Tony Calabria’s birthday party is a triumph, but Shasta can’t seem to get in the mood for partying. She follows Maria around, air-kissing, nodding but not smiling. It’s such a lowlife crowd, anyway. It is not a surprise when nobody grates the grumpy woman a second glance. All eyes are on Maria who shines on the dance floor, dropping it low in a flashy yellow tube dress in fake leather that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It looks like it has been molded to her generous curves.
The voluptuous Latina has an immense success with the mobster crowd, and is enjoying herself to a point she completely forgets about her friend who is not much of a dancer. Shasta tries her best to melt in but is feeling out of place.
She slumps down on a bar stool, shakes out her rich chestnut hair over the shoulder and grabs a glass from a well-stocked plate Santi is just putting down.
‘Be careful with that. Calabria speciale. Knocks out a horse. ’ He nods to the far end of the bar where a blond girl has passed out.
‘Maybe you should call a bouncer?’ Shasta says thoughtfully, watching the man struggling to get the woman’s limp arms into a thin, short sleeved cardigan. A disgrace is what it is.
Santi grabs a sponge and wipes his work surface clean.
‘A bouncer? Hell, no! Enrique will take her home. I know Anita – she’ll go to any port on a stormy night. Poor guy’s invested too mucho time trying to get into her panties to just let her be thrown out… You want another one?’
Shasta avoids commenting on Santi’s sexist remark. She just nods, watching the scene. The guy is unsuccessfully trying to shake some life into the girl. Well, he’ll think twice before plying someone with alcohol to get what he wants next time and-
Santi pushes a frosted glass towards her but his eyes are searching the crowd. He has been too busy behind the bar to keep tags on his girlfriend.
‘Maria? Oh. She’s dancing. Having the time of her life…’ Shasta lets the sentence trail and points Maria out.
He can see flashes of yellow in the throbbing crowd and grins. His Maria is really something. He pushes down his sunglasses and squints. His girl is rubbing up to- ‘Who’s dat? Fuck!’
‘Yeah. The birthday boy himself,’ Shasta says, sipping at her drink.
Santi clenches his teeth. It might be disrespectful and provocative of his girlfriend but he knows better than to interfere with the Boss. Better turn a blind eye. He has all the time in the world to teach the bitch who is in charge, even if that includes some slapping around.
‘Yeah, yeah. Coming!’
Some impatient clients calls for his attention and he has to look away. A lesson. Right. At the same time he feels perversely proud. Maria is his, after all. Maybe they could make some money out of this.
But he has a bar to attend to, he’ll take care of Maria afterwards. The job comes first, especially when the client is the mob boss.
‘Could you get us a taxi?’ Enrique asks Santi who gestures towards a payphone on the wall with his shaker.
‘An ambulance would be more like it,’ Shasta mutters and downs her drink. ‘Who is this guy, anyway? No cellphone? Jeez…’
Santi is too busy to answer, so she holds up her glass to show him she wants a refill, then she turns her back on the noisy group that has just arrived.
‘Four Margaritas – make that a pitcher!’
‘Two Coronas and a Bud!’
‘Sex on the Beach, please.’
‘You wish,’ Shasta stares deadpan back at the man who is leering at her. She is really not in the mood to get picked up by some loser.
The man gets the hint, collects his drink and vanishes into the pulsating crowd. The DJ is playing some throbbing Latino hit and she wants to dance. She should be dancing. She watches the crowd move suggestively in rhythm with the music. It doesn’t look that difficult. She’ll just finish her glass, then she’ll seek up Maria and show off her moves.
She turns back towards the bar. Santi is quite good. He is juggling with the bottles and joking with the customers. He provides Shasta with a steady stream of drinks, helping her build up a semblance of Dutch courage.
A couple of drinks later she sashays onto the dance floor in what she thinks is a suggestive way but is more of a wobbly walk. She starts dancing next to Maria who is twerking suggestively, dropping her booty low while the crowd is cheering on, spilling beer and leering.
