Tag Archives: Carina Fullbright

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.  

1.112 Tiffs and Tunafish (KCLKF)

Friday, July 13, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde 

“I can’t believe you used all the hot water! You’re so selfish!” Carina shrieked.

Andi took a step back, bracing for an onslaught of verbal abuse. She tilted her chin ever so slightly to assert her position.

“Me? You are the one that takes a shower for an hour!” she protested.

“Oh gawd!” Cari ran a hand through her hair. “I’m going to die in a cold ice bath, aren’t I?”

Andi snorted. “Aren’t you being just a little over-dramatic? We can heat water on the gas stove!”

“But that takes work,” Cari whined.

“Yeah, how’do’ya’think our ancestors did it?” Andi crinkled her nose. “Light a match, Carina!”

“GAH!!” Cari yelled.

Kass pressed her lips together at the sound of doors slamming. She managed to fill the one upstairs bookshelf with Carina’s magazines, her mamma’s textbooks, Andromeda’s paintings and sheet music, and her own Takaharan graphic novels. They managed to salvage the bookcase, much to her relief. The family could share the space for awhile. Smoke-damaged cabinets and doors had been tossed, and many pieces of furniture had been damaged by the fire hoses. She was grateful some of the pieces of their home hadn’t been utterly destroyed. She moved downstairs to unpack small kitchen appliances and find paper plates for lunch.

Around noon, Fiona McIrish delivered tunafish sandwiches, welcoming the girls back to the neighborhood. With the spotty electricity, it was hard to keep things fresh in the refrigerator. Kass graciously thanked her mother’s friend. They weren’t home yet as they waited for the aftermath of the latest natural disaster to pass. The wealthier neighborhoods, like where her grandparents and the Altos lived, could afford expensive generators to keep the lights on. All other power in the Valley was limited, and each neighborhood was selected on a lottery basis by city officials. Some town buildings like the police and fire departments and hospitals and city hall maintained their power at all times for obvious reasons: emergency response, health and medical, and general governance. In the meantime, most neighbors helped each other out, and few ventured far from home, except…

The Fullbright sisters were tasked with unpacking boxes in their mostly repaired home. Lack of power did make the chore more difficult. The second earthquake of the summer unexpectedly hit the Valley two days ago, this one not as devastating as the last, but the rolling blackouts were still a major inconvenience. Many stores operated on abbreviated hours. Most of downtown was shut down. Public transportation ceased operating as power failures meant gas pumps couldn’t work properly. Governor Vita Alto urged everyone to stay home if possible. Of course, Amy insisted the family keep putting stuff back together at the family home. The girls need some normalcy, she told her father when Rafe inquired. Kass didn’t mind working in the dark. It was peaceful until…

“I’m a vegetarian!” her middle sister shrieked. “I can’t eat tuna sandwiches.”

“Fish isn’t meat,” her youngest sister retorted.

“Fish is meat, stupid!” Cari squawked.

“Hey! I have a higher IQ than you,” Andi protested. “And you ate salmon at nonna’s last week.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

Kass covered her ears, and banged her head into the refinished redwood countertops as her sisters’ loud argument blasted through the floorboards.

“Some vegetarians still eat fish,” Andi announced. “They are called pescetarians.”

“Oh shove off! Go swim with the fishes,” Cari howled.

“I will not!” Andi stomped her foot.

“What else are you using all the hot water for?” Cari grunted. “You’re either part mermaid or you’re an waster. Without power, there’s no way to heat the water.”

“Stop it!” Andi cried. “Stop being mean. I already told you we can heat water downstairs. We can light the stove.”

“Waster… waster… waster!” Cari said, raising her voice with each repetition. 

“Oh yeah!” Andi sniffed, but she couldn’t think of a good retort. “Let’s not argue anymore…”

“Argue?” Carina exclaimed. “You started it.” 

“How childish is that!” Andi sighed. 

“How irresponsible of you to let it escalate to this,” Cari banged her fist against the wall. 

The chandelier over Kass’ head rattled. Lightning zigzagged through the sky outside the window. She glanced overhead and held her breath. Thunder rattled the house.

“My thoughts exactly,” she grumbled.

As she trudged up the stairs, she did notice that water was no longer dripping from the ceilings or through the windows. Abe’s father did a good job on the roof and with the sealants.

“Guys!” Kass sighed, dreading the coming responses as she approached the top step.

“We’re not guys,” Cari and Andi said in unison.

“Girls!” Kass cleared her throat loudly, and stomped her foot.

Thunder roared in tandem as if to emphasize her point. Both of her sisters fell silent.

“Now this is ridiculous. Mrs. McIrish did a nice thing in bringing us lunch,” Kass continued. “If you don’t want to eat it, you don’t have to, Carina.”

Cari responded with a ‘hmpf!’ and crossed her arms.

“And Andi…” Kass addressed her little sister. “If you used up all the hot water in the bathtub, can you help Cari warm up some more? Why are you both taking baths anyway?”

“Ha!” Cari pointed a finger in a mocking manner.

“Because we’ve been sweating and working hard,” Andi sniffled, and wiped her nose.

“Because I’m all gross,” Cari squirmed. “Ew… I can’t go back out looking like this.”

“You look fine,” Kass said. “Both of you. Now come eat lunch please.”

“Do I have to eat with her?” Andi asked.

Cari sighed in exasperation. “I’ll eat in my room,” she declared with balled fists.

“No,” Kass caught her sister’s hand. “Now stop this! You two are ridiculous! We’re in the middle of a crisis and you’re arguing over petty things. Really! Can’t you two be more grownup than this?”

Cari and Andi glared at each other as if wordlessly challenging each other to a staring contest. Kass stood, awkwardly shifting her weight, as she wondered what really prompted this idiotic bickering. High stress certainly contributed to tensions in the household. Neither one of her younger sisters were thrilled with sharing a room at the grandparents. Nonna insisted on keeping at least one spare bedroom in case the maid couldn’t get home due to the power issues so the sisters had been forced to bunk together. Kass would’ve gladly given up her room and shared with one of her siblings if it meant that they stopped fighting. She would have continued to stay at her dad’s, but Kate came home last night.

Andi relented first, relaxing her face. “I’m sorry, Carina,” she said, softly. “Kass is right. We should all eat together.”

“Yeah… I guess,” Cari reluctantly agreed, kicking the floor with the toe of her black sneaker. “We don’t know how many more of these meals we’re getting.”

“Cari, we’re not destitute!” Kass gasped.

“No… I meant…” her sister’s face scrunched. “I meant…” she said, more loudly. “With you leaving in a month.”

“Oh,” Kass replied.

She still hadn’t decided if university was really the right choice at the moment. There were still so many unresolved questions, and her mamma obviously needed her. Amy had once again picked her new family, going to help Clark’s boys pick up supplies instead of working with her daughters to unpack their home. In a long line of maternal disappointments, Amy no longer surprised Kass with any of her actions or reactions. Kass simply braced for impact and went ahead with plans regardless. A loud knock at the door plucked her out of her depressing thoughts.

“I’ll get it,” Cari shouted, and ran toward the stairs.

“No I will!” Andi cried and began to slide down the banister.

“No fair,” Cari protested when the youngest Fullbright beat her to the door.

Kass took a few steps down the stairs before she could see their guest. Clark. She quirked a brow. He offered a toothy grin, and removed his rain-soaked beanie.

“Do you mind if I come in?” he asked. “I brought dessert.”

“Dessert!” both Cari and Andi squealed in unison.

“They’re easy bribes,” Kass said, shoving her hands into her pockets as her sisters ran into the kitchen happily tearing into the bag of black-and-white cookies.

“I figured since Amy is in Oakland with my boys, I should stop by and check on you girls,” Clark explained.

Kass tilted her head and mouthed her thanks. “You saved me from a tiff about whether fish was meat or not… among other things.”

Clark chuckled uncomfortably.

“You’ll have to get used to it,” Kass shrugged.

“Oh, and I know a guy who repairs stuff, so…” Clark walked out the front door. “If you’ll follow me…”

Kass walked through the doorway. Her eyes widened. On the front lawn sat her guitar. It appeared good as new. Every broken string replaced. The wood resealed. The paint painstakingly finished. Clark lifted his hand toward the sky.

“Hmmm… it’s a good thing the rain stopped,” he made a face, raising an eyebrow.

Her eyes sparkled and she smirked. “Wow… you did this?”

“No… uh… Kaden… he’s good with his hands,” Clark said, a bit of pride peaking in his voice. “…he plays too.”

“Please…” Kass swallowed the lump in her throat. “…tell him thanks.”

“I will, oh!” Clark reached into his pocket and pulled out a laminated identification card. “I got you what you needed too. This should get you into the city hall’s records room tomorrow night. We’re keeping the lights on twenty-four-seven because Mayor Landgrabb insists.”

“Guess I keep thanking you,” Kass said, taking the badge. “Do I…”

“You’ll need to dress the part,” Clark added. “These credentials will only get you so far.”

“I need to blend in,” Kass nodded. “Got it,” she thumbed toward the house. “Are you joining us? We’ve got tunafish sandwiches. The neighbor brought it over.”

“I do happen to like tuna,” he nodded, but thumbed back at his truck idling along the curb. He had left the engine running. “But I should get back.”

Kass shook her head. “You’re gonna be family, hmm? So families eat together, right? We’d love for you to join us.”

Clark’s face softened, and she could see the emotions welling in his blue eyes. “You mean that, Kass?”

“Yeah, Clark, I mean that.”

Author Notes: Hey it’s a bunch of unused never-before-seen pictures. I thought it would be fun to include a chapter where Clark shows up again. The plot is moving along, I promise, but I am enjoying some of these down times where things aren’t quite so high octane. I hope you don’t mind. Plus it gives me an opportunity to share things that are going on around Sunset Valley. 

As Coronavirus scare is growing here where I live, the ‘state of emergency’ rings close to home for me, and I imagine, many of my readers. I also think it’s important to remember to care for others around us. As humans, we’re all in this together. Of course, an earthquake and rolling blackouts are a different situation and this is a fictional story, but I think we could all benefit from things like Clark and Kaden’s kindness right now. 🙂 Keep calm and be kind to those around you. Okay, enough of my little PSA. Thanks for reading.

1.105 Three Sad Stories (KCLKF)

Sunday, July 8, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

The world turned.

Kass slipped into her favorite green top. The tag clawed the back of her neck. She changed to her favorite blue jeans, yet with every step, the denim strained against her legs. Her toes shuffled beneath her hem, only peeking out for the practicality of walking. A chill rippled down her arms, and she almost wished for a sweater even in the warmth of the afternoon. Mac obliged her whim to walk.

Home was chaotic. Nonno quibbled with the painter in the driveway over a five simoleon difference. No, he would not pay for less than perfect work. Nonna sighed, her smile a little too thin to be genuine, stress lines scribbling across her temples as she attempted to coax her daughter to leave the room. No, she would not tolerate childish behavior in a grown woman. Mamma howled behind locked closed doors over the loss of a friend and former classmate. Jennifer attended university with Amy, No, she would not emerge and eat lunch in the formal dining room with mascara-stained cheeks. Andi groaned about VJ’s need to work and Carina griped about the maid misplacing her favorite heels. Kass couldn’t go looking for Davis. Macchiato was the only life form who wouldn’t argue, judge, cry, whine, or complain to Kass and still provide a presence.

The little pitter patter of his claws against the sidewalk echoed the drumming of her heart. With every step downhill, she could feel the immense weight of the world encroaching upon her soul. Death and life all appeared to be a taunting tragedy of comedic proportions. If she weren’t so furious, she would laugh. Mac stopped to sniff a dandelion pushing through a crack in the sidewalk. She bent, absently stroking his fur more as a soothing attempt than a genuine act of affection. He turned and met her gaze, his large brown eyes reading the tension of the moment. He laid his ear lovingly against her hand as if fully aware his head would become soaked with tears. He didn’t seem to mind.

