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The Sum of All Your Choices



Kyle Centowski is 56; Willow Centowski is 54; Cherry Centowski is 36; Talin Vijayakar is 28


Saying goodbye at the airport was excruciating. It wasn't that they'd never been apart before, but this was different.  Willow didn't know when - or if - Kyle would be back.  He didn't know himself, although he said he wanted to come back, when they'd talked about it.  That was really the only positive thing she could find in this whole situation - that and the fact that, in the last 48 hours, they'd probably talked more than they had in the entire preceding six months.



They weren't talking now.  Any attempts at conversation had long faded, and they sat in the kind of awkward silence particular to people who have everything to say and no time left to say it in.  Willow gazed around the airport distractedly.  There were a lot of people saying goodbye - from the casual waves to friends setting of on a short vacation, to the young couples clinging desperately to each other, and the crying elders trying to hug all the grandchildren as they were shepherded through the security gate.  If you could somehow measure the emotional energy of a place, the depth of the feelings experienced between the walls, then airports would be right up there... right up with the hospitals and the chapels, the police stations, and all the other places where you walk in the door, knowing that when you walk out again, your life may be permanently changed. 

They called his flight too soon.  She looked at him wordlessly, then they walked together to the gate.



"You'll call, won't you?" 
"Of course" 
"And - and you know... take care." 
"I know."



She held on for as long as she could, taking in the feel of his hands on her back, the smell of his clothes, the way he whispered goodbye into her ear.  Committing them to memory. 



Then he was gone.  When he walked away, he never looked back.  She understood why.

Willow turned and started to walk slowly away.  Her pace quickened as she widened the distance between herself and the gate, until finally, she was running through the crowds, oblivious to everything except the utter emptiness inside herself.

----

Airports were everyday to Cherry Centowski – or, at least, this one was.  She’d made the journey between Redwood City and Twikki Island so many times in the past three years.  It was ironic, she realised, because she’d once dreamed of a lifetime spent in airports.  In her fantasies, however, it was a life of adventure and excitement, not a regular commute.



They’d called her rebellious, back then.  That was ironic, too, because nothing could have been further from he truth.  All that Cherry had ever done, was what she was told to do.  When she was a teenager and her mother had caught her in her parents’ bed with Bill King, she was only doing what Bill had told her to do.  Everyone does it, he said, if they love each other.  And she had loved him.



She loved him enough to go to college with him, abandoning her dreams of travel and adventure in favour of the nice solid law degree her father advised her to get.

It was better to do what she was told, she’d found.  Less painful in the long run.  If she’d stayed away from his dorm that night, like Bill told her to, she could have gone on believing that he loved her, too.  For a little while, at least.



And, maybe, if she hadn’t been hurting quite so much over Bill, she would never have rushed headlong into things with Kevin.  They couldn’t hide the embarrassing truth about just how fast they’d moved, not when their daughter was born less than a year after they first met.



They were both hurting over broken relationships, and they took their comfort where they could.  When her family had told her that she wouldn’t be able to manage the demands of a baby and a law degree, she’d dutifully handed Autumn over to the care of her grandparents. 

She didn't have to marry Kevin.  There were plenty of couples around with kids who'd never married, or even stayed together.  But Kevin had been so certain.  A child needs two parents, he'd said.  She wanted her daughter to be happy, and out of whatever love she did feel for Kevin, she’d wanted him to be happy too.  And she wanted to ease some of the embarrassment her family felt over her situation.  The solution was obvious and, once again, Cherry had done what she was told.



And what the hell had it all been worth, in the end?!  Now none of them were happy now, at least not in the way they should be.  She and Kevin were divorced, and she didn’t even know her children.  And she was more of an embarrassment to her family than ever.  She could try to forget the whole mess, most of the time, but every time she came back here…



Mercifully, the final boarding call cut into her thoughts.  Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she picked up her bag and took a last look over her shoulder, before leaving the city behind once again.

----

Kyle closed his eyes and leaned back into the seat as the plane gathered speed in the final run to takeoff.  Just breathe, he told himself.  He was shaking, and he tried to blame the unfamiliar experience of flying.  He'd never wanted or needed to travel much, although he knew that really, it was more than the roaring of the engines that had left him the overwhelming desire to jump up and demand that they stop and let him get off.  He felt his stomach drop as the wheels lost contact with the runway, and when he opened his eyes, the airport was rapidly shrinking in the distance below.  Suddenly nauseous, he doubled forward, as much as he could in the small space of the seat, and rested his head in his hands.  Breathe... just breathe.



