Tag Archives: Ayesha Ansari

A Visit to Sunset Valley: Questions from the Fans

Hi everyone, it’s been a hot minute since I posted here. I’m still working on setting up my TS3 game for the next story in Kass’ series. In the meantime, I have  some fun questions given to me by members of my Freezer Bunnies Reading Circle over on the forums.   I was going to answer everything over on the forums, but then it got a bit carried away so I’m sharing here for all my readers.  I sent my TS3 Simself to be the snoopy reporter and ask questions of this delightful cast.

Disclaimer: The answers are given based on where said reading circle is at in KCLKF (up through  Arc 12 or  chapter 1.33).  Really mild spoilers if you haven’t read that far.  Oh and a bit of breaking-the-fourth-wall humor.  Shout-out to all my reading circle peeps (you’re all mentioned below somewhere). Minor edit… apologies to Duvelina for not crediting her correctly. 

It’s a beautiful morning in Sunset Valley, Valverde.   The world appears to be peaceful as it is  just after the morning rush hour.  You can hear the low roar of ocean waves crashing against the soft sandy beaches and sweet sounds of swallows as they gather their families for the juicy gossip on the telephone wires.  No, not our gossip. Theirs. You know – like did you hear that  Chirpy McChatterbox was heard making amorous ticking sounds toward Hooty Howlin’ near the movie theater last weekend?  😉

While there are some clouds in sight, the skies are bright and beautiful.  Nothing can beat that tranquil blue!  I pause for a moment to drink in the sites, trying to ignore the Altos hideous Pepto-Bismol pink house on the hill. Tossing my empty paper cup  into the trash, I pop a mint to avoid coffee breath and head toward Central Park in downtown.

Gave my TS3 Simselfie a makeover… and put her in my favorite red plaid shirt. 🙂 Forgive what’s happening to Kass’ necklace here. I have no clue why it bugged out.

I caught up with the star  of The Krazy Crazy Life of Kassiopeia Fullbright.  We met on a park bench near the pond. I have to say it is a unique experience chatting with a character I’ve created.

Lizzie:  Hey Kass. Thanks for making time for this.

Kass: Sure. It’s an honor to chat with you, Lizzie.

Lizzie: No, the honor is mine. You’ve really brought my vision to life, and you’ve had some excellent input of your own . You’ve really taken charge of your life.

Kass: (smiles shyly) Wow… really? Um… that’s great to… hear. I haven’t been too sure… about a lotta things lately.

Lizzie: Well, let’s dive right in. Hope you don’t mind the cameras.

Kass: Not at all. I’m kinda used to them by now.

Lizzie: Really? They’re kinda weird for me. (clears throat) Okay… so first question is from ajmkv, writer and host of  the popular competitive reality TV show, Kev & Get It.

Kass:  Wow! He is a KCLKF fan?  Love that show. Ayesh and I watch it almost as religiously as Specific Hospital.

Lizzie: (smirks) I know. I can’t get enough of the juicy juicy drama.

Kass: (tilts head) Really? You strike me as more of a thriller and suspense kind-of gal.

Lizzie: (grins sheepishly) Guilty pleasure. Actually… if I’m being honest… a pleasure, pleasure. Not guilty at all. I also like a good fantasy. You should check out Tales from Camelot. Fantasy mixed with some excellent suspense.

Kass:  (pulls out her phone) Bookmarking it now.

Lizzie: Alright… the questions – ajmkv says, “A lot happened to you in these (most recent) Arcs. Lots of emotion, both negative and positive. Trying to stay positive, what is it that you’re most looking forward to in the next few days?”

Her expression brightens. She looks relieved by the question. Her face lights up with a smile and a flush creeps into her cheeks.

Kass: I… I’m really happy with my new boyfriend. His name is Davis, as you know.  I couldn’t have gotten through what I did recently without him.

Lizzie: He did seem to help out a lot, especially during that harrowing night  at your house.

Kass: Yeah… that mess… (laughs awkwardly) I’m just hoping for some down-time… baseball-free… with Davis.

Lizzie: Next question is from MercuryFoam of the exciting supernatural  thriller, Between 2 Worlds.

Kass: (places hand on her stomach and gasps) Cool! I had no idea so many writers were into my story. And Between 2 Worlds is awesome!

Lizzie: (smiles) I know how much you like crime stories.

Kass: Are you kidding? I have a huge collection back at the house. I don’t have enough bookcases.

Lizzie: Tell me about it.  I think I need a whole room devoted to my behemoth library.

We both laugh lightly, completely at ease with one another. I couldn’t imagine a better person to carry out this story near and dear to my heart.

Lizzie: Actually whoops! Didn’t read my notes correctly.  Sorry about that.  Duvelina asks,  “Do you know what you want to study in college already?”

Kass: (cracks her knuckles) Heh… you’d think I would’ve made up my mind by now, right? I’m a down-to-the-wire kinda girl, you know.

Lizzie: Yes, I do. (points to self) Fatal flaw.

Kass: Yeah. I thought about business like Nonno.  Though flipping houses isn’t exactly what I’m thinking. Maybe something like business… law? I don’t know. (bites lower lip) Is that too ambitious?

Lizzie: Not at all. If you put your mind to it.

Kass: Thanks. I also thought about communications like you, or writing. I think I did pretty good at writing for the school paper. And I guess I could always teach.

Lizzie: Duvelina also asks… wow! I really didn’t read that right. Must not have had enough coffee this morning. Not a morning person.

Kass: Go by the Jolt later. Granny Jade will fix you up.

Lizzie: Thanks. Okay.  Duvelina’s question – “Where do you see yourself in  5 to 10 years? How do you feel about moving away from Sunset Valley for college?”

Kass: (smiles and scrunches her nose) Yeah, everyone’s kinda asking me that now days.  Standard adult question I guess.

Lizzie: Something like that.

Kass: I can definitely answer that last one. I am excited, but also nervous. I’ve wanted to go to Edgewater for the last four years of my life. Nonno is an alumnus and so is Davis. (flushes again) A lot of important people have graduated from there, and the town is home to my favorite Sim National football team.

Lizzie: (pumps fist in the air) Go Saints!

Kass:   I’m a little worried I’ll miss my friends… and my sisters… (expression sobers) Especially my sisters. I know how much they… uh… need me. But um… (rubs head) Five to ten years. That’s a long way out. I don’t know what I’m gonna have for dinner tomorrow night or where I might be crashing on the weekend. A lot’s going on around here. I don’t know if I can… answer that.   I mean, did you know what you wanted when you were my age?

Lizzie: (stops and thinks for a minute) I had ideas… I  planned on studying communications. I bounced around for a bit in college and came back to communications. No. I guess I didn’t know where I saw myself in five to ten years after college. Sure didn’t expect to be where I am now, but I’m blessed.

Lizzie: I can give you some advice. Don’t be afraid to experiment. To try new things and different things. Find a mentor. Someone who can help you talk through what you want, your interests, the future. Don’t worry too much about the people you leave behind. This is your time. Enjoy your uni years. They go by quick. Sometimes it takes awhile to know what you want.  You’ll figure it out, Kass. I believe in you.

Kass: Thank you.

Lizzie: I couldn’t ask for a better leading lady.

Kass: (puts hand to heart) I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Next I headed to Papyrus Memorial Library. Andi was there, studying. She pulled out her earbuds when I arrived.

Lizzie: What are you listening to?

Andi:  Tchaikovsky’s  Waltz of Flowers from The Nutcracker.  (smiles) It helps me concentrate. It’s early, but I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures.

Lizzie: Hey, no judging here. Today’s pretty nice though.

Andi: Really? (looks out the window) I’ve been cooped up in here for awhile. I saved up simos to get a laptop, but our internet at home is snail’s pace so I came here.

Lizzie: You can’t be studying, can you? School’s out.

Andi: Summer school. I’m taking Calc I and II just to get them over with.

Lizzie: (clicks her tongue) Ah. Math!

Andi: It’s not so bad. It’s actually kinda fun.

Lizzie: (laughs) Says you… that’s cool you saved up for a laptop.

Andi: Yeah, the next thing I want to do is save up to visit Liz Ridley’s restaurant in Brindleton Bay. That’ll be a good chunk of moula.

Lizzie:  Oh, she and I share the same name. And yes, I’ve heard her food is to die for!  Okay, hey, the reason I’m here is  your fans have asked some questions.

Andi: You mean someone likes my music?

Lizzie: Sort of. It’s from ajmkv: “What’s it like to be so wise? Tell me your secrets, queen!”

Andi: (throws hands in the air) Uh…. what? I’m not… wise… (blushes deeply) not like… wait… really? Someone said that about me?

Lizzie: (smiles and nods)

Andi: (gasps and gulps) Uh my secrets? I dunno… I’m just me…

Andi: (stands up abruptly and looks at her naked wrist) Uh… (forces a laugh) Would you look at the time? I just remembered I have brunch plans.

Lizzie: What about the question?

Andi: I don’t even know how to answer that.  (quickly gathers her personal items and makes an exit)

Next I managed to catch Ayesha walking out of Sharma Day Spa.

Lizzie: Hey girl!

Ayesha: (turns and grins) Hey Liz, what’s up?

Lizzie: Oh not too much. Staying busy. Working a lot. Trying to keep up with the fans.

Ayesha: Sounds rough. What can I do you for?

Lizzie: Ajmkv would like to know: “WHERE ARE YOU, GIRL? I miss you!” (arches her brows) Ooo… I hope I did that right. I think I was practically screaming.

Ayesha:  (smiles and scrunches her face) Aww I miss you too… wait… who are you?

Lizzie: Ajmkv. He’s one of your fans.

I gave Ayesha a lip piercing in the second story. Honestly, I forgot all about it until I had to transfer over my saved Sims from my old game and I noticed it.

Ayesha: Right…  (strikes a pose)  oh I’ve got so many fans. It’s hard to keep track. And where have I been? (runs hand through her hair)  I just got a lip piercing. What do ya think?

Lizzie: Uh…

Ayesha: So did I like forget to give him my digits or something?

Lizzie: I think he means since Kass is busy with Davis and family drama, and then the  break-in that happened the other night.

Ayesha: Oh my gawd! What break-in? I gotta go call Kass.  Seriously, you holding out on me, Liz?

Lizzie: (winces) Not intentionally.

Ayesha: Oh and if you see my Mama… you never saw (points at her mouth) This! Or my… uh… (looks down) crop top… or ripped jeans… actually… (lifts finger) better say you didn’t see me.

Lizzie: (pretends to zip lips) Your secret is safe with me.  And it looks fab!

Ayesha: (runs away and waves) Thanks, girl! Oh and feel free to give ajmkv my digits. He can call anytime.

I have no idea what my Simself was doing here. And here’s the unedited Molly, River, and Sandi.

Since it was lunchtime, I headed across the street to load up on the greasy goodness of Hogan’s Deep-Fried Diner. Two words. Mozzarella balls. Take it from me. Try the Ranch. Not the marinara.

As I approach Gage, I recognize the two ladies he’s talking to as Molly French and River McIrish. The teen is carrying sweet baby Sandi.

Gage: Yes, and I just got accepted to Northwestern in Windy City.

This version of Gage is wearing glasses. Okay… I learned something new. He usually wears contacts, I guess. 😉

Lizzie: (pumps fist in the air and jumps up and down) Whoo! Whoo! Go  Wiley Wildcats!

Gage: (arches a brow) Uh yeah! Wildcats!

Lizzie: Sorry I’m in a school spirit mood today.

Molly: And you are?

Gage: This is Lizzie. We go way back. She gave me a chance in The Krazy Crazy Life

Lizzie: Yeah, Gage was the first character to crash my story. And  I let him.

Molly and River laugh awkwardly. They say goodbye. Now’s my chance to ask Gage some questions.

I have no idea why my Simself always looks gigantic. I’m not that tall. Haha.

Gage sneezes.

Lizzie: Ah, bless you. Someone is thinking of you.  Which is perfect… I have questions for you from fans.

Gage:  Sure.

Lizzie: First up from MercuryFoam – “You were determined to get to know your roots better, but when you confessed to Kass, you told her you were alright with staying put and not pursuing your studies in… was it Riverview?”

Gage: (interrupts) No, Windy City! How could you forget?  I’ve only wanted to go to Northwestern my whole life!

Lizzie: Uh… I’m not finished. (continues reading)  “Anyway, what made you suddenly realise your feelings for Kass and I must say it’s surprisingly strong if you could make that comment. So I’d like if you could explain that part too.”

Gage: (blushes) Oh yeah, well, I’ve known Kass for a really long time. She was my first friend in Sunset Valley, and the only kid who was kind to me at church and school. Kid… haha. We’re adults now.

Gage: (lifts hand) I think it was when we went to homecoming together last October. I don’t know. I’d never looked at her that way before, but she was beautiful. And well… (scratches back of head) I think I’ve always cared about her. I just didn’t really realize it until I knew we were both gonna be apart. I do want to meet my family and stuff, but I’d like to have some nice memories with Kass before she leaves and I leave. You know… and I think, we could be really good together. And sometimes people can make long distance work, right?

Lizzie: Next question from ajmkv – “What do you think of Madison? Or you at all interested in her? Or could you be if Kass said no to your advances?”

Gage: (waves arms) Wait… Kass said no?

Lizzie: I didn’t say that. Uh… she hasn’t answered you yet.

Gage: Why would she say no?

Lizzie: Gage, did you miss the question?

Gage: She isn’t going to say no is she?

Lizzie: (sighs and puts hands toward her chest) Gage, focus. The question. Madison???

Ah vanilla Sunset Valley! What wild patterns on that wall at the gym! And the room is so bare and empty.

Unfortunately, Gage wandered off muttering under his breath about calling Kass. Uh oh! I may have lit a fuse too early. It didn’t matter. After that deep-fried lunch, I was in the mood to work off some calories. I headed to 28-Hour Wellness Gym and ran into none other than Davis. He shyly told me he didn’t feel comfortable swimming in the Riviera’s pool so he worked out here at the public gym.

Davis: Hi Lizzie. It’s good to see you.

Kass: Yeah, good to see you too. I have a question for you from ajmkv.

Davis: Is that one of the guys who hangs out in the coffee shop?

Kass: A virtual reading circle actually.

Davis: Okay. Shoot.

Kass: Ajmkv asks – “What about Kass do you like the most so far? We’ve all noticed you staring at her in her swimsuit, at her luscious red hair, and her pretty face, but what would you pick as her best attribute?”

I was so mad! Hearts appeared around Lizzie and Davis. GAH! NO! Not cool. I even have a retuned attraction mod so I know when Sims hearts appear, they “really” like each other. Oh… well… I guess I have a type.  😳 This is even pre-Davis makeover. Haha.

Davis: Oh a gentleman never kisses and tells.

Lizzie: This isn’t about kissing. (suddenly a little flustered***) Who said anything about kissing?

Davis: I think it’s a bit personal,  but I’ll say this… Kass is more than her beauty. She’s a kind and intelligent woman who goes above and beyond for the people she cares about. I really like and admire her for that. And she’s close with her family. It’s really beautiful to watch. I’m not sure about her mom though. She’s… it’s not my place to judge actually.

Lizzie: So her best… attribute? (wondering if it’s hot in here all the sudden – all that pool humidity)

Davis: Definitely the way she takes care of others.

Note the danger! 🤭

I made a quick exit, suddenly feeling weird about shapes randomly appearing above my head. What next? Thought bubbles!

Before heading to the Fullbright-Riviera home, I had one more spot in downtown – Community School for the Gifted. Maybe I could take take a cool dip in the school pool. But before that, I poked my head into the janitor’s closet. Just to take a quick look around.

Lizzie: Ah ha!  Found you!

Clark: (startled, drops hands in lap) Don’t sneak up on a person like that, Liz.

Lizzie: Sorry. Uh hey… ajmkv would like to know – “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, YOU SNEAKY SAUSAGE?” (rubs throat) Oh, that’s hard on the voicebox.  Do you have any water?

Clark: (looks confused) Sneaky? Sau-sage? (crosses arms and spins around on his stool)  No, I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer.

I head over to the Fullbright-Riviera residence. Carina is just getting home from her afternoon shift at the movies. She picked up a second summer job at Wilsonoff Community Theater, saving money for some concert tickets that she and her bestie want to attend.  She motions to the adjacent lounge chair. As I sit down, I notice Cari was kind enough to bring us snacks.

Cari: Andi said you were in town.

Lizzie: Thanks for the soda.

Cari: What? No popcorn!

Lizzie: No… yuck!  No offense. But I hate butter popcorn.

Cari: (sighs) You and Kass both.

Carina took a phone call. How rude, right? A Sim wouldn’t stay where she was supposed to. *face palm*

Lizzie:  Carina, will you get off the phone so I can ask you a question?

Cari: And you’re not gonna believe it, Lisa! We had an INTRUDER! Twice. I thought I would lose my mind, but Kass like tore off after the guy like a mamma bear protecting cubs. I thought she’d break her ankle running down that hill. Oh and Kass’ new guy is really cool. He stayed and made sure we were all okay.

Lizzie: Cari!

Cari: Wait, omg! I didn’t tell you. Yeah, Kass is dating this dish. He’s super hot and…

Lizzie: (clears throat) CARINA!

Cari: (turns around and glares) Oh, gotta go Lisa. Somebody’s in need of something… I know… again.

Lizzie: (shakes head)

Cari: What is it? Make it snappy. I’m in demand.

Lizzie: Do you mind answering a question from a reader?

