Chapter 7.17

Zachary

I’d given up all hope of dating Cheyenne. Hell, I’d never had to chase women before. They usually came to me. And I liked it like that.

I couldn’t understand why Cheyenne’s gorgeous red lips, her bright red hair and her tight jeans that showed her even tighter ass was now playing a never ending loop in my mind.

Vance said it was because it was the thrill of the chase. Hunter preying on pheasant. And once I got said quarry, I’d get bored and move on. I wondered if he was right.

Still…it was hard, but I’d decided not to think about her anymore. Vance, Dax, and I were headed to a party on the swanky side of town. Vance’s cousin knew a girl who was freaking rich and we were going to have the run of her father’s mansion–pool tables, hot tubs, and loads of hot babes. Just the ticket to get my mind off things.

Passing by the library, I noticed a familiar face.

My insides did a nosedive when I saw none other than Cheyenne Day holding hands with another guy.

“Damn,” I whispered.

Cheyenne had told me she was in a play but I was too interested in kissing her to really listen. And here it was. The opening night was in just a few hours.

Something clicked inside.

Turning to my friends, I said, “Hey, guys, listen, I just remembered I forgot to feed the cat before I left. But I’ll catch up with you later at the party.”

Vance’s eyes narrowed. “But…you don’t own a cat.”

“Yeah dude,” Dax added, “what the frick?”

“It’s my professor’s cat. Anyway, just go on without me, okay?” I said with my don’t-argue-with-me voice. This was code for I’m-going-to-hook-up-with-a-girl so don’t bother me.

The two shrugged and went on without me.

I took another look at the banner. Landgraab Theater was on the other side of town far away from the party but I didn’t care. Cheyenne was going to go out with me. I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The play was actually a musical and a comedy. It wasn’t my thing but I got a few laughs out of it. And I liked listening to Cheyenne sing. Her voice was something special. Goosebumps prickled over me at one point in the song.

The girl was talented–that was for sure. Of course, I knew nothing about acting but I could tell she was a natural up there.

When the play was over, everyone spilled out into the atrium. I’d bought some roses to give her, hoping a little bribe might help tumble down those walls she’d put up in front of me.

But it looked like she was surrounded by her family.

Cheyenne

It was so fun to see my family together in one spot. Since I’d gone to college, we rarely got together except for Christmas. Oasis Springs is four hours from Britechester and five from Del Sol Valley. Grandma Lexie and Grandpa Cory couldn’t make it because Brindleton Bay was too far and my opening night wasn’t exactly an earth shattering event but at least Mom and Dad could come. Of course Grandpa was there. I got to see him practically every week.

“So, did it not suck?” I asked, my heart still beating from the excitement of doing the play. I always got such a rush when I heard laughter or applause.

My brother shot gun fingers at me and said, “You knocked us dead, Sis.”

“Oh, God, Kian,” Phoebe said. “That’s not what she wants to hear.”

I laughed. My brother meant well, but he could be awkward sometimes.

“That was an amazing performance, sweetheart! Come here!” Grandpa reached out his arms.

He swept me up into a bear hug. “I think you’re ready for the big time.”

He always said that. It was like his catch phrase for me. I giggled and said, “Thanks, Grandpa.”

“What about your old dad? I need a hug, too, you know.”

“Dad,” I whispered, hugging him close, “I missed you.”

Zachary

A huge problem for me was Cheyenne’s grandpa was a freaking mega movie star. Honestly, I didn’t give a shit about it. I mean, I really didn’t like going to movies. Couldn’t even tell you what the latest shows were or who starred in them. The only reason I’d recognized and knew who James Sanderson was was because my friends in high school made me see the Vindicators one night when we were binging shows. Afterwards, I’d made them promise not to bug me about watching again. I liked sports documentaries or the odd war history drama, but that was it.

And now I was staring into the face of a goon. Probably Mr. Sanderson’s body guard.

“Sorry,” the goon growled. “Mr. Sanderson isn’t giving out autographs. Now move along and allow him some privacy with his family.”

Shit. How was I supposed to talk to her now?

Cheyenne

I smiled after Dad hugged me. “Glad you liked it, Dad. I was kind of nervous it wouldn’t be your thing.”

“You’re right, Chey,” Mom said, giggling. “Your dad isn’t really into Fakespeare.”

He countered, “It could have been a spoof on alien invasions for all I care. You still would have nailed it to me.”

Aww…Dad was so sweet. To him, I was still his little girl and hey! I’d take it!

Just then, Mark Jackson, Grandpa’s bodyguard, interrrupted. “Excuse me, Miss Cheyenne. This guy says he’s your boyfriend. Is that true?”

I glanced over to see Zachary and my stomach fluttered. He came all the way out here to see my play? I had to hand it to him. He didn’t give up. And honestly, after the talk I’d had with Kristie, I was tired of turning him down. But I figured I’d tease him just a bit for his lie. “I don’t have a boyfriend, Mark.”

Throwing a finger out at poor Zachary, Mark shouted, “Okay, clown, I’m going to say this for the last time. Leave the family alone or I’ll escort you out of here myself!”

The stricken look on Zachary’s normally pompous face made me laugh.

But I was touched he’d actually come all the way out here to watch my play. And he was even holding a dozen roses. “It’s okay, Mark. He’s a friend.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Okay then if he gets out of line, just let me know.”

My stomach turned to knots almost instantly when our eyes met. “Hi,” I said, shyly.

“You look gorgeous as usual.” His pompous face was back. But I liked it.

Handing me the roses, he said, “These are for you. Did a great job up there.”

“So…” I said, “you like Fakespeare then?”

Twisting his lips, he said, “I like you. Come on, Cheyenne. Go out with me.”

My heart squeezed and before I could answer, I heard Grandpa say, “Go on, sweetheart! You don’t have to stay around us old people. Have fun!”

Mom pulled my arm and whispered, “He sure is cute.”

Smiling, I said, “He is. And he knows it.”

She laughed along with me.

Rubbing his hands together, Zachary said, “Look, that’s okay, I don’t want to take you from your family. Just…uh…can I come by tomorrow night and pick you up? 7 o’clock?”

Fireworks were going off in my head as my heart pounded. “Sure. See you then.”

Chapter 7.16

Cheyenne

God, I couldn’t believe the one job that could take me places got smashed by the most beautiful face in the world.

Jack Rackham was dreamier than his picture on the movie posters that were all over the world last year.

The real deal was always better. Thank God he didn’t see me.

Grandpa didn’t understand when I told him I couldn’t do the job anymore. I lied and said I wouldn’t have time because of my schedule with the play. (It was almost over and our practice times didn’t conflict at all but he didn’t have to know that.)

I wasn’t about to subject myself to the inevitable awkward moments when I’d have to attend Jack’s lot. And no way in hell could my self esteem survive if he didn’t even recognize me. Or worse. Didn’t remember.

Now that my job was over, all I had were me and my thoughts about Kristie. My bff! She wouldn’t talk to me no matter how many texts and calls I’d made.

What did I do that was so horrible? I tried to remember that night with Zachary but I’d drank so much, I just blanked it all.

But I did remember that morning. And he was…sweet…in his infuriatingly cocky way.

Well, there was only one thing to do. Blast her with texts until she caved.

Finally! I broke through her walls.

We decided to wait until the next morning since it was Sunday and no one would be around on campus. Everyone would be sleeping off hangovers or just be lazy since there was no school.

My body felt all jittery when I saw her sitting there on the bench.

