2.16 Like a Good Neighbor

Sunday, Simtember 11, 2416 | Silverton Estate | Bay City, Califorsimia

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My reflection stared back at me… a stranger. I wasn’t Kassiopeia Celestia Fullbright. I wasn’t the daughter of Amalia Riveria and Howard Fullbright. I was the product of a shameful attack on my mother. I was… what was I? What am I? I looked into my own amber eyes and wondered who the girl in the mirror really was. In a short twenty-four hours, I had gone from having questions to questioning my own identity and my very existence.

I spit out my toothpaste and rinsed my mouth. My father wasn’t my father. That was a mouthful. I had just spent nearly a year on the road with the man I thought was my dad and now I was faced with reality that I had been with someone other than my biological father, and my biological father was a sexual predator and a monster.

I shuddered and rubbed my arms. The room was cold, and with the autumn temperatures slowly dipping every day, I’d need to talk to Bea about replacing the furnace. Bea spoke of the furnace with an abnormal affection, telling me “Old Gaston was as temperamental as a a tugboat on the ocean in a storm, but he’s the only one who will carry you safely to shore.” Still, Gaston, if that’s what we were going to call him, wasn’t working more than he was working so it was time for a repair or replacement.

I had slept too long. I hadn’t wanted to wake up and face reality. Still, one-thirty in the afternoon was probably pushing it. Perhaps if I had woken up earlier I could’ve called the repairman. Then I remembered it was Sunday. The office probably wasn’t open.

I decided to explore the house a little more before trying to find my mother. I wasn’t sure how to act around her, what to feel, and what to think. I felt ashamed, disappointed, heartbroken, and simultaneously sympathetic. I thought about my own mistakes and the situations I had found myself in when I had a drink too many. I felt an odd connection to my mother. Still, I wasn’t ready to talk about it.

Screenshot-267Shameka was sleeping when I poked my head into her room. I decided to leave her be. The poor girl was still struggling with her disease. I felt comforted by the fact that she was staying in this big old empty house with me than in a hospital. I woke up and could hear her screaming some nights. Dr. Bachelor had been staying at the house on and off to tend to her needs. She explained how Shameka’s internal body was tearing her apart and there wasn’t much she could do. The medicine staved off some of the effects of the various symptoms, but there wasn’t a cure. Dr. Bachelor told me she had to “tread lightly” when making inquiries about the facility up north. She didn’t want to risk her job in a regular hospital because she wanted to help the many patients who came through the doors who would be turned away from traditional medicine.

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I decided to check out the room next to Shameka’s. When I opened the door, the wood banged against a wooden dresser. That’s an odd place for a dresser, I frowned. Out of curiosity, I opened the drawers. Other than a pine-scented air freshener, the drawers were empty.

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I walked further into the room. The room had an eclectic mix of modern workout equipment, weathered leather chairs, antique lamps, an older boxy computer, and a faded bookshelf with horse and animal statues. On my way out of the room, I tried to shove the dresser out of the door’s way. It wouldn’t budge. I grunted and realized I’d aggravated my stitches. I’d have to get Clark to help me move the stubborn piece of furniture later.

I walked into the next room, a library with an attached porch. I had only taken one step forward when the door slammed behind me.

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“Llamas!” I shrieked, my hand flying to my heart.

I reached for the door handle and breathed a sigh of relief when it turned. I wonder why it slammed. There’s no breeze. I decided to leave the door open and shoved one of the faded wingback chairs in the way to keep it from shutting by itself again. I found a laptop sitting on the desk with another antique lamp. Must be Bea’s, I surmised. I fingered the books on the shelves, happy to find my great-grandmother had excellent taste in literature. Many of these books were collectibles. I would enjoy reading each and every one of them someday even if it took me a lifetime.

Screenshot-281Walking out onto the porch, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Oh the lovely scent of crisp air! I loved the autumn, the season where all the colors splashed about the trees, dancing like a ballerina on a breeze. I placed my hands on the cool speckled marble edging and looked out at the world in awe. The yellowed birch leaves fluttered like butterflies above my head. I noticed my car was missing from the driveway. I wondered if Clark and Mamma had gone somewhere. I had left them a second set of keys in case. In a way, I was grateful they might be gone. I wasn’t sure I was ready to face Mamma yet.

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Hearing an odd scraping sound, I leaned over the edge and noticed a woman raking leaves below in the front yard.

“Hello,” I called out.

“Oh,” she looked up at me. “Hi, you must be Kass.”

“Yes, and I see you’re making my yard look nice,” I replied.

“I’m Jeanette Rhinehart. I’m your neighbor,” the woman waved over at a house across the street.

“Hi Jeanette, I’ll come down there so I can shake your hand,” I smiled.