Cari: Make it quick. I got things to do. Namely like have you heard the dish on the Villareals lately?  It may be a work of fiction, but I don’t care. This is juicy stuff.  I, for one, want to know if Hugo is ever going to find out what’s going on with Nelson.

Lizzie: (giggles) I wonder that too, but Cari, focus, girl. Okay… ajmkv would like to know… “Are you upset that you’ve had to take a caretaking role in your household? Buying the groceries and things like that, I mean. Do you wish Kass and/or Andi should help out a little bit more or do you not mind doing these things?”

Cari: (rolls eyes)  Like for reals? I am invaluable around here and I put in soooooo much effort and do I ever get thanked for it? Like no… like never!

Lizzie: Cari that wasn’t the question.

So I asked my real-life sister, whom Carina is based on, which of the Too Good at Goodbye characters she found attractive. I just showed her pictures and she picked Hugo.

Cari: I know, right? So I wish my sisters wouldn’t be so obsessed with their boy toys, but whachagonnado? They’re at that age. (looks at her nails)

Lizzie: (beneath her breath) You’re at that age!

Cari: I guess I have to live vicariously through my magazines. Hugo. He’s got a lot of loving, but man, is he nice to look at!

Lizzie: (looks away thinking about her “weird” connection earlier) Uh….

Cari: Okay, I’ll say this. (straightens in seat) Kass isn’t half bad and she does do stuff… sometimes. (glares) But don’t tell her I said that!

The day and my questions are drawing to a close. Cari told me that her mamma was most likely sleeping all day again, even though it was nearly four in the afternoon.  I hesitated when I heard sniffling.

Lizzie: Amy?

Amy: (muffled) What? Who is it? Go away?

Lizzie: Amy, it’s me. Lizzie. I have some questions from readers for you.

Amy: (gasps) Readers? Is that like some cult thing? Palm readers? Mind readers? Not interested.

Lizzie: No… not a cult. A club. Or a circle. That is…  uh readers… like people who read stories, you know?

Amy: Not now, Lizzie. I’m not decent. Um… and why are they reading about me?

Lizzie: Are you willing to answer their questions?

Amy: Like what?

Lizzie: Let’s start with something light and fun. Mercuryfoam asks: “Sorry for super personal and intrusive question, but am I right to assume Clark the first man you’ve been with since Howard?”

Amy: (straightens immediately)  That is very personal. Yes. He’s the first man I’ve dated since my ex.

Lizzie: Okay, continuing… “Why do you find him attractive? (Besides his accent and guitar playing ofc).”

Amy: What accent? (sighs and rubs her face) I’m getting a headache. Can you hurry this up?

Lizzie: But you didn’t answer the question.

Amy: I don’t know why this is important. I’m tired. I need to get some things done today. Okay uh…  (shakes head) Clark takes good care of me. And my girls. They don’t see that yet, but he does and he will. He’s a good man. They just need to give him a chance.

Lizzie: Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but that’s better than nothing. Okay, next question. ajmkv asks: “What was running through your mind after THAT confrontation with Andi? Was it like your body took over?”

Amy: (softly starts crying)

Lizzie: (sighs and silently leans into the wall) Amy, are you okay?

Amy: (snaps)  I don’t have to justify myself to you! Or to anyone! Oh! (covers her face)

Lizzie: Amy, will you let me in?

Forgive my laziness. I didn’t reset up the Amy’s room like it was before. Nor did I add curtains everywhere. Eek!

After what feels like eternity, Amy opens the door and lets me walk into the bedroom. She explains that it’s very plain right now because she’s redecorating. A minimalist. I guess I hit the set later on in the story. I don’t really pay any attention to the surroundings. I’m more concerned about the woman who is obviously in pain.

Amy: I’m so ashamed. I hit my own daughter. Now they all hate me and they’ll probably never come back. Oh what have I done?

Lizzie: Hey now… it’s okay. Cari is actually out on the porch.

Amy: She is? Oh… don’t let her see me. I’m a terrible mother.

Lizzie: (sighs) I’m not a mother unless you count four cats.

Amy: (peeks out from behind her hand) You have four cats?

No clue what happened to her nightgown there. 😅

Lizzie: (half-smiles and sits on the bed) Yeah, but the point is, I’m not a mother so I don’t fully understand the pressure you’re under, but I know it’s a lot. And I think you’re trying and maybe someone like Clark is…try-ing… to help ease the burden, hmm?

Amy: Yeah, he is pretty helpful. The girls don’t know it yet, but he’s really good with kids. Kind. Patient. A good provider. I… miss… that around here. I feel like I’ve slowly lost myself over the years and he’s helping me come back. And now I just lost it last night when someone violated our home, and I was scared. I wasn’t thinking.

Lizzie: You were concerned and scared last night. I get it.

Amy: (buries her face in her hands) That’s no excuse for violence. My mamma never hit me.

Lizzie: I’m sure the girls will forgive you.

Amy: (whispers) I hope so.

Again… towering Lizzie for the win! Don’t worry. I fixed it after this scene.

Lizzie: It’s gonna be okay, Amy. You’ll work things out with them in time.

Amy: Isn’t that a spoiler?

Lizzie: (smirks and looks at her shoes) Yeah, maybe it is. I don’t care. I think it’s okay to give the readers some hope.

Amy: (hugs herself) Yeah, alright. Hey, you wanna stay for dinner?

Lizzie: What’s for dinner?

Amy: Waffles.

Lizzie: (laughs) Sure, I’ve heard all about Amy’s famous burnt waffles.

Author Notes: That’s all for now, folks! Thanks for reading. Feel free to send more questions if you like.   What other things would you like to see? Would you like to see more interviews? More of my TS3 Simselfie running around? A sneak peek at my character and townie makeovers? Shorts in the KCLKF world? I’m enjoying messing around in my game.  

1.120 Undone, Pt. 1 (KCLKF)

Tuesday, July 17, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

Zelda Mae was at this party. Kass wasn’t showing up looking like trash. Kass stopped by Ayesha’s home and texted. Within five minutes, her best friend was out at the car with a battery-operated curling iron, fresh cosmetics, and a dress for Kass to borrow. Kass drove around in her dad’s borrowed car until they could find a fairly secluded spot and then climbed into the backseat.

“Still wearing your uniform from the other day? Are you sure you’re staying at your dad’s and this isn’t a walk of shame two days later?” Ayesha teased.

“Gawd!” Kass chucked her shoe at her friend’s headrest. “You’re impossible, you know that?”

“I know,” Ayesha smirked, turned and opened the mirror to check her face. “The party really sucked for you, didn’t it?”

Kass leaned up from the floor with the dress pulled partway over her head. “What did Cy tell you?”

“Just that you were in tears,” Ayesha reached a hand back over the car seat and squeezed Kass’ shoulder. “You know, I’m here for you, girl. Whatever happened whether you dropped a platter of hot toddies on Gunther’s foot or you hooked up with some hot guy as a random mistake.”

Kass rolled her eyes. The snitch! 

“I didn’t go to the party to have sex with some… guy… Ayesh,” she grit her teeth. “And I thought you knew me better than that.”

“Fine, don’t tell me,” Ayesha huffed. “So you’re not going out tonight to hook up with the same guy then? It’s not Davis, is it?”

“Gawd!” Kass slid her foot into her sandal. “No. Davis and I…”

“Yeah, I figured,” Ayesha sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Look, it’s not your fault, just…” Kass pointed. “Hand me the mascara. Are you sure you don’t want to come with me?”

“To a Zelda Mae fabulous beach shindig?” Ayesha exclaimed. “Of course, but Baba would have a cowplant if I didn’t come to see my âbji and her new husband.”

“They’re in from Al Simhara?” Kass deduced, as she powdered her cheeks. “That’s cool.”

“Yeah, but this is my boring sister,” Ayesha huffed, and crossed her arms, putting her feet up on the dashboard. “And her new šowhar is super traditional so I have to wear formal attire.”

“It can’t be that bad. You said you mâmân always makes delicious food, right?” Kass replied.

“Yeah, but you try explaining to your sister’s husband why you favor a Sim National style haircut after he stares you down and calls you a shame of the family,” Ayesha grunted.

“Okay, I owe you,” Kass handed her friend the uniform. “Thanks for having it steamed for me.”

“Anytime,” Ayesha climbed out of the vehicle. “I’ll walk back. Good luck… whatever it is you’re doing.”

The party was in full swing when Kass arrived at New Pier Beach. She noticed many new graduates from Community School and Sunset Valley High gathered on the flowered lawn, along with college coeds and several young professionals from the business community. The crowd seemed to be dressed in typical summer beach party wear like mini skirts, ripped jeans,  short shorts, tank and tube tops. The flowered lawn appeared to be littered with beer cans, lost flip flops, and trashed Oahuan leis, and she spotted several makeshift kegs with coolers, ice buckets, and taps. No wonder Gage is drunk, Kass surmised as she approached her friend trying to pour foul-smelling amber liquid into his red party cup.

Kassie,” a shrill voice cried as she tripped across the lawn, running toward Kass.

She gritted her teeth and braced herself for the annoying Zelda Mae, plastering a grin on her face.

“Hiiiii Zellie,” she said, using a nickname the other woman despised, almost as much as she hated Kassie.

“Yo,” Zelda Mae flashed a peace sign. “You here with that Davis guy from the Jolt?” she giggled. “Cuz he’s kinda like a dish and a dream.”

Yeah of the not-to-distant past of break-up land that I’d like to forget, Kass grimaced.

“No actually I’m going solo tonight,” she said. “But I am looking for Gage. Excuse me…” she tried to push past.

“Yeah,” Zelda released a fake laugh.“You might want to find the loser and get him to slow down. He’s super juiced.”

“I’m touched you’re so concerned,” Kass snipped sarcastically. “And he’s right there…” she pointed.

He waved.

“Later, girlfriend,” Zelda turned and walked over to greet one of the Frio brothers.

Yeah let her socialize with the 20-somethings Internet-startup-millionaires and leave Gage well alone. 

“Kass,” Gage said, with a goofy grin on his face. “Isn’t this…. greaaaaaat,” he twirled his friend around.

She pressed a hand to her temple, feeling dizzy.

“Whoa! You’re looking hot,” he whistled.

“So do you,” she teased. “Wearing a leather jacket in ninety degree heat,” she smirked.

“No seriously, dude, you look amazeballs!” he exclaimed.

“Really?” Kass quirked a brow. “Amaze balls?”

She smiled nonetheless, until she noticed Zelda sneering at her. Whatever… like her opinion matters. 

“Why are you here?” she asked.

“Why else?” he belched. “Oh! Excuse me!” he pumped his fist in the air. “Carpe diem!”

“Really? Latin?” she laughed, and shook her head. “You’re seizing the day?”

“By the thousands,” he grinned.

“Um… I don’t think there are quite that many people here,” she corrected.

“Whatev’s… hey Kass,” he grabbed her arm. “Did I tell you that you look amazing?”

“Yes, yes you did,” she smiled, shyly. “But we should get you home… you’ve had one… uh… too many.”

“Nonsense,” he pulled her into a warm embrace before she could stop him.

His hands wandered across her back and settled around her waist, but Kass could feel his fingers trying to slide further down. For some reason, she didn’t mind. She enjoyed the annoyed look on Zelda’s face as the woman watched her like a hawk. Seriously, does she have nothing better to do? Kass leaned into Gage’s hug. We are friends, she justified. Friends can hug. 

“You want some refreshment?” Gage offered.

“Uh… I don’t know,” Kass replied. “I thought you wanted me to drive you home.”

“I can’t go home,” Gage sighed. “Not now…” he let out a loud whoop. “Not while this party is hopping! And is it hopping or what?” he bounced around on one foot, running around with a cup of some sort of alcohol in his hand screeching in the party guests faces. “Can I get a woot, woot?”

Kass tried not to laugh. No one seemed as enthusiastic as Gage, and those who were seemed to be focused on their beers, letting out a half-hearted ‘yeahs.’ She had never tasted beer, especially at a kegger. She was partially curious, and partially disinterested. Then why did you get all dressed up? 

“Come on Kass, please, have a drink. Don’t leave me hanging,” he grabbed her hand. “It’s part of the ritual of adulthood. You gotta drink. The juice is delicious. It does things…Kass…” he burped again. “To your insides that are magical. You gotta try it, baby.”

Kass frowned. Why’d he call me that? No mind. There was no point in doing what he said… leaving him hanging. She half expected him to fetch a cup for her, but he ran off to yell and beat on his chest in a drunken fashion.

As the sun set below the horizon, a purplish light flooded the valley. Kass tentatively approached the tap. A truck drove past, directly on the beach, a bunch of college coeds in bikinis and guys with puka shell necklaces and swimming trunks gathered in the back. They were all yelling and laughing, and one of the guys tossed a package of red cups in her direction.

“Look like you needed it,” he shouted.

“Uh… thanks…” she made a face and waved.

Everyone seemed to be having fun. So what’s a little alcohol? It helps you relax, right? For the last couple days, she had been in the depths of despair. It’s okay to enjoy myself, right? After all, she had been legal for almost eight months. It seemed silly not to indulge at least once. She leaned forward and sniffed the spout, grimacing almost immediately. What is this? Rot gut? Ugh! she tossed the tap against the metal cooler. Who drinks this llama crap?

She glanced over her shoulder, noticing Zelda chatting with the older of the two Frio brothers. Connor, I think. She smiled, and Zelda frowned as soon as she caught sight of Kass. What? What does that woman have against me? She picked up the nozzle again, gingerly, between her thumb and index finger. Something told her it didn’t matter if she drank or not, or what Zelda and the Frio brother discussed. She could be her own woman. She could be strong. Kass squeezed her eyes shut. Just once. It didn’t have to be a lot, right? A sip or two and she could throw the rest into the ocean when no one was looking.

“Heyyyy hot stuff,” Gage said as he approached.

Kass jumped, startled, dropping the tap as she turned around. “Oh, uh, hi… um Gage? I think we’ve established that I’m hot.”

“Yeah you are!” he smirked, handing her a green bottle with brown lettering. “Here, try this.”

“What is it?” she wrinkled her nose.

“It… tastes like… hops,” he said, and then laughed, proceeding to hop on one foot once again. “And like… apples.”

“Okay,” she grimaced, awkwardly, taking the bottle after he snapped off the cap. “Here goes…” she took a swig.

Zelda clapped in the distance. “Way to go, Full…bright! Knock that stick outta your ass.”

Kass swallowed, and made a face. “Not horrible…”

Gage grinned. “Not bad, right?”

He tried to take her arm, but missed and pushed his hand into her rib cage. He laughed as he stumbled, the smell of alcohol heavy on his breath. Kass squeaked.

“Ow! And whoa!” she grabbed his arm as she helped him catch his balance.

“Wh…whoohohoha!” he laughed. “You sure… sure… know… how to get a… guy’s attention… Kassssssss….sssiiiii….oooo. I mean… you got… my heart… you know.”

“Well, okay, Gage,” Kass rolled her eyes.

“No, seriously, sweetheart, how can any guy not love you?” he sniffed and wiped his nose on the back of his sleeve. “I don’t know what hu…hu… hu… happened… between us…”

“What do you mean?” she frowned, taking delicate lady-like sips of her alcohol.

“Well… with us… you know… what happened with us… I mean… I miss us… don’t you?” he said, sadly.

“Yeah,” she answered, mostly truthfully. I did miss you, my friend. 

“Have another beer!” Gage yelled, completely changing his tone. “It sure isn’t nutritious, but it sure is delicious.”

Kass shook her head and smiled. She was beginning to relax. She could sort-of taste the summer apples and a kind-of almost woody, piney thing. She wasn’t sure how she felt about drinking a Christmas tree, but Gage was right. It wasn’t so bad. She was definitely glad she opted for a summer strappy dress. Ayesha had excellent taste, and the aqua was perfect for the nighttime beach party and a flattering color on Kass. It was humid, and she could feel sweat beading on her neck. Warm… summer… night… she could practically feel the tension melting away. Beer… huh? she lifted the bottle and examined the label. Weird, but tolerable.

By the time Kass was ready for her third beverage, she wasn’t sure she could feel her lips. Gage said something about attempting a keg stand. She wasn’t so sure she wanted more, but she was already pretty juiced so it didn’t matter, right?

“Gage,” she shrieked, as she spit out a mouthful of grass.

“Whoopsy!” he giggled. “Sorry… I dropped the ball.”

“Yeah, you did,” she frowned and dusted her hands while she stood.

“I’m soooooo sorrrreee…” he grinned and pushed his hands together in a pleading fashion. “Can you for….forgive me?”

“Yeahhhhhh, I guessssss,” Kass replied, as she didn’t really want to drink from the keg.

Why am I slurring? 

“I’m sorrreee…. prettttttty laddddy,” he laughed. “I dint… didn’t…” he shook his head correcting himself. “….mean to…”

“Yeah, I knnnoooow,” she said.

Something told her she wasn’t swaying to the distant island music someone played on a boom box. She grabbed her friend’s arm to steady herself. Gage didn’t seem to mind.

“Hey, wanna know a ssseecreetetet?” he inquired.

“A se-cret?” she repeated.

He leaned and closed his eyes, waving a bottle that someone magically appeared in his hand.

“Whyd’ya think we didn’t….end up… to…get…her?” Gage asked, his tone suddenly serious, despite the awkward cadence.

“Wha’da’ya mean?” she asked, hating the way her words sounded, like she wasn’t an educated woman. “And wwwaiit…. that’ssss not a secret!” she crinkled her nose.

