Friday, Simtember 9, 2416 | Silverton Estate | Bay City, Califorsimia
Warning: This chapter includes content that may not be appropriate for younger readers, including reference to sexual and other adult situations.
Pull yourself together, Kass.
I didn’t want anyone to know I’d been crying. The whole thing was humiliating enough without anyone else around. I tried to fit my key in the lock, but the metal clicked inanely around the knob, everywhere but the keyhole. I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry. I repeated the internal mantra. It’s just a key. It’s just a door. It’s just a lock.
I looked down and realized my hands were shaking like little earth tremors, nothing earth-shattering and yet unnerving. I could feel the blood coursing through my veins like a panicked dance, reaching my heart and pounding mercilessly on the door. Lifting my hand, I swiped at a rebel tear, banishing the salty liquid from my face to the cracked stone pavement. I swallowed hard, closed my eyes, and inhaled the cool night air deeply. The after effects of the rain shower engulfed my mind and wrapped my heart in a refreshing embrace.
Clark opened the door.
“Hey Kass,” he greeted me softly. “Thought you might be having trouble figuring out which key went to what.”
I offered a weak laugh, and jingled my chain including twelve different keys – front door, back door, side door, shed, car, gate key, work office, old house key from Pinochle Point, my dad’s apartment key in Simcago, Mamma and Clark’s house key in Oakland, and two other unknown keys from this house.
“Thanks,” I replied, and quickly turned to walk to the stairs.
“Your mamma’s in the dining room,” Clark said. “She’s got a surprise for you.”
I looked back at my stepfather, taken off guard. He was smiling. I really just wanted to curl up alone, but I would indulge my mother, even if only for Clark’s sake.
“Your mamma is a pretty as can be when she’s concentrating on something and she gets this little…” he furrowed his brow.
“…right here between the eyes,” we said in unison as I mimicked the look.
Surprisingly, some of my forehead tension melted away.
“Well, this old guy is heading to bed. Good night, Kass,” he gave me a hug.
I welcomed the embrace like butter in a hot skillet, my tired achy body rested in his steady arms. He didn’t have to say anything. He just hugged. Clark was a good guy. Good for Mamma. And for me too. It was still hard to be around my stepfather sometimes because it made me miss my dad, especially his soothing radio voice as he strummed his guitar over a lonely campfire, lulling me to sleep. Clark’s voice was higher, but no less kind. Mamma picked a good man.
“What’s wrong?” Mamma asked, closing her laptop lid the minute I sat down.
“What makes you think anything’s wrong, Mamma?” I made a face as my tired, aching body sank into a surprisingly firm dining chair.
“You’ve got a red nose and your cheeks are glistening,” Mamma replied.
“I’m okay,” I sighed, wiggling on my threadbare seat to find a comfortable spot. “I’m just tired.”
“I know you, my daughter. You should tell me. I’m your mother,” Mamma pushed, leaning forward over the table, her night vanilla musk overwhelming my senses.
I rubbed my nose. I knew she meant well, but Mamma’s apparent psychic ability for reading her children’s emotions was obnoxious sometimes. Understanding what was behind those emotions, however, was not her strong suit.
“Two things, Mamma,” I said, holding up two fingers and balling my fist under the table to control my tone. “One, I am tired, and two, I am a grown woman. I don’t need to tell you. I just had a bad day, okay?”
“Is everything okay at work?” she asked, her eyes widening in surprise.
She was still prying. I grunted, staring off at the faded, dust-coated drapes above the dining room windows. Who thought mustard was a good color even when clean?
“Clark said you had something for me,” I forced myself to look back at my mother and said in a less-than-enthusiastic tone.
I didn’t care. Honestly, I the only “something” I wanted was to go crawl under my covers and sleep until noon tomorrow, but I waited for her response.
Mamma’s eyes lit up and she began excitedly speaking with her hands. “Well, while you and I were shopping today and then while you were gone this evening, Clark and I worked on a surprise here in the house for you. I thought you’d appreciate it… well… my old room, we fixed it up.”
“Oh,” I said, twisting my toe in the ugly straw-thin area rug.
Her reply was unexpected.
“Thank you,” I mustered gratefully.
I hadn’t been sleeping well for fourteen months since I left my grandparents’ home in Sunset Valley to travel the road with my dad. All the different rooms we slept in, and nothing felt like my old comfy mattress from our old house. I could still remembered the feeling of welcome relief when I laid on the bed no matter how bad my day was. I’d lay on my freshly laundered sheets and squeeze my pillow, sighing as my eyes would catch sight of the small Coca Cola stain on the mattress corner. The sheets never fit perfectly. As I’d crawl across the bed to fix the fitted bottom, the springs would croak like a cricket caught in a frog’s mouth. I’d roll my eyes.
