Thursday, Simtember 8, 2216 | Silverton Family Estate | Bay City, Califorsimia
“Kassiopeia Celestia Fullbright! Why are you walking around in just a bathrobe and no socks? For llamas sake, you don’t want to catch a virus on top of your injuries!”
I smiled as I walked into the foyer and recognized my mother’s shrill tone. I tried to ignore her comment. “Mamma, sono contento che tu sia qui!”
“Grazie e ciao e ciao, gattina,” Mamma said with equal enthusiasm as she stepped into my waiting embrace. “Now seriously, gattina, you need socks and proper clothes.”
“Well, aren’t you going to translate for the non-Simtalian here?” Clark said with mock-frowning. “What is up with your security system here?” he eyed the wall.
“Oh, opps, sorry,” I laughed. “I said I’m so glad you’re here. And I don’t know. I haven’t gotten to explore yet. I didn’t even know we had a security system.”
“Well, I’ll forgive you if you give me a squeeze too,” Clark made a face. “Gattina is it?”
“Little cat,” I smiled as I hugged my stepfather. “Thank you for coming. Just don’t squeeze…” I winced. “…too hard…”
“Of course, oh I’m sorry,” Clark apologized.
“Yeah, stitches…” I rubbed my side. “How did you get here?”
“A limousine met us at the airport with one of those little signs that said Mr. and Mrs. Clark Sauer. Isn’t that quaint? I’ve always wanted to be one of those people at the airport. Made me feel so important,” Mamma replied, positively giddy.
“A sign? A limousine?” I puzzled as I looked over at my mother. “I was going to drive and meet you.”
“Our flight got in early and we didn’t want to trouble you,” Mamma said without looking at me. She was staring into the center of the foyer. “We thought you might be…”
“…resting,” Clark finished. “Honestly, we were going to catch a taxi but then the driver told us a Brendon Shore from the Bay City Buzz ordered the vehicle for us. I figured you knew him since you work there, right?”
I stared at my stepfather in shock. Brendon ordered a limo for my parents? He was just full of surprises.
“Yeah, I know him,” I shrugged, feeling no need to elaborate with details. I glanced over at my mother who was still staring uneasily at the floor. “Mamma, are you okay?”
“Oh! Uh!” Mamma jumped startled. “Sì…um…yes…” she motioned to the floor. “There used to be carpeting in here. Uh… a pretty deep teal blue with faint orange etching and lovely gold stitching and trim. And there were tiles… golden tiles… but I wonder if they were removed when…” she stopped mid-sentence, catching her breath as if anticipating something to happen.
“Uh… great memory, Mamma,” I shrugged. “I don’t remember the carpet colors in our old home. You haven’t been here in what? Twenty years?”
“Something like that,” Mamma breathed lightly.
There was a strained pause between the three of us. I frowned and asked Clark about his luggage. He said a man brought it in through the back door and was placing it in their room upstairs. I nodded and said that must be the repairman or the plumber that Bea had hired, or perhaps the groundskeeper. I asked about their flight and Clark answered saying it was a little bumpy over the Boulder Mountains, but other than that, painless. I glanced over at my mother who still hadn’t spoken for a few minutes. She seemed lost in memory when Clark cleared his throat.
“Amy, dear, are you alright? You look pretty pale,” he reached out and touched her arm.
Mamma jerked back instinctively, but unintentionally. She rubbed her elbow with her free hand and let out a nervous chuckle.
“I’m sorry, Clark, I must be tired from traveling.”
“Oh…okay…” he frowned as if he didn’t believe her.
I looked between the two and wondered if there was already trouble in paradise, but Mamma’s face relaxed, almost as if nothing had happened, and she smiled sweetly.
“We’re happy to be here, Kassiopeia. How are you doing?”
“Fine,” I bit my lower lip, wondering why she was acting so strange. I half-smiled. “I’ve been in good hands.”
“Oh? The new housekeeper and groundskeeper taking good care of you?” she cocked her head. “What did you say their names were?”
