Cherry Centowski is 38; Talin Vijayakar is 30; David Beare is 9; Alana Beare is 14
Previous updates: Beare Family; Cherry appears in Part One here, and also here.
Cherry had always believed that her life was composed of a string of bad choices. At every key moment, she'd taken the wrong turn, and even her attempts to fix those mistakes had done little more than compound them.
Few of her choices, however, could match the sheer madness of her nine year old son's decision to use Google to navigate himself through the several changes of public transport involved in the journey from Richmond to his grandparents' house in the city, to see her.
On the evening of Christmas Day. On his own. Without telling anyone he was doing it.
"It wasn't my idea," David had said. "Jay said I should do it."
"Who's Jay?" Cherry asked.
"Autumn's boyfriend told you to come see me?"
"Well... he didn't exactly tell me..."
"He kind of told Autumn that if she kept thinking about you she should go see you. But it goes for me too, doesn't it?"
"There's kind of a few differences," Jamie said. "Autumn can drive. And she's an adult."
"So she wouldn't drive me! She said she didn't want to see her, and Dad won't even let me talk about her. If I didn't come on my own, I'd never get here!"
Ok... ok, you're here now," Marla said. "I'm going to phone your father. He must be worried sick about where you are."
As it turned out, Kevin wasn't worried. He hadn't even noticed that David wasn't in his room.
"And we won't be able to take him back tonight," Marla said. "It's snowing too hard. He'll have to stay until tomorrow."
"It's not as bad as - " James started.
"We're taking him home in the morning." Marla said firmly.
"He can sleep in the guest room with Cherry," Talin said. "I'll be fine on the sofa. I think they need to talk."
And so they did, for most of the night.
They finally fell asleep in the very early hours of the morning. When she woke up again, Cherry was surprised at just how right it felt to have a child curled up in her arms again.
---It was late morning when they took David home.
Alana barely said a word when she answered the door, although she didn't really have time to, with David shoving past her to race up to their father.
"Daddy, you were wrong - Mama's really nice! And she does care about us and she wants to see us! You got it all wrong."
Autumn stood up from the sofa.
"Me too," said Thomas, starting for the stairs.
"Go to your room, David." Kevin said.
"But - "
"Go to your room! You're in enough trouble for leaving last night. Don't make it any worse."
"Ok," he sighed. "Can I say goodbye to Mama?"
Kevin shrugged. "You might as well while you can. She's just going to go back to her island and you won't see her again."
"Is that true?" David asked. "Are you just going to leave again?"
So Cherry had to make another choice, one of those terrible decisions that you have to make in a moment, even though you know that you've always made bad choices, and that the impact of this one might well be felt for a lifetime.
"Yes," she said. "Yes, I am going to go back to the island...
...but not for a while. For now, I'm going to stay."
She took extended leave from her job the next day. Things were quiet at this time of year, so they were able to allow her the time immediately.
Talin went back to the island as planned, but only long enough to get leave himself and come back to join her again.
In the meantime, Cherry stayed with family in Richmond, close enough for David to drop in on his way home from school.
After a couple of weeks, just before Talin arrived back, she found a tiny apartment with a deposit she could afford.
They furnished and fitted it out as cheaply as possible, with her parents putting out the call to their large extended family for any surplus furniture or household goods.
David came to see her almost every day now. It was a time of getting to know each other again...
Before long, he was sleeping over... which was exactly what Cherry had hoped would happen when she got one of the few pieces of furniture they'd purchased new, a sofa bed for the small living room.
They couldn't not talk about it now.
"He's told so many lies," said Cherry. "I just don't understand why Kevin would do that."
"You said he wanted a clean break," James suggested. "Maybe that was his way of getting it."
"Pity his clean break didn't include declining child support," Cherry said. "I've barely got anything left after paying for the apartment, and I could only afford that because Autumn has been independent for the last couple of years."
"You've been paying child support?"
... wait, you really did think that, didn't you?"
"Uh... something else Kevin 'forgot' to tell us," said James.
