Tag Archives: Madison VanWatson

1.126, Pt. 2: Exposed (KCLKF)

Once in the hallway, she took a deep breath. Instead of going to the restroom, Kass ran down two flights of stairs and used Jennifer’s former key to let herself into the computer lab.

“No, no, no, no, no, no!” she cried and cursed softly as her vision continued to worsen.

The watery wavy lines returned  much like the night of the first earthquake and her strange moment with Gretle in the bathroom of the Goth Manor, except this time, they were heavier.  As though walking through gelatin, Kass sludged through the thickened air, her senses heightened. She couldn’t ignore what she knew and she only needed one more thing to prove her dark, disturbing theory.   Kass slid across a desk in her way and rounded a short half wall. As she settled at  the computer, she noticed one other person in the lab. A familiar blonde.  Madison.

“What?” she cried. “This isn’t real…” she reached over to turn on the monitor, blinking rapidly to get rid of the surreal images.

The other woman sat at the computer diagonal to her console. She clicked mindlessly on the keyboard as if not typing anything of consequence. In fact, she typed too quickly. The clacking grated against Kass’ ears.

“It can’t be. You can’t be here!” Kass breathed.

But I am,” Madison’s voice appeared hollow as if calling through a tunnel.

“Why? How?” Kass’s lips parted to ask more, but the pounding increased with each word.

Because you’re close. You’re so close,” Madison assured as she continued to furiously type nonsense.  “Closer than the bonds of love on a finger.”

“Huh?” Kass grunted and pushed her hands up against the side of her head. “This can’t… be happening…”

The monitor flashed. She reached for the mouse and clicked to type in a password. A message popped up telling her that the login credentials were invalid. Kass shook her curls vigorously, and tried Jennifer’s password. She squeezed her eyes shut and hoped  it would work. A few seconds later, she received the welcome screen. She frowned. So they deactivated my password, but didn’t deactivate Jennifer’s yet?

Closer than a silver dollar in a slot machine,” Madison stated.

“What is this?” Kass stuck her head around  the desktop. “Vague assistance from beyond the grave?”

A teasing glint appeared in Madison’s telltale eyes as she peeked over her monitor. Her voice almost sounded normal. “I forgot how much fun this game was.”

“You’re playing a game?” Kass asked, slouching her back against the office chair in frustration.

The Netquest browser refused to load at a reasonable  speed.

“Yes,” Madison said. “I played a very dangerous game. And I lost, Kass. I lost. And you will too if you’re not careful.”

“Gawd! Madison! I know!” Kass sighed. “I know! It was the police officer, wasn’t it?” she wanted to say his name, but she couldn’t bring herself to form the words. “I am so sorry… Maddy… I’m sorry I failed you. If only I had figured it out sooner. I could’ve helped you.”

“No, you didn’t,” Madison assured. “This isn’t your fault,” she gulped and licked her lips as she continued to click away at the keyboard. “There are so many things I want to tell you, but I don’t have time.”

As if on cue, the speakers on her computer said in an automated voice, “Time is running out! Do you wish to continue?”

“Yes!” Madison and Kass exclaimed in unison.

“Forget this!” Kass slammed her fist into the desk as she exited out of the browser and tried again.

On the desktop screen, someone had saved a picture of a celebrity couple.  Kass grimaced. How sweet! she thought sarcastically.   The image morphed into a photo of Bert Alto and his wife, Jazzilyn standing before a giant heart-shaped screen. She blinked rapidly, unsure if it was real.

“I can’t stay… I can’t stay much longer,” Madison cried.

“I’m coming,” Kass said, but as she tried to lift her hands, her fingers remained glued to the keyboard and mouse.

She tried to stand and her rear end remained firmly fastened in the chair.  She gave Madison a helpless look.

“It’s okay,” Madison said. “It’s part of the illusion.”

“The illusion?” Kass tried to shake the attached device from her hand. “Is this real or is this a dream?”

“What do you think it is?” Madison replied, cryptically.   “Let’s walk through all the pieces. You’re closer than you think. Closer than the tool in the stone.”

“You mean sword in the stone?” Kass asked. “You keep saying that. Wait… ” her eyes widened as she repeated a phrase from their first encounter. “Beware the Altos. Three Altos. Bert…” she slowly counted on her fingers. “…Jazzilyn and…” her eyes dropped to the table. “…the child… am I right?”

Madison scrunched her shoulders. “I am not allowed to confirm nor deny things.”

“Gah!” Kass threw her hands in the air. “How is that useful? Okay… okay…” she took a deep breath to calm herself. “Bewarebeeeeware… it’s another word for… be cautioustake heedpay attention… so I need to pay attention…” she concluded.  “…to those three Altos… or what would’ve been…” she winced apologetically.

“The baby is real, Kass,” Madison replied, sounding almost human. “She would’ve solved everything…”

Kass smiled wistfully. “So your baby was a girl?”

Madison dropped her head. “And nothing. But she wanted out.”

“Who? The baby?” Kass puzzled.

“She didn’t want any part of this,” Madison continued, pressing against the back of her chair. “Do you hear that racket?”

“What racket?” Kass repeated, straining her ears against the low roar of what almost sounded like ocean waves. “Your baby didn’t want any part of what?”

“It wasn’t fair. She had wanted this for a long time, but she couldn’t have it. Not when he was still around. Not when the ring meant everything to him,” Madison’s eyes grew wide with fear. “I’ve said too much.”

“No, no, you…are helping me,” Kass protested. “How is that too much?”

Kass gasped as the apparition disappeared. As if on cue, Kass solidly thudded against the floor. Ow! Almost instantly, her vision returned to normal, the ceiling lights glaring.

After she ensured no one else was in the room,  Kass returned to her chair and began typing. It had been staring her in the face. Altos. Connections to the Triple C’s. The same cartel present at the shootout. Their enemy. The racket. Racket. Tool in the stone. Masons. The Mason Mafia. She gasped. How did I do that? she stared at her blank screen in disbelief.

At an unnatural speed, she looked up every article she could find in the legal aid office’s criminal database. She poured over cases, searching for the name to confirm her suspicions. She took a minute to text Ayesha and ask her to make sure Gage got home okay and another minute to tell Gage to stay put for Ayesha. It was nearly midnight when she found the information she sought. Jennifer, you sly dog!  Kass was impressed with her former boss’ moxie, breaking into sealed juvenile records.

On April 18, 2399, an unnamed officer with the World Council Police Commission arrested the following Masonic recruits in the country of Avalon. Priscilla DuBois. Caitlyn Abernathy. Lorna LaRue. Vivian Michelle Addison. Jocelyn James. Colleen Trubow.

Some of the text was blacked out before Kass was able to make out the rest of the scanned handwriting.

Miss James was released into the care of her father, a magistrate in Glennborough. Miss Trubow was released and deported to her native country for mental instability into the care of St. James  Simitarium. She committed suicide within four hours of arrival.

Kass’ eyes widened. Colleen Trubow was a pretty redhaired woman , even with her hardened expression. However, her picture upon arrest and her photo upon arrival in Cascadia didn’t match. The second image featured a much younger version of Jazzilyn Alto  a.k.a. Jocelyn James, a brunette according to the arrest record.

No… Kass leaned back in the chair. It couldn’t be. Jocelyn dyed her hair and assumed the identity of another Masonic recruit… this Colleen Trubow… faked her suicide, and escaped, but reverted to her original name?  It seemed too surreal.

Because the arrest happened before the age of eighteen, Jocelyn’s record was sealed. Three years later, she married Bert in Isla Paradiso on the anniversary of a violent event that occurred in the Sultonan coastal city of Roaring Heights. It couldn’t be a coincidence. The dates. And even the long reaches of the Alto family with their barely six degrees of separation from the Cat’s Claw Cartel failed to make a connection between Jazzilyn’s maiden name or the fellow recruit she impersonated. And worst, or best, of all, they failed to make her connection to the Mason Mafia, which would’ve certainly doomed the marriage from the beginning. So what happenedDid Jazzilyn actually fall in love with her intended target? Or did Bert know all along? 

Kass finally stopped clicking as she slumped in the chair. Exhaustion crept behind her eyes. She rubbed her forehead. The rest of her research was cursory, but relevant. Both organized crime families were once normal, law-abiding citizens who traveled from Old Eorthe in pursuit of a new life. Yet years of alien bombardment and the harsh Wild West-like environment of the new world turned gentle tradesfolk to hardened criminals protecting whatever scraps of land they managed to eek out.

The Cat’s Claw Cartel were the corrupted result of descendants of herbalists and healers who sought refuge beneath the leafy canopy of the Selvadoradan jungle. Their name was derived from a flowering plant once used for medicinal purposes due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Today, the cartel cut its teeth primarily via drug trafficking, extortion, and prostitution south of the border in Columbia. Kass’s eyes bugged. The Campos Cousins! Maybe that’s who Davis got caught up with during his detainment and forced servitude in São Paten.

The Masons, on the other hand, were the twisted vision of their original founding father, Henry Mason, who made his coin as a stone and jewel cutter. Mason hired various families, notably Chicanery, Racket, and Wager, to act as his personal guards when transporting goods between developing nations. Over time, the families morphed into an unstoppable power against alien marauders and at-the-time barely functioning law enforcement, and eventually became known for arms trafficking, prostitution, and… the last phrase was enough to turn Kass’ blood cold. Contract killing. 

Her eyes hungrily scanned the page. There were rumors of the Triple C’s connection to the Alto family due to their legitimate pharmaceutical empire. The Triple C’s were also rumored to be in a blood feud with the Masons over a burglary gone sour over fourteen years ago, when both gangs unintentionally robbed the same target, resulting in millions of dollars of missing items, and one piece of jewelry in particular worth noting. Kass scanned the itemized list to the end.

It was almost too unbelievable to be true. Her fingers fumbled as she pulled the chain from beneath her sweater, slowly, deliberately, almost too afraid to confirm the truth. When she saw the stamp on the under gallery of the ring, she knew.

She knew the reason the gang war started.

She knew the reason for the shootout.

She knew the reason a man like Hank was desperate to get the ring back.

And it wasn’t too wild of a leap to figure out why Jocelyn changed her name to Jazzilyn and married an Alto thirteen years ago.

Kass knew she was in possession of the very item that started everything – the ring around her neck. And worst of all, someone else knew that she knew. The last thing she remembered was a stunning blow to the back of her head and the fading words of an apologetic, but very dirty cop.

Oh Kass, I’m sorry. I wish it hadn’t been you.