Monday, July 9, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

The house still felt empty.

It was almost haunted. Or at least that’s the impression the wind gave as it whistled through the hastily boarded walls of their former home. The family slowly filled the home with pieces of furniture, remnants of a former life. Andi assumed this is much what an alien from a forest land felt like on a desert world, devoid of the love and laughter and color that made life worth living.  They pulled each fitting and furnishing from storage, what few bits remained. It wasn’t the same. It wasn’t home. Even if the walls were in place and the floorboards were safe to traverse and the bar held up against the battering ram.

Two barstools and a bar. It wasn’t much. It was normalcy starved. The appearance of stability without the security. Nothing was lasting. Childhood. Innocence. Home. Safety. Boyfriend. Love. Family. Hope. Each word important in the lyric, but disconnected from the composition. Her piano was crushed beneath the weight of the caving roof. It could be replaced, but nothing would ever be the same. She pulled a glass from the cupboard. She grabbed a bottle of vodka. One sip and the sorrows would go away, right?

Tuesday, July 10, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

The stuff of legends.

Carina sat on the red and tan couch, the one she always thought was ugly. Red and white could be peppermint. Red and tan was what? Blood and caramel? The matching chair sat in its place too. She shot a disdainful glare in its humble direction. Of all things, the couch and its cousin survived the wreckage.

Someone had tacked a news article on the wall as if to fill space. It wasn’t really a pretty decoration. Not like the purple beads around her neck or the lace around her scarlet blouse. Two postcards were staged on the coffee table, something Andi had fetched from a dumpster. It wasn’t even theirs. That wasn’t what annoyed Carina. A mountain scene on one postcard and a volcano on the other. The pictures out of line. Carina huffed and reached over to straighten the pieces.

The television was much smaller than their last. It would work, she winced. Fine. Not great. The cable wasn’t hooked up yet. She managed to untangle the cords and connect a video player. The only tape she could find was of a young girl stranded on an island who befriends a monkey and crafts mansions in the sand to pass the time. Carina scoffed and turned off the device after a few minutes. It was time for the funeral and she needed to change. Who has time to build sandcastles when cities are crumbling for real?

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. This chapter just kind-of happened. Maybe it doesn’t really advance the plot much. Maybe it doesn’t belong here, but I felt the need to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake again (results from a natural disaster don’t just go away even after you start picking up the pieces) and the aftermath of earth-shattering news  for Kass (i.e. Jennifer’s death and Davis’ tragic past). It’s the physical versus the psychological, and all the Fullbright sisters are dealing with this on some level. Each of them has different, though not always the healthiest coping mechanism. I’d probably argue Kass actually has the most cathartic healing moment in this chapter. While unpleasant, I hope you don’t mind the divergence. 

1.98 The “Real” Deal (KCLKF)

Monday, July 2nd, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Kass opened the door quietly. She didn’t want to meet anyone. No one was in sight and no one called out. Empty. Just like I feel. She cast her gaze upward at the amber chandelier, noticing how the fading sunlight from the skylight caught the dripping pendants. Her nonna had a thing for earth tones.

After a long day at work, she wasn’t sure she was ready to have any kind of conversation with her siblings. Poking her head into the den, she noticed Andi curled up asleep on the couch. Mac lifted his head from his dutiful position, his warm brown eyes following her as she entered the room.

“Hi boy,” she greeted softly, giving him an affectionate pat on the head.

Andi didn’t even stir. An old re-run of Chef Wars played on the television. Kass winced and turned down the volume. Then she tiptoed into the kitchen, noticing a handwritten note on the counter.

Girls, if you get back before we do, I thought I’d let you know your Nonno and I went to see a movie. Your mamma is resting. She has a headache. Ms. Mata can whip you up something for dinner if you’re hungry. No need to trouble yourself. ♥ Nonna

She sighed. She didn’t really want to trouble anyone, but lately it felt like she brought nothing but trouble to people she cared about. She trudged up the stairs, trying to even out her breathing as she approached Carina’s room.

“Can I come in?”

Kass knocked softly on the door. She heard her sister grunt, and interpreted the response as a go-ahead. Cari sat cross-legged on her pale pink comforter, flipping through magazines while painting her toenails. It was a common activity for Carina, but Kass could tell her shoulders were a little more tense as they hunched, and her music was a little louder, indicating her frustration.

“Nonna will have your butt if you drip polish on the bed,” Kass grimaced as she walked to open a window and waved her arm. “To air it out.”

“Thanks,” Cari replied, without looking up.

“Is that cherry red?” Kass inquired.

“No Fire Engine No. 5,” Cari corrected. “But I doubt you are here to talk nail polish colors.”

“No,” Kass picked up a throw pillow and hugged it to her chest as she plopped in the cream colored armchair. “I’m not.”

Carina continued to focus her attention on her toes, touching up her left center toe. Kass wondered when the last time she did her nails with her sisters. It was a fun activity they used to do on the back porch, usually at the start of summer. One year Mamma even painted dots on their toes for ladybugs. After they were done, they would sit out in the sun and talk about their vacation plans while the polish dried. Sometimes Carina would plan a whole new outfit around whatever polish she selected. She liked to color coordinate.

“This disease stuff is serious,” Cari spoke first, her tone hesitant, but distant. “Isn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Kass acknowledged. “I’ve been doing some research… and I’ve been seeing the doctor.”

“And you’re?” Cari’s eyes widened as she tilted her head in concern.

“I’m okay,” Kass assured. “I’ve got some things I’m working through, but I don’t have EXCES.”

Cari exhaled sharply. “And I should get tested?”

“Just to be sure you’re okay,” Kass said. “I’m sorry. It was totally stupid of me to hold out on you… in case your health… was compromised,” she grimaced.

Cari fell silent. For the first time, Kass realized the severity of her choice. If her sisters’ had EXCES and she held that information back from them… she would’ve never forgiven herself. She fully deserved Carina’s wrath, and for that matter, Andi’s as well.

“You wanna go shopping?” Cari intruded on her sister’s thoughts.

Kass blinked, rapidly. Her sister wanted to bypass all the awkward conversation and make up? Just like that?

“I’m not happy you didn’t tell me,” Cari closed the polish bottle. “Maybe I overreacted last night.”

“Traitor was pretty harsh,” Kass chuckled, weakly.

“Maybe,” Carina shifted off the bed and wiggled her toes. “I think you should’ve told me sooner. I still don’t want to talk to dad.”

“I won’t force you,” Kass shook her head.

“…but you’re not the enemy,” Cari declared. “He’s the one who left us and messed things up.”

“Yeah,” Kass sighed.

There were two sides to every story. It was hard to imagine her mother didn’t have some fault. But she didn’t blame Cari for her anger, even if it was directed at Kass. She probably deserved some of it for being too chicken to tell her sisters sooner.

“And it’s my birthday in two days,” Cari grinned. “So you like… owe me!”

Kass quirked a brow. “I owe you, huh?” She winced. “Does this mean all is forgiven?”

“I’ll get tested,” Cari agreed with a dramatic sigh. She picked up a pillow from the bed and tossed it at Kass’ face. “Don’t hold out on me again!”

Kass ducked and hid behind her own pillow. “I won’t. I promise.”

“Then you’re gonna buy me something,” Cari grinned. “Retail therapy is the best kind.”

Cari sighed as she began loosely sliding shirts around on the rack. “Why’d you take me to this dingy place?”

Kass wrinkled her nose. The Sell n’ Swap was probably not her sister’s first choice, but they did offer a nice selection of consignment clothing. Sometimes one could find hidden gems – clean-cut button down with pearly buttons for work, a Cat Woman costume like the one Kass purchased for Spooky Day the previous year, and even a pair of Jimmy Two-Shoes, which retailed for hundreds of simoleons at a thirty-percent discount. Sometimes there were even literal jewels. Kass eyed the proprietor as he assisted another customer, waiting for her moment to ask him a follow-up question regarding her bisnonna’s brooch.

“It’s not so bad,” Kass replied as she fingered a soft floral dress featured on the mannequin.

Cari placed a hand on her hip. “For real? There’s only nurse’s scrubs on this rack,” she tilted her chin upward. “And would you like… ever wear that?”

Kass grimaced. “Well, no, the brown’s a little…”

“Mousy?” Cari finished. “Like that suit you always wear to work? You gotta be more fashion forward, sis…” she turned and began shuffling through the folded tees and blouses.

“Hey, that suit…suits…me… w…well…” Kass stammered, defensively tucking a hair behind her ear.

“Riiight,” Cari grinned and poked her head around the rack. “You hate clothes shopping?”

“Then why’d I come with you?” Kass narrowed her eyes, teasingly.

Cari smiled, knowingly. “Just… go over there… or something… look at their cds.”

Kass took the opportunity to speak to the shopkeeper. His brow puckered in recognition.

Mzzz. Fullbright,” he greeted. “I see you’ve returned. I’ve been meaning to call you.”

“Oh?” she arched a brow. “You have?”

“Yes,” Horace replied. “Did you ever do anything with that invisible ink?”

“Oh…” Kass sighed, her shoulders tensing. “No… I… uh… lost the book… during the earthquake.”

“That is too bad,” Horace said, leaning an elbow on the counter and his head on his closed fist. “You were so insistent on purchasing it at a good price.”

Kass resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “You had something to tell me?”

“That quack of a vamp healer came into my shop the other day,” Horace rolled his eyes, speaking in a low, controlled tone. “You might recall him. His woman wanted healing crystals?”

Kass frowned, remembering how she felt uneasy around the man, how he practically glowed, like an evil red ember. Now she knew he was a pyre. Horace confirmed it with his prejudicial statements. She didn’t have to wonder long how the man with the mohawk and the woman in the snakeskin jacket were connected.

“They came back. I told her we don’t deal in black market trinkets,” Horace continued.

“And?” Kass leaned against the counter eagerly.

“She told me she had something to trade,” Horace said. “That’s when she asked me if I’d make an exception if she happened to find something…” he took off his glasses and began cleaning the lenses against his grey wool sweater. “And I quote…” he paused for dramatic effect. “…’if that girl in the purple sweater is looking for it.'”

Kass’ eyes bugged. “That’s me,” she exclaimed hoarsely, coughed and cleared her throat. “…me! She found my brooch?”

“I couldn’t let them get away,” Horace puffed out his chest in pride. “So I took the piece.”

Kass gasped. “They found it? How?”

Horace shrugged. “They said it…” he made air quotes. “‘happened to come’ into their possession. Right? Like two leeches found a moonstone brooch on the street.”

“So where is it?”

Cari approached from the other side of the clothing rack. Kass whirled away from the counter.

“Kass?” Cari asked, leaning forward in anticipation.  “I found a Runway dress that’s just gorge…and it’s got like…” she squealed and demonstrated by running her hand down her torso. “…sequins down the side.”

“How much?” Kass braced herself for the big money.

“That’s the thing… it’s like really cheap,” Cari exclaimed.

“Hey!” Horace interjected. “I don’t do cheap. I do vintage and moderate,” he pushed his glasses up from the bridge of his nose.

“Like five hundred simoleons,” Cari brought her shoulder to her ear with a cute, but manipulative smile. “But it’s like fifteen hundred at full retail… and you like owe me.”

“Not that much!” Kass gasped.

It was a week’s worth of pay.

“Not this time Carina,” Kass shook her head. “How about that nice white and grey floral shirt you found and liked?”

Cari walked away, folding her arms over her chest while grumbling beneath her breath. Horace hiked his chin.

“You can’t deal with Horace Horner prices?” he said, snobbily. “Then go elsewhere.”

“A Runway dress, huh?” Kass remarked, noticing her sister oogling the beautiful sequined gown, probably mourning the fact that she couldn’t afford it on her own.

“It’s the real deal,” Horace insisted, proudly combing his hair as he tilted his head to the side.