“Ya know… we… you… me… us… you chose that… what’s his name? Davis guy, I think… over me… and well, I guess I picked Ophelia.”

“Whaddaya mean you picked Ophelia?”

“I slept with her.”

“Whoa! You did what?” Kass threw her hands in the air.

“I slept with her,” Gage repeated and took a step back, defensively. “Hey, I’m not proud of what I did.”

“When?” she gasped.

Gage looked down at his shoes, kicking some sand. “I dunno… like a week ago.”

“After the service?” she frowned, lifting her hand to her forehead, forgetting she held an empty bottle. “Why?”

“Cuz she was there… and she was available… and… I… I… I don’t know, Kass,” he hung his head. “And you weren’t available.”

“You pushed me away!” she cried. “You practically said you hated me!” her eyes widened, feeling the floodgates to sadness reopen. “You thought… you thought… you said…” she dropped her arms, defeated.

Gage grimaced. “I know. I know. I was so stupid. And now… well, I don’t know what now… I haven’t talked to her.”

“You haven’t talked to her?” Kass wiped her nose with the back of her hand. “To Ophelia?”

“No…. I don’t… I didn’t… I don’t want to think about it… I want to pretend it didn’t happen… I want you, Kass.”

“What?” she exclaimed.

It wasn’t so far fetched. He said he loved her at the beginning of the summer. He asked her out. He wanted her. He’d said so before. But now it felt different… it felt real… as if there was more weight behind the words. Yet so much had happened this summer. Too much. Kass panicked, gripping her necklace with one hand, and tossing the bottle with the other as she held her stomach and tried to breathe. Either Gage didn’t see her pain and confusion, or he didn’t care. He merely stepped up, his face inches from hers.

“I want you, Kass… and oh llamas! I really screwed up…” Gage said, his face scrunched as if about to burst into tears. “I screwed up… I screwed around… I ruined things… I wanted my first time to be with you, Kass… and your first time was probably with Davis.”

“No,” she replied quietly and sharply. “I didn’t… we haven’t… I haven’t been with him.”

And I won’t be. 

“Kass… can you… can you… can you… for…for… forgive me?” he asked, hopefully. “I know things can’t ever… ever be the same… if you don’t want… want… want me…” he trailed off.

She reached out and embraced him. He was grieving. She was grieving. They needed to grieve and to breathe and to be. It didn’t matter if she didn’t return his feelings. She just wanted to comfort him as a friend. She was pretty sure that’s not what he was expecting or thinking or wanting, but she couldn’t think clearly. Her head was spinning from the juice. How many? She lost count. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was feeling better. Anything to numb the pain. Anything to make things feel normal again. To forget that so many terrible things had happened that summer. She needed something… anything… and she was grasping at straws. Even if those straws could blow away on an ocean breeze at a moment’s notice. Even if those straws would never make anything of substance. Even if those straws would most certainly be gone in the morning.

When Gage kissed her, she didn’t even protest. His lips against hers felt cold, his breath tasted of beer, like stale bread and fermented apples. She squeezed her eyes shut and let him fumble, allowing her body to go numb, her arms hanging limply at her sides. Her stomach knotted as she felt as though she were betraying Davis, even if they were no longer together. She could barely breathe… or think. Gage’s hands grabbed at her arms, partly to steady himself and he pushed down against her bones as his knees wobbled. She winced, the movement of her cheeks and lips causing Gage to pull back.

He smirked. Without wasting a second, Gage turned and whooped as he ran down the beach. What’s he doing? She stood motionless, trying to make sense of what had just happened. It wasn’t until she reached up and held her cheeks in stunned silence that she realized she was crying. She gritted her teeth and angrily wiped away the tears. She didn’t want to cry. She didn’t want to think.

“Gah!” she yelled. “Gage, where are you going?”

“Into the ocean!” he shrieked, pulling off his shirt and shoes as he reached the water’s edge.

“But you don’t have a…” she began, but he already yanked his pants down his legs.

Her mouth dropped open. It wasn’t as though she expected it. Or maybe she didn’t? Gage Briody, her best friend, of the opposite sex, whom she had never thought of in a romantic sort of way, stripped nude, his pale white skin shining in the moonlight  as he dove into the waves. This isn’t romance, she shook her head. This is… her eyes widened. Sexuality… raw and pure… Gage just being his goofy self, completely comfortable, enough to skinny dip in the bay.

“It’s the call of nature, baby!” Gage shouted, throwing his arms in the air as he beckoned her to join him.

“Swimsuit,” she murmured, fluttering her lashes as she tentatively slipped out of her shoes.

Kass removed her earrings and necklace, then pulled her dress over her head.

“Get in here, ninny!” Gage hollered.

“I’m not… a….” she stuck her nose in the air as she dipped a toe in the water. “Ninny.”

The saltwater lapped her ankle. Kass opened her arms and allowed the warm night air bathe her tired body, welcoming the cool waters like her very soul was parched. The stars and the ocean beckoned, calling her to be wild and free, to forget the pain and plunge into its soothing waves. In that moment, she was undone. She was not Kassiopeia Celestia Fullbright. She was simply one with the earth, the water, and sky. She shed any propriety that remained as she untied her strings, leaving her clothes on the shore as she plunged into the sea. Nothing was holding her back now.

Author Notes: I kept trying to end this chapter and it kept going. I finally decided to roll with it as my fingers did the talking. This chapter is a bit different from its former version because Kass has changed. Not in a bad way or even a good way, but this Kass is different than the one I wrote five years ago. I removed some pictures from the original story (because *gasp* I didn’t realize Davis was in the background of one or two of them, and that wasn’t in the story… also EA gave him a really bad makeover and horrible outfit, so it’s not even the right Davis in my mind).

This was around the time in the first edition that my game was unbelievably corrupted so I needed to reinstall the game and start over, so the relationships weren’t quite there yet so maybe that’s how Davis ended up wandering around in game. It doesn’t matter.

Either way, this chapter feels like an incredible accomplishment, knowing how long ago I was here, on the precipice of Kass’ life changing, although this time it feels less significant since so much has already changed. This is more like one more catalyst to propel her forward, even if she’s not thinking rationally right now. Thanks for reading. 

1.118: Unwelcome (KCLKF)

Sunday, July 15, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

“This is a surprise!”

“Just pull the vehicles over there on the lawn,” Alexander directed the dark-haired valet as he passed. “Dad pulled the permit.”

“Whatever you say, Mr. Goth,” the valet responded.

Ayesha leaned back after planting a kiss on Alexander’s cheek. “A good one, I hope,” she remarked. “Mister Goth, huh?”

“That’s who I am,” he nodded. “Yeah, the party isn’t until two and it’s not even noon yet, but you know what?” he smiled and stretched an arm around her shoulder. “You thirsty? I think the bar’s set up. Maybe even the deejay.”

“Yeah,” Ayesha replied. “I hear those beats…” she bobbed her head. “Thought you could use the company.”

“I don’t mind a little alone time before the party,” Alexander said. “I’m glad you called.”

“Of course you are,” she said, boldly, flipping hair out of her eyes. “I make things fun.”

“That you do,” he grinned and twirled her around. “That outfit…” he whistled. “I’m sure my dad’s gonna hate that little number.”

“Who cares what the old Mort thinks! It is a pool party,” she replied, as she played with his coat lapels. “Aren’t you overdressed?” she pouted. “At least I dressed appropriately and I’ve got my suit on underneath. You’ll love that even more.”

He laughed. “I’m sure I will. I’m sure I will.”

The apparition turned, her arms hung limply at her side as she pushed off the tiled floor with her ghostly shoe. She stopped within inches of Kass’ face. A slow smile passed over her ghastly face.

“You are beautiful,” the woman said.

“I… um…” Kass reached up and tucked a hair over her ear. “Thank you? I mean… what are you? Who are you?”

“I am Gretle. Gretle Goth,” the woman answered.

“Uh… um… hi… Gretle… Gretle Goth,” Kass replied, stiltedly.

She could feel her phone buzzing in her pocket. Most likely, Cyrus was trying to reach her. Maybe he found something already.

“Which of the Goths are you? Are you a ghost?” she asked.

“We… prefer… Shades,” Gretle said, every word exaggerated.

“Who’s we?” Kass frowned. “What’s a Shade?”

“Shades… the universe does its best to allow souls to pass, but sometimes, we are simply caught in the eddies of time,” Gretle explained.

“Okay, eddies of time,” Kass repeated and then pressed her hands to her face. “Eddies of time? Wait… who talks like that? Like…” she waved her hands and turned to look in the mirror, smacking herself hard across the face. “Like this? Wow!” her cheek smarted. “I’m nuts. I’m absolutely insane!”

“No, no you are not, my dear,” Gretle assured. “Time is not as linear as you think. Sometimes people pass on and walk through the pearly or flaming gates to the afterlife immediately. Sometimes they float in the in between.”

“The in-between,” Kass repeated, nodding, as sweat formed on her neck and dripped from her forehead. “This is crazy.”

“No. It is not. If you were not a conduit, my dear, you could not see me, and I assure you,” Gretle reached for Kass’ hand. “I am real.”

“This… isn’t… normal?” Kass sputtered.

“This isn’t normal space time,” Gretle replied. “See…”

As she spoke, Kass’s eyes widened in horror as the wavy lines reappeared. The world seemed to be tilted. She felt as though she was floating in the ocean and yet she stood perfectly still. The current pulled her beneath the surface and she merely drifted as waves of energy flowed over, around, and through her. She wanted to scream. Her mind exploded with a million different thoughts, feelings, and sensations, but she couldn’t speak. She couldn’t formulate the words. She could only feel helpless… drowning in a sea of illusions and reality, somewhere trapped between the fabric of space-time itself.

“I am a friend,” Gretle said, her voice sounding odd and distant, as if they were underwater. “I won’t hurt you. I promise. Relax. Kass. Let go. You’ll see. It comes with time.”

“What time?” Kass said, but she was pretty sure it was only a whisper in her mind. “Aren’t we… like lost… or something?”

“You’ve been lost a long while. I’ve come to get you. To help you. She sent me… you see…” Gretle replied.

“Who? Wait… what?” Kass noticed Gretle’s mouth wasn’t moving. “Are we… are we… communicating telepathically?”

“If your heart is open… you’ll hear,” Gretle responded. “She has a message for you.”

“She? You mean…” Kass’ eyes bugged. “Wait… do you know… Madison? Madison VanWatson? Or Jennifer? Is it Jennifer Martinez? Is that who wants to tell me something?” she stopped fighting the current and let herself breathe. “Wait… tell them I’m close. I’m nearly there. I almost got it.”

A loud thud startled both ladies, nearly breaking the vision. Gretle appeared frightened.

“What?” Kass asked.

“I don’t have long…” Gretle trailed.

“No… wait… please…” Kass reached out her hands and opened her mouth, but the words wouldn’t leave her throat.

“She would be proud of you,” Gretle said. “She is… is… proud of you.”

“Wait? Who? Jennifer? Madison?” Kass felt frustration bubble within her chest as her questions went unanswered. “Does that mean she’s not gone? That she’s not lost? That she’s a… uh… Shade? Like you said you are… Gretle… Goth…” she racked her brain, trying to recall who this woman was, and why she didn’t know the name.

Gretle’s face became paler, as if that were possible. She touched Kass’s hands and for a brief moment, Kass could feel warm energy transfer. Her eyes widened slowly as she felt an emotion, a transferred emotion, something akin to love… and another… panic. She frowned. What does this mean? 

“You are unwelcome here,” Gretle said, sternly. “You should go. It’s not safe.”

“Wait… what?”

The vision evaporated and Kass collapsed on the floor as her knees gave way. She yelped, and placed a hand against her cheek.

“Hey, are you okay in there?” a voice called through the doorway, a fist pounding against the wood.

Kass pulled her knees to her chest. “No,” she whimpered. “Not at all.”

“What was that?” the voice asked. “Look, I’ve been needing to use the restroom for like ten minutes. Could you let me have it?”

Kass frowned. Doesn’t the Goth manor have other bathrooms? She shook her head, stood up, and opened the door to come face to face with a dark-haired young man in a valet jacket.

“Sorry,” she mumbled, stepping into the hallway.

“Monty, I told you to stay inside with the nanny,” the long, red-haired Gunther Goth, Jr. lectured his son.

Guests had arrived by one in the afternoon, and the party was in full swing by two. Kass busily walked the crowds, taking orders and delivering drinks. As she bumped arms and murmured apologies, she tried to focus on her tasks at hand. It was difficult to forget what had transpired earlier in the day. A shade? She half-jokingly sent a text to Cyrus, telling him she was in another dimension and that’s why she didn’t respond. He sent an “LOL” back with a smiley face and a tongue sticking out, and then proceeded to tell her that the program was working. Great! That’s what it’s supposed to do, she texted a reply before slipping the phone back in her pocket. She already received a sort-of side glare from the birthday man himself and made a mental note to try and avoid pulling out her phone while on the clock.

Was I in another dimension? It kinda felt like that. Gretle said something about eddies of time. Before returning outside to her post, Kass managed to S’moogle the name and discovered Gretle Goth was the grandmother of Mortimer, Gunther Jr., and Morgana. You look just like her? That’s what she said? Kass didn’t know if the woman was crazy or she was. After Jasmine trained her newest pupil for almost an hour, she left to grab more cherries, limes, and lemons from the kitchen. Kass stole another second to do a web search for Shade. Unsurprisingly, window blinds came up as an option. She added keywords: ‘ghost,’ ‘afterlife,’ ‘beyond,’ and winced before she clicked send, half-scared what results she would get in return. After a quick cursory glance, she noticed an article at the bottom of the first page of results about theories of parallel worlds  and energy trapped between those dimensions. This is insane! 

“But I don’t wanna, dad, it’s more fun out here,” the boy in the red striped shirt and blue rainboots protested.

“Get inside and go to your room, Monty,” his father said sternly. “Don’t make me ask again.”

Monty hung his head dejected, as he climbed the steps. Kass decided she would approach the man. Maybe she could gain some insight into his grandmother. She balanced a tray of pigs-in-a-blanket as she stepped forward.

“Gunther,” a silver-haired woman with a tiny voice impeded Kass’ plan. “Such a lovely party. And a pool party at that. Genius for summertime!”

“I don’t know about genius,” Gunther grumbled. “I just like my pool. The wife…”

“Don’t you think so honey?” the woman interrupted her supposed friend. “The weather is perfect for this kind of party.”

“Yes, a great time to work on my tan,” he replied, placing a hand on his hip as if posing for a magazine shoot.

“As I was saying… it was Cordelia’s idea,” Gunther replied coolly. “You’ll have to thank her.”

“Where is that wife of yours?” the woman inquired. “I’d love to compliment her on the lovely shade of tulips in the side garden.”

“Appetizer?” Kass interjected, holding up her plate.

The man and woman frowned.

“Ugh! How can you expect me to eat meat?” the man snapped. “Soo?”

“Do you know who this is?” the woman, whom Kass assumed was Soo, said shrilly. “This is Reed Wright…” she paused as if expecting Kass to answer.

Instead, Kass stood apologetically, agape.

“The fitness extraordinaire?” the woman continued, annoyed by Kass’ lack of reply. “The legend of the health food world! The one-man propulsion behind the Diet the Wright Way! He can’t eat pig… or whatever terrible meat that is.”

“My apologies,” Kass managed, softly. “I didn’t know.”

The lady hmmf-ed and walked past, as did Mr. Wright.

“Gunther,” Soo turned and glared in Kass’ general direction. “The party snacks… and wait staff… are growing dull.”

How come no one’s swimming at a pool party? Kass wondered. Other than Ayesha and Alexander, tossing about a beach ball, and loudly laughing and splashing one another. She grimaced. At least one of us is having a good time. 

“For you sir?” Kass swallowed her annoyance, offering a snack to Gunther Jr.

“No thank you,” he said quietly, walking away. “I need to go find Mortimer.”

Yeah, and I need to get that flash drive back. Kass ditched her dish in the kitchen, and pushed backward through the swinging door. She managed to return to the library office, bypassing the bathroom where she encountered a ghost earlier. Encountered a ghost?  As if it’s completely normal!  Kass shook her head, waiting for the ‘all-clear’ text from Cyrus. He texted moments before to say he was all done, and she didn’t want to waste a moment. I just want to get the information and get back to this farce of a party and pretend like I’m part of the wait staff again She reached forward, unplugging the device and slipping the drive into her pocket.

“What are you doing here?” a deep voice interrupted.

Kass gasped and threw her hands up instinctively. Her heart beat wildly, faster than when she met Gretle. She sucked air through her teeth as she willed herself to turn around, but her legs felt trapped in molasses. Panic seized her heart.

“This part of the house is off limits to the staff and the guests,” the man continued, and then asked, “Are you stealing? Trying to get a good photo for the tabloids? Wait…” he paused. “Are you alright?”

Kass gripped her chest and gasped for air. “I…” she managed as she grabbed for an end table to steady herself.

She frowned. Why do I feel this way? Balling her fists, she drew a shaky breath before facing her accuser. Mortimer Goth himself.

“I’m fine,” Kass said, as she straightened to her full height. “And absolutely not!” she resented the stealing implication, even if that was exactly what she was doing. “I… I… came to find you,” she declared, assertively, sticking her nose in the air for emphasis.

“You did?” he frowned as he rounded the couch.

“Yes,” she nodded. “Your brother is looking for you.”

“I see,” Mortimer replied, almost as if he didn’t believe her.

“I… think the guests are bored,” Kass said, breaking eye contact. “Mr. Gunther Goth thought you might be hiding in the library… here… sir.”