Author Notes:  We’ve nearly reached the end. I never thought I’d actually get here. I started Kass’s story over five years ago now, and the rewrite over two years ago. I’ve had this scene and the following scenes in mind from the beginning, but I knew it would take a long time to come to an appropriate place in the story where it was realistic that Kass uncovered everything. Her predisposition for stumbling into meeting the exact people she needs to piece together facts, her uncanny ability to research and draw conclusions via her, dare I say, supernatural, intuition has landed her right where we are just now.

I hope the pacing wasn’t too awful in this story because I really wanted to take my time to unveil the clues, develop the mysteries, and also include the majority of the slice-of-life plot from the original tale (i.e. the family drama, Kass’ troubled relationship with her mother, the burden of her father’s illness, her best friend’s confession, and her new boyfriend’s traumatic past). Okay that last part doesn’t qualify as slice of life. Even that story found a neat connection to the overarching crime via the Cat’s Claw Cartel.

Actually, Cat’s Claw as mentioned above is a plant found in South America, uncaria tomentosa or uña de gato, a woody vine with medicinal value or at the very least, it is used in herbal supplements. Similar to the real-world mafia or organized crime families, the Triple C’s and Masons started out as protection units for the neighborhood with their original purpose replaced by more nefarious activities over time. I figured it had a nice business connection or at least a believable connection to the Altos due to their pharmaceutical conglomerate.

By the way, I learned something – the back of a ring, or underside of a ring is called the “under gallery,” and the stamp is actually called a ‘hallmark.’  Chicanery, Wager, and Racket are all playful names indicating different types of shady activities. Only the Rackets pre-exist in game. I decided to build on the Sims habit of puns. I have a whole dark story about their family, which also features the Bayless family briefly.

If you have questions about the timeline, please ask. I know some of these events may seem a bit confusing. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned. 

1.92, Pt. 2: Phantom’s Warning (KCLKF)

Friday, June 27, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

One of the three Altos. Kass’ stomach plummeted. Holly offered Kass a quizzical look as she continued into the center of the restroom.

“What’s a matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!” Holly quipped as she stepped before the mirror.

Instinctively, Kass lay a hand across her abdomen. Madison is in trouble. The baby is in trouble. Somehow she knew something wasn’t right. Madison was still tethered to this world? How? Why? And even if she wasn’t, how was the baby still alive? She had to do something. What was wrong about the Altos?

“You’re Kass right?” Holly invaded her thoughts while she straightened her straps to her canary yellow halter dress.

“Wha? Wha?” Kass puffed, still fixated on Madison’s words and retreat.

She shook her head, vigorously. I didn’t even have a drink yet. I couldn’t have ingested anything. Am I hallucinating? 

“Uh yeah,” she cleared her throat. “Yes.”

I’m talking to an Alto. Madison said to stay away from the Altos. 

“We talked at the police station like a week ago,” Holly said, as if trying to place how the two ladies knew each other.

“Yes, no… uh… more like seventeen days…” Kass gulped.

“Are you okay? And wow… what a detailed memory!” Holly fluffed her hair. “Hey, you were there to see Hank Goddard.”

“Yeah, I was…”

Her mouth grew dry, and felt fuzzy. Kass blinked rapidly and lifted a hand to her forehead.  She had to have ingested something.

“He talks about you,” Holly smirked. “Guess you made quite the impression.”

“Like baby hands in clay,” Kass managed to quip. “How do you two know each other again?”

“College,” Holly laughed lightly. “But until now, I didn’t know he liked gals… then again, you’re mildly amusing and you’ve got that gorgeous hair so… now he’s bi… why not?”

“Um… excuse me…” Kass whispered and willed her legs to move and bolted from the bathroom.

Ignoring the “ouch’s” and “hey’s” of the people she collided with, Kass dashed through the crowd, searching for her hallucinatory haunt. Ghosts aren’t real. Ghosts aren’t real. Ghosts aren’t real. She repeated the mantra. They can’t be real?  Can they? Pushing past the table with the Twilight Trio, Kass crashed through the front entrance, leaving the door to bang in the wind against the wall, its welcome bell dinging frantically.

“Kass, what’s wrong?” Davis asked, leaping up from the table, much to the bewilderment of Jamie and Beau.

Kass grabbed the sides of her head as she could see a transparent Madison walking to the curb. A ghost! She came to warn me! Kass’ heart pounded. She needs help. How is this happening? She died. She’s dead. That happened a week ago. 

“Kassiopeia!” Davis shouted, running out from the overhang with a large rainbow umbrella.

It was then Kass realized she was standing still, her dress soaking in the rainshower. For a moment, all she could hear was the rain hitting the pavement, shooting the grass, plinking against her skin. Everything else sounded distant. Her ears were ringing.

“Do you see her?” she gasped.

“Who?” Davis took a few steps past his girlfriend, staring blankly at the road. “I don’t think there’s anyone in the vehicle,” he squinted.

Her eyes glazed as she felt a wave of nausea and dizziness overwhelm her senses. Thunder bellowed in the distance, and a jagged flash sliced across the sky. Madison appeared bright as day, as flesh, her pink dress swishing at her knees, swinging her arms with their elbow-length white gloves back and forth. Back and forth. Something wasn’t right.

Kass opened her mouth to scream, but no sound escaped. She lifted her hand to offer an unconscious wave as Madison faded from view, her image flickering between the parked vehicle and a passing car. The illusion warped into the rock face as tires squealed against the pavement. Davis cleared his throat.

“Kass, what are you seeing?” he inquired as he returned to her side. “Are you okay?”

“I’m… uh… fine…” she rubbed her nose.

This was like before. Those visions. Those weird flashes of light. The stuff she could now see that she couldn’t see before. She had to call her doctor.

“You’re not fine. Did you walk into something?” he asked, taking her hand and caressing her cheek. “Is your head okay?”

“Ugh… yeah…” she admitted, heat flooding her cheeks.

I’m a walking disaster. 

“I’m such a klutz,” she said, wincing.

“Here, let’s go inside. I’ll get you some ice,” he replied, guiding her away from the front lawn. “You bolted like a horse out of the starting gate. Is something wrong?”

“No… I…” she trailed off.

What do I even say?

“I… I…was disoriented… that’s all,” she managed. “…I wanted some fresh…fresh air.”

“You got it,” he grinned, though concern still filled his expression. “We should get you to a…”

“I’ve gotta go…” she said as she stepped out from the protection of his umbrella. “I’m… going to go see a doctor.”

“I agree with you,” he frowned. “I’m coming with you.”

“No… uh… I’ll be fine… I’m just going to…” she reached down at her side wondering how she could’ve been stupid enough to leave her purse somewhere.

“I’ll go get your bag… you wait here…” Davis guided her by the elbow to the overhang. “…or better yet, come inside and sit down…”

“No… I’m fine,” she hugged her arms. “Just… thank you…” she leaned her head back against the front window of the Java Jolt.

He hesitated, but backed away, walking inside the coffee house. She closed her eyes, feeling rainwater drip down her back. She wasn’t fine. She was anything but fine. Something was wrong. Something was really really really wrong. A phantom warned her, a phantom who was a friend, but what did it mean? And how were the Altos involved beyond the obvious? What did the words means?


Author Notes: Hope you enjoyed. Oh game glitches! Every time a car phases through another object or a Sim disappears from view into the car, I smirk a little. This ghost stuff was the perfect excuse to use these odd images from my first game. And the ghostly nature of Madison gave me the reason for why she appears as a blonde here, even though in her last physical appearance,  she was a brunette. In California, at least the parts where I once lived, rain in the summer is rare, and thunderstorms are even rarer. However, this isn’t the real California, merely a state modeled after it on another planet. I figured that’s enough explanation for the climate. Thanks for reading. 

1.92, Pt. 1: Phantom’s Warning (KCLKF)

Friday, June 27, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Maybe this was her unlucky dress. Kass swallowed the bad taste in her mouth as she watched Davis and Beau move the piano around for the third time. Tonight, Jamie was indecisive. First, she didn’t want to be on the left side of the stage because of a peculiar draft. Then she complained about a strange lighting from the right side of the stage because of the shadow of the mountains. Then she returned to the left side because it made the most sense to be on Davis’ good side.

Kass puffed an aggravated blast of air up her face, blowing a stray piece of hair from her eyes. She slid down in her seat at the table to her right, stage left because Jamie wanted Kass to hear all the good notes from the keys. Musicians! She wore the same dress she wore the last night she sat in on a Twilight Trio gig, the same night the earthquake happened, the same night she found out her father wasn’t really her dad, and the same night her childhood home was destroyed. Ayesha convinced her to make her own luck and give the dress another try, but she was beginning to think it was a bad idea to have Carina sew the fabric back together.

“I’m gonna go…” she stood up and thumbed over her shoulder.

“You can’t leave!” Jamie exclaimed dramatically and threw out her hands. “I need a woman’s opinion,” she approached. “Do you think my new frames compliment my eyes or will they distract too much from my playing?” she glanced up at the sky and held out a palm. “Oh gawd! It’s raining. I felt a raindrop. Guys, we’ll have to lug this all back inside. I will not have us get electrocuted.”

Davis groaned. Beau slumped against the edge of the keyboard.  Women! Kass thought dramatically and squirmed uncomfortably as she took a step or two back.

“Your glasses look great!” Kass offered two thumbs-up, and sighed as she walked away. “I’ll be back. Restroom break…”

Davis looked up from adjusting his microphone and nodded her exit. She wished he would do more. They were still doing an awkward dance around the issues that surfaced during their day on the beach. They were still dating, but the tension ballooned. She thrust the door open and stepped into the tiled bathroom, wishing she could scream, but it wouldn’t do her any good, except sound all fun as it echoed against the walls.

She was still trying to process her mother’s engagement announcement and the fact that her mamma and Clark were buying a house together. Clark still hadn’t found out anything about her real father. Gage had been busy for the last two days so she hadn’t been able to discuss her situation with him. He was in Starlight Shores looking at a college for Scarlett for a few days. Howard’s test results came back and he wanted to share with her, but she hadn’t been brave enough to call him yet. She had tried to follow Detective Hunter to learn more about his movements, but he had given her the slip and she had to come up with some crazy wild excuse to his partner, Detective Goddard as to why she was hanging around the police station. He mostly laughed and agreed to let her off the hook, if she’d have coffee with him, but when she asked about his connections to the Alto family, he grew cagey and said he needed to finish some work, but he wasn’t taking no for an answer on that coffee. She grimaced. Hank Goddard wasn’t that much older than Davis so she really couldn’t use his age as an excuse, and he wasn’t bad to look at, but she wasn’t really into redheads.

