Wednesday, Simtember 14, 2416 | Silverton Estate | Bay City, Califorsimia
“How are you doing, Kass?”
“Better. I think. Maybe. I don’t know,” I replied, feeling the tension tug on my neck and shoulders. “I hate unknowns. I hate the frustration of figuring out everything.”
“It’s okay. Remember, you are not doing this alone.”
Jamie’s voice was somewhat reassuring as she started talking about her own personal experience of navigating adulthood as a child of an EXCES victim, but I couldn’t help but feel doubt seeping into my mind. When I discovered my dad had EXCES last year, I had immediately gone to see my personal doctor to get tested. That was the easy part. Living with the possibility of the disease was the really difficult part.
On Saturday after Mamma shared with me the truth about my parentage, I called Dr. B and asked to be tested again one final time just to be sure. I didn’t know my biological dad and there was a slim chance he was afflicted, a sup, or a carrier, or that Mamma was.She hadn’t trusted my tests to get sent out and handled properly, so she did them herself. I had stayed at the office and made Dr. B review the results multiple times to be sure. The results were surprising. I had dormant traces. I was, at least, a carrier.
I knew I had to get tested every year until the age of twenty-five, but the tests weren’t 100% accurate. The threat of a condition that could be a minor nuisance at the least and a debilitating disease at the worst was unnerving to say the least. There was a slim chance symptoms could manifest beyond my mid-twenties.
There was also a slim chance I had dormant supernatural genes that might stay inert or I might just one day wake up and have a mermaid fin or fairy wings or start casting spells or howling at the moon, or worse still, vampire fangs and a strong desire for plasma. That was reassuring. I rolled my eyes.
Three months ago, I moved back in with Nonno and Nonna to help them finalize things before their move. I began commuting from Sunset Valley to Bay City to attend summer classes at Legacy Community College and for work. One day I saw a flier about a support group on campus. The group was called The C.O.V.E. – Children Of Victims of EXCES.
I attended one meeting back in Simune. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. There were only five people at the first meeting – three longtime C.O.V.E. members and two newbies – myself and… Jamie Jolina. I had been completely surprised to see her, and felt slightly embarrassed. I didn’t say much at the first meeting. I didn’t come back for two months, partly because I wasn’t ready and partly because I visited my family in Oakland before moving into Bay City. After my accident a week and a half ago, I decided it was time to stop running from my secret burden. I went to another meeting last Friday. That’s when Jamie and I had been paired up as partners.
Jamie explained how the C.O.V.E. was a safe place. I could come as little or as often as I liked. I could participate as much as I wanted or just observe. I could find another C.O.V.E. and they wouldn’t be offended. I wasn’t entirely sure at first, but after I listened to the stories of the people in this particular group, I knew I wanted to stay. I had to stay. Most of the members had not only been victims of EXCES by extension but also victims of societal judgment at minimum and downright neglect and abuse in other cases. I was an all-or-nothing kind-of girl. I decided I was all in. I even invited Shameka to come with me later this week, pending her strength.
“Kass… are you still there?”
“I’m sorry, Jamie. I wasn’t listening to what you said. I totally suck at this whole C.O.V.E. partner thing.”
“It’s okay. I wasn’t talking about anything super important. You’ve already heard my story and it sounds like you need to vent more than you need to hear my babble.”
“To be honest, Jamie, it’s not really about the EXCES and my dad right now. I chatted with him online last night and he seems to be doing okay. I’ve been feeling fine and my tests were negative this year, and while it still feels like a brewing storm on the horizon, I’m just really stressed out about a lot of other things in life right now.”
I waited to see what she would say, but she seemed to be waiting for my response. That’s one of the things I liked about her – she had a sympathetic ear and she didn’t probe or pry. I couldn’t believe it but within the next twenty minutes, I divulged my awkward situation with my boss, running into Davis again, how my Mamma had been lying to me all these years about my biological father, and even so, how I was a confirmed carrier. I decided to leave out what I discovered about Bella and my Mamma nearly ending her life. Jamie didn’t need to know too much.
“Kass, you sound like you need a mental health day.”
“Do I ever!” I exclaimed. “But I have a lot to do. I’ve got an article due Friday and a class today. I’m behind on the homework. I’ve got to figure out what to do with this giant estate my bisnonna left me. I’ve got to figure out how to talk to my boss. I don’t know what I want to do about Davis. I’ve been crying so much, my eyes are puffy. I can’t relax. I have little appetite. I have knots the size of Mount Simnali. My sleep cycle’s all thrown off. Oh and speaking of cycles, I most definitely started menstruating. Sorry. I’m probably just sharing too much. You don’t want to hear…”
“Kass, Kass…” Jamie interrupted gently. “Just take it one step at a time, okay? What are your plans for this morning?”
