Three Rivers 21.1

Twenty-first Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: The Dos are a game-generated family, living in another beautiful home by TheKalinotr0n.

21.  Healing Past Wounds


Before the girls came home from school, Debra Do liked to walk through the house, sensing the mood in every room, filling each, as much as possible, with her own peace. She called  this ritual “Prepare.”

Her daughters, each of them, would bring home backpacks stuffed with their own issues just waiting to be triggered: might as well have a clean space in which to receive them.


“Let’s unpack it,” Debra liked to say to her elder daughter, Kaylyn.

“Oh, Ma. Leave it packed. It’s too gross to look at,” Kaylyn would say.


But Debra would insist: “Tell me about it. You don’t have to spill it all at once. A little at a time will do. Don’t just leave it there, festering inside of you with all the old hurts.”

Debra, Kaylyn, and Nyla, the younger daughter, had plenty of old hurts. The death of her father when she was seven spun itself through Debra’s core, so deep that it was a part of her, and she knew, each time someone left, that the terror of abandonment would awaken.

When Kaylyn’s father left in the middle of Kaylyn’s second year in grade school, Debra steeled herself to be strong for her daughter, for she knew what it was like when a father disappeared. Death or desertion, it hardly mattered to a child. All the while, as she was there to be both mother and dad for Kaylyn, her own heart split. Echoes of past pain seared her. You can die of a broken heart, she read, and so, out of her desperate love for Kaylyn, she meditated. She practiced mindfulness. She did yoga. She went to grief therapy. She pounded pillows. She tended plants. She baked batch after batch of cookies: chocolate, marzipan, French vanilla-cinnamon oat, rose water. And one day, her heart stopped aching. She found she could breathe a full breath without it catching.

That was when she shifted her attention back to her daughter. That was when she began the ritual of “Prepare,” and when, every day after Kaylyn came home from school, she’d ask, “What have we got to unpack today?”

One day, she didn’t even need to ask.

“Ma, let’s unpack it,” said Kaylyn, and she launched into a litany of complaints against girls who snubbed her, boys who laughed at her, and teachers who piled on the homework and made snide comments when kids complained.


“It’s tough when you feel alone,” Debra said.

“I hate it,” said Kaylyn.

“How do you feel at this moment?” Debra asked.

“At this moment?” replied Kaylyn. “All right, I guess.”

And Debra was rewarded with one of her greatest joys: the sight of her beautiful daughter, smiling.

“Ma, I’ve got calculus homework. You think you could help me we’re done eating? You like calculus, right?”


Nyla, her younger daughter, was a greater challenge. She seldom showed her deepest feelings.

Debra understood this. When pain goes that deep, it stays hidden, coiled around the heart or buried in the marrow.


Debra and Nyla shared the same pain. Debra had met Nyla’s father when Nyla was five. They met at yoga class. Debra always laughed that a Marine would take yoga.

“Body and mind,” said Stefan, Nyla’s father.

They married within a year, and then Stefan was deployed for six months overseas.

He never returned.

Having been through grief before didn’t make it easier, Debra discovered. Each time was different. This time, she felt it on so many levels. Her own fear of abandonment was triggered. Her anger at Kaylyn’s father reasserted itself. And when she wrapped her arms around little Nyla, she felt her own body tighten in grief, remembering the death of her own father. How can you be there to support a child when your own life is shattered in pain, once again? Scars hurt every bit as much as living tissue, she realized.

They got through it. Sometimes, she thought that Nyla was the one who decided to be strong for her.


Nyla was a storyteller, even from early childhood, and whenever she suspected that her adoptive mother was hurting, she would launch into a tale. Most often, the stories were tragic, and as mother and daughter felt themselves wrapped in the story’s shroud, the warmth they shared would slowly melt the blocks of ice within.

Lately, Nyla had begun to tell hero’s tales. Debra wondered where her younger daughter learned the pattern of the hero’s journey. Does it lay so deeply within us that when we’re called to draw from those reserves of strength we come to find that path engrained in the code of our imagination?


“The girl had five ghosts,” Nyla said this night, as she finished her story. “And each had its own powers, and they followed the girl wherever she went so that she could call on them whenever she needed them! And never once did they ever abandon her.”

“Now that’s a fine story,” said Debra. “And with that, I think it’s time for bed for one storyteller, at least.”


Nyla hugged her big sister goodnight. This was what the “Prepare” ritual was for, so that, before laying down for sleep each night, they could feel this warmth. Debra clung to the faith that each time their day’s journey led them here, something healed inside.


In the middle of the calculus tutorial, while Debra explained some of the finer points of infinite series to Kaylyn, Nyla returned with a bowl of chips.


“It’s your bedtime, Squirt,” said Kaylyn.

“I can’t sleep when I’m hungry,” said Nyla.

“Bed after snack,” said Debra.