Dampening a paper towel, she mopped her face. She was almost tempted to wash off her lip gloss. While he invited Kass to spend time with him, she felt neglected while Davis spent most of the evening taking orders from Jamie. Why do I even try if he’s studying all night and playing hot gigs with Blonde Beauty? She could almost see the green glint in her eyes. Jamie. Davis had mentioned her a few times before, but now that Kass saw the woman in the flesh, she couldn’t help but feel threatened. How can I compete with a Barbie doll? A toilet flushed behind her, and she jumped. Better get back out there. As she turned, her eyes met with the woman emerging from the stall.

Madison!”

Kass gasped. She frowned as the woman opened her mouth to speak and changed her mind. Her hair had returned to its former bleached blonde hanging round her shoulders. She wore a magenta sundress with a flair at the knee, and long white gloves, an unusual choice. Then again, Ayesha had been wearing leather gloves in summer. Madison’s appeared more dressy.

“Oh my gawd! I thought you were… oh… I am…” she sucked air through her teeth and placed a fist against her forehead, wincing as she glanced in the mirror. “Am I crazy?”

When she turned, Madison still stood before her.

“Where have you been? What happened? Are you okay? How did you…”Kass trailed off, reaching for Madison’s arm, her fingers phasing through transparent matter.

“What the?”

Kass,” Madison said, her voice hollow and tinny.

Kass’ eyes bugged as she backed into the sink, gripping the edge of the porcelain basin. Madison appeared to be solid, and yet Kass’ hand sliced right through her forearm. Now aware, she noticed Madison did appear to have an otherworldly glow.

“Are… are… are…” she stammered, feeling like an idiot. Pressing her foot into the floor, she mustered courage and spoke again.”You’re not really here, are you?” she managed.

No, I’m not,” Madison replied.

“Are you… a… a… ghost?” Kass assumed, feeling strange even as she spoke the words.

It wasn’t entirely impossible, but it certainly wasn’t very plausible. She had heard stories… ghost stories… about people who were stuck in the ‘in-between.’ Shells of their former selves. Lost in time and space. Wandering the celestial sands of time above terrestrial plains. She recalled her physics teacher who believed static on the radio belonged to the stars trying to communicate to earthlings. She knew of aliens, other beings out there in the universe, fighting battles like giants in the skies, their ruins of war crashing to the planet. She remembered Ayesha relaying spooky stories around a campfire at summer camp with exaggerated gestures and maniacal faces. It was an odd sensation to feel wind crawling over one’s skin and time standing still all at once. Kass blinked rapidly.

Don’t fight it,” Madison warned, laying a warm hand against Kass’ back. “I’m here to help you.”

At least it feels warm… Kass wondered what bizarre thing she swallowed. Did Granny Jade finally go off her rocker, putting hallucinogenic additives in the hazelnut creamers?

“Fight… what?” Kass pressed her fingers to her forehead, a headache forming behind her eyes.

The illusion,” Madison said. “What you see is a phantom… but I’m not a figment of your imagination. My soul is still tethered to this world.”

“What? Souls? Tethered? Huh?” Kass narrowed her eyes. “Are you… real?”

Of course, I am,” Madison shook her head, her hair moving at an unnaturally slow speed. “But I am in your mind and your mind is projecting what I want you to see.”

“I’m…” Kass dug her nails into the space between the tiles in the wall as she moved even further from the strange sight. “…so confused…” she barely whispered.

I don’t have long,” Madison replied, glancing over her shoulder.

“And phantoms can use the restroom?” Kass inquired, bewildered.

Madison smirked. “I had to get your attention somehow.”

“Uh… whoa! Wow! I mean… uh… I…” Kass babbled, and then suddenly gained a grip on her thoughts to ask a stream of questions. “Maddy, you’re a telepath? A ghost? A figment of my imagination? What are you? Where are you? Are you okay? Did you die? Did someone…” she bit out the words. “…kill you?”

I can’t tell you that,” Madison replied.

“What about… the baby… in this state…” Kass pointed to her friend’s stomach. “I’m… whoa!” she dropped her head. “This is crazy. I didn’t eat lunch. I should’ve eaten lunch…” she breathed heavily and gripped her knees.

My baby will live if… you help me…” Madison said.

“What does… that… even… mean?” Kass gasped, blinking as her eyes began to hurt and water.

Speak to the law…” Madison’s image began to flicker.

“The law? Call the police?” Kass asked, her face scrunching.

Madison shook her head.

“…the law…a lawyer? Speak to a lawyer?” Kass tried, her voice raising an octave.

She still had that appointment with Butterworth, Honeywell, and Pan later this week, but by then, it might be too late. The only other attorney she knew was…

“Jennifer? Gage’s mom?” Kass repeated.

Do you remember when we were in choir together?” Madison inquired. “And we were in the alto section, but you didn’t want to be, but the teacher made you stick with it for the semester.”

“Yeah,” Kass frowned, puzzled as to why Madison would recall that particular memory.

Don’t stick with the altos and stay away from that which is not sea.

“Huh? That which is not sea?” Kass rubbed her cheeks, trying to decipher the meaning of Madison’s words. “Don’t stick with altos?”

Theee al-tos,” were the words Madison seemed to say as she shook her arms and phased through the bathroom door.

“Wait!” Kass walked forward and slammed into the solid door. “Ouch!” she cried. “Why stay away from theee… altos?”

She held her nose, her eyes smarting from the pain. Not theee altos? The Altos? Three Altos? her mind began to piece together meaning.  She blinked a few times. As she pushed open the bathroom door, Kass nearly collided with another woman. Holly Alto.


Author Notes: Thanks for reading. Moving right along with the mystery and the fantastical. Hope you’re enjoying. 

Interlude, Pt. 3: Monster (Madison) (KCLKF)

Author Note: This chapter includes descriptions of extreme violence.  I’d say more, but I don’t want to give away any major spoilers. If these are triggers for you, please refrain from reading. 

Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Madison shrieked, the letter fluttering to the floor as she realized the back window was open. The light cast an eerie shadow on a masked figure, cloaked in black, wearing leather gloves. She ran, as fast as she could toward the door, but he caught her arm.

“What?” he said calmly, as if he were having a normal conversation, yanking her back to their side. “I’m only finishing what you wanted to do.”

The voice grated on her ears, but it sounded gruff much like Al’s had been on the telephone.

“Al?” she asked petrified.

He released an evil cackle. “You wish.”

“Who…who…who…are you?” she blubbered, tears streaming down her face. Dear God, she prayed with all her might. I’m sorry. I take back my wish to die. I don’t want to die. 

“I am… simply an indebted servant…” the figure said, grabbing her around her waist. “And you…are in the way of the master.”

“Wha…no! Let me go!” Madison screeched, kicking the figure in the shins.

Breaking loose, she tore through the entrance, the figure right on her heels. Her sneakers crushed the plants as she ran through a flower bed. She heaved as she lifted a trash can with all her strength and threw it in the direction of her attacker. He cursed and dropped to his knees. Madison ran around the corner of the dumpsters and dove into the back seat of her car, shutting the door with the utmost caution moments before he reappeared. Despite the fact that she was in her vehicle, there was no way Madison would be able to climb to the driver’s seat, turn the car on, and get away without the assailant seeing. What if he has a gun? Shaking, she pushed three zeros on her cell phone.

Emergency dispatch,” the nasally voice answered, only making her feel sicker than she already was.

“Yes,” she whispered, terrified. “I…I need help…”

Okay, ma’am, what’s your location.”

“I…I..I don’t know,” she released out a sob, and quickly slapped her hand over her mouth. “Pl…puh..lease hel..help m…m…me.”

Ma’am, can you describe your surroundings?”

“I’m… in…in… Sunset Valley… I think, somewhere, around the area… the highway… the old inn…” Madison screamed as the back window exploded.

The glass shattered and rained on the seat along with the rock used to break the window. She accidentally ended the call, and hit the first person on speed dial. Someone would answer, she thought desperately. Someone would come to her rescue. She dropped her phone as hands grabbed for her, forcing the locking mechanism out of place, and yanked her from the car.

Hello?” a voice answered.

Madison thrashed and flailed as she was dragged from the vehicle by her shoulders and hair. “How… did… you… find… me?” she gasped.

Hello?”

“I am a hunter. I hunt my master’s intended prey,” he tightened his grip. “Don’t fight me. This is what you wanted… an end… a way out…”

What I wanted? Those words echoed in her ears, and she realized death was not what she wanted. She wanted life. She had something to live for, didn’t she? Madison instinctively hugged her mid-section. What kind of monster kills a mother and her unborn child? Tears flowed down her face. What kind of mother gets herself involved with the mafia family?  The assailant kicked open the door to the room with the coin operated laundry machines, and tossed her on the floor without much effort.

“No, please let me go,” Madison sobbed.

“It’ll all be over soon,” he reassured, his voice creepily calm.

He shoved her into a corner as he yanked something loose from behind the dryer. Her worst fears were coming true. In all her life, she’d always been terrified of fire. She wept uncontrollably, standing to fight him every step of the way, only to be continuously knocked down. He indignantly snapped at her when she told him he could walk away. That he didn’t have to do this. Of course, he did, was the response. She struggled helplessly, realizing this was how she was going to die. I don’t want to die, God! her mind clawed for air in the stuffy laundry room. Help me. Someone. She strained to recall stories from the Good Book, the ones she learned in Sunday school. The followers of the Way who were killed for their faith. Was that what she was? A follower?

“God, help me!” she cried. “You’re the only one who can.”

“Shut up,” the man said gruffly, and then let out a coarse laugh. “No God can save you from yourself. You did this to me. You did this to yourself. This is what you wanted.”

He left, the lock clicking into place as the machine caught fire. Whatever he had done, he ensured a quick burnout and probably a soon-to-follow explosion. Madison kicked her feet as she tried to inch toward the wall away from the flames. She prayed more desperately than she ever had in her life. God! Save me! Help me. If not for me, for my baby! Save this precious unborn life within. I’ve picked the wrong path all my life. You’re the only one who truly cares. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please. 

“No!” she yelped, as his elbow dug sharply into her side. “I didn’t. I don’t want this to be the end. Please God let this be a nightmare!”

As the smoke engulfed the room, she realized this was reality. She jerked wildly as she began to gag, feeling nauseous and lightheaded all at once. The words of Stephen, that guy from the Good Book, resounded in her head. Padre, into Your hands, I commit my spirit. Was He receiving her spirit? 

Even as her senses were going haywire, she felt a wave of calm wash over her soul. God held her spirit. The room grew fuzzy and her head felt as though it would spin into orbit. She struggled to breath, gasping and kicking violently. Her air supply was cut off, and she was powerless to do anything. As the laundry machines flamed out, the dryer shifted across the floor, propelled forward by the blast, crunching against her body as if her bones were bowling pins. She felt like she was falling, and it was terrifying.

