Author Note: When you reach the part where there is a song dedication to Kass, please click and listen to this song because it really will set the tone for the scene. I can’t capture it as well in words as this song does. No cheating though. 😉 Wait until the scene if you will please.
Christmas was a magical time of year, and Gage felt like he had finally found what he had been looking for all along – Kass. And she had responded eagerly to his attentions and intentions. He decided to do things the right way this time.
After their kiss, Gage walked Kass back to the barn and made sure she got up the loft steps okay before returning to the house. He lay awake most of the night excited for new possibilities. He waited until he heard the sound of Howard coming through the door, and then bounced downstairs. He wanted to ask for her father’s permission to date his daughter. Howard was surprised by the request, but then he gave his blessing, placing his hand on Gage’s and saying how glad he was that Kassiopeia was happy again.
The day after Christmas, Gage and Kass hit the sales at Riverview Antiques and Carpenter Consignment, and picked out silly hats and sunglasses to try on, doing silly poses in front of the mirror. Gage found some wooden pencils in excellent condition, and Kass purchased a few tee shirts and a pair of jeans. Kass helped Gage pick out a new steel blue couch for his house as he was trying to make things more his own. He had already talked to Anita, and she had approved. Hope Carpenter, the owner, even offered free delivery since her husband, Buzz, being a farmer had more free time in the winter. While they waited for Buzz to drive over in the truck, Gage took Kass to the rooftop and taught her how to play a game of gnubb. They both thought it was funny the set was on the roof, but Hope explained it was her daughter, Meadow’s idea, and Meadow was well… a little off sometimes, Hope’s words, not Gage’s. Gage said it was one of Riverview’s hidden fun spots, and Kass seemed to enjoy tossing batons at the strange wooden bunny faces.
On Sunday, Gage, Howard, and Kass attended services at the Riverdale Village Church. Gage hadn’t been to Angelican services since he was a young teen with Kass, and even then, he had really only been to the youth group. The shepherd shared a few proverbs and encouraged those listening to make wise decisions in the coming new year. Gage squeezed Kass’s hand, bound and determined, to handle this relationship with care. He had learned a few lessons since the summer.
After the message and a few songs, they joined the parishioners for a post-Christmas dinner of honeyed ham, sweet potato casserole, cooked corn, green beans, cranberry salad, cheesy scalloped potatoes, and the largest dinner rolls Gage had ever seen. Howard had even politely brought a pecan-crusted pumpkin pie to share, even though they were guests at the potluck.
When the meal was finished, some of the younger attendees invited Gage and Kass to tag along to the movies to see the new Adventures of the Starship Simulation IV. Like a proper boyfriend, Gage paid for movie tickets, two enormous blue raspberry slushies, and a large package of chocolate sugar sliders. During the intense action scenes, Kass leaned close to his shoulder, and he could smell her gingery jasmine perfume. They stole a kiss during a happy romantic scene between the protagonists.
On Monday, Gage brought Kass to work and asked her to help him pick out some new pieces for display in the Octagon House’s online art-sharing catalog with most other museums and galleries in the nation. He wasn’t surprised when she selected several ocean prints. He made a mental note to do an oil painting of the Simistral Ocean for her, maybe for Valensim’s Day. They shared disgusting fish burgers at Hogan’s Deep-fried Diner and Gage made it up to her by splitting a chocolate moo milkshake, and asking for extra cherries.
On Wednesday, Kass received a phone call from a boy she had tutored in Lucky Palms. He was playing with his band in Simcago the following night. Kass asked in Gage would go with her, and they decided to make a day of it. They drove up to the City on Thursday morning and had brunch with Sam and his girlfriend, Ruby. They visited the art institute, museum of natural history, and the famous Bruce Tower in downtown, though Kass was too scared to walk out over the glass and stand above over a thousand feet above traffic. After an early dinner at one of Devil’s Ports premier deep dish pizza restaurants, they headed over to the Northerly Island Pavilion for the New Year’s Eve celebration.
“Are you okay?” he asked as Kass laid her hand across her stomach.
“Yes!” she said, a worried look clouding her face. “I’m just nervous for Ethan.”
“You’re nervous for Ethan?” he repeated, squeezing her hand. “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
“Oh, but there’s not a lot of people here,” she pouted. “I was hoping he’d have more exposure. They’re just starting out.”