‘Shutcho b’chass up!’ Maria laughs at something one of her new friends just said and Shasta makes a questioning face, having a feeling it was about her.
‘Mireia’s just a bitch, she think you dance like a white chick.’
‘Maybe because I am a white chick,’ Shasta slurs, irritated.
‘Get that frown off your pretty face, chica. Try to have some fun. I can get some Molly if you want, and the guy in the flower shirt got coke. For free.’
Shasta just shakes her head.
‘Suit yourself.’ Maria returns dancing, and her new friends laugh and cheer.
One of the guys dances up close and beckons her to join him. Shasta just ignores him. She watches her friend laughing play along, waving at her to come but she doesn’t want to party anymore. In fact, she doesn’t even want to be here. It is too crowded, too smoky and too excessive. Extravagant bling is glowing fiercely when it catches the light of the stroboscopes.
The guys lounging in the dark on the plush seats lining the dance floor have more diamonds and gold in their mouth than is needed to buy a condo in Hollywood. Rap stars. She snorts derisively.
There’s no future of hers among them.
She wants something solid. Something that is not short-lived like a rapper’s career. The music business is definitely not something that draws her in. At least not this kind. Maria might be good with snorting coke and becoming just another nameless, willing girl draped over a guy who treats her like shit. But that’s her problem. She doesn’t want to go there.
‘No, thank you.’
‘What?’ A girl in a golden sequin dress looks at her questioningly.
Shasta had not realized she was talking out loud. ‘Nothing. I’m going home,’ she adds to Maria who halfheartedly tries to dissuade her.
‘The party’s poppin’, you can’t leave!’ Maria shouts after her, but Shasta just holds her hand up in a dismissive gesture, waving goodbye without turning around but expecting her friend to follow her.
After a few steps, she turns to see if Maria is coming, but she is dancing away, not caring about Shasta at all. Disappointed and feeling utterly let down, Shasta continues to fray a passage off the dance floor. She can’t get away fast enough. Away from the clones with blonde extensions, false eyelashes and more booty than her.
Away from the flashy predators plying girls with champagne and promises as shallow as their “victims’” fake assets.
Once outside she instantly regrets her decision. Project B is situated down on the docks not very far from home, but at this late hour there are no more buses, and she doesn’t have enough cash to pay a taxi. She is too proud to go back in, so she sets out on foot, high heels and all. She is definitely too drunk to realize the dangers of walking through the rough neighborhood on her own.
Hey, mami!’ A taxi has slowed next to her with a leering passenger leaning out of the back window. ‘You wanna come to my place bouncy-bouncy?’
Shasta avoids turning her head, knowing eye contact will engage in more discussions.
‘Fuck off,’ she answers brazenly, the alcohol loosening her tongue.
She presses on, her heels clicking on the pavement. She strides a little faster, wanting to outdistance the creepy taxi. But it is the taxi that drives off. It accelerates down the street and disappears out of sight after a sharp turn.
Shasta lets out her breath. She is suddenly aware of the dark and the dangers of being alone so she keeps close to the street, walking fast, keeping a safe distance from the dark buildings and whoever might lurk in the shadows. She almost runs the last yards and her hands shake so badly when she tries to unlock the door that she has to try several times before fitting the key. She walks straight to the fridge and takes out a cold can of coke. She drinks until it hurts, then she brings the can with her to the bedroom.
Taïga is sound asleep in her little cheap cot, surrounded by her soft toys. Had she not thrown them on the floor before she left clubbing? She doesn’t recollect picking them up…
Sharp light wakes her. She had forgotten to draw the curtains last night, and now the room is filled with sunshine. She is sprawled across the bed, still fully dressed. Her mouth tastes foul and her head keeps spinning from last night’s excessive drinking, especially when she tries to sit up. With a groan she falls back again. Her dry throat aches. She reaches for the diet coke on the night stand, but it is empty. She closes her eyes and sighs. She’ll have to wait this out.
