In understanding our past, I hoped to pave the way to a better future. I applied for a full time program in Anthropological Studies at the Eco Institute. If you had asked me even two years prior, I would’ve never expected to be studying at the graduate level. I adjusted to island life well during my six months prior, and I figured that my experience had more than prepared me. I was wrong.
I visited home briefly before the start of my first quarter, and on my return, the airlines lost my luggage. It took three weeks of arguing with the baggage department to retrieve my personal items. Harsh cyclone winds my first summer (winter in the northern hemisphere) had me second guessing my decision. Afternoon storms would arise without warning, making it difficult to study, and often knocked out the lights at the institute. Sometimes it could take a day to restore the power due to budget cuts. I didn’t mind too much. It gave me an opportunity to light scented candles and continue researching on my laptop or practicing my crafting.
I enjoyed making paper flowers, daisy chains, and greeting cards. It was a hobby to pass the time. I probably could’ve been out on the beach getting a suntan or swimming in the Simuyan Sea, but I liked the quietness of my room. The Institute’s advanced scholars were given private rooms. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed my own company, and that of my adopted tetra fish named Cuatro. The student housing included three-story buildings with straw roofs with a swimming pool, fishing pond, and an atrium in the center, and a common study hall, lounge, and kitchen in the main central hut.
My dorm room had beautiful teak wood wall panels and floorboards. Every window had a bamboo rolling curtain, and gave a view of warm golden sands and date palm trees. Enough to spark my imagination… sometimes I’d write poetry in the late evenings before bed. The low lighting helped my head. My suitemate introduced me to kava, a ceremonial beverage of the natives, with healing properties. It was an acquired taste, a powdered root in what was sort of a muddy water, but it helped tremendously with my headaches.
I never expected to find my heart at sea. When I wasn’t in class, crafting a new design in my room, or working on my projects down at the beach, I would take one of the outrigger canoes out on the Simuyan Sea. Sometimes she was gracious, welcoming me in her teal-blue arms and showing me her wonders. Sometimes she had harsher lessons for me as the skies opened up and poured their fury. I enjoyed tooling around on the water and exploring the islands, ebbing and flowing with the waves and currents. However, I wasn’t prepared to meet my doom.
Storms could crop up suddenly. We were taught at the Institute to always carry a pack of emergency supplies with us and an extra power supply should the motor fail. Of course, Mother Nature isn’t always kind. My pack fell overboard and I forgot the power cell. I was adrift at sea, a long ways from the shoreline, wondering why I chose to go out on the ocean on that particular day. The winds picked up. As I attempted to secure my sail, I was knocked into the water. The last thing I remember was a red and blue fabric hitting my face softly as if urging me to go to sleep. It’s a miracle I survived.
His name was Cash Landgraab and he was a privileged and arrogant son-of-a-bitch. Well, with a name like Landgraab, of course he would be. I shouldn’t have expected less. He must’ve had some kind of death wish because he was diving during a thunderstorm off a boat named, I kid you not, My Thang, when he saw a body floating in the water. He asked me if I was dead. Not a great introduction mind you. I coughed, grateful to be discovered. When asked if I could tell him my name, I blinked a few times.
It was dark, but I could tell he was rougish handsome with some serious scruff growing around his mouth, chin, and sides of his face. I could see the little freckles splashed across his nose, but I couldn’t tell the color of his eyes. It’s funny the things that draw our attention. He definitely had the look of a bad boy… silver chain around his neck, arms and shoulder blade covered in tattoos, ears pierced with silver hoops. I fixated on his three black studs below his lower lip. I could tell he was concerned, even if I had interrupted his nighttime hobby.
If I was envisioning some romantic princess-carry back to his boat, that’s not what happened. He turned away from me, once assured that I could breathe and move, and suggested I climb on his back. He would lug me back to the boat ladder. I wrapped my arm timidly around his rib cage and used my free arm to swim. I wasn’t helpless. Plus he annoyed me with his comment about only an idiot would boat out in this weather and I must be a tourist. I tried to adamantly assure him that I was most certainly not just some visitor to the island and had actually been living and going to school here for some time, but I couldn’t get the words out. Instead, I felt his muscles rippling beneath my hand, and could smell the sea salt in his hair. To be fair, everything smelled of sea water.