I still grieved for the loss of my bed. One of our trees had fallen on my bed during the earthquake last year, tearing the box spring in two. Is it silly to mourn an inanimate object?
“I hope you like it,” Mamma winced. “It still needs some work, but we tried to fix it up. Bea even pitched in and helped us dust off the bed cover and we put new sheets on the bed. Of course, we put fresh sheets on the bed. Oh dear, what am I saying? It would be awful to sleep on half-a-century-old sheets. I still think it’s the room in the best shape in the house even after all this time.”
“Mamma, Mamma, it’s okay, thank you,” I interjected.
“Really? Because if you’re comfortable in the red room you don’t have to move. I didn’t move all your clothes yet from the drawers or anything because I didn’t know if you wanted to do that yourself. I mean, who knows what you’re keeping in the unmentionables drawer,” Mamma joked.
I winced, thinking of the “pretty delicates” gift from Brendon. I breathed an inward sigh of relief Mamma didn’t go through my underwear drawer.
“And I didn’t know if you’re feeling okay to go up another flight of stairs. The room is on the third floor. Are you okay with climbing the stairs and all? Should I go call Clark and have him help you?” Mamma offered worriedly.
“No, Mamma,” I shook my head. “I’ll be fine. I’m just tired. Can we go see the room now?”
“Yes,” Mamma clapped her hands together. “Of course.” She pushed back her chair and stood up. “I hope you like it.”
“I’m sure I will,” I replied, and didn’t add that I probably would feel comfortable on any bed right now.
The emotions of tonight had my muscles aching.
She was right. It was probably the best looking room in the house. The pine wood four poster bed was inviting with soft cornflower blue drapery with old-fashioned gold fringe, sheets, blankets, and a bed skirt. I inwardly squealed with delight because I knew I’d feel like a princess sleeping in such a gorgeous bed. I fingered the weathered wood of the bedposts, each groove telling a story of a day gone past. The floor boards beneath my feet gave a soft groan, the kind that spoke of old age and wisdom.
The antique night stands flocked the bed on either side with matching sky-blue lamps. All the blue was definitely my mother’s taste. Despite my first love of the color green, something about the blue was incredibly calming.
Two antique silver chandeliers hung above our heads boasting four electric candles that flickered ever so slightly like the real thing. I don’t think I’d ever had a room with chandeliers. Again, I felt like royalty. My chest rose and fell more evenly, my breathing slowing and my body relaxing. Perhaps I could finally make my great-grandmother’s estate feel like home.
A beautiful matching chaise lounge with an antique silver finish sat on the far end of the room, the color a perfect match to the bedspread and drapes. An old phonograph stood proudly in the corner. The thought of playing venerable tunes on such a perfect piece of Simterran history delighted me. I vaguely recalled days of dancing with Mamma in our hallway of our old home while Dad cooked dinner. I remember twirling and spinning and humming along to the sweet strains of the oldies my mother knew and loved. The music was apart of my heritage. It was only fitting to have the phonograph in my bedroom.
The walls were weathered, peppered with miniscule tears and cracks in the paper, but the trim and lower panels looked like it had been recently polished . Mamma’s old blue Victorian dollhouse curled up in the corner, reminiscent of her childhood. Although I was never one to play with dolls, I could still appreciate the sentimentality of a beloved childhood toy.
Directly behind us, a beautiful table sat against the wall with a delicate ivy plant in a white birdcage and a few old college text books on its marble top. Mamma made a comment about moving the books, but I told her she could leave them. Perhaps I’d flip through them later, and maybe get a deeper sense of my mother and her past, even if they were merely for school.
The only artwork is the room was a cedar-wood framed painting of a grand piano, too beautiful to describe in words. The painting was so lifelike. I could imagine reaching through the frame and tickling the ivories and half expecting to hear a cheery song, and petting the white kitten curled up in pleasant slumber on the bench and feeling his or her soft fur. It made me wish I hadn’t given up on piano lessons.
The room even had a fireplace, though Mamma warned me it hadn’t been used in years and suggested Clark check the flue before use. I still smiled, excited about the opportunity to curl up next to the fire with a comfy blanket, a hot cup of tea, and a good book on a rainy autumn day. It sounded like heaven.
“What do you think?” Mamma asked.
“Oh!” I clasped my hands together. “It’s absolutely perfect.”
“Really? I’m so glad you like it,” Mamma said, excitedly.
