Gage felt like a new man.
He woke up every day with a spring in his step and a smile on his face. He didn’t have to skip breakfast because he was sleeping more deeply and able to get up earlier in the morning. He even made bacon and eggs for his aunt Missy, much to her surprise. He whistled and sang in the shower, much to his cousin, Rhoda’s annoyance since she worked nights. He couldn’t help it. He was happy. He tried to make things up to her by picking up her favorite cookies at the supermarket.
Gage stopped by the library and paid Constance back, even if she hadn’t been expecting it. He also arranged for a piece of artwork to be on loan to the Wright Reading Room from the Octagon House. Anita didn’t like coffee so he often walked to the local coffee cart by himself in the mornings, and was surprised to see Constance there. She confessed she was addicted to their maple pancake bites, and it was the only place in town to get Oolong tea from Simina. Some mornings, Gage would leave extra early and pick up Constance’s order for her, delivering it to the library because she fell asleep at work again. Then he’d check out a copy of the latest weekly At-Home Artist magazine for himself and a romance paperback for Anita because she read books in a day.
Gage stopped blowing off classes and actually started doing his homework. He contacted the professors for the three online and one in-person class he was taking, and requested extra credit to make up for late assignments. Only one didn’t grant him an extension, his art history teacher. Anita was a lifesaver. With her knowledge and firsthand experience in the Sim Union, she was a valuable asset and helped him study every day after work until he felt confident he could pass his final exams with flying colors.
He drove Ruby back and forth to see his cousin, Sam in the City when her car broke down, and he and Anita even helped babysit her little brother, Skip so she could take her online exams for the semester from Sam’s apartment where it was quiet, unlike her own house in Riverview.
He even improved at work, securing three partnerships with artists in the state of Illinoisim, one for a lecture, another for a workshop, and another for a long-term class, and all to display their artwork exclusively at The Octagon House.
His aunt had noticed something different about him, and patted him on the cheek this morning, saying she was excited he found a special individual. Sam noticed, and congratulated him, saying he was happy Gage was able to move on from Soléi, and he invited Gage and Anita to join him and Ruby to ice skating the day after Thanksgiving in Simcago.
That reminded Gage to check in with his ex-girlfriend, and he learned she moved to Simizona to set up a winter camp for the Nativians and supernaturals. They Sim-yped and she wished him well in his life, and said she had begun a relationship with Damon, and told him he was welcome to visit the Cherry Moon Collective anytime. He also called Heather to apologize to her for his atrocious behavior, but she didn’t pick up her phone. Lé told him Heather had parted ways with the Collective and was seeking out work up north in Simnadia.
Gage tried to contact Lakshmi at Simcago Sensations, but she was out on a story. He also bopped around on the Internet trying to find information about Natalya but couldn’t seem to find her. Perhaps she had returned to her real name. He stopped by Cerise’s penthouse, and brought her a 12-pack of plasma fruit juice. He found her lounging, and she told him she hadn’t been into work because she had been feeling under the weather. She was grateful for the plasma packs, and accepted his apology almost immediately saying there was nothing to forgive as they were two consenting adults.
The day before Thanksgiving, Gage decided to take Anita on their first real date. He figured they should go out somewhere before double dating with Sam and Ruby. Anita had helped him at work and with his schoolwork, but short of the picnics in the office, they hadn’t really been out.
Anita picked the place – The Watering Hole. It was a less than reputable bar in town, according to Sam, but the place had really great deep-fried pizza pockets, and Ruby said there was a decent DJ most nights, including her older brother, Al, but she wasn’t sure if he’d be working. The one good thing about the hole-in-the-wall joint was no paparazzi. When they arrived, Anita immediately said she got a good vibe, and headed straight for the dance floor. Gage went to order the deep-fried pizza pockets and was happy the price was dirt-cheap. He ordered an entire plateful.
“Dude, is that your old lady?” the bartender asked.
Gage glanced over at the dance floor where Anita was tearing up some moves, swinging her arms above her head and rocking her hips in rhythmic circles.
“You mean, my woman?” he corrected, and then beamed from ear-to-ear. “Yes, she’s my girlfriend.”
“She’s got mad skills,” the bartender remarked. “Say you look familiar.”
“I do?” Gage’s eyes grew wide as he he sneaked a bite of dripping hot cheese. “Mmm… these are delicious.”
“How do I know you?” the bartender inquired.
“I don’t know,” Gage shrugged. “I don’t know you, do I?”
“The name’s Zeke,” the guy said, offering his hand.
“Hi, Zeke, I’m…” Gage shook the man’s hand, and began introducing himself.
“Gage!?!?” he was cut off by the shrieking shrill voice of his cousin, Rhoda.
He turned and saw his angry cousin, hands perched on her hips, dressed in black mini skirt, silver studded belt, leather corset with black bands, silver buckles, and a collar around her neck, and not much else.