We returned to his place, a two-cabin outpost steps from the beach with a green tin roof. I could hear the rain pounding against the green tin roof, mimicking the ba-rum-pum-pum of my heart. Cash did a concussion test before suggesting I rest. I didn’t have to be told twice. I passed out on his bougie burlap sofa while he watched some strange cartoon where the actors all spoke Takaha at much too fast a speed for my brain to keep up.
“Ugh, how long was I out?” I asked, groggily stirring from my awkward rest.
“Something like two hours,” he glanced at his ornate gold wristwatch that screamed ‘money.’
“And you stayed here the whole time?” I tilted my head in surprise.
He had changed into dry shorts, a blue aloha shirt which he left unbuttoned, revealing his fabulous sixpack, and switched out his silver jewelry for gold to match the watch. He looked less than amused. I flushed, realizing I was staring again.
“Uh… sorry…” I stammered, uncertain of the protocol when a stranger rescues you, and a handsome one to boot. “I… didn’t mean to ruin your evening.”
“Naw… it’s all good,” he relaxed into a grin, and turned off the television. “This anime was beginning to bore anyhow.”
“I’m… uh… Jade…” I managed to squeak out, kicking myself for sounding like a stupid school girl with a crush. “I… where are we?”
“Jade,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “I like it. We are on my private island. This is Key Point.”
“You own an island?” I exclaimed. “Like actually own an island?” my eyes bugged as I made a circle with my hand in the air. “The whole thing?”
“I’m a Landgraab. Of course, I own an island,” he shrugged as if it was something completely mundane.
It was too late in the night and the tides were too high to start out to sea now. The winds and rain would make it near impossible to see clearly enough to fly. Yes, Cash also owned a plane, his source of income. He was a bush pilot of sorts, shuttling the rich on exotic vacations and the scientists on their expeditions. I asked how he ended up out here. He stated he was exiled to the family island to repent from his “wicked ways.” He seemed excited when he shared that last part, and I tried desperately not to squirm uncomfortably. I didn’t have much experience at all with the opposite sex and I was feeling flustered, hot, and shy all at the same time. It was an unnerving, but pleasurable sensation.
Like a gentleman should, he offered up his room for the night. I had a feeling I wasn’t the only girl to sleep here before. I tried not to read into it as my stomach knots turned anxiously. Here I was standing in a man’s bedroom in a bikini with a short little violet skirt around my waist, recovering from a head injury and a traumatic dive in the ocean, and he smelled of orange and patchouli. I had never been alone in a man’s bedroom before. He shifted his shoulder a little to the side as he stopped in front of the bed. He assured me that he would sleep on the couch in the other cabin, and that I would find a lady’s shirt in the closet to sleep in… his sister’s from her last visit.
Morning arrived. I wandered to the first cabin, lingering at the doorway for a moment. Lifting my fingers to my lips, I wished I had brushed my teeth, but I didn’t know if it would be appropriate to use the toothbrush left in the bathroom. I had no way of knowing if it had been used before. I wandered into the kitchen to the smell of frying eggs, sizzling butter, and a faint earthy scent of mushrooms.
“Ah, you’re awake,” Cash said. “Good morning, sunshine.”
“Uh… sunshine?” I repeated with a bemused smile.
“Yes, your hair…” he said. “Reminds me of the sunrise.”
My cheeks grew hot as I settled at the table. “I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“Only the ones who fall off boats,” he teased.
Cash began whistling some island tune and I wondered if I should help, or stay seated. I played with the hem of the long style button up shirt I wore, the one I found in the closet. It was better than sleeping in my damp bathing suit.
“Can I ask you a question? Is this really your sister’s shirt?”
Cash returned to the table with an amazing smelling breakfast scramble, complete with pan-fried potatoes, mushrooms, and tomato and a hint of minced garlic and lemon pepper.
“No comment,” he set the plate in front of me and sat down in the adjacent chair. “But I can say, I don’t have a sister.”
“Ah! Old girlfriend,” I said, without thinking and took a bite. “Oh… my! This is delicious.”
“I’m not so bad at cooking if I say so myself,” he winked. “And sort of…”
“Please don’t say current girlfriend,” I forced the words out, my fork freezing in mid-air.
“She left three months ago… old enough for you?” he replied.
“Uh… um… I’m sorry… your personal life is none of my business,” I flubbed.
“No bother. She didn’t really like living on an island,” he shrugged, focusing on eating.
“How could you not?” I shook my head. “I love living here. I get to wake up every day to the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen, and I get to be lulled to sleep every night by the ocean. The plant life is so lush, and the people are friendly and more than willing to share their knowledge with me. I almost can’t imagine my life back on the mainland now.”
