Saturday, July 28, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
It was the longest week of her life. Kass pulled her legs to her chest as she soaked in her parental’s bathtub. The water had long since become tepid, but she didn’t mind. She needed a moment’s peace. The spare bathroom was her haven, safe from intrusion.
Her family and friends were naturally concerned, but she couldn’t take the smothering any longer. They constantly asked how she was doing, how she felt, what she wanted to do. How in Hades was she supposed to know? And even if she did, did she really want to tell them? To draw them into her constant nightmare parade? And worst of all… she was supernatural? It was all too surreal. As Dr. Bachelor had stated, she was not the biological child of Howard and Amy. She couldn’t be. Neither had otherworldly genes… and it was hereditary.
Kass flexed her fingers beneath the water and wondered if she would ever think about normal things again like what color to paint her toenails. She couldn’t sleep without seeing his face, without feeling the flames licking at her neck, her arms, her back. She glared at the purplish bruises, naked and exposed, and wished she could will the ugly reminders away. Huffing, she pulled the drain plug and stepped from the tub. The week had been strange and she felt herself reliving the moments, an unwilling hostage of her own thoughts and memories.
Monday, July 23, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
“We need to talk.”
Kass stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her face bore some cuts and bruises – her left eyebrow, her right cheekbone, and the lower edge of her chin. She tried not to cry over the ugly reminders of her awful ordeal. Dr. Bachelor was seated on the edge of her hospital bed, head resting against her palm, elbow resting on her thigh. Her tone was serious and she appeared to be pondering what to say.
“How long…” Kass grimaced. “…will I have these?” she winced as she touched the cut on her face.
“Oh,” Dr. Bachelor said. “I brought you some tinted antibiotic cream to help with the healing and to cover it up.”
“Thank you,” Kass forced a smile.
This was her new face. Her new hair. Her new reality. She had a feeling long after the outer scars faded she would still have the internal ones.
“Kass, what happened to you and how you escaped was nothing short of a miracle,” Dr. Bachelor began. “I’m a woman of science, but I believe there are things in this world beyond explanation. And I’m going to level with you. You should be dead.”
“I…” Kass dropped her hands to her side. “I.. know.” She somehow did. Her escape defied logic and reason. “Divine intervention?” she shrugged, thinking of her idea to form a cross.
“No,” Dr. Bachelor shook her head. “I think it’s something more. You inhaled smoke for over forty minutes and didn’t pass out. Furthermore, your lungs are clear. They aren’t damaged like someone who would’ve inhaled the amount of smoke you did.”
“I… got… lucky…” Kass stammered.
“Your throat has minor burning sensation, but it also is mostly clear. Your skin cuts and bruises are mostly superficial,” Dr. Bachelor continued. “You forced open two hundred pound doors and you’re only one hundred and twenty five, and while you’re in relatively good shape… Your muscles are strained, but not torn. And to top it all off, you leapt ten feet…. ten feet… through the air over burning flames,” Dr. Bachelor listed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“I… was hit…” Kass rubbed the back of her head. “Twice… and I’ve got a concussion. I’m not Superman!” she chuckled weakly.
“No, but I think you’re super…natural,” Dr. Bachelor replied. “There’s no good way to say this…” she sighed. “You did things that aren’t humanly possible. One or two of these things alone could slide on the miracle front, but all of them?”
“What are you saying?” Kass frowned.
“I’ve only ever seen this kind of thing… once…” Dr. Bachelor trailed off. “…I think we need to conclude that Howard Fullbright and Amy Riviera are not your real parents.”
Her voice was hoarse. The words felt strange. Kass stared at her hands, trying to ignore the scabs on her fingers. She tried to ignore the soul crushing burden of learning her parents weren’t really her parents. Somehow hearing Howard’s voice made things all better.
“Kass… I just heard. Are you okay? I’m on my way to the hospital now.”
“Yeah… I’m… okay…” she sighed. “I’m alive.”
“My gawd! Kass… I… what do you need? Anything. Anything at all. I’m so sorry, sweetie.”
A tear splashed her cheek. Another hit her hand. How could she even ask anything of him? Did he know? One of them had to know. Her mamma had to know. Who were her real parents? Was she abandoned? Adopted? How did it happen? How could they keep something like this from her? She had a million questions and not enough answers, but her father… the man who had helped raise her… was waiting for one from her.
