Monday, Simtember 12, 2416 | Crypt’O’Night Lounge |Bay City, Califorsimia
Author’s Note: The following chapter is written from the perspective of Ayesha Ansari. The events in this chapter take place during the same time as the previous chapter, 2.19 Lost in Thought and 2.20 Miserable Night, Pt. 1.
“Who the hell are you?”
Ayesha narrowed her eyes at the strange pink-haired woman who had been following her around. Ayesha wasn’t so wasted she didn’t notice. When Brendon had turned out to be somewhat of a dud, she found her way to the bar, ordered her fifth beverage, and found a cute guy on the dance floor to flirt with… even if he was a tad overdressed and properly buttoned up in her opinion.
“I just came to compliment that fine pant suit,” the female in pink gushed. “I can appreciate a woman who wears the pants.”
“Riiiiight… do I know you?” Ayesha grimaced, taking a swig of her Falling Forever drink.
“You know it’s funny, I was going to ask you the same thing,” the lady leaned in with a concocted giggle. “I mean… I saw you here with this guy I used to know… Brendon Shore.”
“Oh him?” Ayesha made a face and then yawned. “Borrrinnngggg! You can have him.”
“Oh I don’t swing that way,” the woman replied, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “At least not anymore.”
“Okay…” the guy standing near them interjected loudly. “This is getting interesting… I’m going to go and find my woman.”
Figures, Ayesha rolled her eyes. Men! She gulped down her drink and tossed in on the nearest waiter’s tray. Always unavailable or just weird. Kinda like this lady. She won’t stop staring at me. What’s her deal?
“You know… I… I am… I’m…” Ayesha started, wondering why her voice sounded so odd. “I’m perfectly… into men… if you’re wondering… I mean… because… you look like you are… wondering… I think…”
The woman fluffed her hair. “Of course you are, dear.”
“Then what the hell do you want?” Ayesha tried to stare the lady down, but her eyes were feeling tired.
I need something exciting! she decided. Just not… she stared at the woman in pink with disdain. …that.
“I don’t swing that way,” she declared emphatically.
“Of course you don’t,” the woman gave her odd little laugh again. “I saw you with… Brendon Shore…”
The way the lady leaned in and whispered his name for the second time like it was a big secret made Ayesha’s head throb. She couldn’t figure out the lady’s deal.
“So… if you’re not into… you know… men… then why do you keep asking about Brendon?” Ayesha asked, her brow furrowing into a puzzled frown.
“Let me buy you a drink and I’ll tell you,” the lady said.
Ayesha shrugged. It wasn’t like she was getting any action anywhere else tonight, she thought abysmally looking around the mostly dead club.
They settled at the bar, and the mysterious pink woman snapped her fingers and ordered two red Jell-O shots. When they had downed them, the other woman sighed pleasantly as if refreshingly satisfied.
“I was married to him once.”
“Oh!” Ayesha replied, startled, and tried to close her gaping jaw quickly. “I did not expect that.”
Brendon had been married? Well, that’s a surprise. I wonder if Kass knows. Ayesha pushed her fingers above the bridge of her nose and winced. Her headache was getting worse. Drinking so much had demonstrated her sore lack of judgment tonight. I know how to pick the worst men too, she thought.
For Kass’s sake, she must press on.
“You married that guy?”
“Yes, once a long time ago, but he and I… well… he’s not exactly the best husband or the most attentive boyfriend,” the woman admitted with another phony tinny laugh as she fingered her empty Jell-O shot glass. “I’m sure you can tell.”
Ayesha glanced over at the couch where she had left her “date” for the evening. Brendon was back on his phone… again… head down, looking at the keys, and typing something in, unaware that his “date” had abandoned his side. She rolled her eyes, and ordered two shots of bourbon.
“Good riddance!” she declared. “There are much better fish in the sea… you know… I’m sure… seeing you left him… and uh… swing on other… monkey bars now…” she hiccuped, and covered her mouth with a giggle. “Kass can have ’em.”
“Kass?” the woman frowned.
“Yeah his little intern at the Buzz,” Ayesha explained, stepping off the barstool and nearly tumbling forward as her heel didn’t stay put. She waved her arms and caught her balance with the counter. “Redhaired… intern… she… yeah… Kass… works there… while she’s going to classes… at the local college.”
“Oh really?” the woman arched an eyebrow. “And this Kass… she likes him?”
“Oh yeah!” Ayesha said louder than she meant, drawing the attention of two male patrons who had just walked in the door. She flashed them a smile before continuing.
