Wednesday, June 11, 2415, C.E. | Sunset Valley, Valverde
So Granny Jade married into the Alto family? Kass tried to digest the discovery as she climbed on the bus and swiped her pass before the card reader. The bus driver offered a toothy grin, and she smiled shyly in return. I wonder why she never said anything, she slid into a seat three rows from the back so as not to be disturbed. Strange coinky-dink!
Plucking her cell phone from her pocket, Kass texted Ayesha first, suggesting they hang out tomorrow after her work shift. Nearly immediately, Ayesha replied she would be cleaning the bathrooms at her family’s gym tomorrow evening, followed by a ‘yuck’ face , and a desperate, but hopeless plea for saving. Kass responded with a cursory ‘sorry’ and a sorry emoji . Then she texted Jennifer. I’ll be in early tomorrow. Sorry again about the other day. Kass added a question regarding looking up someone’s phone number and how to determine if it was still active, or why a phone number would be routed through another service or business.
While she waited for Jennifer’s answer, she further contemplated the strangeness of connecting with Bella Goth’s phone number. She supposed it could be a fake, given there were enough vocal clips of the woman out there. But why the poster? Why that poster specifically? Why in Jade’s Java Jolt? And why a law firm masquerading as a travel agency?
Arriving back at her grandparents home, Kass began packing up her things. Both Andi and Cari texted about returning home. She would feel like a jerk if she didn’t try to smooth things over with their mamma.
After she stuffed her duffel, Kass returned to the main floor, finding her Nonno watching Civic Public Action. She joined him on the couch as he protested over the political race heating up between Nancy Landgrabb and Jazzilyn Alto.
“I can’t imagine she will win with her dirty cheating husband of hers,” Nonno grimaced in disgust. “Everyone knows Bert Alto is a player. That Alto family is corrupt.”
“Nonno!” Kass exclaimed.
She knew as well as anyone that Bert Alto was cheating. She even knew with whom he was cheating. That’s if he’s only got one mistress on the side. Even so, it didn’t seem fair to judge one’s politics and way of conducting oneself in business with one’s home life, especially when one was the offended party.
“Shouldn’t you give the woman a chance to prove herself in politics instead of judging her by her home life? Nancy Landgrabb’s ancestors stole land from the SimNatives. But that doesn’t mean she is corrupt.”
“Jazzilyn represents the Blue Party,” Nonno sighed. “She’s too progressive in her policies for my taste. Nancy Landgrabb will keep things the way we should.”
“But what if you don’t like what your party’s candidate is doing or saying?” Kass inquired. “Would you vote for someone else?”
“We’ve never voted for anyone but a Red Party member,” Nonno gasped. “I can’t imagine it would do any good to switch now.”
Kass kept her mouth shut. She learned if there was one thing never to discuss with her family, or anyone really, it was politics. She preferred to follow her heart and her gut, letting her morals guide her decisions rather than merely a political party. Bisnonna would turn over in her grave to know she had registered with the independent Yellows while in City Hall the other day. She didn’t feel particularly swayed by any one party, and preferred a more moderate or centrist view.
Nonno spied the bag. “Are you leaving us, my dear?”
“Yes,” Kass nodded, even though she was torn about her decision, but she wanted to support her siblings. “I miss my bed. You know. It’s been lovely, though. Thanks for everything.”
Nonno placed his hand over his heart. “I’ll miss you, my favorite oldest granddaughter.”
“Nonno,” Kass laughed lightly. “I’m your only oldest granddaughter. And I’ll be back…” she leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Please say goodbye to Nonna for me. Ciao.”
“Ciao, gattina,” Nonno replied.
Kass leaned her elbow against the window and stared out into the darkness as they descended the hill into downtown, alight with street lamps and bustling activity for a summer’s evening in Sunset Valley. As the bus rounded the park, Kass gasped, catching sight of a familiar face, and almost instinctively pulling the cord to indicate she wanted to get off. She nearly tripped in her flip flops as she exited the bus. Cutting a corner across the lawn, she caught up to the person, pulling on her purple sleeve.
“Madison!” she called out.
The woman turned to face her, tired lines on her forehead, black circles prominent beneath her eyes. She appeared bewildered, and then recognition dawned.
“Hey Kass,” she said weakly.
“Hey, where have you been?” Kass inquired. “I’ve been worried.”
“Oh?” Madison said, her yellow-gold eyes widening.