“Another girlfriend?” Zeke leaned over and whispered with a smirk.
“Uh… no….” Gage protested, waving his arms. “That’s my…”
“Don’t you say it!” Rhoda growled.
“…cousin…” he finished, dejected.
“Man,” Zeke chuckled, mostly to himself. “Two hot women in here… too bad one’s your cuz.”
Gage walked over to try and appease Rhoda.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” she exclaimed, angrily throwing her hands in the air.
“Um… it’s a free country,” he said, weakly. “What? Do you work here?”
“Oh gawd! Yes, damnit! Yes Gage I work here. You know my dirty secret. I work at the Watering Hole, and gawd! Why are you here?”
“Yeah, you and my holier-than-thou bro wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like this.”
“Actually Sam recommended the deep fried pizza pockets…” Gage glanced over his cousin’s shoulder to the plate of his once piping-hot food.
“What the hell? Well, why are you here? What are you into? You better not be lookin’ for tail,” she said accusingly.
“Rhoda! I didn’t come here looking to take anyone home tonight. I brought a date,” he replied.
“A date?” Rhoda glared at him incredulously, and then her face relaxed.
Gage frowned. Why on Simterra is she so pissed?
“Well, you cannot under any circumstances reveal that I work here,” Rhoda said harshly. “Or that you saw me here. Or I will wring your neck.”
“Okay… okay…” he threw up his hands. “Whatever you say. Your secret’s safe with me.”
Rhoda seemed confident that he was telling the truth, and started to walk away, sashaying her hips and accentuating an area he didn’t really want to see. She whipped around, glaring over her shoulder.
“Or that you saw me in this outfit, capisce?” Rhoda added. “Or you’re dead. I swear you’re dead.”
“Okay,” he said, trying not to laugh at his cousin’s bizarre insistence.
Gage joined Anita out on the dance floor.
“Who was that?” she asked, as he wrapped his arms around her hips and squeezed, happy to be back in her arms.
“My cousin… being really really weird… but oh… we didn’t see her tonight,” he replied.
“Okay…” she said, looking bewildered.
“Come on, I got us food,” he said, leading her back to the bar. “And drinks.”
After eating, the couple returned to the dance floor, and enjoyed a few more songs. Gage didn’t see Ruby’s brother, but the DJ present was halfway decent. Anita left to go “powder her nose” or whatever it was ladies did in the bathroom, and he was approached by the bartender. The guy had changed out of his work uniform and into something more casual.
“Zeke, right?” Gage said, shaking the guy’s hand before.
“I swear… that drama with your cuz earlier…” Zeke shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Rhoda has got a stick up her very sweet little ass.”
“Uh…” Gage didn’t know what to say, feeling uncomfortable talking about his relative in such a manner. “Did you need something?”
“I swear, I know you… and I realized why… your last name,” Zeke said, waving his hands in an animated way.
“My last name?” Gage frowned.
“Briody!” Zeke declared, excitedly.
“How do you know my last name?” Gage tilted his head.
“Your ID, you dork,” Zeke replied. “When you bought drinks. It’s my last name too!”
“What do you mean?” Gage said, eyeing Anita who had returned to the dance floor.
She gave him an odd look, but began dancing solo as he continued his conversation, turning his attention to Zeke.
“Briody! Gage Briody! Boy! I’m your big brother!” the man declared, the happiest look spreading across his face.
Gage did a double take, blinking rapidly. His brother? Zeke? Zeke Briody? He had an older brother? The news was overwhelming. He stared into the face of the bartender, and noticed a similarity in the nose and the eyes, even if the man had an ochre skin tone.
“Brother?” he said, aloud, hardly believing the words.
“Yeah, I was born three years before you to Brigit Briody…”
“Mom?” he said, startled.
Zeke was already swallowing him in a hug. “Yeah Brigit’s my mom. I haven’t seen the woman in almost eighteen years.”
“Do you… do you… know where she is?” Gage gasped.
“Nah… ” Zeke shook his head, but I know the stories our granny used to tell me… and that’s enough. Sounds like the woman didn’t really want to be a mom and couldn’t get enough of love.”
Gage chuckled weakly, rubbing the back of his head, feeling connected to his biological mother.
“So you and I share a mother,” he said, mostly for himself, and suddenly his eyes widened. “Who was your dad?”
“Don’t know. But I know your dad was some rich white professor dude who married another woman and broke our ma’s heart,” Zeke explained. “So Rhoda’s your cousin? Huh? But we’re not related…” he remarked with a grin. “…so it’s okay that I occasionally plug her?”
Gage turned a thousand shades of red. “Are you asking my permission?” he said, tersely.
Zeke threw back his head and howled with laughter. “You shoudda seen your face. Ha! Don’t worry… I’m not into your cuz… even if she’s got a nice ass.”