What does she think? I’m made of simos? She should’ve asked Nonna to take her shopping then. Kass narrowed her eyes wondering why the gown was missing its original tags. If it really was a Runway piece, then wouldn’t the original tags help sell the dress?

“I think I’ll NetQuest the actual retail price because five hundred seems high for a knock-off,” she pulled out her phone.

Horace raised his hands to his face and dropped his jaw.

“The tags,” Kass remarked without looking up. “But if I walk over there, I bet it’s missing the signature ‘R’ on the collar that the real dress would have.”

Thank you, Scarlett for once for a useful piece of information. Gage’s half-sister once bragged that her mother modeled for Runway. Kass had to listen to the girl repeat, ad nauseum, details about their dresses and showed Kass several pictures of her mother modeling the signature line.

He raised his hands in defeat. “Okay, I sell it to you at three hundred.”

“Not today, and you were about to tell me about the brooch,” Kass smiled and slipped her phone back into her pocket.

“I don’t have it,” Horace admitted.

“What?” Kass said, stunned.

Horace leaned over the counter. “Yes, I had to turn it over to the police by law, of course.”

“Are you sure it was my brooch?” Kass asked, noticing Carina had turned her eyes to a pair of ruby slippers in the window.

“Yes, just as you described. Oh…” Horace smiled and clasped his hands to his chest. “I verified it myself. The real deal. It was beautiful. Such an opalescent sheen. You said it belonged to your bisnonna?”

“And you didn’t call me first?” Kass exclaimed.

“A Detective Hunter came and picked it up,” Horace confirmed.

“What?” Kass repeated her earlier question. “He did? When? Are you sure it was Detective… Hunter?”

“Last night,” Horace mopped his brow. “And yes, he insisted he come pick up the piece himself. Something about ‘chain of custody?'”

And they didn’t call me? Kass frowned. She walked over and took her sister’s arm.

“Thank you, Mr. Horner, you’ve been very helpful,” she called over her shoulder.

“Hey wait!” Carina protested.

“Aren’t you going to buy something?” Horace called after them and waved his hand as the bell above the door dinged.

“Are we… like… going to the Sun Valley Mall or something?” Carina asked as Kass steered her toward the street.

“No…” Kass waved her hand in the air, flagging a yellow city taxi. “Yes.”

Carina tilted her head in confusion.

“Yes…” Kass made a face as a cab passed them by. She whistled loudly and another pulled alongside the curb. “But first… I need to make a phone call first.”

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. The mysterious brooch reappears, and the strange couple returns, but first… I never felt like Kass and Cari received the closure they needed after their fight so I felt it was appropriate to give those two a chance to talk (instead of Andi and Kass). Andi and Kass will have their moment, but later. Hope you enjoyed. 

1.97 Ready, Fire, Aim (KCLKF)

Sunday, July 1st, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“I straightened my hair,” Andi said. “What do you think?”

VJ shrugged. “Looks nice, baby.”

“Mister Koffi is the best hairdresser in the state,” Andi declared, contently running her fingers through her locks.

Gobias Koffi had been the Fullbright’s stylist for years, since Andromeda was still crawling around in diapers. He loved making clients happy and feel confident about their looks.

He beamed with pride. “I like to think you’re going to be a starlet someday.”

Andi shook her head, smiling shyly. “No ambitions to be an actress. Just an artist. And that’s what you are, Mister Koffi.”

“No Mister Koffi me,” he laughed lightly. “Just call me Gobias.”

“I’ve known you forever,” Andi winced. “I’ve never called you anything but Mister Koffi.”

“Makes me feel old, darling,” he removed his glasses and cleaned the lens against his patterned shirt. “And you…” he eyed VJ sharply. “Can have a makeover anytime you choose. I’ll give you the friends and family discount.”

“Uh?” VJ scratched his head. “Thanks?”

“My usual please?” Carina inquired of the portly barista as she ordered soothing chamomile. “No wait… uh…” she scratched her head a little. “…what other teas do you have today?”

“We’ve got peppermint and sweet grass and bumbleleaf,” Abe offered.

“Got anything to cure romantic blues?” Carina quipped, and then frowned immediately. “Oh gawd! I’m so sorry. How you holdin’ up?”

“Oh, I’m holdin’,” Abe forced a smile. “Life goes on… I guess. It wasn’t like Maddy and I were doing all that well at the end.”

“Still, it’s an epic loss,” she said, dramatically. “I’m sorry.”

He shrugged. “I’d rather not talk about it. We just got in a new kind of cinnamon tea. It’s supposed to be good for energy and romance, I think libido…” he sighed. “Oh, are you too young for this?”

“Probably,” she grinned. “But I’ll take a medium sized cinnamon tea if you don’t mind.”

“Coming right up,” he replied.

“How’s my best customer?” Jade Moss winked and opened her arms. “You know I’ve always thought of you as a granddaughter.”

“Aww… thanks, Granny,” Kass grinned, offering the coffeehouse proprietress a hug.

“I hear my grandson might be moving in with you this fall,” she said, her blue eyes twinkling.

“Whoa! Whoa!” Kass waved her hands. “No… it’s too soon. No we’re not moving in together. I’m pretty sure I’m in a dorm. Uh… wow… did you really think that? We just started dating.”

Jade smiled warmly. “I see you bring out good things in my grandson. I’m happy for you two. It’s been a long time for him.”

Kass frowned as she climbed the stairs. Was Davis’ grandmother referencing an ex? For all their talk about Gage, and even Cyrus, they hadn’t actually discussed his romantic past.

This should be interesting, Kass thought as she spotted her kid sister’s boyfriend, chatting with the family hairdresser.

“Mister Koffi,” she exclaimed in greeting. “Like the shirt.”

“Thanks, my boyfriend picked it out,” he remarked, stretching his neck like a proud peacock. “And seriously, girl, call me Gobias. You’re what? Eighteen now.”

“He’s got a good sense of style,” Kass nodded. “And yeah I’m eighteen.”

“Yes he does,” Andi agreed. “I hope you don’t mind VJ tagged along.”

“Mind?” Kass shook her head. “No, not really.”

“Great,” Andi grinned, her freckled cheeks turning a slight happy pink. “I’m gonna order.”

“Hi you must be VJ,” Kass reached out to shake his hand. “I’m Kass, Andi’s older sister.”

“Nice to meet you,” VJ said. “I hope I’m not butting in on sister time.”

“Not at all,” Kass lied. “Do you have any siblings?”

“A little brother,” VJ replied. “Miraj. He’s a lot younger though so we don’t do much together except when he needs help on homework. Maths.”

“Yeah, maths are rough,” Kass bobbed her head.

“I’ll let you ladies catch up and I’ll be over here. Foosball is calling my name,” he said. “Gobias, how ’bout we go around with Mrs. Keaton here?”

“You’re on, kid,” Gobias grinned.

“So spill,” she wiggled her shoulders as she settled into the chair. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?” Kass swallowed hard and feigned a smile. “Can’t I just want to spend time with my sisters?”

“Okay…” Andi crossed her arms. “Then I’ll invite VJ back over here.”

“And I’ll go get a refill on my cinnamon tea,” Carina said with a ‘hmph’ and scratched at the back of her neck.

When Carina was two, she fell off a horse. Mamma wanted a family photo on a dude ranch in Point Reyes. Kass was barely five, and Andi was just a baby. Cari was bleeding from her head. Twenty-seven stitches. That’s what she needed. And a transfusion. From her father. The scar remained at the base of her skull to this day. What if Howard transferred something to Carina?

When Andi was six, she nearly drowned in the ocean. She was chasing seagulls and fell right into the water. Sucked out to sea by the riptide, she could’ve died. Howard rescued his youngest child and gave her mouth-to-mouth. What if the oxygen in his lungs was contaminated?

Kass swallowed hard and closed her eyes for a second. These were her sisters. Her blood. They had a right to know. They had a right to know about their father.

“Come on Kass. You dragged me out of the house when there’s a Haute Knights episode on TV,” Cari snipped. “I’d better be here for a good reason.”

“Cari, there’s this thing called DVR,” Andi rolled her eyes.

Kass grunted. Scarlett’s dad was on that show.

“It’s the experience, sheesh! Andi! Popcorn, sparkling cider, doing my nails, and Haute Knights. I do it every Monday night. You should know,” Cari exclaimed, waving her arms erratically.

“Calm down, Cari,” Kass urged.

“So you didn’t just want to hang out, did you?” Andi probed.

“Okay,” Kass sighed. “I wanted to tell you about something…someone… well, it concerns you, so I thought you should know.”

“What could that pos-si-bl-y be?” Cari huffed.

“Cut the sarcasm for five seconds, please?” Kass begged, the irritation building in her tone. “What I’m about to tell you is crazy, but I thought you should know because it does concern you and your health.”

“My health?” Andi blinked rapidly.

“What?” Cari grunted.

“I saw Dad,” Kass admitted quietly.

“WHA?” Cari shouted. “You did what? How could you! You traitor!”

“Cari, hush, people are staring,” Kass winced, warning softly.

“You saw dad?” Andi repeated.

“Yes,” Kass affirmed. “I did. He met me for coffee a little over a week ago. He wanted to congratulate me on graduating and to tell me about his health…”

“I don’t give one flying hoot about his health!” Cari snapped. “He’s a llama’s ass and he shouldn’t have contacted you. And you shouldn’t have seen him.”

“Cari, your language,” Andi blanched.

“Well he is,” she grunted.

“Cari, please, you’re not making it easy to tell you,” Kass said, feeling defeated.

“Okay, so what is it?” Cari said, impatiently.

“Howard has EXCES,” Kass burst out.

Both sisters stared in shock. Customers chattered in the background, light music streamed through the radio, and the espresso machine whirred, cutting the tension in the awkward silence. Andi spoke first.

“Doesn’t that mean…” she started.

“Yes,” Kass nodded, my voice barely above a whisper.

“What the Hades, Kass? Dad’s an alien?!?” Cari exclaimed.

“Cari, language,” Andi sighed sadly.

“I don’t care, Andi, our sister drags us out of the house tonight for coffee…”

“Oh, you make it sound like I forced you here, Cari. I didn’t drag you here kicking and screaming,” Kass threw her hands up in the air.

“…and then you tell us you met with Dad and if that isn’t enough, now you’re telling me Dad has some kind of alien disease and what? So we might have it too? What a jerk! How could he drop a bomb on me like that? On us!? How could you? I mean, our lives were perfectly fine until now and this stupid earthquake ruined everything too.”

“Not everything is about you, Carina! This affects all of us and if you’d just pull yourself out of your own world, you’d see that,” Kass sighed.

“Both of you just calm down,” Andi interjected.

“I will not calm down!” Cari refused. “How can you be so calm? We just found out we’re aliens.”

“We are not aliens!” Kass countered.

“No, but we’ve got alien DNA in us,” Cari cried. “I don’t have any friends as is and no boyfriend and now… uhhh!” she stomped her feet in quick succession. “This is going to make it worse.”

“Still thinking only of yourself,” Kass clenched and uncurled her fists at her sister’s tantrum.

“Would both of you stop being so selfish for one moment and just all take a breath? We need to figure this out!” Andi said rationally.

“I don’t want to figure it out. I didn’t want anything to do with Howard before today and I certainly don’t want anything to do with him now,” Cari huffed.

“Please…” Andi said, tears welling in her eyes. “Please… I… I’m going to talk to VJ.”

Andi’s shoulders hunched as she walked away, almost defeated. VJ gave her a hug, and then glanced in their direction with a worried look. He said something incoherent. Andi shook her head and pointed to the foosball table.

“Great! Look at what you did!” Cari exclaimed, leaping to her feet.

“What I did!” Kass said defensively. “What you did! You have to go blowing everything out of proportion, don’t you.”

“I resent that,” Cari narrowed her eyes. “If you had any sense at all, you’d protect her instead of exposing her to the sins of our father.”

“Cari, he didn’t cause his own disease. He doesn’t even know who his biological family members really are. And he had no idea until recently.”

“How do you know that?”

