Warnings: Nothing, really!
Oliver was supposed to sleep in the guest room, but it never happened that way. Courtney still found it hard to sleep without his arms around her, especially as her departure date neared. Still, she made sure to set an alarm for him to switch beds early in the morning, just in case her mom was up. Courtney knew her mom would positively flip if she ever caught them sleeping in the same bed; she didn’t want to push their luck and potentially lose the opportunity.
The worst part of spending time together was saying goodbye. They tried to avoid drawing it out too much – after all, he’d be back in a few weeks. It was still hard to do, and Courtney still missed him like crazy the moment he drove away.
Her mother watched her on one such occasion. Courtney could feel her eyes on her from the living room window, even though when she turned around to catch her mother in the act, she had vanished.
Courtney said her good-byes and trudged back into the house to find her mother standing in the dining room doorway. “You two seem awfully serious,” she remarked.
Courtney blushed. “I mean, yeah, he’s my boyfriend.”
Her mother frowned. “Are you thinking this through, Courtney?”
“What do you mean?” Courtney’s brow furrowed. She was confused; she had thought that her mother approved. She sighed as she realized that she probably should’ve expected this to happen eventually, regardless.
“I mean, will he be able to support you?” Her mother asked pointedly. “Can he give you the life you deserve? He’s a nice enough young man, but you know that love and kindness aren’t what pay the bills.” Her mother sighed. “I just don’t want to see you throw your life away on the first man who wants to marry you, you know?”
“Marry me? He hasn’t said anything about that,” Courtney sputtered. She was so taken aback by that word that to took a moment for her to register the rest of what her mother had said. She scowled as she realized her mother thought being with Oliver would be throwing her life away, as if marriage was only worthwhile if there were riches to be had!
“I know, dear,” her mother responded. “I just want you to be prepared for that, is all. Think long and hard about whether you want to live comfortably, or whether you’re willing to struggle.”
Courtney wanted so badly to call her mother out, but she knew screaming at her would get her nowhere. So she instead clenched her jaw and started to walk away. Before she started up the stairs, she paused to turn around and asked through gritted teeth, “Has living comfortably made you happy, Mother?”
Her mother raised an eyebrow, as if she had expected this question. “Of course it has. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes it a hell of a lot easier to be happy if you have it.”
“And what about Dad?” Courtney practically spat.
Her mother’s expression turned icy. “You don’t understand anything. You’re practically still a child.”
“You’re right. I am still a child. A child who grew up in a loveless home, who never learned the first thing about how to be in a proper relationship because that’s something my parents could never show me. I see how Dad pines after you, and I see that you couldn’t care less about his absolute devotion to you. All you care about is his money,” Courtney said coolly.
“That’s… that’s not true.” Her mother looked and sounded as if someone had knocked the wind out of her.
“Whatever.” Courtney shrugged and started up the stairs.
Something in her mother snapped. “If you want to see a ‘loving home,’ I suppose you’ll have to find a new family!” her mother shouted, startling Courtney. Her mother never shouted. Courtney stepped off the stairs and eyed her mother as she screamed at her. A feeling of dread and terror came over her and made her gut ache.
“You ungrateful, arrogant, naïve little bitch!” Her mother stomped across the living room and pushed her finger directly in Courtney’s face. Courtney flinched reflexively, but her mother didn’t touch her. “Get out! I want you OUT OF MY HOUSE!”
“Mom, please, calm dow-”
“I will NOT calm down!” her mother screeched. Courtney backed up towards the patio door, and her mother pushed forward until Courtney was squished against it and could go no further. “Who was the one who raised you, hm? Here’s a hint: it sure as hell wasn’t your ‘literary genius’ father! He didn’t lift a finger. I was the one who was expected to do everything for my children. So EXCUSE ME if I don’t feel as much devotion to him as I used to, and pardon me for wanting to ensure that my daughter will be able to afford a nanny or some fucking help and won’t have to be like me!”
As she spoke, her mother slid down to the floor. By the time she’d finished shouting, she was curled up into a ball on the floor. Her chest was heaving up and down as she choked in air between sobs. Courtney moved to kneel by her and provide some sort of comfort, but her mother turned away.
“You know something?” she asked Courtney between sniffles as her sobs subsided. “Your father was the one who wanted you kids. I would have loved for it to just be the two of us. But, no. It was always, ‘three kids, picket fence, American dream.'” Her mother frowned deeply. “I had Carson because I worried that if I didn’t, he’d leave me, and that was the most horrifying thought in the world to me, at the time.” She laughed darkly.
