Ah! Summer! The proverbial season of fun, relaxation, and a good time. That’s exactly what Gage Briody was looking for when he arrived in Riverview, Illinoisim. Two thousand, one-hundred, and twenty-one miles from home. Time to start his life fresh.
He walked the few blocks from the bus stop. His aunt’s house seemed small with greenish-yellow boards and a gray asphalt shingle roof with a prominent brick fireplace. A detached gray wood barn with a similar roof stood to the left of the house, and plenty of trees dotted the property line in back. A low stone wall surrounded the yard, but there was plenty of grass, a small pond, and even some stacks of hay.
I’m in country now, he thought, forcing a smile so as to avoid feeling glum.
If I hadn’t slept with Natalya, I would probably still be in Sunset Valley. Actually if I hadn’t slept with Kass, I’d be there. Correction… he hadn’t slept with her. He’d only fallen asleep in the same bed after skinny dipping brought on by obscene amounts of alcohol. Women and alcohol were a bad combination for him.
Gage wished pleasanter circumstances had brought him to Riverview to meet his biological relatives. He had dreamed of this day his whole life. He had hoped to be meeting his mother or father, but his aunt and cousins would do. He had hoped to bring Kass with him when the day came. The day was here. Kass was two thousand plus miles away and he was facing his future… or his past… depending on how you looked at it… alone.
He stepped into the yard.
Some lights caught his attention in the distance. Perhaps a festival of sorts was in town. That’s what I need – a festival. A slushie sounded good. A boozy slushie sounded even better. Liquid courage.
“One foot in front of the other,” he muttered to himself.
The front door banged and slammed just as quickly as it had opened. A young man around his age came flying down the steps and racing across the lawn. Gage took a few steps back and turned around, a little worried.
I can’t do this.
“Gage?” the guy asked hesitantly.
Gage forced himself to face the man.
“Gage Briody is that you?” the guy stopped only about a foot away from him.
“Yes,” he replied as confidently as he could.
“Whoa! You do look like my uncle… you look like Kody… well, a young version of him,” the guy said, his eyes widening.
“Kody?” I repeated excitedly, staring at a face similar to my own. “Dakota Burroughs?”
“Yeah,” the guy said. “Oh I’m sorry. I’m Sam… Sam Bagley Jr. Your cousin.”
“Oh wow! It’s fun to actually meet you in person… you’re… family…” the word sounded foreign as it escaped his mouth.
He had met his half-sister Shameka, but it hadn’t been quite this eerie. Sam had strikingly similar features. He wondered if his other cousin and aunt looked anything like him.
“Oh wow! Oh wow!” Gage repeated.
“Man, it’s so good to meet you,” Sam pumped his arm up and down in a sturdy handshake. “We weren’t expecting you this soon. Ma said you wouldn’t be visiting till the fall.”
“Plans changed,” Gage shrugged. “It’s good to meet you too, Sam.”
He meant that. Genuinely.
“Cousins, wow, we kinda look like brothers,” he added.
“Yeah, I… definitely see the family resemblance,” Sam admitted. “How old are you?”
“Okay. I just turned eighteen.”
“Wow…cool…” Gage shook his head, mentally kicking himself. Wow? Is that all I can say?
“So a year apart, but still… it’s like looking in a mirror a bit, huh?” Sam smiled. “Hey man, I’m heading over to the Summer Patriotic Festival at the Cannery. My girl’s there. You’ve gotta meet her. Ma’s already there too and Rhoda… well, I don’t know where she is, but come and meet Ruby and your aunt, my Ma.”
“I’d like that,” Gage nodded.
“Oh sorry man… do you have any bags with ya?” Sam asked. “You could put them in the house.”
“Uh no… I traveled light… well… I left…” Gage stopped to think through what he was saying.
He had left everything behind in Sunset Valley. He only had the clothes on his back, his wallet, some coins, and a pen in his pocket.
“I travel really light,” he added.
