Friday, Simtember 9, 2416 | Llama Sports Bar | Bay City, Califorsimia
Answering a phone call shouldn’t be difficult…
…but it is when it’s your ex best-friend on the other end. You know the one who was jealous of you and your new guy, who lost his mom to a tragic mysterious death, who treated you like llama crap only when you tried to help him out, who went and slept with the funeral director’s assistant, who asked you to pick up his “sorry ass” from a beach party-gone-wild, who got you drunk, who skinny dipped with you in the ocean, who slept it off with you in the guest room of your grandparents home only to be discovered by your “new guy” if that’s what you could call him because we we’re unofficially officially broken-up at the time, who cursed out and screamed at the new guy, and you decked because you were angry… and he’s got a daughter with the funeral director’s assistant too.
Oh yeah… Gage.
Talk about complicated.
My life is so crazy, I bemoaned internally. I had called Gage about his little sister. I reached out to him because he deserved to know about Shameka. I felt my palms sweating and my hand was shaking as the cell phone stayed poised in my hand, unanswered. The inane ringing, some silly little jingle Gage had put on my phone years ago, grated on my nerves. At one time, the song reminded me of all the good times we shared together, and now the tune was a distressing reminder of days-gone-by.
What was the last thing I even said to him? I wondered. Simuly of 2415 felt like a far distant memory, one I’d soon like to forget. I never wanted to revisit that day. The day Davis discovered Gage and I in bed together. The day when my grandparents angrily lectured Gage and I. Nothing happened and yet no one would believe me. I wasn’t so far juiced that I forgot what I did. The thought made me nauseous. My stomach turned and gurgled unpleasantly. I laid my hand across my abdomen.
What if “something” had happened? What if Gage and I did something other than getting wasted and skinny dipping? Would I have “someone” growing inside me like Natalya did? I gagged at the thought, sharing a man who had been with the sleazy assistant, and raising not one, but two children together. I shook my head violently. No, no, no! Kassiopeia, don’t dwell on “what ifs.” It never happened. It never will. What’s wrong with you?
Unfortunately I couldn’t erase the “what happeneds.” I distinctly remember exactly how I was feeling when I woke up. My skin felt sticky beneath the heavy red comforter, heated by the warmth of another body occupying the bed. I remember the door opening, Davis’ soft steps into the room, the grunting and groaning of Gage next to me as we were rudely awakened. I remember the disgusting aftertaste of booze breath, and the feeling of a thousand elephants sitting in my head. I’ll never forget the sight of Davis’ shocked face and the moisture tingling in the corner of his wide eyes. He was betrayed. I felt betrayed. And I was the one who did it.
I must’ve flushed a thousand shades of red as I slid out of bed in only my underwear. I frantically grabbed for my robe. I was embarrassed. No, embarrassed isn’t strong enough of a word. Humiliated. Because I knew what it looked like. Everyone did. Everyone knew Gage was half in love with me. But obviously not enough, I felt a twinge of wistfulness and shame. He picked someone else over me. The internal voices bounced around in my head like a puck on an air hockey table. What’s wrong with you, Kass? You picked someone else over him. But he was my best friend once upon a time. He felt betrayed too. He told me he loved me and you brushed him off. Because you deserve better, Kass. You deserve better than Gage and Davis and… I couldn’t even let myself finish the thought. I didn’t even want to go there.
My senses jerked my back to reality as a light autumn evening breeze caressed my face. The phone was still ringing. “…so here’s my number. So call me maybe?” This had to be call number three or four and I still hadn’t answered. I literally didn’t know if I could handle the call. It was one thing to call Gage and leave him a message about Shameka. It was another thing to talk to the guy. What was the last thing I said to him? I think I threatened to kill him.
“Hello?” I managed.
I was pleased my voice didn’t sound quite as shaky as I had expected it to be.
“Hello Kass,” his voice sounded tired. “Thank you for calling me. I’m surprised you did.”
I took a deep breath and gulped. I flushed, hoping it wasn’t audible. He can’t see you, silly! I reminded myself.