As her mind rapidly lost consciousness, lights flashed before her in the paralyzing darkness, and she saw clouds rolling back, a light, pure and radiant. Her body breathed its last, and she inhaled something sweeter than she could have ever imagined – the breath of life. The last thing Madison remembered was a voice calling out.


Author Notes: Okay, yes, this was incredibly morbid… and descriptive. Probably one of the most morbid chapters I’ve written in awhile. I’ve had this chapter written for a long time, and I skipped including it in the first version of this story, mostly because I decided to go a different direction, and avoided the mystery. I had to let this sit for a long time before I felt like it was right to share. I’ve made many updates to this series of chapters, and improved the writing quality tremendously and wrote a murder chapter so good, it’s scary. Is this the end of Madison? We’ll see. Thanks for reading. Now back to Kass… 

Interlude, Pt. 2: Monster (Madison) (KCLKF)

Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Madison drove the back roads. It was out of her way, but she didn’t want to chance a spot. She navigated through thick groves of pine trees in the foothills. Blackness stared back at her as rain began to fall, first slowly and then like tiny bullets against her windshield. A deer darted out in the road and she nearly panicked and swerved. She rolled down her window temporarily, checking to see if the animal was okay. Rain splashed her eyes as she blinked rapidly to see. The doe darted off into the dark outlines of pine trees. She quickly rolled up her window as her cotton blouse was starting to soak and her stringy hair clutched to her damp cheeks.

After another five minutes of driving, Madison pulled onto the main highway just outside of town and drove the final half mile to the Quarter Rest Inn. She clicked off her lights and sat in the vehicle for a few moments, trying to catch her breath. The motel sat abandoned ever since the great business executive Apollo Alto had passed away. Back in the day, the inn-by-the-sea was a tourist destination with its own stables on the property for guests to go horseback riding on the beach at sunset. Upon Apollo’s death, property rights were negotiated with the real estate titans, the Landgraab family with an agreement never reached. The stables were torn down, and the motel fell into disrepair.

This place held many memories for Madison also. Her mother moved them to Sunset Valley to work in the stables. Displaced country girls. That’s all Madison ever felt they were. Still, she lived for the thoroughbreds, racing home after school each day to help her mother with chores. She loved those horses. Even after her mother passed away from lung cancer, Madison stayed on with the Alto family and maintained the stables. Her favorite horse was an Appaloosa named Pepper. Long after dark, the Altos permitted Madison to ride the horses, and she would always choose Pepper to race across the sand under the moonlight. With Pepper, she felt like she could fly. When Apollo died, all the horses were auctioned. Madison closed her eyes and leaned against the head rest. She hoped Pepper had nice new owners.

The first time Al noticed her, Madison sat proud and tall atop Pepper’s back. He smiled and called her a “cute kid.” She had been fifteen. She was seventeen when he noticed her again at her mother’s funeral. Her aunt called the man predatory, and wanted to bring her niece home to Riverview. But Madison thought he was  nice, allowing her to continue to live in the innkeeper’s cottage on the back of the property. He stopped by for regular progress reports. After all, he wanted to make sure the orphaned kid was okay and doing well in school. Madison did okay. She got mostly B’s and C’s. He offered to pay for a tutor.

On the eve of her eighteenth birthday, Madison hung her legs off the back deck, pleased with herself. She managed to save enough simoleons to pay for a new party dress. It was pink. She remembered. Al waved to her from the yard below and asked if he could come up. That was the night he kissed her. She thought she was special. His wife didn’t understand him. He thought Maddy was more beautiful anyhow. He asked about her dreams. She wanted to race thoroughbreds, and to be a model like the girls on the cover of those magazines in the supermarket checkout.

He made her dreams come true. It didn’t matter that she was a kept woman. She had everything. A contract with Platform. A steady new income. A penthouse in the city. Lavish parties. Expensive jewelry. Designer gowns. Shoes her mother would’ve needed to work three months to afford. And Madison had it dozens of pairs. He bought her diamonds. The finest champagne. Caviar. Fish eggs made her sick, but it didn’t matter. It was wealth.

The schedule had been demanding. The life of a model wasn’t easy. And she was expected to look a certain way and be a certain thing. She couldn’t deviate even in the slightest or she could lose her contract. She started dropping Mix. Al even joined her a few times. It helped relieve the pressure. Pretty soon it was the only thing that helped her sleep.

The magazine looked the other way. They didn’t care as long as their glamour girl brought in the big bucks. Since he owned a pharmaceutical company, Al brought a cocktail of anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, acetaminophen for the pain, and the ultimate stress relief, mixzomyatrobride. But she started gaining weight, losing control of her emotions, slapping a waiter at a high society function, screaming at her hairdresser in her trailer, and dousing a rival model’s dress in chocolate syrup. She was fired. Dumped. Evicted. Sued. Arrested for a DWI. Mandated eighty hours of community service. Sentenced to ninety days in rehab.

She met Abe in rehab. He, too, needed to get clean after an overnight stint in jail. He punched some guys lights out in a bar. The director of the program said it wasn’t a good idea to date a fellow addict. It didn’t matter. He was sweet and kind, and unlike Al, he wasn’t demanding. When they finished out their time, they both got jobs working for a coffeehouse in the Valley. It should’ve been enough for Madison. She narrowed her eyes and adjusted the rearview mirror. You never forget your first love. 

Al came around the coffee house a few times. He was remorseful. He apologized. He felt like it was his fault. He wanted to make it up to her. That’s how long conversations on the Jolt’s rooftop patio turned into lazy afternoons at the Quarter Rest Inn and trips down the coast to the casino. He opened a credit card in her name so they could pay for things without his wife discovering their affair. And the worst part was Madison couldn’t bring herself to actually break things off with Abe. She was too moon-brained for Al.

She shut the car door quietly, and walked across the asphalt toward the inn. Tears sparked at her eyes. But he never saw me as anything more than dollar signs and a piece of ass. And she was still bailing out  the bastard. After he found out she was expecting, everything she did was wrong. She had the bruises to prove it. Abe asked questions, and she grew distant, but still she saw the man who she both loved and hated.

A car passing along the highway startled Madison. She ducked behind a post, breathing a sigh of relief when the vehicle didn’t turn into the parking lot. Why am I so jumpy?  Sliding her key into the lock, she was relieved when she heard the mechanism unlatch. The room was exactly as they left it –  a simple bed with a pale pink comforter and crumpled sheets, as if they expected some maid to come and launder the bedding while they were gone. The wallpaper was faded, the roses not so vibrant anymore, the carpet worn after hundreds of guests traipsed across the floor, pounding down the threading. She pulled her cell phone from her pocket to use for light.

She used a bronze paperweight to smash a hole in the wall. It didn’t take long for her to find the faux velvet bag, filled with enough cash to last her two lifetimes. She gasped, sinking into the worn mattress, as she realized Al thought of everything – a passport with her picture, a social security card, travel documents. She blinked. He was giving her a choice?

A month ago she considered ending it all. She had even planned it out, a handwritten note in her safety deposit box. The police would find it, but only after she drove off the cliffs into the Panthalassan Ocean on her way out of Sunset Valley. It seemed like a romantic way to go. She’d be at peace, floating into the sea. Maybe she would even end up drifting all the way to Paradīse. It would be a quick death. Drowning was supposed to be painful, but she felt it would have been a fitting end to a worthless, wasted life. And now? she touched her hands to her lips. It was perfect. She could drive her car off the cliffs and that would be the death of Madison VanWatson. She could become… she fingered the name on the passport… this woman instead.

“Gawd, this is morbid,” Madison said aloud, falling back against the bed, dropping her arm behind her head.

Her bones ached, but not as much as her heart. The emptiness may never be exterminated, even if she became someone new. Perhaps the new life inside her would breathe new life into her own. Madison wanted to hope for the future, but she wanted to be surrounded by a few mementos from this life.  She sat up and reached into her purse to lay the few items she decided to take with her on the bedspread – a blue ribbon from an amateur horse race, a photograph of herself atop Pepper, the last love letter Abe wrote her, the corsage she wore to prom, the flower pressed between the pages of her favorite novel, and a teddy bear from her mother she was keeping for the baby. She pushed all the items back into her purse, along with about half the money and the passports. With this many untraceable simoleons, she didn’t need to take his pre-set travel options. She could go anywhere she wanted without being under anyone’s thumb. As she stood to leave, a tear slipped down her cheek. She turned, and plucked the love letter from Abe and kissed the paper.

“I have to leave you behind,” she whispered. “We could’ve been good together. I’m sorry.”

“Hello Ms. VanWatson,” an oddly familiar and sinister voice spoke from the shadows.


Author Notes: Not too much to say here until the conclusion of this three chapter arc. However, I did want to mention Mixzomyatrobride, also known as MT, Mix, Mya, and MayDay (mostly called that due to the rapid drop in blood pressure), is a pharmaceutical drug known to treat stress and stress-related disorders. When made illegally on the street, the pill can be lethal in high doses. Just a reminder, the Panthalassan Ocean is my Simworld version of the Pacific. 

Interlude, Pt. 1: Monster (Madison) (KCLKF)

Friday, June 20, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

Madison released a muffled scream as she catapulted from sleep.  She couldn’t believe how stupid she had been. About the love of her life. About the unplanned pregnancy. About her treatment of Abe. Sweet Abe. She rubbed her belly, wishing the child was his, even if she didn’t love him. He would’ve been good to her.  About all of it. You can’t help who your heart wants, her mother used to say. Madison herself had been the result of a lover’s tryst between a socialite fallen from favor and a married but bored farmer from Riverview. She had really believed Al when he said he loved her and would leave his wife for her. She should’ve known better.

Where am I? The dorm room of one Blair Wainwright. Madison smacked her forehead. I can’t stay here forever. Her friend had been kind enough to let her stay on campus. Blair was really going places in life. She was rookie with the police department and taking classes in the evenings to finish her degree, but her professors liked her enough, they granted extensions for most of Blair’s papers, and her bosses thought well of her, enough to give Blair her own squad car. Madison, on the other hand, was jobless, knocked up, nearly broke, and sleeping on her friend’s sofa. And worse still, she couldn’t leave town without finishing her community service or she could kiss parole goodbye.

The innate ringing of her cellular device interrupted her train of thought and Madison realized the phone call was what caused her to wake up. She swiped at the sweat on the back of her neck, and answered.

“Al,” she gasped, upon recognizing his voice.