Courtney didn’t know what to say. It was strange for her to see her mother so vulnerable. She had always been one of those people, in Courtney’s eyes, who resided behind a sturdy set of walls – never letting anything negative past either the inside or the outside. After all, she’d been the person who’d taught Courtney to never let her guard down.
Courtney inched closer to her mother, but didn’t attempt to provide any comforting touch. They sat there together, huddled next to one another on the floor, and Courtney marveled at how she could see tears – real tears! – on her mother’s cheek. She’d always been so sure that her mother had never cried – but now she wondered how many times she’d cried in secret.
“I’m not even mad at Kat,” her mother admitted quietly, breaking the silence. “I’m… jealous. She realized that she didn’t want to be tied to him forever before it was too late. She’s free.” Courtney’s mother sighed and looked up at her daughter. “I love you, Courtney. And I try to do what’s best for you, and Kat, and Carson, but I feel like my vision’s been warped by all this resentment towards you kids, and towards your father, and I’m just a bitter shell of the woman I was before, you know?”
Courtney didn’t know what to say, so she just nodded dumbly.
“I like Oliver. It’s obvious he makes you happy. I just… don’t let him warp your view of what’s right for you, okay? Make sure that whatever life-changing decisions you make, you make them because you want to. You will be okay with or without a man in your life, so don’t change your ambitions for him, okay? If he loves you, and wants you, he’ll stick around. If not…” her mother shrugged.
She stood up and brushed the dust and dirt from the floor off her pants. “I’m sorry I screamed at you,” she said as she helped Courtney up. “I just never realized that that was how you thought of me, as some money-obsessed…. gold digger.” Those two words sounded acrid as she spat them. She sighed. “I’m just a lonely, bitter, resentful person. I try to hide it as best I can, but it’s hard.” She frowned. “I’ve started therapy lately, though, so maybe that’ll help some.”
“That’s good to hear, Mom,” Courtney said honestly. She’d never in a million years imagined her mom in therapy. She really wasn’t the type to share her feelings freely. Courtney knew full well that her mother had passed on that trait to her.
She silently wracked her brain for what to say, something that would help her mom calm down completely. She was still sniffling and crying quietly, though the tears were coming less often now. Finally, Courtney grabbed her mother’s hand and said, “C’mon, let’s go make some cookies. Do you still have grandma’s recipe?”
Her mother smiled through her tears. “Snickerdoodle or chocolate chip?”
“Snickerdoodle, duh!” Courtney stuck out her tongue playfully.
“They’ve always been your favorite,” her mother said, smiling, as Courtney guided her to the kitchen.
“Do you really think you’ll need to take these?” Oliver was holding up one of the books about Ancient Rome that Courtney had bought but hadn’t gotten around to reading yet.
She snatched it from him and laid it gingerly in her suitcase. “Yes,” she sniffed. “I don’t know how many English books I’ll be able to find in Rome, and I’ll need something to do when I’m bored. Plus, they’re not just random novels, they’re actually useful and applicable to what I’m going to be learning.”
“They’re just going to take up space, though. You’re not going to have time to read them, there’ll be so much else to do, and you’ll learn a lot more from your classes and internship than these,” he protested. “You bought them at Books-A-Million on clearance, Courtney.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, they might just be going out of stock or something.” She shrugged. “And I’d rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.”
“That logic doesn’t work when you’ve only got two suitcases and a carryon to pack for four months,” he pointed out.
Courtney sighed an removed one of the books from the suitcase. “Can we compromise here? I think this one is about stuff I mostly already know, so I’ll probably be okay without it.”
Oliver threw up his hands in surrender. “When you get back and I ask if you’ve read the one you’re taking, I’m not going to hold back my ‘I told you so’s when you say no.”
She made a face at him as she surveyed their handiwork: two large suitcases, a carryon, and a backpack, all packed near to bursting with everything she’d need for four months in Italy.
“Do you think that’s enough?” she asked.
“I mean, I don’t know what else would fit,” he admitted.
She shrugged and zipped the bags shut. He helped her carry them down to the living room, where her mother was sitting with a glass of wine in one hand and a book in the other.
“Ready, dear?” she asked as she stood an approached them, her voice sparkling. It made Courtney wondered whether her mother might be the tiniest bit jealous of her, like she was jealous of Kat.