What’s wrong with you? Get a grip! That’s right, Kass. Be strong. This is Mortimer Goth, millionaire, chief executive officer of a financial empire, descendant of the people who established colonies on this world, the one with all that money and power and still couldn’t hang onto his wife. That Mortimer Goth. No pressure. 

“You seem intimidated by me,” Mortimer assumed, tilting his head ever so slightly as he approached within inches of her face. He laughed. “Don’t worry. I am just teasing you. Of course, you’re intimidated.”

Kass clenched her fists. The man is full of himself. 

“I… just really want to make a good impression,” she lied. “I like this job.”

Yeah the one that links you to financial records for the Altos and Landgrabbs and maybe I can finally figure out how and what is going on and who killed Madison… and Jennifer… 

“You’re with the catering staff?” he quirked a brow.

Before she could stop herself, she replied. “No, not exactly.”

Wait… what? Why did I tell him that? 

“But you’re wearing a catering uniform,” he observed. “So either you are or you aren’t…. or are you nosing around for the press? You do seem a bit young to be a reporter though.”

“No… I mean, I am with… uh… the bartending service actually.”

Why am I so flustered? 

“Yes, and how did you get the job, then?” Mortimer inquired, seemingly amused by her discomfort.

Kass tried to think of an answer. “I know Alex… through a friend… a friend of a friend actually.”

“Oh you know Alexander,” Mortimer opened his arms as if about to hug her. “Well, then you’re practically family.”

Kass twisted her lower lip.

“Any friend of Alexander’s is like family,” Mortimer said, a little too enthusiastically. “He always brings the most beautiful women around too. It makes sense he would put in a good word for you. So how long have you two been together?”

Kass’s lips parted.

“No, I think it’s cute he didn’t tell me,” Mortimer rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “He’s had a rough couple of years, my son, and he needs a pretty little gal in his life. Like you, perhaps.”

“Oh… gawd!” Kass reacted before she could stop herself. “I’m uh… not with Alex…” she shook her head. “Alexander… I mean, we’re not dating.”

“I see… friends with benefits?” Mortimer winked. “Your secret is safe with me.”

“I…” she flushed.

“A working girl,” Mortimer continued, without any thought for her feelings. “I can appreciate that. I’ve known a few in my time. My late wife hated it, of course, but we can’t all be snobs like her.”

She couldn’t believe how he spoke about Bella. A snob because… of the difference in classes? It didn’t make sense. Bella came from a fairly humble background and she never exactly fit with high society. It was part of the reason Kass liked her. Or is that what he was implying?

“I’m… not… a…” she sputtered.

“Oh did you think I mistook you for a prostitute?” Mortimer smirked. “Oh no, Alexander is much too smart for that. I just meant seeing a member of the proletariat. Less strings attached.”

“Strings? Strings?” she shrieked. “Mr. Goth I don’t think you understand,” she began, angrily.

“No, you don’t understand,” Mortimer replied, his expression darkening. “It never works out. Not for you. Not for us. You’re all little heartless backstabbing…” he pinched the bridge of his nose before returning to a more even tone. “I’m sorry. I don’t know where my manners are.”

Kass stood, stunned. She couldn’t believe his reaction. What the hell is going on here today? Is there something in the drinking water? 

“The Goth family is privileged,” he continued with an exasperated sigh as if his explanation to a perceived lower-class woman was a chore. “My son needs someone the public will hold in esteem.”

Well, you can scratch Ayesh off that list. 

“And not someone who thinks this life is all a big joke,” Mortimer narrowed his eyes. “And I don’t need a sarcastic retort from you.”

Kass opened her mouth to defend herself. How did he know?

“It wouldn’t matter if you had relatives with wealth because it’s nothing compared to how old and how deep and how wide the Goth money is,” Mortimer declared.

Kass gasped. Did he know who she was? I mean, my grandparents do have money, but my parents…

“So I don’t know what your little agenda was today to sneak in here and take a job and hope that Alexander would fall for the skinny little waitress. Because he’s not that stupid and neither am I. You would never be accepted into the Goth family, and so you should damn well stop trying to manipulate us because it isn’t going to work. You are a nothing. Do you hear me?! Nothing!”

Kass couldn’t believe she was crying as she blinked back tears. Why did this man’s opinion matter so much?

“Now please leave,” Mortimer waved his hands. “Shoo!” he said, as if she were a dog… or a fly. “You are not welcome here.”

She frowned, and gulped back the floodgate of emotions.

“I’ll see that you are paid for your services rendered,” he added as she turned to leave.

The tears came rolling down her face. It was as though she was falling through the floor and no one cared to catch her hand. She mustered all her strength to walk through the door.

“For bartending, of course.”

Author Notes:  What a chapter! This was challenging to write since there were so many things happening. The first time I wrote this section Kass was at the mansion to confront Gunther Goth Jr. regarding EXCES research. Right now, that’s a lower priority in this storyline. I decided to spend more time with Mortimer, and less with Gunther, even though I have many screenshots and much content I could use. It didn’t feel necessary this time around.

The Wrights were kind of a funny interlude. I loaded up my save and found them as townies. Soo (pronounced like Sue) Wright is a game-generated creation, but Reed Wright is a younger (alive) version of a Maxis Sim. I couldn’t resist the puns! 

In case you were wondering, Gretle Goth is the wife of Victor Goth and mother of Gunther Sr. She is the grandmother of Mortimer, Gunther Jr., and Morgana. In terms of the family tree, Gunther Goth Jr. is married to Cordelia Gardner Goth (not Cornelia, because that’s how I deal with doubles). Their son in my game/story world is Montgomery “Monty” Goth. I know, it might be confusing because he looks like the TS3 version of Mortimer, and you would be right. For purposes of this story and the family tree, I just changed his name and a few of his traits. 

Shades, as I can best explain, are essential neutral, but restless spirits. They are non-hostile toward the living, and are simply stuck between planes of existence with unfinished business of sorts. I’ll let you guess and theorize who or what Gretle referenced. When in the presence of a Shade and with certain abilities like Kass has, telepathic communication is possible and energy wavelengths are amplified and visible. As you recall, this isn’t the first time Kass has experienced something like this, but this particular encounter was stronger and prolonged. 

Another long chapter, and long notes. Thanks for reading. 

1.117: Unprepared (KCLKF)

Sunday, July 15, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

“What in Terra?” Kass exclaimed as she saw her friend approach.

Ayesha approached with her signature smile, tugging on her tight leather mini skirt as if to prove her friend’s point. “What? You like?”

“I… uh…” Kass tilted her head and looked at her feet. “I don’t know. I mean, I look like… a log next to you.”

“Girl, that wait staff vest is pretty form fitting,” Ayesha giggled.

“Yeah, but not like your shirt,” Kass gave her friend the once-over, secretly wishing she had Ayesha’s abs, exposed by her black crop-top. “And those heels? Can you walk in them?”

After Cyrus finished his code, he texted her, shortly after dawn. Exhausted, Kass returned to sleep. When she awoke it was nearly ten-thirty and she needed to be at the Goth residence for her new “job” within the hour.  The city had shut off water to the pipeline in her family’s neighborhood while they worked on a routing issue caused by the earthquakes.

She had just enough time to swing by his place, grab the flashdrive and instructions, and head to her grandparents for a shower. Now she wished she had done more than just loop her hair a few times through a high ponytail. Her wavy strands were still damp. She did have to wear the uniform for the catering company, but it was so shapeless. No, she reminded herself, taking a deep breath. It’s fine. I need to blend.

“You look great,” she managed.

“I look hot,” Ayesha grinned. “Just how a supposed ex-hookup should look.”

“So that’s really how you got an invite to the party?” Kass sighed.

“You know that cruise my family took last Christmastime? In the Cérvol Sea? So Alex was there too, and that’s how we met. We hit it off, had a couple of drinks, enjoyed some time in the ship’s upper deck hot tub, and that was it… or so he thinks…” Ayesha laughed.

“You didn’t!” I gasped.

“I did!” Ayesha giggled. “I told him he had to remember me after the amazing night I gave him and then I Facemash-ed him a photo of myself. He invited me to the party.”

“Just like that?” Kass gasped. “You pretended you had sex with him so he’d invite you to the party.”

“Worked like a charm,” Ayesha admitted, proudly. “Honey, you’re so naive. I didn’t need to actually have sex… guys will do things for a lot less, you know,” she sighed and flicked her manicured nails. “‘Sides, he said his uncle’s parties are as dry as toast. I’ll liven things up.”

Kass grimaced and tilted her head to the side. She couldn’t figure out if she was impressed or nauseated by Ayesha’s tactics. “Wow…. you’re um… brave.”

“No braver than you busting into the party to acquire financial records. Girl, you’re the one with the moxie,” Ayesha replied, giving Kass’ arm a friendly punch.

“Well, let’s get going. I’m supposed to be there early. Don’t want to lose my ‘in.’ Some of us actually have to work for a living,” Kass said sarcastically.

“I am working… working this skirt…” Ayesha grinned devilishly, giving her hips a little swish.

“Shut up! Get in the car!” Kass rolled my eyes.

“Whatever you say, boss,” Ayesha smirked as she slipped behind the wheel. Her expression slackened as she slipped her sunglasses on. “If…” she began.

“What?” Kass asked, tucking a hair behind her ear.

“If this doesn’t go well, Kass, I…” Ayesha trailed.

“Don’t say it,” Kass replied. “I promise I won’t toss you under the bus if my cover is blown.”

“Well, you are about to do something illegal so if you get pinched, uh… I’ll send you scented soap in the joint. You would not do well with community,” Ayesha laughed as she backed down the driveway.

“Ha, ha! Very funny!” Kass said, gripping the door handle. “Should I exit stage left now?” She sighed. “I have to try something. For Madison and Jennifer.”

Ayesha braked lightly in the middle of her exit onto the main road. “Then I’m with you. For Madison… and Jennifer.”

Kass asked her friend to drop her off down the block at Pleasant Rest Graveyard so they wouldn’t appear to have come together. While attending Jennifer’s graveside service, she noticed one could make out the eaves of the Goth Manor roof. She figured everyone would be busy with the party so no one would notice if she entered the property from the western slope. Kass gasped, surprised how out of breath she was when reaching the top of the lush green hill. I should be more in shape than this, she winced as she wiped the back of her neck with her hand.

“Who are you?”

She jumped, startled by the voice behind her as she approached the door.  Turning mid-knock, she noticed a pretty dark-haired, pale-skinned girl climb the porch steps.

“Are you here for my Uncle Gunther’s party?” the girl asked nonchalantly, tugging on her olive green bikini strings.

“Um…” Kass swallowed hard, trying to think of an appropriate reply.

“Or are you one of Alexander’s college friends?” she added, arching a brow and flicking a fly from her arm.

“No…um…” Kass mumbled.

“Or one of dad’s young new lady friends?” she said disdainfully, pointing an accusative finger. “Seriously, Pops seems to keep finding women younger and younger to…” she eyed Kass up and down suspiciously. “…entertain him…”

“No,” Kass replied, assertively, straightening her shoulders. “I’m here to help with the catering staff.”

“Oh,” the girl’s face relaxed into a smile. “Why didn’t you say so from the start?” She leaned her shoulder forward playfully, her eyes twinkling. “I’m Cassandra Goth,” she offered her hand. “The only decent member of the Goth family… well, at least, the only normal one. Nice to meet you.”

“Thank you, it’s nice to meet you too. I’m Kass,” she loosened her shoulders. “I know who you are.”

“Of course you do!” Cassandra exclaimed dramatically. “Everyone knows the daughter of millionaire philanthropist and political financier who settled down with a woman half his age, had two kids, and then she abandoned him. Who doesn’t know the scandalous story of the mysterious disappearance of the glamorous Bella Goth?”

“Oh,” Kass  winced. “I meant… I’ve heard your music. I have almost all the digital tracks of Big Apple Philharmonic, and you’re featured as first chair violinist on many of them,” she flushed as she continued. “I… have been following you since your days at Conservatory when you released songs with your string ensemble.”

“Really? A genuine fan?” Cassandra cocked her head to the side. “Thank you. I’m flattered.”

“Everyone knows the stories, but I prefer to judge for myself,” Kass replied, honestly.

“Refreshing. I like you Kass. Is that short for Cassandra too?”

“No, Kassiopeia. Everyone asks me that.”

“Cool. I like it,” Cassandra grinned. “Sorry to be so judgmental. It’s just people these days tend to judge me by my family… or my mother. Seriously, I wish more people were less intrusive. I mean it’s pretty clear my dad just couldn’t keep my mom and she ran off with some other guy and now she’s dead. ”

Kass grimaced. That wasn’t exactly how she viewed Bella.

Cassandra didn’t seem to notice. “Do I blame her? No, not really…” she sighed. “She probably just couldn’t take it… the price of fame and fortune… I’m convinced she’s off gallivanting somewhere and enjoying herself, probably sunbathing nude on the beach.”

Kass coughed.

“Pops is pretty much a bore. I think that’s why he is trying to prove himself or something with younger and prettier women. I don’t know. I could never settle down with a bore… and my fiance is far from it.”

“Don Lothario, right?” Kass asked.

“Yeah, you do keep up with my family…” Cassandra smirked.

“Well… sort of… I hear things here and there,” Kass shoved her hands in her pockets.

“Okay, well then let me set the record straight. The gambling, the drinking, the women… it’s all just an act.  Donny’s a real charmer and that’s why people love and hate him. So what if he’s sowed some wild oats?”

In that moment, Kass was convinced Cassandra and Ayesha would get along well.

“He’s been with me exclusively since my twenty-first birthday last summer and that’s what matters,” Cassandra explained, and then laughed. “Llamas! Spilling my guts to a total stranger again! Sheesh! Who needs thousands of dollars of therapy when you can just talk to someone on the street anytime? Sorry. No offense.”

“None taken,” Kass said, trying to sound believable. People seem to just tell me things these days. It’s a little weird, but interesting. “Congratulations…” she swallowed hard, feeling a little lonely as Cassandra gushed about the man she loved. “…for finding the one.”

“Seriously, Pops would have a cowplant if he knew I was spilling my guts to you. He’s worried everything will end up in the tabloids,” Cassandra crinkled her nose.

“My lips are sealed,” Kass lifted a finger to her lips.

“You know, you’re awesome, Kass. I find you extremely interesting,” Cassandra declared.

Kass laughed, awkwardly.

“We should hang sometime. Seriously… I mean… my friends… they probably shoot every bit of gossip to the presses directly after hanging with me, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t. I could trust you… extremely interesting indeed,” she glanced at her nails. “Seriously… well, I shouldn’t keep you. If you follow this pathway around back, you’ll find the catering staff. Good luck.”

Kass stepped off the porch. “Thanks.”

“Anytime,” Cassandra waved.

“Are you here to help tend bar?” a staff member asked enthusiastically as Kass approached the backyard.

The Goth family estate was confusing to navigate to say the least. Kass took several wrong turns before finding the area near the garage. She found a waitress standing near the fully-stocked bar with marble countertops. Fancy. Kass noted.

“No,” Kass waved her hands. “I don’t know anything about bartending… well maybe… short of  ‘shaken, not stirred.’” 

She giggled. “Like it. Pond reference. Classic… most people our age don’t know anything about James Pond.”

“I like old movies,” Kass remarked.

“Nice. Me too. Jasmine Bordeaux.”

“Kass Ful…” she stopped. Probably better to avoid last names. Fuullllll of energy…” she pumped her fist in the air. “And ready to get started.”

“Well, if you’re here for the party catering staff, you’re early,” Jasmine replied, with a half-smile.

“Oh?” Kass tilted her head to the side.

She liked to be on time. Early actually. It was her plan to arrive earlier than most of the staff. If she could get Cyrus’ program loaded onto the Goth’s computer, then it could work its magic while she worked the party.

“No matter. Better early than late,” Jasmine shrugged. “I’ll teach you some bartending tricks if you want. You are of age, right?”

Kass nodded. “Eighteen.”

“Great! It’ll be nice to have the extra help in case I need to take a break or something,” Jasmine replied.

“Okay,” Kass nodded, and held up her hands. “But where can a girl wash her hands? Don’t want to smudge the glasses.”

“Up those side steps and to the right,” a handsome dark-haired man answered as he passed.

“Oh,” she smiled shyly. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” he replied, fiddling with the cuffs of his cream-colored suit sleeves.

Jasmine smirked as she polished glasses.

“What?” Kass asked.

“Nothing,” she laughed, and then leaned in to whisper, “Isn’t Alex dreamy?”

That’s Alexander Goth?”Kass replied, mentally kicking myself. Great! You recognize Cassandra but you don’t recognize her attractive little bro? 

“He is nice to look at,” Jasmine admitted, craning her neck to catch a glimpse as he walked up the steps. “I heard he’s single again…” she said, and then pouted. “But he probably invited a date tonight. He never goes stag.”

“Uh… yeah…” Kass sighed. “His date’s a friend of mine.”

“Darn!” Jasmine said, under her breath. “I guess the whole billionaire’s son ends up with the bartender is kinda just a fantasy.”

Kass relaxed, laughing as she set her hand on the countertop. “Who knows? Maybe I could put in a good word for you.”

“You’re pretty great, Kass,” Jasmine said, a soft smile spreading across her face. “Now go… wash your hands so you can help me.”

“Aye aye,” Kass saluted.