Desperate for some distraction, he fumbled in his bag and found the details of the cottage he'd hastily rented on Twikki Island.   He’d enjoyed the relaxed pace on their family vacations on the island, and he hoped he’d find some sense of peace there.  The cottage was small, just a bedroom and a bathroom, and a single living space and kitchen combined.  It was all that one person needed, or at least, Kyle assumed it was.  He had never lived alone in his life.  He'd gone from his parents' house to college, where he'd shared a house with his brothers and cousins, then back to his parents' house for a year while he waited for Willow to graduate.  

He remembered that year so clearly... too much so for it to have been more than 30 years ago.  He remembered how she would surprise him some weekends, hitching a ride with anyone she could, all the way up to Richmond from SSU... how he'd unexpectedly find her waiting when he got home from work.



“Can I come in?”



“You didn’t have to come!”


“I couldn’t wait to see you again… “



Kyle woke with a start as the wheels of the plane hit the runway.


Disorientated, he looked around, expecting Willow to be there in some kind of blissful continuation of the dream he'd been enjoying.  Then he remembered where he was, and why, and what he'd done to bring himself  here...

Just breathe...


With a struggle, he managed to contain the panic that came with the growing suspicion that he'd probably just made yet another huge mistake.  They were talking again.  After all these months, it felt like he and Willow were finally starting again.  And then he'd left.

But wasn't that the story of the past few months - just one stupid, irrational decision after another?  Maybe this was why he chosen to just passively follow his father for so many years.  Maybe he always knew the kind of mess he'd make, if he started trying to manage his own life.

He gave himself a little shake. So, what now?  Turn around and go back?  No, he couldn't do that.  There was a good reason for leaving Richmond, no matter how much he doubted himself now.



Didn't someone once say that life was the sum of all your choices?  If he was ever going to make a life for himself that he could be happy with again, then he'd have to stand by those choices. He couldn't have stayed in Richmond the way things were, and he couldn't take back any of the bad decisions that had made it that way.  There would be a time for going back, but not now.  Now, it was time to move forward.

---

“You didn’t have to come!”
”I couldn’t wait to see you again.”
Cherry laughed and shook her head. “I’d be home in 10 minutes”



“I couldn’t wait 10 more minutes”.  Talin kissed her.  “Welcome home.”
“I love you…”

She didn’t quite manage to suppress a sob on the end of the sentence.  He pulled her into his arms and held her, ignoring the crowds pushing and jostling around them.  He understood.  He knew that going back was never easy for her.   But he never told her not to go. 

He had never told her she should or shouldn’t do anything, not even when it meant delaying the things that mattered the most to him.  Marriage, children – he wanted it all, but she wasn’t ready for that again, and he never pressured her. 



He'd always made it clear that she was free to make her own choices, and she’d struggled with that, because it had been easy to just do what she was told.  The decision that she’d finally made had been catastrophic in a lot of ways, but it had also been the best thing she’d done for herself in her life. 

Back in Richmond, though, she still did what she was told.  Kevin had said that she should keep out of their lives, and she had, desperate to do anything she could to minimise the hurt she knew she was causing them all.  Better to just say one goodbye, then let them forget about her and move on.  Better to do the same herself. 

Only, she hadn’t forgotten.  She could try, but every time she went back to Richmond, she knew she hadn’t forgotten. 

She tried to push it out of her mind, as Talin released her from his arms. Taking her hand, he took her suitcase and started towards the door.



“Come on,” he said.  “Lets go home.”

---

Saying goodbye at the airport was excruciating. But somewhere, in her mad dash across the terminal, Willow had realized what she had to do.  No, that wasn't entirely accurate.  She'd know it all along, if she were to be honest, but she had to go through saying goodbye before she had the courage to finally make a decision.  She'd ran straight to the internet cafe in the terminal.  Probably, she'd finalized her booking before his plane even left the airport.



A day later, she was there, standing in the light rain outside the cottage. The confidence she'd felt at the airport was rapidly fading.  She wondered for the first time if perhaps it would have been better to at least call and tell him first.  Give him the chance to get used to the idea.  Or to tell her not to come.