“What’s the name of the band again?” Gage asked, trying to distract her.
“The Black Lily, I think,” Kass said, biting her lower lip.
“I’m sure they’ll do great,” Gage nodded toward the stage. “Look they’re setting up. Plus it’s a holiday evening. I’m sure there’s a million things to do in the City tonight so this is still a decent turn-out, okay?”
“Yeah, but I was expecting more teenagers since they are a teen band… and this seems like a weird crowd,” she said, eyeing the people around them sharply.
“Kass! Shh!” he admonished when a dark-skinned, long-haired man turned around and glared at them. “Shh…people will hear you.”
“Oh, I see Ethan!” Kass exclaimed, and waved wildly.
Gage suppressed a smile. She was cute when she was excited.
“That’s Ethan?” he squinted to see the boy on the stage.
“Yeah, the one with the spiky hair that’s over there talking to security,” she explained as she pointed. “Opps… sorry…” she nearly whacked a petite blonde lady in sunglasses. “How can you see?” she asked.
“I see fine,” the girl grunted in response.
Kass touched her face, and giggled. “I guess, wearing sunglasses at a night concert is considered cool or something…”
Gage reached over and ruffled her red hair. “Come here, goofball.”
Kass clapped her hands happily, and then immediately frowned.
“What’s wrong now?” he inquired.
She pointed to her stomach. “Someone has a picnic over there and it’s making me hungry.”
“What? Kass? You ate your weight in pepperoni and you’re still hungry?” he exclaimed, having forgotten how much his friend could eat.
She gave him a mock-pout. “We didn’t get dessert…and you know I have a sweet tooth.”
“We could’ve ordered the giant cookie with ice cream,” Gage said.
“Yeah, but you already got the check,” she replied. “I didn’t want to do that to you.”
“Hold on…” he held up his hand.
Walking over the red-and-white checkered picnic blanket, Gage struck up a conversation with its owners, and explained how his girlfriend was hungry. Would they mind sharing? He would be happy to pay them as he held out a five note. The teen couple shook their heads, refusing to take money, and invited them to join. The Simdanavian-looking girl smiled, waving Kass over to the blanket, and she eagerly joined them. She introduced herself as Sally Husten, and Kass shook her hand and complimented her braided bun. The girl blushed, and patted her white blonde hair, thanking Kass, and told them to help themselves to the watermelon. The Mesimican boy with her said his name was Justin Ortez, and he and Gage quickly got into a conversation about the movie, Cowboys and Aliens III, since Justin was wearing a cowboy wrangling an alien tee shirt.
The band pianist introduced himself as Tim, the girl on the drums was Angela , and the guy on the guitar was Ethan, as they already knew.
“And we’re Black Lily,” Tim yelled, as Angela gave them a click start.
Kass whistled louder than she probably should, jumping up and down as she did, catching the eye of the guitarist. The boy gave Kass a sort-of indifferent look with a tweaked eyebrow, but then couldn’t help himself and smiled as she continued cheering the band. Gage had to admit the group was halfway decent. They played a few old classics and an original or two, collaboratively written by the pianist and guitarist.
Ethan shredded a guitar solo, and of course, Kass screamed again.
“He was a really good student too!” she yelled over the noise as if that was a pertinent detail Gage had to know.
Toward the end, the band began playing a few holiday songs to appease the crowd. Kass tugged on Gage’s arm and they joined the forming mosh-pit and began dancing and twirling on the lawn of the Northerly Island Pavilion. It was pretty fun, Gage admitted to himself, even though he had never moshed before to Winter Wonderland. But it was a bunch of high schoolers, and he was doing this for Kass.
“Hey, it’s our song,” he said, grinning broadly as he dipped Kass.
“What?” she yelled.
“They’re singing our song…” he repeated.
“Oh!” she stood up, her cheeks rosy from all the movement. “It’s beginning to look a lot…”
“…like Christmas…” he finished.
Her smile was beautiful as she leaned in, grabbing the edges of his collar, and planted a kiss on his lips. She tasted like raspberries and cream. He liked this new confident side to Kass.
“…like looo-oove…” she added in a sing-song way.
The song ended, and they clapped.
