On the Outside of Everyone



Allie Phoenix is 44; Jimmy Phoenix is 45; Nicky is 17.
Helen Cooke is 60; Grace Gold is 51; Kaylynn Reamon is 57; Douglas Centowski is 56.

Sept 2025


From her front window, Allie Phoenix watched her son Nicky get on the school bus.


As much as Allie enjoyed the summer, in the past she'd always been relieved when school started back.  But now, with only one teenager at home, she found herself wishing for the busy days back when her children were younger.  Anna was at college now, and all too soon Nicky would leave home too, and her days as as a hands-on parent would end.

She watched as Melissa came out of the neighbouring apartment, stomping to the bus in her usual sullen way.  She'd seen Anna and Nicky behave like that, plenty of times, when they didn't get their own way, but Melissa seemed to be permanantly sulking over something.

Allie barely knew the family next door, they kept to themselves - or, it might be more accurate to say, Allie and her family weren't part of their social circle.  But she knew about Melissa.  Her half-brother Cory had once been married to Melissa's mother. and Allie knew the girl's background,

She came from a similar background herself.  They were both born of extra-marital affairs, the unintended pieces that were left over when the relationships had fallen apart.


She felt sorry for the girl.  Although the apartments were soundproofed, she still heard the loud arguements between Melissa and her mother, especially in the summer when the windows were open late and the sound carried in the quiet evening air.  Allie had never really known her own mother, and although she grieved for the relationship they'd never had, a small part of her couldn't help but wonder exactly what that relationship would have been like.  Would April have coped any better than Sharla Ruben did, with Allie the living reminder of her own failings?

April.

You've got a lot to answer for, Allie thought.  Not in the least being the latest mess Cory had got himself into.  She didn't know a lot of the details, although Allie knew enough about Cory's troubled past to know that their mother's legacy probably played a big part in it.

She wished she could do something for him, but she didn't know what.  She was a stranger, after all.  She'd never really known the rest of her mother's family.  April and her husband had separated when April had fallen pregnant to Allie's father.



Growing up, all that Allie had were some battered old photos they'd found in her mother's things after she died, to remind her that she had brothers out there somewhere that she'd never even met.

A few years ago, a homeless alcoholic had been hauled into the Redwood City police station, where Allie had been working as a desk sergeant, after some drunken brawl.  She'd never met Cory, but she'd recognised him immediately.  He'd been missing for many months, breaking contact with his family after his disastrous marriage to Sharla had ended.

Allie had kept in touch with Cory's father for a while, although they'd slowly drifted out of contact over the years.  As far as she knew, Cory had gotten his life back on track. Until now.

The bus pulled away from the curb.  With a sigh, Allie turned away from the window, and noticed the light flashing on the phone.  Someone must have left a message while she was in the shower.  She pushed the button and her sister's voice filled the room.   "Hi, Allie, it's Helen... I remembered you saying you had a day off work... I'm going to be in Richmond and so is Grace, and I wondered if you'd like to meet up for lunch... Jami can't make it, but my friend Kaylynn's probably going to be there.  Call me back. 'bye."



Allie grinned to herself.  Helen couldn't have timed it better, to help kick her down mood.  She picked up the phone to call her back.
----

"Lewis called last night," said Grace, as the water took their orders.  "He says they're all enjoying the dorm so far."


"Matthew said much the same last time I spoke to him," said Kaylynn.
"Kaylynn's son is a friend of Lewis," Helen added, to Allie.
Allie nodded.  She'd only met Helen's friend once or twice, and didn't really know anything about her family, although she had heard Grace mention Matthew before.  "I just can't believe that Lewis is even old enough to be at college," she said.
"That'll be Nicky next year," 
"That's the problem," said Allie.  "I'm terrified of him going off to college."
"I was the same with Lewis," said Grace.  "It's a 'youngest child' thing... "
"It's not just that," said Allie.  "Remember, we're talking about Nicky here."  Nicky, who couldn't heat some noodles...


...or even wash his hands ...


...without it turning into a minor disaster.  "I'll be surprised if the place is still standing after a semester or two of him!"
Kaylynn laughed.  "Well, it looked quite sturdy to me."