“No, just this morning.”
“Uh… well I was going to go for a walk before class since I am having trouble jogging. I nearly pulled a muscle the other day when I tried running. I don’t think my ribs are fully healed.”
“Skip class today.”
“What? I can’t. I’m so far behind.”
“Seriously, Kass, taking time for your mental sanity and for your rhythms to reset naturally is just as important as taking time off for your injuries to heal. Your professor will understand. You don’t even need to tell him what you need the time off for, just send him an email and say you won’t be present today for health reasons.”
“Really? I can just do that? I can just blow off class? And do what?”
“Whatever you want. Whatever you love doing and what helps you relax. Put on something that makes you feel and look great. And then take a ‘me’ day. Don’t try to solve all your problems today. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on your worries or your questions. Trust me. When I get overwhelmed in the ER, I have to remind myself that I have to be at my personal best to serve my patients. I have taken time off just for me time before. “
“Well, you would know,” I gave a small smile.
Jamie was a nursing intern at Bay City General Hospital.
“I still feel like I’m cheating a bit though. I mean, my accident was over a week ago and I’m actually doing okay.”
“Physically maybe, but not emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. Take the time, Kass. A mental health day will help you feel rejuvenated and get you back to your best.”
“All right… if you say so…” I reluctantly agreed. “Thanks Jamie. Is there anything I can do for you?”
Jamie yawned. “Nope, don’t think about me. I’m just getting off an overnight shift. I’ll be heading home, taking a shower, and sleeping today. I’ve got myself taken care of. We can talk about my week another time. Now you go… take care of yourself today.”
I took Jamie’s advice. I changed out of my grunge clothes and slipped into a cute dress and pair of sandals. I took the extra time to do my hair and makeup properly and even slid a pair of my favorite earrings in my lobes before heading downstairs. I was about to leave the house and wander wherever the day would take me, regardless of how strange it felt, when Ayesha cornered me.
“Hey, can we talk?” she asked.
“Hi,” I said.
“Oh Kass, I’m sorry for our fight the other day,” Ayesha reached her hands out for me so suddenly I gasped and took a step back. “I tried to talk to you in the morning after I made it back but you were sleeping all day yesterday. I pushed you too hard. I shouldn’t have and then I totally flirted with your boss.”
“Ayesha,” I sighed and took a deep breath, feeling strange about the words I was about to say. “It’s okay. If you want to date him, by all means, do so. I don’t have any claim to him. Woo away if you like.”
“We didn’t. I swear. I couldn’t anyway. I mean, the evening was a total dud. I got so wasted and he was… well… let’s just say not so charming after all.”
“Ayesha, it’s okay. Oh he didn’t try to make a move on you or anything, did he?” I narrowed my eyes.
“No,” Ayesha shook her head. “He was having difficulties with… uh… bodily functions.”
“Oh ugh!” I said, trying not to think about it. “Thanks for the picture.”
“Sorry,” Ayesha giggled. “I just wanted you to know that you’re my best friend and I don’t want to date someone you have feelings for or let a guy come between us.”
“I don’t have feelings for Brendon,” I protested.
“You have something for him, girl, and you need to figure that out. I promise to stay out of that equation until you do. Brendon is so not my type and I figured that out pretty quickly anyway,” Ayesha said.
“Thanks, I guess,” I shrugged.
“You’re looking really nice today,” Ayesha changed the subject. “Cute guy in your class?”
“Seriously, Ayesh, that’s the only thing on your brain, and for your information, I’m not going to class today. I am taking the day off.”
“What? You? Skipping class?”
“Yes, I am actually. I’m blowing off class.”
“Wow! I don’t talk to you for two days and this is what happens.”
“Yeah…” I replied. A lot has happened. A lot I should tell you. But for now, the news would wait. “I need a… uh… mental health day…”
“Wanna go shopping?” Ayesha asked.
“Retail therapy doesn’t really work for me, but thanks for the offer,” I replied. “I think I’m going to get some alone time, if you don’t mind.”
“No, no, don’t even worry about it,” Ayesha waved her hands. “I have to go down to the office anyway.”
“And you’re going dressed like that?” I widened my eyes.