Hi baby,” he said, affectionately, though his voice sounded gruff. “Sorry to call so late, but I’m in a little jam.”

Madison turned to look at her digital clock, its glowing red numbers indicating it was still before midnight.

“Al… why does your voice sound so funny?” she inquired.

Oh… I… uh… gotta cold…” he coughed heavily and she wondered if he had been drinking. “I need to pick up some lozenges at the pharmacy downstairs.”

“Are you still at work?”

Yeah, but I need your help.”

Her eyes widened. “Al! Have you been gambling again?”

Baby,” he coughed again, this time more harshly. “I need money. I know we said we’d stop seeing each other. I know I promised I’d stop… I promise I will… I just made a wrong guess you know, but I’m not gonna do it anymore after tonight.

“I don’t have any money,” she cried.

She didn’t have much left after the pregnancy expenses, and what remained was the little bit of her mother’s estate to cover things for a little while when the baby was born.

Maddy, I know darling…but I…” he hacked some more. “I can’t… get away from the game… they won’t let me leave.”

“What do you mean?” she frowned.

They know… they know everything… they threatened me and my family…” his voice dropped to a raspy whisper. “…and you. Baby I don’t want anything to happen to you. I love you.”

“Oh that’s rich!” she retorted. “You went back to your wife… and your other lover. Why don’t you call her?”

Because I trust you more,” he said. “And I…”

“Al, catch your breath!” she interrupted. “It’s always about the money.”

“Money… isn’t…everything…” he wheezed.

She waited as he sniffed and took a deep breath, and for the first time, she heard noise in the background. Muffled angry voices. She wondered if someone was in the office threatening him as he was on the phone with her. Her heart picked up speed. Maybe he really was in danger.

“What do you need me to do?”

Remember the place I kept? Where you met me a few times along the beach front?”

“At the Quarter Rest Inn?” she recalled.

She recalled the first time she saw the place. It said something when his family owned the motel. The kind of power they could buy. The kind of money they had. The kind of audacity he had when he schtupped his lover in the same hotel his wife also slept in. At first, she found his brazenness attractive. Now Madison found it to be one more testament to his desire to control everything around him – even her. Especially her.

That’s the one,” he replied. “I buried some money in the back of unit behind a wall. I need you to go and get it. Do you still have your room key?”

“Yes,” she replied, hesitating. “Why should I get it for you?”

Listen carefully…” he began, slowly. “I don’t want you to bring it to me.

“You don’t?”

No, I want you to keep it… I thought you could use it for the baby,” he said, the deep sadness in his voice evident.

“But won’t they hurt you?” she cried. “Won’t they come after me?”

There’s a passport there. And a social security card. For you. It’s all for you. And it’s enough money…” he coughed. “…for a new life… if you can let go of a plumbutt like me.”

“Wha?” she gasped.

It’s the only way  you can be safe… our son… can be safe. Can you do that? Can you be safe for me?

Her heart plummeted. He still cared. Even after the abuse she endured when he found out she was expecting. Even after the abuse she tolerated in order to cover her expenses. He still wanted her to be safe. Even at the expense of his own safety. Even at the expense of his own future. Their future. But she’d have a future. If she left everything behind. Madison straightened her back and made a fist with her left hand before releasing her grasp on the bed sheets, standing as if to make her point.

“I’ll do it.”


 

Author Notes: We’re taking a dark turn again after the nice and happy ending of the previous chapter. I’ve been wanting to do some resolution for Madison. It may or may not be what you were waiting for, or what Madison was hoping for. If you have questions, please ask. Thanks for reading. 

1.54 Friend from the Past (KCLKF)

Thursday, June 12, 2415, C.E. | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“Kass! It’s for you!” Carina shrieked from the front entryway.

Reluctantly, Kass left the upstairs bathroom. She had just returned from a long day at her internship, filing paperwork and answering calls and learning the ins and out of legalese.  Gage had cancelled dinner plans. Something “exciting” had come up. He didn’t say what. Kass sighed as she changed into her favorite tee shirt and jeans and planned to relax alone in her room and read the latest Sherlock Holmes, Jr. book. Maybe even order a pizza. It can’t be the delivery guys! I haven’t even ordered yet.

Clark and his sons were over again downstairs playing some board game with the family, except for Andi, who practiced piano in the upstairs hallway. They had invited Kass to play, but she begged off, saying she was too tired. In truth, she was tired, but she really didn’t want to spend time with her mamma’s boyfriend tonight. He had rehearsed some of his lines from the opera he was studying the previous night, and it was all too weird for her. She wasn’t quite sure she trusted him yet, but his story, in an odd way, made sense.

“Hey you sound good,” she praised her little sister as she walked past the keyboard in the hallway. “Did you want some more light?”

Kass could practically envision the notes, dancing through the air. She smiled, and crinkled her nose, wondering if that was normal.

“No, but thanks,” Andi replied, her fingers gliding across the keys as she continued playing. “I’m trying to feel the music. My fingers are in awful form tonight. I wish I was half as good as Mr. Andrews.”

“Beau Andrews is your teacher?” Kass arched a brow. “I met him.”

“Of course you did, silly. He’s the high school music teacher at Community School,” Andi giggled.

“Oh, I was only in choir,” Kass replied, awkwardly. “I didn’t know…” she trailed off.

She hadn’t really ever looked up in high school. Shuffling between classes. Doing everything that she was supposed to do. The high school was quite large. She must have never noticed Beau Andrews teaching piano classes. Then again, she gave up piano in the fifth grade. Didn’t have the fingers.

“KASS!” Carina whistled up the stairs with her fingers.

“Coming,” Kass said, walking down the steps. “Cyrus!” she exclaimed, her eyes settling on the last person she expected to see as she descended the final two steps.

Cyrus McArthur, the guy who dropped out of high school their freshman year, stood in the foyer, wearing baggy jeans and a leather jacket, tan pullover vest, green button down, ski glasses, and a beanie cap. He looked as though he hadn’t shaved in a week. She frowned. It was an odd look.

“What are… you doing here?” she tilted her head.

“Surprise!” he yelled, startling her as  instinctively brought her hands up to protect herself while Cyrus leaned in.

She flinched and tried to take a step back, her knees buckling, and he hesitated.

“I go by Cy now,” he smiled and laid his hands on her shoulders. “You okay there, Sparky?”

“Sparky?” she wrinkled her nose, wishing he would have forgotten that awful nickname.

Carina poked her head around the corner from the kitchen, a look of mild disgust and amusement on her face.

“I… uh… thought you were in drug rehab,” she said, rudely. “Or you were recruited into a super secret SIMSA program.”

Cyrus chuckled. “Neither actually. I went to work for PeachySoft games. I created a video game. A series actually. Cyclone Sword.

“What!” Carina exclaimed, drawing the attention of Kasey, who poked his head into the room.

“Dude!” he said, excitedly, walking over to shake Cyrus’ hand. “I love that game! I finally saved enough money to get Cyclone Sword II. You really are a game designer?”

“Yeah, I was the brain child behind it,” Cyrus admitted with a smile as he averted his eyes to the ceiling in mock shyness.

Kass narrowed her eyes. Modesty was never Cyrus’s strong suit.

“Kaden!” Kasey yelled. “Kaden! Come here. Cyclone Sword‘s designer is here in the house.”

“What?” Kaden poked his head into the room, and approached, a lot more hesitantly than his brother.

“Dude, you’ve gotta meet this guy,” Kasey jumped up and down.

“Uh, wow… you’re winning friends,” Kass said, half-heartedly. “And fans…” she had to smile a little at the sight of the Sauer brothers in geek heaven as they asked a ridiculous load of questions, barely pausing to let Cyrus answer.

“I’d be happy to sign your copies,” Cyrus offered. “But first I have to talk to Kass. Alone.”

The boys shuffled out of the room, reluctantly. Carina stood in the stairwell, wanting to hear the conversation, a little overwhelmed by the whirlwind.

“You did go to drug rehab,” Carina said, emphatically as she stomped up the stairs. “I remember.”

“Why are you here?” Kass inquired. “I haven’t seen you since…”

“I think the last time I saw you was when you turned me down for junior prom two years ago,” Cyrus chuckled awkwardly.

Kass leaned in dramatically. “For good reason too… you were high.”

“I knew it!” Carina said in sing-song as she skipped up the stairs the remainder of the way.

“And you had dropped out of high school,” Kass exclaimed. “You couldn’t go to junior prom. And you were high…” she repeated in disgust.

“Hey cut me some slack Kass. I’m not doing drugs anymore,” Cyrus waved his hands.

“I didn’t know Cyrus asked you to the junior prom,” Amy entered the room.

“Oh for heavens sake!” Kass sighed.

Would they ever get some peace and quiet so she could find out why he was there?

“Hello Cyrus, isn’t it?” Amy said, approaching and reaching out to shake his hand. “It’s nice to see you.”

Her tone was sugary sweet, and Kass knew it was a front as her mamma’s lips stretched into a tight smile. This was beginning to be a really weird night.

“Hello Ms. Riviera,” Cyrus nodded and shook her mother’s hand vigorously.

“Would you like some dinner?” Amy offered politely.

“No,” Cyrus shook his head. “I can’t stay. Thank you.”

“Mamma,” Kass muttered as she grabbed Cyrus’ arm and led him out the front door.

“See you later,” Amy waved before returning to the kitchen.

“What are you doing here?” Kass asked again, dragging Cyrus down the front steps. “You’re a big video game designer now for real?”

“Yeah, that’s me,” Cyrus nodded proudly. “And I’m clean. I promise.”

“But that still doesn’t answer my question. Why did you come here tonight?” Kass realized she was still hanging onto his arm, and she released his sleeve, wiping her perspiring hand on her jeans.

His face twisted into a cheeky smile. “Admit it. I still make you nervous.”

“Wha? No!” Kass threw her hands in the air and wished she could be star gazing or visiting Luna or something.

Anywhere but here.

“You… were… my first… crush,” she bit out uncomfortably. “But that’s all in the past now. Now please,” she flushed. “Tell me why you came over tonight. And you could’ve called.”

“I got my GED, and I’m taking classes over at Sunset U now. The profs are kinda hopeless and the classes are easy, but it’s something to keep me going between designing games,” Cyrus explained. “I met this girl in the quad and she asked me if I’d give her a ride here. Said she needed to talk to you. And I hadn’t seen you in so long, I thought I’d drop by and say hi too.”

“You’re giving strangers rides now!” she widened her eyes. “And if you did, where is she?”

Cyrus shrugged. “She was in my car, but I think she went around back.”