She had not counted on her daughter. Taïga is awake and hungry. She throws her little doll at the slumped figure of her mother but of course she misses. It bounces off the master bed and lands on the floor. The grey cat with its round head follows suit and finally her bellowed Minnie Mouse. When Shasta doesn’t react, she cries “Mommy-mommy-mommy” a notch higher, piercing Shasta’s ears.
The cheap bed creaks when she forces herself to a sitting position. The fancy silk dress is riding high on her thighs and feels so tight it threatens to suffocate her. She wriggles out of it, pulling on some shorts and a tank top before attending to her daughter’s needs.
A few moments later she is sitting on the stairs to the patio, drawing on a cigarette with shaking hands. The sun is already burning down hot on the paved backyard and she regrets the house did not come with a large parasol. She has brought some baby sunscreen with her, but Taïga will have to do without. She is not in the mood to get her hands all greasy and slippery, it is bad enough that she is already sweating.
There are some apples on the wooden picnic table. Vaguely Shasta remembers asking her neighbor to pick up some fruit at the grocer’s and they must have left them there when nobody answered the door earlier this morning.
Taïga squeals excitedly when she sees them and scrambles up onto the bench. The table is high, so she has to stand up. She watches the apples, talking some of her usual gibberish.
‘Who are you talking to?’ Shasta mutters, knowing full well she won’t get an answer.
It really seems like the little girl is talking to someone and it makes her uncomfortable. She debates if she should pick her up and take her indoors again. She might fall, standing on her wobbly little legs like that. But the rickety bench is not that high. Kids learn more from their own mistakes than from sermons anyway. She leans her elbows on her knees, ignoring her daughter who bites on a purple Minnie rubber ring, drooling unpleasantly.
Shasta doesn’t notice how the apples line up without Taïga even touching them.
The little girl squeals with laughter and claps her hands, making Shasta throw a quick glance in her direction. She does a double take when she sees the apples bobbing in the air about an inch above the table, heading towards the edge.
‘Oh my God,’ she gasps and jerks to her feet.
The apples abruptly stop bobbing. They fall back onto the table and roll off the edge onto the ground.
‘What have you done?’ She grabs her daughter and tears her from the bench, shaking her violently. ‘Stupid kid! They’re all ruined now!’
Taïga starts crying but that only makes Shasta angrier. She puts her hands over her ears, shouting at her daughter to shut up. Her mother’s loud voice scares the little girl who cries louder, tears spurting from her eyes.
‘Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!’
Shasta grabs Taïga by the arm and drags her up the short flight of stairs, through the hallway and to the bedroom. She abruptly lets go of her arm and the little girl falls to the floor. Seeing her daughter so helpless only aggravates her anger. The kid should be able to walk and talk by now.
‘Just stop it! I’ve got a headache and you’re just making it worse! Don’t you understand that?’
She slams the door shut behind her and slumps to the floor with her back against the smooth surface.
Taïga doesn’t understand why her mother is so angry – again. But instinctively she understands that it is her fault. She knows it is better if she just plays quietly for a while. When the door opens, her mother will be happy again. Her gums ache so much and she chews on her hand to make it stop. She is still holding on to her purple teething ring and eagerly clamps down on it to find some solace from the pain. She sits like that for a while, looking at herself in the mirror, talking gibberish to herself.
She looks around at her few toys. She wants them to play with her, like last night. Why don’t they come to her? She concentrates so hard her eyes roll back and she is starting to feel lightheaded.
The toys are soon swiveling around her head. All of them except for Minnie. Taïga looks at the big ragdoll, willing it to at least stand up, which it promptly does. Taïga giggles. This is fun. She would like to fly, too…
The door opens on Shasta and the toys clatter to the floor. Taïga scrutinizes her mother to assess her mood. Deciding it is not safe enough, she waits for a sign.