“Are you sure you and Clark don’t want to stay in here? I mean, it is your old room,” I said.
“Nonsense. We’re in the room below you and it’s fine,” Mamma replied. “This is for you.”
“I love it!” I exclaimed. “You did all this work today?”
“Well, Clark did the bulk of the fixing projects in here, and I helped Bea straighten and freshen the place tonight,” Mamma answered. “We even brought Grandma Celestia’s old record player down from the attic floor and it still works.”
“I’ll have to try it later,” I replied. “Did you use that lovely pineapple soap in here? It smells amazing.”
“Yes, the one that reminds you of a luau?” Mamma smiled. “Yes, I’m glad you notice it. I picked it up at the drugstore on he way home because I know how you like it.”
“Come with me. Here I’ll show you the bathroom.”
The walls were a deep teal with gray stone edging about a third-of-the-way down the wall. The toilet and sink stand were dark gray marbled and black. The rubber soles of my running shoes momentarily stuck to the sticky residue of the former flooring. Mamma said Clark didn’t have a chance to fix the floor tiles. In the meantime, I’d have to wear shoes in the bathroom or lay down a temporary rug or mat. The bath had both an antique bear-claw tub and shower. I was surprised at the brightness of the room given how dull the downstairs bathroom was. Mamma explained she dusted all the shades and scrubbed the shower tiles while Clark replaced and buffed the faucet handles and shower head.
“What’s with the mirror?” I laughed, the crazy mismatch of newspaper clippings, magazine pictures, photographs, and ticket stubs surrounding the frame made me smile.
“Oh,” Mamma walked toward the mirror and lifted her hands to plump her cheeks. “We can get the mirror out of here if you want. I left it up from the time I lived here. I guess your great-grandmother never got rid of the stuff.”
“What’s this?” I smirked, pointing to the picture of a fire extinguisher.
Mamma blushed. “Oh, well that was from a safety manual I was given when I went to a town hall meeting. I… wanted… to remember the cute firefighter who gave the talk on fire safety.”
“Mamma!” I said, in mock-seriousness.
“Enough of that,” Mamma shook her head, and ushered me out of the bathroom. “Let’s see the wardrobe.”
“The wardrobe?” I said, straightening my shoulders. “How fancy!”
The room really was fancy. I’d never had a closet with a glass chandelier, floor-to-ceiling mirror, and bookshelves.
“It’s like Beauty and the Beast,” I said, clapping my hands in excitement.
“I don’t think the Beast had bookshelves in his closets,” Mamma puzzled.
“Yeah, well…” I shrugged happily.
It didn’t really matter to me.
“I’ll have Clark help us get these shelves out of here in the morning so you have more space for a closet rack,” Mamma said.
“Oh no! I like it!” I grinned.
We stepped out of the “wardrobe.”
“So do you like it?” Mamma repeated.
“I love it,” I hugged her tightly, in spite of my aching ribs. “Mamma, thank you. And please thank Clark for me too for all the hard work you both did.”
“You’re welcome,” Mamma smiled. “Is there anything I can bring you?”
“No, I’ll just go get my pajamas and then I’ll move everything else up in the morning.”
“Are you sure? I can help you move your things tonight so it’s done and out of the way,” Mamma offered.
“Yeah,” I bobbed my head, and then sobered. I wanted to call Ayesha to discuss the ‘Gage dilemma.’ “I need to wind down for the night.”
“Okay, goodnight, gattina.”
“Good night, Mamma.”
I didn’t waste any time climbing up and down the stairs and changing into my pajamas – the oversized shirt of lucky #23 of Rob Simms, the best defensive player Edgewater Saints had ever seen. I dimmed the lights and promptly dialed Ayesha. I was trying to remember how far ahead Al Simhara was time-wise. I hoped I wouldn’t catch her when she was sleeping.
“Hey girl, what’s up?”
“Oh good you’re awake, Ayesha.”
“What do you mean I’m awake? Of course I am. It’s only twelve-thirty and the night is still young.”
“Wait? Where are you?”
“I’m stateside in Bridgeport. Remember I told you.”
I didn’t remember, but it didn’t matter.
“Whatcha doin’ in Bridgeport?” I asked.
“Partying like it’s twenty-ninety-nine. You won’t believe the night scene here, Kass. You’d love it,” Ayesha laughed, and then probably covered the phone to talk to someone given the muffled voices.
I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy it. I was surprised Ayesha was in the SimNation.
“So what did you want to talk to me about, girl?” Ayesha asked.
“Well, I heard from Gage.”
“No! No way! That llama’s arse called you?”
“Well, not exactly.”