Kass made a face. “Well, okay then…”

“Hey listen Kass, if I did something wrong, sorry. I just wanted to see how you were doing. We should catch up sometime,” he held up his hands. “I promise I won’t invite you to a dance or anything.”

“I’m kinda seeing someone,” Kass winced and twisted her toe in the grass.

“That’s okay,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I didn’t expect you to wait around for me at all. I’m sorry. I should’ve called, but I uh… just well when Madison mentioned your name, I jumped at the opportunity.”

“Wait!” her eyes bugged. “Madison!?”

“Yeah, that’s what she said her name was,” he replied.

Kass turned to run around the side of the house. “Uh, thanks, Cyrus. I’ll call you.”

“Uh okay, bye,” he said, sounding disappointed.

When she reached the backyard, Kass noticed a dark-haired woman standing near the white hydrangeas. She wore heeled boots, jeans, and a black leather coat and gloves on her hands.

“Madison?” Kass said, her voice jumping in pitch.

“Yeah, it’s me,” Madison sighed, running her fingers through her hair. “I dyed it. You like?”

“What? Why?” Kass blinked rapidly. “Are you okay? What are you doing here? Cyrus said you wanted to see me.”

“Isn’t he nice? He’s a friend of Blair’s, my roommate,” Madison said, a small smile appearing. “Yeah, I’m okay. I was just wondering… can I crash here tonight? I know you offered… Blair has some guy over tonight, and well…” she looked down at her feet awkwardly. “You know.”

“Oh yeah, uh totally,” Kass bobbed her head.

“I didn’t want to come in,” Madison winced. “You looked like you have company.”

“Oh, that’s just my mamma’s boyfriend and his kids,” Kass shrugged. “Come in the back door, and we can avoid the living room. We’ll go right upstairs. Do you want anything?” she made a move toward the sliding glass door.

“Uh,” Madison said, tugging at one of her gloves. “Can I get a warm towel? My fingers are…”

Kass gasped as they stepped into the kitchen, light washing over them. She noticed Madison’s swollen knuckles and the cuts on her fingers.

“What happened?” she exclaimed.

“I… don’t really want to talk about it,” Madison said, nervously clutching her glove. “Please… where’s your room?”

“Upstairs and to the right. First door,” Kass nodded. “I’ll warm a wash cloth and do you want some tea? I can make some green tea. Or I think…” she walked toward the sink and opened a cupboard. “We have oolong… mango peach oolong.”

“Whatever’s fine,” Madison patted her hair and slid through the kitchen toward the stairs.

Kass set the kettle on the stove and found a wash cloth in the laundry room, fresh from the dryer. She moistened it in the kitchen sink and set it on another towel to keep it clean. After finishing the tea, she carried a tray with the kettle, two tea cups, a sugar bowl, and a small container of honey upstairs to her bedroom. Madison was already curled up on the bed, sleeping on her side, her hand, raw with the fresh cuts against the pillow. My pillow, Kass winced as she set her tea tray on the desk. That’s okay. She waved a hand over Madison’s face, and realized the woman was sound asleep. She’s probably exhausted. Kass laid the towel gently across her friend’s hand, turned off the light, and carried the tray out of the bedroom.

Stepping across the hall, she knocked softly on Andromeda’s door. Andi answered.

“Hey, want some tea?” Kass held up the kettle and smiled, tilting her head to the side.

“Uh sure,” Andi shrugged. “I gave up trying to play. Beethoven and I aren’t agreeing tonight.”

“Hey, would you mind if I crashed in here tonight?”

“Sure,” Andi nodded toward the bed.  “I’ve got a sleeping bag in the closet.”

Kass poured the tea while Andi plopped down crosslegged on the bed,  returning to her book.

“Is your friend okay?”

Kass sighed. Madison was a mystery.

“I don’t know.”


Author Notes: So originally, I had no idea how to fit these screenshots in my story. I’ve been enjoying sharing these family moments, and I thought it would be nice to actually use these pictures from my original game. Cycl0n3 Sword has been renamed Cyrus McArthur, but I kept the spirit of his name.

When Kass was a young teen, before this story began, she was romantically attracted to Cyrus in game. Also he showed up at the house and asked her out on a date, which she declined in game.

Also Madison, with a brand new look, showed up at Kass’s house and hung out in the backyard looking dressed for winter. I finally had a story line and a reason to include these images.

Kass is also hypersensitive to sights and sounds and such, and so sometimes she pictures sounds or tastes colors, hence why she sees “music notes.” It’s an actual condition called synesthesia. I don’t have it, but I have a good friend who does. You can read more about synesthesia here. Thanks for reading. 

1.52 Distressed (KCLKF)

Wednesday, June 11, 2415, C.E. | Sunset Valley, Valverde

So Granny Jade married into the Alto family?  Kass tried to digest the discovery as she climbed on the bus and swiped her pass before the card reader. The bus driver offered a toothy grin, and she smiled shyly in return. I wonder why she never said anything, she slid into a seat three rows from the back so as not to be disturbed. Strange coinky-dink!

Plucking her cell phone from her pocket, Kass texted Ayesha first, suggesting they hang out tomorrow after her work shift. Nearly immediately, Ayesha replied she would be cleaning the bathrooms at her family’s gym tomorrow evening, followed by a ‘yuck’ face Image result for yuck emoji, and a desperate, but hopeless plea for saving.  Kass responded with a cursory ‘sorry’ and a sorry emoji Image result for sympathetic emoji.  Then she texted Jennifer. I’ll be in early tomorrow. Sorry again about the other day. Image result for slightly frowning emoji Kass added a question regarding looking up someone’s phone number and how to determine if it was still active, or why a phone number would be routed through another service or business.

While she waited for Jennifer’s answer, she further contemplated the strangeness of connecting with Bella Goth’s phone number. She supposed it could be a fake, given there were enough vocal clips of the woman out there. But why the poster? Why that poster specifically? Why in Jade’s Java Jolt? And why a law firm masquerading as a travel agency?  

Arriving back at her grandparents home, Kass began packing up her things. Both Andi and Cari texted about returning home. She would feel like a jerk if she didn’t try to smooth things over with their mamma.

After she stuffed her duffel, Kass returned to the main floor, finding her Nonno watching Civic Public Action. She joined him on the couch as he protested over the political race heating up between Nancy Landgrabb and Jazzilyn Alto.

“I can’t imagine she will win with her dirty cheating husband of hers,” Nonno grimaced in disgust. “Everyone knows Bert Alto is a player. That Alto family is corrupt.”

“Nonno!” Kass exclaimed.

She knew as well as anyone that Bert Alto was cheating. She even knew with whom he was cheating. That’s if he’s only got one mistress on the side.  Even so, it didn’t seem fair to judge one’s politics and way of conducting oneself in business with one’s home life, especially when one was the offended party.

“Shouldn’t you give the woman a chance to prove herself in politics instead of judging her by her home life? Nancy Landgrabb’s ancestors stole land from the SimNatives. But that doesn’t mean she is corrupt.”

“Jazzilyn represents the Blue Party,” Nonno sighed. “She’s too progressive in her policies for my taste. Nancy Landgrabb will keep things the way we should.”

“But what if you don’t like what your party’s candidate is doing or saying?” Kass inquired. “Would you vote for someone else?”

“We’ve never voted for anyone but a Red Party member,” Nonno gasped. “I can’t imagine it would do any good to switch now.”

Kass kept her mouth shut. She learned if there was one thing never to discuss with her family, or anyone really, it was politics. She preferred to follow her heart and her gut, letting her morals guide her decisions rather than merely a political party.  Bisnonna would turn over in her grave to know she had registered with the independent Yellows while in City Hall the other day. She didn’t feel particularly swayed by any one party, and preferred a more moderate or centrist view.

Nonno spied the bag. “Are you leaving us, my dear?”

“Yes,” Kass nodded, even though she was torn about her decision, but she wanted to support her siblings. “I miss my bed. You know. It’s been lovely, though. Thanks for everything.”

Nonno placed his hand over his heart. “I’ll miss you, my favorite oldest granddaughter.”

“Nonno,” Kass laughed lightly. “I’m your only oldest granddaughter. And I’ll be back…” she leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Please say goodbye to Nonna for me. Ciao.”

Ciao, gattina,” Nonno replied.

Kass leaned her elbow against the window and stared out into the darkness as they descended the hill into downtown, alight with street lamps and bustling activity for a summer’s evening in Sunset Valley.  As the bus rounded the park, Kass gasped, catching sight of a familiar face, and almost instinctively pulling the cord to indicate she wanted to get off. She nearly tripped in her flip flops as she exited the bus. Cutting a corner across the lawn, she caught up to the person, pulling on her purple sleeve.

“Madison!” she called out.

The woman turned to face her, tired lines on her forehead, black circles prominent beneath her eyes. She appeared bewildered, and then recognition dawned.

“Hey Kass,” she said weakly.

“Hey, where have you been?” Kass inquired. “I’ve been worried.”

“Oh?” Madison said, her yellow-gold eyes widening.

“You filed a police report? And you disappeared from the Jolt?” Kass said, reaching out to touch Madison’s shoulder.

The woman flinched.

“Are you okay?” Kass inquired, pulling her hand back. “Your roommate said you haven’t been home. I’ve been trying to call and text you.”

“Yeah, she would say that,” Madison bit out sarcastically. “I’m not at home. I’m staying with a friend over at Sun U.”

“Oh,” Kass said, unsure of how to proceed.

I’ve already stepped in it. She had a million questions. As if reading her mind, Madison continued.

“I couldn’t make rent for several months, and Tori had enough. She said she’s working hard as an intern for Jazzilyn Alto’s campaign and she didn’t want to be around a slacker,” Madison sighed.

“What?” Kass exclaimed, frowning.  “And what did Monika say?”

“Oh Monika was sweet as always,” Madison swiped at a tear. “But she can’t keep floating me loans. Let’s face it!” she threw her hands up in the air with a depressed laugh. “Who’d want me?”

“I’m sorry,” Kass winced awkwardly. “What about Abe? Wouldn’t he help you out?”

“Abe and I broke up,” Madison wrung her hands. “I told him I didn’t think I was good for him.”

“Madison, you are…” Kass trailed off.

You are… what? Kass didn’t really know Madison all that well. They had never had classes together in high school, and unlike Madison, she had big plans to leave this town. They interacted and joked at the diner when they would see each other, and sometimes hung out with mutual friends, but they were more acquaintances than anything. However, in the last few days, Kass felt a strong need to say something, and not just because Madison was in trouble.

“Madison, you’re my friend,” Kass said, wrapping her arm around the woman’s shoulders. “You could’ve told Abe the truth.”

