Cory Green is 49; Allie Phoenix is 44
End of another ordinary day... Well, that was how it usually felt, as Cory went through the familiar routine of closing the shop. But today... well, it was ordinary for pretty much everyone else he had crossed paths with today. But Cory wondered if life would ever feel ordinary for him again.
People had been surprised to see him here today, so soon after the funeral. It was a small town, and people were quick to offer their condolences and whatever other platitudes they felt might help... he lived a good life... at least it was quick...
Yeah, it had been quick. He'd been gone before the ambulance even arrived. Just like that, a life ends. Not even a chance to say goodbye.
No, that was wrong. There'd been plenty of chances to say goodbye, Cory just hadn't wanted to see them. Funny how you can see everything with such clarity, after it's over. After its too late to have the conversations that you should have been having while there was still time.
Kyle had tried to convince him to take more time off, but what would he do with more time? Sit and think? The last thing that Cory needed to do right now was to actually think.
He'd always been a bit skeptical - even mocking - of people who talked about the 'meaning of life'. But now, more and more, he found himself wondering what was the point of it all. You live, you work, you form relationships... then you die. Say goodbye to all the people you ever cared about... and then, eventually, they do the same. No one ever sees the story to the end.
Cory had no idea if this was normal. He'd never lost anyone this close before... well, there's been his mother, but he could hardly take that as an example of normal grief. All he knew was that he had to pull himself together, and fast. He had a family to think of, hell, he had a baby on the way. Another child he'd love, and watch grow... and ultimately have to say good bye to.
No... no, stop thinking like that! He wondered he should make an appointment to talk to his therapist about it. While he doubted she understood the meaning of life any more than he did, she might at least be able to tell him that he wasn't going mad. Or, that he was.
He stepped back out into the shop... and stopped in his tracks.
When he spoke, it wasn't a question but rather a confirmation of what had been obvious to him, the minute Allie's eyes met his.
"You've found Melissa."
"She's in hospital," Allie told him, after Kyle had ushered them out into the office. "She's been sick, but she's going to be ok.""In hospital..." he repeated. "In Redwood City?"
"No, she got a lot further than that. That's part of why it took a while for them to find out who she was - she wasn't giving her real name to anyone."
"But... she's going to be ok, right?"
"Yes," said Allie, "She is. She had pneumonia, and she's really run down... I don't know what she's been living on the past few months, but the poor kid's all skin and bones," Allie said, hoping she could spare Cory some of the shock she'd felt when she'd seen Melissa. "There's another problem, too. She's refusing to go back home, she won't even speak to her mother and stepfather... not that it's really an issue, because Sharla and Joshua are refusing to take her back."
"They don't want her living with them any more. They say she's out of control, she's disruptive, her behavior is starting to affect the baby..."
"The baby? How can the baby even - "
"Cory, calm down. I'm just telling you what they said."
"But what about Melissa? What happens to her now?"
"Well, there's still her father. David and Ruth aren't too thrilled with the idea of taking in the daughter he had while he was cheating on her, but they'll do it as a last resort."
"But... wait, if they've already talked about all this, then... you didn't just find her today, did you?"
"We've known for a few days," Allie admitted.
"You promised me you'd tell me as soon as you had some news!"
"Cory, your father had just died. You had enough on your mind, I wanted to wait at least until after the funeral. I'm sorry, but I don't regret it. Especially as its given me time to find out where things stand for Melissa's future."
"So where do they stand?" he asked, after a few moments. "She moves in with her father?"
"Maybe... although I've had another idea."
"What idea?" Cory said.
"This is only a suggestion," Allie said. "It's your decision, but I thought maybe you might think about fostering her."
"Me...? You really think... "
"You'd need to go through a process with Social Services to become foster parents, the same thing Kyle and Willow did to get custody of the Newson kids... it's not that complicated, is it?" she asked Kyle.
'Well, no, but... " Kyle started, then stopped.
"They... they screen you. They look into your history, your... um... sorry, Cory, but I don't know that... " He trailed off awkwardly.
"Yeah... that could be a problem," Allie admitted.
"Wait, one minute you say I should try, then - "
"Cory, its just an idea," said Allie. "It's true, they may not think you're suitable, but Melissa needs a home and there might be a way around all that. I really think you should give some serious thought to trying. I just think it'd be better she goes with you, than with David and Ruth."
"Why?" He said. "I mean, why are you even suggesting this? To protect your sister's marriage?"
"No, I'm suggesting it for Melissa."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, David talked about last resorts, but you talked about being her father. It's not hard to see what I mean."
This is only the first part of the update as I originally planned it, but these storytelling ones take a long time to write, and even longer to take the pictures. Maybe this is the best way to keep the momentum up with them - drip-feed them in pieces :)
Melissa was sick in-game when she ran away, I'll explain how I got her back and how things worked out in-game, when we see her again.