“I don’t think he’d lie to us.”

“He procreated! And then he had the nerve to tell us ‘oh sorry, by the way, I have an alien disease, and maybe you do too.’”

“Cari, sarcasm isn’t helpful. And how can you be so ungrateful? If he didn’t ‘procreate,’ you and I wouldn’t be here.”

“I know that! Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here!”

Kass caught her breath, disbelieving what Carina just said. What did she mean? An overwhelming urge to hug her sister washed over her. She wanted to tell her everything would be okay, but she refrained. She wouldn’t take it well.

“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t here. It’d have been easier on Mamma with just two kids instead of three and I’m such a loser to boot.”

“Carina, you aren’t a loser.”

“Yeah well I’m the progeny of a cheating bastard and a depressed mood-swinging mother and now all of you have somebody special in your lives and I don’t. I can’t stand it. My life is ruined.”

“Your life isn’t ruined. We’ll get through this.”

“How can you say that? How can I ever trust you again?”

Cari covered her face and ran away in angry tears. Kass garnered quite a few looks from the coffee shop patrons. She awkwardly rubbed her face on her sleeve, feeling tears forming in her eyes.

“Hey I overheard…” Abe approached cautiously. “Uh… are you okay?”

“No, just everything in my life is falling apart,” Kass said sarcastically, and laughed joylessly. “Gives a whole new meaning to Ready. Fire. Aim. I should’ve known…” she cast her gaze to her shoes.

“Well, I just want to make sure you and your sisters are okay,” Abe said, his face concerned.

“Thanks,” Kass said genuinely. “We’ll be okay. I’m sorry you had to see that. And for… uh ruining the ambience on the patio.”

Abe shrugged. “Eh… I’ve seen worse for a Sunday night. Live entertainment always spices things up.”

“Hey!” she winced.

“You still want that mocha you ordered?” he asked softly. “I can make you a new one.”

“Gawd! No!” she shook her head and pulled a few Simoleons from her pocket. “Sorry. I never picked it up.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he waved his hands. “On the house.”

“You sure?” she tilted her head skeptically.

“Hey, you raised money for a service for Maddy,” Abe replied. “The least I can do is give you a free drink.”

Her smile waned in sadness. She reached out her arms and offered a sympathetic embrace to a guy she didn’t know all that well, but figured he could use a hug. He smelled of coffee beans, a pinch of cinnamon,  sweat, and vanilla.

“Hey um… Kass?” he began.


“You think we could do the wake for Maddy here?”

Kass’ eyes widened in surprise.

“I already spoke to a shepherd I know, and um… asked Granny if it was okay. I think we’ve raised enough money for a decent burial and uh… some flowers and stuff,” he sniffled. “Maddy liked pink roses, and uhm… I know they aren’t cheap.”

Kass smiled. “I think she’d really like that.”

Author Notes: So much happened in this chapter, but the first time around, I neglected to add the townies, mostly to get right to the drama. This time it felt right to include Gobias and Justine Keaton and Abe. Plus this is the first time Kass sees Abe after Madison’s death and we haven’t talked about the service really yet. I also felt like it adds more color to the town and their lives to include some of the additional dialogue and moments between people. Gobias is hinted at being bisexual in his Sims bio, so I thought I’d at least mention the “boyfriend.” Right now he’s into dudes. For awhile I had a weird glitch in my game with lines on the back of Sims’ necks, particularly obvious as Cari has short hair. The story about falling off a “horse” is moderately true to life, with many more stitches in this story than in my sister’s case. Also the almost-drowning thing may or may not have actually happened with me… but for the sake of the story, it happened to Andi. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed. 

1.94, Pt. 2: Quick Fire (KCLKF)

Saturday, June 28, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Kass tossed and turned in her bed, fitfully, clutching the sheets and then kicking them off her body. Hot. Then cold. Then hot again. Was she really in love with two men? No. She couldn’t be. Why would she be? That was the most ridiculous accusation she had ever heard. She loved Davis. Davis. The perfect, sweet, hard-working, attractive Southern gentleman whom she happened to call boyfriend. Not her bald-because-it’s-cool, long-time best friend with a hot temper and an insane crush the size of Four Corners. She couldn’t be in love with Gage. She had to end things before he got his hopes up and his dreams crushed.

Maybe she thought he was cute sometimes with the way his forehead would scrunch up when he was thinking too hard about something and maybe she thought he was annoying with the way he would slurp soup and complain about nicking himself with a razor every time he wanted to maintain his look. Maybe she was a horrible friend for ditching him so often lately and avoiding the conversation. Or maybe she was just sparing him the pain. Who was she kidding? She needed to have the conversation. Thee… conversation of the century. The one where they needed to be friends and only friends and oh by the way! I met this amazing guy and I’m in love with him now, and no I won’t go out with you. Maybe she shouldn’t have waited so long and maybe Scarlett’s concern was warranted. And maybe… maybe… maybe… the maybes plagued her, stuck on an infinite and inane loop in her mind.

“…here’s my number. So call me maybe…” 

Her phone was ringing. She reached over and clicked the end button and dropped the pillow over her face. Maybe? What? What cruel person changed her ringtone to a ridiculous Old Eorthe song? Kass stretched and tossed her pillow across the room in a huff, and it made a soft smoosh sound when it collided with the closet doors. She narrowed her eyes, blinked a few times, and realized someone attached a note to the bed canopy. She grabbed another pillow and threw it forcefully, knocking down the taped line paper.

Hey Sleeping Beauty, all the boys be calling!

It was signed C.

“CARINA!” Kass shrieked at the top of her lungs.

This was followed by a knock at the door.

“What?” Kass huffed, bounding of the bed and answering to a meek-looking maid and softened her tone. “Ms. Mata?”

“Your Nonna would like me to change your linens,” Christina Mata said, her arms outstretched with fresh sheets, and she shifted a stray black hair falling from her bun. “And… your young man… Davis? He called the house and left a message asking if you’d meet him at the coffeehouse tonight.”

“When?” Kass slouched against the doorframe, and puffed a piece of her own hair out of her face.

“Nine o’clock, miss,” Ms. Mata relayed. “And a young man named Gage called also.”

“Let me guess,” Kass tugged her shift sleeve back up onto her shoulder as she walked back into her room, inviting the maid to follow. “…he wants me to call him too? And Kass will do.”

“Yes, right away, Miss,” Ms. Mata replied.

“Thank you… for…” she pointed around the room. “…actually, leave the sheets. I can do it.”

“Are you sure, miss…uh… Kass?” Ms. Mata caught herself, and set the folded linens on the chair.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Kass replied. “Thank you. I’m going to shower.”

“You’re the boss,” Ms. Mata nodded and saluted half-seriously.

Am I really a spoiled brat? Kass wondered as the hot water splashed over her body. I don’t need a car or a four poster bed, and having a maid is nice, but I like doing my own laundry and stuff. And I’m not sure snipping at Scarlett for wanting to work a job… even if it is as a maid… is really called for. Kass sighed and jerked the faucet handle to the right. Time to face the music… she stepped from the shower.

As if to prove a point, Kass redressed her own bed, carried her sheets to the laundry room, skipped the breakfast buffet and grabbed a bowl of cereal, and ground her own coffee beans. Apparently, Gage had texted Carina and asked her to meet him, Kass discovered when she walked outside to find her sister lounging by the pool, and Davis had walked by this morning, after skimming the water for leaves and bugs, and asked where Kass was.

“I’m not your answering service,” Carina huffed, and crossed her arms over her swimsuit.

“Really?” Kass ruffled her sister’s hair. “Call Me Maybe?”

Carina howled. Kass ran down the hill. While she waited to catch the bus, she plotted how she would get her sister back for her latest prank. Gage requested they meet up in the park near his home, and she was happy to oblige. Today was the day she would tell him the truth. The whole truth. Nothing but truth.

“So help me God,” she said, beneath her breath as she stepped off the bus at the wrong stop.

The mention of God triggered memories of her conversation from the night before. Davis insisted she give the Padre a chance to prove himself as a Mighty Father and the God in control. Kass wasn’t so sure. Stupid! She could’ve stayed on for one more stop. She could feel her feet pounding on the concrete, a slight breeze tickle her skin, and she could see her shadow trailing along, but could she really sense a supreme power? Or see the hand who made the stars and grass and pink azaleas?

Gage’s wooden expression betrayed his feelings. Her heart sank. Scarlett told him, she suspected. He gave her a quick hug, but it was as though going through the motions, with little emotion attached. She tried to liven the mood by offering a bright smile.

“Hey Gage, I’m glad you called.”

She dropped her hands on her knees, wishing she hadn’t run all the way from the bus stop. In heels no less. Perhaps the feminine look was a bit much for today – purple blouse, black vest, black skinny jeans, and lavender heels. But Gage once said purple was his favorite color on her and she wanted to get in on his good side today, even if just with visual aids.

“Here,” he shoved a water bottle in her direction. “I’m glad you came,” he said stiffly.

She graciously accepted the water, sipping the cool liquid. “It’s a beautiful day – this last day of June.”

“Did you think I was an idiot?” Gage asked, point-blank.

He didn’t waste any time at all. Kass gulped the last swig of water.

“Uh… what?”

“Did you think I was an idiot?” Gage repeated, pointing to himself. “That I wouldn’t find out.”

“Gage,” she squeaked as she twisted the cap on the bottle and set it on the ground.

“I mean, I told you… I loved you… and you said you needed to think about it. I respected that because you’re my best friend, Kass… my best friend…”

His words knifed her heart. He knows? He knows! Oh gawd! Why didn’t I say something sooner? Why did Scarlett have to go and spill the beans? 

“I trusted you. I…I loved you,” Gage’s voice cracked. “And you betrayed me.”

“Gage, I’m sorry,” Kass looked down at her feet.

He laid a hand on his heart. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”

“Scarlett didn’t have the right to tell you,” Kass sighed. “I should’ve told you sooner…”

“Yeah, you think?” he replied, sarcastically. “And she was looking out for me. What’s your excuse?”

Kass gulped. “I don’t have an excuse,” she scuffed her shoe on the cobblestone pathway. “…at least not a good one,” she mumbled.

“I should’ve known,” he shook his head. “I should’ve known. You weren’t spending as much time with me. You were acting cagey. He dedicated a song to you at the Jolt. A freaking song?” he threw his hands in the air.

She gasped. “How did you know about that?”

“Everyone did. Abe told me!” Gage said, coldly. “I guess that’s way more romantic than privately spilling my heart to you on your back porch.”

“Gage…” she interjected, tilting her head sadly. “That’s not fair.”

“No…” he waved his hands. “Let me finish. And then you showed up to Madison’s scene and you said…” he paused for sarcastic effect. “…and I quote…’he works for my grandparents.‘”

She flushed, remembering the folly of her words. She could’ve told him then and there, but it didn’t feel appropriate. And she was still in shock over Madison.

“I wanted to tell you,” she took a deep breath and began. “But the timing was never right.”

“The timing?” Gage leaned back in disgusted shock. “That’s the story you’re gonna run with?”

“I told you,” she wrinkled her nose to keep tears from forming. “…I didn’t have a good excuse.”

“Plum right you don’t,” he snapped. “How could you fail to tell me that you started dating someone else?”

“Gage,” Kass replied. “I did suggest we consider seeing other people.”

“Which means carte blanche for you to railroad my heart!” he thumped his fist against his chest. “There is no one else. I don’t want to see other people!”

“I’m sorry, Gage, okay? I’m sorry,” Kass sighed and dropped her head.

“No you’re not,” Gage shook his head. “You care more about this Davis guy than me. You’re not really sorry.”

“I am sorry,” she insisted.

“Oh really? Did you actually try all that hard? You never actually thought about me did you? Not once!” Gage growled. “I mean, you practically went out and found a guy the day after I told you I loved you.  What does that say about our friendship? Your concern for my feelings? Your care for me?”

“That’s not how it was,” she disagreed.

