This post follows Unbearable in The
Krazy Crazy Life of Kassiopeia Fullbright. However, this is also a Prologue for From Riverview, With Love, starring Gage Briody. See bottom of this post for the next chapter in this FRWL series.
Warning and Note: This post contains content that may not be appropriate for younger readers. The chapter contains sexual situations, language, and adult conversations. (As a side note: I wanted to mention in the SimNation, the drinking age is 18.)
This chapter is told from the perspective of Gage Briody.
The memorial service was set for the following day at 2PM. Natalya had arranged for the family to arrive in a limousine. Gage wasn’t much for show, but he was almost glad the windows were tinted. He didn’t want to be here. He shouldn’t have to be here. The only woman he ever called mom was dead. He was hurting… bad.
The day was much too bright for a funeral. There were even birds singing. The grass was far too green and pink cherry trees seemed way out of place. That’s if the landscaping was supposed to reflect his inner turmoil. Gage wished the clouds would roll in from the coast as he stepped out of the vehicle and glanced at the sky.
Pablo had requested he lose the shades for the service. Out of respect for his foster dad, he complied. Guests had already started arriving. Gage grimaced. Hand-shaking, hugs, and hearing anecdotes about Jennifer was the last thing he wanted to do today. Someone laid a hand on his shoulder. It was Shameka. She gave him a small, encouraging smile.
“Let’s do this,” he said seriously, as if preparing for a hard test or getting ready to repair his house.
It was better that way. It was easier that way.
All the guests were gathering out in the front and in the reception hall. Pablo, Shameka, and Gage headed for a private moment at the graveside before the service began. Someone had already placed a simple arrangement of calla lilies, Jennifer’s favorite, at her graveside. Probably Natalya, Gage surmised. The lighted candles were a nice touch.
Gage stood distantly watching his foster father mourn very visibly. Shameka wrapped her arms around him. They had only known each other for a few weeks, but it was like she was part of the family. She had stepped up to help, remembering details that Gage and Pablo simply would’ve forgotten. She had been a lifesaver, his sister. It felt weird to call her that. Sister. But she was. And she was a welcome addition to his life.
Gage felt numb as he stood stoically observing their grief. It was like watching a movie. The emotion just wouldn’t come. Like an out of body experience. I’m not really here, right? I’m going to wake up and this will all be a bad dream. This didn’t really happen. Jennifer isn’t really dead. We should be celebrating right now. Tomorrow would be Jennifer’s and Pablo’s twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. We should be celebrating… not grieving.
Gage couldn’t watch anymore. He wandered back toward the main building. As he passed by, he caught himself wondering if Natalya was handling the greeting details. He caught sight of her through the window. Her bleached blonde hair contrasted sharply with her milk chocolate skin. A stream of sunlight washed over her face. She was beautiful… in her own way.
He stood in the doorway watching her direct guests to the back chapel. When she had finished ushering the last guest in, she stood there, back to him, staring off into the distance. He approached quietly.
“Natalya?” he said softly.
“Yes, Mr. Briody,” she said stiffly, swiping at her eyes, still not facing him.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“Oh…” she sighed heavily as she turned around. “I… I just mourn all the loved ones that go before their time. I know our philosophy is laugh your way through grief, but it’s still a loss.”
“Yeah,” he shrugged.
“Your mother, Mrs. Martinez, was a wonderful woman. I enjoyed researching her with your sister to write the obituary. She led a remarkable life,” Natalya said.
Gage felt honored. He admired this woman. The Mrs. Martinez part was a nice touch.
“Thank you, that means a lot to me,” Gage reached out his hands and grasped hers.
She gasped suddenly, as if surprised by his action. Is it just my imagination or did her worry lines just melt away? Gage held her warm hands in his own, slightly caressing her fingers. It was comforting him probably more than it comforted her, but she was letting him. Somehow having someone to comfort gave him a purpose, something to focus on instead of watching his father fall apart. He looked up at her face.
“Don’t sell yourself short,” he said. “You’re a remarkable woman too.”
Why did I say that? he wondered. I don’t even know her. He rubbed his forehead with one hand. I can’t think straight.
She dropped her hand and he wondered if he had said something wrong.
“I like my job,” she replied oddly.
“I know you do,” he stared into her soft brown eyes.
