of us actually work for a living,” she replied with punctuated words.
“Mom and Dad haven’t asked me to get a job yet,” I slid around her and poured myself a cup of coffee.
“Ah… did you brew the good stuff?” she sniffed in the air. “Yes…” she smiled pleasantly. “Youdid. Pour me a cup.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Seriously, Liz, cut the sarcasm. It won’t help you land a job interview.”
“Who says I’m looking?”
“You should. You can’t live here forever.”
I laughed. “Says the twenty-eight-year-old super spy who drinks out of the milk carton in her parents’ kitchen and lives down the hallway from…” I pointed to myself. “…moi!”
“I do not.”
“Do too. I saw you the other night.”
“Well…” Lee sputtered. “You still should at least check the classifieds or something.”
“Is that all it takes to please you?”
“What can I say? I’m easy to please,” Lee smirked. “A cup of this delicious Mexsimcan coffee that you brew extra strong and you finding a career of some kind.”
I settled at the counter after Lee left the room and ate my breakfast, which was really lunch, given how late it was. My mother came back into the kitchen, dressed in her athletic wear. She was probably planning to attend her pilates class with the other mothers of the neighborhood. I remember laughing when my mom, who resisted the idea of her daughters playing sports, and made fun of people who played doubles tennis at the country club, told me she joined a gym. I thought she was joking. Nope. She was dead serious. Now she worked out with her group every Tuesday like clockwork.
“Lee says you’re looking for a job,” she sat down next to me, the enthusiasm evident in her voice and facial expression.
“Oh she did, did she?” I rolled my eyes. “Word travels fast around here.”
“I think it’s wonderful. You’re so smart, honey.”
“No I’m serious. You did really well in college. And you’ve got so many talents. I know you’ll find your place.”
I just didn’t want to find my place too quickly. I was looking forward to unscheduled days.
“Mom, do you think we could buy a dishwasher?”
“It would save time. I’m surprised you and dad haven’t already.”
“Maybe that’s something you could save for.”
“I’m serious. It would be a good incentive for saving your Simos. And that could be a great contribution to the household.”
“But Ma… isn’t big house expenses like that yours and dad’s arena?”
Mom smiled and kissed my head. “Oh Liz, you’ve gotta grow up someday. I think you found a wonderful first goal.”
I sighed. Great! So I would be the one purchasing a family dishwasher!
I decided to do some research. Plopping down at my computer, I scrolled to find a dishwasher. It couldn’t be more than fifty Simoleons, right? I was shocked to find most dishwashers were thousands of Simos and the cheapest one I could find was thirteen-hundred Simos by some guy named Craig on some online list. I sighed. That would take awhile.
Popping over to my favorite forums, I checked out friends updates and perused the latest discussion questions. I posted a question of my own about a kids book I was thinking of writing. One involving bubbles of some kind. I also scrolled to find job postings in the area.
The coffee house in Newcrest was hiring a part-time barista. I wrinkled my nose. Not exactly a short train ride. When I saw the work hours starting at five a.m., I promptly scratched the choice off my list.
All the fast food places in town were hiring. When are they not? I didn’t particularly like the idea of smelling like burger grease and fried foods all the time. Perhaps I gained a bit of my mother’s snobbish trait.
The art museum was looking for a manual laborer to help with their renovations, but I wasn’t exactly qualified. When had I ever swung a hammer?
None of the mall stores were hiring. Maybe that’s for the best. I wasn’t exactly up-to-date on the latest fashion trends.
Finally, I saw an ad for a babysitter. Responsible. Adult. Likes kids. Willing to work odd hours, possibly overnights.Clean. I had to laugh at the last requirement. Of course, I was clean. I bathed every day. It looked like I fit the bill. I called the number and reached a woman by the name of Lizette Lopez. She told me to come to the Affluista Manor in Acquisition Butte on Thursday night at eight p.m. I hung up the phone. Twenty-five Simos an hour seemed reasonable to me. And with a house named Affluista Manor, I figured Ms. Lopez would probably tip well.
Mom screeched up the stairs at me. I left a plate in the kitchen. Opps! For forgetting, my punishment was to wash all the dirty dishes in the house. As I scrubbed the plate with soap and warm water, I thought, ‘Here’s to washing dishes by hand for a century.’ I’d never be able to afford a dishwasher.
“You know if you picked up after yourself in the first place, I wouldn’t have to yell at you,” Mom said, interrupting my thoughts.
“Yeah yeah,” I grumbled.
“Thanks honey,” she said in a sweet voice.
“You’re welcome,” I grunted.
“I’m heading to my Pilates class. Oh by the way, I told your sister Nora she could go to the club tonight to meet this Kevin… or is it Kelvin? Or Calvin?” my mother shook her head.
“I’m sure Nora will be thrilled,” I replied, scrubbing the stubborn spot of a plate with dried steak sauce.
“…doesn’t matter...” my mother continued. “…I told her she could go if you went with her.”
My mother came to kiss my head before flouncing into the dining room. “Love you.”