“No, I couldn’t,” Madison shook her head. “He told me he’s going to try some revolutionary new treatment for his blown-out knee. He wants to go back to pro-ball. He’s leaving…”

“Abe is leaving?” Kass opened her mouth to say more, but stopped.

“…yeah,” Madison sniffled. “He’s leaving for Strangetown at the end of the summer.”

“Wow,” Kass narrowed her eyes.

Good for Abe! Not so good for Madison. 

“You didn’t tell him the truth?”

“Why should I? He’s leaving anyhow. It wasn’t like I was in love with him,” she smirked. “And he’s like thirty-seven and I’m twenty. There’s seventeen years between us.”

Exactly. He’s more stable, right? Even as she thought the words, Kass couldn’t help but feel a little squeamish thinking about the age difference. It was a little strange. How come she hadn’t noticed before?

“Hey Madison, do you need a place to stay?” she asked, feeling compelled to do something. “My grandparents have plenty of rooms right now, and I’m staying there with them. You could come stay with me for a little while, until you get on your feet.”

I probably should’ve run this idea past them first, Kass grimaced internally. She hoped her grandparents would be as gracious.

“Oh honey,” Madison smiled wistfully. “Thank you for the offer, but I couldn’t impose.”

“No,” Kass shook her head, perpetuating a white lie. “You wouldn’t be imposing.”

“But yes, I would be,” Madison saw through Kass. “I’m staying with Blair Wainwright over in the Uni housing. Landgrabb House. You should come by sometime. Blair says it’s where all the cast-outs live. Don’t tell the Landgrabbs that!” she choked back a smile.

Kass smirked. “Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

“Yeah,” Madison said, though unconvincingly. “Blair is training to be a paramedic. She knows what she’s doing. And she’s fixing me up a baby room for when this thing…” she pointed to her stomach. “…pops!”

“Okay,” Kass twisted her flip flop in the grass. “Well if you change your mind… I’m glad you’re okay.”

Madison waved goodbye. “I’ll be fine.”

But as she walked around the edge of the park restrooms, Kass could see her shoulders visibly slump.


Author Notes: Thanks for reading. In my original game at this point, Madison was in her second trimester and showing. I’m slowly trying to “resolve” some things in this story as I’ve introduced so much drama/mystery, a combination of my original published story and my original outline (which the original story deviated from). This time, I’m trying to stay truer to the game play as I recall and from the detailed notes I captured. Abe was a barista at Jade’s Java Jolt, but when I checked in with him later, he had joined the athletic career.  I know I already used “Landgrabb” House in La Vita Bella at Neighborly State University, but who’s to say the Landgrabbs don’t have another building named for them in Sunset Valley? 

1.45 Humiliated (KCLKF)

Tuesday, June 10, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“Hey, are you okay?”

Kass hurried across the room as Madison stumbled and struggled to regain her balance. The bleached blonde glanced up, weary-eyed and trembling as she grabbed the edge of the wall.

“Oh hi, Kass,” she winced.

“Are you okay?” Kass repeated.

“Uh…yeah…” Madison said, unconvincingly. “I came to pick up some books from the hold counter.”

“Hey do you need to sit down?” Kass asked, reaching to help Madison steady herself.

The woman flinched as Kass barely brushed her arm, yanking almost defensively and holding her arm with her other hand.

“I’m fine,” Madison said, tersely, leaning against the bookcase.

Kass gasped, startled, by the images assaulting her senses. Dark outlines of pine trees, blood, wet cotton, and stringy hair flashed across her inner eye. Raindrops sounded like gunshots. A sickening crunch like a bowling ball against human bones and a muffled indignant male voice struck her ears. As quickly as the vision appeared, it disappeared, leaving Kass in a whirlwind of foggy disorientation.

“Are you okay?” she repeated as if on auto-pilot.

Madison frowned. “You don’t need to keep asking!” she snapped. “And what was that? You practically blacked out there…” she waved her arms, knocking a stack of red leather encyclopedias with gold lettering to the floor with a resounding thud.

“Oh,” Madison cried out, bending to pick up her mess.

“What’s going on over here?”

A bony late-middle-aged man, graying at the temples and balding, with permanent frown indentations, approached from the reference counter. A look of aggravated recognition dawned on his face. “Madison! I should’ve known. You’re late.”

“Please Peter…I’m…” Madison protested. “I am…”

“She’s helping me,” Kass interrupted, trying to alleviate her acquaintance’s distress. “Clean the mess I made…” she chuckled awkwardly. “Clumsy old me. Wasn’t watching where I was going.”

The reference attendant called Peter looked unconvinced, but he just grunted something about straightening her mess and getting back to the tourists and left. Kass sighed gratefully, and leaned against the shelf. Madison burst into tears.

“Aw Madison, it’s gonna be all right,” Kass placed a comforting hand on the other woman’s shoulder.

“I…” Madison’s lower lip wobbled. “I’m so humiliated.”

“It’s okay,” Kass said, even if she wasn’t even sure what was wrong.

“I think I’m going to lose this position,” Madison wailed. “And it’s the only service site that would work around my work schedule.”

“You’re working here?” Kass asked.

“No, uh… community service…” Madison winced. “I’ve been exhausted and over-sleeping recently. I missed my shift at Hogan’s the other day and  they fired me. I’ve been late here a few times. Gage offered to switch so I could work tonight and make some extra money, but I don’t know what I’m going to do long-term.”

Gage! Kass blinked a few times. She had completely forgotten about him. She may have remembered had she gone to work, but Jennifer didn’t schedule her until Thursday.

“That was nice of him,” she offered. “I’m sorry…”

“Thank you,” Madison said. “Last week I got sick in one of the aisles. I tried to make it to the bathroom, but it was too late. My probation officer says if I can’t hack this, I might not have other options.”

Kass frowned. What kind of trouble did Madison get into?  In a town as large as Sunset Valley, there had to be someone who would accommodate Madison’s work schedule. She wondered where else she had tried volunteering, though she sort-of remembered seeing someone who looked like Madison picking up trash on Old Pier Beach last week.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Kass asked. “How long?”

“I’ve got at least sixty more hours to do,” Madison bemoaned.

“No, um…”Kass leaned forward and lowered her voice. “How long?”

Madison brushed damp hair off her forehead, averting her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m not stupid, Madison,” Kass inquired gently. “The dizziness? The morning sickness? How long?”

“You mean my queasiness?” Madison feigned a smile.

“If it were just queasiness, it would’ve passed by now,” Kass replied. “And you were in the hospital… what is going on with you, Madison?”

“I just had a bout of food poisoning, and um…” Madison swallowed hard. “…and  I had a couple of books on hold. That’s why Peter’s been mad at me,” she shrugged. “I can’t pay for them and he special ordered for me.”

“Madison…” Kass wondered why she was being cagey.

When she saw the woman in the hospital, Kass knew she was there because of a fractured wrist… an injury she suspected was not due to a hapless accident.

She softened, her face relaxing. “It’s okay, Maddy,” she used a childhood nickname. “Do you remember when we went to church camp together and the girls bathrooms had a problem with those leaky pipes so they shut off the water? Most of the girls figured they would just shower after the trip, but you really wanted to get clean. So I offered to stand and keep watch while you bathed in the lake so none of the boys would see you.”

Madison giggled, and covered her mouth. “I insisted on bringing my shower puff too.”

“And you slipped on that wet rock getting out of the lake,” Kass replied. “And I promised not to tell anyone. It would be our secret.”

Madison gulped, and nodded.

“You can trust me.”

Madison’s hand flew instinctively to her abdomen, and she dropped her head. “About seven weeks now. The doctor confirmed everything yesterday. I… I can’t… I don’t know…” she whispered. “…how I’m going to be a single mom.”

“Did you tell him?”

“Who?”

“Your boyfriend?”

“No!” Madison exclaimed, and then lowered her voice. “I can’t. Abe… doesn’t know…”

Kass sighed. So she was seeing Abe Finkel? He was a good guy. She knew he would do right by Madison. She didn’t need to worry. Kass puzzled. Then who was abusing her?  Surely it wasn’t Abe? He didn’t seem like the type. The avoidance. The bruises. The fractured wrist. And that wild vision I had. A forest? She frowned. Was Madison in the middle of the woods when something happened between her and Abe? Or someone else?

“Is he… uh…I don’t mean to be indelicate… but is Abe hurting you?” Kass asked, grimacing.

“What?” Madison protested. “No. Abe…” her voice caught in sadness as her eyes pooled with tears. “…is a sweetheart. He’s been really kind to me.”

Kass put her arm around the other woman’s hunched shoulders, still confused by the mystery injuries. One issue at a time. “Then you don’t need to worry. I’d just tell him sooner rather than later. He deserves to know.”

Madison shook her head violently, backing away as her eyes widened like round saucers.  “I….we… talked about kids… just not like this…” she said, shaking.

“So you are’t perfect anymore?” Kass tried to lighten the mood, a slight smile playing at the corner of her lips. “Come on, Maddy. It takes two to make a life. I’m sure Abe will understand. So you forgot one time. We all screw up,” she assured.

Madison stared up at her, hateful tears pooling in her hazel eyes. “We didn’t screw up,” she said, through gritted teeth. “It’s not Abe’s child.”


Author Notes: And the plot thickens. I remember playing the game and I had toyed around with sending Kass to uni or jumping ahead to uni. I didn’t realize at the time that you had to load a whole other world of University. Haha. I was such a noob. Anyhoo… I sent Kass to test out University Life and met Peter Horne almost right away. When I sent Kass home, she rolled a wish to call him and invite him for a visit. He arrived at 9am the next day and then followed her (as they were automatically in a group) to  the bookstore at the mall. Oh well.

So he popped up in my scene (unfortunately no pics because I was bad about angles and snapping images in my first few months) and argued with Madison, who is (surprise!) pregnant! I switched to see who she was romantically involved with – and Abe was one of the people. I won’t tell you who the other individual is. You’ll have to keep reading to find out. Thanks for reading. 

1.44, Pt. 3: Girls Day (KCLKF)

Tuesday, June 10, 2415 | Sunset Valley, Valverde

“Let’s stop in here.”

Kass linked arms with Ayesha, gently tugging her friend out of the elevator. After their lunch at her workplace, Kass drove the girls over to the mall for  relaxing window shopping. They stepped into the Art of the Ordinary Gallery. The penny-colored walls were covered with framed paintings of various random scenery. Kass wasn’t particularly impressed with the multiple depictions of the same Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

“You’d think they could’ve been more creative,” she remarked. “It’s so overdone.”

