Warning: This chapter includes content that may be disturbing and upsetting to some readers, including a reference to prostitution and rape. You have been forewarned.
Tuesday, Simtember 13, 2416 | Los Sueños 24-HR Gym | Bay City, Califorsimia
The night had just gotten worse. I couldn’t believe the voice I was hearing. While it wasn’t the last voice I wanted to hear, it was most definitely not the voice I expected. Here I was stranded at the gym after a miserable night of flirting-gone-wrong to creepy stalker messages to stolen clothes to flat tires. I wasn’t in my best frame of mind at the moment.
I reluctantly stood to my feet, hunching my shoulders all awkwardly, wishing I could be swallowed up in the starry night sky instead of face the one person I did not want seeing me at my worst.
“Davis?” I said, hesitantly. “What are you doing here?”
“I was down at the docks picking up a delivery. The night was nice so I decided to take a walk. I saw your car and then you hunched over by your tire,” Davis said, approaching the driver’s side.
“Oh,” I winced. “Flat. I don’t seem to have the right tools either.”
“A flat, huh?” Davis replied. “Do you want me to take a look?”
I tried not to take a look as he bent over to examine my tire predicament, but the man was still as brawny as ever, even beneath the thick brown hoodie of his.
“Well,” he said after a few minutes. “You’re right. The tire is definitely flat.”
“Great,” I sighed.
“And without the right tools, I don’t think I can get her bolts to unwind. She seems pretty tight,” he continued.
I blinked hard. What did he just say? I shook my head vigorously. Get your mind outta the gutter, Kassiopeia.
“Um… what?” I said, trying to feign ignorance.
“She… I mean… your tire…” Davis corrected himself.
“My tire?” I took a step forward, my heart catching in my throat.
Stop it, Kass! Earlier tonight you were mooning over your boss and now you’re thinking about your ex?
“My tire, of course,” I tried to smile as I widened my eyes, probably looking stupid.
“Sorry,” Davis said in his sweet Southern drawl. “I call all my cars she. Terms of endearment, I guess,” he laughed awkwardly and rubbed his neck. “Uh… they’re…” he cleared his throat and straightened his shoulders. “…an important investment… uh… hobby of mine.”
“I didn’t know you were into cars,” I said, surprised.
“Recent…recent hobby… investment… of mine,” Davis grinned sheepishly. “It’s a way to make a little extra Simos on the side. You know… to save up for medical school.”
“Right,” I laughed, trying to release some of my tension. “Good for you. I’m glad you’re still… uh… pursuing… that… dream of yours.”
“Is that my shirt you’re wearing?” he looked down and said with a bemused look.
“Oh… I…uh…” I flushed.
What am I supposed to say? I panicked. I didn’t want to worry him. I didn’t want anyone to worry until I had more facts about my supposed stalker. Hopefully the police could figure something out by tomorrow morning… maybe.
“Laundry day,” I admitted, waving my hands. “I was clear out of something… like… uh… clean shirts… and so well… I just grabbed the first thing I could find out my drawer and what do you know?” I looked down and pinched the oversized shirt with my fingers. “Is this yours? Really? I had completely forgotten I had this… shirt… of yours,” I trailed off, feeling like an idiot.
Davis’s smile widened. “It suits you,” he said softly.
I tried to avoid zoning out on my Davis’s physique or his baby blues or his perfectly groomed straw-colored hair, but there was something mesmerizing about my ex. I couldn’t help myself. The tension, good or bad, whatever it would be, hung in the unseasonably warm Simtember air between us. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long for someone to find a knife to cut through the thick stick of butter between us.
“I have the right tools back in my car. I could just go get them if you’d like,” Davis offered.
“Oh,” I shook my head. “I can just call my roadside assistance.”
“Oh okay,” Davis replied. “Do you want me to wait with you for the tow to get here?”
For a second, I thought about taking him up on his offer. Stop it, Kass! He’s with Danny!
“Uh… no, that’s fine. It’s well lit here,” I made an excuse. “I can always wait inside the gym too.”
“Oh okay,” Davis shrugged, and I tried to ignore the disappointment in his tone. “I’ll see you around, Kass.”
“Thanks,” I said, waving. “Have a good night.”
Davis started to walk away slowly. I sighed in relief. I couldn’t believe how idiotic I was feeling inside. Everything’s all mixed up. You’re just tired, Kass. As I pulled out my phone, the battery warning flashed and the device shut off. Great! I could go back inside and ask the desk attendant to use their phone, but after everything that had happened tonight, I didn’t know if I wanted to stay around. I bit my lower lip and did what any stranded girl would do.
“Davis?” I called after him.