“And now…” Ethan grabbed a microphone. “This next song goes out to…” the crowd was cheering, and Ethan grinned, happy about the attention and reception of the audience. “…this next song goes out to a woman… who helped me… stay in school… when all hope failed that I would finish this semester.”
“…and now admit it! You have the hots for her!” a guy near their spot, cupped his hands over his mouth, and yelled from the crowd.
Ethan fist-pumped the air. “And…” he adjusted the microphone stand. “…yeah…she’s great… so I just wanna dedicate this next song to Kassiopeia Fullbright.”
Gage whipped his attention to his girlfriend, and saw her face turn beet-red as she lifted her hand to cover her self-conscious giggle.
“Ugh…that’s awkward,” she rolled her eyes as Ethan began singing in a minor key.
“I don’t want a lot for Christmas. There is just one thing I need. I don’t care...”
“Yeah, talk about it,” Gage wrapped his arm around her neck. “Did you know he was going to do that?”
She shook her head, frowning as Ethan continued singing with almost a desperate quality to his voice. Gage’s forehead creased and he narrowed his eyes.
All I want for Christmas? Really, dude? In a minor key?
“I just want you here tonight… holding onto me so tight…”
By the time, Ethan reached the second chorus, the song had taken a sad, dark, mysterious twist. Gage shivered, hugging Kass closer to his body. For some reason, they seemed like the only two people in the crowd who weren’t really getting into the song. There were people head banging and swaying the music and clapping about every four beats. Kass was tensely laughing through her teeth and gripping his rib cage a little too hard.
“….Santa won’t you bring me what I really need…” Ethan grabbed the microphone in a frenzied way, squeezing his eyes tightly shut, as Tim leaned in from the keys and shared the space, and they harmonized in a shivery way, “…oh won’t you please bring my baby to meeeeeeee…. yeeeeaahhhh!”
Kass’s eyes met his own, a mix of shock and awe on her face. “He’s not half bad…” she shrugged, returning her attention to the stage.
“I just wanna see my baby…standing right outside my door…” Ethan sang, with the desperation of a man twice his age, clinging to the hand of his wife fighting a losing battle with cancer on a frigid Christmas Eve night.
“I just want you for my own…” Ethan belted. “More than you could ever know…make my wish come true…” he shot his eyes straight to Kass with the accuracy of a speeding bullet hitting its target fifty yards away.
Gage felt her wiggle from his grasp as she seemed to unknowingly be putting some distance between them.
“…all I want for Christmas…” Ethan dramatically slowed down, adding an effective pause before strumming fiercely on his guitar as he impressively screamed and maintained musical quality, “….is yooooooooouuuuuu!”
The remainder of the band’s members kept singing in a chanting manner, “All I want for Christmas is you, baby,” over and over again, as Ethan continued to sing “You” over the top, and they ended on harmonic dissonance that sounded like they melted into a puddle of children’s tears with the fanfare of an army that had just crushed their enemy.
When the song was over, Black Lily announced they would be taking a break. Not a minute to soon. That was too weird, Gage shivered.
“Well, that was different,” she remarked. “I don’t know if I should feel flattered or creeped-out.”
“Yeah, like a monstrous green hand with yellowed hangnails was coming out of the sky for you,” Gage said, half-jokingly.
Kass slugged his arm. “Come on. It wasn’t that bad. You’ve gotta admit. You’ve never heard a version like that before. They’re at least unique… trying to put their name on the map and all.”
“Fine,” he hunched his shoulders and waved his hands. “I’m parched. I’m gonna run back to the Eleven-Seven store and grab a few water bottles. You want anything?”
She grinned, tilting her head, and curling her one foot coyly. “One of those cinnamon sugar pretzels? And maybe a hot cocoa? It’s getting a little cold out here,” she shivered in an exaggerated manner, hugging her arms to her chest and making a “brrr” noise with her lips.
He sighed, feeling the money leaving his wallet already. This day was costing him a fortune, but he was happy to oblige his new girlfriend. “Sure…”
“Thanks sweetie,” she smiled, and then turned to talk with an over-exuberant Sally who was gushing about Black Lily‘s performance.
Gage rolled his eyes, and started out of the park. The Eleven-Seven store was only three blocks away, but since it was a holiday night, the streets were slammed with cars and the sidewalks were overcrowded. He said “excuse me” more times than he would’ve liked as he muscled through the people, many of whom were already drunk and it wasn’t even nine o’clock yet.