“The Sunset Valley Lighthouse?” Ayesha replied. “Yeah,” she agreed. “It is almost the same angle.”

“It’s too bad,” Kass sighed.

The Sunset Valley landmark had a rich history, over two-hundred-and-forty years old. Serving as an early warning system, the Pigeon Point Lighthouse kept many boats from wrecking on the jagged reefs in the bay, and probably even kept a few swimmers too far from shore from giving up hope, Kass supposed. The island was a favored elementary school field trip, a rite of passage practically, to climb the spiral staircase and gaze out over the waters. There were many reports written about the rich marine life along the coast. Kass remembered writing about elephant seals for a fourth-grade paper. She gazed out the window wistfully, pulled from her reverie when she caught sight of Madison walking up to the front of the mall.

“Hey,” she began, lifting her hand to wave, but realized the woman couldn’t see her through the blinds.

“You want to buy?” a plump Hànzúrén clerk approached, pushing black-rimmed cat’s-eye glasses up her nose.

“Oh,” Kass turned around to face the retailer. “No. I was looking for something for…” she stopped, realizing the woman was addressing Ayesha, staring at a black-and-white-striped flamingo.

“Oh no!” Ayesha chuckled. “I’ve had enough zebra stripes recently.”

The retailer wandered away to help another customer. Ayesha giggled.

“She looked so disappointed,” Kass teased.

“You should buy it for your dorm room,” Ayesha suggested.

“Riiight…” Kass said. “I’m trying to find a gift for Carina’s birthday in a month. How would I even fit that thing in my suitcase?”

“Zebras represent balance, harmony, and unity which is good for your college dorm room,” Ayesha explained, as if she didn’t hear Kass’ comment. “Flamingos symbolize community and cooperation.”

“Okaaay, Ms. Psychoanalyze…” Kass smirked.

“Yeah, just the other night I had a dream about zebras and flamingos,” Ayesha said, nonchalantly.

“Really?” Kass widened her eyes.

“Yeah, I was woo-hooing with this awesome zebra-trainer from the circus on the lawn in front of his house and we were surrounded by pink lawn flamingos. I was wearing zebra-striped lingerie and he leaned over and as he was nibbling on my ear he was whispering all seductively to me that he enjoyed channeling my inner wild animal.”

Kass doubled over, covering her mouth as she gagged. “Oh llamas!! I don’t want to hear this…”

“So I was telling Erik we should try it sometime. I was thinking on Mrs. Longfellow’s lawn because she collects so many of those pink plastic flamingos that we’d have plenty of privacy,” Ayesha said as she stretched and cracked her knuckles.

“Oh!” Kass gasped, swallowing hard. “I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.”

“Gotcha!” Ayesha grinned evilly. “I did have the dream but I haven’t talked to Erik about it.”

“Oh my llamas! I will never be able to think about flamingos ever again without playing out that scenario… Seriously, Ayesha! What is wrong with you? And is there something else you want to tell me? About you and Erik?”

“Seriously Kass, relax,” Ayesha put her arm around me. “No Erik and I aren’t woo-hooing. How could we be? He’s been away in Sim City at university this whole past year.”

“I don’t know,” Kass said loudly, and then lowered her voice as she realized they had drawn the attention of another art gallery patron. She guided Ayesha out of the gallery before continuing, “I was wondering when you said you and Erik were talking about… and possibly doing… something… like on… the lawn… ”

“Sex, it’s okay, Kass,” Ayesha laughed. “You can say it. You don’t have to be such a prune.”

“A prune?” Kass wrinkled her nose. “I think the correct term is prude.”

“Yeah whatever,” Ayesha rolled her eyes. “You can say the correct term. Sex. S-E-X. Right. Come on say it with me.”

Kass tucked a hair over her ear. “I do not need to say it.”

“Come on Kass… say sex. I want to hear you say it,” Ayesha coaxed.

“Stop it, Ayesha. This is ridiculous.”

“What because you’re a cherry who can’t even say the word ‘sex’ because she’s a prune?”

“PRUDE!” Kass shouted, ducking into the ladies bathroom before she died of embarrassment, yanking Ayesha in with her.

“Ow!” Ayesha exclaimed.

“Why do you have to be such a jerk?” Kass ran her hands under the soap dish before turning on the sink, rubbing her hands vigorously.

“A jerk?” Ayesha quirked a brow, leaning back into the counter. “I’m sorry, Kass, but I think you are seriously wound. How do you expect to get Davis if you can’t even say the word ‘sex?’ I mean, he is an older guy, right? Probably more experienced?”

“Okay, stop!” Kass held up her hand, yanking a paper towel from the dispenser. “I don’t want to think about that. I don’t want to think about sex… there I said it… are you happy?”

“Yes,” Ayesha smirked. “And I’ll drop the subject. I just think you need to come to terms with that word.”

“I will,” Kass said hastily. “In my own time and without your gross input… and horrible innuendos.”

They walked out of the bathroom and back into the art gallery.

“….or lawn flamingos!” Ayesha laughed.

“Gah!” Kass brushed an invisible piece of fuzz off her dress. “Are we okay to walk around out here? You’re not going to like…”

“What? Scream woohoo from the rooftops? Maybe!” Ayesha grinned deviously, but seeing Kass’s frown, she quickly added, “It’s okay, Kass. We’re both cherries. We’re both newbies. Don’t worry. I haven’t left you behind in the dust. I’m just a little… curious. Probably because I have older, uber conservative prudish parents who look like prunes when they get it on.”

“Okay! Enough with that visual please…” Kass groaned.

“… and a sister who got pregnant at seventeen. I can’t help it. I wonder. I’m deprived and my lady parts aren’t getting any younger.”

“Oh llamas, Ayesha, you’re nineteen, you have time,” Kass said.

“Sure I do, but I can’t help it and wonder,” Ayesha said seriously. “Erik and I have talked about what it would be like… this summer and all with him being back.”

“I don’t need to know details,” Kass shrugged.

“Yeah, but I don’t have anyone to talk to. I hardly talk to my sister anymore with her being out of the house and my parents certainly aren’t a helpful resource,” Ayesha sighed.

“I don’t think I’m very helpful either,” Kass said. “You might be better off just keeping those things in your head.”

“Naw, you’re fun when you’re a tomato,” Ayesha shook her head and smiled.

“Please!” Kass shook her head. “I think I’d rather be called a cherry.”

“I’m like that statue over there,” Ayesha sighed, exasperated.

Veni  Di’vine?” Kass interjected, proud of herself for remembering the piece from art history class.

“I feel like if I’m not talking about it, it’s like cutting off my arm or something,” Ayesha waved her arms toward a statue.  “And obviously she’s got something going on if she’s half-naked in the gallery, but she can’t do anything about it because she’s like made of stone. I don’t want to turn to stone, Kass,” she wailed, turning to shake Kass’s shoulders.

“Ayesha, oh my llamas! You won’t turn to stone if you don’t woohoo…” Kass replied. “Maybe Erik isn’t the one either. Have you thought about that? You can’t just go around doing things without it affecting you… or other people… like Erik.”

Kass didn’t add ‘and me.’ What am I going to do if I’m the only one of my friends holding out? Is it really that bad here on the outside? Woohoo… sex… isn’t the end all, be all in life, right? 

Ayesha begrudgingly agreed to drop the subject while Kass paid for small lion oil painting for Carina. They chit-chatted about vacation plans before Kass left for Uni, how Ayesha was uber jealous because her best friend got to leave the state and she was stuck at city college, and how they had to make an obligatory appearance at Zelda Mae’s beach blowout bash later in the summer. The girls wandered into a bath and body shop. Kass’ jaw dropped when she saw the price of one of the perfumes she had been wanting.

“Oh my! SALE!” Kass shrieked giddily, clapping her hands.

“Oh you should totally buy it. That’ll draw the man of your dreams,” Ayesha teased.

“Would you stop!?” Kass grunted in aggravation. “Seriously, all you can think about is woo-hoo! And oh….” her face relaxed as she lifted the bottle to her nose. “Smell that!” she shoved the perfume in Ayesha’s face. “Cherry blossom… mmmm…”

“Sorry, Kass, I didn’t realize I was making you that uncomfortable,” Ayesha said somberly.

“Oh yeah, and you didn’t notice before now,” Kass replied sarcastically, picking up another apothecary jar and sniffing. “Black currant and jasmine,” she read the label.

“Maybe,” Ayesha shoved her hands in her jean skirt pockets. “But it’s kinda fun getting a rise out of you.”

“Gah! I give up! You’re impossible,” Kass threw her hands in the air.

They walked arm and arm across the mall, climbing the stairs to the third story, wandering into Ocean Vista Visitor’s Center and Gift Shop. Ayesha walked over to the community library section, pulling out recipe books as she complained about how her father berated her lack of cooking skills. She “just wanted” to be able to make the perfect rack of lamb, she claimed, like a proper Al Simharan woman. Kass wasn’t sure she ever had lamb, and wondered if it would really be that hard if one followed a recipe, but then again, her cooking skills were pretty limited to breakfast foods.

Kass perused science fiction novels, fascinated by fictionalized tales of the space travel days. It wasn’t as if no one traveled in the stars. The military certainly had a presence around the planet and on the moon. However, it was hard to find good fantastical literature about the Dornröschen, the first generational ship to leave Eörthe, the Old World. One of the high-ranking officers on the ship was a distant relative of the Goth family, and it was said Bella was a direct descendants of those original space-faring folk. Perhaps that was part of Kass’ interest in the stars and speculative fiction.

“I’ll be over in history,” she said as Ayesha continued pulling books off the shelf to pile onto the table, desperate to find a good meat recipe for her family.

“Okay,” her friend grunted.

Kass turned just in time to see familiar blonde-haired woman tripping out of the elevator.

“Madison!”


Author Notes:  Another Madison appearance. I hope I’m not going too long without explaining things. Hopefully you haven’t forgotten about Madison.

Also a random little bit of info about the “discovery” of Simterra by people of Earth (known as Eörthe or Old World to the Sims). The Dornröschen was the  name of the interstellar ark or generation ship that carried Sims from Sol System to the Daleth System, where the planet of Simterra is located. Interestingly, Dornröschen is the German name for ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ Perfect for a generational ship with suspended animation, right? 

Recent Changes: 

  • A Hànzúrén  is my Simworld version of person from China or Hong Kong Island. 
  • Veni Di’Vine is a replica of the Venus de Milo, a sacred lady in the Cult of Veni or the Venusian Pantheon. 

New Name

Former Name

Real World Parallel

Language

People

Descriptor

New Hong Kong

Simina

China

Sim-Han

Hànzúrén

Hànzú

Thanks for reading.