Cash smiled at me, with the most amused brown eyes, but didn’t say anything as he took another bite.
Cash stood dangerously close to me as we made our way onto the docks. Only a single button of his flowered shirt was looped through its hole, but I was focused on the world around us. It was hard to believe that it had been storming only a few hours before. It was such a beautiful, bright island sunny day. I could see why the man liked living here. The purple reef was visible from his doorstep, and you could see the tufts of smoke billowing out of the active volcano, Mua Pe’lam, only ten kilometers away.
“It’s enough to take your breath away,” I said, an airy quality to my voice, one which I’d only admit to myself that I was emphasizing on purpose. Something about this man made me feel all flirty. “I can see why you live here. Your view is incredible.”
“I’ll say,” Cash suddenly appeared at my side, all too close to me. I hoped he couldn’t hear my pounding heart as he continued, “I’m glad we got to share this, Jade.”
The way he said my name sent shivers down my spine.
He flew the “long” way home. I half-suspected he did it to spend as much time with me as possible. We flew over brilliant green jungles, breathtaking flowers, the famous Amethyst Reefs and Green Diamond Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. I tried to hide my blushing face when he pointed out another famous locale on the island, Gemini Falls. I had heard whispers and rumors in the dining hall about folks coming out there for a “good time.” I’ll admit. I wanted to visit the falls, but only because I heard a particularly rare type of frog resided in the pond below.
“Frogs?” Cash laughed. “No… no… you don’t come to Gemini Falls for frogs.”
He relayed the legend behind the popular destination for lovers, the goddess Veni fell from the heavens after battling the fire god, Maros. They say she lay paralyzed on the sands of Sua’Eno Peninsula, a water spirit named Son’kawa rose from the incoming tide. She had helped many people find their life partner, but had never known love or the touch of a man before. As he nurtured her back to health, she felt herself growing more and more attached to him every day, but she worried her father, the god of the heavens, Ianos would disapprove of her love for a water spirit. She would be forced to choose between her duty and her soulmate. She couldn’t make the decision, so she left without warning one day.
“Goddesses and water spirits,” I shook my head, the scientist in me trying to avoid mocking island tradition.
“It isn’t over yet,” he winked. “It is said that Ianos saw how sad his daughter was. In his wisdom, he urged Veni to return to earth for two nights. Son’kawa was so surprised and happy that she had returned, that he took her in his arms and carried her to this high rock and they consummated their great love for each other. The two nights… that’s why there is a double waterfall, the Gemini. It stands until this day to remind all of us to seek out love.”
“It’s a beautiful story,” I admitted. “But it’s a myth… a fairy tale.”
“I think we can all use a little magic in our lives,” Cash replied.
Cash enveloped my thoughts for the next several days. I attempted to write a research paper and I could see his face on my screen. I made an effort to carefully clean a conch I found on the beach and I could smell his cologne. I tried to listen to a podcast on Mua Pe’lam artifacts and I could hear his seductive murmurings. I didn’t know what infatuation was, or love for that matter, but the man who rescued me from the jaws of the sea completely permeated my heart. I thought a trip to the local tiki bar might help. As I relaxed on a lounge chair, waiting for my Lotta Cocolata, I melted into the setting sun rays and the sounds of island vibes. Except I could still hear his voice.
He was at the bar, chatting with an attractive woman in a purple suit. He seemed surprised, but happy to see me. Cash wrapped me in a warm embrace, and I was, for a moment, glad to be back in his arms. Girlfriend was less than pleased, giving me a death glare. Her name was Justine, a hostess on the Kinship Cruise Lines, and she was his “date.” I felt a twinge of disapointment. My suite mate informed me that Cash had lots of “dates” and that he had a reputation around these islands.
Out of curiosity, I had completed a cursory web search on Cash Landgraab. Oldest son of Baron and Charity. Went to business school, but never finished. Attended law school but never took the bar. Tried to revive a dead venture, and failed. Dated an heiress to a Worth 360 company, a Hesperian supermodel, two underwear models, three swimsuit models… I could see he had a type. I couldn’t help myself. I liked him. I liked the Cash that spun fairy tales while we floated among the clouds. I liked the Cash that cooked me breakfast when I woke up. I liked the Cash that saved me… and maybe it was hero’s worship at first, but I genuinely liked him.
