Gene thought the skills he learned at scouts were useless - fishing most of all. Why would you go through the trouble of catching fish if you could just get them at the supermarket?
Still, he enjoyed showing off what he learned.
Little tricks like tying knots were a good way to liven up parties, though dancing was even better.
Not like today's party needed any livening up!
Freddie and Grace cheered in perfect unison when Gene stepped up to his cake.
He blew out the candles and entered the next age stage.
His raging teen hormones didn't wait long to flare up. Fortunately, for now they only manifested in Gene's choice of subject for his next painting.
As was to be expected in a town that thrived on showbusiness like Starlight Shores, Gooder Public School loved putting on a gooder show. The idea of having a pair of twins deliver this year's valedictorian speech had dazzled the headmaster and the school board alike, and so it was decided. The Dutiel twins came from a family deeply ingrained in the entertainment industry and had outstanding grades to boot - not like the latter mattered much.
With their busy schedules, it was difficult to find opportunities to work on their speech together. And when both of the girls were home at the same time, Gloria usually found her sister otherwise occupied...
Gloria told herself she didn't - and shouldn't - mind. After all, Grace had planned for them to visit the festival at Verde Park the very next day.
They stuffed themselves with greasy festival food, tossed horseshoes and took silly pictures in a photo booth.
Gene tagged along too, but kept a good distance from his big sisters. He didn't want them to mess up his chances of meeting girls!
The twins were much less concerned with looking cool. Gloria had taken some convincing at first, but now she giggled with her sister while wobbling and spinning recklessly around the skating rink.
And then she fell on her butt.
She was followed by Grace, who, discordant with her name, faceplanted with a loud thud. Remarkably, her hat didn't budge an inch. Grace had always been so effortlessly stylish.
"Ouch. Are you alright?" Gloria winced as she got back on her feet, but she couldn't suppress a grin. "We'll need to practice that some more if we're gonna go professional."
Grace groaned, "Ugh, yeah, I think I'll pass on that." Her attempt at a laugh made her grimace with pain. "I've had enough for now. I'll go and buy us something to drink. You keep on practicing your spins though," she winked and carefully made her way off of the skating rink.
However, on her way to the food stalls, Grace got distracted...
One might wonder why Gene's expression was so serious once he finally found a pretty dance partner.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that she, as well as all the other girls at the festival, turned out to be his cousins...
He decided that the day would be better spent learning to drive.
Gene only wished he didn't have to drive around in that lame old pick-up truck. He absolutely had to nag his dad into buying a new car sometime - or better yet, getting Gene his very own car! Luckily his dad was usually very malleable...
Freddie had been spending less time at the bubble bar. It had not been a conscious decision at first, but since Todd and Larissa had been increasingly busy with their own lives, there had been little incentive for him. Regardless, it felt liberating to break free of old habits - at least for a while.
Instead he'd started running. Simply running, for hours at a time, with no goal in mind. Sometimes he found himself at the gym and exercised until his muscles burned. Other times he ended up at a small park he'd never noticed before. It wasn't important.
What was important was the time he spent thinking as his feet carried him forward. Most of the time, he wondered about the choices he made as a father. He wanted to be a good parent, but as his children grew older, making the right decisions was becoming increasingly difficult.
All three of them were so self-sufficient, which was definitely a thing a parent should strive for, Fred thought. But then again, hadn't they become so independent because he'd been failing them over and over?
Thoughts like these plagued Freddie. If only he had someone to talk to about this.
Had he been spending his time in the bubble room instead, he might have come across something unsettling...
As it was, no one in the house took notice of the uninvited guest. Grim was overlooked, much like the elderly paparazzo on the doorstep whom he had just claimed.
The twins did find some time to talk about their valedictorian speech in the end.
Gloria listened with a smile on her face as her sister babbled on. As ever, Grace's enthusiasm was infectious. Yes, coming up with a speech would be a cinch if they simply focused on a few key words: influences, accomplishments, aspirations. Gloria had spent so much time dreaming and hoping - talking about aspirations wouldn't be a problem. The future looked bright, with Sim State as the gateway to a new life.
But then, as always when Gloria lost herself in thoughts, stormy clouds began to darken the bright horizon. Would things really be different? And if they were different - who said that they'd be better?
Gloria kept her concerns to herself. After all, Grace was so excited, and Gloria was simply worrying pointlessly again.