The organ began playing and they both looked up, distracted by the somber music.
“You should go. You don’t want to miss it,” Natalya urged quietly.
“I guess,” he shrugged once more.
The thought of facing all those people made him anxious. He’d much rather stay here in the hallway. He’d much rather stay next to Natalya. He couldn’t explain it, but she made him feel better… and alive. He wanted to think about life… not death. But he knew better. It was his responsibility. He would go.
But first, he pulled Natalya close. He embraced her tightly and she didn’t resist.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” he whispered.
“Yes, Mr. Briody, yes you can,” she replied.
“What’s with the Mr. Briody stuff?” he made a face. “Please call me Gage.”
“Okay Gage,” she replied meekly.
She probably didn’t even intend to sound alluring, but the way she said his name sent his head spinning. He had never felt like this before. Not even with Kass, his childhood love… the woman he thought he had wanted to be with for the rest of his life. Kass… Kass who? Natalya was in his arms and she felt even better than he could’ve ever imagined. He didn’t care that she was over twice his age. He wanted her. He needed her.
“You should go, Gage,” she interrupted his thoughts.
“Oh right,” he gave a wry chuckle and pulled back from her arms.
The service was short and simple. The same priest who had married Pablo and Jennifer performed the eulogy. Gage wasn’t focused. He wasn’t himself. He couldn’t think about death right now. He didn’t want to. He wanted to think about life. So many people had come to mourn the loss of his foster mom and all he could think about was Natalya and the next time he’d hold her.
After the service, the guests assembled at the graveside. Jennifer had already been buried in a private short service the day before. Just Pablo, Shameka, and Jennifer’s extended family had been in attendance beside himself. Still, all the guests gathered around to pay their respects. Reverend Alvi, the local pastor, said a few words, in addition to Pablo. Then Jennifer’s sister invited everyone to join them in the reception hall.
Gage glanced back over his shoulder to see if she had come. She did. Her whole family stood somberly to his right. Kass was slightly off to the side by herself. She was sniffling. She looked very nice in her black coat with grey buttons and modest black skirt, her hair pulled back into a conservative bun, and her heels a respectable inch-and-a-half. Gage narrowed his eyes. Something about her presence irked him. He had been a total llama’s ass the other day and he deserved her resentment and anger. Yet she was still here… mourning Jennifer… mourning his mother… her grief very subtle, but still visible. That was Kass. It was her way.
He looked around to see if he saw Davis. To his relief, his competition wasn’t there. He still couldn’t believe how badly the whole thing had turned out. Maybe he should’ve called Kass. Maybe he should’ve tried harder. But she didn’t even try. She never once thought about him. She fell in love with someone else. That angered him. He resented her. He wanted her to leave.
He watched her cross the lawn and walk inside the building. He decided to follow her. He wanted her to know how he felt. He wanted her to know what he thought.
“Hey man, sorry about Jennifer,” a young man grabbed his arm and patted him rather aggressively on his back.
“Yeah, sure, thanks,” he replied absently.
“Oh okay,” the young man frowned as Gage walked away.
A half dozen more people greeted him and offered condolences as he walked by. He nodded, and shook a few hands distractedly, but really he was focused on Kass. Where had she gone?
He found her standing in the reception hall. She had placed a vase of pink tulips in the center of the table. No one else had arrived yet. He wondered what she was doing here alone. Maybe she’s escaping like I am.
“I can’t believe you came,” he said quietly.
She jumped startled, but didn’t turn to face him, instead resting her hands on the table.
“The service was beautiful,” she said softly, smoothing the tablecloth.
“Why are you here? Why did you come?” he asked.
“Why wouldn’t I?” she sniffled. “Jennifer was my friend and mentor.”
He noticed she forgot to mention he was her friend…
…or had she left it out on purpose.
“Kass, why won’t you look at me?” he asked, more harshly than he intended.
“I can’t,” she whispered as she turned away from him, swiping at her eyes. “It hurts too much.”
“You didn’t expect to come here and not see me?” he answered coldly.
“No,” she slumped her shoulders. “I don’t know what I expected. Maybe I should leave.”
“Maybe you should,” he agreed, hating the anger in his tone.