“Have you been to the Kapu Caverns yet?” Cash asked, showing me images of his last expedition.
“No,” I replied. “Is there some romantic story behind it?”
“You tease,” he laughed. “But actually there is.”
“Let me guess. Mermaids and cave trolls?”
“Close. Sirens and sprites.”
We both laughed. Justine coughed. “This is all fascinating… but Cash, I’m bored.”
“Sorry, honey,” Cash replied. “This is…”
“I don’t care who she is,” Justine snipped. “We’re on a date. You and I.”
Cash paused to think for a moment. “We were on a date. Good night, Justine.”
She angrily stormed off and told him never to call her again. I was shocked, but Cash explained that ‘they’re all the same…’ the girls who wanted him for his rock-hard abs and money.
“No? You? I thought you were more than a bank account and a pretty face,” I said, in mock-seriousness, trying to quell my churning stomach.
Everything in me screamed stay away from the likes of Cash Landgraab, but I couldn’t help it. I was already enamored. Cash invited me for drinks the following night. Seemed harmless enough. It was a delight watching him talk, the studs on his upper chin bobbing up and down with every word. I found myself wondering what his lips tasted like. If this is what grown up desire felt like, I could forget the Timothees of the world and fall into the arms of Cash any day. His laugh was infectious, his smile was contagious, and his eyes were intense and wild.
Cash introduced me to the wonders of the islands. He insisted on capturing every adventure with his camera phone. I, on the other hand, focused on the delights of the moment. The damp feel of the caves, the sound of water dripping in the distance, ringing off hollow walls, the glow of the local crystalline growing along the cavern floor. My face lit up with every step, delighted by the experience.
We would often swim in the ocean together in the afternoons when he wasn’t flying, and my classes had finished. Sometimes the rain would pelt the water below, creating thousands of little circles on the surface and we would find shelter in the rock archways of the base of Mua Pe’lam. We would lean against the rocks opposite each other and laugh about yet another winter storm, breathing heavily from our vigorous swim, completely drenched and yet we didn’t mind at all.
For me, everything was magical, a miracle of sorts, and for Cash, he saw the island through new eyes – my own. We swam to the furthest cove of the islands and found the legendary Cave of Spirits where the Ohan’ali hibiscus flowers seemed to float in the air, a phenomenon caused by the steam vents from the volcanoes and the rush of the whistling winds between the rocks.
“It’s absolutely… incredible,” I murmured. “In all my studies, I… have never seen… anything like it.”
“You can’t always learn about life from a book, Jade,” Cash reminded gently. “Sometimes you have to get out into the world and experience it for yourself, to feel it physically and know it here…” he tapped his chest. “…in your heart.”
On Sunday afternoons we would lay out on the eastern edge of Leiowa Beach. We didn’t have to say anything. That was what made our relationship so comfortable – words didn’t need to be said in order to enjoy one another’s company. One such Sunday, however, we were interrupted by Jai, a local and an undergraduate student at the Eco Institute. I had seen her once or twice before, a cute and curvaceous woman of Seoulan descent. I could hear her giggles when I blinked into the fading sun and tried to focus on her face.
“Hello there,” Cash opened one eye, and greeted in his voice reserved for his flirty tone.
Instantly, I tensed, wondering why he addressed the pink vision in such a manner.
“Huh… hi…” the girl stammered. “I’m… uh…”
“Can I help you?” Cash rolled to his side and propped himself up with his elbow.
I grunted, and rolled the opposite way to help myself sit.
“You’re um… Cassius Landgraab, aren’t you?” she said, fluttering her eyes. “I’m Jai and can I say I’m a big fan? I just loved your Ray’s Anti-Ray commercial,” she gushed.
“Well, miss, I take sunblock very seriously,” he replied.
I resisted the urge to gag. What was with this guy? One minute he was sweet and kind, funny and intelligent with me, and the next he was pandering to the masses with a voice that could make candy sick with syrupy sweetness.
“Oh!” Jai cooed. “Can I get a picture, Cash? Can I call you Cash?”
“Hells yeah,” he grinned and posed for a selfie with the adoring fan, who put her cheek a little to close to my Cash’s.
Yes, my Cash. After all the time we spent together, I was ready to be possessive. Jai finally deigned to look in my direction and acknowledge my presence.
“Is this your fiancé, Jacqueline?” she asked. “You two make such a cute couple. So when’s the wedding? Oh the magazines were right. You look just like a model.”