I’m pretty sure my jaw was on the floor. Mom was letting Nora go. But that wasn’t the worst of it. I had to chaperone. I think I’d rather do dishes for a month.
Author Note: Thanks for reading! By the way, I have a mod that allows adults to have the same part-time jobs as teenagers in TS4.
Shark glanced over his shoulder as he finished wiping down the countertop of the upstairs bar. A manager did a little bit of everything, he learned in his short time working at the Sanguine Sanctuary, especially cleaning up messes. He smiled. His girlfriend liked to call him ‘Boss.’ It was a bit strange seeing as she was the more dominant one in the relationship, but he appreciated it. He knew she respected him, something he couldn’t say about all his previous girlfriends. Not that he remembered much in that department. He was pretty stoned out of his mind for about a year, so the sex and ladies were a bit fuzzy for him.
As Dianna approached, he knew he would never need to worry about that again. She was his angel and for some unknown reason, she loved him. He couldn’t imagine going back to the time where he did unspeakable things, and couldn’t recall his own name. Rehab was a rebirth for him. Sure, he still dabbled in illegal activities from time to time, but never again would he do drugs or sell drugs, conceal weapons shipments, or push girls or guys on clients of all ages, shapes, and sizes. In fact, the very thought disgusted him.
Five years ago, if anyone had told him he would be a successful night club manager with a beautiful girlfriend, a steady paycheck, and a modestly happy life, Shark probably would’ve scoffed and called the person a moron. Now he really did have a peace that he never had before. That didn’t mean he didn’t still cause trouble, but mostly for the local gangs that roughed up women in town. On their off hours, Dianna and Shark put together care packages for the sex workers because even a beautiful rich town like Hidden Springs had a seedy element. It was hard to make it on the average paycheck in a resort town, and sometimes women liked to pick up a little extra work now and again to make ends meet. That’s why Shark was appreciative that his boss paid everyone enough that they could afford to live a normal life, free from taint. Dianna always added little niceties to the care packages like tampons and shampoo and chocolates. Every woman needed chocolate every now and again, she would say.
While Dianna would approach the workers, Shark would set ‘traps’ for the pimps and johns, attempting to blackmail the men, usually men, into reason and scaring them straight. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. It wasn’t an exact science, and if anyone knew how hard it was to walk away from a pile of Simos, he did, even if it meant it was coming from a prostitute on her backside. Yet Shark couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else having to do what he previously made people do. That’s why the vigilantism. In a way, it was his penance.
So when his dad showed up last night after one year, eleven months, and thirteen days and said he was there to help him, Shark was in shock. Dennis was supposed to be dead. He died in prison. The coroner had told him suicide. Frankly, Shark had never believed it. His father hanging himself in a cell didn’t seem right. Dennis had even left a note saying he thought this was the only way he could ensure his family’s safety. Dennis said he wanted to make amends, and be the father he always should have been. Shark couldn’t deal. Instead, he angrily threw Dennis Racket out of his club. It was then he discovered Dennis used Kass’s name to get in. Apparently, Kass had vouched for the man… Deon Merton… the name his father was going by now. Kass. His newest hire.
When he had confronted her last night, he was pissed. Apparently, she was the girlfriend of Billy Caspian, a sup who had been banned from the Sanctuary. The man was Verbannte, an exile, and for good reason. Shark had done his homework. He had run from his chosen life mate. He not only ran from her, he also ruined her, because she could never be with another man. And to add insult to injury, the man was a player. He probably had a woman in every town he had ever stepped foot in. Now Shark was no saint but he understood the rules of the pack dictated a man like Billy Caspian be exiled. Then the cretin had the nerve to try and sneak his girlfriend into an advantageous position in the club, most likely as a spy. Yet now he knew the truth. Billy was aiding his father in a reunion… a reunion Shark explicitly did not want.
“I’m surprised you showed your face again,” he remarked coolly as she approached.
“Ty, I think there’s been some kind of mistake,” she replied. “It’s true I am Billy’s girlfriend. And yes, Deon requested I put him on the guest list, and I did because he said he had to see you. You’re his son, aren’t you?”
“That is none of your business,” Shark huffed. “And you know the rules, Kass? No personal favors or guests. It’s for the protection of our patrons.”
“I understand. That’s why I came to tender my resignation,” she replied.
Shark arched a brow and motioned for them to sit. It was still an hour before opening so there weren’t many people in the club, save a few bartenders, the coat check lady, and his servers. However, he was surprised by his newest employee’s reaction. He expected tears and protests and denials when he threatened to fire her last night. Instead, she had been calm and dignified and said she would gather her things and would be back the following day for her paycheck to give him time to think.
“Look Mr. Bordeaux,” she began. “I understand that I jeopardized our high-paying clients who prefer their privacy. I know that this is a supernatural only club and I know that you only hired me because I talked my way into a job, but I also know what it’s like to be separated from family for years without contact. I did not mean to disrespect you. I just know the pain of not knowing my dad because I refused to see him. From what I know about your dad, he seems like an okay guy, and he just wanted a moment with you.”