“You filed a police report? And you disappeared from the Jolt?” Kass said, reaching out to touch Madison’s shoulder.
The woman flinched.
“Are you okay?” Kass inquired, pulling her hand back. “Your roommate said you haven’t been home. I’ve been trying to call and text you.”
“Yeah, she would say that,” Madison bit out sarcastically. “I’m not at home. I’m staying with a friend over at Sun U.”
“Oh,” Kass said, unsure of how to proceed.
I’ve already stepped in it. She had a million questions. As if reading her mind, Madison continued.
“I couldn’t make rent for several months, and Tori had enough. She said she’s working hard as an intern for Jazzilyn Alto’s campaign and she didn’t want to be around a slacker,” Madison sighed.
“What?” Kass exclaimed, frowning. “And what did Monika say?”
“Oh Monika was sweet as always,” Madison swiped at a tear. “But she can’t keep floating me loans. Let’s face it!” she threw her hands up in the air with a depressed laugh. “Who’d want me?”
“I’m sorry,” Kass winced awkwardly. “What about Abe? Wouldn’t he help you out?”
“Abe and I broke up,” Madison wrung her hands. “I told him I didn’t think I was good for him.”
“Madison, you are…” Kass trailed off.
You are… what? Kass didn’t really know Madison all that well. They had never had classes together in high school, and unlike Madison, she had big plans to leave this town. They interacted and joked at the diner when they would see each other, and sometimes hung out with mutual friends, but they were more acquaintances than anything. However, in the last few days, Kass felt a strong need to say something, and not just because Madison was in trouble.
“Madison, you’re my friend,” Kass said, wrapping her arm around the woman’s shoulders. “You could’ve told Abe the truth.”
“No, I couldn’t,” Madison shook her head. “He told me he’s going to try some revolutionary new treatment for his blown-out knee. He wants to go back to pro-ball. He’s leaving…”
“Abe is leaving?” Kass opened her mouth to say more, but stopped.
“…yeah,” Madison sniffled. “He’s leaving for Strangetown at the end of the summer.”
“Wow,” Kass narrowed her eyes.
Good for Abe! Not so good for Madison.
“You didn’t tell him the truth?”
“Why should I? He’s leaving anyhow. It wasn’t like I was in love with him,” she smirked. “And he’s like thirty-seven and I’m twenty. There’s seventeen years between us.”
Exactly. He’s more stable, right? Even as she thought the words, Kass couldn’t help but feel a little squeamish thinking about the age difference. It was a little strange. How come she hadn’t noticed before?
“Hey Madison, do you need a place to stay?” she asked, feeling compelled to do something. “My grandparents have plenty of rooms right now, and I’m staying there with them. You could come stay with me for a little while, until you get on your feet.”
I probably should’ve run this idea past them first, Kass grimaced internally. She hoped her grandparents would be as gracious.
“Oh honey,” Madison smiled wistfully. “Thank you for the offer, but I couldn’t impose.”
“No,” Kass shook her head, perpetuating a white lie. “You wouldn’t be imposing.”
“But yes, I would be,” Madison saw through Kass. “I’m staying with Blair Wainwright over in the Uni housing. Landgrabb House. You should come by sometime. Blair says it’s where all the cast-outs live. Don’t tell the Landgrabbs that!” she choked back a smile.
Kass smirked. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”
“Yeah,” Madison said, though unconvincingly. “Blair is training to be a paramedic. She knows what she’s doing. And she’s fixing me up a baby room for when this thing…” she pointed to her stomach. “…pops!”
“Okay,” Kass twisted her flip flop in the grass. “Well if you change your mind… I’m glad you’re okay.”
Madison waved goodbye. “I’ll be fine.”
But as she walked around the edge of the park restrooms, Kass could see her shoulders visibly slump.
Author Notes: Thanks for reading. In my original game at this point, Madison was in her second trimester and showing. I’m slowly trying to “resolve” some things in this story as I’ve introduced so much drama/mystery, a combination of my original published story and my original outline (which the original story deviated from). This time, I’m trying to stay truer to the game play as I recall and from the detailed notes I captured. Abe was a barista at Jade’s Java Jolt, but when I checked in with him later, he had joined the athletic career. I know I already used “Landgrabb” House in La Vita Bella at Neighborly State University, but who’s to say the Landgrabbs don’t have another building named for them in Sunset Valley?