Kyle Centowski is 56; Willow Centowski is 54; Alex Centowski is 32; AJ Pitts is 35.
(Sorry... slightly delayed due to the fact that I had to write it twice, Blogger ate the first version)
Kyle barely spoke on the way to James' house, although he had seemed visibly more relaxed when they left the hospital. After confirming that no one was home, he found the spare key and let them into the house. Willow paused as she poured glass of water from the kitchen tap. She'd never want to live right in the city like this, but the view was impressive all the same.
Behind her, Kyle was studying the family pictures on the mantle over the fireplace. She joined him, tensing a little as he picked one up to look more closely. James and Kyle with their father.
"At the cabin, a couple of years ago," he said, with a sigh. "God, I miss those trips."
She could see where this was going to go. Probably, there was no avoiding it right now, and nor should they try to, really... but she only wished that they could have that conversation after she'd had some sleep. She wasn't sure that she could handle it on top of everything else right now.
She looked at the other family pictures on the mantle. Among them were several of Kyle and James from around the same time... but, she realised, very few of their younger brother with them. "Its a pity Douglas never went to the cabin more often," she said, grabbing the chance to steer the conversation in a different direction.
"Douglas isn't really the cabin type," Kyle said. "No heated towel rails."
Willow laughed. "You're right, he's not really into roughing it, is he?"
"You know, right from when he was a teenager, or maybe even earlier, I knew that Alex and I were never going to be close the way Dad and I were," Kyle said thoughtfully, "but I had kind of hoped we could at least be like Dad and Douglas." He set the picture down carefully. "They were close in their own way, despite their differences... I thought Alex and I could be like that. I never imagined that he'd end up hating me."
"He doesn't hate you."
"You never heard the conversation we just had."
"Is that what it was - a conversation?"
"I don't know what it was," he said, "but it wasn't pretty."
"Maybe you both needed to get everything out."
"Maybe... " he said, although he didn't sound convinced.
"Come on, lets just get some sleep," she said, relieved that they had, at least, managed to avoid talking about his father for now. "We can try to work it all out later... "
Alex managed to get to the hospital cafe just before they closed the counter. He had forgotten all about lunch after the run-in with his father, and it was only when evening came that his stomach reminded him of it. Sitting in the dimly-lit cafe in the quiet, he welcomed the solitude after a very rough day.
Or, he did until AJ spotted him across the near-empty room, waving as he filled his coffee cup from the machine. He set it down heavily on the table across from Alex. If he noticed the coffee splashing over the sides, he wasn't bothered by it. "I heard about Jane and the baby," he said, sitting down. "Any news?"
"Not since this morning."
"I kinda wondered," said AJ, "because you look so miserable... "
"... and you look way too happy," said Alex. Hearing about whatever put his cousin in such a good mood had to be preferable to AJ digging out the details of his fight with his father. "What's up?"
"I so nailed it," AJ said proudly.
"You nailed what?"
"Cutting open someone's intestine and taking out the bad bits."
"That's disgusting," said Alex. Suddenly he wasn't so hungry any more.
"It might be disgusting, but I nailed it." AJ grinned. "This should keep Dad happy for, oh, another two or three weeks, at least."
"What do you mean?"
"Dad thinks that just because I don't want to spend 48 hours a day at work, I don't take my job seriously enough. So every so often, I have to do something awesome to prove that I do. That was this month's awesomeness."
"But shouldn't you be trying to be, um, awesome all the time?" Alex asked. "I mean, you're a doctor. A surgeon. You save lives... "
"Ninty percent of the time I'm not saving lives, I'm doing minor routine stuff and, yeah, that makes a difference for the patients, and I'll give them 100% at the time, but I'll leave the real lifesaving to the people who actually get a kick out of that kind of thing. The only reason I'm doing this surgery gig at all is to keep Dad happy... "
"But... why are you even doing this job if you don't like it?"
"I never said I didn't like it. I just don't want to do so much that I stop liking it... "
Alex looked utterly confused. "But... how can you like something and not try to be the best at it??"
"Don't you ever do anything that you don't put one hundred percent effort into?"
"No," said Alex. "Why would I?"
"Because its, fun, or worthwhile, or... a lot of reasons. You know, you are allowed to do things and not be perfect at them."
"But what's the point, then, if you can't do it properly? Why waste time on it?"
"You really don't get it, do you?" AJ shook his head in disbelief. "That's where you and your Dad are way too much alike."
"We're nothing alike," Alex said.
