Not Even Close



July 2024

Kyle Centowski is 56; Willow Centowski is 54

(Note: this takes place before/simultaneously to the previous update - because having rearranged my posting order, that's the only way I can get around the fact that the characters in the two updates are closely related, but each seem to have no idea of the dramas the other is experiencing.)

So it was summer now, warm even in the late evening.  It had barely been spring when he had left.  Kyle found the changes disorientating - the season; the house down the road that had been painted while he was away; the fact that his daughter and her family had suddenly, inexplicably, moved into his house; the fact that his son wasn't talking to him anymore.



He went walking a lot, wandering around town with no particular goal or destination.  He told them it helped him think, but in reality the walks had quite the opposite effect - he invariably came back feeling even more confused than he had when been when he left.  But even that was better than the tension he felt at home.


They had a nice, tidy phrase for it, back at the hospital - 'feelings of impending doom'.  Maybe 'doom' was a bit much for what he was anticipating.  Feelings of impending... loss? Seperation?  Rejection, dissolution, abandonment?  He had a hundred words for it, but none of them were quite the right one.  And in the end, the words didn't really matter.  The outcome would be the same.

He had talked with Willow at the hospital, of course.  They'd said their apologies, made their promises.  It had all seemed so hopeful, when you're out of the situation that got you into the mess.  Actually putting the promises into practice, back it the real world, isn't so easy.


Where do you even start?  When so much has happened, when you've hurt each other, and you've hurt yourselves, how do you even start to close the rift.  The tension was building, every day, just like it had been before.  It was just a matter of time before one of them reached the point where they couldn't stand it any more.


Late one night, Kyle realized that he had come to that point.

----

Although she'd pretended to be asleep, Willow was awake when Kyle got up from the bed and pulled on his clothes.  She'd been awake for some time, as she was most nights.  There was a time when they would have talked, sometimes all night, if sleep evaded them both.  Those times seemed a very distant memory now.



She'd had a choice.  He made that clear, right from the first time he'd seen her at the hospital - there would be no blame, no games, no holding her hostage with the fear that he'd harm himself again.  He would respect her choice.  But after the weeks of missing him, and fearing for him, and just wanting him back again, what else could she do, but choose to stay?  It was only when he came home again, that she became painfully aware of all the reasons she'd wanted to leave.




There had to be a way out of this.  A way that didn't involve blowing their marriage and their lives apart.  A way to reach him, to teach him to trust her again.  She didn't expect him to be suddenly happy.  She didn't even need him to be the person that he used to be.  She just wanted the chance to get to know the person that he was now.



Somehow, she knew that she had to make a decision, now, tonight, rather than let this go on any longer.  Perhaps in a way, she was as responsible as Kyle for this rift between them.  He wasn't the only one who'd kept his feelings to himself for too long. 

When she finally turned away from the window, she knew what she had to do. 

She found Kyle sitting on the floor of his office, lining up all his books in neat rows.  “What are you doing?” she asked.



 “Tidying up.  This place is a mess.”
“You can do that during the day.”




He got up from the floor.  “Do you know where the key to the shop is?  I want to go there.”
“What, now?!”  It was the last thing she'd been expecting.
He nodded.
“It’s 4am!”



“I need to do this… now, before I have the chance to change my mind.  Do you have the key?”
"I don't know that it's a good idea to - "
"I'm not going to do anything stupid, if that's what you're afraid of.  I promise.  I just want to see the place again, ok?"
She thought for a moment, then said, “Ok, give me five minutes to dress…”
“You’re coming?”
“Of course I’m coming,” she said.  “I’m not letting you do something like this on your own”.

She hurried to get dressed, and to get the key, with the broken chain that she’d tried to fix but couldn’t.  She handed it to him at the shop door, and he just stood, looking at it for a long moment, before he put it in the lock and opened the door.

He looked around in silence, picked up a book or two, ran his finger along the shelf.  “They need to dust more often,” he said.