The acrid smell of cigarette smoke wafted over to me. She’d started smoking again. I’d thought she quit last year. Guess not. In high school, she’d gone out with a dude that smoked and during her parent’s divorce, she took up the habit. Three years later, she vowed to quit and I thought she’d done it, too, because I never smelled it on her.

I walked closer to her with my peace offering in hand. She didn’t glance at me. She just blew out a cloud of smoke.

“It’s your favorite. Caramel Snickerdoodle Macchiato with extra whipped cream.” I inched out my hand, hoping she’d take it and we’d go back to how things were–laughing about our horrible professors, whining about not having the right clothes for a date, complaining about our parents being too nosy about our lives, and just being together most of the time. That’s who we were ever since I could remember.

“You know those are loaded with calories,” Kristie said not glancing up at me.

Guess she wasn’t in the mood for peace offerings.

I put my hand on my hip. “Come on, Kristie. Stop giving me the cold shoulder. I have no idea what I did wrong, so could you please let me in on the secret? It’s the least you could do.”

That seemed to snap her out of her funk.

Sheepishly, she took the coffee and said, “Thanks.”

I settled on the bench next to her as she looked as if she was thinking.

But I went ahead and spoke. I couldn’t help myself. “You know I’m really sorry. For whatever I did. I mean…I know you liked Zachary and I had no right to take him from you. I’m not seeing him. I won’t. He’s all yours.”

Kristie shook her head. “It’s not that, Chey…”

“Then what is it?”

She bit her lip as she squeezed the coffee. “I think we need a break is all. We’re just…going in different directions.”

I crossed my arms, not understanding anything. “A break? Like…we’re not a couple. That doesn’t make sense at all.”

“Yes it does, Chey. We’ve been friends for a long time but sometimes a person takes and takes from a relationship and the other one just doesn’t have anymore to give. That’s where I’m at.”

“What are you talking about? That I don’t give in our friendship? That’s not even fair, Kristie.”

“Chey, the night of the party, you got so wasted you didn’t even know what was going on. You were all over the place and then all over Zachary. Okay, yes, I was angry about that but seriously, you don’t care about what people think of you because you have a famous grandpa who’ll help you along no matter what you do. Partying is no big deal but for me, I want to get into the best law school in the country, and I can’t jeopardize that by hanging out with someone who…”

She stopped herself and got up as if she was done with the conversation. “Listen, I just think we should take a break. It’ll be good for us…for our friendship in the long run. I’ll go my way for a while and you go yours.”

I shook my head. “I can’t believe you’re doing this. Do you know how shallow you sound right now?”

She didn’t have the guts to answer me.

“Fine,” I practically spit, willing tears NOT to come to my eyes. “I’ll leave you alone and not dirty your precious reputation.”

“You know that’s not what I mean. It’s more that I need to concentrate on my studies. The bar exam is only months away and I have to score in the top. I can’t be tempted to lose focus.”

I was so hurt and angry, every fiber in my body burned. I knew the real reason. I wasn’t like her preppy sorority sisters. I didn’t fit in with them. I knew that but I didn’t think I was acting any differently than Phoebe. She’d gotten wasted, too, that night. But she was in her sorority, and I wasn’t. It didn’t make a difference these past three years and now, all of a sudden, she has a problem with me? There had to be something more.

I sighed then said, “Okay, fine, Kristie. Have a nice life.”

Without even a decent good bye, she left me, standing there. All by myself.

And just like that, I’d lost my best friend.

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Chapter 7.15

Cheyenne

Ever since I was a kid, I always loved going to my grandpa’s house. Well, more like mansion, but he made it homey.

It had this cool waterslide attached to it that he had made especially for me and Kian. We’d spend hours sliding down. So fun!

The wind whipped my ponytails, sending shivers through me. I tried to shimmy off the sad feelings I had about Kristie. How many times had she visited Grandpa with me? Too many to count.

And now she wouldn’t talk to me because I sort of stole her crush? Ugh. I had to stop thinking about it.

Soothing, energetic notes surged past me as I entered his living room. Grandpa was always composing. It was obvious he liked music way better than acting, but as he always said, acting paid the bills. (And he had a ton!)

I was the opposite. I loved music, yeah, but give me a character to dive into and I was in my element.

I could have sat there forever listening to him play. I was so freaking lucky to have been born his granddaughter. (People told me that all the time, too!)

“Hey, Grandpa,” I said, interjecting at a pause in his playing.

“Hey, hey! It’s my favorite red headed granddaughter.”


“Grandpa…how is that a compliment? I’m your only redheaded granddaughter. Makenna has brunette hair. Is she your favorite brunette granddaughter?”

He shrugged and answered, “Can’t I have two favorites?”

He was such a goofball, but I loved him.

*****

Nervous jitters tingled through me as we approached the studio. Plumbob Pictures was always a place of magic to me. Sometimes when I was little, I’d sit and watch my famous grandpa shoot a scene, and I’d even imagined that I’d be doing the same thing one day.

But now, it kind of made me queasy and worried that maybe it wouldn’t happen for me. That maybe I wasn’t good enough to even get a break somehow. Sure, having connections through my grandpa was a bonus, but really, how many famous people’s granddaughters who got into the biz actually became successful? I can tell you not many.

I’d looked it up.

Grandpa pointed toward the studio. “Okay, so I’ve talked to everyone about you. Just because you’re my granddaughter, they’re not supposed to treat you special, just like you’d asked me to tell them.”

“Thanks, Grandpa.”

“Oh, and the famous TBS boys are here, just in case you might want a peek at them. They’re in lot 44 at the back.” He winked.

“TBS? That K-pop group? No offense, Grandpa, I know you were a boy band dude back in the day, but I’m not twelve anymore.”

“Sorry, I keep forgetting.” He swooped me in a big hug and laughed. “You’ll always be my little girl, peanut.”

*****

While Grandpa ambled over to his set (he was starring in a picture called, Dr. Spittootle, about an animal whisperer who sailed the seven seas with a bunch of lions and tigers and monkeys and giraffes,) I reported to my duty station.

The work was pretty easy. My snooty boss, Ms. Parsons, gave me a list of lots to cover. I was supposed to fetch drinks and food for the staff there, including the actors. After doing the job for the past few hours, I was really digging it. Kind of like a waitress on the set of Simseyland.

The last lot on the list was on 44 at the back. And sure enough, the K-pop group was performing a music video.

I stopped to watch them and to my surprise, they were pretty good!

I couldn’t understand a word of their song, but the dancing was phenomenal. Up close, they were very pretty.

Except for the middle guy. He was…God…so handsome, I almost called up my inner fangirl. Had no idea who he was though since I never followed the group.

For my job, I was supposed to ask if anyone wanted something to eat or drink. I’d brought some macaroons since my boss said it was this director’s favorite. But they were so busy, I couldn’t interrupt.

When I caught a look at the cameraman, I almost giggled.

He was way more handsome than the guys he was filming. I guessed I liked more rugged looking men. I wanted to pinch myself, not believing this was my job! I was surrounded by cute guys.

When the director stopped the group and wanted to talk to them, the cameraman noticed me, so I asked, “Would you like a snack?”

He rubbed his hands and said, “I’m not hungry but I could use a soda.”

Instantly, I ran back to my cart and grabbed the drink then came up to him and said, “I hope you like Dr. Sipper. It’s all we’ve got at the moment.”

He took the drink from me and said, “Thanks.”

Looking into his dreamy blue eyes, I about swooned on the spot.

“What about us…miss?” I heard one of the boy band dudes say.

After I’d brought them all drinks and some snacks, they started cracking jokes at me in succession.

I was having so much fun, I’d forgotten I had one more lot to do before my shift was over.