“Daddy?” she said, her voice cracking. “Do you still want to take that road trip?”
Tuesday, July 24, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
Two am rolled around again and she had yet to see any sleep. Kass grunted in frustration, whacking the bed with her fists. Her mattress had done nothing to incite her rage, but it was a convenient target. She wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. Instead, she huffed and rolled out onto the floor, deliberately and with force.
Great! she despaired. She probably created even more bruises with her intentional fall, and she hoped she hadn’t alerted anyone she was still awake. For the past week, she had slept little at night. The daytime offered more relief.
Hearing voices she approached the window. Her mamma and her mother’s boyfriend sat on the porch steps. Clark rubbed Amy’s shoulders, and tried to reassure her that everything would be okay. Kass sighed. He seemed like a good guy. Misguided, but good. He meant well.
Clark had been horrified when he learned of the ring. He begged Kass’ forgiveness and stated that he had no idea of its history. He never would have given her the ring if he had known. Never. He had no idea he was endangering Kass’s life.
Clark was actually a highly decorated undercover state police officer who had been sent to conduct his own investigation of the Alto family. Pretending to be a recent immigrant from Albergia, he gained access to the janitorial staff at the high school where Jazzilyn had rented a second, secret office. Once he convinced her to hire him as a bodyguard, Clark gained access to her inner circle. From there, he obtained evidence of Jazzilyn’s shady mafia connections and her husband’s embezzlement.
At least her bisnonna’s brooch… the real one surfaced. Clark discovered that Joel had broken into their home on orders from Hank, but when he failed to retrieve what he was looking for… the Masonic ring… Hank, himself, came back and tried to find it. The brooch had been a poor consolation prize, something to make it appear as though it was a normal break-in. As if break-ins are normal.
“What am I going to do?” Amy moaned and rubbed her face. “Papà hired an attorney for Kass. The best. Do you think she’ll have to testify?”
Kass stepped back from the window, her heart thudding to the ground. Testify? It hadn’t even occurred to her that she would have to face her monster again.
“And can she even go away to university now?” Amy continued, as if talking to herself. “No…she’ll have to stay here now. Right? If the courts call her?”
“Maybe it’s best she gets out of town,” Clark said. “She could probably use the break. You could come up to Oakland for the rest of the summer. You can stay with the boys and I. I haven’t sold the house yet up there.”
“Oh Clark! You’d do that?” Amy exclaimed, and threw grateful arms around her fiance’s shoulders.
“Yes,” he said. “Anything to protect you and the girls.”
Wednesday, July 25, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
“You shouldn’t skip breakfast,” Davis was saying.
It was mid-week. Fifty six hours since her traumatic near-death experience. Her boyfriend meant well, if that’s what he was. They hadn’t exactly had the “talk” again. Davis was just suddenly in her life again, kindly offering to take her out so she didn’t have to face another day with her family alone.
Clark was around twenty-four seven. He had practically moved in, but was sleeping on the couch. He thought it would make the girls more comfortable than sharing a room with their mother. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world to have him around. She supposed it was safer. But she would’ve preferred her mamma kept him behind closed doors as Clark’s boxer shorts were the last thing she wanted to see when she came into the living room to numb out to some television.
Davis offered to talk about her newest housemate and she obliged. It was better than talking about the fire. She didn’t want to think about it, even though she thought about her experience constantly. Even as she shared the cringe-worthy details of her mom making out on the couch with her fiance last night like a couple of teenagers, Kass couldn’t help but think about the burning in the back of her throat, the constant dull ache in her head, and the sharp stabbing in her side. Dr. Bachelor had said she was lucky, and she knew it. But even if she was lucky, it didn’t take away the emotional enigma of the circumstances. One moment she felt angry, lashing at out her loved ones, and the next, she collapsed like a frightened, confused child in a sea of tears.
“I’m eating now, aren’t I?” Kass snipped. “You don’t need to lecture me, Dr. Lamar.”
“I’m sorry, Kass,” Davis murmured, setting his juice box on the table. “I didn’t mean to… I just… want you to feel better…”
“Yeah,” Kass said, taking a bite of her chocolate croissant, which tasted more like dry air than sweet pastry. “Me too.”