Willow didn't reply, although she wanted to say that, all things considered, if the only problem he could find here was a little dust, then they weren’t doing too badly. 

She followed him as he walked slowly into the office.
“That night…” he said, after looking around,  “Is this where you found me?”
Willow nodded.  You were lying here.  You had your phone in your hand.”
“Had I called anyone?”
“No.  Were you going to?”
“I don’t remember.” 

He wandered over to the corner of the office, looking slowly around bits and pieces the desk… the pile of papers in one corner… the picture of his parents that no one had moved since his father had been there.  A pay schedule caught his eye.  He examined it more closely.  “Who’s Samantha Bradshaw?” he asked.




“Someone Cory hired.”
“Cory hired more staff?”
“He had to... I mean, with your father gone, then you, and Autumn going soon – “
“Autumn's leaving?”
“She finished high school... she's got other plans now.”
Kyle looked completely bewildered.
“It’s been over seven months, Kyle, things change.  People move on..." Willow said gently.

He didn’t reply.  He didn’t even look at her as he strode briskly past and out into the main part of the shop.  She followed him out, wanting desperately to say something, but too afraid of how he’d respond.  So instead, she just stood there and watched him, feeling the rift widening as the minutes ticked away.




----

The sun was coming up when they got home.  He started toward the stairs, then stopped.  “Um… thanks.  For… you know… for coming.”
Willow nodded, and watched as he turned away, more aware than ever of the distance between them. 
“Kyle, wait!” 
He stopped, waited while she fumbled for the words.  In the end all she could come out with was “Are you ok?”
He laughed dryly.  “When was the last time I was ok?”


“I wouldn’t know,” she said. “You never talk to me.”
He looked at the ground for a moment, then looked up at her and said softly, "I don't know what you want me to say."
"I don't care what you say, just talk to me," she pleaded.  "Just... I don't know... just tell me anything... tell me why you wanted to go to the shop tonight..."


He shrugged.  "I just wanted to know how I'd feel.  I just needed to see it again, before - " He stopped abruptly.
"Before what?"
He didn't answer. 
“Before, what, Kyle?  Just tell me!" Willow half-sobbed.  "I don’t understand... at the hospital you were so positive… you even seemed happy, for a while… then you came home and everything changed… “



“No, nothing changed,” said Kyle.  “Don’t you see, that’s the problem.  Nothing’s changed, not for me, anyway.  I don’t know what I expected… like maybe I’d come home and everything would miraculously fall into place… but it didn’t."  He shook his head.  "Maybe James was right.  Maybe I was in too much of a hurry to leave the hospital.“
"Do you want to go back?"
"No... I mean, not unless I have to, and I don't think I have to... I don't want it to come to that... but... I can't stay in Richmond, either... there's too much here, it's too confusing... "


"What are you saying?"  She took a step back, leaning against the desk for support.  "You're not... Are you leaving?"
"I have to," he said, staring at the ground.  "I don't know what else I can do."

Willow couldn't answer.  She'd been so hurt, all those weeks ago, because he hadn't tried to stop her from going.  But this was what it felt like to be on the other side - all the reassurances, all the promises, all felt like just empty platitudes as she faced the sickening realization that not only was there probably nothing that she could say or do to change his mind, but that she really had no right to try.




He finally broke the agonising silence. “I’m so scared,” he said.
“So am I.”



----
Title from "Not Even Close" - Tim Finn

(I've see people match up songs to their blog entries but haven't done it until this point... this one is possibly even a little more pessamistic than my story, but the general feeling is right and I couldn't get it out of my head when I was writing this... must be something about Kyle, I've got one for his next entry, too... :) )

... so I played the Centowski house, and some gameplay stuff happened... and for their update I ended up ignoring it all in favour of storytelling stuff :)  In a way, it was gameplay-inspired, in that I was prompted to write it by the last picture, which was an autonomous hug.  I really wanted to use this picture, and to create some kind of in-story parallel to the mood and circumstances in which it happened. 