She muffled a sob. Her shoulders hunched forward, and he noticed she was shaking. For a fleeting moment, he felt bad. Apologize, you idiot! You do care. You just don’t want to.
“Do you really hate me that much?” she asked, her voice catching.
He couldn’t reply. Do I hate her? Do I really hate her? I don’t know what to think or feel. But her kindness is killing me. Her presence is overwhelming me. I can’t think and feel like that right now. I don’t want to think about Jennifer. I don’t want to think about death.
“I’ll leave,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
With that, she turned and left the room, never facing him, the door closing quietly behind her. He didn’t really have time to process what had just happened as caterers began walking in with hot trays of food. He blinked rapidly, trying to collect his bearings.
I can’t stay here, he screamed internally. It was too painful. He didn’t want to feel pain. He wanted to numb the pain. He caught sight of Natalya across the room, talking to the head chef. She looked over and smiled slightly at him. His breath caught. Natalya. Life.
He walked over, leaning into her ear. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispered.
Her eyes widened in surprise. “I can’t… my job…” she shook her head.
“The Director can handle it, right? Say you aren’t feeling well. Say you need to take a break. Say you’ll be back later.”
“I could do that, I suppose.”
“I just can’t stay here. It’s too much. Would you drive me home?”
“Let me talk to Asher.”
He watched her walk away, eyeing her up and down. His father would understand. No one would blame him if he cut out early. It was too much. He needed to grieve alone… later… in his own time… not now… not here… not with these people.
When they pulled up in front of his house, Gage couldn’t think clearly. He needed a drink.
“Do you want to come in?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Natalya looked down in her lap. “If you want me to…”
He grabbed her hands between his, startling her once more. “Please, I don’t want to be alone.”
She seemed to contemplate his reply before unbuckling her seat belt.
“Okay, for a little while,” she agreed.
They walked inside. Gage headed straight for the mini bar. It was his only comfort after a long, painful day. Alcohol didn’t expect anything from him. Alcohol didn’t need anything from him. Alcohol could wrap him up in a fog and make him forget his problems. And that’s exactly what Gage needed.
“Would you like one?” he asked, mixing up a drink for himself.
“Sure,” Natalya nodded. “Whaddaya have?”
“Anything you want, I think,” Gage took a huge swig of his own drink. “Sorry no fancy glasses though.”
“That’s okay,” she sighed, slipping out of her shoes. She walked around the counter and picked up a glass. “I’ll have what you’re having.”
“The good stuff!” he grinned, pouring himself two more glasses.
Vodka. Tequila. Gin. He didn’t really look closely at the labels as he poured the clear liquids. Natalya drank her first two drinks more slowly. Gage was onto his fourth drink when he started to cry. Earth-shattering sobs. Natalya set her drink on the counter and hugged him. Her arms felt safe and warm, like his mother’s. Jennifer was gone. Jennifer was gone. Jennifer wasn’t coming back. He didn’t want to think about it, but the pain was too real to ignore. He didn’t care if he got rip-roaring drunk. Drunk meant forgetting. Sober meant more sobbing.
Natalya made a joke. She was funny. Gage laughed. It felt good to laugh. It was better to laugh.
Natalya helped him move to the couch with her third drink and Gage’s fifth. She pulled off her jacket and his and pulled at his tie in a taunting way. When she kissed him, he didn’t resist. He wanted her to. Her lips tasted like candy. Delicious. Sweet. Satisfying. She made him feel… good. He could barely breathe.
“Alive is better than dead,” he mumbled.
“Hmm,” she said, between kisses.
“Nothing,” he murmured, kissing her back.
She started caressing his body with her hands, trailing her hands over his arms, down his chest, and tracing her fingertips down his legs, all while doing amazing things with her tongue to the inside of his mouth. He was on fire. His hand grappled awkwardly for her knee. His fingers slid up underneath her skirt, touching the inside of her silky thighs. His fingers pushed upwards as her skirt stiffly slid all the way up her leg. He found his hand in foreign territory, thumbing the line of her underwear. He was about to lose all control and he didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
“Let’s… let’s… let’s… go… upstairs,” he stammered, shooting up to his feet.
“Okay,” she eyed him hungrily as she stood up, her eyes trailing up and down his body, and always coming back to the bulge in his pants.