When I reached the yard, Jeanette had set down her rake and was rubbing the dirt off her hands.

“Hello again,” I offered my hand.

“Hi,” Jeanette took my hand and gave it a hearty shake. “Found this in your bushes,” she added, handing me a newspaper.

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“Thanks, yeah,” I gave a half-hearted chuckle. “I wonder what else is hiding in this yard. It needs some serious help.”

“I’m happy to help however you need. I assist Bea frequently,” Jeanette said.

“That’s really nice of you,” I replied.

“Yes, well, I have an degree in horticulture. I’d love to help you restore your garden,” Jeanette offered.

“Oh thank you, I think it needs it,” I smiled pleasantly. “Can I give you a hand?”

“No, no, I’m fine, thanks. You just had surgery,” Jeanette shook her head. “You should rest and read your paper.”

“News travels fast,” I frowned. “I am perfectly fine. I can help.”

“No you should rest and read your paper and enjoy your yard,” Jeanette assured.

“Have you seen Bea or my parents by any chance?”

It felt weird to refer to Mamma and Clark as my parents since my mother’s announcement. Not that Clark ever was my father. I wondered if he knew the truth too, but I surmised he didn’t.

“They went to afternoon Mass, I think with Bea.”

“Oh.”

It surprised me that my mother was attending church services, but I was glad to have more time to be in my thoughts.

“Are you sure I can’t help you?”

“Yes absolutely. I’ll be finished shortly anyway.”

I looked around. The yard didn’t look done, but I decided to take her advice. My sides were aching from the silly attempt to shove the dresser upstairs.

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I sat down on the stone bench and opened the Bay City Buzz. I hardly ever actually read what my paper published. I figured I probably should given I worked there.

Don Lothario had recently invested in the C-Ment Shoe Factory. He was quoted saying, “Just don’t let the family know yet, I, uh, forgot to ask permission beforehand.” I shook my head, wondering what his fiance thought.

A few articles later, I learned Cassandra had invested in real estate also, purchasing property on the waterfront in Bay City. She planned renovate the old night club and turn it into “the hopping place to be.” She would also be renaming it The Singles Hut.

Another article caught my attention. Carlos Lopez, owner of the Wolfbane Tavern, recently purchased an X-75 Hover Scooter. He was quoted, “Just doing my bit to help the environment and keeping in shape at the same time.”

Hmm, I frowned. I wondered how he could afford such a pricey transportation method, especially with the destruction at his tavern. My mind started formulating all sorts of ideas, including Carlos fraudulently using insurance money.

“Silly! This isn’t a movie,” I laughed at myself as I turned to the events section.

Other than a horse championship this upcoming weekend, I wasn’t sure or any of the other upcoming events in the city. Rolando and Sunshine, owned by Robert and Cynthia Kim₁, would be participating in the Alto Championship this Friday and Saturday. Maybe Mamma would like to go with me, I wondered.

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Splashing in the pond caught my attention. I set down the paper and watched the fishes swimming around. It was kind-of neat to have my own pond. Surprisingly, the water looked pretty clean as did the swamp grasses and rushes.

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I walked up to the water’s edge and thought about my nightmare from yesterday. In the daylight, water looked harmless. I wondered if that’s what my uncle thought on the day he drowned. There was something so peaceful and inviting about water – something that brought life… or death… depending on your perspective.

“I’m going to get something from the shed,” Jeanette said, walking past me. “You should explore more of your yard. And here…” she handed me a watering can. “…since you wanted to help.”

I took her advice and wandered.

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My stomach grumbled. I plucked an apple from one of my trees. Biting into the crisp juicy fruit, I swallowed the first bite feeling immensely satisfied. I remembered the community garden Dad and I frequented in Lucky Palms. Well Howard and I. 

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I discovered I had bell peppers and onions.

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…and plenty of weeds.

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With the sun setting, it was too cool to be outside without a sweater. I walked in the back door.

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I wondered why in the world we had baby furniture and a mobile hanging from the ceiling in the living room. The purple planets and moons and suns gently swayed above the faded baby crib.

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I caught myself smiling.

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I noticed Bea walking past. I waved at her. I wondered if that meant my parents were home. I turned and sighed, walking toward the front door. Inevitably, I’d have to talk to my mother again.

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I found myself staring up at a column. The decor in here was surely eclectic.

When I reached the front yard, my car was sitting in its place, but I didn’t see Clark or Mamma. I frowned, wondering if I had missed them somehow when walking through the house. I noticed the high pile of leaves.

“Wow, you did a great job, Jeanette,” I approached my neighbor. “You did more than any other neighbor I’ve known to do.”

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“Thanks. Like a good neighbor, I’m here,” she shrugged, and seeing my confused look, she added, “I work for Good Neighbor Insurance₂.”