Kaylyn tucked in her little sister when the calculus lesson was over and the chips had been eaten.

Debra and her older daughter watched a movie together, avoiding romance and opting, instead, for a Hercule Poirot mystery.

“I like that crafty Belgian dude,” Kaylyn said.

“I like Christie’s sense of moral justice,” added Debra. “What a safe world she wrote.”

Kaylyn laughed. “Safe? Somebody always dies! Usually several somebodies!”

“But justice always comes,” replied Debra. “The mystery’s always solved, and justice comes, and everybody heals and moves on. That’s a tidy world.”

“Can I sleep in your bed tonight?” asked Kayln.

“Sure,” said Debra. She’d read article after article about the dangers of co-sleeping with older children, but finally she decided screw it. There were times when a body just needed to hear another body’s breath beside it in the dark of night, and she wasn’t about to deny that to either of her daughters just because some of the latest psychologists said it led to chronic insomnia or increased anxiety.

In the middle of the night, Debra woke as the moon shone through the bedroom window. Kaylyn was breathing deeply beside her.

She got out of bed to check on Nyla.

“What are you doing up?” she asked, when she saw Nyla standing beside her nightstand with the lamp turned on.

“If he’s never coming back,” Nyla said, “who will tuck me in when you’re gone?”


“Oh, Sweet Pea,” said Debra. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m the one that stays, remember?”



Nyla lay back down.


Debra rubbed her younger daughter’s back and sang to her, an old sorry song about a mourning dove in a pine.

As she watched the little girl sleep, she thought how some wounds we carry with us, and this was surely one, a mark upon a life that would follow this little girl until she sang her own little ones to sleep, and maybe even past that time.


Three Rivers 13.1

Thirteenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

13. The painting that expressed how she truly felt


Red–the pain slashed through her womb when the door slammed. Leave. Take a piece, leave her behind with a gap where the strongest healing can never reach.


Red. So dark it’s black. A single rose petal lay on top of the armoire, dried black. Touch it. Pick it up for safe-keeping, and it crumbles. Red to black. Crumbles to dust.


Indigo. Blue. She thought the door would open again. He would return. Texts unanswered. Messages spinning through the air. She walks suspended through the days. This pain tethers. How long before she knows the door stays shut for good?


Red to black to blue. Forgotten, while the babies cried and dishes filled the sink and bills came due and the door stayed shut. Blue. To abandon hope. The door stays shut.


That year left its mark deep within. She felt it still, that tear inside, where he ripped her in two. She thought love was in the heart. But it was her womb that ached. It ached for her, and it ached for those two babies. Abandoned. She knew where abandonment was felt, deep in the womb where families are made.


Where families are made, like the parlor where her brother played the guitar. Like the kitchen where her mother baked the casserole. Like the dining room where the children gathered after school with books and jokes and stories and laughter.


Red to black to blue to green. A path stretches back from there to here. Laughter flows from gaps and fills the space with green.


Where homes are made. Where families reside. Her son grabs his cousin in a bear hug.


Her niece sings purple songs, and the sink fills with bubbles that birth rainbows.


Red to black to blue to green. Yellow.

The bills were due and the babies were crying and the dishes piled in the sink and her mother called. “I’m coming. I’m bringing you home.” Hope returned. He was gone, but hope returned.


And now her daughter learns from an aunt how to use her mind, how to be strong, how to grow to be a woman that can’t be torn in two.


And it’s all right. It all worked out.

Red to black to green to blue, and yellow follows through, and the pain, still there, recedes until it’s something new.


Gratitude. Green spills into gratitude. For a mother and a sister. Brother and little cousins. For a daughter and a son. And even for you. Gratitude even for you.


For you live in them, the daughter and the son. And the pain does, too.


Gratitude. You live in them. The daughter and the son. The door slams shut, the womb in two. The pain resides where the family grew. Red to black to green to blue. Gratitude?Look again, on a day that’s new.


Red flows to black flows to green flows to blue. Follow the path to the center, through.

Cousins and a brother. A sister and a mother. These two gifts of babies that look like you.

Red to black to green to blue. A yellow arch in the center, the door to home we walk through.

Three Rivers 6.1

Sixth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

6. This piano has never been tuned.


Is it home if you live outside? Sebastian Rhine didn’t think so, even if he’d lived in this corner of the woods, out of sight of the road and neighboring estates, for going on five years. He thought of himself as homeless, and he liked it that way.  Being homeless meant you had all sorts of rules, like never let them see you take anything, never let them see where you go, never bring them home–well, because you don’t have a home. But it was worth it. When you’re homeless, you can’t run away from home. When you live alone, in a not-a-home, nobody can walk out on you.


Sebastian liked people. That wasn’t the problem. He just didn’t like people leaving. No one leaves if you don’t meet anybody.

A week of solitude stretched into two, and Sebastian felt the space between his ears grow hollow. His own voice echoed in that empty canyon.