When I told Jin (that was his name–they had all introduced themselves. Jin was the blonde, Taeyong was the redhead and the other guy was Johnny.)

“We’re going to be here tomorrow,” Jin said. “Will you bring us some pizza? They usually only have sandwiches and fruit lately.”

I laughed and said, “Not working tomorrow, but I’ll let them know your order and they’ll have it for you.”

Then I turned around and said good bye. I thought all of them were pretty cool. I’d have to tell Grandpa about them.

I was all finished with my work and just needed to wait on Grandpa to wrap things up. He said he was almost done and to wait at the front of the studio. As I approached, I noticed some actors I’d recognized.

And then my stomach plunged as I realized exactly who they were and what movie they were doing.

“Oh my freaking God, you’ve got to be kidding,” I mumbled to myself.

My mouth went dry as I spotted…him.

Jack Rackham.

And he was doing the second movie to his blockbuster, Moonlight, about a scary werewolf and his fight against himself. The other actors were Dawn Martin and Trevor Allistair. Both super famous because of the first movie. Obviously, they were working on the second one. It was part of this crazy famous YA book series. First book, Moonlight, sold over a million copies. Now the second one, Blood Moon, was being filmed. I’d read them all and loved the five book series. Wow. And this movie was being shot here? I couldn’t believe it!

But the thought of seeing Jack again after all this time freaked me out. Oh God, what would he think? Or would he even remember me?

I’ll never forget his cold stare after I told him I was angry with him for not telling me who he really was. It was like I was nothing to him. He didn’t care about me.

And looking at that same face in real life now petrified me.

Yes, I’d watched Moonlight, his first movie after he took a break from singing. He still performed songs, too, but wanted to branch out. (Okay, I admit that I did stalk him on the rags from time to time. Sue me.)

Seeing him swirled me back in time to that kiss we had when we were kids. I didn’t enjoy it at all.

I was so hurt.

Truly, he was my first crush. My first love.

And oh God, I hoped he didn’t notice me. I never wanted to see him again.

Chapter 7.14

Zachary

I couldn’t believe it. She fucking stood me up!

And I’d played my heart out at tonight’s game thinking she was up there in the box watching.

I wasn’t imagining things, was I?

I remembered Cheyenne staring into my eyes early this morning and she said she’d be there. Yeah, okay, I had to talk her into it, but she’d finally caved. And we even had more kissing and cuddling afterwards.

Just then Vance walked up and said, “Dude, you look like we lost the game tonight. What gives? That nightmare of a girl didn’t come? I told you she wouldn’t.”

“Shut up, Vance. Just because she wasn’t into you doesn’t mean she’s a ‘nightmare’.”

He backpedaled. “Okay, okay! Sorry! But when she chews you up and spits you out like she did me last night, don’t come running to me for comfort.”

“Believe me, I won’t,” I muttered. I needed a shower. Hanging here in a cauldron of smelly guys and shower mist wasn’t making me feel better.

I was beginning to second guess myself. Usually girls would jump at the chance to get to see me in action in a cozy box with all the alcohol and food at their fingertips. I hoped nothing bad happened to her.

“What’s going on?” Kyle Wiggens, one of my best friends as well as my tight end, strolled over.

Vance laughed. “Oh, dude, you’ll never believe it. A girl stood up Hawthorne tonight and he’s moping around. Seems cupid got him good.”

“No shit?” Kyle said. “Well, well…I need to meet this hottie. And soon. If she’s capable of turning down THE Zachary Hawthorne, she sounds just my type.”

“Cut the comedy, Kyle. Just a misunderstanding, is all. I’m sure something came up.”

“Dude, did you text her?” Kyle asked.

Vance laughed. “The idiot never got her phone number!”

“You’re shitting me!” Kyle shook his head. “Are you losing your touch?”

Feeling heat rise in my neck from embarrassment, I shot back, “I just forgot. I figured I’d see her tonight and get it then.”

But that was a mistake. God, how stupid could I get?

Cheyenne

I only had sixty minutes before I was going to meet up with my grandfather at his house in Del Sol Valley. Thankfully, he’d pulled a few strings and got me this swanky intern job at his studio. He’d said I have to meet people in the business to get ahead in the industry. I really felt uneasy about using his star power to help me out, but he said everyone uses everyone to land acting gigs. In the end, it didn’t matter if you’re the granddaughter of the biggest star in Del Sol Valley, talent is what makes that star rise.

And then he told me all I’d be doing is fetching food and drinks for people on the set. No biggie.

I glanced over my lines for a play called, Something Disgusting. It was a Fakespeare spoof. I played a clueless princess who was always faking my death while the knights would stab each other in the back (literally), falling like flies. It wasn’t my favorite play in the world, but since acting Truliet back when I was a kid, I seriously didn’t like Fakespeare and jumped at the chance on this part. Luckily, I was cast!

Just then, I heard a knock at my door. My stomach jolted when I saw Zachary’s very handsome but very angry face.

Oops. Guess he didn’t like me standing him up.

He just stared at me until I couldn’t take it.

I gulped then said, “I…I’m sorry. I decided it was best if we didn’t see each other.” Lame, yeah. But he didn’t need to know the real reason.

“What changed your mind? The least you could have done was left me a message. I thought something bad happened to you.”

He wasn’t taking my excuses. “Look…to tell the truth, Kristie is my best friend. It wasn’t cool that I stole you from her like that. She’s crazy mad at me, so like, I care about her too much. This just…can’t work. I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “What? How is that fair, Cheyenne? Kristie doesn’t own me. We were never a thing. That’s just stupid. Come on. Let’s get some coffee and we can talk about this.”

Crossing my arms, I looked away from him. “She’s mad at me for it so no. And anyway, I’ve got work so I have to go.”

I said good bye to him and ushered him out the door.

Why did this seem unfair? Yeah, okay, fine, I did agree with him. Kristie getting mad at me for stealing her crush is just beyond petty. A part of me wanted to rush back and tell him I didn’t care about Kristie getting mad but the other part needed to at least make up with her.

But what did it matter? He was just some overconfident jock who always got his way with women. That much I could tell. I’d be just another notch in his jock strap. And besides, he wasn’t my type. Why fight for something that wouldn’t work anyway?

Zachary

Fucking shit! This wasn’t right. No way in hell was some catfight going to get in the way of me dating Cheyenne.

What was this? High school? Since when can a girl exert power saying she had first dibs on a guy?

I wasn’t giving up.

I had no clue where this chick Kristie was. Like I didn’t even know her last name. I knew Cheyenne’s. She was Cheyenne Day, theater and music major, with a voice that could win Sim Idol. That girl was special. And she caught me in her net somehow. I’d be the first to admit, this wasn’t like me. Usually, I’d have given up by now, but it was a quest. I could tell Cheyenne was making excuses. She wanted me as much as I wanted her. Now it was time to find Kristie and talk some sense into her.

Walking down the steps, I found one of the other dorm mates who came into the front door.

She arched an eyebrow. “Hello…can I do something for you?”

“Hi, yeah, so I was wondering if you knew where I could find Kristie. I was supposed to meet her about thirty minutes ago, but she’s not in her room.” Totally hoped that didn’t come off creepy.

“Oh, yeah, she’s at the commons. They’re having a debate championship there. It’s starting in about ten minutes.”

Bingo!

After I walked a ways, I saw the little devil sauntering down the sidewalk in front of the commons park.

She noticed me and a huge grin spread on her face.

Normally, I’d think of at least ten different lines I could fling at her to make her melt in my arms. Most pretty girls did that to me, but not now. I was so angry that I couldn’t even appreciate her beauty.

“Hi, Zachary, what brings you to Britechester?”