"Allie, I heard they found your brother," Grace said.
Allie nodded, silently hoping that they didn't press her for details of what had happened.  "Actually, he took himself to the police station, when he heard he'd been reported missing."  That much, she did know.
"That must have been a relief..."


"Wait," Kaylynn said suddenly, "your brother... ?  You're not talking about Cory Green, are you?"
"Yeah," said Allie.  "Cory's my brother.  You know him??"
"He's my neighbour," said Kaylynn.  "His daughter is my son's girlfriend.  I'm surprised I haven't seen you around there."
"We... um... we're not that close." Allie said.
If Kaylynn noticed her uneasiness, she never commented on it.  "But... if Cory's your brother, then... how does that work out?" she asked.  "I mean, if Helen and Grace are your sisters...?"

"Half-sisters," said Allie.  "I have the same father as them.  And Cory and I have the same mother."
"What... was is a second marriage or something?"
"Not exactly... " said Allie, looking at Helen and Grace.


"It's ok," said Helen, "it's no big secret any more."
Grace nodded in agreement.  "It's past history now."
Allie turned back to Kaylynn. "My parents were both married to other people when I was born."
"Oh." said Kaylynn.  "I didn't mean to pry," she quickly added.  "I just wondered how that could work out..."
"It's ok," Allie said.  "Like Grace said, its past history now.  I don't mind talking about it."
Kaylynn nodded.  "I just never realised... I mean, I thought you were just sisters... you know, from one family and all... "


Allie shook her head. "By the time I was born, my mother April had split up with Cory's father, and with my father Ashley, too.  He'd stayed with his wife Becky, Grace and Helen's mother, although he visited us from time to time, or so I'm told.


"Then my mother died when I was still small, and I was raised by foster parents.  My father kept in close contact, although I never actually knew that he was my father.  I never met any of his other kids or anything.


"All I'd been told, was that he was a friend of my mother, that he missed her and it made him less sad, to spend time with her daughter.




"There was probably at least some truth in that, at least I like to think there was"
"But you'd think he would have told you the whole truth," Kaylynn said.  "I mean, he still wanted to be involved in your life.  Why not just let you know he was your father?"

"I can kind of understand why they kept it a secret," Allie said.  "Remember, he was a quite a famous actor, even back then.  You can imagine what the gossip papers would do with an illigitamate child."
"So he was protecting his reputation?"
"To a degree, I guess, but he was also protecting his family, and me, and probably my mother's family too.  None of us needed that kind of attention.  It was better to keep the secret, at least until I was old enough to understand why I shouldn't tell the world."

"So, when did you find out?" Kaylynn asked.
"When I went to college.  My foster parents and my father talked about it, and they decided that now that I was an adult, I should know.


"It wasn't as much of a surprise as they expected.  I think in a way I always suspected something... I mean, I don't exactly get my looks from my mother... ".
"Well, we were surprised!'  said Helen.  "It took a bit of getting used to, the idea that we had another little sister..."

Allie smiled.  When the truth came out, Ashley's wife hadn't wanted anything to do with Allie, and Allie could understand that.  Becky's adult children had followed her lead.  It was only at their father's funeral some years later, that the ice was finally broken.  Ashley's son had seen Allie sitting alone at the back of the church and, after talking briefly to his mother, had invited her to join the rest of her father's family, at the front.  


Later, at the wake, she and her siblings talked for the first time, sharing memories of the father they had all loved, and so their friendship begun.  Becky had never really warmed to her, but they came to at least respect each other, and Allie was now good friends with all of her father's other children.


"You're lucky," Kaylynn told her.  "Matthew's father didn't want anything to do with us after the divorce.  Matthew doesn't remember him, and he's never even met his father's other daughters."
"That's a pity," said Allie, "and you're right, I am lucky"

----

Later that afternoon, with the day off work, Allie started dinner early.  


Jimmy would probably be home earlier than usual, as he was at some journalism conference in the city, rather than the long hours he worked most days, as editor of a popular lifestyle magazine.

She was still in the kitchen when he came in the door.  "Look who I found at the conference," he called out to her.  She turned around to find Douglas Centowski standing behind her.