“Uh… something like that…” I blushed, looking down at my hands, thinking about Brendon. “Um… Bea Honeywell… and I’m sorry, I haven’t met the groundskeeper yet… “I think she said Quintana was the last name. Mamma, I love your blouse.”
“Thank you. Speaking of blouse, we should get you upstairs right now and into proper clothing,” Mamma said sternly.
“Oh Mamma, I’m fine. I had no idea you’d be here early,” I sighed and shifted my weight, resisting the urge to roll my eyes. “I would’ve gotten dressed by now, but the bathtub broke and then I thought I saw…” I trailed off.
“The bathtub broke!” Clark exclaimed. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, yes,” I shook my head. “It was strange, but it just shattered after I stepped out.”
“Thank the Maker you’re all right,” Mamma gasped. “Oh dear, Kassiopeia, you’ve had a rough week. I think you should move back home immediately. It’s not safe for you here.”
“Mamma!” I said, and this time I did roll my eyes. “I’m an adult. Plus you have enough teenagers there without me.”
“Yes, she’s making her way like you and I did, darling,” Clark said to his new bride tenderly. “We need to let her grow up. And this place doesn’t look half-bad.”
“Are you kidding, Clark?” Mamma wrung her hands. “It’s falling apart. Look! There’s no carpeting or tiles here in the hall, the wallpaper is faded, and these windows are filthy and certainly aren’t weather-proof and look at that ceiling…cracked and peeling paint… Kass, this is a big project for you to take on. You can’t do this all by yourself. You need professional help. And this is just the front hall. Does the door bolt properly? Does your security system work?”
“Mamma, stop worrying. I can handle it!” I exclaimed. “I have help. A caretaker and groundskeeper. Bea called a plumber for the pipes and a repairman for the furnace and…”
“The furnace?” the color seeped from Mamma’s cheeks and she appeared almost scared. “Uh…” her hand fluttered to her heart. “What in heaven’s name is wrong with the furnace?”
“Amy, darling,” Clark laughed genuinely, and took her arm. “It’s part of the adventure of life on your own. We should let Kassiopeia discover the house before you go worrying about everything. Now I think we should go settle in.”
“Oh yes,” I nodded, and tried not to sound sarcastic. “I couldn’t agree more… the stairs are straight through there and Bea said she was putting you in the room in the west corner of the house. Just up the stairs, turn right, and walk to the end. And I’ll go…” I wrinkled my nose. “…put on some clothes.”
“Well… okay…” Mamma said reluctantly and allowed Clark to usher her upstairs.
I waited until I heard their door close before I started for the stairs myself. It was still painful to hobble up and down the stairs, and I didn’t want my mother to see me struggling. I grabbed the handrail to steady myself about halfway up. I used my free hand to brace my sore stitched side. I heaved a sigh, and looked up at the top of the stairs. Mamma was right. The wallpaper was a disgusting faded yellow and the ceiling was speckled with cracking paint. Even the wood railing on my right was different than the wood on the left, the former more deeply grooved and visibly splintered, a darker color than the polished lighter wood on the latter. I frowned wondering why someone would line the stairs with two different styles of wood railing.
I shuddered suddenly feeling a cool breeze blowing through the stairwell. The house was certainly drafty and the large windows were probably not all-weather-wear as Mamma had suspected. I took a shaky step forward and stopped again. It was dark outside for being the middle of the day, the Bay City rains unusually heavy for this time of year. The soupy fog made the day even more dreary and depressing. I could hear the wind hitting the eaves, and the house creaked and groaned. If I hadn’t inherited the estate, I probably wouldn’t have settled here. Ha! I couldn’t afford it. Mamma was right. This was a huge project. I had barely seen the large mansion, primarily sticking to the main floor and my room… well, the room Brendon had picked for me.