Entering the mansion was easier than she thought. She didn’t know what she expected The gothic looking home with its dreary blacks and grey stones and dark woods screamed gargoyles and security guards, but no one and no statues were in sight. In the distance, she could hear some music playing, and a few dishes rattling in the kitchen. The front entryway was abandoned. Perfect.  After three wrong tries, she opened the door into what appeared to be an office, and she could see a computer glowing in the distance. She slipped into the room lined with floor to ceiling bookcases and tried to close the door. The floor squeaked. She winced and jumped, startled when her cell phone buzzed.

It was Cyrus. What I wasn’t going to let you go in there alone! his text read. She smiled. He gave her a few instructions and said he would be monitoring from his van parked at the graveyard. Really? A van? Cyrus, how cliche! Is Scooby Doo and the gang here too? She rolled her eyes as she walked forward and swept the room to make certain she was alone. Don’t mock Matilda! Cyrus shot back, and then he told her to hurry up as her phone would self-destruct in thirty seconds. She gasped and covered her mouth, backing into a bookshelf. He immediately texted Just kidding, and then promised to delete the ‘paper trail.’

A minute later, she successfully located the USB port, plugged in her thumb drive, and returned to the hallway where she proceeded to the restroom as planned. She didn’t realize how nervous she was until she noticed her hands shaking. Deep breath in… you’re halfway there, Cyrus texted. She managed a small smile, shaking the excess water off her skin. Kass reached for a towel.

“Oh my!” an metallic sounding voice said.

Kass froze. She caught a glimpse of a white ethereal figure in the mirror. A ghost?!? She had never seen a ghost. I must be crazy! Her right hand hovered over the faucet handle, her left hand banged the edge of the porcelain basin. Her knees wobbled and she gripped the counter, her nails digging into the wood to keep from collapsing.

“Oh. My,” the disembodied voice repeated.

“Is… is…is…” Kass stammered, and ran a hand through her hair, completing disregarding her neat ponytail.  She dropped her gaze again. “It’s not even Spooky Day!” she exclaimed.

Kass was prepared for a little cloak and dagger, some sneaking around to get what she wanted, and possibly even multiple thwarted attempts to reach a computer in the Goth manor. What she wasn’t prepared for was this… coming face to face with the supernatural. She swallowed hard and steeled herself against the inevitable, taking a deep breath as Cyrus suggested. She turned around to face the strange apparition. The figure of a woman with short white hair grazing her shoulders, dressed in what appeared to be a pant suit, if ghosts could wear clothes. Or heels… Kass noticed as she dropped her gaze to the vision’s feet.

“Who…who…who are you?” she asked, balling her fists.

The incorporeal figure’s face was soft, her expression gentle, with wide eyes and a rounded nose. Like Madison… but… different… Kass puzzled, feeling her elevated heartbeat as she gulped.

“You. Look. Just. Like. Her,” the words the phantom spoke were stilted, hollow.

“Li…like who?” Kass asked.

“My granddaughter-in-law.”

Author Notes: Thanks for reading another long chapter. It didn’t make sense to me to break up the flow just yet.

First, if you’ve read this story before, you’ll know I eliminated the scene with Carina and Alexander. While it was super cute, I wanted to a) move the plot along, and b) their scene previously felt super staged and unnatural, mostly because I had just started playing around with poses. I didn’t feel like it was needed this time around. Also, Alex is older in this version and I didn’t feel as comfortable with the age gap. 

Just a reminder, legal drinking age is 18 in the Sim Nation. Facemash is a cross between Facebook and Snapchat. Big Apple City is my Simworld version of New York. 

Ghost! Yes… the Goth family lot has its own private graveyard so naturally… but I remember being stunned to see one during the day at the Goth manor. This time I had a way to work it in. Hope you enjoyed.

1.116 Recruiting Allies (KCLKF)

Saturday, July 14, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

The shock of the sudden slap knocked her to back against the building. Kass gasped, bringing her arm up to preemptively block another blow if necessary. Her elbow banged against the brick. She winced. A tall dark imposing figure threw her hands in the air.

“You’re investigating the Madison thing again, aren’t you?”

Kass grimaced. “Ayesh. You gave me a heart attack!”

“I gave you a heart attack!?” her friend placed her hands on her hips. “You’re the one sneaking into City Hall to do what? Get information, amiright?”

“Okay, okay,” Kass protested softly, dusting her scraped palms as she resettled in a standing position. “I can’t…talk about it here.”

“Oh, right?” Ayesha rolled her eyes. “Kass, you’re gonna get hurt or worse.”

“Then that’s exactly why I need to leave,” Kass said, through gritted teeth. “It’s just better if we…”

“Fine… you’re lucky I brought my car,” Ayesha replied with a sniff.

“Great! Let’s go,” Kass declared, following her friend down the street and through Central Park. “How’d you find me?”

“You’re not the only one who’s a detective,” Ayesha grunted as she walked up to a red Tofunda Wagon parked alongside the curb facing Mirabello Plaza.

Kass made a face.

“Okay, your mom.”

Kass quirked a brow. “Mamma knows where I am?”

“When you didn’t answer your phone, I stopped by. Your Mamma said you were out getting to know your future stepfather.”

“So Clark told you?” Kass deduced, and dropped her head, grateful it was dark enough Ayesha couldn’t see her smile as they stepped into the vehicle.

So he’s worried about me? I bet that’s who came to check on me in the basement. 

“Can we go for coffee?” she requested. “I told Cy I’d meet him. He said there’s a new place up on Bayview Ridge.”

Ayesha threw her hands in the air before turning the engine over. “Let’s pull an all-nighter. Why not? And then you’ll tell us what the hell you’ve been doing?”

“Yes,” Kass nodded. “Besides… Cyrus can help.”

Less than fifteen minutes later, the girls pulled up outside Sunny Bliss Cafe, a small classic brick building with plenty of bay windows with dark red cedar roof. Several smaller open-air pavilions also shared the lot with plenty of blossoming cherry trees all around the plaza. Two pretty brick fountains bubbled up from the ground, surrounded by thick flower beds of friendly yellow pansies, lining the main walkway. In the center of the plaza stood an old looking clock atop a medium stone with a small pool at its base. This part of town was still being developed, with new shops popping up fairly regularly. And she really did need an alternate to the Jolt, even though she loved Granny Jade.

Cyrus appeared to be the only other patron in the shop. He sat at a window table with three chairs, reading a book while sipping a cappuccino. Upon seeing the ladies arrive, he put his book into his side bag and waved. Kass smiled and nodded in response, approaching the counter to order a cup of hot greenleaf tea and a side of sugar cookies.

“What? No coffee?” Ayesha exclaimed, and clucked her tongue.

“I drank three espressos already,” Kass sighed, rubbing the back of her neck. “I need something to keep me from feeling jittery.”

“Oh alright,, might as well be healthy,” Ayesha mumbled, and pointed. “Grab that bottle of Simpton iced tea,” she said to the barista.

“Wasn’t sure you were gonna show,” Cyrus said as Kass joined his table. “Hey Ayesha.”

“Hi,” Ayesha replied curtly. “Okay, Kass, spill the beans. You’re looking into Madison’s murder aren’t you?”

“A murder?” Cyrus smirked. “Kassiopeia. Girl detective.”

“Oh brother!” Ayesha sighed.

“I’ll tell you what you want to know, but first, Cyrus, can I have the number for your lawyer?” Kass asked.

“My lawyer?” he tilted his head.

“At Butterworth, Honeywell, and Pan,” Kass requested, grinning as she pressed her hands together. “Pretty please?”

“Well sure, but what’s this about? You didn’t whack someone, did you?” Cyrus teased, pulling his phone out.

“Stop it! This is serious!” Ayesha exclaimed.

“I know that,” Cyrus shrugged. “I was just trying to lighten the mood. There…” he hit a button on his phone. “I sent it. Now…”

“Sit,” Kass ordered her best friend. “You’re hovering and you’re nervous… and it’s weird.”

“Excuse me for caring,” Ayesha said, sarcastically, as she slid into the chair. “Now, pretty please tell us what the hell is going on!”

“Don’t leave us in suspense,” Cryus waved his arms.

Kass took a deep breath. It was time to recruit some allies. Over the next half hour, Kass proceeded to explain how she had been investigating Madison’s case, much to Ayesha’s chagrin. The other woman huffed and crossed her arms while Cyrus listened attentively. Kass shared how she found a connection between Madison’s and Jennifer’s untimely deaths, and she suspected they were unrelated to the arson spreading through their community. She spoke about the connection between Madison’s lover, the mayoral candidate, her husband, and her husband’s other lover, Dr. Morgana Wolfe, formerly Goth.

By now, both of her friends listened with rapt attention. Kass said she was convinced someone was using the Sunnyside Smolder as a convenient scapegoat, and she was pretty sure they were going to slip up soon because she had already made the connection between the Altos, their infertility issues, and their business investor, Mortimer Goth. Based on the evidence, she guessed Morgana possibly helped the Altos with their conception problem at one point, but this somehow led to an affair with Bert. She also speculated that Mortimer would pay Dr. Geoffrey Landgrabb for some sort of experimental procedure for Jazzilyn to try and get pregnant for the thirteenth time.

“The only thing I don’t know,” Kass pursed her lips. “…is if Madison was a mistake or an intentional baby mama. Either way she got in the way, and I think Jennifer was close to uncovering something because get this… Bert is friends with the mayor, Nancy, and Ms. Landgrabb happens to own the property where Jennifer was…” she trailed off, unable to bring herself to finish the sentence.

“Holy cowplants!” Ayesha ran a hand through her hair. “And you’ve figured this all out on your own?” she slumped back in the chair in disbelief.

“You really should be a detective,” Cyrus whistled.

“Here’s where I need your help,” Kass began.

“Wait… don’t you think we should go to the police?” Ayesha interjected, and dropped her voice to a whisper. “I mean, this is dangerous llama crap… isn’t it?”

Kass shook her head. “I can’t… not yet. Not until I prove the payments are going to help Jazzilyn conceive, and that someone wanted Madison out of the way because of the threat she posed,” she took a bite of one of her cookies and then offered one to Ayesha, who shook her head, and then Cyrus, who simply frowned.

“She’s right, Kass… this is serious stuff,” he said, quietly.

“That’s why I need proof,” Kass replied. “So Ayesha, you are going to get me into the Goth family party tomorrow…” she glanced at the clock on the wall. “…uh today… and Cyrus, you are going to write me a piece of code to break into the Goth’s financials.”

“Kass, writing code isn’t that simple, and it’s… illegal,” Cyrus protested with a squeak.

“What?” Ayesha’s eyes bugged. “Uh… yeah, I know I agreed to do this, but this is insane.”

“You got the in, didn’t you?” Kass replied. “That’s what you said earlier when you texted.”

“Well, yeah!” Ayesha exclaimed.

“Hold up…” Cyrus interjected.

“You’ve done worse before now,” Kass narrowed her eyes. “I know it. And besides, don’t you want to take down a bad guy? Isn’t that what Cyclone Sword is all about? Getting rid of the forces of evil in this world? Fighting for the little guy? Changing the world for the better?”

Cyrus lifted his hands and shrugged. “She has a point.”

“This is insane! You can’t possibly be considering this,” Ayesha protested.

Kass reached out and laid a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “Ayesha, someone took Madison from us… unjustly, and someone eliminated Gage’s mom… and I have information that will help make things right. I need some more proof to take to the police… to Clark, actually, because I’m not sure who I can trust at the police department. Now don’t you want to help?”

“Wha? Clark?? Can’t… trust… the… police…” Ayesha sputtered.

“Because we’re talking about the mayor and her friends, the Altos, and the Landgrabbs, and the…” Kass started, but Cyrus interrupted, as he excitedly dug through his backpack.

“The mother freaking Goths!” he said, his eyes sparkling. “Okay, I’m in. And this is gonna be an all-nighter, you know, so go order me a doughnut and another cappuccino please. Dang! Battery is low,” he dropped his laptop back into his bag, momentarily side-tracked.

“I knew you’d do it!” Kass grinned, realizing he was the easier of the two to bribe with food. “Ayesh? You already got us invites, right?”

“Not exactly,” Ayesha shook her head, and then pressed her hands together in a pleading fashion. “Promise you won’t hate me?”

“What?” Kass asked.

“I… uh… know Alex,” Ayesha replied. “We had a business class together actually, and sort of hit it off last Christmas.”

“Don’t tell me,” Cyrus stopped rummaging for his power cord. “You guys went out!”

“We hooked up a few times,” Ayesha nodded.

“Like hooked up hooked up?” Kass made a face. “How come I didn’t know about this?”

“Just some kissing… with some tongue… and…” Ayesha flushed.

“Aw yeah!” Cyrus threw his hand up for a high five. “You landed a Goth! That’s like a white whale, you know. He’s Sunset Valley’s most eligible bachelor,” he declared, but seeing Kass’ confused look, he added, “I read the celebrity gossip. Sometimes I’m in there.”

“Right…” Kass narrowed her eyes.

“No…” Ayesha protested. “I mean, the guy’s all talk… bragging about his…” she held her hands apart.

Kass’s cheeks turned as red as a rose. Cyrus laughed, amused.

“…but he’s really not one to follow through…” Ayesha brought her hands together. “We never slept together.”

“But he hasn’t forgotten you, yada yada,” Kass interjected, annoyance creeping into her tone. “And you got yourself invited to his uncle’s party. And what about me? I’m the third wheel?”

“Not exactly,” Ayesha winced.

“Am I on the guest list or not?” Kass huffed, flipping her ponytail over her shoulder.

“You’re on a list,” Ayesha continued. “Look, Kass…” she grabbed her friend’s hand. “If you’re going to do this… you’re gonna need help, and you can’t come waltzing in the front door as a guest. You’ll need access to places and so that’s why… if you’re serious about this.”

“Oh spit it out!” Kass said, exasperated.

“You’re on the catering staff,” Ayesha confessed. “As a waitress.”

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this chapter. I’m also excited to use old pictures too. Sunny Bliss Cafe is a downloadable lot by PrincessPretty available on MTS. I know I said I’d de-Sim-ify everything, but Simpton tea is the name of the tea item that Ayesha has on the table, from a set by Severinka available on the TSR. Hopefully you didn’t mind a bit of “telling” rather than “showing.” I really wanted to move the plot forward and I had detailed notes from my first attempt at this story, but I just wasn’t feeling a long drawn-out monologue from Kass about what she knows… or suspects. Hope you enjoyed! 

1.111 Unanticipated Opening (KCLKF)

Wednesday, July 11, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

Where are you?”

Kass scrambled down the library steps as she quickly called her friend after the text message accompanied by worried emojis. “Oh I completely forgot about lunch, Ayesh.”

Is everything okay?” 

Kass threw her hand in the air. “No… I think my favorite candidate for the mayoral race is a liar.”

Ayesha scoffed. “That’s nothing new. Everyone lies.”

“Yeah, well,” Kass hesistated.

She didn’t know how much she should tell her friend, or if Ayesha would approve of her investigation into Madison’s and Jennifer’s deaths, and subsequently the Alto and Goth families.

“Let me run home and grab a shower and I’ll meet you at the mall,” she suggested.

Okay, but if you take any longer than an hour my stomach is going to gnaw my internal organs clean through,” Ayesha groaned.

“This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when you said you wanted to do something relaxing.”

Kass scowled over the chessboard as Ayesha returned from throwing away their empty soda cups. The girls finished a lunch of honey-and-vinegar battered Thalssan cod, garlic fries, and colas before heading up to the rooftop terrace. By two o’clock, they were locked in a stalemate, and Kass was ready to give up.

“That’s what you get for making me wait,” Ayesha smirked as she returned to her seat. “And if I had known you were going to dress all cute, I would’ve made some effort. Didn’t you wear that outfit last time we came to the mall?”

Kass twisted her fingers around the black fringe of her dress as she concentrated. “You’re trying to make me feel bad? I think you wore that outfit too,” she snarked. “Guess it’s our official uniform for this place.”

“Alright, alright,” Ayesha waved her hands. “Let’s play chess.”

“Yeah,” Kass snipped. “You are trying to make me feel bad. By making me play the one game I suck at.”

Ayesha rolled her eyes. “How many times do I have to tell you? The World Games Committee recognizes chess as a sport.”

“Sport or not… I think you’re winning,” Kass grunted as she realized her white king was surrounded by a sea of Ayesha’s black pieces.

“We can reset,” Ayesha shrugged. “And I can give you some tips on your strategy.”

“How’d you get to be so good at this?” Kass sighed as they returned all their pieces to their proper starting places. “I feel like you have to be a genius to play chess.”

“Naw,” Ayesha lifted her hand in protest.  “You should see old brown men play competitively in Setra. They whip my ass every time,” she smirked as she smacked her butt cheek. “I think they like it too.”

“Kicking your butt or your ass?” Kass asked as she contemplated her first move.

“Both,” Ayesha laughed. “I mean… it is nice.”

Kass rolled her eyes. “Let’s play… if you’re sure you want to play against such an inferior opponent.”

Ayesha lifted her first pawn. “Baba wants me to compete in the Setran Summer Tournament when we travel later this summer,” she set her piece on the board. “I can use all the practice I can get. And you’re not so bad. Doesn’t your grandpa play?”

Kass rubbed her jaw thoughtfully. “Yes, Nonno plays. It’s not like I play with him all that often,” she responded in kind with her first play. “I’d love to see Setra.”

“Eh… it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be… enormous skyscrapers, hot desert sun, sand everywhere… and I do mean everywhere,” Ayesha leaned forward and winked.

Kass squirmed, thinking of tiny granules sticking to every part of her body. Perhaps that was why the natives wore high collars and long sleeves. It seemed like a practical solution.