I proceeded to tell her everything from the beginning – from Shameka’s appearance at the house to Dr. Bachelor’s involvement to the EXCES scare and the reason I had called Gage in the first place to everything he had told me tonight.
“Kass, we know Gage isn’t the best when his emotions are compromised. He doesn’t deal with grief well. It causes him to go bonkers,” Ayesha replied.
“Well, yeah, I guess,” I sighed and rested my hand on the side table, staring up into the mix of oil paints.
“Seriously, Kass, the dude doesn’t handle rejection well, or pain, or anything for that matter. He never did and he’s not going to change.”
“Yeah, but I feel sorry for him.”
“You feel sorry for him? Ha! That’s rich.”
The sounds of party guests, dishes clattering, and clubbing music drifted through the phone speaker. I wondered if Ayesha was having fun, and what I’d be doing if I was there too. I turned and walked toward the bed.
“I don’t know, Ayesha, he hurt me deeply and I am angry about what happened,” I sighed.
“Yeah like jumping in the sea with your best guy friend at night without your swim suits on,” Ayesha said, and I pictured her rolling her eyes. “We’ve all done it.”
“What have you?” I stretched out on my stomach across the bed. The mattress was super comfortable, much more so than my twin bed downstairs. “You’ve done it?”
“Done it and done it,” Ayesha confessed.
“Oh llamas, Ayesha!” I made a face as I didn’t want to think about my best friend or anyone woohooing. “I’m serious. Skinny dipping.”
“Josh Seacrest. Eleventh grade.”
“Seriously! Eleventh grade?”
“Yeah, he was my best mate before you. We got into his mom’s liquor cabinet one night and drank about a third of her cherry brandy. We were so wasted.”
“So you went skinny dipping?”
“It sounded like a good idea at the time.”
I fingered the softness of the bedspread, feeling comforted by the fact that I wasn’t the only one to lose my panties in the ocean.
“What? To Josh?” Ayesha laughed. “We kissed with tongue in the sand until the cops showed up. He never spoke to me again. He was too embarrassed, I think.”
I breathed an internal sigh of relief that Gage and I hadn’t kissed… or touched… or been busted by the cops on a public beach that night.
“How do you feel about him?” Ayesha asked seriously.
“Um… angry… upset… I mean… I don’t want to date him just because we saw each other naked,” I winced.
“Yeah, nudity doesn’t automatically equal dating,” Ayesha tried to sound supportive.
“What does that mean?” I exclaimed.
“Well, Josh and I weren’t dating when we skinny dipped and made out on the beach. I definitely wasn’t expecting a date after that… or a ring or anything,” Ayesha replied. “And I gave Jay Long a peep show after he saw me in the girls locker room in twelfth grade.”
“You did what?” I gasped.
“Yeah, well, he walked in there by mistake, poor guy. And I felt bad for him so I told him to meet me behind the football bleachers later that night,” Ayesha confessed.
“What? You did that?” I was stunned.
“Yeah, well, who do you think I am? I’m not some dumb cheerleader who promises something like that and then runs off and has a laugh with her girlfriends leaving the poor dude shivering in the cold,” Ayesha replied.
“Jay Long₁? Ben Long’s₂ little brother?” I said incredulously, trying to remember the pipsqueak of a sophomore when I was a junior and Ayesha was a senior.
“Yeah, he had the nicest hands,” Ayesha began.
“Oh I don’t want to hear this…” I jumped up off the bed. “Oh lalalalala!” I stuck my fingers in my ears.
“Poor Jay! He was shivering so badly when we got undressed, but I knew he wanted to see them, if you know what I mean,” Ayesha continued.
“Okay!” I punctuated and threw my arm up in the air. “You had to go there. I can’t un-hear this. Please tell me you didn’t…”
“What? Sleep with him? No,” Ayesha said dramatically. “I just wanted to give him a little excitement he could brag about to his friends.”
“Seriously, Ayesh, the things you do and did, I could never…”
“Well, never say never because look what you and Gage did.”
I frowned. Ayesha could be so insensitive.
“So what are you going to do?” she asked, without skipping a beat.
“About Gage?” I sighed, dropping my arms. “I don’t know. I don’t feel comfortable with the fact that he feels some weird obligation to me.”
“He said he wanted to be honorable, right?” Ayesha said. “He’s old-fashioned that way. I figured he probably wanted to marry Natalya when he knocked her up and obviously she turned him down. Poor guy hasn’t a clue about women!”
“Would you date him?”
“No way… but I think he genuinely cares about you, Kass, and you can’t brush that aside. You have to let him down easy.”