“No, no, no! No more lies! You never intended to give me the time of day, did you?”

“That’s not fair!”

“Really? You’re going to lecture me on what’s fair? I used to think I knew what fair was. I used to think you were a kind, sweet, genuine, and fair person. But now I think you’re a backstabbing betrayer. The backside of a cowplant!”

“Gage! Really? The backside of a cowplant?” Kass resisted the urge to laugh, feeling a smirk toying at the corners of her lips.

“Stop it! Stop laughing at me!” Gage yelled. “Hey, wait! I thought of a better name for you. Of the female dog variety.”

“Okay, gawd! Stop it!” Kass raised her voice. “I realize I should’ve told you sooner and that you deserved…” she stopped for a beat, and then changed to present tense. “…deserve better… more from me… from anyone really. But do you really have to resort to name calling? I know I hurt you and I’m sorry. Really… truly sorry… but can you please calm down and we can discuss this rationally. Davis is…”

“I don’t want to hear about the bastard spawn of the reaper himself,” Gage spewed venomously.

“Hey! Wait a minute! It’s one thing to be mad at me, but don’t call Davis names. He’s a good guy,” Kass said defensively.

“I’m a good guy. Or at least I thought I was until you… you… you really know how to break a guy’s heart, don’t you? You’re just a lying, cheating heartbreaker!”

“I never cheated on you!” Kass threw her hands up in the air. “Gawd! It’s like arguing with a brick wall. We were never together. It’s not like I was cheating on you at all.”

“I’m your friend. Your best friend. Weren’t you cheating on our friendship? Weren’t you betraying everything we had or could’ve had?” Gage said, furiously. “You threw it all away and for what? A guy with his plum up his butt?”

“Stop it! Davis doesn’t deserve this. You tarnishing his name. He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Kass defended. “Unlike you. And if you were my best friend, you’d never say things like this!”

“I’ve been your friend for years. I was with you when your parents split up. When you found out your dad was cheating on your mom. When he waltzed back into your life and said he had EXCES.  I’ve been here. I’m your friend. Your best friend. You’ve known him what? Two seconds? What gives him the right to steal you away from me?”

“I am not a piece of property, Gage,” Kass exploded. “I am not yours or anyone’s. I am my own woman. You don’t own me!”

“No, I don’t. And he doesn’t either. But at least I didn’t just backstab my best friend and run off with someone else,” Gage grunted.

“Stop it! You’re so not being fair. You’re not giving me a chance to explain. Please just calm down,” she pleaded.

“I just don’t understand,” Gage said tiredly, his shoulders sagging. “I don’t understand how you could do this to me. I’ve loved you for a long time and I… I trusted you with my feelings… and I didn’t think you’d be so quick to fail me. You… you… you picked someone else.”

“It’s not like that,” she sighed. “And you’re being incredibly unfair.”

“He’s an idiot if he thinks he’s gonna keep you… wrench!”

“Wrench? What in Hades, Gage? You mean wench?” her eyes widened. “You aren’t being the best of friends either here. Calling me all sorts of crappy names! And insulting my boyfriend.”

“Oh is that what he is? What he really is?” Gage growled. “Or are you just using him to make me miserable?”

“Do you hear yourself?” Kass laughed mirthlessly. “This is ridiculous. I would never… I could never… make you more miserable than you are making yourself right now. And you want to know why? Because you didn’t stand a chance with me even if Davis wasn’t in the picture because I don’t feel for you that way at all.”

Gage’s eyes welled with tears. Kass stood silently, unable to speak. Her heart was heavy, her mind whirling, and her own eyes misted. She couldn’t believe how furious Gage was. It was way worse than she thought or could’ve expected. Her heart fluttered in a panic. There was a finality in her words. I don’t feel for you… that way… at all.  In quick fire succession, she had shredded his hopes of ever having a relationship. While she needed to be honest, maybe it was a little too much truth for him to handle. She didn’t realize how much he cared. How much he meant when he said… Idiot! Of course, he cares that much. He didn’t ask me to take the next step. He didn’t tell me he liked me. He said he loved me. And you left him hanging! 

“Gage, I’m sorry,” she began. “I owe you an explanation and I hope you’ll listen because I do care…”

“You’re not my friend anymore,” he said through gritted teeth, wiping his nose. “You don’t owe me anything. You crushed me. You’re fired in the best friend department.”

Kass stood, un-moving, watching one of her dearest and closest friends walk away, knowing he wasn’t coming back. Numbness settled in her hands and heart, a fuzziness in her head. Gage walked away a broken man, and it was her fault. She did care about Gage, but not in the way he wanted. I should feel something, she clutched her chest and squinted in the sunshine. She couldn’t feel. She couldn’t cry. She couldn’t breathe. What’s wrong with me? 

“Why don’t I care?” she howled up at the unreachable clouds in the sky, and then dropped her head defeated.

Author Notes: The first time I wrote this chapter it was much earlier on in the story. There wasn’t weeks of dodging, more like days, or a week. There also wasn’t as much going on in Kass’ life. I hadn’t written as much about Davis, and therefore, Gage was a much more sympathetic character. The best friend pining for his first major crush. This time around, both guys have appeared frequently, and their characters have been fleshed out a bit more.

Gage struggles with abandonment issues as much as Kass, if not more so. While she could’ve been more tactful and certainly should’ve told him sooner and been more sensitive to his feelings, it wasn’t entirely her fault, and he could’ve been kinder too. Gage has built Kass up to be his first and only love, and he sticks her on a pedestal. Now she’s clearly no longer on the pedestal, and we’ll see where they go from here. Thanks for reading. BTW, Four Corners is my Simworld version of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.

1.90 Pressure Points (KCLKF)

Wednesday, June 25, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

After a long, hard day of work at the legal aid office transcribing hours upon hours of courtroom tapes, the last thing Kass wanted to do was spend time with her family. After her awkward goodbye with Davis, her mother caught Kass at the door. She had been spying. Of course, Amy viewed this as defiance as she was still dating the pool boy and Kass viewed this as an invasion of privacy, and the two argued loudly in the entryway until Nonno came and told them both to pipe down since Nonna had a headache.

Kass stomped upstairs, not her finest most adult moment, which only served as further proof for her mother that she wasn’t mature enough and still needed parenting. Her only saving grace was a sobbing meltdown from Carina because Bebe Hart’s dad grounded her because she sneaked out to attend a tutoring session to get her composition class grade up in summer school and now they couldn’t go to the Life Boats for Animals indie band concert. Bebe’s dad was being so unfair, right? Cari whined. She had saved her precious spa salary for weeks, forgoing her usual mani-pedis to afford the tickets, and now who would go with her. Kass released an aggravated groan and slammed the door, wincing once as she thought of her poor Nonna, and then slid down the wall in frustration.

Tonight, she would rather stay in and work on her essay. She would rather stay in and work on new hairstyles with Cari to cheer her middle sister up, even though Carina had cut her hair boyish short six months ago and had no hair to do up. Kass sure did. She stood in front of the mirror, pulling her favorite green tee over her head, slipping out of heels and into flip flops, wondering if a new hairstyle was in order. Who am I kidding? Kass poked the glass. She liked her less than ten minute morning routine, and she sure didn’t want highlights. Most women would kill to get that hair and yours doesn’t come from a bottle, she could practically hear Carina’s voice in her head.


When Kass walked into Hogan’s Deep-Fried Diner, she realized her sisters hadn’t arrived yet. Her mamma sat at the table, the same disapproving thin-mouthed frown on her face as the night before, and Clark instantly stood as any proper gentleman to greet Kass. Too late now, she thought, and had the good sense to keep her sigh internal.

“Hi Kass, good to see you,” Clark said, a little too eagerly.

She had to give him chops for trying. “Hi Clark,” she nodded, forcing a smile. “Mamma.”


“Kassio,” her mother acknowledged, rubbing her neck, standing up as if it were an intensive activity.

As if sensing the pressure, Clark walked over to Kass to welcome her to the diner.

“How was work today?” he inquired.

“Uh fine,” Kass bobbed her head.

“You know,” he waved his hands. “An internship is a real smart thing to do before college. A right smart thing. Hades, I wish I had done an internship. Then maybe I would’ve gotten a scholarship or something,” he chuckled and snapped his fingers with an uncomfortable wince. “Oh… shoot!”

“Clark, honey, you shouldn’t swear,” Amy said. “Especially in front of my kids… or any kids for that matter.”

“Right… wouldn’t want the kids to hear anything too adult now, Mamma,” Kass said, pointedly.


Amy’s jaw hardened.

Kass resorted to deflection in place of death stares. “So how are your kids, Clark?”

“Kaden and Kasey are with their mom in Oakland tonight,” Clark replied. “Kasey had a baseball game up there.”

“Baseball,” Kass tried to sound more enthusiastic than she was. “How’s his team?”

Baseball. It was the reason Davis hadn’t called her today. Or called. He worked a shift at the Jolt, caught the ferry to Bay City, took a nap at the apartment she had yet to see, attended an afternoon class at St. Anne’s and planned to spend the evening catching up on missed Sliders and Asters games. Somehow watching repeat Goldibox Game View took precedence over resolving a conflict with his girlfriend. She was partly at fault.

Kass bit her tongue to prevent her from saying something mean to her mom after Amy suggested she hold a deeper appreciation for sports that didn’t involve kicking a ball around a field for the sake of the family. She almost laughed. Amy barely came out of her room before Clark, let alone watched anything but Pennant rom-coms. She couldn’t remember the last time her mother actually came to one of her sisters’ games. Kass knew more about baseball than her mother, surely.


Andi arrived with a genuine smile, greeting Clark respectfully and giving her mother an affectionate side hug. Cari, on the other hand, appeared bored, barely acknowledging their mamma, who had the “gall” to suggest her middle daughter return her tickets for a full refund and spend the evening doing something more productive like working on improving her Romian language classes so she could volunteer at the Romalian Culture Center in Bay City with Nonno. Yeah, cuz that sounds like fun, Carina had rolled her eyes. She was still super annoyed that high school required community service hours in order to graduate.  Welcome to my world,  Kass had smirked.

“What’s wrong?” Kass asked her sister, quietly.

“This whole thing is weird,” Cari sniffed, turning her head away. “I’m not on speaking terms with mamma, and I don’t know about him.”

Kass blinked a few times. She was surprised her sister stated her opinion so loudly in front of Clark. Then again, it’s Carina… maybe I’m not. 

“Cari,” Amy said, a hint of irritation in her tone. “Please… for my sake… try…”


“I guess,” Cari shrugged nonchalantly, then launched into a dramatic tirade. “So you’re not going to believe what happened when I was working at the store today. This customer came in and wanted gold polish for her mani/pedi. We’re all out because my boss is too cheap to restock regularly, and so of course, I tell her in my most polite tone…” Cari said, waving her arms.

Somehow Kass didn’t believe her sister was the most courteous to her customer.

“…that we can order more and it’ll be in on Monday. In the meantime, I could offer her a wide selection of options of other colors and discount the price. She looked at me like I grew three heads. And I know I’ve got a pretty face, but come on… three?”

Clark winced, shoving his hands in his pockets, his expression speaking volumes. Kass doubted he had much experience raising daughters. Amy rubbed her temples, but let her middle daughter continue.

“She asks if she can speak to another ‘older’ associate. I snapped my bubble gum loudly and said I was the only one in the spa that wasn’t occupied at the moment and I was the only one who could help her. She complains that my customer service is less than par. She wants to talk to my manager. Well, of course, Miranda is out on her break and so I tell her that and she huffs in my face and says she’ll never shop at our store again. Can you believe it? I offered to discount her price too!”

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

“The discount was a nice idea,” Andi admitted meekly.

“Carina,” Amy huffed. “Aren’t you going to say hello to Mister Sauer?”

“Oh please call me Clark,” Clark insisted.

“Okay Clark,” Cari said, crossing her arms. “What are your intentions toward our mamma?”