“Oh, okay… I get it,” I smiled. “Well, you are a good neighbor to do all this. Can I repay you somehow?”

“No, I just love helping out,” Jeanette shook her head. “Now that I’ve worked up an appetite, I’m ready for food. Would you like to join me for dinner?”

I rubbed my stomach, a slight gurgling noise arising. “Yes. I’m starved. I should be cooking for you though after all this.”

“Nonsense. My place. Just follow me,” she insisted.

I followed, grateful for an excuse to avoid my mother and stepfather.

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“Make yourself at home,” she said.

“No way, I’m going to help you out with dinner,” I replied, following her into the kitchen.

“Okay,” she laughed. “There’s lettuce and fresh vegetables for salad in the fridge. I’m just going to mix up some stuff for baked mac and cheese. The bathroom is across the living room if you want to wash up first.”

“Okay, thanks,” I smiled.

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We enjoyed heaping plates of salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and mushrooms first while the macaroni and cheese baked in the oven.

“You aren’t kidding. These veggies are super fresh,” I complimented.

“Thanks. I have my own little hothouse connected to the house for special items, but living in Califorsimia, I can pretty much grow my own produce year round,” Jeanette explained.

“But you’re working in insurance?” I said, bewildered.

“The insurance is a day job, the gardens, that’s my true passion, and the insurance gig helps me pay for my passion, plus I get weekends off to spend in my yard and well… yours…”

“Thank you so much for inviting me over. You have a lovely home.”

“Nothing like your estate, but it’s cozy.”

“Are you kidding me? I have no idea what to do with such a big estate.”

“So it’s my understanding you’re Celestia’s great-granddaughter?”

“Yes, that’s right. She left me her big home for some reason.”

“Really? You don’t know why?”

“No, not really…”

I laughed. Jeanette laughed too. She seemed like an easy person to be around.

“Oh our dinner!” Jeanette jumped up as the timer began dinging.

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We enjoyed hearty bowls of Jeanette’s homemade baked macaroni with piping hot cheese. She talked about how she wasn’t born on the mainland, but on Castaway Island₃. Jeanette was raised by her father, Winnie₄, and he saved up all his money to send her to university in Califorsimia. After college, she worked as a florist before landing her dream job in the jungles of the Simirribbean before losing her funding. She returned to the Nation, and took a job with the insurance company until she could find another grant for her horticulture research.

“Wow! I hope you get it someday,” I said.

“I hope so too. My father still lives on Castaway, and he’s getting older. I think he would like it if I lived closer,” Jeanette replied. “But I do enjoy living here in Bay City too. And Bea is a sweet neighbor. She helped me out with my legal troubles a few years back.”

“Legal troubles?” I quirked a brow. “Bea is a lawyer?”

“Retired attorney,” Jeanette nodded. “She left her practice last year. She was ready to retire, but I think they could’ve given her a better severance package. She’s sunk a pretty penny into maintaining that estate for your great-grandmother.”

This is news to me! I frowned. I didn’t realize Bea had been a former attorney or that she was struggling to maintain the house. I made a mental note to check into the legal issues surrounding my trust fund so I could pitch in and help with the repairs and maintenance.

Jeanette pushed back her chair. “I’m going to bake a batch of cookies. Feel free to explore the house, Kass. I’ve got a great book collection, and Hecuba₅ should be around somewhere.”

“Hecuba?”

“My cat.”

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Something tickled my leg.

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“Well hello,” I smiled at Jeanette’s fluffy Siamese cat.

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Hecuba  purred and let me pet her before running away to her kitty throne. I returned to the bookshelf and perused. I made a mental note to return the favor and let Jeanette look on my shelves. One of the book titles caught my eye: Magnetic Attraction₆. 

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I remembered the book had been made into a movie a few years ago starring Bella Goth and some hunky Simasian₇ guy. I looked at the back cover. Robert Kim. I wondered if it was the same Robert Kim who would be in town this weekend with his horses. I noticed the inside cover was signed by the actor and by the actress addressed to Jeanette. Cool! 

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I flipped through the pages and recognized the younger version of Kim compared to the photo of he and his wife with their horses in the paper. So he’ll be in town this upcoming weekend? I decided I would have to go visit him, perhaps under the guise of a Bay City Buzz article. Brendon would go for it. I was certain. Maybe I can ask him about his experiences with Bella and what she was like. Magnetic Attraction was the last movie Bella ever did before disappearing. I flipped to the last page giving the movie stars’ biographies. I skimmed through Robert’s and read Bella’s in more detail. The last words caught my attention, “Bella Goth to star in the upcoming Alan Stanley₈ movie, Paranormal Witness.” 

