After a long, hard day of working on the house, the last thing I wanted to do was to go meet Mamma’s new boyfriend. But I reluctantly agreed, mostly for Mamma’s sake. She had seemed so emotionally unstable earlier. I purposefully arrived thirty minutes later than our scheduled time. I certainly didn’t want to show up sweating like a dog. For some reason, I wanted to make a good impression on Clark. I was surprised my sisters hadn’t arrived yet. Clark stood up immediately when I walked into Happy’s Diner. A gentlemanly thing to do, I noted.
“Hi Kass, I’m Clark Sauer,” he shook my hand.
“Are you a hugging kind of person?” Clark asked after we exchanged introductions.
“Uh… I guess…” I replied dryly.
He hugged me briefly. “I’m so glad to finally meet you. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet you earlier but there was an emergency over at the high school and I had to go help out. Amy has told me so much about you girls. Let me guess… you’re the oldest, right?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“Oh, good! I was hoping I didn’t get you all mixed up,” Clark sighed in relief. “I have two boys I’d love for you to meet also.”
“Oh really?” I shot Mamma a ‘why-didn’t-you-tell-me’ look. “Where are they?”
“Kaden and Kasey live with their mom in Oakland,” Clark answered. “I usually get them on weekends and holidays, but this weekend, they’re in Sim City for a field trip.”
“Oh, okay,” I nodded. “How old are your boys?”
“Kaden is 16, just got his driver’s permit, and Kasey is fourteen, and a real baseball slugger,” Clark grinned proudly.
Baseball? I wanted to roll my eyes.
“Clark would like us all to visit Oakland for Patriotic Day₁,” Mamma inserted.
“Yes,” Clark said enthusiastically. “I have a second house there to be close to the boys when their mom is away on business and it’s got a beautiful view of the Bay. It’d be a great chance for you and your sisters to get to know me and my boys.”
“Oh,” was all I could think to say.
Thankfully, my sisters arrived right then. Andi eagerly went to introduce herself to Clark while Cari hung back.
“What’s wrong?” I turned and asked her.
“This whole thing is weird,” Cari sniffed, turning her head away. “I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
I was surprised she stated her opinion so loudly in front of Clark and Mamma. Then again, it’s Carina… maybe I’m not.
“Cari,” Mamma said, a hint of irritation in her tone. “Please… for my sake… try…”
“I guess,” Cari shrugged nonchalantly, then launched into a dramatic tirade. “So you’re not going to believe what happened when I was working at the store today. This customer came in and wanted gold polish for her mani/pedi. We’re all out of stock because it’s the end of the week, and so of course, I tell her in my most polite tone that we can order more and it’ll be in on Monday. In the meantime, I could offer her a wide selection of options of other colors and discount the mani/pedi price. She looked at me like I grew three heads. She asks if she can speak to another ‘older’ associate. I snapped my bubble gum loudly and said I was the only one in the spa that wasn’t occupied at the moment and I was the only one who could help her. She complains that my customer service is less than par. She wants to talk to my manager. Well, of course, Miranda is out on her break and so I tell her that and she huffs in my face and says she’ll never shop at our store again. Can you believe it? I offered to discount her price too!”
“Wow,” was my response.
“Cari, aren’t you going to say hello to Mr. Sauer?” Mamma asked.
“Oh please call me Clark,” Clark overheard and said, turning his attention from Andi to Cari.
“Okay Clark,” Cari said seriously. “What are your intentions toward my mamma?”
Mamma laughed nervously and Clark smiled at her knowingly. Andi pinched Cari’s arm.
“Well, I think that’s a conversation we save for eating. Speaking of which, I’ll go order us something,” Clark replied.
He walked over to the counter and began talking with the waiter.
“Ow! Why’d you pinch me?” Cari glared at Andi.
“Because that wasn’t nice,” Andi replied.
“Cari, please… please… try to be the angel child I know you are,” Mamma pleaded quietly.
“I don’t know Mamma, he seems shady,” Cari grunted.