“Between the tournament and visiting every relative on Baba’s side,” Ayesha waved her arms to illustrate the size of her paternal family. “I won’t have much time for sightseeing or finding cute local boys,” she pouted.

“Ooo…” Kass sucked air through her teeth. “That sounds like a tough predicament…” she grinned slowly as she saw an opening on the board. “Bring me back some Setran chocolate, will ya? I hear the goat’s milk makes it exceptionally smooth.”

“Ha!” Ayesha snorted as she responded in kind. “So what were you doing at the library all morning?”

“Not all morning,” Kass corrected. “I had breakfast at my dad’s.”

“Oh right… you’re staying with Howard. And you’re lying to your mamma about it?” Ayesha grinned. “I approve.”

“No,” Kass shook her head. “It’s not like that. I just… you know… Davis is living at my grandparents’ poolhouse. It’s a little awkward.”

“What happened between you two anyhow?” Ayesha asked.

Kass could swear her heart grew heavier. A sadness filled her eyes. She quickly darted her attention to the board, hoping her BFF wouldn’t notice. She did.

“It’s okay,” Ayesha pressed her fists into the sides of her jean skirt. “If you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Thanks,” Kass bit her lower lip.

She wasn’t ready to open that whole can of worms.

“And Gage?” Ayesha inquired, changing the subject.

Kass grimaced. She wasn’t ready for that subject either.

“He has a new girlfriend,” she said, and then quickly added, “I think.”

“You think?” Ayesha’s eyes widened. “This is news to me. He won’t return my calls.”

“He’s avoiding you too, huh?” Kass said, leaning to the side to observe the board from a different angle.

“Isn’t it a little quick… um… with everything going on?” Ayesha whistled in a descending cadence.

Kass rolled her shoulders. “He’s an adult. She’s an adult. And uh… maybe he needs someone to help… uh… distract him right now.”

“Fair enough,” Ayesha rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “It just seems outta left field, ya know? Whatever!”

It was out of left field, and beyond inappropriate in Kass’ eyes. Ditching his mother’s memorial to hook up with the assistant funeral director. She had it in her mind to report Ms. Nigmos to the State Board of Ethics. No. Her expression darkened. Gage would never forgive her.

Kass puffed air into her cheeks in aggravation as Ayesha moved her piece, taking another of Kass’ pawns.

“I thought you were supposed to be giving me tips,” she half-whined, crackling her knuckles under the table.

“Sorry,” Ayesha grimaced. “I’m a bit competitive. So…. you sounded disillusioned by politics again this morning. Can we talk about that?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kass eyed her friend, sharply.

“We’re not talking about Davis or Gage… so what topics are safe?” Ayesha asked. “Tell me something, girl!”

Morgana Goth is having an affair with Bert Alto,” Kass sputtered.

“How do you know that?” Ayesha pressed her knuckles to her lips.

“Oh she told me at the beginning of summer,” Kass replied, nonchalantly.

“You gotta tell me more than that,” Ayesha urged.

Kass proceeded to recall the bizarre encounter with Morgana on the first day of her internship. She filled in details about how she accidentally eavesdropped… wait… who am I kidding? Purposely eavesdropped on the Wolfe’s argument in their driveway earlier that morning, everything from Thornton’s medical procedure completed unbeknownst to her wife to Morgana revealing how Bert wanted children with her and how Jazzilyn was sterile.

“Woooowww!” Ayesha said in an exaggerated way. “She’s cracked. Wait… isn’t…” she lowered her voice. “…wasn’t Bert our friend’s baby daddy?”

“Yes, he was,” Kass confirmed.

“So he was with…”


“What a creep!” Ayesha scowled. “Mama works with her, you know.”

“Jazzilyn?” Kass perked.

“No,” Ayesha laid her hands delicately in her lap. “Dr. Goth. She’s a nurse in the children’s ward. Actually… it makes a lot of sense.”

“What does?” Kass smiled as she spotted a good strategic move.

“Oh… Morgana inviting Mama to a party this weekend. I don’t think she has a lot of friends so she must be desperate enough to invite colleagues. Mama said she invited everyone in the ward.”

“Is she going?” Kass asked.

“Naw, I don’t think so.”

“What’s the party for.”

“Morgana’s brother, the Junior one… it’s his birthday,” Ayesha tilted her head from side to side and cracked the joints in her neck.

“Gunther Goth, Junior is having a party?” Kass’ eyes widened.

“Yeah at his estate above the cemetery. Morgana must not have a lot of friends if she’s inviting my mother,” Ayesha said. “They don’t exactly get along. Mama was six minutes late to work one time and Morgana got her demoted.”

“Rough!” Kass replied. “Checkmate.”

Ayesha reached out and shook Kass’ hand. “Nice. Good game. You’re getting the hang of this. Oh and only noobs say ‘checkmate.'”

Kass rolled her eyes. “Okay, so I’m an amateur. I think you let me beat you!”

“I would never,” Ayesha replied, but her dark eyes twinkled.

“I know how you can make it up to me,” Kass remarked.


“By getting me into Gunther’s birthday party.”

Ayesha slammed her hand against the chessboard. She released a Haranic expletive and grabbed her wrist.

“Yowza!” she gasped as she rubbed her throbbing fingers.

“Are you okay?” Kass asked.

“What?” Ayesha whipped a stray hair from her face. “Yes,” she winced. “Are you crazy? You can’t just crash a Goth party.”

“Why not? I crashed a Wolfe party earlier in the summer,” Kass shrugged as she pulled sugar plum chapstick from her waist bag.

“But your were with your grandparents. That’s different.”

“And I’ll be with you,” Kass replied, gliding the balm across her lips. “Because you aren’t letting me go in there alone.”

Ayesha huffed as they stood and walked toward the elevator. She pushed the down button.

“It’s not that easy. I’ve only met one of the Goths.”

“So you know one more than I do,” Kass said, linking arms with her friend as they stepped into the elevator. “Oh! I want to stop at the Visitor’s Center.”

“Why?” Ayesha said as a woman with short brown hair, wearing a three-quarter-length green shirt, studded shorts, and pink-and-white boots joined them. “You know… it’s the wrong season for those,” she nodded toward the floor.

“Excuse me?” the plump brunette glared in return.

“Sorry…” Ayesha scrunched her nose.

They rode down to the second level in silence before all three women exited the elevator and walked into the Visitor’s Center.

“I want to check the historical newspapers. The librarian, Emma, told me this place keeps some,” Kass replied.

“No why do you want to go to the birthday that bad?” Ayesha asked.

“You know I have that same shirt,” Kass said, dodging the question as she nodded toward their elevator companion. “Three quarter lengths is perfectly acceptable with the cool ocean breezes. And a few weeks back, I was wearing a  layered sweater.”

“Wha?” Ayesha sputtered. “No, Kass, the boots. Whatev’s. Look, girl… I don’t know why you want to crash Gunther’s party.”

“Because Morgana will be there,” Kass responded, glancing around frantically, hoping to avoid a run-in with Peter Horne, Madison’s former supervisor. “I can ask her a question.”

“You’re gonna ask her about the affair?” Ayesha said in a high-pitched whisper. “Are we blackmailing her?”

“No…” Kass narrowed her eyes. “Don’t be so silly! I want to ask her about Madison. I want to know if she knows.”

“Ohhhh!” Ayesha bobbed her head, but her face still indicated her confusion. “Wait… what?”

“Never mind,” Kass yanked her friend out of the aisle as a volunteer passed, pushing a cart of books, and gave them a strange look. “Can you get me in or not?” she approached the shelves with the historic registry.

“I… don’t know. Maybe,” Ayesha said.

“That’s a start,” Kass smiled. “Please… do this… uh…” she rubbed her chin thoughtfully as she quickly scanned the dates on  archived catalogs. “…we are doing this for Madison.”

Ayesha collapsed into a nearby desk chair and plopped her hands on the table. “When you put it that way… okay… I’ll see what I can do.”

Kass spent the next two hours poring over old newspapers. The town had placed each edition in bound books by year. She wasn’t quite sure what she was looking for, but she would know when she found it. Ayesha didn’t really comprehend, but she kept her friend company, leafing through magazines while she waited. The desk clerk was a bit annoyed every time Kass returned to check out the next edition. She tried to collect a few volumes at a time to make the process easier.

“Thanks,” she smiled.

“Anytime,” the clerk saluted, sarcastically.

“What’s his problem?” Ayesha asked upon Kass’ return.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Maybe he’s not used to processing this many requests. At least it’s not that judgmental Peter.”

“Oh you mean the prick?” Ayesha tilted her head to the side, offering a mock smile.

“I’m not finding it,” Kass sighed, flipping to the last page.

“Finding what? What are you looking for?” Ayesha asked.

“Oh…” Kass slumped in her chair. “I just had this crazy idea that I could find the wedding announcement of Bert and Jazzilyn. Or a record of her move to Sunset Valley.”

“They print that kind of stuff?” Ayesha exclaimed.

“Yeah, new prominent families, when they move to the community, are featured in The Daily Sun,” Kass replied. “I know this from when I wrote for Community Corner News. But I’ve searched all the years from ten to fifteen years ago, in the Gazette, the Summer Hill Syndicate, even the Bay City Buzz…” she groaned.

“Nothing?” Ayesha winced.

“Nada,” Kass crossed her arms.

“I thought you were interested in Morgana.”

“I am. And Jazzilyn too. I mean, what woman doesn’t know her husband is having an affair with two other ladies?” she said, in hushed tones. “…or at least suspects?”

“I don’t know, Kass,” Ayesha stretched her neck, her expression uncomfortable. “Did your mom?”

Kass gulped. Her friend had a point.

“Why did you want to see their marriage announcement?” Ayesha shifted and changed the subject.

“I thought maybe it would give me some insight,” Kass said. “But they moved here in that time period. Or at least that’s what she’s been saying in all her campaigns. She’s been…” she swept her arms dramatically. “…a Sunset Vallean for over a decade, but she’s been a ‘friend to the world‘” Kass said, sarcastically. “…to the people long before that.”

“She’s from Cascadia right?” Ayesha inquired.

“Yeah, she met Bert in a resort community in Hidden Springs,” Kass replied, dropping her head back against the seat and pinching the bridge of her nose.

“So look at Cascadian papers for their wedding announcement,” Ayesha suggested. “They probably got married out of the country.”

“Ayesh! You’re brilliant!” Kass exclaimed, leaping to her feet and startling an elderly couple passing. “Oh, but I can’t do that here… okay…it’s back to the library…”

She didn’t get more than three steps before the ground began moving beneath her feet.

Author NotesIt was time for another Ayesha chapter. Hope you enjoyed. Setra is a downloadable world by Pyronium3, set in the Eutopian Federation in my Simworld. The World Games is a version of the Olympics, and chess was at one point recognized as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee in our world. Al Simharans speak Haran or Haranic; this is Ayesha’s heritage. Oh Sims and their crazy outfit choices, and yes, they wore these outfits last time to the mall. I felt the need to point it out for the sake of fun in the Sims games. In all honesty, I do have certain tops and outfits I seem to wear the same days every week to two weeks due to the nature of when laundry day falls. 😆 Thanks for reading! 

1.95 Rude Awakening (KCLKF)

Saturday, June 28, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

No Kass, I’m not going to back you up on this one.”

Kass winced. She knew Ayesha was right but it didn’t make the truth any easier.

“…I think Gage is right. You waited way too long to tell him, and why? He’s right to think you’re screwing with his heart.”

“I didn’t tell him…” Kass managed. “…because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.”

Oh that’s a load of bull and you know it. Girl, where is your head?  You’ve had a thing for Gage since the day you met him!

It was seven years ago. She was eleven. He was twelve. She wore pigtails. He had hair. Black to be precise. Like a moonless night. Like the dark stallion in one of her favorite stories. And wild like Black Beauty too. He had a wild look about his blue eyes as if he ran rampant, kicking dirt and stomping on grass just like a horse from the countryside. That’s where she thought he was from. The sticks. His manners were seriously lacking.

They were standing in line… actually Kass was standing in line, politely waiting her turn at the Children’s Day Festival at the boardwalk. She had been waiting for her free treat all day. Mamma didn’t let them eat sweets very often. She thought it rotted her kids’ teeth. It probably did. Kass wrinkled her freckled nose. She didn’t care. She worked hard in school for the past quarter. If she presented a report card with all A’s she could earn a special prize of her choosing – a free face painting, a free popcorn, or a free pudding cup. Kass licked her lips thinking of the creamy taste on her tongue. She could see the lady volunteer hand each of the children a disposable wooden spoon. The texture was so much better than plastic and the wood became infused with vanilla. 

Then just like that… the boy with the tuxedo cut her off in line. She was seconds from handing her report card to the woman with earnest eyes. Instead, he flashed a piece of paper that didn’t even look remotely like the real deal, and snatched her hard-earned prize. She huffed, crossed her arms over her chest, and marched over to give him a piece of her mind. He had the gall to say “Whatup bruh?” as if she were his boogie board buddy and not the girl he just stole a pudding cup from, and she was furious.

She lectured the boy about fairness. She didn’t care that he was dressed like that cute fictitious spy James Pond. He then laughed, bent over to reach eye level, and told ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ to calm down while patting her on the head patronizingly even if he was barely older than herself. Adrenaline pumping through her veins, she pummeled her fists, living up to her namesake as a fiery redhead. Her fingers collided with his face with surprising force.

Ayesha, standing with her friend, laughed aloud. Kass flexed her fingers, a stinging pain shooting up her hand, wrist, and arm. Her lips parted, but no sound released. She had just punched a boy. Of course, her mother  shrieked, “Lord have mercy.” Her oldest daughter just threw away all her hard work in a fit of rage over a cup of pudding like a full blown Anne of Green Gables moment.  

The young man, whom she would come to know as Gage, doubled over in pain, wincing, and holding his face in shock. A girl half his size punched his nose. He was mildly impressed, he later confessed. Kass’ hand rose instinctively to her face, holding her own nose. They had been sparring since day one.

Her mamma yanked her by the elbow off to the park bench to spend the remainder of the day after apologizing profusely to the young man. Kass would sit and leave her hands in her lap and think about what she did while her sisters rode the roller coaster and claimed their pudding and face paintings. She would contemplate her actions while staring at her black and white sneakers and a trail of ants making off with unwanted crumbs. 

“Hey Sunshine,” Gage teased as he plopped down on her bench, much to her surprise. He tossed her a bag of frozen ice cream, and seeing her eyes narrow, he added, “For your hands?” he lifted up his own.

She reluctantly accepted. “I prefer Wolff…” she replied, smartly, laying the ice cream across her swelling knuckles. “Ya know? Erica Wolff. The pro  lady wrestler?” 

“Is that what you are?” he smirked. 

Kass resisted the urge to smack the smug look from his face. “What’s with the getup?” she asked, shoving her hands in her overall pockets. “You auditioning as an extra in the new James Pond movie?” 

He arched his brows and tugged on his coat lapels. “Would you believe me if I said dunk tank?” 

She swallowed a giggle. “No.” 

“People pay more to dunk a guy in a tux than swim trunks,” he replied. 

“Is that so?” she nodded and looked off in the distance, noticing her parents loudly arguing at the edge of the pier, what they were saying not quite distinguishable, but their yelling clearly audible. “You aren’t from around here…”

“You’re gonna hand me that cliche of a line?” 

“I dunno… whatup bruh?” 

He laughed. “Okay, you got me. Not a local. Just passing through and thought I’d brush up on the lingo.”

“Yeah,” she squinted her eyes into the sunshine. “Not even close. No one says that and where ya from that you think it’s okay to steal a girl’s pudding?” 

“There’s a joke in there,” he smirked. 

She flushed. “Shut up.” 

“But then you won’t know where I’m from,” he replied, and rubbed his hands. “I have an idea.”

“Okay,” she rolled her eyes. 

“Come on,” he urged, standing up. 

She shot a glance at her argumentative parents, but they didn’t seem to notice their oldest daughter engaged in conversation with the boy she had punched. 

“Your parentals will never know you’re missing,” he shrugged, offering his hand. 

“Why are you being nice to me?” she asked, shaking her head and standing on her own without his help. “I hit you.”

“Not many ten year olds can knock me off my guard.” 

“I’m eleven, and you’re not that much older are you? But you like to pretend you are. I bet people think…” she put her hands on her hips. “…you’re like fourteen or fifteen… but you’re like my age, aren’t you?” 

“Good eye. Now come on…we’re gonna have some fun,” he started down the boardwalk. “Ever bob for apples?” 

“Really? We’re gonna bob for apples?” she looked at him incredulously. 

Why not? You got a better idea?” he asked. 

She tilted her head, suspiciously. “You aren’t one of those ax murderers like in the movies, are you? Chopping my head off as soon as you lead me off to your evil lair?”  

“And you aren’t a fearsome lady wrestler like the Wolff, are you?” he gave her a knowing look, and pointed. “Look the trough is on the walk. We aren’t going far. You’re even in view of the parentals. If they are.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she narrowed her eyes. 

“Opps, sorry, thought you were in the system with the way you…” he touched his nose. “…pack a punch.” 

“System?” she squinted. 

“Foster like me?” he pointed to himself.  “Or… adopted?” he tilted his head. “…you don’t look anything like ’em?” 

“Not adopted,” she shook her head and gazed off at her dark-haired father and light-haired mother, neither of which shared her red hair. 

She had wondered sometimes too, and one of the kids at school teased about the proverbial milkman since she and her siblings looked so different. 