I took the picture during the play-session in which Kyle overdosed.  I'd sent him to the shop, and gone through the nerve-wracking gameplay of actually having Kyle die and Ashley plead with the Grim Reaper.  I then had to take the final picture in the blog entry... and that one picture really drove me mad!  I had a clear idea in my head of what I wanted, but it just wouldn't work... 

I tried various animation pose-boxes and tools to get Kyle to do the death animation, but it took ages to find one in which he would lie 'dead' long enough for me to pause the game and take the picture.  Then the shop door kept closing at the wrong moment (tip: if you want to take a picture through a door frame, delete the door and put in a matching arch!  Only took about 5 attempts for me to work this out... lol... ).  And then the light was wrong... in the end, along with the sheer frustration of it all, I must have watched one of my favorite sims 'die' about 10 times, and I felt pretty wrung-out (I imagine Kyle wasn't much happier with the night's events, either :)  ).

I've got the Community Lot Time mod, so when I'd finally finished, I sent Kyle home, and played out the night at his house.  It was sunrise when he got back, and Kyle immediately went to Willow when he arrived, and autonomously hugged her.  They're a demonstrative couple at the best of times, but its usually romantic gestures... somehow in the context of the story, it was all the more poignant that he picked only a friendly hug.  

It was a big awwww moment at the time... especially given that I knew what was coming next.  They'd only just finished hugging when I queued the action for Kyle to "find own place" and move out of the house for the duration of his hospital stay.


I felt soooo brutal!

Back in the story, this update might have been much the same even without that picture, as I figured realistically, its not going to be easy for Kyle to put his life back together, and it'll take time (in-game, it took longer than I expected to get him out of red aspiration, too).  So this storyline will be ongoing, although as a kind of a backdrop to the other things that will happen this round.  I'll also fit in the gameplay stuff I've left out of here, as the round goes on...

5 comments:

  1. Oh, wow...I guess Kyle has to sort himself out and everything but I'm just feeling so awful for Willow. She's got to feel completely helpless right now.

    I tried various animation pose-boxes and tools to get Kyle to do the death animation, but it took ages to find one in which he would lie 'dead' long enough for me to pause the game and take the picture

    Were you using Freezer Clock? I find that so helpful in getting Sims to just stop at exactly the right time.

    And thank you for the tip on the doorway! I was trying to do that just the other day actually and ended up giving up! I'll have to try that next time.

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  2. Carla, I was using the freezer clock, but I still couldn't to get him to lie still long enough to pause the game and/or freeze him!

    For most of the animations, the instant the sim finishes the death animation (ie is completely lying on the ground), they immediately bounce up and either reset or restart the animation... they don't even stop moving... can kind of understand that, I wouldn't want to stay dead any longer than I had to, either :)

    The door thing was one of my rare instances of discovering something genuinely useful :) Hope it helps.

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  3. Oh and their "happy pictures" hanging in the background! Isn't that always the case?

    I'm scared for him too! She must be terrified! I see him needing to get away from all this though, so I hope it's the right move. Awww, that hug at the end! Love is such a beautiful and complex thing, even if a couple isn't technically "together". I loved this!

    Oh yes, ditto Carla - I was going to mention the freezer clock too!

    Yay, you've caught the soundtrack bug! And the storytelling bug too ;) See, inspiration comes from all kinds of things.

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  4. Poor Willow, after everything that happened, now Kyle is leaving too. But he really has to sort himself out, only then he can get his life back together.

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  5. Laura, thanks, glad you liked it! And, yeah, I've caught all kind of bugs from this... lol... another one would be the 'real-life stuff, whatever, blog needs attention' bug :)

    See above comment re the freezer clock - what I really needed (to use with either the clock or the pause button) was a way to put the game into extreme slow motion.

    Tanja, yeah, he does need to sort himself out before he can move forward... when I was writing this one, I felt really sorry for both of them, but especially Willow, I think, because at least Kyle made the decision this time, while like Carla said, Willow seems helpless.

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Thanks for reading and commenting!