“What my 48-hours-of-shame outfit doesn’t stink does it?”
“You’ve worn that for 48-hours? Ayesha, we have a washer and dryer here.”
“Don’t worry. I washed it from the first day. I had a bit of a mixup with the whites and darks though so…” she grinned sheepishly.
“What? I still haven’t figured out how to separate properly.”
I rolled my eyes and laughed. “Go borrow something from my closet, girl, unless you think all of my clothes come out of a nunnery.”
Ayesha clapped her hands together excitedly. “Thanks love! And no, today, you are rocking with style! I’m sure I can find something.”
“Thanks,” I smiled as we embraced. “Do you want me to wait around to give you a ride?”
“No, don’t worry about it,” Ayesha replied. “I can just call a cab.”
“Nonsense, you’re my guest,” I said. “Here…” I handed her my keys. “I’m going to walk or bike maybe.”
“Are you sure?” Ayesha looked at my skeptically.
“Yeah, I don’t need it,” I said. “I’m feeling spontaneous today. A bike ride would be nice and low-impact. Just don’t wreck her.”
“Have fun today, girl,” Ayesha said over her shoulder as she left the foyer as I followed her.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Sheesh! It’s already almost 10:30.”
“What time do you have to be there?”
I smiled and shook my head. Oh Ayesha! I was glad we made up, though I was certain we would. We always did. I even had been willing to forgive her if she had made a move on Brendon. It wasn’t pleasant to think about, but I would’ve lived with it. I wrinkled my nose as I walked down the stairs to the lowest level. Something smelled musty, but that was pretty standard for basements.
As I reached the bottom of the steps, I noticed the light was out. I made a mental note to ask Bea where the replacement bulbs were. I could still see, aided by the small window behind my head. Enough light was seeping in and the light from the stairwell helped some. I found my bicycle on the rack where I left it when I moved in. Next to it stood another bicycle with rusted spokes. I wondered who the other bike belonged to, and figured maybe it was Bea’s, or perhaps my great-grandmother’s.
I was about to pick up my bike when I heard a strange crackling noise. Probably the furnace. I still had to figure out a way to fix…
Arthur or… no… Igor… no… Ignatius…
that was the name Bea had given the furnace.
I smiled at the thought of naming inanimate objects, but my smile quickly melted off my face as I stood frozen. An animate object… or rather ghostly figure… floated through the walls, glowing yellow and crackling with strange bluish-white light. The woman I had seen in the attic a few days before!
I opened my mouth for a delayed gasp or scream, but a pathetic little whimper escaped my lips instead. I grunted, frowned, and quickly gathered my wits.
Yet when I had turned, I found myself merely staring at a stone wall, and the ghostly figure had disappeared seemingly into thin air.
2.25 Coming Soon!
- How will Kass spend her “mental health day?”
- Will she find some answers to some of her concerns?
- Who is this ghostly figure Kass keeps seeing?
I’m a little late in getting my chapter out today. Almost eleven p.m. Just barely made it. I’ve been a bit busy with graduate school and my offline social life, plus I had a two-day headache earlier this week that didn’t help. I’ve decided Kass needs a little down time and while this chapter and the next will address some background details and concerns, I figured it’s time for her to have some peace and quiet… though I don’t know about you, but seeing a ghost isn’t exactly the best way to start a mental health day, in my opinion. I also wanted to bring back Jamie Jolina from KCLKF. Unfortunately, my game crashed before I could save the alternate screenshots of the lovely Jamie and so I decided to just include their conversation over the telephone instead of in person (so I could still get this chapter out on time-ish). I was forced to tell some of this chapter in retrospect and fill in some of the blanks from before Simtember and this past week in Kass’s life. Hopefully, the chapter makes sense. I also hope to write more about C.O.V.E. in the future, and I’ll give a bit more detail as to Kass’ dormant EXCES carrier genes. I hope you enjoyed.
- Mount Simnali in Alasimka is a play on Mount Denali in Alaska.
- C.O.V.E. is a support group for Children Of Victims of EXCES (which actually would be C.O.V.O.E. if it was spelled out, but I decided not to count the second of. I know, inconsistent, but again, it’s late and I was really trying to get this chapter out today.) The C.O.V.E. sounded like a peaceful name for a group like this, and although Kass is technically not a biological child of an EXCES victim, she still considers Howard as her father, and her test results with Dr. Jocasta Bachelor indicate she is still a carrier somehow. (How? We will find out.)