Amy laughed nervously and Clark smiled at her knowingly. Andi pinched Cari’s arm.

“Well, I think that’s a conversation we save for when we’re seated and eating. Speaking of which, I’ll go order us something,” Clark replied, making a less-than-smooth exit.


“Ow! Why’d you pinch me?” Cari glared at Andi.

“Because that wasn’t nice,” Andi replied.

“Cari, please… please… try to be the angel child I know you are,” Am pleaded quietly.

“I don’t know Mamma, he seems shady,” Cari grunted.

“Seriously, you’ve been here for like what? Three minutes!?” Andi exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air. “And you’re monopolizing all the conversation, and you say he’s shady? Clark has been nice to us.”

“I think it’d be best if we save heavy topics for another time,” Kass recommended.

“Yes, thank you,” Amy exclaimed quietly, and it was the first thing Kass could agree on with her mother.

“What? I can’t ask him what his intentions are?” Cari howled, drawing the attention of a couple other customers.

“Shh!” Amy hushed.


Cari reluctantly closed her mouth, but she was most definitely sulking. Kass didn’t doubt that the relationship between her mother and Clark was different, but he didn’t outright seem like a terrible guy anymore. She actually trusted him a little more now that he told her the truth and was investigating on her behalf. She wasn’t exactly ready for all their relationship implied, but unlike Carina, she could keep her thoughts to herself.

“Seriously, this sucks,” Cari grunted.

Well that didn’t last long. 

“Quiet, Cari,” Andi snapped. “I’m going to go change in the bathroom and when I come back, I don’t want to hear a peep out of you!”

Kass smirked at the mothering tone her youngest sister had.

“Come on you two, calm down.  Let’s just enjoy this night, okay?” she said impatiently. “Why are you changing, Andi?”

Andromeda didn’t answer as she picked up her backpack and flounced away.

8Everyone ordered hamburgers, everyone except Andi. She returned from the bathroom and said she was meeting a friend at the beach for a party. When Cari pressed, Andi glared and ordered a glass of water. Kass figured she was meeting her “secret” boyfriend. Why can’t boyfriends just stay secret? At least until I’m thirty-five and Mamma thinks it’s appropriate to date! 

Amy wanted to move tables, claiming the other table wasn’t as clean. There hardly seemed more than two specks of dust, and the usual mustard stain that wouldn’t come out of the plastic no matter how many times the wait staff attempted. Kass sighed and returned her rare hamburger. She didn’t like anything too bloody and undercooked. Amy gingerly ate her burger with a knife and fork until Carina teased. This week Cari was vegetarian, probably just to tick off their mother, and be an annoyance to Clark. She ordered a salad and picked off the olives, cheese, and tomato. Kass didn’t want to be a pain, but they returned her hamburger medium-rare, while everyone else received their correct order. She went to speak to the chef directly and returned while Cari ordered a bean patty. Kass was impressed her sister ate it without complaining.


“So Kass, how goes your essay?” Clark began, trying to make small talk. “You’re gonna be an Edgewater Llama in a few weeks, huh? I’m a Trojan man myself.”

Kass nearly gagged on her water.

“Lone Star State Univeristy Trojans! Hoo-yah!” he said proudly, displaying his muscles. “I’ve got the tat right on my arm right here. Never finished though.”

“Hoo…yah…” Kass replied without enthusiasm. “It’s almost finished.”

“It’s a wonder,” Amy spoke up. “With all your free time lately, you could’ve finished it sooner.”

Kass narrowed her eyes at the jab.

“What are you planning to study again?” Clark asked, between bites of burger.

“I’m keeping my options open,” Kass replied.

“Business or law, like my father,” Amy said, swishing her hair out of her face as she attempted to pick up her dinner and eat with her hands. “Isn’t that right, Kass?”

Kass wished her dinner would hurry up and arrive, fidgeting uncomfortably in her chair. The pressure was palpable.

“Ambitious,” Clark acknowledged. “What about you ladies?”


“I’d like to be a concert pianist,” Andi piped up.

“Mmm… you should talk to my son, Kaden. He’s a musician too… Drums,” Clark replied. “What about you, Cari?”

“It’s Carina,” she grunted, folding her arms across her chest.

“Oh sorry, Carina,” Clark apologized.

Cari responded with deadening silence as she shoved her bean burger in her mouth.

“Cari is our resident actress and fashionista,” Amy spoke up after Cari refused to reply. “I think she’ll make a fabulous stage actress someday or fashion designer.”

Kass swallowed the lump of hurt in her throat. Why did Carina and Andromeda get to follow their art and passion, and she was forced to study economics or law like her family business? She was enjoying her internship at legal aid, but that wasn’t necessarily where she wanted to end up.

“Heading to Shakespeare Court?” Clark arched a brow. “Or are you going to be the next big Patrina?”

“Yeah, something like that,” Cari narrowed her eyes.

Kass was impressed that Clark even knew those names.


“Well Kaden wants to be a musician, but Kasey is thinking about sports. He’s a fabulous pitcher. He’s got such a great throwing arm I pitched a little ball back in college but I was better at hitting,” Clark bragged. “Have you girls been to any of the baseball games at Sun Valley High?”

“No, we go to Community… for smart and gifted people, remember?” Cari snipped.

“Oh,” Clark said, frowning as he sensed Cari’s hostility.

Amy practically choked on her food.

“I went to one of the last games of the season,” Andi said softly. “Yeah I remember seeing him pitch. He is really good.”

“We should all go to one of his games maybe,” Amy suggested.

“Well, now that the season’s over that sounds like a fabulous idea,” Cari said sarcastically. “Say Mamma, why didn’t you come to any of Andi’s and my games for…” she lifted her finger to her chin and scrunched her face. “…any of the last season?”

“Cari!” Andi and I exclaimed in unison.

Carina Nebula Fullbright! That’s enough,” Amy warned, narrowing her eyes.


“No, it’s okay,” Clark put his hands up. “Cari, I understand this is all very new for you and probably threatening.”

“You can say that again!” Cari rolled her eyes.

“I get it that you don’t like me,” Clark continued. “But I want you to know, Cari… and Kass and Andi…” he made eye contact before returning his gaze to Carina. “I really care about your Mamma and I have the best of intentions toward her. I don’t want to do anything to hurt her, so if this relationship of ours…” he reached for my mother’s hand. “…is going to cause tension among you girls, we can slow down and try to make this easier for you.”

Clark cleared his throat and wiped his mouth on his napkin. “Your Mamma is so important to me and I know you girls mean the world to her, and I would never, ever want anything to come between that special relationship.”

Sadness pooled in Kass’ heart. Her relationship with her mamma at best was on the rocks, at worst, at the bottom of the Orinda Bay. She wasn’t sure she would call anything between her mother and herself special anymore.

“I feel the same way about my boys. So I think it’s totally fair for you to add your input… all of you… and I actually want that,” Clark continued as he reached over and squeezed Amy’s hand. “Which is why…”


“Oh come out and tell us already,” Carina rolled he eyes and lifted the last remaining bite of salad into her mouth. “I know. We should all know about your impending engagement!”

Andi gasped. Startled, Kass’s eyes grew wide. Engagement? How long had they been dating? That was quick, wasn’t it? When did this happen? She wished she had been around more recently, and maybe she would’ve picked up on clues. Her mother engaged? After she said she hated men and she’d never go down that road again? After all her anxiety attacks and her inability to focus on anyone but herself during her bouts with depression? After chewing her daughter out time and time again over her poor dating choices, only to get engaged herself after a short amount of time? She was stunned, hurt even, but in seeing the way Clark looked at her mother, with affection and adoration, she couldn’t be upset. He looked over Luna, and her mamma flushed with at the attention.

“I, for one, think this relationship is great,” she spoke, putting her hand out. “And I want to… welcome you to the family, Clark. Mamma seems so happy.”

She emphasized the ‘so,’ hoping her mother would agree to her daughter’s choice of romantic partner. Cari huffed, but Andi nodded in agreement.

“I want Mamma to be happy and I want you to be comfortable with us,” she said maturely.

“Well, thank you, that means a lot to me,” Clark smiled brightly. “Cari?”

“I guess… I’m just not so sure…” she mumbled.


“That’s okay. Think about it. I’m going to take your Mamma for a spin on the dance floor,” Clark winked at his fiance.

“Now?” Amy gasped, her heart flying to her chest.

“This is a great song. Come on, Amy, don’t be shy,” Clark teased gently, offering her his hand.

“Okay,” she agreed, standing up with a smile.

The Fullbright sisters sat in stunned silence. It seemed just a short while before that Clark was introduced into their lives. They hadn’t met his sons but a few times. Kass wanted her mother to be happy. She really did. Yet it was hard to accept her mamma’s joy when her mother couldn’t accept her own.


“This is weird,” Cari said.

“I know, I think so too,” Andi wrinkled her nose. “But Mamma’s happy.”

“Do you think we’ll have to move? I am not giving up my shoe closet!” Carina crossed her arms.

“We already moved,” Andi sighed. “You didn’t think we could live with Nonna and Nonno forever, did you?”

“I don’t know. They have such a nice house. Maybe Mamma will let me live with them while she goes and shacks up with Clark,” Carina rolled her eyes.

“Cari!” Kass interjected. “If they are getting married, it won’t be…” she couldn’t say the word ‘shacking-up,’ and instead continued, “Clark seems like a decent guy. Just look at them. They seem to care about each other.”

“Yeah,” Cari conceded.

Yeah, Kass conceded internally. This will be just fine. 

“It’s so not fair,” Cari laid her elbow on the table and propped her chin up. “Mamma’s got Clark. Andi’s got VJ… even you have a new guy, Kass. What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing’s wrong with you,” Andi replied. “It’s perfectly fine to be single.”

“Easy for you to say. You both have men,” Cari sighed, exasperated. “And you’re both in love…”


“In love?” Kass repeated with a funny smile. “I just started dating…”

She did love Davis. She had said as much. Then I need to do what’s right. 

“Yeah, she just started dating,” Andi smirked knowingly.

“Whatever, you two are full of it,” Cari tossed a napkin in our direction.

“Excuse me,” Kass said, standing up. “Tell Clark thanks for dinner please.”

“Where are you going?” Cari asked.

“Someplace I should’ve gone awhile ago.”

Author Notes: Thanks for reading. I know this was a longer than long chapter, but it felt necessary to contain in one chapter. I wanted to continue the family saga with Clark, and reintroduce the drama between mother and daughter, or in this case, daughters. The Goldibox game console is actually only available in Sims 4, but I wanted something like Playstation Vue so it sufficed. Oh the Sims not sitting at the same table, not eating at the same time, getting up too many times, and spontaneous outfit changes! I managed to make it all work… sort of. Enough for the story. Shakespeare Court is located in Avalon (my Simworld version of the British Isles) and is comparable to the West End of London or Broadway of New York. When trying to think up a name for a designer (other than the Valensima in the original version of this chapter), I thought of the real-world connection Valentino, which led me to Valentine, which led me to Catholic saints and holidays, and then St. Patrick, but that didn’t sound right and Patricia is the feminine version of Patrick, but that still didn’t sound right. Patrina it is! 🙂 Yes, this is how my brain works sometimes. xD Hope you enjoyed! 

1.76, Pt. 1: Life and Love and Why (KCLKF)

Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Kass tucked her cell phone tighter between her chin and shoulder as she frowned over the cluttered desk. The paperwork seemed insurmountable. Every day ten new clients came through the door, each with a sad story and a cry for help, and ten more clients called to make appointments or inquire whether they qualified for legal aid, and at least a dozen, emailed with the same questions and concerns. Since she only interned three days a week, Kass had trouble keeping up with the data entry.

It was hard to be distant with the data when the stories were horrible and heartrending. Like this file before her right now. Melissa Sims. Seventeen years old. Shot in an alley over a couple of simoleons in her wallet. Her mother, Vicki seeking justice for her baby girl even after the police gave it up as a cold case several months before. Alicia insisted she found new evidence, but she exhausted all her resources with previous private investigators and lawyers. Now she needed help again. She hoped Jennifer would take the case.