“But she won’t admit it… she’s got a thing… a thingy… you know… for him…” she nodded back toward Brendon as she took a swig of some brown liquid someone had placed in front of her.
“And honestly…” she whispered loudly. “I think he does for her too… but he won’t admit it… and why won’t people just admit things, huh?”
“Yes, why won’t they?” the woman looked back at Brendon and then swung her attention back to Ayesha. “I take it she’s young… this Kass… the one who’s in college?”
“Oh yeah… Kass is…” Ayesha felt the room spinning as she gripped the counter harder. “Perky… and… uh… how old you asked?… Um… ponytailed… I mean… what adult wears ponytails, right? She’s got the red hair and the looks… she really needs to… try… and she’d be great… like a… a… a uh…. firecracker… a perky ponytailed firecracker…”
Math…mathematicians… I can’t do those now. She hiccuped loudly and wondered why she was feeling so odd.
“Nineteen… no uh… she’ll be twenty soon… I think… I’m her best friend,” Ayesha waved her arms around. “I should know.”
“Yes, you should. Maybe you want to go home,” the lady suggested.
“Oh no! No! No! No!” Ayesha shook her head, looking over at one of the guys she had caught the eye of earlier as she tilted her chin upward and gave a pretty pout. “I think I want to do… more shots…” She glanced around and grabbed a bowl of freshly sliced limes. “With these…” she laughed and pointed. “And him…”
“Good luck,” the woman tipped her hat at Ayesha and slipped off the barstool, walking away into the fog.
Ayesha couldn’t really remember what happened. One minute she was chatting with a pink-haired stranger and the next she was doing body shots off a shirtless male model and then Brendon was packing her into a taxi cab and telling her to go home.
What home? Ayesha frowned. She wasn’t going back to the Silverton Estate. She took two swigs of the water bottle Brendon had handed her and ate one of the tiny packaged crackers before giving the driver a new address farther away. She couldn’t face Kass now.
Perfect little… pretty… precious little Kass… my redhaired, freckle-faced friend, she thought disdainfully. Kass had it all – the home she’d inherited from her wealthy great-grandmother, a family who cared about her, even if they weren’t all blood-related, a college education, a great internship, a somewhat sexy boss… which I can still admit even after a disastrous first date… Even Kass’s ex boyfriend was still dreamy and involved in her life even if Kass didn’t know about it. What do I have? Ayesha stared through the raindrops falling on her window. Sand up my butt at the ruins with an over-eager barely-out-of-puberty foreigner who didn’t know how to unhook my bra? Ayesha sighed, tossing aside her crushed water bottle.
Ayesha paid the driver the difference of miles, and stepped from the taxi cab. She walked up the walkway with purposeful slow steps, trying to avoid tripping on her face. It would be good to get out of her heels. She could find at least one pair of sandals in her old closet. Ayesha sighed heavily, leaning her forehead against the door, her fist in mid-air. She decided against knocking. It was late. They were probably sleeping. She swept her fingers around the side of the wood frame and found the hideaway key. Her fingers were trembling as she stuck the metal into the lock and the door gave way.
“Here goes,” she breathed.
The house was dark, illuminated by a few flashes of lightning here and there. Ayesha sighed, relieved, her surprise entrance had not awakened her parents. Her heels tapped on the black and white tiled floor and she winced with every clickety-clack. She caught her breath, hoping the thunder would mask her presence and any noises she might make.
Ayesha paused as she rounded the kitchen corner. The house hadn’t changed. Nothing had changed. The same worn countertops. The same old refrigerator with the incessant humming like a fly never quite caught in a trap. The same leaky faucet with its drip… drip… drippety-drip. The same weird cold white tiled walls that always reminded her of a surgery room with blending with the wooden board walls of the rest of the house. Ayesha leaned her head against the wall, and fingered the familiar crevices of the wood. She remembered imagining all the patterns and imperfections acting as roads out of town, ways to a new, fresh, and exciting life. Someday she would travel those roads and leave Sunset Valley behind and make something for herself other than wife… mother… suffocated…
Her finger caught on one of those wood imperfections, disrupting her reverie. Ayesha lifted her hand and saw a miniature dagger sticking out of the zigzag pattern of her fingerprint. She sank into the familiar squeaky dining chair and braced her hand and wrist on the table as she plucked the splinter from her finger and then rubbed her fingers to discard any remnants of wood or blood. She rested her head in her hands, her hair falling around her face and let out a sharp exhale. The splinter was hardly a match for the weapons waging war on her heart.
Why can’t I be good like Kass?