"I did wonder how he and Heather could afford to have more kids on the money he was making from that little shop," Marla said. “I’m sorry,” she added, and James nodded in agreement.
"I guess this just shows how important it is to keep talking to each other,” said Talin, breaking the awkward silence. “It’s so easy to forget that when you’re upset about something.”
Under the table, Cherry squeezed his hand appreciatively. She had worried a lot about how he would respond to the massive changes she was bringing into their lives.
Buying the apartment meant they'd be spending regular periods of time apart in the future. Cherry knew that she could fit her work around the trips back to Richmond.
There would always be paperwork she could do without actually coming into work, and the firm's head office was in Redwood City anyway. She could probably even arrange to work out of there two or three times a year.
Talin's job couldn't be anywhere near as flexible. And even when they could come back together, it wouldn't be just the two of them anymore. Her children would have to come first while she was here, if she was to have any chance of building up a relationship with them again.
To her surprise, Talin not only tolerated the changes, he seemed to enjoy them.
To her surprise, Talin not only tolerated the changes, he seemed to enjoy them.
It was Talin who pointed out that it probably wasn't for David's sake that Alana was walking the boy from school to the apartment. After all, any kid who could find his way from Richmond to the suburbs of Redwood City in a snowstorm on a major holiday didn't need someone to walk him ten minutes across town.
No, Alana had other reasons for being there. All she needed now was an excuse to stick around. So Talin started providing them...
"Do you know anything about this game-thing? I can't get it to work..."
And, of course, the old standby, "It's snowing far too heavily to go home tonight..."
That one worked particularly well in conjunction with the promise of pancakes for breakfast.
There was something surreal about it, Cherry thought - less than a month ago, she thought she'd lost her children forever. But now, here she was, in her pyjamas, cooking pancakes for breakfast for the younger two, in an apartment in Richmond.
It was almost like some strange alternate reality. where she'd left Kevin but never gone to Twikki Island. Where she'd just moved across town and stayed a part of her kids' lives, and they stayed over on weekends, and she made pancakes in the morning and everything was well in the world.
But Cherry wouldn't have that life even if she could change the past. There were some things that she'd found on the island, that were just to precious to give up.
In any case, there was no point in longing for a past that never was... not when you can see reflected in this moment a future that was even better. A time when she'd made up for all the bad choices she’d made, let it go and moved forward. A time with Talin beside her and her children a normal, comfortable part of their lives.
For just a moment, it really seemed like it could be possible.
For that one precious moment, Cherry truly believed that she could make the right choices after all.
Part One of this was a long time ago, both in Sim-time and real time. I never intended to have a ‘part two’ as such, but both the title and the theme fit this update so well, and I went with it.
Gameplay notes: Cherry and Talin previously had a small studio apartment in the city, but I never played them there. I’d just send them on the longest ‘vacation’ I could, and play them at their house on the island. It works quite well – they can’t go to work, of course, but I even came up with a work-round for that. Cherry is a lawyer, she goes to work when she is in the city, and when she’d on the island I have her write articles on Monique’s computer during work hours, and make an income that way. Talin was an island native when they met, so now he works as an entertainer in shows for the tourists – traditional music, fire dancing, acting out local legends, that kind of thing. In game, he makes money from busking. And they do pay child support to Cherry’s kids, as I have a mod installed for that.
In story, the city apartment never existed (or maybe it did and it was a hotel room because she only just got to the point that she could stay with her parents again… ). Now they’ve sold that and bought the apartment in Richmond. The picture at Kyle and Willow’s house is a nod to an earlier idea I had, that they would stay with the Centowskis when they were in town. Back then, Kyle and Willow were empty-nesters and I didn’t play them so much, but now the Newson twins are back with them, I want to be able to play them more often. I wouldn’t be able to when Cherry and Talin were on the island, so they got their own place.
In case you were wondering how Talin really felt about Cherry’s kids…
This story will continue to update throughout the coming sim-year… although I must stop including so many locations in one post – that is the main reason they take so long!