Regardless of what his ex-wife and oldest daughter might think, Benjamin is fully aware that he’s fucked up his life.
He’s not stupid, he’s not naïve and he definitely doesn’t think he will be forgiven or that Mireia will miraculously come around and start cheering for him and his new life. She had called him a pathetic loser last time they spoke on the phone and even as she had agreed to come over for Christmas lunch he could hear the strain in her voice, a slightly dangerous edge.
Sometimes he wishes he could tell her something, give her an explanation for everything that’s been lacking in their lives. Ever since her mum left – and he still remembers those days, weeks after in perfect detail – he’s struggled to make sense of it all. Struggled and failed and struggled again. He thinks Mireia has had a pretty good childhood after all, he knows he did his best. But it hurts more than he cares to really admit to himself that he’s now doing what his ex did to his other children, to Amara and Novak who will never remember what it’s like to grow up with mum and dad living under the same roof.
In this mess, Susan feels like salvation.
He had met her some months ago in a pottery class that he took mostly to get out of his depressing home and his own mind. And there, among middle-aged housewives wanting to do something creative, they had found themselves laughing about their failed projects and miserably shaped plates.
Before long she had become part of his life.
She’s younger – a bit too young for him, he knows that – and full of life and projects. She works down in the city hall, volunteers for various political causes and can argue the pants off almost anybody when it comes to politics. There’s a fire in her that Ben can’t look away from, a passionate dedication to everything from the environment to anti-discrimination laws to pottery. It’s like he needs that sort of spark in others to be able to find it in himself, buried deep down below the layers of crap and failures that he can’t seem to get away from.
“You judge yourself very harshly,” Susan tells him even when he confesses the entirety of his shitty life over the past couple of years. The cheating, the lying, the divorce. “People make stupid mistakes. Doesn’t make them bad people.”
And he wants to believe that. Wants to try harder for her, for them, make a new life from scratch the way he never managed to with Petra. He still doesn’t know what went wrong between them, why he had been such an idiot, but he knows that he had been in a bad, depressing place. He isn’t now.
This time, he tells himself and Susan over and over again, this time will be so very different.
They find out Susan’s pregnant a couple of weeks before Christmas – she grins and tells him it’s the Christmas gift she never knew she wanted – and at first he is terrified. It feels like the wrong kind of start of his new life, the wrong path to start walking.
He’s still unemployed and after all this time it has begun to feel like a permanent thing in his life, like a job in itself. Hey, did you hear about Ben Dalisay, the guy who never got a job again?
At least Susan has a permanent job and with the help of a loan they buy a small house in the less expensive suburban streets. She assures him it’s something she’d want regardless of her relationship with him, that she’s sick of living in cramped rental flats downtown and wants to settle down somewhere.
And the house marks something new, in its own way. As soon as they sign that contract and begin moving their stuff in, Ben feels a low soaring happiness rise in his chest when he thinks about Susan and the baby.
They have their first cooked meal in their new kitchen and Ben can’t stop smiling.
The following day he proposes.
They walk down to the city hall as soon as their papers are in order; Susan claims she’s never been one to dream about big weddings and white dresses and he can’t bring himself to have another ceremony, doesn’t want to be reminded of the two failed ones. So they stand hand in hand in front of a stranger who pronounces them husband and wife.
Afterwards they have take-out and non-alcoholic champagne in front of their Christmas tree and Ben wants to linger in the moment forever.
It all seems so easy with her. She doesn’t see problems, focuses on how they can solve every issue they might have, how Ben will get a job, how they will save up money, how they will raise the baby they never planned for.
“We’ll have a bunch of kids,” she tells him when he worries. “And they will make a mess of our lives. But it will be okay. Don’t you think?”
“That’s… how it usually goes, yeah.” He smiles, helplessly.
This woman is like a drug, he wants to hold her in his arms until every other thought in his head goes away. Until everything is her.
I love you, he thinks when he kisses her. I love you, I love you, I love you.
It will be different this time. It has to be.
On Christmas Eve, Mireia keeps her promise to come over for lunch – and even bring Amara – even if she’s right in the middle of packing up four years of university. Maybe that distraction helps, too, keeps her from being too irritated with her dad.
Ben knows his oldest daughter and he knows she’s trying, that she’s making an effort to be calm and pleasant and polite to Susan. She’s doing a good job and Susan is charming as always, he can’t believe anyone could dislike her.
They have a nice lunch together, nothing particularly fancy or Christmasy but Amara tells them it tastes awesome, so it doesn’t seem to matter.
“We’ve barely unpacked our kitchen yet,” Susan explains, “When you come back in a few weeks, we’ll make up for it.”
And in that moment it truly feels like this is something they will do from time to time, have lunch together like a family. One kind of family, at least. Because that’s what they still are.
I love how some family sims like Ben appear so obsessive with their desire for family that they’re almost like romance sims. It’s fun to make stories from that, because they just roll OMG BABY regardless of their context and how their lives are. Ben just want the babies and the weddings, reality be damned! 😀