“What? You had a breakfast with him and now you know him?” Shark snipped.
He still felt the pain of being abandoned at the rehabilitation center in Appaloosa Plains, a place where he didn’t know anyone. He felt the pain of exile from his family, as terrible as most of them were. Not even his kid sister had come to see him. And to make matters worse, he had to hear about his father’s alleged escape from prison and death from two plainclothes officers six days after the incident. And he wasn’t even allowed to attend the funeral.
“Yes, I know about the breakfast at the Redwood Heights Lodge,” he added. “I found out everything I could about his moves since our encounter yesterday.”
“Did you know he’s sorry? He’s more sorry than he’s ever been in his whole life,” Kass said. “He told me that. I know I have no right to barge into family affairs…”
“You’re right. You don’t,” Shark said bitterly. “Your dad didn’t go to jail for murdering his father.”
Kass gasped, and bit her lower lip. Shark knew he caught her by surprise. She probably didn’t realize whose company she had been entertaining. He was almost refreshed by her naivete. In her time under his employ, she had been an excellent bartender, good with drinks and generous with the advice, and kind to every person who walked through the door, whether they were a vampire, a werewolf, or a PlantSim. She had even been kind to his undeserving father. Truth was, he didn’t really care that Max was dead. The man was a master at manipulating. His mother had been too. And yet Dennis going to jail and supposedly killing himself was a little too much for the fragile boy in rehab to handle. Now that he was his own man, he didn’t need his father swooping in and ruining things for him.
“Look Kass… I know your heart is in the right place. I know he’s great at getting what he wants. It’s not your fault, but I can’t have you breaking the rules here… even if it’s out of some misplaced concern for my family,” Shark continued. “And I definitely can’t have it getting around who you’re with…half the weres in the tribe want to kill him and the other half want to maim him for what he did to his mate.” He shrugged. “It was before my time, but rules are rules. I know it doesn’t seem fair…”
“No, it doesn’t,” she said quietly, shaking her head as she dropped her hands into her lap. “But I understand you have a business to run…” she offered a forced smile. “I don’t want anyone to be hurt because of my actions. Thank you for this opportunity.”
“You’re welcome, Kass,” Shark stood up and shook her hand, almost feeling bad he had to let her go.
She was an asset to his team, even if she wasn’t fully supernatural.
“I’d be happy to write you a reference,” he added kindly.
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to. You’re a good worker. I’ll leave out the part about last night in my recommendation,” he winked.
Happy Purple Day seems like an odd thing to say. I suppose the day could be happy, if you recall happy memories of someone. And yet, this day feels a bit wistful to me. I have the hardest time letting go of Sims, probably why I’m still trudging along with a Generation 1.5 in Colt Family Traitacy instead of moving along to Generation 2. Haha. Speaking of which, I know this is my second post of the day, but I just couldn’t let Purple Day pass without commemorating it somehow.
I participated in Purple Day last year, and I decided to do so again. This time last year, I owned TS4. I hadn’t played it much. I created a Simself, Lizzie, and I’ve been documenting her adventures.
Today I decided to take my journey in purple with my TS4 Simself. I’ll sail across the Simmian Sea from one consciousness at a computer screen and keyboard to another inside a virtual reality. I will join my fellow brothers and sisters in the Sims. This meandering of mine is stream of consciousness, but sometimes the best ideas spring from the unplanned. I probably don’t write enough of these posts. If you can overlook my occasional rambling and embrace this beautiful world that us SimLit writers and gamers love, then drop anchor with me here today in memory of the Sims gone before us and celebration of something we hold in common and we hold dear – The Sims.
I have not played every iteration of Sims. I do recall back in the day when I stumbled across TS2 University and thought the idea was cool. I’m one of those weirdos… and I let my weird flag fly… that loves learning. I used to play school with my siblings – school desks, school uniforms, pretend classes and homework… oh yes, I was that kid. You can imagine my fascination and excitement about a game where I could send a virtual “me” to a university. This was, of course, back during a time when I thought college was the best thing ever. Now on the other side, I loved my college days (and I wouldn’t be almost ready to finish a graduate degree, if I didn’t still love learning), but I realized there was more to life than college.
Flash forward, nearly two decades later, my brother in law reintroduced me to the Sims. This time, the Sims 3. I started this journey into gaming with my husband who is an avid gamer. Correction. He’s a hard core player, the kind that likes space sims and shooters and MMORPGs. I’ve dabbled, and that’s really all I can say. I do play other games, but I found myself again in the Sims. I know that sounds weird to say. Remember, I’m weird. Haha. Let me back up.
I started playing the Sims for the architecture. That’s right. I liked the idea of design and building houses. It sounded like fun. I would spend hours on getting my builds just right. Thank goodness I didn’t find this game in my undergrad. I probably would’ve never did any homework. Who am I kidding? Haha. I still procrastinate to play the Sims.