Throwing on a fake smile, I answered, “Yeah, um, I was looking for you, actually.”

When she looked like she’d just won the lottery, I decided to let her know why. “Listen, Cheyenne won’t speak to me because you’re mad at her. And I’m honestly having a hard time understanding why. You and me were never a thing. So, can you let her know you’re cool with it? I mean, cool with me and Cheyenne dating. She won’t see me because you’re angry.” God that sounded so fucked up coming out of my mouth. I’m sitting here begging a chick to let me date her friend. And she wasn’t even my ex!

Her demeanor instantly changed and she drew into herself. “I’m not mad about that. I mean, yeah, I am, but…it’s complicated.”

“Well, can you help me out then? If you don’t care just let her know you don’t. It’s a win win for everyone.”

“Zachary, I’ve been friends with Cheyenne for a long time and…she just seems like…she doesn’t care. She parties and gets out of control and I’m just…done. Go out with her. I really don’t care. But I’m not talking to her. Not for a while. I need a break.”

She turned and stormed off without a glance back.

This seemed hopeless. But for some reason, I wasn’t going to give up.

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Chapter 7.13

Zachary

The frat party was going along like I’d expected. After Van and I won at beer pong with Kristie and Cheyenne, I decided to hang with Kristie. After all, she was the hottest girl in the room. Like a blonde angel. And her eyes…they were the prettiest I’d ever seen.

It didn’t take long–people were getting trashed. One girl (who I found out later was Phoebe Reynolds, one of Cheyenne and Kristie’s best friends) was being held by a dude (Phoebe’s boyfriend) and downing a shit ton of beer.

It didn’t end well. But everyone got a laugh out of it.

Even Phoebe.

Then Kristie asked if I wanted to do some karaoke.

I said yes. This should have warned me that I was verging on shit-faced myself, but wtf. It was a party and I’d hoped I was going to score with this beauty later on. Why not humor her?

I noticed Cheyenne getting her party on as well, swilling loads of beer. I knew Van wanted her so I didn’t really think about what she was doing.

Grabbing a mic, Kristie and I started on a country song. Honestly, Kristie couldn’t sing even with autotune. It almost made my ears bleed.

So I tried to sing a little louder. I had my pride to think about. But most people were drunk anyway and probably wouldn’t remember how awful we were. I could see it now in the school newspaper: FOXBURY QUARTERBACK KILLS PEOPLE WITH DUET.

I wasn’t going to take that chance. But it didn’t help. We were killing it. Literally.

On our next song, Kristie invited Cheyenne to sing with us. I was kind of worried. Cheyenne looked all wobbly from the booze, and I had no idea if she could sing or not. I’d decided this would be my last song.

But on her first note, I was amazed. She had the most incredible voice I’d ever heard.

My voice blended with hers so amazingly that I couldn’t even hear Kristie’s off tune warbles.

After another song, I was mesmerized by our harmony and basically forgot about my infatuation with Kristie.

I saw Cheyenne in a whole new way. I didn’t know if it was the liquor or her singing but when I compared the two, Cheyenne outshined Kristie in every way. Kristie was like this pretty boring Barbie doll, but Cheyenne was a sexy rocking goddess. I couldn’t help the attraction. Sure I felt the cold stares Kristie was throwing at me during the song, but I was overwhelmed. Could anyone blame me?

On our last song, I didn’t even realize Cheyenne and I had totally taken over as a duet. The crowd was going wild, hooting and hollering for us. God, it was such a fucking high. I’d never forget it.

Cheyenne was such a party animal though. I thought she was sexy as fuck, too, but I kind of was getting nervous for her when she started singing and dancing on the tables in the kitchen. She was going to break her neck like that.

So, I stepped in. “Cheyenne, hey, don’t you think you should dance on the floor where it’s safe? I’ll dance with you.”

That made her stop. She bent down and said, “You will?”

I chuckled. She was so much fun but seriously, she was crazy drunk, she probably needed to go back to her dorm and sleep it off. “Yeah, I’ll dance with you.”

Then she grabbed onto me wrapping her legs around my waist, staring into my eyes. I felt this instant bond with her like I knew she was something special. Like I’d found this one in a million girl.

“I…think I love you,” she whispered.

Now when a girl says something like that half drunk, I wouldn’t think anything about it. Just an inebriated jag, but there was something in her eyes that made me believe her.

I didn’t know what to say. “You do?”

In answer, she pulled my face to hers and pressed her lips to mine in a delicious kiss that got me instantly aroused.

Damn.

Before I could stop it, we were all over each other and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get out of this. Trust me. I wanted her. And not just for a one night stand. I, Zachary Hawthorne, two-time All American quarterback, slated to be a first round draft pick, sworn lady killer and bachelor, wanted to become this girl’s boyfriend after spending only a few hours with her.

I had to be fucking crazy.

Cheyenne

Today was the worst.

The worst morning. The worst hangover. And I’d been the worst friend to Kristie. She wouldn’t even pick up when I tried to call her. It just automatically went to voicemail like I was blocked.

I walked over to Phoebe’s room to see if it was my imagination or was Kristie really trying to avoid me.

“It’s not your imagination,” Phoebe said, making a plate of pizza pockets. “She’s mad.

“I mean, like, you were all over him in the kitchen, Chey. Everyone saw. And then you guys sneaked up to your room and we didn’t see you again all night. Like what is she supposed to think? I mean, she’s been crushing on him all semester, too.”

I shook my head. “How was I supposed to know he was the Foxbury quarterback she’d been gushing about? I don’t follow football.” But even that sounded like lame excuses to my ears. I should have known.

My drunk self saw Kristie making goo goo eyes at him.

He was HER type. Not mine. So why did I end up in bed with him? Why did I not want to release myself from his grip when I sobered up? And why did I desperately want to go to a football game and meet back up with him?

“I’m not going to see him again, so you can tell her that for me,” I said, weakly, sitting on the couch. “Then maybe she’ll unblock me from her phone.”

Phoebe peered down at me imperiously. “Damage has been done. This is about trust and you’ve broken it.”

When I didn’t say anything, she said, “But you’ve been friends for too many years for her to throw it out over some guy. He’s not worth it and since you’re not going to see him again, maybe she’ll forgive you.”

“You think so?” I said, grasping at any shreds of hope.

My brother stopped working on his graphic design project. Both Phoebe and he were art majors–he’s going into graphic design and Phoebe hopes to do app design. After camp when we were twelve, Phoebe shattered her mother’s dreams of her starring on the stage and told her she was an artist, which amazingly the woman took pretty well. She now believes Phoebe will be a famous illustrator one day even though Phoebe has no intentions of doing that.

“Look on the bright side, sis, if you do hook up with him again, he might give us free tickets to his games. I love football. And you know Britechester sucks. I’d rather root for the Lobsters.”

Phoebe glared at my brother. “That’s not helpful, Kian. We don’t want her to go out with him again. Think about Kristie’s feelings!”

“Oh yeah. Sorry.”

I wasn’t about to tell my brother I already had two box seat tickets to tonight’s game. I felt guilty enough that I really wanted to go.

I decided I needed to sleep off the anguish that was in my heart and the stabbing headache from all the alcohol I drank last night.

But when I saw my bed, I couldn’t get Zachary out of my mind.

He’d towered over me as he cradled my body, not wanting to let go, and I succumbed, promising him I’d see him. Thank God I didn’t give him my phone number.

I just wanted to hide away from everyone and everything.

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Chapter 7.12

Cheyenne

Like WHO needled me into going to this party? Because with blue beer spewing all over me, the floor, and the people around me, I wasn’t having much fun.

