Six Days Earlier
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.