My brother-in-law always wanted to be an architect. I won’t go into a ton of details but for mental health reasons, he was unable to go onto college. He’s unable to live on his own. He probably never will, sadly, unless there’s a miracle cure for his condition. So when I say that my bro-in-law and I share a special bond through the Sims, I mean, it really is special. The Sims gives my bro-in-law an opportunity to be an architect every day without needing to take one step outside the comfort zone of his room. His builds are incredible. His eye for design is simply fabulous. I am inspired by his dedication.
When I game, I like to play “large women.” I know that may sound odd, but I’m by no means, tiny. Maybe my hands. Lol. I typically create characters in all my games who are bulkier with realistic proportions. It’s a pet peeve of mine to play otherwise. Kass is probably the exception, but as some of you may know, Kass is, in a teeny-tiny way, an autobiographical fictional journey for me… with really, really, wild imaginations and liberties taken, of course. Many of the details are changed for the sake of making the story more interesting, true to the game, and well… I’m getting carried away with the rambling thing again.
Let’s just say Kassiopeia and I have a lot in common, and I view her, in some ways, as a younger version of myself. I came across this article that could explain this concept way better than I can… so if you’re a nerd like me… you can read it. The author, Taylor Houston writes,
Autobiographical fiction is primarily comprised of made up events and characters that may be based on the author’s own experience and self. The protagonist might be modeled after the author and do at least some of the things the author has actually done in his or her life. However, the ratio of truth to fiction will be somewhat small.
When I was creating my TS4 Simself, I actually made my character much larger than the final version. But my brother-in-law said to me, “You’re not that big.” To this day, that comment still makes me feel good. Isn’t that true though? Other people see us more positively than we see ourselves? I look in the mirror and I see my flaws. Other people look at me and they say things like, “You have perfect skin,” or “You have such a beautiful smile,” or “I wish I had your booty…” (No joke! Someone said that to me once…don’t worry, it was a close friend).
Today, I was debating about what to write for Purple Day and I decided to pick purple attire. Seems appropriate right? I have an interesting relationship with the color purple. As a kid, I never liked the color pink. It felt too girly and too… pink. But purple? Purple seemed safe. I liked lots of purple things… grape soda, grape jelly, purple irises, purple plums, purply sunsets, etc.
It’s funny because for awhile I had this love-hate relationship with all things girly. I really legitimately enjoyed being “one of the guys” like I wrote in one of my earlier TS4 Simself chapters. I liked football and basketball and running and playing capture the flag. I liked hanging out with boys because they were way less drama. I liked action movies with explosions. I always wanted to be that “hero” swinging off rooftops and crashing through windows and rescuing the distressed individual. There’s a reason my mom made me give up martial arts because I beat up our lawn chairs one too many times.
It was really after getting married that I totally embraced my feminine side. I love feminine things – lace, pearls, shoe shopping, bling, eyeshadow, and purple… but I’d still rather curl up with a pint of mint chocolate chip and watch a kick ass action movie than a romantic comedy any day (though if I’m sick… like dog sick… I’ll watch a chick flick). I think the point is we’re complicated creatures. We don’t have to fit into one particular mold. I can enjoy the high octane Bruce Willis in the Die Hard franchise and still like to paint my toenails. I can want to be the superhero and save the day and still be the strong female lead who kicks butt and looks great in high heels.
But that’s one of the things I love about the Sims. These “little Sims” mean so much to me. They are more than just two-dimensional characters. They feel real. And they are real. They have personalities and quirks and styles and ways of speaking. They have likes and dislikes and hopes and dreams, fears and flaws. They have families and friends and people who care about them, and in a way, I feel like they care about me too.
Remember when I said that thing about finding myself in the Sims again? I literally did. Writing SimLit and finding the Sims community rekindled a love for writing and character creation and world building. It helped me hone my craft and find new friends and make new stories come to life. . I was reminded of all the things I loved about myself and all the things that make me happy. I find new purpose and I vowed never cut myself off from a creative outlet again.
You see, in college, I all but gave up on creative writing. Mostly because academic writing got in the way. And don’t get me wrong… yes, I bet you can guess, I’m that person that loves analytical writing too. However, I axed something out of my life because I didn’t think I could have both, and it was like cutting off a supply of oxygen to my brain. I don’t want to go back. There’s been an awakening in the force. Mwahahaha!
The Sims gives me a way to express myself, to be myself, to love myself, and to hopefully share a little bit of magic with the world. It’s more than just a silly game to me. It’s a way of life that brings joy to my soul. It helps me to feel alive and connected to this vast universe. It’s a place where I can let my creative juices flow. Not everyone will understand this. Not everyone will get me. That’s okay. I am learning how to be confident in who I am, and the Sims is apart of that.
Now I stand at a crossroads. I am about to graduate from my masters program two weeks from today. It’s equally exciting and scary. I do currently have a job that I love, but I’m only able to work part-time in that job. Unlike the Sims, I can’t just wave the debt I’ve incurred away with my money cheats. Oh I wish! I know I’ll need to look for something else soon so I can start paying back the loans. However, I am excited at the prospect of new opportunities available to me because of my degree.