“That’s right!” I exclaimed, letting the book slip from my fingers.  “Paranormal Witness.” 

I had to get home. I leaped to my feet, and walked into the kitchen.

“Jeanette, thank you for dinner. I am feeling pretty tired so I think I should go home and turn in,” I said. It’s not a total lie.

“No worries,” Jeanette smiled. “Thanks for coming. Did you find a good book?”

“Yeah, actually, can I borrow this?” I asked, lifting Magnetic Attraction. 

“Sure,” Jeanette said.

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She walked me outside and gave me a hug. We made plans to grab coffee together. I raced across the street and into the house. I ran all the way up the stairs, stopping between the second and third floor to catch my breath. Once in my bedroom, I searched under the bed and in my closet for something very specific. I found what I was looking for under the couch.

Sitting down cross-legged on my bed, I opened a box I hadn’t opened since I was in middle school. My Bella Box. Inside, I found scraps of articles, clips from magazines, ticket stubs, and even a signed photograph Ayesha had gotten me at a Bridgeport celebrity event. I had quite the obsession over the glamorous movie star when I was a young pre-teen. I pulled out a thrice-folded yellowed news article from 2096, the year of my birth. The headline read: PARANORMAL WITNESS PICTURE EXPECTED TO PLUMMET. 

Alan Stanley Pictures does not anticipate much success with his latest film, Paranormal Witness,” I read aloud. “In a shocking announcement at last night’s press conference, Bella Goth shared she would not be the lead actress in this film after nearly a year of promotion and partial production. Goth, 26, stated she wanted to focus on her family instead of her career. Goth is married to entrepreneur and financier, Mortimer Goth, and already has a three year-old daughter, Cassandra. Stanley angrily threw her out of his early-production party, claiming Goth did not discuss with him the terms of her leaving before announcing to the press. This morning, Stanley announced he would be casting an unknown in the role of Delphi Darnell. Speculations by experts include Miranda C. Badd, Heather Danvers, and Heidi Scarre. Goth’s press agent could neither confirm nor deny if this announcement and Goth’s bizarre behavior over the last few months means a permanent resignation from the film community.”

I was so glad that I had met Jeanette Rhinehart. I was glad I had been a good neighbor. Now I had a potential lead on the Bella Goth story, and I was sure Brendon would be thrilled. Tomorrow, I would go over to Jeanette’s house and offer to help her in her garden… like any good neighbor… and find some way to ask about Bella’s signature in the front of the book.

2.17 Coming Soon! 

  • What other interesting Bella Goth tidbits will Kass uncover? 
  • Will she talk to her mother again and figure out more about her past?

Story Extras: 

  1. Robert Kim, in my Simworld, is a former actor and equestrian enthusiast. He and his wife, Cynthia live in Oasis Landing. Robert and Cynthia Kim are based off of The Sims 2: Pets characters.
  2. Good Neighbor Insurance is a parody of Allstate Insurance.
  3. Castaway Island is available for a Sims 3 remake and in my Simworld, is located in Paradisim (a.k.a. Hawaii).
  4. Winnie, Jeanette’s father, is based on Winford Rhinehart from The Sims Castaway Stories.
  5. Hecuba, the Siamese cat, is a homage to a cat owned by Cornelia and Gunther Goth in The Sims: Unleashed.
  6. Magnetic Attraction is a book Sims can read in The Sims 3. In my Simworld, it was made into a movie starring a blonde Bella Goth and Robert Kim.
  7. Simasia is my Simworld version of Asian.
  8. Alan Stanley is a film director and movie producer in Bridgeport.
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8 thoughts on “2.16 Like a Good Neighbor”

  1. No! There’s no more to read! I’m all caught up!!! The pictures of the yard were gorgeous. I really like the Silverton Estate in autumn. Jeanette seems like a good person, finally Kass has someone new to socialize with 🙂

    I know you know, but I have to tell you anyway – all this is getting so interesting with every new chapter. I’m enjoying your amazing story so much and I can’t wait to read more! ❤

    Like

    1. Yes you are caught up! Congrats! I’m moving much slower through part 2 mostly cuz of grad school eating my time.

      I love the estate even if it is rundown. Kass needs a new friend. Autumn is such a gorgeous season. I was ready to bring out autumn colors.

      Thanks so much for reading. Please keep reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I meant in the list of possible people to play Bella’s role in the movie. Also I know she wasn’t married – just joking about Mrs. Danvers in the book Rebecca. 🙂

        Like

  2. The yard is gorgeous! I love it! And this was a nice, calm chapter after the more intense ones. Though I do wish that Kass will talk to her mother and sort out their problems. Her mum must not be feeling good about any of this either.

    Liked by 1 person

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