“As ready as I could be, I think,” Courtney replied with a shrug.
“You have no idea what’s ahead of you, darling. You’re going to have an amazing time, I promise.” She smiled at Courtney, and Courtney nodded and tried to smile back. She was feeling nauseous now, her nerves having finally caught up to her.
“I know I will,” she forced herself to say.
Her mother stood up and pulled her into a deep, warm hug. “Don’t be scared, okay?” she whispered. “I know it will be hard to be away from Oliver, and all your friends, but you need to live your life, remember? Don’t worry about us back home. We’ll be here when you get back, I promise.” She pulled away and squeezed Courtney’s shoulders before she stepped away.
Courtney stared at her mother for a moment, wondering where the hell those words of encouragement had come from. “Who are you and what have you done with my mother?” she half-joked.
Her mother smiled at her kindly. “It’s still me. I’ve just been working really hard on myself recently. And that’s why you’re going to Italy, right? To work on yourself; to have experiences that you want to have.” She squeezed Courtney’s hand one last time before she ascended the stairs and went to bed. “Make sure you wake me up before you go, Courtney. I want to say good-bye properly,” she called down before she retreated into her room.
“I thought you said your mother was an ice queen,” Oliver commented, “but she’s been nothing but pleasant to me so far.”
Courtney nodded, dumbstruck. She was still staring at the spot her mother had just been standing in. It took a moment for Courtney to realize that she’d walked away and was no longer there. As her mind caught up to the present, Courtney turned to Oliver and said, “She’s been going to therapy for a few months now. I’m not going to say she’s an entirely new person, but she definitely seems happier. I’m just waiting for the divorce announcement, it’ll be coming any day now, I’m sure.”
Oliver shrugged. “I mean, you never know. Sometimes couples are able to rekindle that spark.”
“And some couples never let it burn out in the first place,” Courtney pointed out.
“I certainly have every intention of us being one of those couples,” Oliver said, leaning in to kiss her softly.
“Even when I’m in Italy?”
He nodded, his green eyes shining. “Especially when you’re in Italy.”
“You ready?” Oliver asked her as she stood in the airport, peering down the long hallway to the right that was filled with people waiting to go through security. The sign in front of her read “Ticketed Passengers Only Beyond this Point.” She bit her lip as she strained to see the end of the hallway, but of course it was blocked from view by al the security equipment. For all she knew, the corridor could go on forever- but she knew it really ended in Rome.
She turned back to Oliver, whose face was a mix of emotions. She could tell he was sad for her to leave, but he was desperately trying to hide it. He was smiling, but it wasn’t reaching his beautiful jade eyes. She knew she was making the exact same face.
“I’m as ready as I can be, I suppose,” she responded, adjusting her backpack.
He pulled her into a long, deep embrace, and she sighed into him. She closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of him, the smell of his skin mingling with that of his shampoo, and she tried to commit the feeling of his strong arms around her to memory. It would be about four months before she’d be here again.
She knew that right here, in Oliver’s arms, was home. Her stomach lurched and tumbled as this thought hit her at full speed.
He pulled away at last. It was still far too soon, in Courtney’s opinion, and she frowned and bit her lip. He caressed her cheek. This, too, she tried her hardest to remember. “Have fun, okay?” he murmered, smiling to cover his true feelings. “Don’t miss me too much.”
“I’m more worried about you,” she shot back, teasing, like him, to hide her sadness. She already missed him.
He gave her one final, gentle kiss. They pulled apart and he squeezed her hand. She adjusted her backpack once more and grabbed her carryon.
She maneuvered her bag past the “Ticked Passengers Only” sign and towards the security gate. She looked back once, twice, three times, and each time Oliver was still watching her walk away with an unreadable expression. She offered a small wave, and he waved back.
Then she turned a corner and he was out of sight.
A/N: This chapter was supposed to be the second half of Ch. 13, but I decided my chapters are getting too damn long. So here we are, my second (and probably last) update for SimNo.
Courtney’s mother really surprised me here. Do you ever just start writing and it feels like the character is just taking over? Because I feel like that’s what happened here. I had one idea of what made Michelle Peters tick, but there’s a whole lot more I never thought of that goes way deeper, apparently!
Also, I am slightly proud of my shitty little airport set, lol! I tried to base it loosely off the airport I departed from when I studied abroad!