“Seriously, you’ve been here for like what? Three minutes!?” Andi exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air.
“I think it’d be best if we save heavy topics for another time,” I recommended.
“Yes, thank you,” Mamma agreed.
“What? I can’t ask him what his intentions are?” Cari howled, drawing the attention of a couple other customers.
“Shh!” Mamma hushed.
Cari reluctantly closed her mouth, but she was most definitely sulking. I didn’t think Clark was shady, but I did have my reservations. Unlike Cari though, I could keep those thoughts to myself. Mamma walked off to help Clark.
“Seriously, this sucks,” Cari grunted.
“Quiet, Cari,” Andi snapped. “I’m going to go change in the bathroom and when I come back, I don’t want to hear a peep out of you!”
“Come on you two, calm down. Let’s just enjoy this night, okay?” I said impatiently. “Why are you changing, Andi?”
She didn’t answer as she picked up her backpack and stomped away.
“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes.
I asked Clark to order me a well done hamburger. They accidentally brought out a rare one for me. I sent it back and they sent out another one, medium-rare this time. I stood up to talk to the chef as Andi was telling everyone she wasn’t hungry. She was meeting VJ after this at a beach party and she’d be eating there. After straightening out my hamburger situation, I sat back down with the family and Clark.
“So Kass, your mother tells me that you are headed off to Edgewater Global Business College in the fall,” Clark began, trying to make small talk. “An Edgewater Llama, huh? I’m a Trojan man myself.”
I nearly gagged on my water.
“Simstar State Univeristy Trojans₂! Hoo-yah!” he said proudly, displaying his muscles. “I’ve got the tat right on my arm right here.”
“Hoo…yah…” I said unenthusiastically. “Yeah, Edgewater has been my dream school for awhile… I want to study nonprofit leadership and management.”
“Ambitious,” Clark said between bites of his burgers. “What about you ladies?”
“I’d like to be a concert pianist,” Andi piped up.
“Mmm… you should talk to my son, Kaden. He’s a musician too… Guitar,” Clark replied. “What about you, Cari?”
“It’s Carina,” she grunted, folding her arms across her chest.
“Oh sorry, Carina,” Clark apologized.
Cari responded with deadening silence as she shoved her burger in her mouth.
“Cari is our resident actress and fashionista,” Mamma spoke up after Cari refused to reply. “I think she’ll make a fabulous stage actress someday or fashion designer.”
“Yeah, something like that,” Cari narrowed her eyes and glared at Mamma.
“Well Kaden wants to be a musician, but Kasey is thinking about sports. He’s a fabulous pitcher. He’s got such a great throwing arm I pitched a little ball back in college but I was better at hitting,” Clark bragged. “Have you girls been to any of the baseball games at Sun Valley High?”
“No, we go to Community… for smart and gifted people, remember?” Cari snipped.
“Oh,” Clark said, frowning as he sensed Cari’s hostility.
“I went with my boyfriend to one of the last games of the season,” Andi said softly. “Your son is Kasey Sauer?”
“Yeah I remember seeing him pitch. He is really good.”
“Thanks. Have you met before?”
“No, but I know who he is.”
“We should all go to one of his games maybe,” Mamma suggested.
“Well, now that the season’s over that sounds like a fabulous idea,” Cari said sarcastically.
“Cari!” Andi and I exclaimed in unison.
“Carina Nebula Fullbright! That’s enough,” Mamma warned, narrowing her eyes.
“No, it’s okay,” Clark put his hands up. “Cari, I understand this is all very new for you and probably threatening.”
“You can say that again!” Cari rolled her eyes.
“I get it that you don’t like me,” Clark continued. “But I want you to know, Cari… and Kass and Andi…” he looked at all of us before returning his gaze to Carina. “I really care about your Mamma and I have the best of intentions toward her. I don’t want to do anything to hurt her, so if this relationship of ours…” he reached for my mother’s hand. “…is going to cause tension amongst you girls, we can slow down and try to make this easier for you. Your Mamma is so important to me and I know you girls mean the world to her, and I would never, ever want anything to come between that special relationship, not even myself. I feel the same way about my boys. So I think it’s totally fair for you to add your input… all of you… and I actually want that.”