I haven’t felt in the need to rush, and I want to take the time to stop and smell the roses… metaphorically… or the cherry maple tree, to feel the breezes of relief wash over me that I’ve completed a dream, and I’m ready to walk into the next phase of my life, to not have to worry about homework… for awhile, at least. No matter what happens, I want to hang onto the joie de vivre that the Sims helped me to recapture and encapsulate.
I’ve written this far without actually mentioning a Sim that has passed. I’m getting there. Patience, grasshopper. In October 2015, I quit my previous job as it had been sucking the life out of me. Quite literally. It was around then I really started writing every day. And then two years ago to the day, I discovered my graduate school acceptance. I figured I would have to put my gaming and writing on hiatus again. But there was this little voice inside me that said not to… and that little voice… was Jennifer Martinez’s. I know… I know… it sounds so strange. A Sim was talking to me… speaking to me in the depths of my heart. Of all the Sims to talk to me, I’d expect Kass because of the connection we have, but it was Jennifer Martinez.
Now for those of you who have read KCLKF know that Jennifer Martinez was tragically taken away (*tear*) by the Reaper before her time. I won’t spoil the details. It doesn’t matter. In the chapter, 1.18 Making Sense of Love, Jennifer tells Kassiopeia
You see love makes us do funny things… things the heart cannot explain to the head…
She was specifically speaking about her marriage to Pablo and giving up a lucrative career in politics to help raise Gage, their foster son. And yet, two years ago, on December 1, 2015, I reread this chapter, and I felt it applied to me. The love Jennifer speaks of here doesn’t just mean romantic or martial love or even familial love… it could mean the love of something that the heart cannot explain to the head… like why I love writing SimLit so much. Love does make me do things that may seem funny to the outside world… spend hours perfecting a home for my Sims or hours generating back stories for each Sim I create or even going through the hassle of nine reinstalls or something like that… I’ve lost count.
The point is… I love the Sims. I love my characters. Sometimes the stories just write themselves, and I suppose only a writer would probably really understand what I’m saying here. Sometimes the stories just come to life all by themselves, and I’m amazed at what leaves my mind and flows through my fingers. Sometimes the stories just write themselves… and Jennifer Martinez was one such character that wrote herself.
Kass and Jennifer continued their conversation…
“How do you know?”
“About love? That it’s worth it? That it’s real?”
“You just do,” Jennifer clasped her hands together excitedly. “It means everything… [They] would never force you to give up on a dream because it’s part of who you are.
It’s part of who you are. It’s in your DNA. I realize here Jennifer is talking about Pablo, but when I read this in December 2015, I realized no one forced me to give up on the dream of writing stories every day… I did that. I was the one who severed a part of myself. How do you know that the love of someone or something is real? You just do. It means everything. It’s part of who you are. Writing SimLit. I just do know it’s real and worth it. It means everything. It’s part of who I am.
They say, write what you know. As a writer, I put a little piece of me into each of my characters. As I reflect on Jennifer Martinez today, I realized something. She is me. Well, the older me. The more mature me. The wiser me. I hope. She’s the one telling my younger self… to dream big… and to open my heart to love… love of others…love of my Sims… and love of self. As I return to my SimLit blog for the umpteenth time, I recognize the love that I’ve found in this strange and wondrous niche community. Maybe this only makes sense to me… haha… I don’t know.
As I near the end of this post, it seemed apropos to revisit an old friend of mine… a Sim whose life was cut short… the first Sim of mine who ever died in a game… Jennifer Martinez. Recently, I decided to recreate Jennifer and Pablo for TS4. On Purple Day, I come to visit this beautiful soul. I have to admit. I was actually nervous for my Simself to encounter the first Sim I ever “dramatically” killed off for effect. I wasn’t sure what she would think of me.
But true to her TS3 Simself, she invited me in with open arms. She understood what I had to do. She forgave me. After all, in this virtual world, anything is possible… including a rebirth into the TS4 world. I’m not the same person I was when I started. Neither is she. Life has a funny way of taking us on surprise routes. It’s the journey that matters right? Not the destination?
I asked this reinvention of Jennifer if she had any advice for me as we sat in the comforts of her cozy apartment at one or two in the morning or whatever time it is in San Myshuno. She reminded me to listen to my heart – to open up my eyes and ears to the world of possibilities and to never limit myself by thinking my dreams are too big and my ideas are just too far fetched. She encouraged me to remember where I came from and to celebrate how far I’ve come. She urged me to embrace my true self and to be confident in who I am and to hold fast to my joie de vivre.
So here I am writing my story, writing much more than I intended, and as usual, going off script because hey! the best stories write themselves. 🙂 And on this Purple Day I choose to remember each and every Sim, particularly the ones who have passed on beyond the game screen, but shall forever remain in our hearts. I am here on this Purple Day to celebrate the digital lives of characters I hold dear and share my joy of writing with you. And here on this Purple Day, I embrace the magic of livin’ a simmin’ life.