Kass sighed. The photograph of Melissa was included in the file. She was a beautiful girl, with red hair like Kass’s own, though much shorter, brushing her shoulders. Her eyes were deep and soulful brown, her skin, an olive complexion. She was only a year younger than I am, she thought in distress. The file said Melissa wanted to be a police officer like her deceased father. Where’s the justice there? 

Are you even listening?”

Carina’s irritated tone interrupted Kass’s train of thought, reminding her she was conversing with her sister.

“Yes,” Kass answered, dropping the photograph on the desk and closing the folder. “I’m distracted, Cari. Sorry.”

What are we going to do now? Our house looks like it’s been bombed. Andi wants to move in with her boyfriend, you know?” 

Kass swallowed hard. The loss of her childhood home seemed insignificant in the light of everything else. She was still reeling from the reality that her father wasn’t related to her, and that her mamma had lied all these years. Kass made a plan to see her dad tonight after work at Jade’s for a cup of tea and to talk about her future plans. He still wanted her to travel with him around the country, though her window to do so was rapidly closing. University would start in a few weeks, and if she was going to road trip with Howard, she needed to make her decision soon. Did he even know?

“…I mean, it’s totally unfair, right?” Carina was saying.

“Uh, yeah,” Kass nodded absently, thinking about the unfairness of losing your only daughter to a violent crime.

She could still see the look on Vicki Sims face. A mother broken, feeling unnecessarily guilty, claiming she should have been the one to go out for milk that night. No use crying over spilled milk. That was something Kass’ Nonna would always say. Mamma would, she thought snarkily.

Will you be home for dinner?”

Carina asked the question so casually as if she forgot she was lamenting the loss of the family home for most of this one-sided, eleven-minute conversation.

“No,” Kass replied, slipping her bag over her head.

She still had almost two hours until she would meet Howard at the coffeehouse, and she didn’t want to go back to the grandparents’ yet. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be around her mamma.

“I have some…errands to run,” she claimed. “And I’ve got a late meeting for… er… work. I picked up the strawberry bubble gum you like for your teeth like the dentist recommended. And don’t forget to give the maid your uniform so it’s clean for your practice tomorrow.”

Whatev’s…Boss Lady. See ya later.”

And with that, Carina hung up. Kass sighed. She texted Jennifer to tell her she completed the work, and wanted to know if they were still meeting for a late supper. Kass had some questions regarding the domestic violence she was sure Madison was caught in, and now she wanted to know about finding a birth parent. Her phone chimed, and she saw the text from Jennifer confirming their dinner in ten minutes on the pier, and another from Carina.

Thanks for listening, Boss Lady. Don’t stay out too late. 😜

Kass’s eyes twinkled. She shook her head and texted back.

Aye, aye, Captain. 😆

Author Notes: A cute moment between siblings, and to show that Kass is genuinely making time for her internship. Thanks for reading. 

1.75, Pt. 1 Loss and Light (KCLKF)

Wednesday, June 18, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Kass stepped from the dull doldrums of her mind out the front door to the colors of the new day. A flock of birds pecking between the red bricks in the courtyard rose in a feathered frenzy, startled by her sudden presence. She walked forward, one step at a time. Cracks in the driveway indicated her grandparents’ home had not escaped last night’s earthquake. Kass lifted her hand to shade her eyes from the hot white summer sun, watching the doves flutter away on a light breeze. I wish I could fly away. 

A car horn pulled her from her reverie. Kass waved to the yellow taxi, pulling up beneath the coconut palms. The bus lines were down for the day while the city repaired the collapsed roof of the depot, according to the news she streamed on her phone while drying her hair and painting her nails. Anything to delay the inevitable. Usually she didn’t take the exorbitant amount of time to blow dry her massive amount of hair. Maybe it’s time for a cut, she thought as she twisted the end of her braid around her finger.

As she opened the passenger side door, she turned and looked at the house. She hadn’t bothered to check if Davis was in the pool house. She didn’t want to know. He hadn’t called or texted yet. The disappointment was palpable. She offered the driver the address of her home as she plopped into the seat. He inquired if she wanted to sit in the back like most customers, and she shook her head. She didn’t need to be chauffeured, which was why she didn’t request the Riviera’s driver take her to the house. During the drive, she rehearsed what she would say to her mother, how she would call her out and tell her she knew.

Once within a block, she changed her mind and had the driver drop her at the bottom of the hill. After fishing a few Simoleons from her shorts, she started up the sidewalk. As she reached the peak, the utterly devastated house came into view, a shell of its former self. What wasn’t crumbled by the earthquake or destroyed by the fire was flooded by the firefighter hoses. Kass noticed an orange moving company van sitting in the driveway. I guess we’re moving, she surmised with a grimace. She was about to cross the street when a police cruiser blocked her path.

“Officer Blair Wainwright, ma’am,” the blonde policewoman tipped her cap as she rolled down the window. “Are you Kassiopeia Fullbright?”

Kass blinked a few times, wishing she had the sense to grab her sunglasses. “Uh yeah…”

“You left your purse in Detective Goddard’s cruiser last night,” the woman explained. “He asked me to bring it by.”

“I did?” Kass’s eyes widened.

She didn’t even remember. Then again, she was suffered from a concussion. The trip to the hospital in the police car was hazy.

The officer cleared her throat. “What’s your date of birth?”

“Huh?” Kass frowned.

“I need to verify your identity,” the officer draped an arm over her steering wheel as if annoyed.

Kass replied, and nodded her thanks her purse was returned. “What’s that?” she pointed in the distance to twin giant beams of light into the sky.

“Mayor set up a command post for recovery, efforts,” Officer Wainwright said sharply. “She wants people to know where to go if they’re displaced.”

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

“Detective Goddard says he caught a lucky break for you,” Officer Wainwright added.

“A what?”

“A lucky break in that case for your family,” Officer Wainwright explained. “You can call him when you have the time. Have a good day,” she drove further down the street.

An update in the case? The break-ins? Somehow that thought brought her some comfort. She forgot all about the missing brooch. That night seemed forever ago, but it was only ten days.

Kass dropped her purse next to Andi’s on the front lawn, waving to the neighbors before she cautiously approached her mother. She frowned.

“Hi,” she began, hesitating as she lifted her hand to rest on her mother’s tired hunched shoulder.

A choking sob escaped Amy’s throat. Amy wore the same clothes as the night before, leaning, elbows bent, hands static in the air, frozen in a solitary moment of grief. Kass swallowed. Her mother looked so fragile. Any animosity she harbored toward Amy dissipated like steam from the puddles remaining after the fire fight.

“Mamma?” Kass repeated, louder. “Why are you standing in a puddle?”

Amy jolted, startled.

“Kassio, I didn’t see you,” she sniffled, wiping her face with the back of her hand.

“Mamma? The water?” Kass sighed.

“Oh,” Amy tilted her head. “The water main broke. It’s gushing water under the foundation.”

“But,” Kass said, taking her mother’s elbow and guiding her into the away from the shadow of the house. “You were standing in water. Your shoes are soaked.”

“Are they?” Amy laughed sadly. “Oh… it doesn’t matter… none of it matters.”

Kass stared up at the blackened sunken roof, bearing awkward witness to her mamma’s wails. Yesterday, this was home. Today, it bore scorch marks, its wooden frame buckled under the pressure from a raging earth, gushing water through its gaps, and creaking beneath the wind. The day was much too sunny for this kind of sorrow, the hills still rolling, lazy, lush, and green, the hydrangeas still blooming, bright, big, and bold.

“Mamma, what doesn’t matter?” Kass asked.

“The house… my home… the girls’ home,” Amy said, dazed. “I just can’t believe it’s gone.”

Kass took a deep breath. “Mamma, it’s going to be okay.”

“No, no, no, it’s not,” Amy shook her head vigorously. “I mean, we lost it. We lost our home,” she appeared crestfallen. “I lost our home.”

“Mamma, you didn’t cause the earthquake!” Kass exclaimed. “Who are all these people here?” she tried to distract her mother, focusing on the crisis at hand.

“Oh, the people!” Amy ducked her head in embarrassment. “Friends and neighbors… they’re helping out. Our house was hit the worst. It was that stupid roof… the one Howard always said would be fine, but it wasn’t earthquake proof.”

Kass flinched at the mention of her father’s name. He ‘was’ my father. 

“Mamma, is anything earthquake proof?” she threw her hands up.

“The neighbors… all these people… what do I tell them?” Amy asked, in a mournful whisper. “I couldn’t even get Clark to come back. He didn’t answer his phone. I just don’t understand. Why won’t he call me back?”

Amy chucked her cell phone across the yard in an impassioned howl. A few of young men working on boarding up the side of the house looked over their direction.“I know,” she ducked her head shamefully. “I… I just can’t… function.”

Kass blew out an exasperated breath. “Cari? Andi?”

“Yes, and their school friends. Even Kasey and Kaden…” she nodded in the northeastern direction of the house toward a boy in familiar plaid and another in a beanie cap much like his father’s.

“Is the house safe to walk around in?”

“Moderately so,” Amy swiped at a tear. “Your Nonno and Nonna are around here somewhere too.”

“Okay…” Kass thinned her lips. “Why don’t you go sit in the car and collect yourself?” she suggested, dropping the keys in her mother’s hand. “It’s at the bottom of the street. I left it there last night.”

“You did?” Amy looked at her oldest daughter, bewildered.

“Yeah,” Kass shrugged. “Couldn’t get up the block. They’ve fixed that…”

She glanced at the city parks and recreation crew readying a wood chipper. A twinge of sadness pricked Kass’ heart. Her favorite pine tree would no longer majestically shadow their yard. Two young men she didn’t recognize heaved as they pulled a stump of another downed tree from the front lawn. VJ and Andi appeared to be collecting scraps of household items in boxes. His father, Shepherd Alvi stood on the shared lawn between the neighboring properties giving directions to a group of men boarding up the siding.

Another group of people lowered sandbags around their own foundation to soak up the water. Carina raked the lawn with the help of Ethan and Lisa Bunch, dumping bits of nails, glass, painted wood, and wallpaper into trash bags. Kaden steadied a ladder for his brother while Kasey rescued a stray kitten who had somehow managed to find shelter on one of the remaining sections of roof. The sight was almost enough to make her smile.

“There are some tissues in the glove box,” Kass said, narrowing her eyes as she recognized Jamie Jolina standing on the edge of the pathway around the home.

“Alright,” Amy agreed.

Kass rounded the house. The porch was completely gone, boards lying in a crumpled heap. Someone had set up a stack of crates to step from the ground to the back sliding glass door. Kass caught up to Jamie by the fire pit as she set some boxes on the ground.

“I thought you could use some of these,” she said. “I just finished moving into my new apartment in the City.”

“Uh thanks,” Kass replied, bobbing her head from side to side to crack her neck as her purple athletic shirt shifted down her shoulder even further, exposing her bra strap.

“Looks like Sunset Valley got the brunt of last night’s earthquake,” Jamie continued, tugging at her cute red-and-pink crop top. “Bay City’s infrastructure must be more fortified.”

Kass glared, feeling defensive of her home town. “What are you doing here?”

“Oh I’m sorry, Kassiopeia,” Jamie stretched out her hand. “We met last night.”

“Kass,” Kass bit the words out, completing the handshake. “I know who you are, Jamie.”

“Yes, yes,” the other girl laughed effervescently. “I definitely couldn’t forget you… not after Davis dedicated a song to you.”

Kass pulled on her belt buckle to ascertain its tightness, silently wishing she had Jamie’s waistline. Of course, she can still look killer in sweat pants. 

“He really is rather sweet,” Jamie smiled. “I’m so glad I got to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”

“Funny,” Kass couldn’t resist sticking her nose in the air slightly. “He hasn’t really mentioned you.”