“Say… you look…” he smiled and tilted his head. “…really pretty today.”
It was a lie. It had to be a lie. She wore an oversized sweater to hide the monstrous purple-black bruising on her chest and abdomen. She had somehow managed to twist her hair into a ratty braid, but skipped the makeup. Davis had suggested an afternoon at the beach after lunch at the Java Jolt. She planned to indulge him, eating as little as possible, and then feigning a migraine so she could go home and sleep some more. He would understand.
Thursday, July 25, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come in with you?”
Gage parked the car on the curb outside the Sun Valley Bank. Kass grimaced. She couldn’t stand his pitying stare, his guilt-ridden offer. She had only accepted a ride from him after he followed her for three blocks. She had planned to walk across town, or catch the bus.
Her former friend felt awful about his part in drawing her to the complex. It wasn’t his fault. Kass stuck her feet against his dashboard and tightened her shoelaces. It wasn’t his fault. She knew that. He had no idea that she would be captured at the hands of a madman several hours after arrival. Still, she knew he felt guilty.
Gage cried and asked for her forgiveness. He never meant to hurt her. He never meant to break up her relationship with Davis. He only wanted her to be happy. And he wanted to be happy. That’s why he was leaving in a week to pursue his dreams and move in with his family in Greatlakes. That argument about the Burroughs-Bagley family seemed so long ago. It didn’t matter now. What mattered was getting what was hers.
Kass pushed her sunglasses further up her nose. Her recent unorthodox experience made her distrust institutions. Even if the financial industry had nothing to do with the police department, she didn’t want to leave her money in its secure account. At the beginning of the summer, she had planned to close everything out when she transferred to Edgewater. The local financial institution didn’t have a branch in Bayou. She figured she would find another way to save her funds on arrival.
“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said, slamming the creaking door of his old Jalopy. “Thanks for the ride.”
Friday, July 25, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
“How’s your food?” Andi asked.
Kass sighed, twisting her finger around a strand of her red hair, shortened against her will. She wished her little sister wasn’t around. Then she could truly mourn her burnt locks. She could still smell the burning embers. Andromeda tried to pen musical compositions at the dining table, hovering while her big sister enjoyed her breakfast. Or was it lunch? Kass shook her head and took a reluctant bite. She lost all track of time. Was it really only a day since she came home from the hospital?
When the bread popped from the toaster, Kass had jumped as though someone shot a gun through the window. Andi didn’t seem to notice as she said the most polite substitute for a curse word ever, “Sugar!” and waved the smoke billowing from the top away with her hand, blowing gently on the charred slices. Kass winced and looked away, feeling stupid for freaking out over a kitchen appliance.
“Delicious,” Kass managed, sarcastically, dumping her plate in the sink.
She grabbed the remaining half loaf from its spot on the counter. Andi had forgotten to put it away. Kass didn’t want something that had been burnt. Andi murmured something apologetically, but Kass didn’t care. She thanked her sister, her tone cool and calm.
“I’ll be in my room.”
Saturday, July 28, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde
It was all too surreal. Seeing the story she had given Mark Sydnor the week before. Kass sighed, wishing she could set down the paper, but she wanted to read it for herself. Tonight she met the Editor in Chief for the second time to give him the rest of her story. She figured if someone was going to leak her name, she wanted it to be someone she trusted. Mark gently probed, asking questions as respectfully as he could before he left the most recent copy of the Sun Valley Eagle, tomorrow’s paper with his subject. It seemed every page contained a story related to her night of terror.
The Alto Business Complex had burned to the ground. Despite Hank’s intentions, Bert Alto had escaped the fire. The police, the good guys, had discovered Bert was using his family’s casinos to launder money for the Triple C’s, the white collar crime that Madison had uncovered while dating her secret lover. Bert put on a good show. He cried. He said he was only doing it to save his marriage, that the money was to help cover his wife’s political campaign. They were bankrupt after her expensive fertility treatments. Like the coward he was, he skipped town rather than face charges.
