02-54 Mirror, Mirror…

Maluma – El Préstamo

‘… another beautiful day in sunny Southern California. Nothing but clear blue skies in the forecast. So get those shorts on and enjoy the beach. Let’s make this a weekend to remember. So keep it tuned right here as I keep on spinning today’s hottest…’

Shasta turns off the radio and parks the car. She opens the passenger door and struggles a little to try to fold the seat forward to let the impatient children out. She finally lets them slide out from behind the stuck seat, congratulating herself on not having any toddler booster seats installed. Just how would she have let them out, huh? And yet installed the kids? Taïga tugs at her jeans and absentmindedly she moves her leg to make the toddler let go. Ángel is already running over the patch of grass to hug his waiting mother. She picks him up and swirls him around, making him scream with delight. Then he catches sight of the gear in the all-new playground and immediately squirms to get away from her smothering kisses. Maria’s carryall falls to the ground, her things scattering on the grass.

Ángel’s gesticulating little arms send her dark mirrored shades flying and swearing in Spanish Maria lets go of him. Ángel grabs Taïga’s hand and the two little children run off towards the beckoning slide and the swings and whatnot. Shasta catches a glimpse of her friend’s bloodshot, bruised eye before she has the time to put them back on. She also notices a dirty brownish-beige glass pipe among the usual female stuff. She picks up a little packet that her friend immediately snatches out of her hand.

‘It’s mine!’

‘No need to be aggressive, I’m not taking anything.’

Maria doesn’t answer, she is on her hands and knees, mumbling to herself as she picks up her things. Shasta shrugs and leaves her to it.

‘I’ll wait for you over there.’

Dutifully she puts Taïga on a swing and sits down on one of the benches overlooking the fake lake. At least there is some shade and being close to the water brings some welcome freshness. She has not talked to Maria since forever as her friend spends all her time at Santi’s dilapidated dwelling trying to be hip enough for her new “friends”. It has become the meeting place of some people Shasta prefers staying out of the way of. The couple is making quite a lot of money since the party. Money that quickly disappears into Santi’s taste of fast cars and flashy clothes. She suspects Maria is taking drugs. What kind of drugs, she doesn’t know, but she recognizes the glazed look in her friend’s eyes and her jerky moods. When Maria did not show up at work three days in a row, she got fired, which is partly why Shasta agreed to meet up at the park when Maria called. She doesn’t want her friend in her house – God knows what filth and illnesses she might bring in with her brand-new addiction.

The main reason she needs to see Maria is that Madame has been asking her to expand her services to keep Maria’s regulars happy, and Shasta is starting to panic.

Maria wanted to see her son, and apparently, she is too busy to come over to her parents’ house. Shasta hates to spend a whole day with the annoying kids, but she could not very well explain why she would take Ángel to the park and leave her own daughter at the Sanchez’. The park has an all-new playground that has not been vandalized – yet – so hopefully the kids will entertain themselves.

When Maria has finished collecting her stuff, Shasta lays out her predicament with Madame but her friend just shrugs it off.

Some tears would surely help her understand how awful Shasta’s situation is. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, trying to muster up what her acting lessons have taught her. What had her coach told her again? Think of something dreadful enough to start crying. Death. Yes, that’s it… But she can’t imagine losing a loved one, as she doesn’t love anybody. And she can’t really contemplate herself dying. Seeing a puppy or a super cute kitten getting run over? No, she doesn’t like animals. Where are those effing tears when she needs them most? There had been no way stopping them earlier in the week, when she had received the call from the photographer who finally wanted to do a shooting – but with Taïga! Such a deception! Her eyes fill with tears and hiccupping she breaks down.

Surprised, Maria hugs her, stroking her back. ‘What is it? What happened?’

Shasta shares everything that has happened during this the most horrific of weeks, going over Madame’s pressures again, brushing past the failed photo shooting and finally developing her remorse about the night in the Hills.

‘… I bet he roofied me. I can’t remember a thing.’

‘Roofied you? Nah… I don’t think so. You really tanked up on those “stormy” cocktails. You want my advice?’

Shasta doesn’t, but she listens anyway.

‘You stick to coke, snort a line or two will loosen you up and get you in the mood, you know what I mean? I know a guy who-’

And finish like you? Shasta thinks to herself. Smoking crack? Doing God knows what to keep the habit going? She listens to Maria for a little while, but when her friend starts complaining about how Santi is not the man she thought he was, and that he is more or less forcing her to prostitute herself, she finally interrupts to steer the conversation back to more important matters – herself.

‘I knew I shouldn’t have taken the money…’ She sniffles. When she had gotten home, she had laid out the hundred-dollar bills on her bed in a neat fan. $2,000. That’s a lot of cash.

‘What money?’ Maria perks up.

‘The night club a couple of weeks ago. The music guy? Who roofied me? Remember him? I didn’t really mean to, but it was just lying around and…’ she grimaces a little. She cannot tell her friend that the money was actually in a wallet, which in turn was in a blazer. Well, it kind of fell out of the pocket, so…

‘If it was just lying around, it was probably meant for you,’ Maria reassures her.