Her stomach grumbled. Ayesha leaned back and patted the beast in her belly, but to no avail. She stood up and dragged her feet to the refrigerator, hoping to find something to satisfy the aching. She hadn’t realized how starving she was. All that alcohol and she had barely touched her shrimp platter, the one she had insisted on ordering.
“For the love of Al-Sim,” she cursed as a box of apple juice slid out of its place and hit her toe.
“Ya, how did you come here?” a familiar, heavily accented voice spoke, grating on her ears.
“I just did, Father,” she replied, trying to keep emotion from her tone. “I got in a cab and I got myself here.”
Ayesha leaned forward and grabbed the juice box from the floor, snapping the straw out of the plastic, and sticking the drinking device through its little hole.
“You cannot be here,” her father replied as if speaking to a stray dog wandering in from the cold. “It would upset your mother.”
“Really?” Ayesha slammed the refrigerator door closed temporarily disrupting the inane humming. “Don’t you mean you don’t want me here?”
“Ya will wake your mother,” he said, his voice also devoid of emotion.
“Well I already woke you. What difference does it make?” Ayesha huffed, finishing the juice in one long slurp and slamming the box down on the counter.
“You are an embarrassment to our household,” her father answered. “I will not have you shame your mother like this. Your…” he waved his hand. “…attire… is too shameful for her eyes to bear. And for you to adorn your ears and your…”
For a minute, Ayesha thought she saw moisture welling in his eyes.
“Lip,” he looked away, his strong facade crumbling. “I cannot bear it. You must remove it this instant.”
“No!” Ayesha replied, her hand instinctively rising to her lips and fingering her ring. “I wanted this. I paid for it. I’m an adult. You cannot treat me like a child.”
“Ya will always be my child,” her father said, his voice vibrating with passion. “My child cannot wear those sinful adornments.”
“What? Really? Father? You can’t even say my name,” Ayesha huffed. “I’ve been gone for over a year and you cannot even say my name. Because I’m too much of an embarrassment for you and mother and your friends and your temple.”
“The House of Al-Sim does not recognize you anymore, my daughter,” her father replied, waving his hands. “You are no longer a member of the House or mine. What can I do?”
“You can start by loving your own daughter and accepting her,” Ayesha wailed. “Why must you hate me so much?”
“I do not hate, Ya,” her father sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat. “I must uphold the sacred laws of temple. I am a priest.”
“And I am a priest’s daughter!” Ayesha yelped. “I am your daughter. You cannot pretend like I don’t exist just because you don’t like what I wear or how I act.”
“My first duty is to the Maker. I must uphold temple laws.”
“You broke them once, remember? When Alia got pregnant.”
“She made her penance, Ya, and she and her new husband opened their home to you in Simultan and you threw their hospitality in their faces. You ran away and have been somewhere else we did not know. You made her so worried.”
“Father!” Ayesha screeched. “Alia is not happy. She may have made her penance and married a nice Al Simharan man and they are raising that beautiful boy, Ajmal, but Alia is not happy.
“Do not speak such falsehoods!” her father exclaimed.
“Father! Listen! She did everything you wanted and Amir took her even after she was a disgraced woman, which you and your House declared, and then she is forced to stay in her house most of the day because she’s still shamed… a world away and she is still shamed because you made her marry that man!” Ayesha replied. “And Ajmal is shunned by the little boys and girls at his school at temple because his mother was unmarried when she had him and everyone knows Amir isn’t his real father.”
“You will not come into my house and speak to me that way,” her father said, his voice low and vibrating.
“It’s my house too,” Ayesha threw her hands in the air. “Father, you can’t even look me in the eye and say my name. You can’t admit that I’m your daughter. You can’t let your daughters live their lives away from the House of Al… shit… whatever…if they want to.”
Her father lifted his eyes to meet hers for the first time since their conversation began. Ayesha ached because she saw the emotion behind his eyes, but the rest of his face refused to give into his daughter’s passionate plea.
“You need to leave. You are no longer welcome in this home.”
Ayesha felt the knife of defeat and twenty years of pain twist deeper into her gut, and she realized in that moment, she would never understand her father.
“She cannot leave,” a soft voice interjected.
Ayesha looked up to see the tired, plain face of her mother as she entered the kitchen. While she was grateful to see her, she was also confused and hurting.
“She cannot leave, Azzam,” her mother repeated in her quiet tone. “We must take tea first.”