"Yeah, you are," said AJ. "It always has to be all or nothing. Neither of you are happy to settle for less than one hundred percent. You'd rather throw something away than just be average. I really think that's why your Dad nearly drove himself crazy trying to follow his father. He had to be the perfect son. All or nothing, and he picked all..."
... and you picked nothing.
The words were never spoken, but somehow they still hung awkwardly in the air between the two men.
"Look, I need to get back to work," AJ said suddenly. "Give Jane my love."
Alex nodded distractedly as AJ stood up. He sat alone in the deserted cafe for a long time after he had gone.
It was only when his phone rang that he finally left, quickly, to get back to his wife.
A phone call bought Kyle and Willow back to the hospital too, all too soon.
They'd slept, but not enough...
... not enough to ready them for more waiting...
... well into the night...
Kyle woke up with Willow shaking his arm. "Hey, wake up, Granddad."
He stared at her, realising that there was something significant about what she'd just said, but unable to quite grasp what it was.
"Jane had the baby," she said. "It's a boy, and they're both fine."
"The... what? A boy?" he muttered, too sleepy to really make sense of it.
Willow smiled. "I'm going to get some some coffee," she said. "You look like you could use some too... "
After she'd gone, Kyle fumbled for his glasses, looked at his watch. 10.35pm. How long had he slept for? Not nearly long enough. Willow's announcement was sinking in now. A boy. They were both fine. Good news. Very good news.
"I heard about the baby," Kyle said, when he finally found his voice. "Congratulations."Alex nodded. "I... um, I mean - "
"Your mother just went to get coffee. I'll leave if you want to wait here." Kyle started for the door, but Alex put a hand on his arm to stop him.
"No Dad, wait. I wasn't looking for Mum. I wanted to talk to you."
"Yeah. I... I mean we, Jane and I, we talked about this before but... I mean if its ok with you... we want to name the baby after Granddad."
He paused but, when Kyle didn't respond, he went on. "We just thought it would be fitting, you know, even more so now, with him born today and - "
"What do you mean... today?" Kyle asked, looking at his watch again. "It's not... its only the 21st, it's only... 10.35... " But even as he spoke, he realised that it shouldn't still be 10.35...
"Dad, your watch must have stopped," Alex said gently. "It's just before 2am, on... "
"... on the 22nd," Kyle finished.
The 22nd. November 22nd...
"It's pretty mind-blowing, isn't it? I mean, who would have thought, a year ago... " Alex's voice seemed to come from a very long way away.
A year ago...
A year ago today, his father died.
The implications of it all hit him so hard, that it felt like a physical punch. For a moment, he couldn't even breathe. He'd spent the past few weeks trying as hard as he could to avoid today... trying to distract himself in every possible way from the overwhelming sense of dread that filled him, every time he thought about it. And now... the baby. Alex's baby, born today.Who would have thought...
"Dad? Hey, Dad, are you ok?" Alex's voice pulled him back to the present. At loss for words once again, he could only stare at his son. Alex smiled. "Come on," he said. "It's time you met your new grandson."
Title from "The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics.
Ever since I realised that Jane was due around the same month that Kyle's father died the previous sim-year, I had the idea to do something like this, but it really came together with that song. I've known the song for years but I heard it on the radio recently and the lines "I know that I'm a prisoner to all my father held so dear/I know that I'm a hostage to all his hopes and fears" just jumped out at me - this really is Kyle's song.
Although the next part is written as a son thinking about his relationship with his father, it works equally well as a father thinking about his son... and the last verse gave me the ending to this post. I think the pictures in the post work well without any words, but if they had words, they'd be very similar to the last verse of the song.
All in all, it gives me a nice conclusion to Kyle's story. Or at least, to this part of Kyle's story since, like real life, life in my hood goes on without a visible conclusion :)
You have to suspend disbelief on at least one of the pictures of Kyle with the baby... lol... I kept wanting to say, its a newborn, hold its head!! But in the end, with the look on his face and the little hand reaching out, the picture was too good not to use :)
Btw, Jane was kind enough to produce a boy for me, but I would have been very tempted to exit without saving if it were a girl as the story wouldn't work nearly as well that way :) This stands as one of the few sim birth posts where you don't see the mother at all so, by way of apology to Jane, here she is with the new arrival:
No, they're not having any more. Ever.
Baby Orlando is special in another way, in that he is the first baby to be born only in the remade hood... the first character to exist only in this version and not the old one... so its kind of appropriate that we made a big deal here about his arrival. :)