For some reason, she wanted him. He couldn’t figure it out. He rubbed the back of his head and smiled stupidly. He half-dragged her up the stairs, his head spinning. She giggled. The walls seemed closer together than normal. The fog was settling in good and thick.
Her arms were around him again and she was kissing him hard… and that wasn’t the only thing that was hard. Her foot slid forward between his legs and she pressed her body into his. Gage was really spinning now.
They stumbled into the bedroom, peeling off layers.
She giggled again. He stopped to breathe in her scent. She smelled like berries and pine needles after a summer storm. It was heavenly and playing tricks with his mind. He recalled a camping trip with Pablo when he was fourteen. It was the first time Pablo and Jennifer had taken him anywhere because he was most difficult in his first year with the Martinez family. He remembered how Pablo had taken him up the hill from their campsite to gather fresh wood. The air was thick with the scent of evergreen needles, and the fresh blackberries on the nearby bushes. It was the first time he had ever been in the woods outside the city. The air smelled wonderful to him.
Pablo had shown him which branches made the best firewood and they decided to pick some berries to bring back to Jennifer. Gage recalled the plumpness of the fruit. The dark purple juices oozed out of them, staining his fingers, but he didn’t mind. Picking the fruit for himself, it was so much better than getting them at a store. They brought the berries back for Jennifer and she was delighted. After building a roaring hot fire, they enjoyed a meal of hot dogs, fresh blackberries, and roasted marshmallows. Gage couldn’t stop smiling all through dinner. The bonding moment between him and his foster parents stayed with him long after the trip was over. Camping had delighted his senses – the snapping, crackling, and popping of the campfire, the howl of a faraway coyote, the chirping of crickets, the taste of the berries in his mouth, the scent of the pinewood burning, the feel of the flames heating his skin, making him feel alive.
Natalya made him feel alive. Her little moans of delight into his mouth, her breath tickling his ears, her piney perfume enveloping the room, carrying them into their own little indoor wooded oasis… Gage pulled her body into his arms and gave a manly grunt as he lifted her up, carrying her to the bed. Their breathing was heavy and erratic, their sweat beading on their skin. Her body kindled something deep inside him – an overwhelming need that had lain dormant for too long. He burned passionately within for her, his body aching for hers.
“You need to come up for air?” she asked teasingly.
“Air?” he replied, confused.
He was breathing heavily, and his head felt funny. He didn’t want to stop. He had gone too far at this point to turn back, right? He wasn’t sure what time it was or what he should do or even fully where he was. Does it matter?
“This whole thing is a very… bad decision, right?” Gage said as more of a question than a statement.
“Or… a very good one,” she said mischievously, her eyes twinkling.
“I…want… this…” he nodded.
“Okay,” she smiled sweetly, as she pushed him over on his back.
All his worries melted away in that moment. The blood was pounding through his body faster than ever before and the sensations were beyond anything he could’ve imagined. He stared down at her body beneath his… he became one with her… carried away into her velvet sky.
…morning came sooner than he would’ve liked. Gage rolled over in the bed, finding a warm body next to him where a cold pillow usually was. She didn’t move.
He jerked back, kicking the covers off rapidly and kicking the person next to him in the process. She moaned and rolled her head back on the pillow for a moment. What the hell? It was Natalya.
Gage swung his legs over the side of the bed. Mounting pressure built behind his forehead. How much did I have to drink last night? Two? Three? He had lost count at five. What on Simterra did I do last night? But he knew what he had done… and he’d done nothing to stop her or it from happening.
Come on Gage, you’re a big boy, he thought to himself as he dropped his head in his hands and rubbed his temples. You had sex. Because that’s what it was. But oh hell! I shouldn’t have. I couldn’t have. Oh I did. Oh llamas, what have I done?
Next Chapter Coming Soon!
- How is Gage going to handle the whole getting drunk, sleeping with Natalya thing?
- Will he pursue a relationship with Natalya (i.e. just friends, friends with benefits, sexual/romantic, etc)?
- Will he and Kass repair their friendship?
- Will he allow himself the adequate time to grieve?
Author’s Changes: What’s different?
- Picture size was edited.
- Minor formatting changes.
- An instance of “hers” was changed to “Jennifer’s.”
- An instance of “the Director” was changed to “Asher.”