“Happy New Beer!” a drunken co-ed said in a silly tone as she blew a party horn in his face, and laughed hysterically as her girlfriends in high heels much too high for any human to ever walk in caught her and helped her keep walking.
“Right…new year…” he grunted.
The line in the twenty-four hour mini mart was insanely long. Gage sighed as he walked back to the cooler and pulled two bottled waters from the shelf, and then wandered to the hot drinks machine and pushed the hot chocolate button. The warm brown liquid spewed into a stryofoam cup, and he held it as two college-aged females and a guy bumped past him trying to get to the candy aisle, and singing a slurred version of Auld Lang Syne, none offering apologies.
It’s as if I’m invisible, Gage shook his head. This is the twenty-fifth century. You think they could’ve come up with a better new year’s song by now, he grumbled to himself, fastening the lid on the cup.
“One cinnamon sugar pretzel,” he requested, holding up a singular finger when he finally reached the front of the line nearly fifteen minutes later.
Gage glanced at his watch, the birthday present from Kass, and frowned. She would probably be wondering where he was, and the show had probably started again.
“We’re out,” the girl behind the counter with the diamond nose-piercing and the off-shoulder black blouse, revealing her magenta bra strap.
“Drats!” he snapped his fingers. “I’ll take a regular salted one then,” he sighed, and wondered why a white woman like the attendant before him thought that dreadlocks looked good on them.
The dark-haired woman rolled her eyes and snapped a piece of bubble gum. “We’re out. You gonna pay for those?” she nodded carelessly at his bottled water and hot cocoa.
“Well yes,” he frowned. “Do you have any pretzels?”
“Um… let me check…” she pulled her pink gum out of her mouth with her fingers and rifled through the pretzel display case, and Gage cringed, trying not to think about the unsanitary nature of the establishment. “I’ve got a cheese-filled one.”
“Sure, I’ll take it,” he breathed a sigh of relief when she used a confectionery paper to grab the food, and hand it to him.
“Dude,” a customer behind him in a cop’s uniform tapped his shoulder. “You’re smart…” he said, eyeing the water bottles. It’s a good thing to stay hydrated tonight.”
“Yes,” was all Gage said, figuring the guy assumed he would be drinking tonight.
“Yeah, all these co-eds here,” the man said. “…drink their asses off and then we have to come hauling them to jail after they do something stupid.”
Gage paid and nodded to the cop. “Have a good night.”
“Thanks man,” the man tipped his hat. “Stay safe out there.”
Gage started back to the park, trying to make his way through the crowds. He was starting to wish that he had brought his car, but they had left it parked at Sam’s apartment on the other side of town, and had been hoofing it or taking the subway all day. When he reached the one block mark, he spotted Cerise in the distance across the street. He tried to call out to her, but with his hands full, he couldn’t exactly wave. The pale-skinned redhead looked like she was in a hurry anyway as she pushed against the direction of the crowd. He heard her cry out and a split second later, she tripped and fell, her head disappearing from the crowd.
“Hey!” Gage called out, nearly dropping the hot chocolate, and he pushed past a few people on the sidewalk, glancing frantically back and forth before darting across the street.
“Cerise!” he yelled and saw her struggling to return to her feet.
He bent to help her up. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Gage?” she said, sense of bewilderment crossing her pasty white face. “I…uh… thank you.”
“No problem,” he shrugged, helping her dust off her clothes but inadvertently sprinkling sea salt on her skirt. “Opps…sorry…”
“Not a problem,” she said, her voice lacking its typical liquefied golden lilt. “What are you doing in Simcago tonight?”
“Actually, I’m trying to get back to a concert with my girlfriend, but I saw you and wanted to make sure you were okay,” he replied.
“Oh, thanks, so girlfriend?” she tilted her head to the side, her tired eyes searching his face to see if he was serious. “…so is it Anita Errare?”
“What?” he shouted, and then lowered his tone, embarassed when he drew the attention of others on the sidewalk. “…uh… no…I mean… I dated her… briefly… but…did everyone know?”
Cerise laughed coarsely. “Do you read gossip magazines?”
“Not really,” he replied. “Actually…um… it’s Kass.”