At the thought of Brendon, I felt the heat rise in my cheeks again. Stop it, Kass! I chided myself. No one’s around. Even so, I looked around just to make sure. I could hear low voices at the end of the hallway coming from my mother and stepfather’s room. Clark was probably reassuring my mother that the house wasn’t going to fall down around our ears. Down stairs I heard a loud clanking and figured it was the plumber checking the pipes or the repairman working on the furnace. I heard slightly off-key operatic singing and smiled as I took another step. Bea was certainly a character. I figured my mother would like her. I wondered what kind of person Mr. Butterworth had been, but honestly, I felt safer with a female caretaker than a male. She struck me as an eccentric old granny kind-of lady. Nonetheless, I was glad Brendon was with me last night and this morning when we met her.
Seriously, Kass, you have to stop thinking about him! I shook my head and looked down at my feet as I took one more step. At this rate, I’ll get there by Christmas. I frowned, feeling an odd chill pass through the thin bathrobe. I heard an odd humming sound. I wondered momentarily if Bea had changed her tune, but then I looked up and knew it wasn’t her.
A glowing electric yellow ghostly figure was bouncing down the steps from the unexplored third floor.
I gasped, startled, and blinked rapidly, wondering if I was seeing things. The figure was still there and I froze six steps from the top of the stairs. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The humming was coming from her and she was crackling a little, almost like electricity was coursing through her ethereal veins. She wore a transparent yellow nightdress, and had a tapered short hairstyle fluttering around her face. When she looked up at me, her mouth formed an “O” and she looked frightened.
“Whoooo… are you?” I asked, tilting my head to the side and blinking again, uncertain if my medications were making me hallucinate.
She reached the last step and disappeared into thin air. I groped at my chest wildly, feeling bewildered, my heart racing a mile a minute. I. Just. Saw. A. Ghost. Right? I’m not crazy. A ghost? Didn’t Bea say something about ghosts? Oh llamas! I continued up the stairs as best as I could and sliced through the air with my hand, but didn’t feel anything. I didn’t even think ghosts existed. Why didn’t I scream? Doesn’t everyone scream?
“Kassiopeia?” my mother stuck her head into the hallway. “Are you okay? Do you need help up the stairs?”
“Uh… no…” I shook my head violently, and rubbed my eyes. “I…I’m fine… I’m here… uh… this is my room…” I pointed nervously in front of me. Is it? My room? Or her room? That ghost? The ghost thing? I mean… she disappeared… did she go through the wall or into the floor? “Uh… Mamma… is your room okay?” my voice squeaked.
Mamma smiled sympathetically. “Yes, gattina,” she walked toward me and put her arm around my shoulder and steered me through the door. “Do you need some help getting ready?”
“Uh, yes,” I gulped. “I’d like that. Just… uh… let me use the bathroom first…” I nodded to the adjoining door.
I stepped into the bathroom and exhaled sharply, bracing against the dresser. I’m seeing things! I’m going crazy! It’s the meds. I’m crazy, right? I mean… I’m not? Oh llamas! I unclipped my hair from its messy bun and ran my fingers through the long red locks. I couldn’t believe I had seen a ghost. I couldn’t be crazy.
“Everything okay in there?” Mamma called cheerily through the door.
“Fine,” I called back, opening the top drawer and pulling out an ‘appropriate’ matching pair of underwear. I was grateful Bea had unpacked my things as they had finally arrived this morning. Given the cold day, I choose a wool knitted tunic with a sweet strawberry embroidered on the breast and a gray pair of loose leggings. My legs still felt chilled. I leaned over carefully and rubbed my ankles and shins. I stood up again and rummaged through my drawers and pulled a old pair of gray legwarmers from my brief ballerina days. I carried a pair of gray-and-white striped knee socks into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Mamma, would you see if there’s a pair of gray slip-on shoes in the closet?” I asked as I struggled to pull a sock on my right foot and then my left.
“Yes, certainly, would you like it if I did your hair?” Mamma asked as she searched through the closet.
“Yes, I’d like that,” I said, not caring that I was nearly nineteen years old and my mother was still doing my hair.
Mamma handed me the slippers and began brushing through my hair. “This is a nice room,” she observed.
“Yes,” I agreed, nodding as I looked around at the red walls with gold trim.
“Don’t move your head,” Mamma chided gently, moving my head back to center.