Gage’s face returned to a slight pink.
“Hey, I’m off shift, so I’ll let you get back to the little woman,” Zeke grinned over Gage’s shoulder, eyeing Anita as if she was a hamburger on a menu. “Unless of course, you’ll let me get in a dance first?”
Gage narrowed his eyes.
“Kidding! Kidding! Bro,” Zeke lifted his hands in mock defense. “Enjoy your evening. But hey man, here’s my digits,” he handed Gage a piece of torn napkin with a number scrawled across it. “And we should get together and share stories or somethin’. Not here though.”
“I’d like that,” Gage said genuinely.
“Then once you’re square with me, I’ll introduce you to your big sis,” Zeke smirked.
“What?” Gage’s eyes bulged again. “I have an older sis too?”
“Yeah, we shared a womb,” Zeke gave a deep-bellied laugh. “We’re twins.”
“Oh wow!” Gage exclaimed, as Zeke gave him a half-hug and slapped him on the back.
“Alright, alright, I’ll see you… later… bro,” Zeke said with a wave as he exited the bar.
“Who was that?” Anita asked as Gage returned to dance with his date. “I feel like I came out with you and you’re spending half the time with other people.”
“Anita, you’re not going to believe this!” Gage said excitedly. “That’s my brother?”
“What? Really? You found your bio brother? And he works here?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“Wow… that’s amazing.”
“Yeah, and he has a twin, which means I have a big sister too.”
“So do I.”
Gage looked down into Anita’s earnest roasted chestnut eyes, and smiled. “You constantly surprise me, my dear. You have a twin?”
“Yeah, her name is Carlotta. She’s been off in the Simultan desert though for years,” Anita explained. “She left when we were eighteen. And I haven’t really talked to her since. But enough about me…” she placed her hand on Gage’s chest, a gesture he found surprisingly comforting. “What’s he like, your brother?”
“He seems a little… uh… what’s the word? This is all so surreal,” Gage explained.
“Understandably so. You haven’t seen him since…” Anita asked.
“Well, uh…” he rubbed the back of his head. “Um… since I was a tot. I don’t really remember much of those years. He seems um… well, a little sex-crazed.”
Really, Gage? That’s all you can come up with?
“Oh really?” Anita’s voice hitched.
“Yeah, he was making all sorts of crude comments about Rhoda, and he wanted to dance with you too,” Gage scowled. “But I told him you were with me.”
Anita’s face melted into the sweetest smile. She laid her head gently between his shoulder and collarbone, and leaned into his embrace.
“With you… that sounds really nice,” she said, almost sounding as if she was about to cry.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked. “I’m sorry if I was preoccupied during our date tonight.”
“Nothing’s wrong…you’re perfect,” she said hoarsely.
“What? No, I’m not. I don’t deserve such high praise,” Gage protested.
“Shush…” she said. “It’s been so long since I’ve felt safe and loved with a man… not even, Philippe in his later years.”
“Really?” he frowned.
“He was… a hasty choice on my part…” Anita confessed. “And the age difference… well, it caused problems, and all we really had left was the sex. But you… Gage… you’re different. I can tell. And I like this… I like us.”
“He hurt you?” Gage said, his cheek flinching.
Anita shook her head. “I don’t want to talk about it. Plus all couples hurt one another. It’s human nature. But it’s in the past. Let’s just… for tonight… let’s just dance.”
An hour later at closing time, Gage drove Anita back to her house. The night was cold, but the two lovebirds didn’t seem to mind, standing on the porch, protected from the first falling snow of the season. He could see his breath on the frosty air when he surfaced between kisses. She tasted like candied lipstick and peppermint. He never wanted to let go.
“Gage?” she asked, interrupting their flow.
“Hmm?” he said. “What, my angel?” he petted her hair.
Gage stared deeply into her eyes, and felt her words spark embers in his chest. He thought briefly about what he should do and what he wanted to do, and the two were conflicting. She looked so earnest and hesitant in her question, like a woman who had been hurt before, and he found he couldn’t say no.
“You’re with me?” she asked, almost as if she didn’t trust reality.
“I’m with you,” he replied, lifting her into his arms. “And I’ll stay.”
Author Note: So Gage finds another sibling. Zeke Briody and his sister, Zia were first mentioned in my spin-off (that never happened) So This is Love? Zeke and Zia are the son and daughter of Brigit Briody and Corban Daniels, and are the older half-siblings of Gage. I didn’t intend to write about Zeke when I started this chapter, but you know the Sims. Always unpredictable. The guy showed up looking surprisingly like Gage and I went for it. So many interesting things happened. Rhoda argued with Gage. Zeke hit on Rhoda, and Anita. Both ladies rejected him, of course. This was a fun moment for me in game, and a great way to add some family connections. Hope you enjoyed.
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