Kass sighed dramatically. “Okaaaayy… I guess. Apple bobbing is right over there.”

They arrived at the silver horse tough filled with water and red apples with a view of the bay. After waiting a few minutes, the festival worker determined no one else was going to come and they could go ahead. 

“It still doesn’t…” Kass ensured her braid was securely behind her back. “…why you’re being nice to me.”

“Most girls can’t hold their own. You can,” he replied, with a smile. 

“And most guys don’t dress up in tuxes on a Saturday afternoon, volunteering for a dunk tank when they’re new in town.”

“Are we doing this?” he inquired, his blue eyes twinkling. “Sunshine?” 

“The name’s Kass. I still don’t know your name,” she tilted her chin and narrowed her eyes. “And it’s not James.” 

“I prefer not James,” he quipped, and then admitted. “Gage.” 

“Gauge, like the gauge to check the tire pressure in my bike wheels?” she asked. 

“No,” he said, meekly. “I was named for Gage Arden.” 

She giggled and covered her mouth. “Like the romance poet?” 

His cheeks turned red. “Yeah, I was named for Gage Arden.” 

“He wrote sonnets!” Kass laughed. “And stuff.” 

“Yeah, and what kind of name is Kass?” he asked, defensively.

“My mamma’s got a thing for stars and stuff,” she shrugged. 

“Okay star stuff, let’s do this,” he urged.  

Tucking their hands behind their backs, they were given the go ahead by the festival attendant. Grab as many apples as you can in two minutes using only your mouth. The water felt cold against her face, stinging her eyes momentarily. She quickly gained her bearings and began snatching apples with her teeth and dropping them in a bucket as the game required. Gage plunged his face into the water with equal enthusiasm, winking at her. She found his cuteness infuriating. How could an annoying guy like that be cute? It wasn’t fair. Still, it beat sitting in timeout on the bench listening to her parents squabble. 

Gage was charming enough, she decided spitting another apple into her bucket. The smile alone was deadly. He had to have a game. He wouldn’t have just suggested they bob for apples without a clear agenda, would he? He hadn’t been around for long. She knew that. She would be transferring to Community School for the Gifted in the spring. Trading her afternoons swinging on monkey bars with Ayesha and pretending they were princesses high atop the castle towers with their twin flying purple dragons at Sunset Middle for a uniform skirt and after-school clubs at the city’s most prominent private school. Nonna thought it would be a better education and more opportunities meant a better chance in life. 

What kind of chance did a kid like Gage have? That he’d forge fake grade reports for the kids in his newest class? She paused momentarily to wipe the water from her eyes and swiped a glance at her competitor. He still bobbed away, but he turned and winked at her. She flushed, and returned her gaze to the water. That’s what he was doing right? That’s how he got her last vanilla? Maybe violence was uncalled for, but she hated being called names. Little Miss Sunshine? It’s really not that bad, she chided herself. What kind of chance did a kid like her have that she was willing to punch a strange boy’s lights out over a cup of pudding? 

They were about twenty seconds from the end when he stood up. Pulling his face from the water, he shook the droplets from his hair and eyes. 

“Wha….arrrr….you doin’?” she asked, her words garbled by excess liquid. 

He smiled, and patted her back. “Good game.”

“Wait…” she glanced up at the clock, an apple stem perched between her teeth. “It’s not over yet.” 

“I know,” he shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Gotta get over to the dunk tank. I’m late.” 

She flicked her final apple in the bucket. “What? But we’re…” 

“Bye Kass,” he replied, walking away. 

He forfeited. He gave up his chance to win. And for what? The festival attendant cheered and called time. She handed Kass a handful of tickets to spend on prizes. She took the wad of red papers and went to shove them in the pocket of her overalls. That’s when it dawned on her. Gage was at the bottom of the steps. She made a face and dropped her head back in the trough in humbled and mild annoyance. The pudding cup was in her pocket. The one she wanted. All along.

You’ve had a thing for Gage since the day you met him! Ayesha’s words echoed as she felt a rush of blood to her head, as if they were chattering little girls hanging upside down on the monkey bars again instead of discussing her predicament over the phone.

“Am I a horrible person?” Kass whispered.

You’re still there?” Ayesha said, softly. “I thought maybe you spaced out.

“No, no,” Kass shook her head and sighed. “I’m here.”

No, you’re not a horrible person,” Ayesha assured. “You’re human. We all make mistakes.

“But this feels like the worst one ever,” Kass exhaled a shuddering breath.

Aw… girl, I’m coming over,” Ayesha said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to guilt trip you. Where are you?”

“Naw…” Kass swiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand, slowly forming a fist as she recalled how she and Gage met. “I needed it. The guilt… trip.”

Yeah but I’m your friend too. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine… and…” Kass noticed the time via her watch. “I’ve got someplace to be.”

Author Notes: Yay for a trip down memory lane. Interspersed with adult Kass’ commentary. I know this is primarily a flashback chapter, but I’ve never shared the circumstances of how Kass and Gage met before. I’ve had these pics burning a hole in my old screenshots folders all this time. Gage aged up before Kass did hence their dramatic height difference.

This scene actually takes place in Point Reyes, Valverde, across the bay from Sunset Valley. I imagine the kids spend time at the boardwalk across the bay because of Sunset Valley’s own pier no longer functioning as it once did. I decided to intersperse the phone call with the memory because I needed some context for how it comes up in the first place.

The pudding cup… well, was a bit of a joke, because of the “pudding faces” in Sims. Gage has been described as “vanilla,” and liking plain things. I thought it was fitting. He forged the grade report to steal a pudding. Too much for a twelve-year-old? You’d be surprised . I worked in childcare back in the day and kids were resourceful and clever in order to get “little luxuries” when they had such terrible home lives and lacked money. This scene would’ve been right after he landed with the Martinez family. And if nothing else, I can blame Gage’s con artist tendencies and early forgeries on the fact that I’ve been binge watching crime shows once again. Thanks for reading. 

1.87 Promises and Problems (KCLKF)

Monday, June 23 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“Thanks Torgo.”

Kass handed the pizza delivery kid a crisp twenty and carried the four cheese monstrosity back to the donation drive table. Pendragon’s Pizza was prompt, always hot, and delicious, and the only one of its kind with a medieval themed dining room. Their delivery guys wore little coats of armor on their company tee shirts. She smiled, noticing a line of people waiting to talk to her when she returned. Her strategy was working.

“When you said you’d make it up to us for blowing off pizza the other night, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Gage grumbled.

She settled into a folding chair and handed him a paper plate. “Extra cheesy,” she grinned. “Just like you like it.” When he continued to frown, she added, “Come on. We’re doing a good thing here,” she nodded to the man who dropped a ten in their jar. “Thank you.”

“I know, Madison deserves a nice service and burial,” Gage crossed his arms, his eyebrows in frustrated repose. “But I wanted you to have fun. This…” he glanced around at the homemade poster with Madison’s picture and hand-drawn flowers requesting donations in any amount. “…is nice, but not exactly fun.”

“Oh quit your whining,” Ayesha returned to the table. “I just got all the baristas on duty to pitch in.”

“How much?” Kass asked.

“Thirty a piece,” Ayesha said, beaming proudly, as she reached over and grabbed a hot slice. “And that one guy Manny offered up his bonus. The workers of Jade’s Java Jolt really want to do right by a former employee.”

“That’s great,” Kass said, her brown eyes sparkling.

“Mmmm…” Ayesha moaned in pleasure and closed her eyes. “Don’t let my Baba catch me eating this stuff. We’re not supposed to eat GM cowplant crap, but I don’t even care if this sticks to my insides. It’s worth every extra pound.”

“GM?” Gage squinted and reluctantly plopped a piece on his plate.

“Genetically modified,” Ayesha explained.

“Right. Another religious thing?” Kass figured.

“Whatever the Al’Sim wants,” Ayesha lifted up both her arms, a slice in each hand. “Al’Sim gets… but honestly, I think the sages just want to control our lives and make us miserable. I would worship whomever made this divine pizza if it wouldn’t get me kicked out of the synagogue.”

“Uh that would be Torgo Pendragon’s dad,” Gage grimaced.

“Praise be!” Ayesha let her shoulders dance a bit before she shoved a large bite in her mouth.

“Did you ask Erickson if he minded us scooching in on his territory?” Gage asked, taking another delicate bite.

“You mean with the pizza delivery?” Kass’s eyes widened. “It’s not like we’re selling any.”

“I don’t think Erickson is around tonight anyhow. He just does Friday and Saturday evenings,” Ayesha replied.

“Thank you,” Kass and Ayesha said in unison as a couple dropped some coins into the jar.

Gage leaned forward, looking at their pittance in disgust. “Man, it’ll take us forever to get the Simoleons we need for a decent funeral.”

“Hey, every little bit counts,” Ayesha cried, defensively.

“Yeah,” Kass elbowed their friend. “Quit being such a downer, Gage.”

A smile spread across her face as she noticed Davis appear behind the main counter. She picked up their pizza box.

“I’m going to go see if Granny Jade will let us store this in her fridge,” she said.

“Grab some napkins,” Ayesha requested.

“Will do,” Kass skirted around the table and walked toward the counter.

Davis served a customer, so she leaned against the counter while waiting, barely concealing her happiness at seeing him, even if Gage was nearby. He turned and offered an equally pleasant smile once he was done.

“I need some napkins, good sir,” she said in mock-sternness as she tucked her chin, but a smirk playing at the corners of her mouth.

“I’ve got a stack in the back if you follow me, miss,” he replied, his eyes twinkling as he played along.

“Thanks,” she said, and glanced over her shoulder quickly to see if Gage was watching, but he was talking to a dark-skinned woman who just walked in.

Once around the corner in the kitchen, Davis planted a kiss on her cheek. She beamed. He took the pizza box and carried it to the coolers while she scooted up on the counter to reach the napkins.

“I could’ve gotten those for you,” he replied, crossing back to her.

His Southern drawl ignited a playful excitement. She smiled coyly.

“Yeah,” she dropped her legs to dangle over the side. “But then I couldn’t do this…” she reached forward and grabbed the sides of his smooth shaven face and pulled him close, wrapping her legs around his hips.

He took a step back and shook his head. “Kass, not here. I work here.”

“Oh right,” she smiled, wiggling her finger to urge him to come back.

Davis maintained his distance. “Have you told Gage about us yet?”

“Uh…” her expression fell as she slipped off the counter in an unladylike fashion. “No… not yet.”

“You should,” Davis said, seriously. “It’s been how long?”

“Wow… I didn’t realize it mattered that much,” Kass said, her jaw slackening slightly. “I thought we were good.”

“He’s one of your best friends, isn’t he?” Davis inquired.

“Yeah, I just haven’t found a good time to tell him,” Kass shrugged. “Why are you so sore?”

“Because if he was just a friend,” Davis continued. “Then you would’ve told him by now.”

“I will, I promise,” Kass replied quietly. “Okay? Now will you kiss me?”

Davis pecked her quickly on the lips and reached over her shoulder to pull a clipboard from the wall. “I’m picking up the delivery tonight. I’ll be back late.”

“Can we hang out tomorrow?” Kass asked, swallowing her disappointment. “Maybe go swimming. Or grab a movie? Oh… I promised to teach you how to wind surf. Will you do that with me?”

Davis pondered her request momentarily and then his expression softened. “Okay. We can do that. You’ll talk to Gage?”

Kass visibly winced before she could stop herself. She didn’t want to lose her friendship with Gage, and she didn’t want to lose her boyfriend either. Gage could be so persnickety and tonight he seemed to be in a bad mood. They both did. Maybe something was in the air.

Maybe she was worried for nothing, but she was pretty sure he still held a torch for her. She hadn’t told Davis about the daily texts from Gage that bordered on inappropriate for a woman in a relationship with another man, and how he still kept asking her if she would go out with him. Hurting his feelings was the last thing she wanted to do, but holding back wasn’t going to work forever either. She would have to tell Gage soon. Very soon if Davis wasn’t going to be mad at her, and Gage was going to accept this decision. Davis turned to leave without saying anything, visibly annoyed by her expression.

“I’m sorry,” Kass apologized.

He paused on his way out the back door. “Don’t be sorry. Just do somethin’ about it. Okay?”

When Kass returned to the table, she noticed Gage deep in conversation with the same woman she saw before. Middle-aged. Bleached blonde hair with a slight spike in the middle. Wearing too tight jeans and a blouse revealing too much of her bust. Kass resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Gage appeared to be in a better mood, smiling even, and his tone was teasing. She blinked in surprise.  She dropped into a chair and slouched, leaning toward Ayesha who was on her third or fourth slice.

“Who’s that?” she whispered.

“I think she said her name was Ophelia,” Ayesha replied. “She’s new in town, apparently.”

“Oh,” was all Kass could think to say.

After a few more minutes, Gage accompanied Ophelia to the counter where she ordered a drink to go and walked her to the door, waving and smiling as if they were old friends. Kass swallowed the strange feelings welling in her chest.

“Guys, Ophelia works for the Laffalot Funeral Home,” Gage exclaimed, producing a business card. “She said she could get us a deal for Madison’s service.”

“Really?” Ayesha’s eyes widened, snatching the card from Gage’s fingers and eyeing it the piece of cardstock as if it were a lottery ticket. “That’s great. I secured more donations while you were gone too, Kass,” she nudged her friend playfully. “The lean…” she demonstrated as if bowing with her neck stretched like a bird before arching her back and jutting out her chest. “…is a money maker.”

Kass ignored Ayesha and directed a question to Gage. “You got a discount? All because you flirted with her?”

“How is that any different than what Ayesha was doing?” Gage protested.

“It’s not,” Ayesha confirmed as she looped a piece of cheese, about to fall off the plate, around her finger before putting it in her mouth.

“How do you know she will honor the deal?” Kass inquired.

“Why not?” Gage shrugged. “She seemed nice. You were gone for awhile. Did you secure any more money?”

“I was?” Kass’s eyes widened. “I mean… no, I didn’t.”

“No one was in the kitchen?” he seemed suspicious.

“Yeah, uh…” she shook her head. “I just don’t think flirting is a good strategy.”

“Oh come on, lighten up,” Ayesha said.

“How do you think this is gonna work?” Gage returned to his pessimistic perspective. “Doesn’t Madison have relatives? Why can’t they handle it?”

“Gage don’t be like that,” Ayesha rolled her eyes.

“She does,” Kass bit out slowly. “An aunt. From Riverview. But she can’t afford to make the trip.”

“I bet if I died, my aunt from Riverview would make the trip,” Gage grunted, and shoved his hands in his pockets. “And she’d pay for my service too without my friends needing to raise money.”

“Don’t be so morbid,” Ayesha sighed.

“And we’re not really her friends anyway. I barely knew her. Gawd! Kass. this was supposed to be a fun evening,” Gage said, throwing his hands up in the air.

“You didn’t have to come,” Kass placed a defensive hand on her hip. “Both of you could’ve said no.”

“And miss free pizza?” Ayesha grinned and shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

“You’re so selfish!” Gage exclaimed.

“What do you think I’m doing this for?” Kass gasped. “I’m trying to help. You’re the one who wants it to be all about you.”

“You know what I think this is? This is guilt. Or some pathetic attempt at penance,” Gage bit out. “Or you putting off your emotions again so you don’t have to grieve because Watcher forbid, you ever let yourself feel, Kass,” he gathered up his backpack and used paper plate.

Hurt flickered across her face, followed by anger. “What’s wrong with you?” she snipped.

“Wow, Gage, dial down the llama’s ass will ya?” Ayesha straightened to her full height in the chair, and reached out to touch Kass’ arm.

“You. You’re what’s wrong with me!” Gage snapped. “You haven’t hardly been around, Kass, and when you are, you’re not thinking about your friends. You haven’t even asked how I am or what’s new with my family or how things are going with my sister.”

“Okaaaaay…” she replied in an exagerrated manner and waved her hand. “How is Miss Scarlet?”

Ayesha giggled. “…in the library!”

“With the candlestick,” Kass said, without skipping a beat.

Ayesha hugged her sides as she laughed. Gage was not amused.

“You two are officially the worst best friends in the history of best friends,” he snapped, and stomped out of the coffeehouse, slamming the door behind him.

“Wow, he does not have a sense of humor,” Ayesha smirked.

“Yeah,” Kass chuckled weakly, but something told her it was her own fault that Gage left.

Now she couldn’t tell him about Davis. Not like she wanted to anyhow.

Author Notes: I realize Kass may be fairly unlikable here. That’s kinda the point. She’s a very young adult, fairly immature, with tunnel vision and she avoids conflict as much as she can. I feel like it makes her realistic to have moments of unlikable behavior. Gage isn’t the nicest here either, and Davis is a bit distant. However, Ayesha was a hoot to write in this chapter. It was fun to have all three friends in the same chapter at once. Also, if you’ve read this story before, here’s an early appearance of Ophelia. You might have recognized the description. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for reading. 

1.85 Perplexing Discovery (KCLKF)

Saturday, June 21, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“This doesn’t feel right.”

Ayesha leaned against the wall, pockmarked with dings from decades of furniture moves, chewed gum, and other unknown substances. As soon as her back touched the surface, she shirked away in horror.

“Ugh!” she exclaimed. “Don’t the Landgrabbs have any pride in things named after them?”

Kass shrugged, her gaze solely focused on trying to figure out the keyless entry to Madison’s shared dorm room at Sunset University. She hoped the system didn’t have an automatic lock-out after a certain number of failed attempts. Madison wasn’t a complicated girl. What would she have set her entry code too?