“Well…” I started. Well what? What are you going to say? I don’t know what to say? Oh my llamas! Say something. You’re standing here like an idiot! “I thought you should know… about Shameka… she’s okay and she’s staying with us and my personal doctor is looking after her.”
“Thank you, Kass. You didn’t have to.”
“But I wanted to.”
“I know. You always do.”
What’s that supposed to mean? I decided I wasn’t going to over-analyze everything Gage said.
I cleared my throat. “I… my doctor is going to try and get her to a special facility so she can be treated by specialists…” I paused for a moment, and then added. “She said admission is free because of the nature of the disease. And it’s well… more um… how do I say this? Uh… commonly accepted in Simnadia than here in the Nation.”
Gage didn’t say anything.
“So you don’t need to worry about payments or anything… I’m not sure how quickly they can transfer her, but Dr. B is working on it. And she’ll be in the best of hands. I know we can trust Dr. B,” I explained.
I didn’t feel the need to tell him why. I figured he might already know since he knew about my father.
“And she’s resting comfortably as best as we can offer,” I continued. “But there’s… well…” I hesitated. How much should I tell him? “She’s not… doing well… and the sooner we can transfer her, the better, Dr. B says. But it could take a month for all the paperwork because of the nature of the situation.”
Nature of the situation? I sound like an automated machine.
“Look Gage,” I softened my tone. “I’ll be straight with you. It’s not good. Dr. B thinks the recent pregnancies probably didn’t help. Something about an elevated hormone that stays in the body after birth. You can ask her if you have more questions. I know she’s in a lot of pain. The medication is helping, but she’s incredibly weak and she’s a ghost of her former self. I don’t want to scare you, but I think you should know the honest to God truth.”
Gage exhaled sharply. I could just picture him rubbing his hand over his nearly-bald head. He always did that when he was distressed.
“Thank you for telling me, Kass. I didn’t…uh…” his voice sounded strained. “You didn’t… uh… have to… say anything… or call me even.”
“I wasn’t sure if you wanted to know,” I croaked hoarsely, and then quickly added, “…I mean, hear from me at least, but I didn’t know who else would tell you. I did pass your information along to Dr. B but she was waiting for me to talk to you first. I didn’t know about Shameka’s… well… and your mom… or if you’d want to try and contact her and everything…”
I trailed off once I heard Gage’s shuddering sigh. I was pretty sure he was crying. I felt bad for him. I wished I felt more. I wanted to do more. I wanted to comfort him. Even after everything he had done and said to me and about me, I still wished I could hug him and deliver this news in person.
“I should’ve done more for her,” Gage’s voice broke. “What if I had been more involved in her life and kept tabs on her better after I left Sunset Valley? What if I had gone to see her or sent her money or something?”
“Oh Gage, don’t go there with the ‘what ifs.’ It’s not going to help anything,” I said quietly, neglecting to add I had my own ‘what-if’ scenario just now about answering the phone and my past with Gage. “Don’t burden yourself with that. You were busy. You had other family you were meeting and a kid of your own. You were trying to figure it all out, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I mean, being a single parent is hard… on a person…” I thought of my Mamma. “I don’t think Shameka blames you at all.”
“You think?” he asked, sniffling. “I don’t want her to hate me if I just show up.”
I froze. Show-up? Is he thinking of coming? A phone conversation was hard enough. In-person with Gage I wasn’t sure how I would feel and react. I could’ve kicked myself. Don’t be a selfish brat, Kass! This isn’t about you.
“I don’t want you to hate me,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
My shoulders rose and fell. My mouth opened and closed and opened again. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had a weird amalgamation of emotions roiling around inside me. Part of me felt compassion and sympathy toward Gage and the other part of me was still hurt and even somewhat angry toward him for the way he had treated me. It’s not about you, I had to remind myself. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. I repeated the words like a mantra. Gage needed a friend tonight, even if I was half a world away and upset about the past. I needed to put aside my personal feelings no matter how hard. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. It’s about Gage and Shameka.