“No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”
The man dressed in black with a singular red rose pinned to his lapel tapped the leather-bound book pressed between his hands. No man is an island? He read the words a hundred times, perhaps a thousand times, and yet each time, he felt both peace and pain. Peace – because he knew he had been given a second chance at life, a chance he did not deserve, a chance a thousand better men deserved, no, ten thousand better men. Pain – because of the ironic twist of life, blackmailed by his father, back-stabbed by his wife, separated from his children… all of them, and rejected by the woman he loved. She was living a lie, he smiled wryly, but he would’ve been living a lie with her if he ever thought she would choose his heart over her career. And the most ironic thing about it – he lived on an island.
“Watch your head, sir,” the pilot warned him, pointing to the whirring blades overhead.
As Dennis Racket, a.k.a. Deon Merton, stepped from the helicopter onto the freshly fallen snow, he mused over the romance of a man past his prime living alone. He never needed to worry about keeping a spouse awake when he poured over his books late at night by the light of an oil lamp. He never needed to concern himself with his late hours at his place of work because no one would be waiting up for him when he arrived home. His accommodations were sparse, something his wife would’ve hated. No, he chuckled to himself, she would’ve absolutely despised the tiny one-room cabin in the woods with the only way on or off the island was by boat, and if Azure Lake was frozen, by helicopter.
“Thanks Arnard,” he lifted a gloved hand to wave goodbye as he watched the helicopter lift from the helipad.
Pulling his red coat lapel up around his neck, he exhaled heavily, seeing his breath impale the night. He sniffed the air. Wood smoke. He turned in the direction of his cabin. Perhaps someone was waiting up for him after all.
He embarked on the short jaunt over the ridge, through the trees. Thanks to the full moon, Dennis didn’t need to rely on his superior eyesight, although he was used to the path of darkness. Only a few years before did he escape a penitentiary through the sewer, relying on nothing but touch to find his way. He was nothing short of pro, a fact that was useful in jailbreaks.
Once outside the prison, he was met by someone unexpected… his older brother, Dudley. The man was a state police officer, and he surely could’ve put his kid brother back behind bars, especially given the family estrangement.
“I know what you did,” Dudley said, his voice low and too even to deduce emotion.
Dennis was not scared easily. He waited. And then Dudley did something unexpected. He unlocked the handcuffs, and patted him on the back.
“You smell like hell, Denny…and I know you protected Ma.”
Dudley gave Dennis a package with a change of clothes, some fresh supplies, and a book… by Merton Thomsim, a Jacoban monk, poet, and mystic. It was only fitting he picked the name from the author of the last gift the woman he loved gave him. She inscribed the inside page to him and promised she would never forget him. For that, he practically memorized the book.
“Your woman really loves you. She did a hell of a lot convincing to get me to come here,” Dudley admitted, taking off his signature cowboy hat and wiping his brow.
Dennis was grateful, but…
“If she loved me, she’d be coming with...”
Dudley opened his mouth to speak and Dennis waved him off. “She’s got her own priorities and a kid…” he blinked. “…two kids to think about.”
He didn’t add ‘my kid.’
“I know,” Dudley said, quietly. “Can’t have a babe on the run. It’s why I… you know…” he placed his hat back on his head and gave a lopsided smile. “…all those years ago…” he cleared his throat.
Dennis knew the reference.
“…it’s a dangerous life… police detective an’ all… ‘specially when your family’s the mob.” He patted Dennis’ pocket and slipped him some Simos. “‘Sides, she’s a good girl. Skeet and…well…”
Dennis understood why his brother didn’t mention the name of the woman he loved. He understood very well.
“… he done raised her right. And Bill… will..er…raise your boy right…if he gets his head outta his ole stinky behind.”
Dennis resisted the urge to laugh. He hoped so. For Rachel’s sake.
“I’ll look in on ’em from time to time if yer like,” Dudley offered.
“I’d appreciate that,” Dennis smiled. More than you know.
More than you know. Dennis puffed out another beat of visible air as he reached the ridge. His brother had told him to scoot before he changed his mind. Dennis knew it was a bluff, but since the man was a state police detective, and he could get fired or worse for aiding and abetting a fugitive, he decided to leave before he’d cause his big bro any more trouble. He never once looked back. He would always be grateful. He owed his freedom to Dudley… the ironic family black sheep… and Rachel.
Dennis squinted his eyes. Wood smoke was billowing from his watch tower. Someone had set a fire, probably to keep warm on the chilly night. The temperature was nearing the teens. Probably some tourists who lost there way. It wasn’t the first time someone had used his cabin. He didn’t particularly mind. It was nice to get company every once in awhile. Still, he patted the standard issue weapon in his sidearm. He couldn’t be too careful.
His new identity aside, Dennis had never been one for disguises. He could be recognized by the wrong people if he weren’t careful. He was still a wanted man. That was why the odds of his landing protective detail for the queen herself was one in a billion. But Cat owed him a favor. He smiled slyly as he maneuvered through the trees to get a better view of the docks. It was strange that her royal highness allowed him to call her Cat, but he knew her a century ago, when the affectionate nickname was more appropriate. Not even her latest husband called her Cat.