Shasta blinks. Where those toys just levitating? No… She really had too much to drink last night. And what’s that smell? Has the dang kid wet herself again? Or worse? Decidedly, she should be potty trained by now.
‘Let’s go see if we can find you a new daycare,’ she mutters, signaling for Taïga to follow her to the bathroom. ‘But we have to clean you up first. Nobody wants to take care of a dirty child…’
To Taïga’s joy they head to the Sanchez next door. She loves playing in their backyard where Mr. Sanchez has installed a little activity tower for his grandson, Ángel. There is a tunnel just large enough for her and Ángel to crawl through, and it is so cosy in the little space it leads to.
Taïga beats Ángel up the few steps to the top of the tower and grabs the fake spyglass. Giggling happily, she zooms in on Ángel, who crosses his arms on his chest and angrily sucks on his pacifier.
‘You can share, you know.’ Mr. Sanchez joins them, finishing off a doughnut and licking his fingers.
‘No! Me wanna! Me wanna!’
Shasta clears her throat and forces a smile. She thinks Taïga screams a lot, but this little boy is a snap worse.
‘Did you ask Mrs. Williams?’ Maria ignores her son. She finishes filling the dog’s bowl, keeping the drooling dog off with her foot. ‘She’s good with kids, and I’m sure Taïga will love the cats.’
‘Yeah, I’ve asked her. But Mrs. Williams said she could take her on Mondays only. She is busy everyday helping out at the oldies center, but she’s probably the one getting help… I think she’s got Parkinson, she shakes an awful lot.’
‘Are you sure? Ay, that’s awful.’ Maria folds the empty sac.
‘Anyway, I’m sure Taïga prefers playing with Ángel,’ Shasta says, looking pleadingly at Maria’s father.
Mr. Sanchez scratches his head. ‘I don’t know…’
He watches his grandson with a mixture of indulgence and pride when the little boy decides to finally shut up and tries escalating the tower using the slide.
‘¡Bravo! ¡Muy bien, muchacho!’
Shasta can’t see what the excitement is about. The child is after all using the slide to climb up, not the stairs as should be expected. Whatever. She focuses her attention back to Mr. Sanchez and looks at him with begging eyes.
‘I trust you, Emilio. Taïga loves you. And you’re already caring for Ángel. One more or less…’ she adds under her breath.
‘Huh?’ Mr. Sanchez still looks doubtful. ‘She eats everything?’
‘Oh, yes. If she refuses, I authorize you to punish her. You can just leave her without food.’
‘With no food?’ Mr. Sanchez looks at Shasta, rubbing his chin. He decides she must be joking and winks at her. ‘She’ll love Rita’s chili!’
‘Everyone loves mama’s chili.’ Maria kisses her fingers.
‘So it’s settled then? I’ll leave enough diapers to take her through the day-’
‘She is not potty trained?’
‘Err… no. But she’s smart. She’ll copy Ángel – potty, walking, talking…’
Spending time with the Sanchez’ profits Taïga’s progress. She gets potty-trained in no time, even though there are some “accidents” at night, especially when she is having nightmares. When she discovers that she can’t crawl fast enough to follow Ángel around she automatically does as the little boy. Walking and running become essential.
Mr. Sanchez fakes not understanding when she just points and grunts. She must say the word to get what she wants. Her vocabulary starts out with basic Spanish, to Shasta’s regret. She doesn’t understand a word her daughter says, and the fact that the whole Sanchez family does, is extremely annoying.
It is difficult to go on with the habitual chores with two toddlers around. Even washing the car becomes a perilous task when Taïga passes between Mr. Sanchez’s legs as fast as she can on Ángel’s tricycle with a screaming Ángel in tow.
Mr. Sanchez looks like a clumsy ballerina as he tries keeping his balance and at the same time not knock over the bucket filled with soapy water. Shasta, who is just back from work with Maria, laughs so much she cannot even be angry with him for letting her daughter play so close to the street. They arrived in time to stop them from getting hurt, didn’t they? So why bother expecting the worst?