Quickly, I mashed my hands over the gushing alcohol. If the frat boys sniffed out I single handedly blew a whole keg on the floor, I’d be banned from future parties with a warrant out for my arrest.

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to get banned. I didn’t really like going to parties. I wasn’t some sorority girl. That was my bff, Kristie. And she made me come to this one.

Finally, the fizz died down and I released the keg.

Some jock rolled his eyes then said, “Don’t worry, folks, I’ll save the party.”

He almost pushed me aside trying to get to his liquid salvation. I shook my head. I hated guys like him. Jerks who thought they were God’s gift to the world. He was obviously a football player, frat boy, I-wanted-nothing-to do-with dude.

Then it was as if the clouds parted and heaven shone down on me. The same thing happened to him! Take that, party savior.

Kristie giggled. Uh oh. Was somebody attracted? He seemed like her type.

But I had to get my digs in while I could. “And you were saying something about saving the party?”

“Well, shit. I didn’t know the stupid thing was busted.”

“Oh but you thought I was a dumbass instead.”

He put his hand on his hip and snorted, “You said it, not me.”

I glared. “Ha ha.”

He hit his friend on the shoulder and said, “I think this calls for a round of pong. What do you say, girls?”

I didn’t even know the jackass’ name but it was game on. We’d show him a thing or two. I happened to be really good at beer pong. “What do you think, Kristie?”

She smiled. “Why not?”

She fluttered her eyes at Mr. Jock then sized up the cups. I prayed it’d sink. I wanted that guy to eat his smartass words.

She flung her arm expertly!

But the ball dropped behind her.

CRAP!

“Aw…looks like you’re drinking, Blondie.”

She cursed in defeat.

The guy’s friend went next. In between sets, they introduced themselves. The jerk’s name was Zachary Hawthorne and his friend’s name was Van Savage.

And of course, Van plopped one in instantly.

Not fazed, Kristie lifted her cup and said, “Here’s to your turn, Chey. Go get ’em!” Gotta love my bff!

But the party gods were not in my favor and before I knew it, I was guzzling, too.

For some reason, losing to that asshole got under my skin worse than ever.

Why did he have to be so smug?

Kristie gave him this hardcore stare that’d put most guys in the hospital. He was toast. Ha!

After I’d gone to the bathroom later, low and behold, the creep got her alone on the couch.

Well, Zachary was her type after all. And if anyone could tame his jerk ways, she could. I had to get used to guys flapping around her like interested flies after all these years. I sometimes got her leftovers (which was fine by me.)

But I wasn’t in the mood to flirt with Van (even though he was hot as hell!)

Instead, our dorm had an awesome piano and I loved to dive into a song. Good excuse to not have to make small talk with the guy.

But after my fingers started aching, I grew bored and decided to get another beer.

Head swimming just a bit, I figured I could handle one more and then I’d go back to my dorm room. The party was lame and I knew I probably wouldn’t see Kristie for the rest of the night. Phoebe was talking to my brother, Kian, (her now boyfriend, can you believe that? I still couldn’t get used to it) so I couldn’t hang with her.

This night sucked hairy ass balls.

*****

Good Lord, my head pounded like it was inside one of those huge bongo drums.

What the hell happened last night?

I remembered guzzling down a few drinks.

Oh and Van thought he could score with me since his friend was with Kristie.

I let him have it. I wasn’t some ho he could pick up and have a night’s screw. God. What was with guys these days? How about a little talking and getting to know one another first.

Then I drank a bit more and the whole night flew from my mind.

And now some ape was laying on me.

My eyes flew open.

It wasn’t an ape.

Oh my GOD!

It was Zachary!

Pushing his body off of me, I dropped to my feet then nudged him. “Hey, Zachary, wake up!”

He rolled over and threw that infuriating smirk at me!

“What’s the matter, sweetheart? Wanting to go for round two?”

Round two? What the hell?

“What are you doing here? W-Where’s Kristie?”

“She kind of got mad when she saw you throwing yourself at me.” He shrugged then scratched his cheek. “I was down though. You’re way more fiesty than her.”

My head felt like it was about to explode. No way in HELL did I sleep with this creep. I tightened my hands into fists. “For one thing, if I did sleep with you, it was only because I was super wasted and all sense flew out of my head. And two, if I hadn’t been drunk, you sure as hell wouldn’t be here. Now get your clothes on and leave. Now!”

He rose up next to me but instead of grabbing his shirt and jeans, he wrapped his warm arms around me. For some reason, I didn’t resist.

“That’s not how you felt last night. You told me you loved me.” He tightened his grip, making my heart flutter. “It was a little fast but I kind of liked it. Love at first sight is pretty romantic. It’s never happened to me before.”

Blinking, in total shock, I stammered, “I…I c-couldn’t have said that. I-I don’t even know you. You’re making things up.” I couldn’t understand how I could have thrown myself at him, drunk or not. My psyche hated him and yet my drunk self told him I loved him? “Tell me what happened. I don’t understand. One minute I’m fighting with your friend, Van, and the next I’m in bed with you. How?”

He lifted the side of his mouth. “I’ll tell you all the details if you go to my game tonight. I’ll leave box tickets at the gate. You can bring some friends, too.”

“What game?” I asked.

He snickered. “You’re probably the only one at this school who doesn’t know, but I’m the quarterback, sweetheart. Named All-American this year. But I kind of dig that you don’t know. Makes you that much more interesting.”

Oh God. Of course he was the quarterback. No wonder he had this dominating, insufferable air about him. Well, if he thought I was going to show up to a game I knew nothing about just because his almighty-ness deemed it so, he had another thing coming.

Sorry I didn’t shout out sooner but thank you to Aud for giving me Zachary to play with!

And thanks to LadyLobster for Mateo in the previous chapter! ❤

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Chapter 7.11

Warning: Slight NSFW, sexual situations

Zachary

Is this thing on? Yeah, sorry. I’m not used to cameras. This is Cheyenne’s world. Not mine.

So, yeah…like how did I meet her?

Well, I’ll never forget it. We were partying in the dorm common room. It was a Friday and I was supposed to be getting some rack because I had the big game the next day (but you know, none of us guys ever turned in before midnight on a Friday. We also would never let the coach know either. Heh.)

Anyways, I was hanging back, surveying the crowd. Okay, actually, I was scanning for hot babes. Not gonna lie. And one caught my eye right away.

She was this gorgeous blonde with a knock out face and an even better, knock-out body. I definitely had to chat her up.

So, when I was about to give this girl one of my best lines, no shitting, Cheyenne tried to tap the keg and beer sprayed everywhere.

Talk about awkward.

It’s funny now, but I felt sorry for her back then. Little did I know that moment would change the course of my life.

Mateo

She was my everything. My best friend. My world.

But you know that though, right? Nothing new. God knows the piece of shit paps wouldn’t let us alone.

So…how did we first meet?

Both Cheyenne and I liked to keep it a secret. It was just between us, but even she didn’t know when I first saw her. When I knew I wouldn’t rest until I made her my girl.

I was at a party in one of the Britechester dorm common rooms. I’d just gotten off work, playing an afternoon gig at a local dive bar when a buddy of mine told me about how Friday nights pop at the college.

I really wasn’t going to go. I was tired as hell and needed to check out early since Saturday I had a double shift plus had to play at one of the clubs until 2 am.

But when he said there’d be pretty girls overrunning the place, well, how could I refuse?

So when we got there, no joke, I was about to turn around and leave. It just wasn’t my scene.

Preppy girls and guys who all probably got weekly allowances larger than my month’s salary? Nuh uh. I had nothing in common with spoiled rich kids.