A boat.So they did come by sea? He knelt down at the edge of the hillside, following the trail that was barely visible since the snow hadn’t stopped falling for the last few hours. Definitely a they. Two people, he suspected as he slid down the hill and knelt to touch a boot print. A woman? he frowned and glanced forward a few steps. And a wounded man. Well… Dennis stood and brushed the snow from his gloved hands. He wants her to think he’s wounded. The gait was hesitant and dragged a little too heavily as if the man was trying too hard to appear slow. Probably to garner sympathy.
A quick gaunt over to the dock confirmed his suspicions. The boat, with a gaudy monstrosity of a logo on the side, and the vehicle was tied with an unusual knot, convinced him that he had a friend awaiting him in the cabin. He only knew one person who used this kind of loop and there was only one guy this person would go to for a boat – James Brand – and like his namesake, the latter enjoyed marking his properties and shipments and just about everything with a Cyrillic ‘b.’
Dennis shook his head and clucked his tongue. Still doing business with the Brand? His friend was predictable. He glanced up at the cabin. A friend who wasn’t alone and most likely entertaining. Dennis smirked. Should I interrupt their fun? He decided first to use the facilities. A hot shower after a long week of service detail might help him relax. Plus, it would give the man and his ‘catch of the month’ a chance to finish up in the main house.
As he rounded the curve, Dennis noticed the lights in the outhouse were on. In the winter that wasn’t unusual given he typically kept the power on continuously to the little hut. There was nothing he hated worse than a freezing bathroom floor. Even so, out of politeness for a friend and his guest, he decided to knock. He rapped on the door three times with his gloved knuckles.
“Yes? Is that you, Billy?” a sweet young voice called out to him.
There were many times he wished he could still be back in the Racket mansion, not for the drama and the violence and the blackmail and mayhem, but for the little things. Like the sound of her voice in the morning when she was finishing her routine in the bathroom. He liked to knock on the door and check in on her. He would just be getting home from an overnight shift, usually involving balancing books or checking weapons shipments or arranging for someone to be put in the hospital. And she would be just getting ready to leave for work, her important job at City Hall, keeping the people of Twinbrook safe with her policies to clean up the streets.
Oh how he loved her naivete and her optimism! She was so young… too young for his brother, Bill, actually, about half his age. And even if Dennis was a little closer in age, she would never look twice at him. She still had yet to learn the irony of getting mixed up with the likes of the Racket family, and he prayed she never would know the full depth of consequences. She had such big dreams and high hopes and lofty aspirations. She would go far… if she could only get out quick enough… and without any scars… which was nearly impossible with the Rackets. The only way out was in a body bag. He learned that the hard way. He died so he could escape prison. The only ones who knew the truth were Dudley and… well…
She would open the door, usually dressed in a nightgown, usually squeezing the water out of her hair with a towel or applying her makeup. She would offer him a smile, and ask if he needed the room. Most days, he would say ‘yes’ just to cover up the fact that he only knocked to see her smile. He wished his own wife would smile at him like that. Never before in his life did he want something so badly, and yet need her to stay so very far away in order to not get hurt. He doubted Silver would even move when he climbed into bed beside her, and if she did, it would be to grunt and complain about his cold toes or something, interrupting her beauty sleep. His wife was a former model. She did need her… rest.
Dennis could count the number of days he knocked on her door as he passed by the bathroom. He could count the number of days he fantasized about knocking on his current bathroom door, wishing he could see her face again, her lovely smile, the innocence in her liquid brown eyes. It would never be there again and he knew it. Every year spent with the Rackets corrupted her, even more, and he could kick himself because that corruption was what caused her to be unfaithful. He had no right to take his brother’s wife, especially while his own was in rehab and vulnerable, and yet he felt so desperate to be loved, he overrode his logic and his chivalry and choose to cave to his instincts. And he would forever bare the consequences. Rachel certainly had.
Dennis opened the door slowly. The screeching young girl startled Dennis Racket and he took a step back. Her red hair whipped about as she backed into the wall, her eyes filled with fear. She couldn’t have been much younger than his daughter. He realized his grimace at her loud vocals probably didn’t help his harmless dad impression.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he spoke.
“Who…who…who are you?” she stammered. “And what are you doing in here? My boyfriend is…” she pointed a shaky hand to the doorway. “…just out there. He probably… heard me scream. And… I…” she hiked her chin in the air. “…know a martial art or two… so I could hurt you if you try anything.”
“Don’t worry,” Dennis shook his head and lifted his hands in mock surrender.
Her threat amused him.
“I’m not here to rob or hurt you. I’m Deon…Deon Merton…” he introduced himself, offering a hand. “I own this here…outhouse and the watch tower back there.”
He still was unaccustomed to hearing the name he had chosen for himself, but he had to say something to calm the girl down.
“…and you are?”
“What are you doing here?” she said, evading his question. “And your eyes… they are…” her eyes widened. “…glowing.”
“Really?” he rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. “Must be a trick of the light.”
“Are you Billy’s friend?” she asked, tilting her head as if she didn’t quite believe him.