“I… don’t… hate… you,” I replied, each word punctuated. I hated how automated I sounded. “I don’t… hate you…” I repeated, trying desperately to soften my tone.
It was the truth. I didn’t hate him.
“Thank you, Kass,” Gage said, emotion still riding high in his voice. “I don’t think I could live with myself if you hated me.”
“Yeah,” I said uncertainly. It was the best response I could muster.
“I’m going to try and take some time off at Golden Arches₁, but I’m not sure my manager will let me,” Gage spoke up. “I might just need to quit my job, but I want to come out there and see Shameka. I want to be there for her. If it’s too weird, I don’t have to stay at the house. I can stay with a high school buddy… or Pablo…”
I noted the audible stain with the last word. I didn’t think Gage had been in contact with his foster father, especially after the tragic loss of his foster mother two summers ago. Neither man had handled the grief well. I knew Pablo had quit working at the fire station and headed up north for awhile to do some camping and fishing in the woods. When he came back, he put the house on the market. Too many painful memories. Yet with the poor market prices, he hadn’t been able to sell yet.
“Uh, you can stay here,” I said, quickly, without thinking.
“Are you sure?” Gage sounded skeptical. “I don’t want to inconvenience you.”
Sure it’s an inconvenience, but Shameka is what matters. “You need to be with your sister,” I stated briefly.
“I think Sam can watch Lady Clare, and when he’s at classes during the day, my aunt Missy can watch her so between the two of them, I think she’ll be okay,” Gage explained.
I smiled at the mention of ‘Lady Clare.’ This was how Gage had referred to his daughter in post cards and on his FACEMASH₂ page. I didn’t ask about the mother of his child.
The silence stretched between us, not the comfortable we’ve-been-friends-for-years silence, but the awkward reunion of two ex-best friends. I really hadn’t thought I’d ever speak to Gage again. I had received his postcard about the birth of his daughter and how he was still living in Simcago with his cousin, working nights flipping burgers.
That had been almost five months ago. I had been staying with my sisters and stepbrothers in Sunset Valley while my Mamma and Clark went on their honeymoon. I remember how weird it was to be in my home town after everything had happened. So many things had changed. Nonna and Nonno had packed up their house to move to Monte Vista. My siblings and I helped. I could never bring myself to walk back into the guest room… nor could I go out to the pool house. Too many painful memories. Gage’s postcard had been a surprise, but I couldn’t say a welcome one. I was shocked he had gotten Natalya pregnant, how she didn’t want to be a mom, and how he thought he should tell me. I never replied back. That’s probably why my phone call was a surprise to him.
I blinked rapidly. What did he just say?
“I’m sorry,” I heard the words again. “Kass, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
I bit my lower lip.
“I was such a jerk… no, I was worse than that…” Gage swore and then coughed. “I should’ve been happy for you. I should’ve wanted to see my friend happy, even if it was with another guy. I… you didn’t deserve that, Kassiopeia. You were my best friend and I acted like the lowest of low scum. And I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry. And you were so kind to me after… well… everything and I still acted like a llama’s ass. I said horrible things and did horrible things and then I called you and asked you to pick me up and I had no right to ask you. I didn’t have any right to ask you. I did anyway, and then we got drunk and…”
“Gage, stop, we don’t need to go there,” I interrupted.
“Yeah I know,” he said dejectedly. “I know we didn’t woo or anything, Kass, but we did jump in the ocean together and you… I remember… I wasn’t so far gone. I mean, as a man, I appreciated you… I mean, you looked so beautiful in the moonlight.”
My mouth dropped open, stunned. I awkwardly scratched my nose. Why did he say that? I felt ashamed. He was the first guy to see… all of me… and without the alcohol impairment, I was feeling flustered. Gage thought I was beautiful? I’m… I should just hang up. Hang up now, Kass.
“I know nothing happened. We didn’t do anything. I never touched you, but God I wanted to. Kass, not to be weird or awkward or anything, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you were perfect. You are perfect in every way. I should’ve done right by you. I should’ve never slept with Natalya. I should’ve made you mine after that night. I should’ve taken you on a proper date.”