But then it was like an angel’s voice stopped me in my tracks. Honestly, I thought it was piping out of the speakers somewhere. A new track I hadn’t heard yet. I elbowed my friend and asked him what new song that was playing. He laughed and said that was just Cheyenne fooling around on the piano.

Quickly, I ran over to where she was, mesmerized.

Cheyenne didn’t notice me. She was too involved in the mood of the song.

Right then, I knew I wanted her in my band. And there was something about her that made me want even more than that. Call it love at first sight or destiny or any of those stupid labels people try to pin on a memory to cheapen it. But I somehow knew that girl would be mine one day.

Jin

Hey, guys! Good to see you again. Thought the documentary you made of my group, TBS, went swell. Just thought I’d mention it since I haven’t seen your crew in years. Congrats on your recent award! Amazing!

Yeah, sooooo…Cheyenne Day…wow.

Okay, I don’t want to get emotional…but how can I help it? I loved her.

Everything about her was flawless. I’m not overstating things. She was the most meticulous professional in our field that I’d ever worked with. And that’s saying a lot since I’ve been all over the place recently.

And she was the best lover.

I still remember everything as if it was just yesterday. Sounds cliche but it’s true.

Yeah, so how did we meet? Um…well, the official version is that we did a commercial together that went viral and the rest was history, but that’s not true.

It wasn’t the first time we met. I actually first saw her when she was in college and very unknown.

I’ll never forget these red ponytails bobbing up and down the set. She was fetching drinks and snacks for the cast.

Usually, I wouldn’t care about the interns running around because they came and went so quickly but she was different. There were like these sunbeams shining from her face!

Someone told me that she was James Sanderson’s granddaughter and that she was doing odd jobs in the business to understand it more. She didn’t want help from him. I was also told she was crazy talented. I shrugged and thought I would never cross paths with her again.

I’m so glad I was wrong.

Aarav

Let’s get this over with, okay? I don’t have a lot of time, you know.

I can smoke? Right?

Hell, I’m going to smoke whether you lot like it or not.

Cheyenne Day. Now there’s a name that raises my hackles.

Take it how you wish, mate. Good or bad.

For me it was…good. Mostly.

When it came to her, I’d do anything. I was a man obsessed. Most men in love are obsessed you know.

But I wasn’t the only one, was I, eh?

Okay, I’ll answer your bloody question.

How did we meet?

According to the rags, we met on the set of Pirates of Barnacle Bay.

And yes, that’s when we made a go at it. God, she was so infectious. It was like I was diseased or something. She took over me like an illness.

I’ll admit, our relationship borderlined on toxic.

But when you’re that passionate about something, you’re going to fight for it. Right?

And we were fucking passionate.

Damn.

Zachary

What would I change about us if I could?

God, I don’t know. I mean, some things are meant to happen. You know? She was meant to be in my world at the right moment.

I’m all right with that.

Yeah…I’m all right. I have to be or I’ll…

…go crazy.

Mateo

Change is a tricky thing. Who knows?

All I can say is that I cherish every damn moment I had.

Treasure it forever.

Jin

I’d have whisked her out of Del Sol Valley.

My mother would have adored her, you know. But she couldn’t make the journey to the states. Cheyenne told me she’d run away with me, too. Anywhere I’d wanted.

But…

Shit.

Aarav

How can you ask me such a question?

God.

What would I change?

Everything.

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Chapter 7.10

Cheyenne

I couldn’t believe it was P time. P as in Performance! I’d been looking forward to and dreading this part of camp ever since I’d arrived. I mean, I LOVED performing. In the past, when I got on stage, something just came over me and my body decided to do what I’d been working on almost magically!

But then it was also scary. What if I made a total fool of myself by tripping or hitting the wrong notes or forgetting my lines?

As the haunting music started in our dance show, my legs jumped and slid exactly like Mr. Irvin had taught us.

Jake was the star (of course) so he was at the head of the line. I was on the very edge so if I screwed up, no one would notice.

But did I care? No! It took the pressure off. And since I felt relaxed, I actually did the dance perfectly!

Who knew I could dance? Not me!

The following night was the talent show. Jake was the star again. (Did I sound like a broken record?)

But I sang and played piano, my fingers flicked acrossed the keys. I loved playing the piano the most out of everything at the camp. Acting came second. It was like I was home when I played a moving piece. And I could feel the audience’s emotion, too.

But when Jake jumped up on the piano AND played his violin without missing a beat, the crowd roared and applauded.

It was so much fun!

No one won anything in our talent show. It was just like a recital, but if we had, I bet we would have nabbed first place.

*****

Finally, the following night was the play. I was sooooo nervous. And so was Phoebe. But the magic of the stage affected her, too!

She oozed snark as she rattled off Fakespeare’s antiquated lines.

I was so proud of her!

In between scenes, Mr. Graf came up to me and asked, “Would you find Kristie and Hunter? They’re on in five minutes!”

Oh yeah…they played Truliet’s parents which was the next scene after the intermission. I thought I’d seen them in the dressing room.

I heard Kristie’s voice. “Oh my GOD, Hunter! I can’t believe you lied to me this whole time! Aren’t I your girlfriend? You know I’d keep your secret.”

I wondered what secret Hunter didn’t want to share with Kristie. It could have been anything. I felt like I was intruding but eek! They were about to go on stage. But before I could interrupt, I heard “Jack Rackham” and I suddenly froze.

“Babe, Jack made me promise. If everyone knew he was THE Jack Rackham, he would have been bombarded with fangirls. Think about it. How do you think Cheyenne would have treated him?”

“But don’t you get it? I wouldn’t have told her. I’m not as much of a fangirl as her. You could have trusted me. I’m so mad at you!”

Their words were going so fast, it was hard to process. But once I thought it through, it was like someone dumped a bucket of ice water on me.

Jake was JACK RACKHAM! And he lied to me…to the whole camp…for all this time.

Plus, my BFF said she would have kept that secret from me! My whole body felt like it’d been crushed with a ginormous boulder.

“But I told you now, babe, so doesn’t that count for something?” Hunter said with a smirk.

I couldn’t move, I was in such shock. I totally forgot why I was peeking in on them in the first place.

So, Mr. Graf had to tell them to get out on stage.

I didn’t care. It was like I was in a hazy dream. I just kept going through how I’d always worn Jack Rackham t-shirts right in front of him this whole time.

And to think I’d even felt sorry for him that he might get looked over in the music industry because he SORT OF looked like Jack. But in fact he WAS Jack.

God, I was such a stupid idiot. I bet he was snickering behind my back this whole time.

And he saw all those Jack Rackham posters in my room! How cringy could I get? I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide forever. My embarrassment had reached an all time high. I’d never be able to face him!

But as they say, the show must go on. Jack and I had our final scene. I got through it bit by bit.


It was like I was on autopilot. But even though I said all my lines, not missing once, inside, I wanted to scurry away.

My mind kept thinking about all the things I’d said to him.

And how he made me think he was my friend all this time.

And how I’d stage-kissed him like a ton, but never enjoyed it.

Tonight made me want to cringe. I didn’t even think while I was kissing him. Not really.

I couldn’t.

It was like I was out of my body and someone else was kissing Jack Rackham.

After we took our final bows, I slipped into a side room so no one would find me.

I didn’t want to see my parents. I didn’t want to see my grandfather (who was always hanging around Ms. Christianson. Wtf????) And I most DEFINITELY didn’t want to see Jack Rackham or my traitor BFF.