‘For me?’

‘Yeah, for your services. Guy must have enjoyed your white people shit. I bet you was worth every cent…’

‘Worth it? $2,000?’

‘Wow. Just look at you, girl. A little uptight, sure, but what the hell. What did you do to get paid so much?’

‘Paid? I didn’t get paid. I’m not a hooker!’

‘I thought you said he left you 2,000 bucks.’

‘Yeah, but- Oh, forget it.’

‘No, I don’t think you get the picture. If he paid you good money, why don’t you try to get more?’

‘From him?’ There is no way Shasta is returning. Maria might be a little too optimistic about the man’s reaction to the disappearance of his cash.

‘Not necessarily. There are lots of guys willing to pay a lot for special services. And you must be special. I mean, 2,000 bucks. Man…’ Maria sighs.

‘No. I can’t do that. I can’t go to bed with someone for money.’

‘Really? You always go on and on about a rich husband. Where’s the difference?’ Maria’s face twitches. ‘You just don’t kiss him and you’re all right. Think about other stuff and moan a little, the client’s none the viser, he thinks he is a real stud. You put a finger up his ass and he’ll be done quicker.’

‘What? Nonono. I don’t need you to explain. I will not do it.’

‘Well, your loss. Just imagine the money you could get.’

Shasta clears her throat. ‘I’ve been thinking about being an escort,’ she admits. There. It’s out in the open. She had never really thought about it before having seen a real-life documentary on TV, but the prospect of getting paid for wearing designer clothes to art galleries and nice restaurants had seemed almost too good to be true.

‘Wow. Why didn’t I think about that? They don’t fuck.’

‘Exactly. They just go fancy places with executives in L.A. on business trips. Arm candy.’

‘And you won’t have to worry about Madame because you will quit!’

Shasta nods eagerly.

‘What did you say about the photo shooting?’

Shasta regrets having mentioned it. A shrill shriek interrupts them, and she almost hopes that it is one of the kids getting hurt just so she can avoid answering. But it is just the two kids running around playing tag and shrieking with glee.

Maria insists. ‘Go ahead, tell me.’

‘Oh, it was nothing. Some photographer called me and wanted to know if I wanted to do a shooting for him.’

She shows Maria the best portrait on her cell.

‘You are so bomb!’

‘I know, thank you,’ Shasta says coquettishly, admiring the picture. It is fantastic. She is fantastic.

In fact, it had been Shasta who had called the fancy photographer. It is not always enough to have a beautiful face and smoking-hot body to make good money overnight. She was willing to use some of the unsuspected money for quality pictures for her future escort website. She had taken an uber to the fancy studio in downtown L.A. last Wednesday, dressed in a chic, secondhand designer dress, feeling ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, she had had to bring Taïga along for the ride.

The photographer had first taken a few pictures of herself posing primly, but very ladylike, on a sofa. Then he had started going on and on about Angelina Jolie, Michelle Obama, Sandra Bullock and Britney Spears until finally she had understood what he was aiming at and given her consent to let Taïga be on a few pictures.

Luckily, she had thought of dressing her daughter up, too. She had worn the new cat dress Mrs. Wilkins had sewn and was not her usual, dirty self. Yet.

The photographer had been overjoyed and Shasta is sure he spent more time taking pictures of her daughter than of herself.

‘So, he called back this morning – he wants to take some kiddie pics for Halloween.’

‘But that’s cool! Tell me all about it.’ Maria scratches her arms, smiling at Shasta.

‘Well. She’ll get paid $40 per hour and-’

‘Yeah, but ain’t it some rule about that?’

‘About what?’

‘Kids working and stuff. To protect them.’

‘From who? I’m her mother, for Christ’s sake. I’m entitled to what money she gets.’

‘I think you should talk to Santi. He can set you up with some guys rolling in it.’ Maria tries to talk Shasta into associating with herself and Santi, but Shasta thinks she can make more money on her own as soon as she gets her project under way. And there is no way in Hell she will be pimped by Santi.

They are so engaged in their conversation that none of them pays attention to the children heading for the pond.

Everything happens so fast. Suddenly a big dog comes running out of nowhere. It throws the children off guard and Taïga literally flies into the water.

Shasta gasps and starts getting to her feet, but it is as if time has stopped, and she is glued to the bench.

Someone else has seen the whole scene unfold and is sprinting towards the scene of the accident. He doesn’t hesitate but jumps into the water and wades out to where Taïga is disappearing under the surface.

The water is just over knee deep, but it is largely enough for a toddler to drown in. He fishes out the spluttering child and holds her up as he wades back towards the edge where Shasta and Maria are nervously waiting.

The owner of the dog comes jogging. He stops at a distance, holding the barking dog on a short leash. Ángel crouches at a safe distance, looking at the dog which is far more interesting than Taïga.

‘Oh my God! Are you all right, Mister?’ Shasta exclaims, worried.