I really hoped he just wouldn’t come for a visit, and I wouldn’t have to see him, and I could forget the whole thing ever happened. I hated him for bringing up the past, for jerking my heart around on a chain, for talking to me after all this time to tell me he still loved me. It wasn’t love he felt. It was duty. There was nothing romantic about it, even if he thought it was honorable. I didn’t want to be with Gage. I knew that much. I didn’t want to be with anyone right now. There were too many wounds to heal still, and Gage was just the tip of the iceberg. Still, I felt wounded by his actions, and confounded by his attitude. I couldn’t deny that Gage had hurt me, as a friend, nonetheless, but not a romantic partner. I don’t think Gage and I would’ve worked out even if we had tried before everything happened, and Davis came along. We were both too blinded by emotion and quick to get angry. It wouldn’t have been a good combination.
Ayesha and I changed the subject and she talked about her year in Al Simhara. She had gotten a job stateside, hence the return. She was working as an office manager for Xtreme Adventures Company₃. The company was owned by a brother and sister who were friends of Ayesha’s sister’s new husband. She was grateful for the opportunity to get out of Simultan, annoyed by her sister and her new family’s backward ways. They had no idea how Ayesha was spending her free time and she wanted to keep it that way.
A loud thud came from above my head. I frowned and figured it was just the wind as I continued to listen to Ayesha. When it happened again, I looked up at the ceiling. Mamma had mentioned an attic floor. I knew there was at least another level above this one. I wondered what was causing the noise.
“Ayesha, I’m going to have to call you back,” I said.
“Oh okay, no problem. I’m about to watch a juice chugging competition,” Ayesha responded lightly. “Have a good night, Kass.”
“Thanks…” I said, and trailed off as the sound of footprints crossing the floor above me distracted me.
“Wish you were here,” she laughed lightly.
“Uh sure,” I said, half-sarcastically.
Juice chugging contests were not my idea of a good time.
I slowly opened my door. I was grateful the lights were still on in the hallway, but as I climbed the stairs, the fourth floor was completely dark. I wished I had brought a flashlight. What am I doing? I wondered as I walked down the long hallway.
The walls were the same ugly faded yellow wallpaper. The hallway had no windows and three doors, two on the left and one on the right. I walked all the way down to the last door on the right, the room above my room and hesitated. Maybe I should wake Clark to investigate.
I opened the door and was surprised to see another staircase. I cautiously entered the room, peering up the stairwell, but the floor above me was too dark to see anything. A light was coming from farther into the room.
As I rounded the staircase, I saw an odd looking dresser. The top of the dresser and the floor below it supported lit candles. Who would light candles in the attic? I wondered and shivered, wrapping my arms around myself. The window was clearly leaking air and the old room was drafty.
As I walked farther into the room, I saw it. A over-sized movie poster hanging on the left side of the dresser. There was a picture of two women posing in glamorous attire. The woman on the right was my mother. The woman on the left was Bella Goth wearing a blonde wig.
I paused my steps, staring up at the poster. I wasn’t sure what surprised me more. My mother or Bella. The sight was so unexpected. I had no idea they knew each other. I squinted and looked more closely. There was no doubt in my mind the woman on the left was Bella with a blonde wig. Her facial features and body shape were the exact same, minus the signature black curls. And the woman on the right was definitely my mother, a younger version of herself. I gasped. Was Mamma an actress back in the day? Is this why she ran away to Bay City to live with my great grandmother twice? How did she know Bella?
I willed my legs to move and turned toward the dresser, staring up into the mirror and wondering about the candles. There was a vase with a single pink flower and a freshly budding one and several jars of perfume. What is this? Some kind of shrine? Who’s been lighting the candles in the house then? Who would leave lit candles in an empty room?
Suddenly, the mirror caught a reflection of another person. I wasn’t alone in the room anymore. The young woman, the one who had appeared in my back yard and side yard when I was taking a bath, was standing behind me. I screeched in horror. Her eyes were glaring at me angrily.
I whirled around.
But there was no one there, save me and the dust mites.
2.14 Coming Soon!
- Who did Kass see behind her?
- Who set up the “odd shrine” in the attic?
- What will she decide about Gage?
- Jay Long is an actual Sim in The Sims 2: University. In my Simworld, he is the younger brother of Benjamin Long and is now attending college in Marsimelle, Championne as a freshman at Academie le Tour.
- Benjamin Long is an actual Sim in The Sims 2. In my Simworld, he’s the older brother of Jay Long, and he’s living in Pleasantview.
- Xtreme Adventures Company is based off the “Xtreme” Career track in The Sims.