He stepped into the doorway, and motioned for her to pass him. “In a way.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? And you didn’t answer my question…” she stared at him. “Are you actually the… owner… of this establishment?” she planted her feet shoulder-width apart and placed her hands on her hips.
He realized he was only confusing her. “Yes, I am Billy’s friend.”
As if right on cue, Billy Caspian appeared outside the hut. The young man rushed through the door and placed a protective arm around her.
“Red, are you okay?”
“Yeah…um…” she eased off the wall. “This is your friend? Deon?”
“Yeah, Deon is my friend…” he glanced at Dennis and arched a brow, before continuing. “Kass, why don’t you go and warm up by the fire? Deon and I will be up to the main house in a few minutes.”
The girl called Kass hesitated, but once Billy gave her a patronizing kiss on the forehead, she sighed and slipped out into the darkness, making a comment about them letting all the cold air in.
“She’s pretty,” Dennis shrugged.
“Don’t get any ideas, Deon,” Billy narrowed his eyes. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”
“If you stopped bringing your lovescapades here, then I wouldn’t keep surprising you,” Dennis walked to the mirror and opened the cabinet, retrieving his eye drops.
“You know if you were true to yourself, you wouldn’t have to use those,” Billy folded his arms and leaned against the doorway.
Dennis plopped a few drops in each eye, blinked a few times, and grabbed a paper towel to dab the excess moisture. “That’s rich coming from you,” he snorted. “Like you’re honest about your true self.”
Billy shrugged. “She knows.”
“About the werewolfism?”
“About the vampire part too?”
“Ah… yes… and you’ll tell her?”
Billy exhaled sharply, and puffed a stray piece of hair from his eyes. “I don’t see how it’s any of your business what I do and don’t tell her.”
“It’s not,” Dennis said, closing the mirror and blinking a few times, seeing his eyes return to normal. “I figured you might want to tell her eventually. Just friendly advice.”
“The last woman I told everything dumped me, remember? She couldn’t handle the truth,” Billy replied, his voice agitated and defensive. “And why am I taking advice from you, old man? You haven’t been with a woman since…”
Dennis turned, leaning against the sink, sending a warning glare in Billy’s direction. “I’d watch your tone. I’m still your…”
“Yeah, my long last whatever who just so happens to be cramping my style,” Billy spit out sarcastically.
“You weren’t out here with her. How long has she been gone?”
“I dunno. I fell asleep.”
“Exactly, and…” Dennis took a step forward and ran a finger down the glass of the shower door. “By the looks of it, she was out here for awhile before I interrupted her.”
“So?” Billy sniffed.
“So… maybe I’m not…” he used air quotes. “…’cramping your style‘ if she was hiding from you.”
“She wasn’t hiding from me!” Billy shoved off the hut door, dropping his arms to his side as he balled his hands into fists. “Kass is… she’s good for me. I like her a lot.”
“But are you good for her?” Dennis said, knowing the answer.
Racket men were never good for women.
“She’s fine, Deon…” Billy grunted. “She chose to be with me. And I haven’t been with anyone since… well… that hook-up in Califorsimia… which meant nothing,” he kicked at a loose floorboard. “‘Sides… Kass loves me.”
“Then why was she crying?” Dennis sighed.
He knew the look too well. The woman who tried to cover up her tears. His mother. Silver. Rachel. Even Billy’s mother at one time. Racket men didn’t know how to be good, and that’s why their women ended up shredded. Dennis wished he had words of wisdom he could impart. He hoped his sons would learn from his mistakes. They could be better than the previous generations. Dennis and his brothers may be lost causes, but Billy? Shark? Even little Ernest? Maybe not so much. And the hitch in Billy’s voice when he said his latest girlfriend loved him indicated he wasn’t fully certain about it. Dennis stepped forward and laid a hand on Billy’s shoulder.
“Maybe I’m not the best person to give you advice, but that girl was crying. You upset her somehow, and if you like her as you say you do, you should make things right with her… starting by being honest with her about who you are. No man is an island… you need to open up if you expect to keep her. Does she even know your real name?”
Dennis figured he already knew the answer as the girl had called out for Billy.
“No,” Billy shook his head, shoving his hands in his pockets as he walked out the door in a frustrated huff. ” I’ll see you at the house.”
“William?” Dennis called out, hoping the boy would return.
“I don’t think she can handle the real me,” was the last thing he heard Billy say.
Dennis sighed. The special ones can. He watched his son stomp up the steps to the watch tower as he, himself, left the outhouse. Turning his face fully into the view of the moon, Dennis closed his eyes.
The special ones can help you return to light.
Author Note: Thanks for reading. Oh yeah! For those of you familiar with generation 1 of the Colt Family Traitacy, you recognized the bomb I just dropped. For the record, I always planned to have Billy Caspian not be exactly who he says he is, and I always planned for him to have some connection to a criminal family. It just worked out perfectly to interweave him into Dennis’ family. You’ll learn more in the future, and also more about Dennis’ “surprise” supernatural state. FYI, Merton Thomasin is actually my Simworld version of Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk. Hope you enjoyed.