He turned around a little too eagerly.
“Wait up! I should save the money anyway for a real emergency and you said you had tools. Where’s your car?”
He smiled. “I hope you don’t mind. I parked a few blocks away.”
“Not at all,” I said, shoving my hands in my pants pockets. “I’ll walk with you.”
We walked for what ended up being six blocks away. Davis explained he had driven up to the warehouse district to collect coffee beans from Granny Jade’s storage locker. I was surprised she stored her coffee here in the City, but he said she had recently been getting shipments from several Alasimka coffee roasting companies. Davis shared he had been driving to Bay City to collect the night shipments after closing.
“So you’re still working for Granny Jade?” I asked.
“She lets me pick up weekend shifts,” Davis replied. “Hey thanks again for that suggestion to check with Dr. Bachelor for jobs. She put in a good word for me at Bay City General and they had an opening for a bed pan cleaner.”
“Oh,” was all I could think to say.
I had completely forgotten about my suggestion.
“Turns out starting over in a new town is easier than I thought it’d be after I got… well… fired…” Davis trailed off.
Awkward silence stretched between us. I felt bad about the whole debacle at my grandparents’ home.
“You know, congratulations!” I said, trying to sound cheerful and supportive. “You deserve it. Such an exciting job!”
“Yeah, cleaning bedpans is exciting,” he scoffed. “But it pays the bills and gets me some experience.”
“You said starting over in a new town…” I said. “Does that mean you’ve moved here?”
“Yeah, me and Carmichael are renting a place across town,” Davis explained. “You should come by some time.”
“Carmichael?” my eyes narrowed and then widened in surprise. “You mean, my grandparents’ dog?”
“Yeah, well, when they moved to Simtalia they didn’t want to take the dog with them… quarantine restrictions and all… so they let me keep Carmichael after they… uh… let me go…”
I couldn’t believe I didn’t know what had happened to my grandparent’s dog, Carmichael. I had been so caught up with leaving town without saying goodbye to anyone, I really didn’t know what happened after I left. I assumed Nonno and Nonna had given their lovable mutt away.
“That’s really nice of you,” I said, feeling weird about the whole conversation as I raised and lowered my shoulders trying to relax.
“Listen Kass,” he said as we rounded the corner of the warehouse and I recognized his car. “I don’t want things to be awkward between us. I’d like us to be friends.”
I turned to face him against my better judgment.
“I’d like that too,” I said, trying to stay emotionally neutral.
It was nearly impossible with his perfectly symmetrical face staring at me with an earnest hopefulness. I realized, in that moment, while I had been hurt by Davis and his lies of omission, I had really hurt him too, and he didn’t deserve the cold shoulder I had given him or my hurtful, hateful words. I lowered my head so he wouldn’t see the red bubbles of shame pop onto my cheeks.
“Kass… I’m sorry…”
We both laughed awkwardly. Davis shook his head.
“How gentlemanly of you.”
“Well I am from the South.”
I looked up into his eyes, forcing myself to do what I knew I should do. “I’m sorry, Davis. I acted like a jerk last summer. Worse than a jerk. I shouldn’t have snapped at you. You didn’t need to tell me right away about your secret past. It wasn’t your fault… what happened… in Vice City…”
“I know that, Kass, I don’t need you to tell me that,” Davis said, his voice stiff like an over-starched shirt.
“It must still be very painful for you and I was just salt to your wounds,” I looked down, twisting my shoe in the pavement.
“It was a long time ago,” Davis said quietly. “I should’ve told you about Phoenix, but I didn’t know how, and when things started getting serious between us, I knew I had to tell you.”
“But you waited to get me all dressed up for a fancy evening to tell me?” I winced. “You couldn’t have told me more casually?”
“I didn’t know what I was saying,” Davis replied. “I didn’t know how to tell you. You were the first honest girlfriend I’d ever had, the first normal relationship, and I wanted you to be… I don’t know…” he looked down. “Maybe I rushed things too much because I wanted everything to be so perfect.”
“I wanted… things… to be perfect too,” I admitted. “And I had a hard time accepting you had been with… with someone else first… but I understand why you didn’t tell me.”
“I should’ve told you about Phoenix… Lynda…”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah… what do you mean?”
“I mean with Phoenix… I mean… Lynda… I’m assuming things didn’t work out.”
Davis sighed heavily. I suddenly felt like I was intruding on a birthday party I wasn’t invited to, and wished I had kept my big mouth shut.
“Davis… I’m… uh… sorry… I shouldn’t be asking these things.”
“It’s okay,” he assured me. “She died four years ago, and her death helped put some powerful men in prison for life.”