“It’s the only way,” Kass began, and then paused as two summer interns passed by in the hall, nodding and smiling before continuing their conversation. “It’s the only way,” she repeated, quietly. “I can find some information.”

The police all but implied Madison killed herself, and claimed something about a note in passing. Kass wanted eyes on it. She didn’t know if they would’ve left anything in the dorm room, but it was better than breaking into the police station.

“Wasn’t she staying with a cop?”Ayesha cocked her head.

Okay, barely better than breaking into the police station. 

“Yeah a rookie, Blair Wainwright,” Kass replied. “She’s going for a degree in forensics here at Sun U.”

“Shouldn’t we just call her and see if she will let us in?” Ayesha asked, twiddling her thumbs. “How can you be a cop and a student?” she mused aloud.

“Ah ha!” Kass proclaimed victory as she heard the latch click and the door open. Poking her head around the door, she made sure the room was unoccupied before reaching over and tugging on Ayesha’s arm. “Come on.”

The room was fairly generic, steel blue walls and an accent of bland brown, with thin grey matted carpet. The only thing hanging from the white ceiling were two large tubular lamps. A small brown checkered area rug sat beneath a maplewood desk with a small metallic table lamp and a black PeachySoft laptop. There were two twin beds, one with a generic grey wool blanket, too warm for summer and pristine white sheets, and the other with a violet, hot pink, and red paint splashed bedspread. Both were flanked by nightstands, though only one had a box of tissues, an alarm clock, and a pair of reading glasses with what appeared to be case files. The others were bare.

“That’s gotta be Madison’s side,” Kass determined.

“How did you figure out the code?” Ayesha asked, poking her head in the closet. “Wow! Someone’s got a lot of floral!” she pulled a vibrant red and hot pink Takaharan kimono-style shirt out to the side.

Kass nodded as she searched through the nightstands.  “People pick numbers that are meaningful to them so they can remember easily. She once told me the predicted due date of the baby and that’s what the code was.”

“Huh?” Ayesha shrugged as if mildly impressed as she continued rifling through Blair’s wardrobe. “I’d like to see you guess mine.”

“I already know yours,” Kass replied, closing the nightstand drawer after finding nothing but dust, a  nail file, and some anti-nausea medication. “It’s the date you got your belly button pierced.”

“What? Okay!” Ayesha gasped as she took her head out of the closet. “How do you do that?”

“Simple deductive reasoning actually,” Kass smiled .”Don’t worry. I won’t tell your parents the significance.”

“They don’t have my dorm code,” Ayesha replied. “Not that I put it past Baba to root it out and send Mama over to search it. They still think I’m a good Al’Simic girl.”

“Tell me about it,” Kass rolled her eyes, feeling as though she could relate to overprotective, overbearing parents.

She settled on the bed she presumed to be Madison’s, and thought through her next moves. She wasn’t sure what she expected to find, but she wanted to examine the last place the other woman had stayed. Why do I feel this enormous guilt? If only Madison had stayed with her instead of running away. Then what? Our house was destroyed in the earthquake and fire. Madison wouldn’t have stuck around for that. She wondered if Blair went to class packing a concealed weapon. I might feel safer with a roommate who enforced  the law compared to the complete chaos of my home right now. Befriending a police officer was not a bad move on Madison’s part.

This morning, Kass met with her own police officer, though they weren’t exactly friends. Hank Goddard still oozed charm with his picture-perfect smile and Detective Hunter still gave her the creeps. She wondered how the two men, who appeared night and day different, became partners. Hunter poured a cup of coffee, that appeared more mud than beverage, into an oversized foam cup while never taking his eyes off Kass as she filed her report, never offering their guest a drink out of politeness, even though she would have declined. Goddard still tried to get her to call him “Hank,” and thanked her for the iced latte suggestion as if it was a huge favor, and inquired about how often she liked to stop by the Java Jolt. She  quickly dodged to fill in the blanks about the stolen brooch, and her discovery of the fake stones.

The detective was impressed with her eye for detail, and said he would take the brooch to his gem expert to evaluate and compare against other recovered counterfeit pieces. She had abruptly transitioned to asking about the Madison inquest and the fire. They believed the fire to be an accident, but they weren’t ruling out a suicide for her friend just yet. In fact, Detective Goddard claimed one of their rookies discovered a note in the dorm room, which prompted Kass to drive over to Sunset University after making sure Blair was on duty. Kass called Ayesha to come and act as cover in case they were caught.

“You know just because I’m a student here,” Ayesha said. “…doesn’t mean I can just be in any dorm room I please. What are you looking for anyhow?”

“Clues… evidence… something that disproves the cops’ theory about suicide,” Kass pulled her ponytail and let the hair drop slowly against her shoulders and back. “I mean, she told me the baby’s due date. We had an appointment at the free clinic in Bay City. She was seeking legal advice from Jennifer. And she pocket dialed me the night before she died. Does that sound like a suicidal woman to you?”

Ayesha winced. “What if she didn’t want to keep the baby? You said she was being abused, probably by the baby’s father, right? Maybe her call to you was a cry for help. A last ditch effort. Maybe she just got so desperate that…”

“Don’t…” Kass bit off harshly. “…don’t finish that statement. Don’t make me feel more guilty than I already do.”

Ayesha plopped on the bed and kicking up her heels as she braced against the blanket. “Don’t feel guilty, Kass. That’s not your burden to bear. You did what you could.”

Kass bent over in exasperation, waving her arms, head between her legs. “Then why do I feel like I could’ve done more?” she wailed, but then quickly stopped as she spied a small envelope tucked beneath the mattress springs.

Something the police missed? They probably figured she hadn’t been here for long and did nothing more than a cursory search. They didn’t seem to be too concerned with investigating a suicide. Kass slid off the bed.

“What?” Ayesha asked.

Kass pried the item loose from the springs, scraping the back of her hand against the metal. She winced at the surprising pain from the graze, but continued to pull the manila envelope from its hiding place. Madison couldn’t have committed suicide. Kass was sure. Most people swallowed a fist full of pills or the barrel of a gun, nothing as dramatic as setting a fire and burning alive. If it was an accident, why did she have a queasy feeling? She was almost one hundred percent positive she was right and the police were wrong. The Sunnyside Smolder could’ve set the fire for all they knew. The MO was similar, at least at first glance. Could this have been accidental manslaughter and negligent homicide or had the Smolder escalated to killing innocent people now too in addition to satisfying his inner firebug?

“What is it?” Ayesha’s eyes widened as Kass held the envelope flat as if it were delicate, her hands trembling.

She flipped it over and looked at the front, which had a postage stamp, processed by the mail center, and a return address.

“NetQuest that,” Kass requested as she opened the envelope and removed its contents.

Ayesha glanced at the envelope and frowned. “I don’t need to. That’s the Goth family research institute. I know because my mom works there as a medical transcriber. In another department though. This is the…” she puzzled momentarily.

“….their diagnostic lab,” Kass interjected, her breathing quickening as she clutched the papers.

“Wait… how’d you know?” Ayesha wrinkled her nose.

“Because these are DNA lab results,” Kass replied, locking eyes with her friend. “I know who Madison’s baby daddy is.”

Author Notes: Thanks for reading everyone. I know. It’s a bit bold and also insanely stupid for Kass to go search Blair’s dorm room, but Kass doesn’t exactly have the best boundaries with people or things in general. I don’t expect her to be perfect, and her heart is in the right place, though it’s probably better if she leaves this to the police. But then where would the story be? It was great to write another Kass and Ayesha chapter, especially one where they get into a bit of legal trouble. This is the second “breaking and entering” incident they’ve been involved with, if you recall the high school incident. At least this time there’s no blue paint. Yet. 😀 The Landgrabbs really do have dorms at every university. Just kidding. But it sure seems like it. As for the DNA lab results, I’ve mentioned before in another story that the Sims have the technology to test the DNA of an unborn child against another sample to determine paternity. They live on another planet in another star system. Anything is possible! Hope you enjoyed. 

1.78, Pt. 2: No Mistake (KCLKF)

Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Everything was a blur. Davis drove out onto the Gunther Goth Highway to the Quarter Rest Inn. His voice sounded hollow as if he spoke in a voluminous cave. Her own pounding heartbeat drowned out most of his words. When they arrived on the scene, the once-charming little inn was buzzing with police and firefighters. Kass even caught a glimpse of Pablo, Gage’s foster father, his face covered in ash and soot. She nodded in acknowledgement. Davis went to find the detective in charge while Kass stood in horror and shock as emergency personnel buzzed around the building and parking lot. She raised her hands in horror. Madison Van Watson died in a fire. The truth was hard to swallow.

Ayesha engulfed Kass in a desperate hug, mascara runs on her cheeks. She cried and said the police questioned her. Kass frowned. Madison and Ayesha weren’t exactly close, but she supposed the police had to talk to everyone. According to Ayesha, Madison apparently arrived sometime late last night, started a load of laundry in the on-site facilities, and the gas dryer caught on fire. Supposedly, she locked herself in the room as it wasn’t the safest of neighborhoods. Madison never stood a chance. Most likely, she passed out from the smoke before… So it was an accident?  Kass wondered. Was it a coincidence the news threw out The Sunnyside Smolder?  She had to talk to someone. Kass beckoned one of the officers while she hugged her friend.

A female police officer came and guided Ayesha away to help her calm down. When Davis returned, he had two familiar detectives – Hunter and Goddard. Kass tilted her head, thinking the two worked robbery, not… whatever this was. Davis squeezed Kass’ hand, saying something about moving his vehicle since he was double parked. The cops weren’t letting anyone park in the lot.

“Miss Fullbright,” Detective Hunter said, his tone sharp and pointed. “What are you doing here?”

Kass held her arms across her chest. “Madison tried calling me.”


“Last night… uh… ” she pulled out her phone and showed the screen to the officers. “One-eighteen a.m.”

“So you were the last person to speak to Madison when she was alive,” Detective Hunter continued.

“Uh, I didn’t actually… speak to her…” Kass corrected. “I thought it was a butt dial… uh… a misdial…”

“Did you hear anything on the other end of the line?” Detective Hunter spoke up.

“Um…” Kass strained to remember. “Excuse me? Can you tell me… was this an accident or is it something else?”

“We’re considering multiple possibilities,” Detective Goddard neither confirmed nor denied the obvious answer.

Kass gulped, and rubbed her head. The effects of the medicine began to dissipate. Perhaps swimming and ice skating in one day was too much too soon after a concussion, no matter how mild.

“Miss Fullbright, did you or did you not hear anything during that phone call? Are you sure you didn’t speak with her?”

Kass grimaced. “Of course, I’m sure. I’m not an idiot. I would remember if I talked to her directly. I answered my phone and said ‘hello?’ twice, and clicked end before I realized who called me.”

Both detectives glanced at one another as if they doubted her words. Goddard spoke first.

“Given what you’ve been through recently, it’s understandable if you were to forget.”

Kass held up her hand in annoyance. “I didn’t actually talk to her. Now why are you interrogating me? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Well,” Detective Goddard winced.

Detective Hunter interrupted again. “Would you describe Madison as suicidal?”

Kass sighed and dodged the question. “Wasn’t this an accident? Or is this related to… the arsonist?”

“There was a typed note on her computer,” Detective Goddard began, and Detective Hunter cleared his throat and interrupted, pulling out a notepad.

“Wha?” Kass burst out, tears welling in her eyes as she waved her arms. “What aren’t you telling me? How did this whole thing happen? Will you please tell me what’s going on? Why are you questioning me if it was an accident… or a…”

“The note changes everything,” Detective Goddard explained. “Even if this was a…”

“…freak accident?” Kass finished for him, clenching her stomach.

“Did you know Madison was suicidal?” Detective Hunter inquired.

“No,” Kass protested. “She was not. She was scared. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. She was being abused. I’m sure of it. But she wasn’t suicidal.”

Detective Goddard quirked a brow as Detective Hunter scribbled some notes on his pad.

“Abused? Do you know who was abusing her?” Detective Hunter asked, and Detective Goddard followed up by inquiring, “Do you know who the father of her child is?”

“No,” Kass shook her head, ignoring her budding migraine. “She wouldn’t tell me. But I suspected he was the one hitting her.”

“What makes you so certain she wasn’t hurting herself?” Detective Goddard probbed.

Kass scrunched her face in total repulsion. “She was terrified. I’m sure there are medical records of her visits to the clinic and the hospital. She dyed her hair and changed her appearance. She had bruises on her body. She wore long-sleeved shirts to hide them, but I know she had them. Please will you tell me what her note said?”

“I’m sorry. It’s evidence,” Detective Hunter shook his head.

“Evidence!” Kass’s eyes widened.

“Madison was being treated for depression, did you know that?” Detective Goddard asked. “Because of the nature of her condition…” he trailed off, looking uncomfortable.

“She told me,” Kass bit out. “She said she couldn’t take traditional antidepressants because of the baby. But what aren’t you telling me? I refuse to believe Madison committed suicide by… by… by… fire…” she sputtered.

“That might be the case,” Detective Hunter continued. “But she was suicidal, was she not?”

Kass threw up her hands. “What is this? Are you questioning me because this was an accident or are you questioning me because you think this was something else… like murder?”

Detective Hunter narrowed his eyes, and Detective Goddard sighed and took off his hat, wiping his forehead. Kass thought she might throw up, as the sun beat down mercilessly against her warm clothes, meant for a cold ice rink, not a humid summer day. Given what she thought she knew about Madison’s mystery baby daddy, she wouldn’t put it past him to escalate from physical abuse to murder, as horrific as it sounded. This was unreal.

“We cannot rule anything out at this time,” Detective Goddard said. “But given all the evidence…”

“What was the nature of your relationship with Ms. Van Watson?” Detective Hunter immediately followed up.

“She was a friend,” Kass shrugged, trying to hold her head up even though she felt the pounding like a hammer into her skull. “I was concerned about her. I tried to help her.”

“You ever stay over at her place?”

“Madison didn’t have a place. She was staying with someone at the university… uh… one of your officers I think. Um… uh… Blair something? And she stayed at mine once.”

“Did you talk regularly on the phone?”


“Did Madison ask you for help?”

“Well… no… but…”

The detectives glanced at one another.

“Just how did you try and help her?” Detective Hunter asked, sounding annoyed.

“I… asked her… to um…” Kass winced, wishing she wore sunglasses. “I got her an appointment at the Free Clinic and I encouraged her to seek legal help… I asked for advice myself.”

“Who did you speak with?” Detective Hunter probed.

“You mean with whom did I speak?” Kass exhaled sharply. “Uh… my boss… um…” her eyes drifted toward the street as she noticed Davis blocked behind the police line, and she couldn’t hear what the firefighter said to him. “…Jennifer Martinez at Legal Aid.”

“You talked to your boss about your friend?” Detective Goddard  quirked a brow.

“Yes,” Kass said, exasperated. “Why is that so weird? I’m interning and Jennifer is a family friend.”

“And did Ms. Martinez give you any advice?”

She could see it again – the flashes of light in the ground, connecting all living things. She could hear Davis’ voice calling out like he did when she collapsed and conked her head, except this time, it wasn’t her own body. She lifted her hands in front of her face, but they weren’t her own. Peering through stringy hair, she could feel the wet cotton stick to her body. She could feel the blood pooling and dark outlines of pine trees. The rain fell harder, faster, pounding like bullets peppering her skin, and the sound of bones crushed by the weight of something searing hot. She shrieked and lifted her arms instinctively to protect herself from the blast.

As soon as it began, the vision ended. Detective Hunter was standing over her as she must have fallen back onto the pavement. He reached for her hand, but she shook her head, darkness engulfing his face. All she could hear was an angry voice.

“Hey call the paramedic!” Detective Goddard was waving at Davis when her brain finally began to make sense of who was actually there and what was actually happening. “She collapsed.”

“I’m…uh… fine…” she sat up and hugged her knees.

“No you’re not, darlin’,” Davis knelt beside her and rubbed her head gently. “This interrogation is over,” he looked up and insisted to the police officers.

“We’ll call you if we have any follow-ups,” Detective Hunter said awkwardly as he turned to walk away.

“I think we have what we need,” Detective Goddard tipped his hat.

Once they were out of earshot, Kass grabbed Davis’ arm in a panic.

“We’re taking you back to the hospital,” he said.

“No, I’m fine,” Kass protested. “Something’s wrong. Something’s terribly terribly wrong. Something… do you smell that?” she sniffed the air. “It’s terrible. He’s…” she narrowed her eyes, watching the retreating footsteps of the police detectives, specifically Detective Hunter. “…terrible.”

Davis wrinkled his nose. “Kass, no need to be insultin’ the officers. They’re doing their job. Aw… we pushed too hard today,” he swiped a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, darlin’. It’s my fault.”

“That smell,” she shuddered. “There’s no mistake.”

“It’s just soot and ash, Kass,” Davis cupped her head. “We’re going to get you checked out. Make sure you’re okay.”

“No,” she protested, gripping her boyfriend’s shoulder so tightly that her knuckles were white as her voice dropped to a whisper. “…it’s not okay. Madison was murdered.”

Author Notes: I’ve had these other images in my archive also. In game, Kass reacted to a fire at the Quarter Rest Inn where Madison died. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures of the officers who questioned Kass during this scene, but I’m sticking to my “no new pictures” rule. I ditched that whole story line the first time through because I felt like it was too much, but this time, I’ve decided to up the stakes and include the mystery. I didn’t really have a plan during my first go-around with this story. This time, I have a  plan,  a detailed outline, and structure. Thanks for reading.