Unfortunately, after only five minutes, Jack found me. “There you are, Red! Everyone has been asking about you! Why aren’t you at the after party? You did so well tonight! We both did. Aren’t you happy about that?”

When I didn’t say anything, he added, “And that kiss was amazing. Can you really tell me you were just faking? Come on…say you liked it. The play is over now and we don’t have to pretend anymore.”

I spun around. “Oh really? Like you don’t have to pretend anymore? JACK!”

Guilt riddled his face like machine gun fire. “Uh…er…you found out?”

“Yes, I found out. I’m not stupid. Well, I am stupid to fall for your assholery, but now I know. I also know you’re waaaay too important and famous to think of me as a real friend. That’s why you couldn’t tell me…but whatever. I get it. Don’t worry. I’ll leave you alone. And for what it’s worth, Jack, I’m NOT your number one fan anymore so you don’t have to worry about me fawning over you.”

I pushed past him, trying to get as far away from him as I could.

The warm night hit me as I ran down the stairs. Crickets chirped like they didn’t have a care in the world. I was so jealous of them.

This was supposed to be the most amazing night of the summer. I was supposed to cherish it forever!

But now it was just another notch in the list of embarrassing moments of my life. I would never talk to Jack again. And I was going to burn all my posters, t-shirts, and whatever else I owned that had his jerk mug emblazoned on it.

Why did he have to lie? I really liked Jake. Like I was beginning to think I liked him liked him. But I liked the normal guy who wanted to do his best and get better at his art so hopefully, someday his dreams might come true.

Just like me.

But he already had everything.

And he didn’t need me as a friend.

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Chapter 7.9

Cheyenne

Ugh!

I hated dance.

I was soooo terrible at it!

And we had our recital right around the corner.

Everything was about it hit: dance recital, talent show, play. My parents were coming out to see everything too while they visited my grandpa. And then in a few days it’d be time to go home. NOOOOO!

“Okay, from the top!” Mr. Irvin said, walking toward the piano. One thing I did like about dance was the music. Not some canned stuff from an album, he’d choose just the right melody for whatever we were working on.

But everything went so fast, I could hardly keep up.

It seemed I was always a beat behind.

How did everyone remember all those hard steps?

There was no way I’d be ready by the time my parents came.

“Faster, people,” Mr. Irvin shouted. “Point those toes!”

Finally, the torture was over. I really definitely was never going to be a dancer. Singing, acting, and playing the piano were the only things I felt comfortable with. At least I found that out now. UGH!

When class was over, I was about to ask Kristie if she wanted to sit by me at lunch but then I spotted stupid Hunter waiting for her outside the door.

Geeze. It was like they were married or something. I vowed NEVER to let a boyfriend come between me and my bff. EVER!

She ran over to him like a trained dog. I barfed in my mouth a little.

Okay fine. I was a bit jealous. Could anyone blame me?

Before I could throw myself a righteous pity party (because, hello?, I deserved one), Jake asked, “You want to eat with us?”

“I heard they were catering pizza today! Yay!” Phoebe added.

I looked over at Jake and lifted the side of my mouth. I couldn’t be rude and would never tell him this but he wasn’t my bff. It was weird. We’d eat and talk about stuff we liked but I really didn’t know him at all. Every time I’d ask him about his life at home, he’d change the subject.

But what choice did I have but to hang out with them? Kristie didn’t remember I even existed. “Yeah, it’s supposed to be a ton of different kinds of pizza, but you know which one I like the best? Hawaiian!”

“Ewww…do NOT tell me you eat pineapple on marinara sauce. That’s just gross!” Phoebe scrunched her nose.

How did I know Phoebe would say that?

“I agree with you, Red,” Jake said. “Ham and pineapple tastes amazing.”

Was Jake trying to piss me off by kissing up?

After lunch, Phoebe had to meet up with her mom so Jake asked me if I wanted to play video games during our break. I shrugged not having anything better to do so we went up to his room.

But GROSSSSSS!!!

Kristie and her dweebie boyfriend got there first.

So we hightailed it to my room. Fast.

Dang. Jake was so good at Blasting Cities IX.

“WTF, Jake. Let up on me, please!” I howled, hitting the bomb button a thousand times. But it wasn’t working.

“It’s doomsday, sweetheart. Read it and weep.”

While I was getting annihilated, I asked, “Are your parents coming out for the play, Jake?”

He shook his head. “Nope. Haven’t talked to my dad since I was a little kid and my mom hates this kind of stuff.”

Wow. That was like a hit from a torpedo on the game. I felt like an ass for even asking him. “Oh,” was all I could say.

“I mean, it’s not that bad,” he said, shrugging. “That’s just the way things are in my life.”

I stopped playing. I was losing anyway. “But if your mom hates the arts then how did you get the money to come here in the first place?”

“Oooh, heh heh…” he laughed then didn’t say anything for a while.

Finally, he added, “Um…I won it in a singing contest. Like Sims Idol only for kids. And local. You totally wouldn’t have heard about it.”

Before I could say anything back to him, I heard someone yelling in the hall. Jake and I looked at each other then sneaked out to peek.

“Uh oh,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” Jake agreed.

“Your acting today was the worst. How are you going to make your dream a reality when you won’t even try? And to think you can’t even make the wicked step sister seem evil. It’s just awful. You’d make a wonderful Truliet but you couldn’t even earn the part and now…oh my god, you’re just pathetic!” Phoebe’s mother was laying into her. I couldn’t believe it!

“We should probably get out of here, Red,” Jake whispered to me.

“Yeah, let’s go,” I said.

Phoebe’s mother was wrong. SHE was pathetic.

I felt sooooo badly for Phoebe, I thought about it all day. I mean, I didn’t really want to be Truliet. My heart of hearts loved playing evil characters. Since I totally wasn’t like that, it was fun. That’s what acting is all about. Right?

So the next night, I decided I’d give Mr. Graf reasons to recast. Phoebe would make a better Truliet. She was meant for the part. And I would totally rock the wicked step sister part. Phoebe’s mother was right. It was obvious her heart wasn’t into it.

Why these adults didn’t cast it that way was totally beyond me. It would just take a little convincing.

“Why…if it isn’t my Truliet! What makes you grace my evening, my dear?” Mr. Graf said in his dramatic way.

I swallowed. I had my plan all laid out in my head but nothing came out.

“You’re doing a swell job, my dear. If you’re worried about tomorrow’s dress rehearsal, there’s no need.”

“Look…no…that’s not it. I…uh…think Phoebe should do the part. She’s waaaaay prettier, and better at acting, and totally would kick ass…I mean butt doing it. So, please oh please oh please, Mr. Graf, can she do the part and I’ll be the wicked step sister?”

A slow smile spread on Mr. Graf’s face. Was he convinced?

Getting up from his chair, he came over and patted my shoulder. “There, there, my dear, it’s just a little stage fright. You’ll get over it. Once you get the dress rehearsal over with you’ll find the real thing isn’t much different.

“And you’re a born actress! Don’t ever let anyone make you think otherwise.” He flung his arms up. “When those stage lights go up. you won’t even see the audience and you’ll BECOME Truliet!”

Before I knew what was happening, I found myself ushered out of Mr. Graf’s office and back to the way things were. I was going to play Truliet, Phoebe would do a horrible Grizella, and her mom was going to be cruel to her afterwards.

I wished I knew how to fix it.

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Chapter 7.8

James

Little Cheyenne meant the world to me. And when the school called me on the set of my newest film, I didn’t hesitate. Nothing could keep me away.

After the meeting in the camp director’s office, Cheyenne, in tears, told me she had to clean the cafeteria after the students ate. I felt helpless.

But one thing I’d learned in the industry was that rubbing elbows always helped.