“Yes, but…” I protested. “You…” I struggled to say the words. “…married her so you must have felt something for her.”
Davis sighed, running his hands through his hair before he sat down, propping his back against the metal walls of the warehouse building. I didn’t know whether I should sit or stand, but somehow standing over him didn’t feel right. I lowered myself to the ground and crossed my legs, waiting for him to speak in his own timing. Soft raindrops began to fall from the sky, but the coolness was a welcome relief in the sticky evening air.
“You have to understand something,” Davis began slowly. “It was the only way I could save her.”
“Save her?” I repeated.
“Actually it was the only way to save them both…”
I think I knew what he meant. “Phoenix and…” I swallowed and forced myself to say her name. “…Danny.”
Davis pulled his legs up to his chest and dropped his hands over his knees, looking down at the ground. “Do you know the name Ebenezer Alto?”
“Yeah,” I frowned. “The founder and first mayor of Bridgeport, right? We learned about him in school.”
“He’s my grandfather.”
I stared at Davis. “Your… grandfather?”
“Well he was…” Davis shrugged.
“Well yeah he died…” I said before thinking and then covered my mouth. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that so flippantly. He was your grandfather? But I thought Granny Jade was your grandma?”
“Granny was married before she was married to my Grandpops, Jackson. She had four kids with her first husband, Apollo, who died before I was born. Apollo’s father was Ebenezer, making him my great-grandfather. My mother’s maiden name is Alto.”
“That’s mostly why Granny set up shop here in Califorsimia, in Sunset Valley. Nick Alto is her oldest son, my uncle.”
“Wow!” I exclaimed, then felt stupid. “I never knew.”
“No one really does. Nick doesn’t want anything to do with her, and neither does my uncle, Bert. And my uncle Trent, my mama’s youngest brother lives on the moon colony… Lunar Lakes… with his wife and my cousin whom I’ve never met,” Davis explained. “When Grandpops died, my granny was hoping she could reconnect with her kids which is why she moved here, but they’re all too busy. My mom suggested I come out here and help my Granny out so she wouldn’t feel so alone. She relies on me, Granny Jade, even if she won’t admit it and she keeps paying me well more than she should just so I can go to medical school. She knows something about my situation and what happened.”
“She knows what?” I asked, brushing a raindrop off my nose.
“When my great-grandfather Ebenezer passed on, he left provisions in his will for his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Ebenezer was a wealthy man. He made his fortune in shipping. He left all of us trust funds. When I told you before about how I worked for months to free Danny and Phoenix, I didn’t finish,” Davis said.
“No, I didn’t let you,” I looked down shamefully.
“Well you remember what I said about how I worked as a photographer for the Vicco family and I was caught up in their extortion and prostitution ring… and after working for fourteen months, I found out Danny had been sold off and I wanted to kill the man. We called him the Hunter because he was vicious. I knew we’d never be free unless I paid him.”
“I did. I contacted my great-uncle Ambrose and we had him help us get access to the entirety of our trust fund accounts. I liquidated all the assets and I bought my freedom, Phoenix’s, and Danny’s.”
“I… wait, you said the Hunter?” I interrupted. “Vicco the Hunter? The guy was finally caught four years ago and the case was pretty controversial I remember. They tried him in Starlight Shores because he claimed he wanted protection from his Florsimdia associates. I remember we talked about the case in my mock trial club. He got life if I remember correctly, but we didn’t have a ton of details about how he was convicted given the witness list and much of the trial details were confidential…” I stopped when I realized Davis was shuddering. “We can go get in your car if you’re cold.”
“No,” he said, his voice vibrating with an unclear emotion. “I was one of those witnesses, Kass.”
I could’ve kicked myself. I was spouting on like a foolish child who didn’t know what she was talking about, repeating facts like a clinician when Davis had a personal connection to the former criminal leader of one of the biggest prostitution rings on the Eastern seaboard. Davis wasn’t cold. He was upset… or angry… or both. I swallowed hard and lifted my hand, laying it across his.
“I’m sorry,” I squeaked.
“It’s okay,” he said, but he shuddered.
I huddled closer to him, placing my arm underneath his own and squeezing his muscle gently as I laid my head on his shoulder.
“No it’s not. I’m sorry.”