“I, for one, think this relationship is great,” I spoke up, putting my hand out. “And I want to welcome you to the family, Clark. Mamma seems so happy.”
Cari huffed, but Andi nodded in agreement.
“I want Mamma to be happy and I want you to be comfortable with us,” she said maturely.
“Well, thank you, that means a lot to me,” Clark smiled brightly. “Cari?”
“I guess… I’m just not so sure…” she mumbled.
“That’s okay. Think about it. I’m going to take your Mamma for a spin on the dance floor,” Clark winked at Mamma.
“Now?” Amy gasped, her heart flying to her chest.
“This is a great song. Come on, Amy, don’t be shy,” Clark teased gently, offering her his hand.
“Okay,” she agreed, standing up with a smile.
“This is weird,” Cari said as soon as Mamma and Clark were gone.
“I know, I think so too,” Andi wrinkled her nose. “But Mamma’s happy.”
“Yes, she is, and she deserves some happiness,” I spoke up. “Besides, he seems like a nice guy and you just have to look at them to see that they care about each other.”
“Yeah,” Cari conceded.
We watched our mother and her man having fun dancing around. Mamma even laughed. It was great to see her happy.
“It’s so not fair,” Cari laid her elbow on the table and propped her chin up. “Mamma’s got Clark. Andi’s got VJ… even you have a new guy, Kass… or at least that’s what Andi said. What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” I replied. “It’s perfectly fine to be single.”
“Easy for you to say. You both have men,” Cari sighed, exasperated. “And you’re both in love…”
“In love?” I repeated with a funny smile. “I just started dating…”
“Yeah, she just started dating,” Andi and I shared a knowing smile.
“Whatever, you two are full of it,” Cari tossed a napkin in our direction.
We all giggled. My phone started ringing. It was Gage.
“Oh, I’ve got to take this,” I stood up and stepped outside.
I asked Gage if I could come over and hang out. He said sure… that he was just watching the game, but I was welcome to join him. It’s about time I tell him about Davis anyway. I smiled and waved to Mamma and Clark, thanking him for dinner. Then I raced over to Gage’s house.
Jennifer, Gage’s foster mom, answered the door and gave me a big hug.
“I’m so glad you’re here, Kass. I just made some chocolate chip cookies. You must try one and tell me what you think,” she exclaimed. “Gage is allergic to chocolate, and Shameka says she can’t because she just brushed her teeth, and Pablo… he’d just say he loved them anyway. I could make them burnt-to-a-crisp and he’d still love them.”
“That’s because he loves you,” I smiled. “But sure, I can try a chocolate chip cookie.”
Gage waved from the patio as we passed by, and then yelled at the television.
“Men and their sports!” Jennifer laughed.
“Yeah, tell me about it,” I slid onto a bar stool.
Jennifer’s cookies were, as anticipated, excellent.
“So how’s your summer going?” Jennifer asked.
“Pretty weird, actually,” I laughed awkwardly. “But I guess that’s life.”
“You’ll get used to it,” Jennifer smiled knowingly. “Have any plans for the summer?”
“Not really, but I thought I’d just go with the flow,” I shrugged.
“Yes, I remember when I first graduated from high school. I kinda wished I had taken a vacation between school and university but I didn’t. Then again, I’m glad I didn’t. It was the summer I met Pablo,” Jennifer nodded. “Mmm… the air was hot and thick in Mexsimco… like a soup…”
“Sounds pleasant…” I made a face.
“…oh, it was,” Jennifer said sarcastically before continuing seriously. “…and the parish I was working in couldn’t afford air conditioning. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I had agreed to volunteer down there for the summer. Pablo played soccer with the street kids and I’d watch him from our community garden or from the kitchen window while washing dishes. Let’s just say quite a few dishes got broken because I was watching him a little too closely.”
We both laughed.