‘Yeah, I’m OK. But your kid is a little shook up. I got her in time though. Here. You should take her.’

‘Ugh. But she’s soaked.’

Maria squints at the dripping man in the water. ‘OMG. Its Jack Wild, Jr.!’ She whips out her cell and starts filming.

Shasta looks over her shoulder. ‘Did you get everything? This will go viral.’

She holds her arms out towards her baby. ‘Here, hand her to me.’ She frowns slightly in a way she hopes makes her look worried but still pretty. ‘Are you hurt, Mr. Wild?’

Her daughter is now crying, and she grimaces upon contact with the wet child. She smells of stagnant water and Shasta gags. Luckily Jack Wild thinks she is sobbing.

‘Don’t cry, she’s all right. I got to her in time, she’s just scared.’

Shasta beams at him, then swirls on the barking dog.

‘For God’s sake, make that dog shut up!’ she sneers. ‘We are filming here!’

‘Your dog is dangerous, cabrón,’ Maria adds. ‘This will cost you a lot, my friend here will sue you.’

 ‘The kid is teasing Charlie,’ the owner protests.

‘Who the fuck is Charlie?’ Maria says.

‘My dog. His name is Charlie and your son is throwing stones at him.’

‘Stones? That’s just big-sized sand. Don’t mind dat horrible man, Ángelito, come to mama.’

The dog throws itself forward, almost tearing the leash out of its master’s hands. Ángel falls backward in fright and starts crying. But the dog ignores him. It is barking even more, tearing at the leash and whimpering, trying to get to something under the bench.

Maria falls on her knees, helping her son up, all the while shouting a steady flow of Spanish expletives directed at the dog owner. Ángel sees the little dog first. It is hiding under the bench. His mother gets all excited, thinking it must belong to Paris Hilton, and tries to make it approach. Such a lucky day, a reward and a lawsuit.

No one takes notice of the man escaping with his dog Charlie. And when the little dog’s owner shows up, she threatens to press charges against Maria for trying to steal her precious chihuahua…

﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾†﴿﴾

The following weeks are busy for Shasta. She set up her website just in time for Halloween and has already escorted a few lonely CEOs on business trips to Tinseltown. Of course, she doesn’t know their real names, but who cares? On Maria’s counsel, she is even doing a little Cybersex on the side.

‘Don’t give me that shit, girl. It’s easy. You’re smart, quick-witted and you can describe things well, and you know how to handle a keyboard, don’t you? Dat, and a dirty, creative, mind and you’re off to the races.’

‘Don’t rush me.’

‘You ain’t getting any younger.’

It had sounded so easy when Maria laid it out to her, and to her surprise it had been quite fun. She could even paint her toenails while some stupid jerk was getting it off listening to her describe vile acts. Best thing was that she would soon have saved enough to leave the barrio behind her forever.

‘So where’s you heading at?’

‘I don’t know. Anywhere’s gotta be better than this shithole.’

‘Better a shithole you know…’

‘C’mon, Maria. Don’t tell me you want to stay here? With Santi?’

‘You don’t understand.’

‘Try me.’

‘Just look around you – all of my childhood friends, we grew up our daddies in jail, our mamas on drugs-’

‘Mr. Sanchez has been in jail? What for?’

‘Murder.’

Shasta’s jaw drops and Maria cannot hide her glee. ‘Just look at your face – priceless. Nah, that he would have never ever fucking did.’ She chuckles, scratching her arms. ‘It was just aggravated assault. He got out a couple of years ago, good conduct, you know. Mom’s clean, though. Just a DUI last year.’

Shasta swallows. Would she have left Taïga in their care if she had known? Probably. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And the toddler is all right, isn’t she? Maybe she should call for a babysitter, a real one. But it’s getting late, and her date will be here any minute. Maria has said she is getting off the drugs after her parents threatened her to get custody of Ángel if she doesn’t get in shape soon. She deserves a chance, and there are no drugs in her house. Not even alcohol. So, everything is settled on that front.

‘Miror, mirror…’ Shasta can’t help sighing with satisfaction. Her hair is curled Lana del Rey style and the Cardin, pastel-pink, silk dress is marrying her curves, sexy and classy all at the same time. Mr. JW is in for a treat. Just hope he is a gentleman and keeps his hands to himself. She throws a glance into the den at her ugly daughter playing in front of the TV. She won’t ever be in need of a mirror, that one…

‘Gah. This itching… It’s driving me up the wall.’ Maria scratches her arms and her thighs, peering out the window. ‘Si, I thought I heard a car. You should be gone now. No play no pay.’

She helps Taïga scramble up on a chair by the window. ‘Here, watch mommy go to work, linda.’

Shasta pushes the door open and frowning stops on the porch.

‘Mr. Wild?’

‘Call me Jack.’ He holds up the door of a dark red Maserati and smiles at her. ‘Shall we?’

 

Part II – End of Chapter 54

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“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.”

Coasterboi

You’ll find Coasterboi’s Los Aniegos at The Sims Catalogue

 

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