Vita Alto had issued an emergency statement, ensuring the community that she would use all her power and resources to make sure the man responsible for so much terror and tragedy would receive justice. A picture of Hank’s face flashed on the news, and Kass couldn’t stomach it. She barely made it to the bathroom before she lost her dinner. Jazzilyn Alto had withdrawn her candidacy and turned herself into the police. She was to be deported to her home country and would potentially stand trial for involuntary manslaughter.
Strangely, Kass found herself feeling nothing but sympathy for the woman. It was Clark who had informed her that Jazzilyn made three phone calls that night. One to Hank’s partner, Detective Eugene Hunter, to tell him her brother was a madman and needed to be stopped. One to the fire department. And one to her attorney. Those phone calls had saved Kass’s life.
When she leapt out of the elevator, she fell into Detective Hunter’s arms. The man was assigned to investigate his partner and came running over to the building after receiving the call. Internal Affairs suspected Hank’s connection to the Mason Mafia and potentially the Triple C’s and needed proof. Detective Hunter was also the older brother of Clark Sauer. Hunter was actually his middle name.
“Kass, sweetheart,” Jade Wellington said as she approached and touched her on the shoulder. “What are you doing here?”
It took all her willpower to keep from jumping out of her skin. Kass swallowed hard and handed a handwritten letter to the lovely coffee shop owner whom she viewed as a surrogate grandmother like many in the town.
“Would you please give this to Davis?”
“Skipping town, are ya?”
Kass shrieked, falling against the glass back door of her mother’s house, loud enough to stir a couple of sleeping kittens from the nearby hydrangea bushes. Cyrus was sitting at the kitchen table, a slice of pizza poised in his hand ready to be eaten. Her expression darkened.
“I’m not hungry,” she said, coolly. “I don’t want pizza.”
“Good,” he grinned. “Because I’m starving. I haven’t eaten all day. This is for me,” he tilted his head toward the next seat. “The soup’s for you.”
She took a step inside, wobbling on her heels as the bright kitchen lights aggravated her eyes. Cyrus took a bite.
“You need help there, Sparky?”
She growled in response, but plopped into the chair, slouching and crossing her arms. “What are you doing here?”
“Your sister called me.”
“Which one? I have two remember?”
“Carina. Said you were starving yourself.”
Kass picked up the spoon and shoveled the lukewarm chicken noodle into her mouth. The soup was surprisingly soothing against her scratchy throat.
“Cari has a tendency to be dramatic,” she rolled her eyes.
The two friends munched in silence for a few minutes. Kass was more hungry than she realized, gulping back the rest of the soup in record time.
“Why haven’t you eaten all day?” she asked, trying to force polite conversation. “And how did you know I’m leaving?”
“Cari said something,” he shrugged.
“Right,” she bobbed her head. “Oakland. Clark’s got a place up north.”
“But that’s not where you’re going, is it, Sparky?” he leaned in, and she wondered if his eyes were twinkling beneath his dark sunglasses.
As if he knew what she was thinking, he removed the shades. His face sobered. “Look, I get it. When I had an opportunity to get to know my dad too, I left. Best decision I ever made. Helped me get clean. Changed my life.”
“I didn’t… know… that,” Kass said, quietly.
“Yeah, mom called him when she didn’t know what to do with me anymore. I’d never met him before,” Cyrus explained. “But every kid deserves to know their dad.”
“You have no idea…” Kass mumbled, and leaned her head against Cyrus’s shoulder. “I’m not… sure… if it’s the right thing, but I think it’s the best thing… for me… right now.”
Cyrus sighed. “After everything you’ve been through, you should probably get outta town, but were you at least going to say goodbye?”
“No,” she bit her lower lip. “I don’t know. I just…”
Cyrus surprised her by wrapping her in a full hug. “I promise I won’t squeeze,” he whispered. “But I’m gonna miss you.”
She was a coward. She couldn’t face her mamma. She couldn’t face the woman who had lied to her for her entire life. She could not move to Oakland for the summer and pretend to be one big happy family. And she sure as Hades was not moving back in with her grandparents. That left one option.