I sighed. This brought back memories. I decided to stare at the floorboards, debating about how to bring up the “ghost” I saw. I decided I’d just worry my mother needlessly. Instead, we chatted for a few minutes about the flight, the weather, how Andi was still pining away for the boy with the horrid mohawk in a terrible black and blue color, how Cari was happily dating and giving Mamma and Clark a heart attack every night with how late she was getting back, how Kaden seemed to be adjusting to having sisters, but Kasey was still anti-social and playing video games all hours of the day, and mostly about how Clark made Mamma very happy. I smiled warmly and shrugged my shoulders up without thinking.
“Kass!” my mother tapped my shoulders to push them back down as she finished braiding my hair.
“Sorry Mamma,” I apologized, but didn’t stop smiling.
I hoped someday someone would make me happy like Clark made Mamma did. My smile turned wistful. I wondered if my father ever made my mother happy like that. Surely they had been happy at one point… happy enough to have three daughters.
“Mamma, can I ask you something?” I said, pulling my leg up on the bed and tucking it under me as she finished.
“Certainly,” Mamma sat down next to me, still brushing at stray hairs on my head and trying to tuck them in.
“Do you think you and Clark will have other kids?”
Mamma coughed unexpectedly.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to shock me.”
“Why did you ask that?”
“I don’t know. I just thought you seem so happy and it’s been a few months.”
“Kassiopeia, if Clark and I do decide to have more kids, and I’m not saying we will, but we’re going to discuss it with each other first.”
“I know. I just thought babies are the ultimate expression of love.”
“You love each other so deeply that that love spills over into a child. It’s a beautiful gift.”
“That’s a nice way to put it.”
“You and Dad had to love each other though some of the time right? To have us?”
Mamma paled again and looked off into the distance. If I wasn’t mistaken, her eyes even misted in the corners. I wondered if I should’ve kept my mouth shut and avoided saying anything. I didn’t want to upset her.
“I don’t know, Kass, there’s a lot of hurt there,” she looked down at the floor.
“I’m sorry, Mamma, I don’t want to hurt you by my questions. I just wondered that’s all. You didn’t love Daddy when you married him? When you were pregnant with me? With Cari? And Andi?”
Mamma pressed her hands to her lips as if trying to hold back emotion. “Yes… Kass…” she said very quietly. “I did love Howard very much once.” Her voice trailed off. She coughed again and cleared her throat. “But I love Clark very much and he loves me so much more than… your father ever did.”
I felt sad as I hugged my knees to my chest.
“Kass, why are you wondering these things? The past is in the past. We should leave it there.”
“I… uh… I was just curious, I guess. I was thinking about love… true love… and making…uh…” I blushed deeply.
“Love,” Mamma said softly, taking my hand. “Kassio, oh dear, you’re at that age, aren’t you? Oh my!” she said in awe of the moment. “I don’t think a mother ever knows how to talk about these things.”
“Mamma, it’s okay. I’ve already had the birds and the bees talk,” I shrugged.
“Yes, but the love talk… I guess, I’ve been a poor example…” Mamma looked down at her hands. “…your father and I have been a poor example for you, and your nonno and nonna… well, the generation gap is…”
“Oh llamas! Mamma, I don’t want to talk to Nonna about this!” I exclaimed, horrified.
“About what? Making love and babies?” Mamma said, her eyes twinkling.
“Mamma!” I made a face, feeling my cheeks heat rapidly. “I’m not ready for that. I know I’m not.”
“I’m serious, Mamma. I don’t know if I can ever…” I trailed off.
Mamma nodded understandingly. “There, go see if you like it,” she said, nodding toward the mirror.
I didn’t wait to hear the suggestion twice. This conversation was already more awkward than I would’ve liked. The side braid was very pretty. I finally was starting to feel and look more human. Mamma walked up behind me and smiled kindly.
“Magnifico!” she said, pressing her hands to her lips.
“Grazie, Mamma,” I said softly.
“Veni. Vidi. Amavi,” Mamma said.
“What?” I frowned at my mother standing behind me.