“I fell in love with him from a distance, but then he started volunteering at the parish and we started talking. I was a nervous wreck around him. He was so handsome and intelligent and I knew I was in love.”
I sighed happily as I listened.
“I think I gave my parents a heart attack when I said I wouldn’t be coming home for university but instead wanted to stay in Mexsimco. They couldn’t understand why I’d throw away a perfectly good scholarship for a country that wasn’t mine and a man I had just met.”
“But you knew?” I asked. “You knew you were in love and was it worth it?”
“Oh yes, but it took many hours of convincing my parents to let me stay, and many years of convincing them I’d made the right choice. I met the Leader of the Free World while she was visiting the capitol city and the Mexsimcali president. They visited the parish I was working at, and I knew then I wanted to go into politics to make a difference. So not only did I get to say with Pablo, but I also got to jump start my career. I mean, how many people get to say they shook hands and attended services with world leaders?”
“I returned to the Nation after convincing Pablo to follow me. He chose to be a firefighter and I studied political science. We went to Sim City and were married the same summer I started working for the Vice President. I was starting out on top with an amazing husband and a fabulous career.”
“Pablo and I wanted a family more than anything, and I was working such hard, long hours. We had tried for years unsuccessfully, and then we decided it would just be best to adopt. So I quit working in Sim City, and we moved to Sunset Valley, and began to foster kids. I was working part-time for the Head of State at the time. But after two years, Gage came along and he was special.”
“He is special,” I smiled in agreement.
“We knew we wanted to adopt him. He was going to be the son we never had but always wanted…” Jennifer paused, and corrected herself. “He is, even though the adoption was never finalized.”
We both fell silent for a moment.
“Didn’t you have an opportunity to return to Sim City?” I asked.
“Yes,” Jennifer answered. “I was offered a chance to move to the White House when you and Gage were juniors I think. It would have been an amazing career move for me, and I always loved Sim City. I was born there, you know.”
“But you gave it all up… your career in politics… Why?” I puzzled. “Didn’t Pablo want you to succeed? And Gage was supportive too… I’m sorry, am I being too nosy?”
“For love,” Jennifer explained quietly. “You see love makes us do funny things… things the heart cannot explain to the head… I knew I loved my husband and Gage more than anything… more than I loved the idea of advancing in my career. I’d much rather be a junior associate in corporate law here in the Valley where I could be with my family. I could’ve been the Leader of the Free World someday, but I’d much rather be present in my home… be a presence in my child’s life and share a home with the man I love.”
“For love,” I repeated. “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. You’d give up anything to be with that person, not that he’d ask you to. He would never force you to give up on a dream because it’s part of who you are. But when you love someone that deeply, you build new dreams together and your old dreams… well, they don’t die, but they don’t sparkle like they used to.”
“I see,” I said softly, glancing out toward the patio.
Do I feel that way about Davis? About Gage? About anyone really?
“I’m sorry, child, I’m talking your ear off and here you’ve come to hang out with Gage.”
“It’s okay. I enjoyed our talk.”
I wandered out to the patio and joined Gage.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” I replied.
We both looked at the television. From what I could tell, it was the bottom of the sixth inning. Gage was intently watching the game and I thought about telling him. But I couldn’t. I need to figure out this love stuff more. Then I’ll tell him.
Instead I said, “Jennifer’s really cool.”
“Yeah, my mom is really cool.”
Chapter 19 Coming Soon!
- How will this new relationship between Mamma and Clark affect the family?
- Will Kass ever tell Gage about Davis? Will she figure out how she feels?
Author Changes: What’s different?
- Fixed formatting issues.
- Pictures were edited.
- The part about Jennifer working in corporate law is added.
- Patriotic Day is my Simworld version of 4th of July. The holiday is a celebration of the Sim Nation.
- Simstar State University is located in Ausim, Simstar a.k.a. Austin, Texas. Their mascot is the Trojan Horse.
- Simway is my Simworld version of Broadway, the professional theater in Big Apple City a.k.a. New York.
- Valensimo is my Simworld version of fashion designer Valentino.