Gage sighed. His high hopes for fitting in with his new family had fallen. He was accepted and his relatives seemed polite and friendly, but now they appeared to be preoccupied.
Sam and his girlfriend, Ruby seemed to be having some kind of argument.
Aunt Missy had invited Gage to come inside and go roller skating, but she had rather quickly gotten into a heated debate with someone named Flo Broke… a relative of Ruby’s. Apparently, this Flo woman was ticked off about Ruby dating a Bagley or about Bagley family activities or Bagley personal grooming or something. Gage wasn’t sure the woman had much to say in the latter department. The early 60s-something was wearing socks with high-heels, skinny jeans, a midriff-baring top, and a much too-youthful unnatural red hairstyle.
Gage still hadn’t met Rhoda, and from Sam’s description of her, he wasn’t sure he wanted to or was ready.
In his boredom, he wandered upstairs and tried, unsuccessfully, to flirt with the cute food vendor, but she wouldn’t give him the time of day. It was all just as well. Gage wasn’t all that impressed by her red-and-white stripes and gold bead necklace that reminded him of popcorn. It was a little too circus for him. He needed a lot less circus in his life.
What he needed was a steady girlfriend someone to have fun with, someone to share his problems, his hopes and his dreams, someone who could make him laugh, preferably someone pretty, with good grooming habits and a not-so-flashy style, someone who would feel good in his arms, and someone who would, most importantly, get his mind off Kass.
When he wandered out of the festival, Gage didn’t intend to pick up a date or woohoo, but Gage had discovered mixing alcohol and women tended to have interesting results. After throwing back two Simtalian hard lemonade slushies… he was in a really good mood and feeling rather warm and flirty.
She seemed pretty flirty too – at least with the sweet smile he was getting from her when he shook her hand and introduced himself. Her name was Lakshmi Bachchan and she was photographer for Simcago Sensations. She was in town to follow Don Lothario, and in her words, “catch the guy red-handed.” Gage knew immediately she was paparazzo, but he didn’t particularly care. The paparazzi knew how to get their hands dirty… and he wondered if Lakshmi didn’t have a few tricks up her sleeve.
She didn’t really look like a paparazzo and he figured she was either new to her job or trying to blend in. Either way, Lakshmi had a sexy nerd look going on with her Princess Leia buns, glasses, math symbols tee shirt, high-waisted shorts, suspenders, and purple high heels. She also seemed to hang on his words a little, with the tilt of her head. He liked that. It was good for his ego.
Gage babbled on a bit about the places he had lived and his recent move to Riverview, though he left out details about his blood relations. He didn’t know how well known the Bagleys were, but he did know they had criminal ties allegedly in the past, and he didn’t want to reveal anything to the paparazzo, cute or otherwise. He wasn’t fully sure what the Bagleys did… or didn’t do… for that matter so it was best to leave certain things unsaid.
He paused after a few minutes, laughing nervously.
“You don’t want to hear me ramble about the beaches as we’re landlocked here,” he said.
“Well, you are quite fascinating, Gage Briody, a Califorsimian man. I haven’t met one of those before,” she giggled. “It sounds like you’ve lived all over the SimNation though.”
“I even spent three months in Champs Les Sims one summer with a foster family,” he bragged. “The view of the Effiel Tower is spectacular… even if it’s a replica of the original.”
“Ooo…” she cooed. “I would love to see the Effiel Tower someday. You’re so lucky.”
Gage left out the part about how his foster dad smacked his head so hard during that summer when he went back to sketch the tower without telling anyone where he was going. Needless to say, he didn’t stay with that family for long. Even so, he had the drawing somewhere still, probably in one of his sketchbooks back at the Martinez house.
“It’s quite a sight,” he agreed. “…especially at this time of day… sunset… where the light turns all rosy and air starts to cool and the sounds seem to fade away as you admire at a magnificent piece of architecture… or a beautiful woman.”
“A romantic, you are, Gage Briody,” she blushed. “And thank you for the compliment.”
“So Lakshmi… that’s a pretty name… unusual,” he remarked. “What does it mean?”
“Lakshmi is the Simbai name for the Simdu goddess of prosperity, abundance, and good fortune,” she explained. “My name literally means ‘good omen or good sign.'”
“Wow,” Gage tried not to gape, and fumbled to recover. “I’d say it’s a good sign… that I met you… or a good omen for me… since I’m new here and all.”
Gage couldn’t help but focus on her pretty purple lips as she smiled. The lens of her glasses caught the glint of the setting sun and the world around them seemed bathed in a soft lavender glow. Lakshmi was the kind of girl he needed in his life – pretty, perky, confident. Perhaps he should ask her for drinks or dinner or at least coffee.
“So Gage, what do you say we get off the street and I buy you a drink?” she offered, surprising him with a counter offer to his mental invitation.