A spot of color caught his attention: magenta against the green of forest and meadow. A hat. And under the hat was a smile, warm and wide enough to fill that space with sunshine.


“It’s nice to meet you, too,” said Serena, for that was her name, and Sebastian smiled that both their names began with a capital S and a lowercase e.

“Se-Se!” he said.

She laughed with a thrush’s song. “Se-se to you, too! Is that some kind of local greeting?”


“I wouldn’t know,” Sebastian said. “I’m not from around here!”

“Neither am I!” said Serena. “So we have that in common. Where are you from?”


“Somewhere that direction,” said Sebastian, raising a finger. Never let them know where your home was, he remembered, just in time.


“From the north country?” Serena asked.

“Just so!” said Sebastian. “Wisconsin.”


They chatted, and Sebastian followed nearly everything she said, which was mostly about taking walks, which led to the topic of keeping your feet dry, which lead to a story about the time she organized a shoe drive for people with no shoes in the city she came from, and just as Sebastian was going to ask, “How did it feel to help people get something they really needed?”,  she said, “Well, I’d better be going. Nice talking with you! See ya!”

“Se-se,” Sebastian said, and she walked on by.


But now Sebastian was feeling the golden light of words between his ears and he wanted more! He waited until she turned at the fork in the road, and then he strolled up the hill to the pub.

Act normal. That was another rule. He smiled. A person in a uniform walked behind him. Act normal and they’ll think you have a home, he remembered. Smile like there’s nothing wrong.


More sunlight shone inside–melted butter.

Esmeralda, for that was her name, greeted him with a warm hello and asked how he was.

“I am well,” he replied. And then he remembered rules, “How are you?”


Esmeralda had a handful of advice for a stranger: one point for each finger. Never buy the mascarpone at Schaefer and Von Der Fries. Remember to check the expiration date on the eggs. Cotton sweaters don’t itch; never wear wool. Organic is better. Sebastian learned a lot.


And when she was done she rewarded him with a story about her granddaughter, and the punchline of the story was a song, which she sang, and in the sunny spot inside, a daisy bloomed.


“I like you,” Sebastian said.


Her smile was sideways, and then it scrunched up.

Was it OK that he said that?

“Is it OK that I said that?” he asked. “Could I come home with you?” he asked.


But she had to leave. It was “time to go.”

Sebastian looked at the daisy inside. It still bloomed.


It kept blooming while the door opened and Esmeralda walked out. He remembered what she said. “I’ll see you again, honey.”

The eggnog tasted sweet.


“That’s my drink,” said a voice.

“Ah, no,” said Sebastian. “It was put on the bar in front of me. That means it’s for me.”


The man laughed. “No prob, bud!” he said. “I’ll order another.”

The eggnog tasted a little bit spicy, and very sweet.


Sometimes, when a voice came from just a head, it was less frightening.

“Some game, huh?”


Sebastian didn’t know what game he was talking about. Did it have something to do with the drink that the man said was his?  No matter. He liked games.


He liked this funny man, who spoke in a low voice and whose glasses made his eyes look big.


He liked people. He liked the way that space inside filled up when they talked. This was a nice place.


Maybe he’d come here tomorrow.


But if he came here tomorrow, different people would be here. Esmeralda would not be here. And maybe the man with the big-eye glasses would be mean.


He wouldn’t press his luck.

Red is a nice color. It looks nice over a smile and green eyes.


“Have another drink.”

He had another drink. How many was that? They were all sweet and spicy, like the laughter of the woman next to him.


“Don’t settle for cheap substitutes,” said the candidate.

“What’s your stance on public services?” asked the woman with sweet and spicy laughter.

“Free health care for all!” said the candidate. “Good, reliable, public housing. Quality education. And free Internet!”


“What good is free Internet if you don’t have a house?” Sebastian asked.

“But you get a house!” said Alec, for that was the name of the candidate. “And mobile devices for all. Free.”


“Is it too good to be true?” said honey-voice.

Sebastian didn’t know and he didn’t care. He’d never live in a house or have a mobile device, and if he could, he’d spend forever listening to that sweet spiced laughter that made him light up like gold inside.


But then it was “later than I thought,” and she was gone, out the door.

They always leave.

How many drinks did he have? He lost count. Each was sweeter than the one before, and soon he was talking with a man whose glasses made his eyes look smaller and who kept jokes flowing and everyone laughed until Sebastian realized, with sudden darkness, that soon it would be time for these people to leave, too, and he would watch them walk out that door.


Unless. Unless he beat them to it. What was it they always said?

“Ah! Look at the time! Gotta go!”

Leave first. A new rule. Leave first and they can’t leave you.

He walked out the door, into the bright sunshine, and he ran all the way to the corner of the woods, hidden from roads and neighbors, where he lived alone in a not-a-home which no one could ever leave, for no one ever came.


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