For a long time he didn’t speak. I didn’t either. I didn’t know what to say except to continue apologizing. I had so many questions, but I knew it wasn’t appropriate to grill Davis. He would tell me in his own timing… or he wouldn’t. I just needed to be patient and comfort him. It was the least I could do. I tried to ignore the chill creeping up my arms. We were barely protected by the slight overhang of the roof of the warehouse, the rain steadily slipping off the sides at our feet. I could hear a foghorn in the distance, a ship coming into harbor in the wee morning hours. As the horn continued to blow, the sound cut through the rolling fog like a machete slicing through thick jungle vines. I felt each slice in my heart. This was my penance. I had accused Davis that summer night of confessing to me like I was his priest and he needed absolution. I was the one who needed forgiveness. I had been cruel to angrily attack Davis when he did nothing but the best for the people in his life. Phoenix. Danny. Me.
“I paid for her freedom,” he began slowly. “And married her so Vicco could never have her again. It was a quick wedding. In some small town City Hall in Similina. I married her so I could save her and she deserved something better. She deserved to have just one man forever and nothing else. I was so stupid to think she’d want to be with just me. I wanted her to have just one man and I thought no one else would do it so I did. I married her. I married her so I could save her, Kass. You have to understand I wanted to save her.”
“I do,” I squeezed his hand.
“But I didn’t save her, Kass, I didn’t save her. I couldn’t save her. I was so stupid to think she’d be okay with just me for the rest of our lives. That she’d be okay being a wife of a silly little Southern boy. I was stupid to think she’d stay with me just for me. But we led such different lives, Lynda and I. She hadn’t been Lynda in such a long time I don’t think she knew how. You know she once told me her mother was killed in a tornado and she never knew her father. Her stepfather on the night her mother was killed raped her. After that, she could never just be little Lynda Anderson again.”
Hot tears pricked my eye corners and spilled down my cheeks. I felt nausea pooling in my throat. I thought about what he said. She could never just be little Lynda Anderson again. I wondered if that’s how my mother felt – if she ever felt like Amy Fullbright again – if that’s why she ran away. I didn’t blame her. All the sudden I wanted to wrap my arms around my mother and tell her it was okay. That I loved her. That she could still be my mother. She would always be my mother.
“I tried to save her. I tried to help her. I bought her out. I married her. She couldn’t deal. She couldn’t be Lynda. She had to have the drugs. To help her sleep. Vicco killed her. He filled her final prescriptions himself as if he wanted me to know he was the one who killed her. He got cocky and he was caught on the pharmaceutical cameras, but he killed her,” Davis dropped his head into my shoulder, and I felt something more than raindrops on my sleeve.
I didn’t know what else to do. I lifted my hand and cradled his head in my arm. I let him cry, softly at first, more violently as time went on. I felt an awkward mixture of shame, pain, and relief. A woman he had cared about enough to give up his entire trust fund to rescue from a life of prostitution and drugs, a woman he had married, had left a huge hole in his heart. A hole I’d never be able to fill. A hole I didn’t know if Danny could fill. That I was certain of. But Davis deserved happiness after everything he had been through, and I couldn’t keep clinging to a relationship I had ended. Ayesha was right. It was time I stopped living in the past. It was time I started living again and dating again and trying again. It was time to stop living in my memories and start making new ones.
“I’m sorry,” Davis jerked his head back suddenly.
I slid over on my hands, putting distance between us.
“No, it’s okay,” I shrugged. “You… needed… you wanted…” I didn’t know what I was trying to say. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Yeah,” he shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket and cleared his throat. “I’ve been burying that for awhile. You’re the only other person I’ve told besides my therapist.”
“Good… good… you’re seeing a therapist…” I nodded my head in support. “That’s good.”
“It’s okay, Kass. It’s not an easy subject. It’s awkward and I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable,” Davis apologized as he stood up.
“No, no, it’s fine,” I shook my head and dusted off my hands as I stood to my feet. “I’m glad you told me, and again, I’m sorry for being a jerk… then and well… in the hospital… now…”
I wondered if he had told Danny about all this, and then kicked myself mentally. She probably already knew because she had been there. Duh! Kass! I flipped my hair forward so that the strands covered the tear that careened down my cheek.
“So those tools? You think we could get them from your car now?” I asked, trying to force a smile. “Wouldn’t want my midnight rescuer’s automotive skills to go to waste.”
Davis stared at me for a moment, lifting his hands as if about to say something. I hoped he didn’t hug me. I already felt awkward about our strange comforting embrace even though I know he needed it.
2.22 Coming Soon!
- Will Kass and her mother make up?
- Can Kass and Davis be friends now?
- Will Kass find out who her stalker is?
Author’s Note: I have written several chapters including this type of content, and although I don’t go into a lot of detail below, sexual assault and rape is never a casual subject. I wanted to stress the importance of seeking professional medical care if you have been a victim of sexual assault, abuse, or rape. In the United States, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your local area. The number is 800.656.HOPE (4673).