“Sounds great,” he grinned.
“On one condition. I followed Lothario here, but he slipped me. My sources say he works out at the gym every evening at 9 PM religiously so I have to make a pit stop there first. Although I hear the Riverview Gymnasium has a decent bar in the lobby,” she explained.
“And if I tag along, it’ll look like we’re working out together and will make you less conspicuous,” Gage replied.
“Of course,” she giggled and brushed her fingers across his forearm causing a pleasant tingling sensation. “You catch on quickly, don’t you, Gage?”
He just smiled.
When they arrived, Lakshmi took him to the side of the building so she could catch some photographs of Don Lothario as he entered the gym. While they waited, Gage kept her entertained with stories from his days working as a barista at Jade’s Java Jolt. She found the story about bagel hockey with his coworkers after hours particularly entertaining.
She enjoyed his tales of former pro baseball player, Abe Finkel, and how he decided to pitch a fast ball in the parking lot one day after work and accidentally broke the windows of three customers’ cars.
She laughed when he talked about how he tried to reprogram an old arcade machine for Granny Jade for the coffee shop and how the pinball would only travel to the right and one day, the machine shot the tiny balls out of into the coffee shop, landing in people’s coffee cups. Needless to say, the Jolt hadn’t kept the pinball machine.
She smiled when he shared the story of how he had rescued a seagull that had flown into the coffee shop and scared all the customers with its fluttering feathers and then somehow the bird had mysteriously found its way into the walk-in fridge. Gage had always suspected Granny Jade locked the poor creature in there due to her fear of fowl, but he could never prove it. Gage shared how he had to bribe the poor gull with half of a doughnut.
“And zzzzzoooooommmm! Crash! Boom! And someone opened the door and it was able to fly outside,” Gage said, making fun sounds as he hunched over like he was going to fall into the ground himself.
Lakshmi giggled and clapped her hands.
“You are an amazing storyteller, Gage Briody,” she said.
“Thank you,” Gage felt the heat rising to his cheeks a bit. “I… don’t know. I’m not great with words like…” he trailed off, refusing to speak about or acknowledge his former best friend.
“You’re better than you think you are,” she reassured. “Maybe you should pursue acting or be a comedian or you’d be a great asset to the Simcago Sensations. I’m sure my boss would love you. I already do.”
Gage froze. He knew she meant them in a generic way, but it was still nice to hear a woman speak about love and him in the same sentence. Lakshmi took a step forward.
“Don’t sell yourself short, Gage,” she added.
He liked the way she said his name. Her voice sent a warming sensation all over his body in slow motion like honey dripping from a silver spoon into a slice of buttermilk bread.
Perhaps he was being too eager or too forward, but Gage couldn’t help himself. He leaned forward, lifting his hand slowly to cup her cheek and he closed his eyes, anticipating her sweet purple lips on his own.
His earnestness or courage paid off and she leaned in to kiss him, wrapping her arms around his mid-back. As he awkwardly tried to return both the kiss and the embrace, he accidentally slid one of his feet forward and stepped on her toe.
“Ouch,” she pouted as she pulled back, but then smiled. “Hey! You’re not bad at that.”
“I’m sorry, Lakshmi,” he apologized, liking the way it sounded when he said her name too. “Is your foot okay? The foot-stomping thing? Yeah, I guess I’m a real klutz.”
“No, the kissing,” she tugged his arms toward her own and planted her lips on his once more.
This kiss was deeper, more probing, sending tiny electrical pulses through his veins, reminding him that he was still alive. This wasn’t like kissing a crush like he had on a dare once with Kass. This wasn’t like kissing Natalya because frankly, he’d been too drunk to remember much of Natalya’s kisses. This was different. This was sweet and tender and… his head was swimming.
When they finally parted, Lakshmi gave him a seductive little smile and beckoned him to follow her. Gage wasn’t quite sure how it all happened, but somehow, they found their way into the showers. Standing up this time was very different from lying down, but Lakshmi walked him through the motions and gently encouraged his exploration. She gave a delightful little squeal when he touched a particularly sensitive location. It was all the encouragement he needed to take her legs, wrap them around his waist, and give her even more delight.
When Gage arrived back at the Bagley residence that night and crawled into the sleeping bag his cousin had left for him, he couldn’t help but lie awake for a few minutes thinking about how it had been pure chance that he met Lakshmi, or maybe some divine intervention by the Creator. Either way, he had one incredible first night in Riverview.
1.2 Coming Soon!
- Simbai is my Simworld version of Mumbai, India.
- The prominent religion in Simbai cities is Simduism. Read more here.
- I had fun interpreting Gage’s conversation with Lakshmi, and couldn’t help but write a bit of throwback to KCLKF and included Jade’s Java Jolt. I hope you enjoyed.
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