“It means ‘we came. we saw. we loved.'” Mamma explained. “Your bisnonna, your great grandmother, Celestia, used to say that to me. It was the best advice I could’ve ever received about falling in love.”
“Mamma, I’m sorry. I really shouldn’t have brought it up,” I turned and stared awkwardly at the floor.
“No, you should have. Listen to me, gattina. Your heart has questions. Don’t deny them,” Mamma replied and she sighed, closing her eyes, almost reverently. “I sound like her… Celestia…”
“You stayed with her, didn’t you?” I asked. “When you were younger.”
“Yes, twice. Once when I was in high school and another time when your father and I were having troubles,” Mamma answered.
“Mamma?” I looked at her, feeling confused. “I have so many questions.”
“Yes, and I’d like to answer them all,” Mamma laughed, and held my hands in hers. “It’d take a thousand days to tell you everything and then some. I remember my grandmother, your great grandmother, giving me advice because I asked her just as you are now about life and love… and…” Mamma lifted my chin. “…sex. Don’t shy away from talking about it. I know I never dreamed I’d be having this conversation with you…” she noticed my blush. “…mostly because I never thought I’d be happy again.”
“Why were you so unhappy?” I asked.
“Well, your father, for starters. The pressure of being a wife is great, and you shouldn’t rush into it… love… sex… marriage… none of it… lightly. I was young and immature and we weren’t ready to be married. That’s why I ran away and lived with your great-grandmother for almost a year. That’s when I found out I was pregnant…” Mamma trailed off. “…with…” her voice caught oddly as she wrapped her arms around me. “… you and your sisters are one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever received.”
I smiled and relaxed into her embrace. Hot tears slid through my eyelashes. I was so grateful my mother had come, and even Clark. What was it that he had said on the phone? You’re as much my daughter now as my own sons. His thoughtful words made me want to give him an honest chance, and no longer just for my mother’s sake, but because he had made a huge difference in her life and I knew he’d make a big difference in mine too. The way he looked at my mother… I was so happy for her, and also sad. I thought about my own choices, allowing drink to dictate decision resulting in disaster more than once. I thought of all the failed attempts at genuine relationship, and the bountiful flurry of the budding romance I almost had with Davis. Was it real? Had it really been real? Who could know what true love was until you had it? And I certainly had never had it… not really.
“Now,” Mamma said as she pulled back to look me in the eyes, the tears splashing her cheeks also. “I’m going to tell you what Celestia told me about love. Veni. Vidi. Amavi. We came. We saw. We loved. Kass, the right man, whoever he is for you, is waiting out there. You may not know him yet, but you will. You’ll come together. You’ll see the other person. You will really see them for who they are and accept them for everything they are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and you will both love, more deeply than you would’ve ever dreamed and more deeply than you’ve ever known.”
“Mamma!” my voice cracked and the tears fell freely. “I… I… want that… for myself… someday… not today… but someday… and I don’t know… do I deserve it? I’ve been so foolish…”
“Shh… it’s okay, gattina,” Mamma hugged me. “We all make mistakes in our youth, but they do not define our character. They help us grow and learn. Regret makes us question ourselves and wonder if we could’ve done things differently, but don’t live in regret, Kassiopeia.”
“Okay, Mamma…” I sniffled.
“Let’s go check on Clark, shall we?” Mamma suggested, wiping at her face as I did mine.
2.9 Coming Soon!
- Will we learn more about Amy’s past, her former relationship with Howard, and why she ran away?
- Will Kass learn more about the great grandmother she never knew and what happened during her mother’s stay with Celestia?
- Will we learn more about Kass and her fear and curiosity about love and relationships?
Italian words and phrases translated:
- sono contento che tu sia qui – I’m so glad you’re here
- grazie – thank you
- e ciao – and hello
- gattina – ‘little cat,’ a term of endearment
- nonno – grandfather
- nonna – grandmother
- magnifico – magnificent
- Veni. Vidi. Amavi. – We came. We saw. We loved.
- bisnonna – great grandmother