“And then the next day Davis was standing there in the room with us, that self-righteous bastard, and I just got angry and jealous. I mean, you had just been with me… I mean… not with me, with me, but I’d… well, you know… and well, he didn’t deserve you, Kass. Not with everything in his past. Hell, I didn’t deserve you. I don’t deserve you. Look at what I’ve done… no don’t… please don’t… none of this is coming out right.”
“I just… want… you… Kass, all of you. I love you. I’ve always loved you. I always have and always will. I know things are really really different now. I know you have every right to reject me. I just wanted you to know before I’m there and you see me. I can’t stop thinking about you, Kass. Everything about you. I want to be the honorable man I should be. I want to be with you in every way. I can’t stop thinking about you, and thinking about what I should’ve done and what I should do. I don’t know how many times I picked up the phone to call you and didn’t and I…”
I felt the heat rising in my cheeks and all the anger, pain, and frustration flooded back.
“You should’ve. You should’ve called me. Before now. And told me. Not like this. Not like now. Gage, what in llama’s name are you telling me? You can’t just call me after all this time and tell me this. You’re right I should reject you… and I… you’re taking advantage of your sister’s situation to come here and… and… and…” I sputtered.
“Kass, no, no! Is that what you think? No, I’m coming for Shameka. Shameka needs me. I just thought you should know how I feel before I get there. And I wanted to see how you feel… felt… maybe I shouldn’t have said anything.”
“Yeah, no kidding!” I said sarcastically. “Gage this is so unfair of you to put this on me and then ask to stay in my house. What do…”
“I didn’t ask. You offered,” Gage inserted quietly.
“Don’t interrupt me! What do you think I was going to say? Yes, it’s all right? I forgive you? Come on back? Uh uh… mmm…mmm… no way!” I shook my head.
I hit the end button with as much force as I could push onto a tiny phone keypad. I forced the device in my pocket, huffed out a big puff of air, and straightened my outer Legacy College hoodie. I disliked how much the fabric rode up my shirt. They don’t make women’s clothing properly, I grunted inwardly as I stomped through the parking lot to my car. I opened and slammed the door shut, shoved my keys in the ignition and backed the car up without really looking. Outwardly, I was seething. Inwardly, I was distraught. How could Gage, after no contact save a postcard for over a year, just suddenly drop the bomb on me that he thought I was beautiful “in all my finest glory” and he still loved me? After he went and slept with that wench, Natalya? And he had a kid? And he destroyed any chance I had with Davis? How could he? I swung around before hitting the fence line of community pool, and pulled out of the parking lot.
I slammed on the brakes as a deer raced out into the road. The woodland creature turned to stare at me with doe-eyes, dripping water from the recent rain. I waited for her to pass, and slowly proceeded. Tears gushed out of my eyes, and I did nothing to stop the surging waterfall. Gage’s words made me hurt in a place I had long buried. I knew he cared for me before our little dip in the ocean, but part of me didn’t want him to feel obligated since he had seen me. The other part of me ached with a deep longing to be appreciated for who I was, not just my body.
“Why can’t guys love me without me taking my clothes off?” I cried aloud, looking up into the night sky.
I wished it would rain again so the weather would mimic my own emotions. I hoped the entire way home, but the sky refused to cooperate. The further from town, the darker the streets, and the brighter the stars. I resented them. The burning pits of fire hundreds of millions of light years away couldn’t possible understand what I was feeling. I wanted desperately for the clouds to roll in and cover up the happy celestial bodies. Then I wouldn’t feel so alone… so terribly alone.
2.13 Coming Soon
- How will Kass process everything Gage said?
- What will she do about it?
- Will Gage actually come to see his sister?
Author Changes: What’s different?
- Book of Faces was changed to FACEMASH, first referenced in Chapter 27.
- Dates were changed.
- Golden Arches is my Simworld version of McDonalds.
- FACEMASH is my Simworld version of Facebook.