She looked back.  The taxi had gone.  She couldn't even go back into town and call him from there, at least, not easily.  There was only one thing to do now.  She walked up the path and knocked tentatively on the door. 



For the longest time, they just stared at each other.  Finally, Willow spoke.
"Can I come in?"



-----

Rainy vacation Sundays are good for my blog :)

All the things in this update were supposed to appear in other updates but this one came into being while I was people-watching at the ferry terminal... not exactly an airport, but the feeling was the same...  Also partially inspired by another r/l incident - quite different circumstances, but I really did once say goodbye to someone, then impulsively book a ticket to follow at an airport internet terminal, probably before his plane had even taken off :)

Kyle has basically followed his wants in-game and I turned that into the story.  When he and Willow were living apart (he was in the hospital in-story), most of his wants were about interacting with her, so I sent him home.  Only once they were living together again, he stopped rolling them - I guess he didn't miss her anymore.  I realized that the easier way to get his aspiration level up, would have been to keep them apart and have her visit.  Too late for that, though, and he was rolling stuff that was impossible, at least in my 'realistic' hood.  

When he rolled an island vacation want, I went for it.  Taking a vacation might seem a little bizarre under the circumstances, but it was better than wanting to have more babies or resurrect half the hood deceased, and I figured that all the little vacation-related wants that sims always roll would bring his aspiration level up easily, right?  So I sent him off on his own...

Um, about those little vacation wants... this is what Kyle rolled, the minute he stepped out of the airport shuttle:


... seriously, could I have kept them apart a minute longer, after that?!  Even I'm not that mean to my sims!  :)

I've made things difficult for myself now, with my large pictures!  I could have used some of the 'real' pictures from back then for the memories, but they look terrible in large size.  I had to age people down and recreate the scenes... had already done that with Kyle and Willow for something else, but it was sooo hard to get teenage Cherry and Bill into bed together given that they're both in love with other people now... spent ages using Insim to take the various relationship levels up and down until it worked...

I'll always remember their 'real' first time, as it was soon after I'd installed ACR... Cherry's mother wasn't the only one to get a shock.  I had no idea that it enabled teen woohoo until Cherry bought Bill home from school!

5 comments:

  1. I love the airport!

    I'm always happy when you give some detail about sims' past, like you did with Cherry here. I wonder is she and Talin will ever have a baby.

    Aww, Kyle. So sweet he kept rolling wants for Willonw once they were apart. This of course means she is a really big part of his life, that he can't live without!
    I love the story that she followed Kyle. I'm sure they will get through things together!

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  2. Reading about Cherry's past made me really feel for her. You want to hate someone who has left their children but this post made me change my mind. It must be really diffcult to leave her kids behind.

    Kyle and Willow are super sweet. I love semi-happy endings. I really hope they can work everything out.

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  3. Thanks, Tanja. The airport was built in a cafe lot, in a hurry, because I couldn't find one to download that wasn't so huge that it crashed my game :) So far, I've really only decorated the areas that I used for the story, but I plan to turn it fully into an airport later.

    I always said I'd follow Kyle's wants to determine what he'd do, after the aspiration failure roll. He's making it very clear to me... I let him re-roll his ltw and that is perfect, too! (More on that in future update... :) )

    Oasis, I had hoped I could write her in a way that would be sympathetic... she still rolls wants for the children (for the older ones to go to college, for them all to get good grades, etc...) even though she hasn't seen them in ages. I don't know what (if anything) she is going to do, yet, though.

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  4. Awww, this! So beautiful! It made me cry a little there at the end. The second time through too, lol! ;)

    It's nice to hear more from Cherry too, and understand her better. This definitely puts her in a softer light, huh?

    Awww, that ending! I love the way you put it together, with the lines reflecting back between the stories. Awesome!

    And your airport! Wow! And the inside of the airplane! So cool!

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  5. Thanks, Laura... don't know if I should really feel pleased about making someone cry, but... :)

    Glad you liked it, I did tried to do the lines like that to link the stories a bit more because at first they don't seem very connected.

    The plane interior is from here: http://www.modthesims.info/download.php?t=231546
    - but I couldn't use the lot the creator made as it crashed my game big-time - I couldn't load any lot while it was placed in the hood!

    I guess I have something else that clashes with it, so I ended up using some of the parts from it to build the plane interior in a sideroom of my airport :) Will probably keep it that way, when I finish decorating the airport.

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Thanks for reading and commenting!