"What are you doing here?  We don't see nearly enough of you lately!"  Although all his siblings were still in Richmond, Douglas rarely visited any more, now that his parents were both gone.
"Like Jimmy said... I'm in town for the conference."


"You should have called, I would have made something special for dinner or something..."
"I was planning to visit Kyle, but he's working late... something about having no staff at the shop any more or something... anyway, then I bumped into Jimmy, and here I am... hope you don't mind!"
"Of course not!"

They had an enjoyable dinner, catching up on all the family news...


 ... then Allie spent the rest of the evening listening to Jimmy and Douglas talk shop.  She didn't mind, though.  It was nice enough just spending time with her foster brother.


She'd been raised by Douglas's parents, although he and his two elder brothers had all left home before she came to live with them.  She'd still grown up with them, though, thanks to the frequent family get-togethers at their parents' house.  There were three daughters, too, and Allie was particularly close to Ruth, and to April, who had been born a year or so after she had joined their family, and was named after Allie's mother.

It was funny, she thought - for all that she now had good relationships with her sisters, Douglas and his siblings would always be more her brothers and sisters than any of the biological relatives who had become part of her life much later, if at all.

---

She was thinking about it still, the next morning.  Never mind the biological or legal relationships that told her otherwise, the Centowskis had been her real family.  She'd called Gretchen and Orlando Centowski Mum and Dad for as long as she could remember. She'd once asked them why they'd never adopted her, and they said that it was because they hadn't needed to.  They didn't need a legal document to prove that she was their daughter.


That might be true, but as an adult she understood that it was probably more because she'd had a living parent, even if she hadn't known it at the time.  But it also meant that she would have to spend the rest of her life explaining why she had brothers and sisters she wasn't related to, relatives who were strangers, and parents who weren't who you might expect they should be.


Kaylynn was right, Allie was lucky.  She had a huge family... all her half-siblings, from both parents' sides, her foster family... and yet, somehow, all her life, she'd still felt like she was on the outside of everyone.  Having children of her own had helped it a little, but the empty, disconnected feeling was still there.

It was stronger than ever, at times like this.  Because really, how many people find out for the first time that their brother is missing, through work and the newspaper?  And then find out that he's been found again, in the same way?


She wasn't the only one, of course, she did know that.  There were plenty of people like her.  People like Kaylynn's son, with a father and sisters he'd never known.  And Melissa, next door...

She wondered if Melissa ever wondered what it would be like to have two parents who were married to each other, if not now then at least at some time in their lives.


She wondered if April's sons ever wondered about their little sister...


She closed her eyes for a moment, held the picture close, before putting it gently back down on the shelf. 


... you have a lot to answer for...
----

More about Allie's background here

I played the Phoenix family for a few sim-days, and next-to-nothing happened, apart from Jimmy autonomously bringing Douglas Centowski (youngest brother of Kyle, James, etc) home from work. 

Meanwhile, Helen Cooke had rolled the ROS "Night out with the gang" but there was too much happening already in her update to include it there... she invited all her sisters, and her friend Kaylynn (formally Kaylynn Langerak, the maid from Pleasantview - Daniel Pleasant was Matthew's father), and only Jami didn't turn up for the outing.

You'll be seeing more of Allie here in the future, so I decided to put all the bits together here, as a way of explaining Allie's relationships with the various parts of her complicated family.  

4 comments:

  1. Wow, very interesting. I love how you wrote her story.

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  2. I hope that Allie reaches out to Melissa, I'm worried about her. I like how you showed her sulking off to the bus. I feel for Allie in all of this too, it's too bad she didn't get adopted, to give a more finalization to her life and fitting in with a particular family. It was nice seeing things from her point of view, and how she thinks about all of this.

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  3. Wow, Allie really does have a complicated family. Hopefully she'll be able to become closer to them all, when Nicky goes off to college.

    I love how you put Helen's ROS into this update!

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  4. I really get the feeling that she is super lonely. You did a wonderful job at portraying how much the family issues are weighing heavily on her mind. In fact, it reminds me of someone who's in a room full of people and seems to completely alone. I agree with Maisie, I hope Allie reaches out to Melissa in some manner.

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Thanks for reading and commenting!