“No worries, man. We can get you whatever you need… but first the festival if you aren’t too tuckered out,” Sam offered.
“Yeah sounds like fun,” Gage shrugged in agreement.
They got into Sam’s orange beater car. He called it a sloppy Jalopy. Gage had only seen the antique once, although it certainly wasn’t much. The seats were uncomfortable, the car sputtered when shifting gears, and the ceiling was too low. Sam explained the windshield wiper blades got stuck in the winter and the horn sounded like dying geese and the antennae was stuck in the upward position.
“You’d think with all the technology we’ve got, someone would have created a better junker than this, but it’s wheels, at least,” Sam was saying.
“Yeah,” Gage drifted back into the conversation.
The whole day was feeling surreal. He finally met his cousin, Sam. He was finally in Riverview. He was about to meet his aunt, his biological dad’s sister.
They arrived at the cannery. Sam had explained it wasn’t a cannery anymore. Some guy that Sam referred to as ‘Old Man Simbeck’ had owned the building and sold it to the town about twenty years ago. The town had turned it into a roller rink and town recreation center, often used for festivals and town parties and the like. The old brick building had once been a prominent fish canning business – though canned sardines didn’t sound particularly appetizing to Gage. That was probably why they went under. Someone had decorated the outside with clusters of balloons and the stereo system was playing some generic sugary-pop tune. Gage was noting the rusting drainpipes when Sam exclaimed, “Ma.”
“Heavens! You look just like Kody!” the woman exclaimed, vigorously shaking his hand.
“So I’ve been told,” Gage replied, dryly, licking his lips.
He could really use a beverage.
“Oh Lord love a duck! I can’t believe you’re here,” Missy Bagley shouted, drawing the attention of a few passerbyers.
“Llamas! My nephew! Gage Briody… well I’ll be… you don’t have any of your mother in you. You are all Burroughs, if you ask me,” Aunt Missy gushed.
“It’s so nice to meet you, Aunt,” Gage finally found his words.
“Oh come here, you, Gage, you,” Missy grabbed him and pulled him into a warm embrace.
“I’ll go get Ruby,” Sam smiled and excused himself.
Gage couldn’t remember the last time he received a hug. It felt nice. It felt like family.
“Now Gage, we weren’t expecting you until Simtember when you came for school. This is a wonderful surprise.”
“Yeah, my plans changed and all. I can stay with you, if that’s okay?”
“Of course! Of course! Of course! We’re…”Missy paused. “…uh…renovating the barn…” she clapped her hands together. “But… we have space in the spare room… and Rhoda, your other cousin, is helping Sam fix up the attic for a room… so you can stay there… but in the meantime, we’ve got sleeping bags and the like for you and Sam in the spare room.”
“Sounds good,” Gage nodded.
He would sleep on the floor, on the back lawn, just to be with family. For the first time, he felt welcomed. Not that Pablo… and Jennifer… Jennifer… He tried to swallow the sadness that came with saying her name in his head and he couldn’t. He still felt unspeakable grief for the loss of the one and only foster mom who ever loved him. Pablo and… well… they had given him a good home, but it wasn’t the same. They weren’t real family, he had decided long ago. As a foster kid, he never knew when he’d be taken away. But that will never happen again, now. He was home.
Sam very sweetly introduced his girlfriend, a tall, unnatural redhead with a pretty face. Her name was Ruby. Gage could tell his cousin was a puppy dog when it came to the girl. Who wouldn’t be? Gage thought, admiring her legs accentuated by her short yellow plaid skirt and black knee socks. Ruby seemed genuinely pleased to meet him and asked all sorts of questions about the West because she had never been. Gage had to remind himself that people in the Midwest were salt of the earth types that stayed near their homes and didn’t travel much. It was a stereotype but it definitely applied to the Bagley clan and Ruby.