‘Does my bum look big in this dress? I’m not sure I can rock this.’ Maria slides her hands suggestively down her hips, turning slightly.
‘Are you kiddin? You is da bomb!’ Santi kisses the tips of his fingers, smacking his lips. ‘Come here, mami.’
Giggling she sits on his lap, letting him kiss her but slapping at his hand when he gets a little too insistent, sliding it up the inside of her leg.
Shasta watches them. Maria’s dress is part fake giraffe, part fake zebra and clings to all the right places which in Maria’s case is just about everywhere. Not tasteful at all, but what the heck, Santi looks pleased enough.
‘Are we going or what?’ She jangles her car keys and heads for the door.
‘Just a line, mamacita.’
‘Sure. But remember you’re working tonight, Santi. You’re gonna be late…’
Shasta waits in the car, smoking a cigarette and trying to tune in KTWV on the car radio. A minute turns to five, then to ten. They finally show up, tousled and giggling. A few minutes later Shasta parks behind the club and they follow Santi through the employees back entrance, which is cool as they don’t have to pay. What is less fun is waiting for people to arrive. Maria drags Shasta upstairs to the VIP area, where they wait for the club to open. They have a nice view over the dancefloors, but when people start to drop in, they have to leave.
First they freshen up their makeup. Maria vanishes into a booth for quite a while and emerges sniffling and with glazed eyes. This has been going on for quite a while now, and Shasta can’t help feeling uneasy. But it is not her problem. Maria can spend her hard earned money as she likes; sniff, smoke or pop it. She says she can quit whenever she wants, and why shouldn’t she believe her? Whatever. The bathroom attendant looks disapprovingly at Maria but doesn’t say anything. She remains patiently sitting on a chair in the corner, waiting for the onslaught of clients to come.
‘Such a depressing job,’ Maria whispers, leaving a hefty tip to the mousy woman who now directs her disapproving eyes towards Shasta who has not paid.
Shasta nods in agreement, depressing indeed. What now? Why is the mousy woman staring at her? She hasn’t even used the bathroom and the woman is getting a monthly salary. At least she thinks she does.
Maria tugs at her arm. ‘Hey, let’s post up by the bar. We’ll get a good look at everyone coming in like that.’
‘Whatever.’ Shasta follows Maria through the throng to the bar which is already getting crowded, waiting for a spot to free up.
Santi is busy putting on a show of mixing drinks in front of an entirely female audience.
‘Girls, girls, girls… There’s a lot of competition tonight,’ Maria sighs.
‘Yeah… Are you sure it’s not some “Ladies Night”, Santi?’
‘Positive! But ladies don’t pay before midnight!’
None of the girls have a watch, but Shasta guesses it is not quite midnight yet, as most clients trooping in are female. There’s not much movement on the dancefloor this early so they linger at the bar, sipping at their drinks, gossiping and criticizing the other women’s outfits and hairstyles.
They are soon bickering about dancing. Maria doesn’t give in – white girls have no rhythm and can’t twerk.
‘Just look at that chick over there, in the striped twerk shorts.’
‘Yeah, what? I think she’s doing it just right.’
‘Nah. She’s just shaking her booty. Not wiggling it sensually.’
Shasta doesn’t get the difference between wiggling and shaking.
‘Guys seem to appreciate her skills,’ she insists. ‘Just look at that guy ogling her ass.’
‘Check that out.’ Maria grabs her arm.
‘Yeah. Definitely too short.’
‘No, not that skinny white ass. The door!’
Shasta looks towards the door expecting to see-
For a fleeting moment the silhouette of a tall, blond man flashes through her mind.
The vague memory vanishes as she takes in the four Latino guys in their mid-twenties that have stopped, checking out the action.