... was she?
Words had always come easily to Grace, so her part of the speech was finished in no time. All that was left to do was practice in front of the mirror to perfect her performance.
She could barely wait for the graduation ceremony, because they'd be off to Sim State immediately after that. Grace still hoped that Gloria would agree to share a room with her, or at least sign up for a couple of courses together. She knew that Gloria needed her time alone, but if things could go Grace's way, she'd always be surrounded by all the sims she loved.
Influences, accomplishments, aspirations. Gloria sat surrounded by the awards and certificates she had received over the years. If she was perfectly honest, she hadn't even wanted to participate in most of these activities. Yet, she had amassed this small collection of meaningless sheets of paper and chunks of painted plastic. All framed nicely and displayed on her walls. As if they had any bearing on who she was.
And now, with another couple of meaningless pieces of paper in hand, she would be off to university - to collect yet another thing to frame and hang on a wall.
Gloria sighed and stared at the blank page before her.
Grace was dancing and chatting merrily with Jamey, who had aged up just a few days previously.
When it was time for the main event, Grace stepped up first.
She made a big show of coming up with a wish before blowing out her candles.
Grace basked in the attention and smiled confidently. She was a young adult now, and ready to take on the world!
Then came Gloria's turn.
Uncomfortably aware of everyone's eyes on her, she made her way toward the cake.
Gloria let her gaze wander over the noisy crowd gathered around her. Honestly, she couldn't stand these birthday celebrations. At every age stage it was the same - cheap balloons, bland cake, artificial excitement. Always the same orchestrated event. And each time felt more phony than the last.
Yet there she was, right in the middle of it, putting on a forced smile and performing for everyone like a trained circus animal. At this moment, she was the center of attention, but just minutes from now everyone would go right back to not giving a damn about her. Gloria ground her teeth.
"Sim State awaits," Grace's voice called out happily among the cheering and whooping, "Come on Gloria, blow out the candles!"
"And why would I want to do that?!" Gloria roared. "Why would I want to age up and go to university with you? Just so you can drop me like a hot potato the instant you find something more interesting?"
Grace recoiled in shock and the guests gasped and muttered, but Gloria was only getting started, "I'm sick and tired of you dragging me along everywhere, just so you can feel good about yourself! You're exhausting. Always flitting around, sticking your nose in everyone's business, pretending that you care. And then, just as quickly, you're gone again like a magpie that sees something shiny."
"Gloria, I... I don't know where this is coming from," Grace stammered, her gray eyes brimming with tears. But Gloria was not about to back down now.
"Of course you don't know," she snarled, "because you don't give two shits about how I feel! You never have. None of you have."
"I'm sorry you see it that way," Grace began carefully, "but it's not true. Maybe we can talk about it and I'll try--"
"NO!" Gloria yelled, "I've had it with you. With all of you."
She glared at the astounded faces all around her. Their obvious outrage only made her seethe more. Everyone always wanted Gloria to 'come out of her shell', yet when she finally revealed how she felt, they were appalled.
"I'm tired of waiting around for everyone to abandon me," she continued more quietly, almost choking on her words now. "Well, I'll save you the trouble!"
With that, she darted off.
She ran like her life depended on it, not knowing where she was headed.
And she was gone.
By the time Grace and Freddie had regained their composure and followed Gloria, there was no trace of her to be seen.
The police had insisted that they needed to wait twenty-four hours before filing a missing sim report. Gene resorted to making one phone call after another, asking relatives, schoolmates and even chance acquaintances if they'd seen his sister.
Fred sat stupefied, his thoughts whirling in a million different directions.
Grace spent hours driving around town, with Jamey on the passenger seat beside her.
They searched each and every place they could think of, and then checked back again once they'd made the rounds.
The beach below the house was the last place anyone thought to look.
"Gloria," Grace shrilled and sprinted toward the crumpled figure on the ground, struggling not to fall as her heels burrowed into the sand below.
She stumbled awkwardly to her knees when she finally reached her sister.
Soaking wet and covered in countless grains of coarse sand, Gloria lay unmoving. Grace reached out a hand to brush the tangled hair out of her sister's face. Her skin was cold to the touch.
There was a moment of dread. A moment that seemed to stretch into eternity.
But she was breathing.
"Call an ambulance!"
You are witnessing my first time making and using poses, woo!