“I run ten miles a day. It’s good cardio for the heart.”
Gage tried to suppress his frustration at his cousin, Sam’s, challenging workout routine. He had agreed to come along tonight because Lè was working late at the flower shop, but he hadn’t realized he had signed up for the full athletic boot camp. First, Sam and Gage had jogged the three miles to the gym. Then they swam nearly fifty laps in the swimming pool. Now they were running on the treadmill. Gage struggled to keep up. He felt tired after the jog, exhausted after the swim, and now he was feeling overtaxed with the stupid exercise equipment.
“So you really like this Lè girl, don’t you?” Sam was saying.
“No… I… I… really…love…her…” Gage wheezed.
He scowled. He hated how out-of-breath he sounded and Sam sounded like this was business-as-usual. Pushing a setting on the treadmill, Gage slowed to a walk.
“Love, that’s awesome, buddy!” Sam congratulated him. “Isn’t it nice to be in love?”
Gage knew the man was referencing his girlfriend, Ruby Broke. The young woman was currently attending college in Califorsimia, but that didn’t stop them from chatting every night on Sim-ype. Ruby sent him care packages weekly. Sam had even visited her over fall break. The couple seemed committed.
“So how are you going to pop the question?”
“The question?” Gage nearly fell off the treadmill. “We’ve only been…” he paused.
They still hadn’t “labeled” their relationship. They were committed, but neither one of them had used the terms ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend.’
“…together for a few months… like you and Ruby.”
“Yeah, but you’re… you know…” Sam lowered his voice. “…sleeping together.”
Gage wasn’t surprised that “little detail” hadn’t escaped Sam’s attention. Lè could be quite vocal when they were enthralled in the throes of pleasure. He smiled, thinking of her naked body meshed against his own. He shook his head, stepping off the treadmill and joining Sam on the weights machine.
“You should do right by her,” Sam remarked casually, as if talking about the weather and not one of the single most important, irreversible decisions in his life.
Ugh! Gage rolled his eyes. He wished his cousin would spare him the whole ‘religious viewpoints’ lecture on sex. He grew up in the Jacoban church, and attended mass with Pablo and Jennifer. He knew what the church had to say about sex outside marriage, but he didn’t really care. The notions were antiquated in his mind. Sex was a natural response to body chemistry and emotional stimulation.
Even so, he cared deeply about Miss Solèi Ona. No, they had never once said “I love you” to one another. They never clarified who they were to one another. He knew she wasn’t seeing anyone else and he couldn’t imagine seeing anyone else either, but they weren’t exactly “committed” to one another in the traditional way. He hadn’t really thought about life in the future. He was only eighteen and she was only twenty. They were young and didn’t need to think about marriage for years… or so he thought.
“You know Ruby and I are seriously committed to each other and we haven’t yet,” Sam was saying, jerking Gage from his inner thoughts.
“Haven’t?” that was all Gage could manage to say because he was straining against the weights.
He couldn’t believe his cousin and his girlfriend hadn’t had sex yet. Sam was old-fashioned that way. Then again… maybe… I do. Gage thought the idea of waiting for the perfect partner made sense. He regretted foolishly sleeping with Natalya after Jennifer’s funeral, and he regretted his one-night-stand with Lakshmi. Those times just weren’t satisfying, and left him feeling robbed of something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Lè was different. She was beautiful and sexy and smart and she cared about him. That was the most important thing. She cared. He hadn’t felt cared for in a long time.
“Bro, maybe it’s time to think about popping the question. That’s all I’m saying. I mean, what are you doing, just playing around? We’re adults now, Gage. We can’t play around like little kids who enjoy toys but don’t want to pick them back up and put them in the box,” Sam continued, speaking effortlessly as he pushed his weights.
Gage grunted, and dropped the bar, annoyed at his cousin’s athleticism, enthusiasm, and preachy-ness. What was his future with Lè? He sure didn’t know and he really didn’t want to discuss this with Sam.
“I’ll see you at home. Gotta pick up the paycheck at the office,” Gage replied.
Time to do some hard thinking.
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