“Kass?” she repeated, and he saw a brief sadness flash in her eyes before she returned to a saccharine smile. “That’s wonderful.”
I shouldn’t be so arrogant to think she’s into me still. Or was ever, he mentally kicked himself.
“So are you doing okay?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she shook her head. “Whatever. Business is usual. You better get back to your girl. It’s been awhile you said.”
“Oh right…” Gage said. “Well good to see ya. Take care.”
Cerise planted a kiss on his cheek before they were torn apart by the massive amount of people trying to cross the street. She called after him saying something, but he couldn’t hear her as she disappeared into the crowd. It was nearly eleven by the time he reached the park again, and he noticed the concert was over and most of the crowd had dispersed. He tripped over a bike rack and spilled some lukewarm liquid chocolate on his arm.
“Great,” he murmured sarcastically, already feeling bad for taking so long to return to the park.
A cry from the western side of the stage reached his ears. Immediately he was alert. That was Kass. His feet pounded across the grass and he lost one of the water bottles out of his pocket. He didn’t care. Kass was yelping in the grove of trees to the right of the stage, though she was still hidden from his sight behind a series of bushes and velvet ropes. When he reached the spot, he was shocked by the image he saw. Ethan had his weaselly hands around Kass’ waist, gripping tightly and yelling something foul. Gage didn’t stop to think. He just reacted.
“Ow! What the hell, man!?” Ethan shrieked as Gage’s fist came in contact with the teen’s nose, and blood spurted down his face.
“You leave her alone,” Gage growled, pummeling his fists, ready to hit the kid again, but the sight of Kass lying face up on the ground distracted him.
Ethan scampered off from the VIP section, leaving Gage alone with Kass as he knelt next to her body. Her eyes were open, but she was shaking fiercely, and her eyes had a glazed shocked look.
“Kass, sweetheart, are you okay?” he asked, gently grabbing her wrist and feeling a fast-paced pulse.
“Gage?” she said, hazily, more as a question than a statement. “You’re here?”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m here. I’m sorry I’m late,” he mumbled, feeling terrible for having left her alone with the creepy band kid. “You’re the second girl I’ve had to rescue tonight. But… you are, by far, the prettier one…” he joked, trying to lighten the mood.
Lifting her up into his arms, he attempted to help her stand, but she wobbled and he was forced to pick her up again to keep her from falling. Kass leaned into his face, and he could feel a tear fall down her cheek. Her trembling body indicated she was really scared. Her face was still really pale as he set her gently on the edge of the picnic table.
Kass nearly fell forward, and he stepped into her to keep her from slipping to the ground. Her mouth pressed into the side of his cheek.
“My hero,” she croaked. “Wait…the second?”
“Don’t even worry about it,” he said, and his leg tingled as her foot brushed up the side of his jeans.
“Take me home,” she whimpered, and then cleared her throat, as if uncomfortable being caught in a vulnerable state. “I mean…” she exhaled heavily. “Let’s go home. I’ve had enough excitement for one night.”
Author Note: Okay, I really hoped you listened to the song by the amazingly talented Chase Holfelder because it really does set the scene for what happened above. I almost felt a little guilty pairing the song with a creepy-ish scene. Another appearance by Cerise. Another appearance by Ethan Tanner, and this Ethan’s changed a little…or has he? Mwahahaha! Okay, I’ll be serious. I had fun creating his band. You’ll learn more about what happened in the next chapter. A few quick notes – the Bruce Tower is a play off the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, in Chicago… and I couldn’t help myself and be a little punny… Bruce…Willis… okay, moving on. Riverview Antiques is an actual lot you can download on ModtheSims. I decided the Carpenter Consignment was owned by the Carpenter-Rhodes family, and in this downloadable lot, there is an actual gnubb set on the roof. Riverdale Village Church is also a downloadable lot on ModtheSims. Adventures of a Starship Simulation is a movie listed and available to “watch” in the Sims 4, and I just added the the Roman numeral IV for fun and the III to Cowboys and Aliens. Sally Husten and Justin Ortez are the babysitter townies for Riverview. And the monstrous green hand with the hangnails? Well, that’s a Sims 3 reference to the moodlet a Sim gets when creeped out. Eleven-Seven is obviously a parody of 7-11 stores. Hope you enjoyed. 🙂
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