Warnings: implied adultery, death
Previously: And with a tear in my eye, give me the sweetest goodbye, that I ever did receive"
Cassandra Goth did not consider herself an artist. In fact, it had been years since she'd even had the desire to paint at all. That's why she got so annoyed when her mother would chide her about technique and proportions, completely ignoring the actual issue. Painting was just one way to archive her thoughts when they couldn't be put into words.
Specifically, her dreams.
Unfortunately, her dreams weren't any easier to remember than anyone else's, and even when she did hold onto the basic gist, the details would slip away in the time it took her to get out of bed. But the content was a lot more extraordinary, or so she thought.
She'd first shown signs of clairvoyance when she was really little and too young to understand, but once she'd hit kindergarten her "inner eye" had gone out like an old light bulb. Still, she was convinced those past six years had just been a latency stage. As she'd learned from the hundreds of YA novels on her shelves: superpowers manifested at puberty, so the gift was due to come back any day now. She had a feeling it already had; just no proof because the future hadn't happened yet.
"Cassandra Minerva Goth! This is the last I'm going to tell you to stop being anti-social."
She heard her mother calling her from downstairs but pretended she didn't. It was times like this when she wished her room had a door instead of an open staircase. The lack of privacy got more annoying the older she got.
"If you're not downstairs in five minutes, I'm sending your father up there."
That's actually what Cassandra was hoping for. At least he would make her come down out of the misplaced idea that parties were actually fun, rather than the "you suffer, I suffer" mentality that possessed her mother on special occasions.
It was the night of her parents' anniversary party. Now that she was old enough to understand their wedding date in significance to her birthday, the whole thing kind of grossed her out.
Her mother continued. "And no, you cannot bring the voodoo doll or let the ghosts out. There are elderly people at this party and we don't want anyone dropping dead on the dance floor."
Cassandra sighed as loudly as possible. Through the window she saw a limousine pulling up to the house, out of which stepped a robot. She'd seen him before but tonight some playful person had squeezed him into a tuxedo jacket.
This was the limo and robot of Ocean Big, professional party guest.
Ocean brought with him two attractive ladies. They looked strangely familiar, but she wasn't sure if that was because they'd actually met.
So familiar, that Cassandra actually felt the urge to go downstairs and find out where she'd seen them before.
"Hi, Olive. What are you doing all the way out here?"
"They pay me for it, dear. Speaking of which, I see your sister is dating my biggest rival in the business."
"Don't ask me how she managed that. I think she'd be a billionaire by now if she put half as much effort into making money as she does trying to marry it."
Mrs. Thanasia (formerly known as Mrs. Mortis) was a long time family friend who Cassandra had always found a little off (then again, it might have just been the painted on eyebrows.) She could never understand why anyone would want to make a living going to parties. She gleaned from their exchange that the redhead and the blonde were sisters who had also known Mrs. Thanasia for a long time. After they were finished talking, Cassandra decided to make an attempt at socialization.
"You have a very large forehead."
"I'm guessing you're a Sagittarian?"
"Scorptarian, emphasis on the Scorpio. And my twin sister got the Sagittarius."
"Twins with different star signs, born on the Cusp of Revolution. Interesting." Cassandra decided they hadn't met before, since the lady wasn't cooing over how much she'd grown or expecting her to perform an impromptu piano recital. She just silently ate her sushi, waiting for someone else to start a conversation.
After the last bite she asked, "So are there any single men at this party?”
"My uncle should get here soon. He doesn't take dates to our house anymore." Cassandra suppressed a grin. "Not since the last one caught on fire."
Cassandra's mother passed by and gave them an approving look. The blonde woman was at her heels, wearing a goofy grin on her face as she followed her into the kitchen.
"Bella Goth you amaze me. Gardener, musician, and master chef?"
"Just hobbies I've picked up fighting the old ennui," said Bella with a half smile. "By the way, don't eat the cake with the glowing red berries; that's for" special dieters." The berries weren't just glowing; they were pulsating like a beating heart. Dina didn't ask why.
"Too bad, it looks delicious!"
The Goth home was small yet elegant, decorated in bold splashes of red and violet. It wasn't what Dina would have chosen for herself, but she coveted it anyway. As she was taking it all in, she saw something weird going on with the closet in front of the grand piano. Bella didn't notice, as she was busy deciding whether the desserts were impeccable enough for display.
"Have you gotten anything to drink this evening?" she asked.
"The only drinks I saw were smashed all over the floor. But I'm fine, thanks— um, are there supposed to be fireworks shooting out of the closet?"
Bella didn't raise her voice, if anything it got quieter, but the tone was sharper than a folded steel katana and cold enough to drop the room temperature. "You must be mistaken. Certainly no one would be woohooing in my house at my party where my child could walk in on them." She threw open the doors with a dramatic flourish.
"Hello, Bella. Rainelle and I were just admiring your new coat closet."
"Thank goodness, Jon. For a moment, I was afraid my bartender had gone gallivanting off with an adulterous lecher while my entire party died of thirst." She glanced at Rainelle, who looked like she wanted to run.