Ruby gushed about how she was attending Legacy College in Bay City in the fall on a full athletic scholarship. She wanted to know all the best eateries and about the night life. Gage told her what he could. He only went to Bay City a few times a year, for a baseball game or for the Christmas tree lighting on the docks during the holidays or when Pablo’s sisters visited from Mexsimco. Gage could tell Sam was feeling dejected… probably because his girlfriend would be leaving in two months… and he also seemed like he was feeling left out. Gage cut Ruby’s endless questions about Califorsimia off and suggested everyone get something refreshing to drink. Sam agreed and moved the group inside to the concessions stands.
After each getting a slushie and a hot dog, the group returned back outside. Ruby’s eyes lit up when her supposedly favorite song came over the speakers and begged Sam to dance with her.
Gage stood by and watched for a few minutes. They made a cute pair… like Kass and I would have… if it weren’t for Davis, he thought darkly. Kass deserved to be happy, of course, and he knew she didn’t love him… not like he… no I won’t admit it.
Even so, Gage found himself wishing Kass would’ve looked at him the way she looked at Davis or the way Ruby looked at his cousin. Gage quietly withdrew to the inside of the cannery to give his cousin some alone time with his girl.
Sam found himself alone on the dance floor with Ruby. Everyone else had disappeared. He hoped he hadn’t run off his cousin on his first day in town, but after seeing his Ma walk inside, he supposed she was going to look for him.
“Gage seems nice,” Ruby said.
“Yeah, he seems like a good guy,” Sam replied. “I’ve only talked to him a few times on the phone before now, but it’ll be nice to have him around.”
Especially given the recent stuff going on around the house, he thought. He could use someone in his corner.
He smiled up at Ruby. She accidentally stomped on his foot.
“Oh Sam! I’m so sorry! I’m such a klutz! Oh are you okay?” she asked, covering her face in horror and shock.
Sam rubbed the top of his foot and hopped for a moment. “I’ll be okay.”
“Oh I’m sorry… Sam… I’m sorry…” she apologized.
“Don’t worry about it,” he winced. “It happens.”
“Are you sure?”
She looked pained.
“Yes. I’m fine. Let’s just keep dancing.”
“Okay…” she agreed after another minute of apologizing.
“Ruby,” Sam grinned. “You look really pretty today.”
“Well thanks, Sam,” she blushed. “I’m wearing what I wear every day.”
Sam knew she was self-conscious because her family didn’t have much money. He tried as often as he could to reassure her that she was beautiful no matter what she was wearing.
“Yes, but your makeup… you did a nice job today…” he remarked.
“Oh thank you,” she said shyly, the heat rising to her cheeks again. “I try.”
“You try very nicely,” he smiled appreciatively. “I could stare into your eyes all day.”
“Oh Sam!” she playfully jabbed his shoulder and then grabbed his hands to swing back and forth. “Whatever will I do without your compliments when I’m away at school. You’ll have to call me every day and leave me little voicemails.”
With those words, Sam sobered.
“I wish you didn’t have to go,” he sighed. “It’s so far away.”
“I know. But it’s the only school that’s offering me a full ride. I can’t turn that down. You know how my family’s finances are. Daddy is barely breaking even every month and my aunt may need to get a job soon. Plus this school has an incredible women’s soccer team I’m told,” she said excitedly. “I wish I could’ve visited first, but I hear the campus is beautiful.”
“Yes, but it’s so far away,” Sam repeated dejected.
“You could come with me!” she said suddenly, waving her hands.
“What? No…” he shook his head.
“No, I’m serious. You should come. It’s not too late to apply and you could stay in the dorms and we could be together.”
“Ruby, that’s nonsense. I can’t go to Califorsimia.”
“What? Of course, you can. Why not?”
“Well for starters, my cousin just got here…”
“Yes, but it’s still two months away.”
“And the money. I don’t have a scholarship like you.”
“Yes, but you could apply and see.”
“And I got into Northwestern here in Illinoisim.”
“Yes, but plenty of people get multiple acceptances and then pick a school.”
“My family is here.”
“So my family is here too.”