Ayesha felt numb as she went through the motions. Her mother prepared three white mugs of black tea and added too much cream as usual. They sat at the table – Ayesha. Her father. Her mother. They drank their warm tea in relative silence, listening to the rain plunk on their thin roof. The house would vibrate with the shake of thunder, and Ayesha would see her mother shiver and snuggle closer to the wall. Oh the hypocrisy of it all! Her father had practically thrown her out of the house tonight and demanded she never return and yet here they were – drinking tea out of ritual as if some god in some part of the universe dictated the propriety of their final goodbye. Ayesha wanted to scream – to open her mouth and let the violent anger leap from her throat and fire daggers into her father’s chest, but she didn’t, for the sake of her mother, for the sake of propriety. She let her lip linger on the edge as her eyes sank into the depths of her mug and she realized she had only one more sip… and then she would be finished. She might as well have been drinking battery acid because the tea was far too sweet for her liking.
But Ayesha finished her sip, wiped her lip, and smiled pleasantly. She thanked her mother, slid from her chair, and walked from the kitchen. Her father stormed past her into his bedroom, slamming the door for added effect. Her mother followed noiselessly behind like any proper wife should. Ayesha stood in the dark and watched her mother’s back and wondered if she would ever forgive her father…
…if I can ever forgive myself.
Her mother froze in the dark living room, merely a few steps from her bedroom door. Her shoulders were hunched every so slightly and Ayesha realized how thin her mother had gotten. Probably from all the grief and worry.
“Thank you,” Ayesha whispered.
Her mother stood still for a moment longer before raising a hand to her cheek and brushed beneath her eye before stepping through the door, away from her youngest daughter.
The rain had ceased when Ayesha stepped outside. The world smelled fresh and clean, but she felt dirty. She started walking, unsure of where she was going. The moon shifted between clouds, illuminating the sidewalk as she put one foot in front of the other, her only company a lone shadow trailing behind her, a fragment of her former self. Sunset Valley had yet to see vibrant autumn colors, and she figured it was just as well. No need to rush the impending winter, she sniffled, looking up at the majestic Stoney Falls. The rockface seemed to mock her, glistening in the moonlight, while she crumbled to pieces. She looked away.
Ayesha sank onto a forgiving bench in Maywood Glen. It would listen to all her problems and still wrap her in its loving arms. Ayesha thought about all the things that had gone wrong this evening starting with her stupid decision to ask her best friend’s boss out followed by her stupid decision to try and come home.
“What home?” she wailed, hugging her knees to her chest and allowing the metal arm of the bench press into the small of her back.
The scent of hydrangeas wafted through the air as Ayesha closed her eyes and drank in every happy memory she could scramble to in the darkness of her favorite Valley park. She learned to ride her bicycle on the faded cobblestones. She had punched her first boy – Gage Briody – in grade school – for cutting her in line for the last hot dog. She had made her first best friend in a redhaired girl who was a grade behind her, who stood with her hands on her hips, and had convinced them both to share the char-grilled frankfurter. Ayesha laughed softly at the thought. She had her first kiss with a boy under the moon on a night much like tonight and remembered the abrasiveness of his braces bumping her virgin lips. She had her first time with Erik on this very bench. She remembered because they had carved their initials into the wood when they finished.
Ayesha leaned forward to check. The letters were still there. She noticed other people’s initials were also carved into the soft wood with little hearts and arrows. She smiled. Maybe she and Erik started a trend. Ayesha laid down on the damp pavement and stared up at the underside of the bench, the letters dancing before her eyes in romantic fervor. She frowned as a droplet of water hit her eyelashes. Brushing the water from her face, she blinked and her eyes settled on something strange. She propped herself up by her elbows and reached for the letters just to make sure she wasn’t seeing things.
S.C. Roth and N.R. forever.
The carvings didn’t have flowery hearts or Cupid arrows around them, but she could swear she felt the rich flurry of an almost-perfect romance tingling through her arm as she fingered the letters. S.C. Roth. I know that name. I know that name! Ayesha sat up fast, her excitement getting the best of her as she smacked her head against the wooden slats.
“Ow!” she yelped, rubbing the back of her head.
S.C. Roth had been in Sunset Valley. S.C. Roth. The same name the woman from some movie had given someone instead of her real name because she was hiding from someone… or something… or…
“Bella Goth,” Ayesha resettled on the bench, still rubbing her head, mystified. “Or Heather Danvers.”
As Ayesha curled up on the bench to sleep away her fatigue and the roller coaster of emotions from the evening, she wondered one thing before her brain would allow her to drift off into dreamland.
Who is N.R.?
2.21 Coming Soon!
- Will Ayesha make peace with Kass?
- Will Ayesha make peace with her parents?
- Why is their a woodcarving of the initials S.C. Roth and N.R. in Maywood Glen?
- B.J. LaRue was changed to S.C. Roth and S.D. was changed to N.R.