So here I sat with the camp director herself. I guessed the counselors grabbed a bite after the kids were finished.

“Thanks again for coming today, Mr. Sanderson. Just having you here, supporting our camp is pretty surreal,” Mrs. Martin said, almost bursting. At least it seemed she was a fan. That might help me in getting Cheyenne some brownie points.

What she didn’t know was my ex was one of her camp counselors. That was how I’d found out about the camp in the first place and passed it on to Liam who’d told Chey.

Putting on the charm, I responded, “Of course. Your camp is world renown. I’d wished I’d attended back in the day.”

“Well, we do have history. Did you know Swish Hemswort went here? He credits the camp for his success.”

Swish was one of my co-stars in the Vindicator series. Younger than me and way more handsome, that little factoid did nothing to appease me. Although according to Sims STAR Magazine, my star had more power than his, I could feel it waning by the second.

“So, I’m honestly not believing my little darling Cheyenne would have the moxy to hit another child. Are you sure you have it correct? She says she only pushed the girl out of frustration.” Nothing like cutting to the chase.

“Honestly, Ms. Christianson witnessed the fight. You’re welcome to talk to her about it.”

Figured. Annabeth Christianson was my ex. God, I’d thought we’d work out but she didn’t like that I wanted to keep our relationship a secret. My fame ruined things with Lex, I sure as hell didn’t want it to hurt Annabeth. But since I wouldn’t tell my family about her, she’d had enough and split up a few months ago.

Maybe she was getting back at me out of spite? Would she really do that?

Heading into her office without knocking, I spotted her on her computer. As usual. Nothing had changed. Except she’d played her card against my darling granddaughter. No way in hell was I going to stand for that.

“So…beating up little children is still your pastime, I see.”

Sighing, not even starting at my intrusion, she answered, “Cheyenne got into the fight, James. I had to report it.” The fire she’d had for me was still in those eyes. Oh how I’d missed her. We’d met at the studio. She was doing some voiceovers for a bit part in a kids cartoon. She had the voice of an angel.

“You couldn’t cut her a break. Just this once? She lost her lead in the play.”

“Take off those damned glasses and maybe I’ll talk to you about it.”

Shit. I’d forgotton I was wearing them. Annabeth hated me always having to hide who I was in public. But could I help that I’d succeeded where she failed? I tried to get her a leg up with my agency, but she didn’t like to schmooze and that was all part of how things worked.

Pulling my glasses off, I said, “Okay. They’re off. Now start telling me why you’d take out your vengeance toward me on my beautiful granddaughter. There’s no way she’d actually punch anyone.”

“Is that what Mrs. Martin said? I didn’t tell her that. Only that she’d gotten into a fight.”

Shaking my head, I answered, “She says Cheyenne punched the girl and that’s an unforgiveable offense. But now you’re saying you didn’t report that?”

“No. I wouldn’t lie. Honest, James. And Cheyenne shouldn’t lose her part in the play. God, I’m sorry that’s what happened.”

Arching an eyebrow, I said, “So what are you going to do about it? Cheyenne is really upset and Mrs. Martin says it’s up to you.”

“Fine. I’ll talk to her. Don’t worry about it.” Annabeth went back to her work on the computer.

She was so cute when she was flustered. I shook my head. Why was I so terrible with women? Maybe she’d give me one more chance. I had to take this opportunity.

“Thanks…hey…would you like to go out with me tonight? There’s a horrible grade B movie at the Twilight Hills at nine. I know you love to critique bad flicks.”

Annabeth shook her head. “I…I don’t know…”

Aha…she didn’t say no. That meant yes…well, for Annabeth, at least.

Wrapping my arms around her and lifting her chin toward me, I whispered, “I’ve missed you, Beth. Tell me you’ll go.”

All she did was nod and that melted my heart. Maybe she would give me a second chance after all.

*****

Cheyenne

It was great to see Grandpa even though it was for a horrible reason. But I got over not getting to be in that play. I was going to be in this cool band for the talent show. Jake invited me. I was going to play the piano and he would play the violin. (He was pretty good at it too!)

We were about to do some ad-lib stuff today when Mr. Graf burst into the room.

“I want to make an announcement about the play. It seems there was a misunderstanding about Phoebe and Cheyenne’s little…er…disagreement.”

My stomach did a huge drop. How embarrassing! Why would he announce that out to everyone like that? I wanted to literally DIE!

He lifted his arm in the air. “Like any dramatic persons, there will be tussles but as they say in the industry, the show must go on!

“Therefore, I expect everyone in their spots after dinner. And I need you to emote, emote, EMOTE!”

What? Me and Phoebe are off the hook? YES! Way to go, Mr. Graf, for putting his foot down with Mrs. Martin. I beamed, “Looks like we’re in the play after all, Phoebe!”

Smiling, Phoebe gushed, “Wow. I never thought I’d be this happy to play that wicked step sister in my whole life, but I am!”

Kristie gave me a wink. Now I didn’t have to worry about spending so much time away from her!

At practice, Jake and I finally got to the scene where I was supposed to kiss Momeo. Ugh. Like how was I supposed to act something like that without laughing???

Jake tried to help me out by putting his forehead on mine, but it didn’t work.

Giggles bubbled up anyway and I broke the scene.

“Cheyenne. What’s the matter with you? This is a beautiful moment between two lovesick teenagers. Not a clown factory. Now try it again. Please.”

But no matter how many tries, I just couldn’t do it. “Like could we do something that isn’t so…personal?” I asked.

“Cheyenne, think of it not as a kiss but as art. This is YOUR art piece. You are not kissing a boy, you are creating a moment! Understand?”

When he put it that way, it did help.

So I tried to imagine kissing Jack Rackham instead. They sort of kind of looked alike although honestly, Jack was TOOOOOOTALLY better looking but I couldn’t blame Jake for being a counterfeit.

After practice, I got superdeduper angry. Like I was with Jake a lot because my BFF in the whole wide world left me in the dust for HIS BFF. And Jake didn’t really like to hang out with anyone else so I got stuck with him.

Glaring, I said, “Can’t they get a room or something? Like who kisses in front of everyone like that?”

“We kissed in front of everyone,” Jake countered.

“I did NOT kiss you. I was creating art. That’s different. And God, now they’re just being gross.”

Hunter was practically swallowing Kristie’s face whole!

Jake said to follow him, so we hung out on the merry go round. At least I didn’t have to watch them mate anymore.

“Want to spin us, Cameron?” Jake asked. We were taking turns to see who could spin someone off.

“And Cam, wait until I’m totally on this time!” Phoebe demanded.

“All right, babe. Like I said I was sorry last time.”

Phoebe was not very nice to her boyfriend. Pretty bossy if you ask me, but he, for some reason, was okay with it.

In the end, Cameron didn’t wait on her and totally flew it before she got on.

“CAAAAAAM!” she cried.

Even though she was mad at him, she got over it pretty quickly. I figured he just wanted to tease her.

I breathed in as I laid down. Things were turning out way different than I could have imagined even a week ago. Here I was not hanging with my BFF but with the people I couldn’t stand even a few days ago. But Phoebe was a cool person if you ignored some of her princess tendencies and Jake was actually being decent to me. Guessed he couldn’t insult me if he wanted to hang out. And Cam? Well, he was tolerable in an annoying way but I was dealing with it.

“Hey, guys, want to watch Superkids: Cortex Catastroph?” Cameron asked. “It’s out now.”

“Want to, Red? I’m down if you are.”

And that’s how we ended the night. Without my BFF. Too bad the movie was a total bust and I’d fallen asleep.

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