‘Jack Wild Jr. What a hunk…’ Maria breezes.
‘Jack who?’ Shasta asks and on clue the one wearing a white shirt flashes a charming smile and waves to someone behind them.
‘Never mind. Watch and learn.’ Maria waves back, forcing a big smile and licking her plump lips.
Jack Wild raises an eyebrow and looks her over with an amused smile, then he taps one of his friends on the shoulder, saying something and pointing towards the ceiling.
‘Ooh, they taking us to the VIP section,’ Maria squeals. She stands up and smooths down her dress.
‘I doubt that’s what he-’
‘Always so negative! Think positive and good things happen! I bet he’s got connections…’
‘I doubt thinking positive will get you any closer to that dude, Maria. Or his connections. Be realistic, he’s a goddamn star – he can have anyone.’
‘I’m not good enough? Is that what you mean?’
‘Well, yes.’ Seeing Maria’s stricken expression, Shasta tries to soften the impact of her truthfulness. ‘I mean, he’s probably into models and actresses. Err… Not girls like us.’
Maria stares at her. ‘Why are you such a kill-joy? Let your hair down and have some fun.’
‘She’s right, you know. You should listen to your friend.’
Two of Jack Wild’s friends settle in next to them. They are both fondling beers and smiling encouragingly.
‘Yeah. And have a few drinks to relieve all the, err… Stress of your week. What do you have?’
‘Same as you,’ Maria purrs, throwing a triumphant glance at Shasta.
‘And you? What’s your poison?’
‘Dark and Stormy.’ Shasta empties her glass.
‘That’s definitely you we’re talking about here,’ one of them says. He’s leaning on his friend’s shoulder and eyeing Shasta.
She checks the pale dark man out. He looks like some kind of rock star with smudged kohl around his dark brown eyes. Musician. That’s a no-no.
‘Are you trying to chat me up?’
She wakes up in an unknown, crumpled bed. She vaguely remembers a ride in a limo and lots of champagne. Purple silk sheets. Tacky…
She can hear the splashing of water and tiptoes over to the bay window. A dark, muscular man is doing laps in a huge pool. The musician or his friend? He’s completely naked and she frowns disapprovingly. She should leave before he comes back and might want to start all over again, doing whatever they did last night. She looks around for her clothes and when she pushes away a blazer, a thick wallet falls out of the pocket.
A very thick wallet. She hesitates. With trembling hands she picks it up and opens it. It is filled with crisp new bills.
She really doesn’t want to talk to the stranger, so she quickly picks up her clothes, stuffs her underwear in her little bag and sneaks downstairs carrying her heels. As soon as she is outside she slips into her fake Blahniks and half walks, half runs down the long driveway. She nods to the uniformed guard manning the gate and struts out trying to keep her composure.
She is lucky enough, she doesn’t have to walk far before she gets a cab.
They quickly leave the plush hills and drive through the suburbs on I-405 avoiding downtown Los Angeles with its government buildings and skyscrapers. A half hour later they enter Watts. Shasta has been dozing on and off, but suddenly the taxi accelerates and makes a sharp right turn, making her bang her head sharply against the window.
‘What the fuck was that!?!’
‘Red lights, lady. Don’t wanna stop in this hood.’
Shasta massages her forehead and looks out of the window.
Was that Maria? ‘Wait! Stop the the car!’
‘Are you crazy, lady? I ain’t stoppin’ here. Putas and drug addicts and God knows what else. No way.’
Part II – End of Chapter 53
Next Chapter → Coming soon
“A sprawling sun-soaked metropolis full of fame, fun and rush hour traffic. In a city with glitz and grit, people that talk and don’t walk, cheap cell phones and expensive gasoline, it’s up to you to decide who you are and what your story will be. Welcome to Los Aniegos.”
Thank you, Costerboi, for you fantastic rendition of a West Coast City! You’ll find Coasterboi’s Los Aniegos at The Sims Catalogue