I stopped, mid-step. Jacqueline? My heart stopped. Cash’s girl that left a few months before… was that who Jai thought I was?
“You never said you were engaged,” I began, trying to even my tone and keep from betraying my utter disappointment. “Jennifer, huh? I should’ve known.”
“Jade, it’s not like that,” Cash protested.
“I’m the other woman, aren’t I?” I exclaimed in dismay. “Well, not exactly. We haven’t really defined what we are.”
“I want you to be that,” Cash began, and then grimaced. “No not that…that. I mean, to define what we are… what you mean to me.”
“What does that mean?” I raised my voice. “We’ve been hanging out for weeks now and I wondered if you suddenly took a vow of celibacy or I’m just not that attractive. I always seem to do this to myself, though that’s not really fair as this has only happened twice and I’ve never truly had a boyfriend.”
“You haven’t had a boyfriend?” he arched a brow.
“Whatever… Cash… it’s not like it matters now. You’re engaged!” I said, exasperated.
“Was, was… engaged,” he corrected. “And I want to be that… exclusive with you… I like you a lot Jade. I respect you. That’s why I’ve been waiting. You’re different.”
“Ha!” I rolled my eyes, refusing to believe what I was hearing. “You have a reputation, Cash, and I should’ve listened to my gut before getting involved… or whatever you call this.”
“I want to be involved. Jade, you aren’t listening to me,” Cash protested. “How can I show you I’m serious?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to be another Jacqueline or Jai or Justine for that matter…”
“No, you’re Jade, and you’re my girlfriend,” he said, his face suddenly on mine.
Our lips met in a warm and gentle caress. I stood stunned, allowing it to happen to me for a moment, before it registered.
“Girlfriend?” I muttered.
He kissed me again, this time with more passion. His fingers slid through my hair, searching as he pulled me closer to himself. This time, I reciprocated, wrapping my arms around him, something I had wanted to do for a long time, ever since we hugged that first day back at the tiki bar. Even so, I pushed back from him, trying to gather my wits.
“Let’s get this straight… you’re my boyfriend,” I sputtered.
He grinned. “Yes ma’am.”
Author Notes: I’m getting closer to the conclusion of the prologue and the move to Stardew Valley. I’ve enjoyed playing in Sulani so much again. I might even do a future generation on a beach farm here. If you’ve played Stardew Valley, I think the Farmer is supposed to be on the younger side, but I like the idea of an older farmer. I’m in my thirties and I wanted the Farmer to be close to or in her thirties as well. That tweaks and shifts the ages of the eligible candidates, but I’m okay with that. I’m all about defying tradition. There’s also nothing indicated in the game about the farmer’s educational background, so this is all my own interpretation, and I figured why not? Go for a graduate degree.
And now time for Simworld notes:
- The Simuyan Sea is mentioned in the Sims lore. It is said that Barnacle Bay is situated on the Simuyan Sea. In my Simworld, the planet’s southern ocean is the warmest and is the Simuyan, stretching between the Paclantic Ocean to the east and the Arcadian Ocean to the west. (Learn more: See Oceans and Waterways).
- Cash Landgraab is actual a remake of a remake of TS4’s Malcolm Landgraab by tropico on the Gallery. When I rolled for a name, Cash came up as an option and I loved the pun. 😛 Baron is another name that was randomly generated. Charity was the only name I personally picked.
- Venusian mythology originated in the Sulanian islands. The natives known as Amazoneans in my Simworld pay tribute to Veni, the goddess of love and life, and a host of deities in their pantheon.
- The native Sulanian language, So’lelo, is similar to the Hawaiian language in that it only has a small amount of letters in its alphabet. Unlike Hawaiian, the Sulanians includes the consonant ‘s.’
- A Worth 360 is a Simworld equivalent of a Fortune 500 company, an annual list of the top 360 companies in the world with the highest total revenue.
- Kapu Caverns is a nod to the Her Interactive Nancy Drew computer game, The Creature of Kapu Cave.
- Mermaids are considered a spellcaster species in my Simworld. They are also called sea witches, or less commonly, aquatic fairies.
- The beach ‘Leiowa’ is a lot I created myself, but it’s so bland I didn’t keep it and moved the couple down the shore a bit. I decided Leiowa means ‘place of honor’ in So’lelo.
- Seoula is a small country at the northwestern tip of the continent of Cathaysia (above the Hanzu Monarchy) loosely based on Korea.
Thanks for reading!