The old man was not as susceptible to Bella's glare. "Really, the whole remodeling job looks great. Jen and I ought to have you do our house. I don't think we're utilizing all the space in our basement." He snickered before turning his attention to Dina. "Hello there. You're Mr. Big's new girl, aren't you? Sumamente Caliente?"
"Um, actually, it's Dina."
"Encantada," he said, kissing her hand. "Any relation to Nestor Caliente of Strangetown?"
She drew in her breath, not daring to ask how he knew that name. "No."
He didn't let go of her hand, instead caressing it between his thumb and forefingers. "You have rather exotic features, you know. As an artist I take note of these things—"
Bella cut him off in a sing-song voice. "Oh my, what is that sound that draweth nearer by the second? Is it a violin? Or a banshee foreshadowing someone's death?"
It was a violin, but the point of that statement was lost on him and everyone who wasn't Bella. "What?"
She rolled her eyes. "Your wife is just outside the door. Maybe you should go communicate with her or something."
He didn't seem too concerned, but took the opportunity to make an exit, as Rainelle had already done when no one was looking. "It was nice to meet you, Dina. Let me know if you ever want to be immortalized; I am always looking for new models." With a wink, he was gone.
Dina blinked. "Well, he's very"virile for his age."
"And so shamelessly revolting—" Bella rolled her ‘r's with reckless abandon. "—that it almost circles back around to attractive."
Dina blurted out the first change of topic that came to mind. "Sooo, you recently remodeled?"
Bella nodded, the fury slowly draining from her eyes. "Yes, I did the floorplan myself. The original house was an architectural nightmare. Since Morty's latest invention took off we were also able to put in a garage slash laboratory so he can spend more time at home," she said, over-annunciating every syllable in "gar-age" and "lab-or-a-tory".
"Wow, you're just good at everything aren't you? What is your secret?"
"Magic," someone replied, but it wasn't Bella.
"My darling brother! I almost didn't recognize you looking so dapper."
"I know. It's hard to believe," said Bella, gesturing to the family photos hanging over the piano. "He may be obnoxiously normal, but we love him anyway."
Dina went in for a closer look. "That doesn't look anything like you."
"Yes, he had quite the little puddin' face, didn't he?"
Michael sighed. "Happy anniversary, kiddo. Anything I can help you with?"
"Be a dear and put out the dessert spread? Especially the plasma cake, we don't want Kiernen and Kvornan to get ravenous." There was that rolling ‘r' again. "I'm going to make some drinks. It appears our bartender's gone AWOL."
And then they were alone.
"Michael Bachelor. Nice tux."
"It's my brother-in-law's."
"Nice brother-in-law." Dina shrugged. "Do you recognize me?"
"Of course, Dina. It's just not something I wanted to bring up in front of my sister. I'm sure you noticed she's kind of..." His voice trailed off as he attempted to pick up two cakes at a time.
"Fantastic? Amazing? Wonderful?"
He raised his eyebrows. "You like her?"
"I want to be her." Dina grabbed the last cake and got the door with her spare hand. "Is that creepy?"
"I don't know, it is from my angle."
"So what have you been up to, Mr. Bachelor? Did you ever figure out what to do with your life?"
"I somehow ended up teaching high school math." That would explain the lines on his face and the two or three grey hairs. "I also coach the golf team. How about you?"
"Well, first we moved back to our hometown for a while. It's called Strangetown; you've probably never heard of it."
"Isn't that where Mrs. Mortis—I mean, Thanasia is from?"
"Yeah, I used to babysit for her little guy! Anyways, my sister got herself a degree in massage therapy at La Fiesta Tech while I just fiesta'd, and after that we headed to Sim City in search of fortune and romance."
"Are you working? Soccer-pro, perhaps?"
Dina laughed. "Lately, I've been peddling cosmetics. I'm pretty good at it too; I actually won a car—which I traded it in for something less pink."
"You know, if you're looking for new customers," he said with a smirk, "I bet you could make a small fortune selling eyeliner to the Tricou family."
They were interrupted by the smell of cologne and pomade.
"Darling, there you are. I've been looking everywhere for you. Stop stalking Bella's relatives and come dance!"
Dina gave Mike an apologetic smile. "Gotta go break some toes. It was good to see you again."
"You're gonna marry that lady, Uncle Mike."
"But not until you're really old." Cassandra finally remembered where she'd seen the blonde woman before. The sight of her and Uncle Mike in front of the dessert table had brought back a picture in her head. The redhead had been there in the background wearing an ugly dress and a rip-off of her mother's hairstyle. There'd been cake there too.
"...I really don't know what to say to that, Cass."
"Don't say I didn't warn you."
He gave up trying to come up with an appropriate response. "May I have this dance?"
Uncle Mike's future wife was not a very good dancer. She wasn't even moving her feet as she and Ocean barely swayed in one place. Over on the other side of the dance floor, Cassandra noticed that the redhead had found a dance partner too.
Though, he apparently wasn't up to her standards.
She didn't slap him very hard; you couldn't even hear it above the sound of the violin.
And yet, he fell to the ground.
Then Cassandra heard the most ominous sound in the world.
She'd never witnessed anything like this before, but something thing quickly became apparent. It was moments like this when you could tell a person's mundanity by who was staring at the corpse...
...and who wasn't.