Kyle Centowski is 57; Willow Centowski is 55
Kyle rolled over in bed and looked at the clock, surprised that Willow was still there. "Hey, you're going to be late for work!"
"I'm not going to work today. I barely slept last night," she said.
"Thinking about the kids?"
She nodded. "I need to go talk to Gavin," she said, pulling on her robe.
"I don't think that's going to help. He'll just see it as more interference."
"So what am I supposed to do? Pretend I don't know what you told me last night?"
"I just think - "
"I'm going to go make breakfast," she said, without giving him the chance to finish.
He cautioned her again, before he left for the shop. "Just think about this really hard before you do anything, ok? If we're not careful, we'll just end up making things worse."
Think hard about it? She'd done nothing but think about it, ever since the night before, when he told her what he'd found out from Georgia.
Georgia Newson and her siblings had been Kyle and Willow's foster children for over 10 years. The six children had come from various orphanages and childrens' homes, bought together by Gloria Newson, a wealthy single woman who had adopted them all, then died in an accident shortly after the infant twins Georgia and Garrett had joined the family.
Initially, the children were well provided for by her estate, continuing to live in the family home with a housekeeper and nannies to take care of their practical needs. But a mixture of bad management and outright theft by the managers of Gloria's estate left the children all-but-penniless in little over a year after she died. Anticipating that welfare services would be unlikely to find a foster home for six children together, they'd taken what little money they had left and run away together, eventually ending up in Richmond.
As their funds ran out the two teenagers, Gavin and Ginger, juggled school, part-time work, housekeeping and care of the younger children, as best they could.
Ginger had got a job in the bookstore, and that was how Kyle and Willow came to know the family. Ginger came to trust them enough to open up about their situation, and the Centowskis offered as much practical support as they could.
The eldest of the children, Gavin, resisted right from the start. Maybe it was the fear of being split up into foster care, maybe the experience of losing their mother's fortune in the hands of dishonest and inept managers, but he was deeply suspicious of what he saw as outside interference in their lives.
He insisted that they were ok...
...even as it became increasingly obvious that they weren't.
Ginger, on the other hand, had a more realistic view of what they were and weren't capable of.
She was grateful for whatever help they could get, creating a rift between the teenagers that, even years later, still hadn't fully healed.
It eventually became clear that, even with support, the children couldn't cope alone. Gavin angrily blamed Ginger for unnecessarily involving the Centowskis, when they learned that welfare services had become aware of their situation, but Ginger maintained that it had been the right thing to do. They weren't coping, whether he could see it or not. And, sad as she was by the prospect of losing her younger siblings, she knew that they'd all have far better chances in life in care than they would with Gavin and Ginger struggling to provide for them.
Gavin, however, wasn't convinced. And he certainly wasn't interested in listening to Kyle and Willow, when they arrived at the apartment that evening. But when he finally agreed to hear them out, they offered a solution that even Ginger hadn't anticipated. They had involved welfare services because they wanted to foster the six children themselves. With their own children moved out, they had the the space in their house,and they had the resources, to provide a stable home for them all.
The children loved the idea. They settled in well, and with their needs provided for, they blossomed.
Bad grades and bad behavior improved...
...and they went on to develop close relationships with their new 'parents'.
All except Gavin. He only lived with the Centowskis for less than a year before going to college, and he never got over his initial resentment of their 'interference'. He eventually graduated from college with a business degree, almost immediately got a good job, and married his college girlfriend.
Ginger also married straight out of college. Now with a young daughter, she lived nearby and stayed in close contact.
Their younger sister Gabriella had recently graduated. She'd moved in with her boyfriend in the city, and was working on establishing her career as a classical musician.
Gallagher was in college, working towards a biology degree in the hope of becoming a doctor.
The young twins Georgia and Garrett were still in high school.
Gavin had never stopped believing that he could care for his siblings given the chance, and proving that became the goal of his life. Soon after he married, he applied for custody of the twins. And, rather than force them to choose between their brother and the only parents they could remember, Kyle and Willow made it clear that they were not opposed to the idea.
At first, they seemed happy with Gavin and his wife, but as time passed, it became clear things weren't working out. Gavin was a very exacting person, and the teens found it hard to adapt to his more restrictive rules.
Georgia went to work for Kyle in the bookstore, against Gavin's wishes, and often talked of how they wished they could move back to the Centowski home. Both she and Garrett came to resent Gavin for 'forcing' them to live with him, and were very open about how they felt. Which only made Gavin restrict them further. No doubt the resulting tension contributed to Gavin's wife's decision to move out, and the couple had lived apart for some months now.
But yesterday, Kyle had found out probably the most disturbing news of all. Gavin no longer had a job. He'd been fired last spring, after taking too many days off because, according to Georgia, he simply didn't feel like going to work. He'd promised the kids that he'd get another job over the summer, and in the meantime, they'd lived off their dwindling savings and the income from the teens' summer jobs.
But now summer was over, school was back in, and Gavin still hadn't found work. The day before, Georgia had gone to Kyle to ask for a loan, knowing that they would fall short when the monthly bills came in, now that she and Garrett could no longer work full-time.
They'd give her the loan, of course. That went without saying. But Willow couldn't leave it just at that. Just like the first time, all those years ago, she suspected that helping from afar ultimately wouldn't be enough.
And, just like the first time, the biggest battle would be to get Gavin to see that. Maybe he would surprise her. Maybe he did have some plan to get them out of their mess. But she couldn't know that unless she talked to him, and whether he actually would talk... well, she could see Kyle's point this morning. But it wasn't enough to stop her.
Interference or not, she had to at least try.
I've tried to create some reasonably plausible back-story to explain how six kids - who would already be known to welfare services via their previous adoptions - managed to 'slip through the net' and end up living completely alone after their mother's death.
The story with the Centowskis played out pretty much in-game as it does in the story, with them befriending all the children after coming to know Ginger in the shop. They visited frequently, cleaned and cooked autonomously, and I eventually moved the kids into their home because it was all-but-impossible to play them without an adult in the household. All the older pictures here were taken in-game, back when it happened (with a bit of cropping and the like) - I've decided it works to make flashback pictures smaller because it hides some of the flaws in them :)
Gavin's estranged wife is Aaron Green's daughter April, and I had intended to tell this story way back when I introduced his family... but Cory/Sam/etc kind of hijacked the update. Gavin and April's story will develop more over the next few sim-months, so I needed to get the backstory in here...