“But this is my home…”
“Home is relative. You could make a new home like I’m doing. Don’t you want to see the world, Sam? Don’t you want to leave this place and experience life somewhere else?”
“Well, yeah… I could make a new home… but my grades are crappy. I’m lucky I got into Northwestern at all.”
“Well, I could tutor you.”
Sam laughed. “About the only thing you could tutor me in is chemistry, Ruby. Especially when your lips look so inviting.”
Ruby narrowed her eyes. “Sam, I’m serious.”
“Yes, and I’m serious about your lips,” he leaned in as he puckered his lips.
“Sam, stop it,” Ruby pulled back. “Don’t joke like that.”
“Like what? Ruby… why won’t you kiss me?” Sam grunted. “We’ve been dating for awhile now. You call me your boyfriend. We hug, hold hands, dance together, but you still haven’t kissed me. Are you self-conscious?”
“Seriously, Sam!?” she said incredulously. “Why are you trying to change the subject? We’re going to argue about kissing now?”
“Who said anything about arguing?” Sam frowned. “You’re the one disagreeing and you won’t talk to me about it.”
“Well, you won’t talk to me about university and this could be a fresh start for us. For both of us,” Ruby tried to convince him. “We need this Sam. You know what my home life is like. I can’t stand to be here anymore. And I know things aren’t great at your home either. We need a fresh start.”
“Yes, and a fresh start begins with a kiss,” Sam smirked.
“All you can think about is sex,” she stomped her foot in annoyance.
“I said nothing about sex!” Sam said, louder than he intended, drawing the attention of the people gathering for the hot dog eating contest. He lowered his voice. “I just want to kiss my girlfriend, is that so wrong?”
“Sam, I know guys. You all want one thing,” Ruby replied. “You say you just want to kiss me but then you’ll want to make out and have me sit on top of you on the couch and then you’ll want to feel up my skirt and one thing will lead to another, we’ll have sex, you’ll break my heart, and I’ll go off to uni and leave you here.”
“What? No!” Sam exclaimed, nearly disgusted by the way she was describing things. “How can you think that? How can you think I’ll treat you like trash!?”
He reached for her.
“Because everyone else does,” Ruby cried out, her eyes brimming with tears, and she turned and fled from the cannery dance floor, leaving Sam to wonder what in llama’s name he did wrong.
Author’s Note: Welcome to the summer adventures of Gage Briody and Sam Bagley, Jr. From here on out, My Life with Criminals will intertwine with Gage’s Summer of Love. The story will be told from both of their perspectives. This story takes place immediately after the end of KCKLF. If you need a refresher about what happened, click here to read the final chapter.
Quick details –
- Gage is the cousin of Sam and Rhoda Bagley,
- the nephew of Ma ‘Missy’ Bagley née Burroughs,
- son of Dakota ‘Kody’ Burroughs and Brigit Briody. Brigit is featured in this chapter.
- Gage also has a half-sister, Shameka, featured in both KCKLF chapters 13, Parts 1 and 2, 19, 25, and Gage’s prologue and in KFLL (which happens after the events of this particular story line).
- Gage is the ex-best friend of Kassiopeia Fullbright,.
- Gage is the former foster son of Pablo and Jennifer Martinez. Jennifer is featured in Chapter 18. He had been living in Sunset Valley, Califorsimia for nearly seven years when Jennifer slipped and fell in the shower, hitting her head and dying.This is featured in Chapter 25.
- After Jennifer’s funeral, Gage had relations with Natalya Evermist, the funeral director’s assistant at Laffalot Funeral Home. His prologue features this story here.
Fyi, Simbeck is a reference to John Steinbeck, who wrote the novel, Cannery Row, set in Monterey, California on cannery row.
I hope you enjoyed!
- How will Gage adjust to his new life in Riverview?
- What will Rhoda think of her cousin from out West?
- Will Sam and Ruby make up?
Stay tuned for 1.1 next week!
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