“He said you had a wicked sense of sarcasm,” Jamie teased.

Kass stared down at her blue tennis shoes, wishing they would carry her far, far away from the beautiful pianist in Davis’ band. She caught sight of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Oh carry me out to sea! She could almost sense the waves calling to her as they did in her dream from the night before.

“Yes, yes, he is,” she said, awkwardly. “So uh… what are you doing here? I mean, thanks for the boxes.”

She didn’t add… we can take it from here.

“Oh Davis called me and asked me to come over and help out.”

“He what?” Kass took a step back.

“Yeah, he called a whole bunch of us. He’s been here since five A.M. organizing the neighborhood and helping out wherever he can, but mostly, he’s been here…rallying the troops… ”

Since after he dropped me off at Nonno’s and Nonna’s? He came back? Even after my mamma said all those nasty things about him? Well… he didn’t know. Not yet.

“You didn’t know,” Jamie’s bright blue eyes widened. “That’s just like Davis,” she smiled wistfully. “You’re really lucky, you know?”

“Uh… yeah,” Kass swallowed the emotion rising in her throat.

So that’s why he didn’t call me!

Author Notes: No, I haven’t forgotten about the break-in. I was pretty proud of myself for mentioning all of the colors of the rainbow naturally in the story after writing the opening line: “Kass stepped from the dull doldrums of her mind out the front door to the colors of the new day.” Thanks for reading.

1.74 Lonely on the Hill (KCLKF)

Wednesday, June 18, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Bitter truths infiltrated Kass’s mind as she laid her tired soul to rest, dropping a limp arm behind her head on the pillow. Her body dissolved into the cold bed in one of the many guest rooms in her grandparents’ home. This wasn’t how she expected the evening to go. Her heart kicked in time like a drumbeat as she heard the rains continue to blow against the house. She was too awake to dream. Tired of all the lies and secrets. What did it mean anyway?

Carina whimpered and turned away. Kass lifted her head in the darkness, the room momentarily lit by an angry flash of lightning. Cari shifted beside her, arm curled at the base of her skull, and on the other side, Andi’s shoulder rose and fell, her breath as steady as the incoming high tide. Her sisters needed her. Half sisters, she reminded, her mind screaming louder than the storm raging outside. 
The truth is complicated.

Three more aftershocks had followed. Kass counted. One. Two. Three. Fo… and the thunder rumbled, bowling ball to hit the perfect strike and split the sky in two. She’d always thought if she stayed in her own lane things would be fine. Keep your head down. Mind your manners. Love unconditionally. The world was black and white. There was either right or wrong. No in between. But the sky could fall if you weren’t looking, she released an exasperated sigh.

Kass shoved off the edge of the bed, making her way to the window. The rain darted down the panes of glass like fish trying to find their way back to sea. She reached to touch the clear, and flashes of color lit the violent purple sky. The dam cracked, leaking memories like sand through a sieve, the hourglass of time ticking away one grain at a time.

The dizzying spinning of a carousel, the gilded horses rising and falling. Her sisters laughed, their cheeks rosy from summer heat. They waved to the crowds. Kass whipped her gaze back, her ponytail swishing across her sweaty back. She couldn’t see their faces. She could hear their voices. First, mamma, then daddy. The girls waved and smiled and giggled, clutching the golden poles as they spun in circles. Kass couldn’t see their faces. She frowned, and closed her eyes, her head falling back…

…and landing on the grassy hillside beneath ten thousand glittering lights. She could smell the sweet smoke of the campfire and hear the crackling of the flames licking at the wood. Her sisters laughed and shouted as they pointed to constellations in the night sky. She could hear her father’s voice. His words were muffled. She could see his arm. His hand was blurry. She strained her ears, wishing she could sit up and know he was there.

Look Kassiopeia,” he would say. “It’s for you.”

Her own constellation, her namesake. She sighed, and flopped to her back once more, squinting to see the stars that made up the vain queen trapped in a chair. More like a prison of her own making. It’s my fault… Kass felt the saltwater spray splash her face mercilessly as she paddled out to sea. She had fallen from her windsurf board again. The clouds rolled across the horizon, shielding her body from the merciless sun. She felt her father’s hand on her shoulder.

It’s okay, Kassiopeia,” he said, gently. “You’ll catch the next wave.”

No, no I won’t,” she shook her head vigorously as the clouds darkened from white to gray.

There is no black. There is no white. There’s always gray. The surf roared as it lunged for her, and she paddled with all her strength to catch the wave. If only I can catch the wave. Everything would be alright. Any color you want as long as it’s gray. I’m never going to get it right. 

The chalk swiveled in her hand. She could feel the dry dust against her palm. Her sisters captured sunshine and rainbows on the driveway, sketching childhood hopes and dreams into asphalt.

Why did you bring gray chalk?” Carina asked, running away toward the grass. “It won’t show up on the sidewalk.

Kass looked at her hand. Gray. There is no black. There is no white. Hop. One. Two. Three Fo… 

Kassiopeia?” her father’s voice called. “Why aren’t you playing?

There were things liked chipped thumbnails and scraped knees and spilled lemonade, but it wasn’t any of those things. Her eyes blurred with tears.

I can’t see your face,” she whispered hoarsely.

Carina hopped down the chalk-outlined numbers toward the street. Andromeda followed suit.

Go on, Kassiopeia,” her father urged. “You can do it.

She pushed herself up off the pavement. Her feet hit the dirt running. Faster through the trees. Breathing in and out. Freedom brushing her fingertips in the wind. Golden ponytail swaying in the air, alive with electricity. Trying to avoid the strike. I’m never gonna give up. Lightning snaking across the summer sky, its forked tongue licking the ground, sending sparks to her shoes. She ran faster. Harder. Better.

She reached the peak. Her world spun. She didn’t care. This was the top of the world. Waves tumbled against rock face. Thunder rumbled in the distance, the voice of nature’s fury. The sky could fall at any moment. A bit of heaven in each drop.

One of these days I’ll pass you.”

The voice of Gage. He dropped his hands to his knees, desperately trying to catch his breath. She leaned against ancient stone, resting her forearm on the rock as she stretched her leg, pulling it up to torso as she arched toward the sky.

You mean more to me than you know,” he said, his voice too soft to be heard above the rushing of the winds.

“What?” she asked as she lifted her arms toward the sky as the heavens released their torrent, showering the tired earth in sweet relief.

She turned around. She couldn’t heard Davis over the bells. Ding. Ding. Dong. Gone. She sighed, lifting her arms, calling him. He took her hand and squeezed. She could see the blood pumping, first red, then white lines darting on the X-ray, swimming furiously to know she was alive. Ley lines, Dr. Bachelor had called them. The lines that bind everything.

Nothing is perfect,” he said.

She pushed at her ears, drowning out the thoughts she didn’t want to hear. Say your words to ease the perpetual ringing, her heart cried. There is no black. There is no white. There is only gray. One. She counted as she spun in perpetual motion, arms lifted to balance. She couldn’t hear her father’s voice. His words swallowed by storm. Two. She couldn’t see Gage’s face. His eyes lost in a sea of gray. Three. She couldn’t feel Davis’ touch. His hand fell away. Four. She lifted her eyes to the sky, raindrops flooding her eyes. Come down. Come down from your fantasy castle in the sky. This is reality. This is truth. This is you. 

Her eyes snapped open and she saw. Nothing. Loneliness. At the top of a hill. And low. Swinging low through the trees. Fingers clutching rope till they bleed. Kicking feet toward the sun. Rebel against gravity. Feeling undone. Unloved. What is it? 

Kass gasped, instantly propelling her body upward, tearing to the side, her leg ricocheting off the nightstand.

“Ouch!” she cried, rubbing her shin.

Macchiato sniffled. Kass sighed, reaching over to pet the family dog. She was in her grandparents’ home again. It was a dream? Shaking her head side to side, she attempted to dislodge the jarring cobwebs from her brain. Her sisters must have already awakened for neither Carina nor Andi were still in bed. Kass grasped at the carpet beneath her feet, locating her watch. It was nearly twelve o’clock.

She let her arms dangle, peering upside down into the darkness beneath her bed. So this is life? She felt for her phone, the screen lighting up as she touched the power button. Lingering on the warm sheets, Kass clicked through her missed messages. Jennifer. Cancelling work for the day to take care of things because of the earthquake. Gage. Some wild storm, huh? Wanna catch a bite later?  Ayesha. I’m going into the City with my family today. Your family okay?  Andi. Went to clean-up at the house. Come when you can. Dr. Bachelor.  How’s your head feeling? Let me know if the medicine helped you sleep. 

It gave me bizarre dreams! Kass wiggled her toes as Mac licked her foot. She leaned her skull against the head board. No messages from the person she wanted. She thought about texting him directly, but decided against it. The rejection, however casual for him, still stung in the light of day. How could he dangle an invitation and then rescind? Was she not adult enough for him? Did he change his mind and realize he didn’t care as much as he thought he did? Did Mamma…Kass’s eyes widened in worry. ...say something to turn him off? She gripped the swirling green comforter. How would she face her mother today?

Kass made little waves as she stepped into the bathtub. She was in no rush to see her family, especially her mamma. The woman had straight up lied to her for eighteen years of her life. What am I supposed to do with that? she grunted and laid her hands  to rest on her knees. She wished her Nonna had left the honeysuckle bubble bath she so enjoyed on the edge of the tub. Maybe they’re out.

As she leaned her head against the foggy glass of the shower wall, she stared up at the speckled ceiling. A hundred thousand dots to infinity. Her emotions surged angrily… where was her mamma? She hadn’t stayed the night at Nonno’s and Nonna’s. At least Kass didn’t think so. Probably stayed with Clark.

She didn’t get it. Her mother rushed to stay at Kasey’s side, to comfort him during the long, nightmarish sleeps, but she neglected her own daughters after their own trauma. Nonna’s maid had made up three separate bedrooms for the girls, yet only five minutes went by when Andi peered around the doorway and asked to share Kass’ bed, and Carina joined a minute later. I won’t leave them, Kass thought as she rubbed her arms with a generic vanilla lavender bar of soap. I hate lavender… she thought, cruelly tossing the soap across the bath. It slapped the far tiled wall and crashed through the surface of the water. It smells like babies. And babies made her heart ache. I’m not my father’s baby. 

Her arms collapsed into the water in defeat, the temperature lukewarm by now. She would have to ‘face the music’ sometime. She had to stop feeling so low. They need me. They need me to be strong.  The soap taunted her as she made a desperate grab for the bar. It slipped away from her grasp. All these years she was mad at her dad for leaving when she should have been mad at her mother. She left a long time ago too. Her eyes darkened as she pushed on the edge of the tub to stand up, releasing the stopper. The drain began sucking the water through to the pipes. Do I just want too much? Kass listened to the gurgle. Fight the drain, her mind prompted. Rebel against gravity, her heart cried.

Stepping from the tub, Kass wrapped herself in a fluffy white cotton towel. She snagged another from the countertop and wrung her waves of hair. Walking toward the window, she glanced out at the new day. The sun streamed through the yard, bright like a daisy pushing up from a once deviled sky. The light didn’t quite touch the window. Kass sighed as she leaned over the potted plant and stared into the distance. Her body pulsed with a low ache. What is this feeling? Her soul breathed. Loneliness on the hill. 

Author Notes: Thanks for bearing with me. This chapter was all over the place. Took me a long time to write, but somehow when I was done, it made sense. This is the internal landscape of Kass’ mind and heart fighting one another for voice. Is it real? Is it memory? I’d say it’s both. Dare I say… maybe a little foreshadowing too? The chapter grew epic long, but it wasn’t done yet and I wanted to write until it felt finished. So many different moving parts. So many different meanings. I’ll reserve my thoughts and let you spin your own theories. There were a few songs that inspired the mood of this chapter – Low by Coldplay and Lightning Strike by Snow Patrol. Thanks for reading.