Maybe her dad lied too. Maybe he knew about it all along, but at least he was trying. This morning her mamma told her that she had a plan to help Kass get her life on track. Amy found Kass a job at the Oakland Public Library so she could do something productive. Sleeping all day wouldn’t cut it in the Riviera Fullbright household. When they returned to the Valley in the fall, Kass could attend classes at Sunset U after fall break. It would give her time for her injuries to heal and for her to make some money to contribute to the household now that she was eighteen because she would be living at home. As for dating, she wanted Kass to stop seeing Davis as he was an necessary distraction and she probably shouldn’t have contact with Gage either.
Well that won’t be a problem, Kass thought, sarcastically. She had already broken things off with her boyfriend, and Gage was moving to Greatlakes. The last piece of Amy’s master plan was to allow Kass to room with her best friend, Ayesha, if she proved she could keep her grades up and be a productive member of society.
As if recovering from her traumatic night meant nothing. It had been a week. Not a month. Not six months. Not a year. If Kass didn’t have her life “on track” as Amy so cruelly put, then she needed more time to heal and she wasn’t going to be able to with her mother’s constant interference. She made her own plans.
She made Clark promise to try and get Amy some help. He wasn’t blind or stupid. He knew Amy was struggling, but he had been preoccupied with his case and his sister. Kass wasn’t heartless. She wanted Amy to be okay.
She deposited what little money she had save a couple hundred simoleons into a bank account in Carina and Andromeda’s name. She felt the most guilty about leaving her sisters, but the girls were resilient. By moving in with the Sauer family, they were at least ensured to be fed, clothed, and cared for, but Kass wanted them to have a little extra. For niceties.
She took the remaining simoleons and made a donation to the free crisis clinic in Bay City in honor of Madison. The woman deserved to have someone remember her name. It probably wasn’t enough to make a dent, but Kass wanted to do something.
She wrote a letter to each of her family members. One for her grandparents. She had mailed it earlier in the day. And three – one for Carina, Andromeda, and Amy. She tied a ribbon around the letters so they wouldn’t accidentally be picked up by the mail carrier. As she lifted the stack to put in the mailbox like the spineless jellyfish she was, Kass hesitated. This was it. This was really it. There would be no going back.
She could see her father in his pickup truck parked across the street, his engine idling. Kass waved to acknowledge him. It was time to go. If she stayed any longer, she would have zero chances of her life returning to normalcy. Zero chances of having the life she wanted. She shoved the letters in the mailbox, slamming the little door closed. Picking up her duffel and slugging it over her shoulder, Kass walked toward the street… and toward her new life.
Author Notes: I can’t believe I actually did it! I actually completed the rewrite of KCLKF. It has taken forever to get here, but I’m finally here. I started the rewrite in March of 2018, and hoped to have it completed by this March of this year, and then COVID happened. Life got a lot busier and the world got a bit crazier. My energies were needed elsewhere, but I knew I was close to finishing Kass’s first story. This has been an epic journey. I feel like I’ve grown as a person and a writer since writing this story. I hope you enjoyed, even if this ending feels bittersweet, even if some things aren’t resolved. I feel like Kass is striking out on her own and making a decision for herself for once and this is progress. Whether it is in the right or wrong direction… time will tell.
I thought about splitting up this chapter into shorter chapters with each “scene” if you will, but then I decided that it made more sense to keep it all together. Hope you didn’t mind the jumping around in time. Or this vignette style. I wanted to deal with the aftermath of the trauma and explain Kass’ headspace. I didn’t just want to jump ahead to Kass leaving with her dad. I also did a bit more telling than showing in this chapter to close up some of the loose ends, but it seemed to flow. At least from my perspective. My only regret is I didn’t manage to squeeze in a scene with Ayesha. I wanted to, but I just didn’t have the right screenshot. Ayesha will make an appearance again. Don’t worry.
I’m working on setting up the next story in game. You may not get quite as many chapters from me in quick succession as this one as it won’t be a rewrite per se. Who knows? Maybe you will. I never know when inspiration might strike.
Thanks so much for reading Kass’ journey. I really appreciate you coming along for the ride. Leave a comment down below and tell me what you thought about the
krazy crazy life of Kassiopeia Fullbright. What you loved. What you hated. What you want to see happen next. Who you would like to see more of. That kind of stuff. But don’t go away just yet. Tomorrow will be the exciting epilogue to KCLKF to provide just a few more answers about one particular mystery we haven’t addressed in awhile. 😉