Chapter 4 – Flowers for a Stranger, Part III

Author’s note: some very heavy topics in this one. Highlight the section below if you’re worried. Skip it if you want to avoid spoilers.

Disclaimers: mention of suicide, death of a pet. If you want to avoid both, skip the conversation between Kip and Derek McMillan.

The sunrise over Henford-on-Bagley held no colour.

Kip slowly made his way through the village outskirts, heading for the McMillan residence halfway up the hill. They were his last delivery. As he walked, Kip didn’t notice the beautiful bird songs that echoed in the trees around him. He didn’t hear the soft crunching of grass and dirt under his feet; he didn’t smell the fresh morning air. Kip didn’t really notice anything. As he robotically walked towards the front door, all the salaryman could think of was the time, rapidly ticking down to zero.

Fifty-five minutes.

He only had fifty-five minutes left.

Kip stepped up to the door, giving a short knock onto the faded wood.


On the other side of the house, two elderly men were startled from their morning routine. The one at the stove immediately turned towards his partner, seizing the opportunity that presented itself to him with a smile.
“Can you go get it, dear?”

Ian Moody smiled back, knowing exactly what his husband was up to.
“You’re going to add copious amounts of salt the second I step away from here, aren’t you?”

Derek’s grin widened in response.
“Wouldn’t dream of it!” he replied, grabbing spices from the wall and shaking them above his food like his life depended on it. Ian chuckled, shaking his head in amused disapproval.
“Fine, fine. But you can explain to the doctor why our sodium levels have increased yet again.”

It didn’t take long for Ian to reach the front door. By the time of the second knock, Kip could see the fox-shape knocker swing backwards, revealing a cosy-looking interior and an elderly man in his seventies.
“Oh! That’s a face I haven’t seen before,” Ian said. “Hello, young man. What can I help you with?”
“Um… hello, sir,” Kip replied politely. “My name is Kip Booth. Agatha sent me—“

“Ah! So you’re the famous Kip!”
“Huh? Famous?”
“Aggy told me to expect you,” Ian said, ignoring the comment and shaking Kip’s hand as he invited him in. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Kip. The name is Ian. Ian Moody—”

“But don’t let my name bring down the mood!”

He looked at Kip expectantly, as if he was waiting for some kind of reaction. Kip blinked.
“Er, yes, sir,” he replied, not really sure what to do. The old man’s beaming smile quickly made way for a frown.
“Okay, that one didn’t land very well,” he said. “Hold on. Let me try that again. How about…”

“Ah, I know! What do you get when you cross a chicken and a ghost?”
“I… I wouldn’t know-”
“A poultry-gheist! HA! Get it?”

Kip gave a polite laugh, not really knowing what else to do. That seemed to be enough for Ian, though. The man nodded, satisfied, as he cast a quick glance over his shoulder. Kip could hear the sounds of cooking coming from a door to his right.
“I hope I’m not interrupting.”

Fifty-two minutes left.

“Not at all!” Ian said, seemingly changing his mind about that two seconds later. “Well, mostly,” he continued. I’ll be with you in a second. We’re right in the middle of cooking breakfast, and I need to keep my husband from salting us both to death. We’ll be with you shortly.”
“Actually, I just need to deliver-”
But Ian didn’t let him finish. It seemed to be a bit of a habit of the people in Henford; Agatha and Sarah had done the exact same thing.
“Why don’t you wait in the living room?” Ian said kindly. “We’ll finish up in the kitchen and be with you in a jiffy.”

“I really just have some seeds-”
“And we’ll take those in a moment! It’ll only take a minute, I promise.”

Looking at Ian’s warm smile, Kip realised that he couldn’t refuse. The salaryman cast a quick glance on the door to his right.

Fifty-one minutes left.

“Well… okay.”

As Ian returned to the kitchen, Kip quietly walked into the elderly couple’s living room. The room was enveloped by a warm and cosy atmosphere that seemed to have been crafted with meticulous care. The furniture looked dated but extremely well-cared for. A thick, handwoven rug covered the wooden floor, and on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, Kip spotted an old-fashioned camera. Its well-worn appearance suggested that it had been used extensively and treasured for many years.

And Kip was right. The walls were a testament to just how many moments that old camera had captured. The living room was adorned with countless pictures that captured their life’s highlights. The majority of the photos were black and white, reminiscent of times long past. But some more recent ones were in colour. Kip’s eyes scanned the images, admiring the couple’s closeness as they fished together, hugged in Henford square, tended to their chickens, danced in each other’s arms.

They looked… so happy.

Kip was startled out of his musings by the sound of a door opening. The old man that stepped into the room wore a warm brown jumper, face framed by a neatly kept beard. A pair of glasses rested underneath a well-worn country cap. Kip immediately recognised him as the second subject of the wall’s many pictures. The man nodded at him, giving him a warm, inviting smile.
“You must be Kip,” he said. “Agatha told us to expect guests. Ian will be with us in a moment; he’s almost done removing all sense of flavour from our eggs.”

He walked towards Kip, nodding as the two shook hands.
“I’m Derek McMillan. Ian’s husband.”
“Nice to meet, you sir.”
“Oh, you can call me Derek, laddie,” he smiled. “I haven’t been called a sir in a very long time.”

Derek took a step back, his eyes twinkling with recognition as they scanned Kip from head to toe. Kip couldn’t help but feel a bit self-conscious under the older man’s gaze.
“Now there’s a sight I haven’t seen in a while,” Derek sighed. “The office uniform sure hasn’t changed.”
“You work in the office, too?” Kip asked, surprised. The elderly man gave a single nod in return.
“I used to. I’ve been retired for quite a while. Where do you work, laddie?”

“Bridgeport, sir!” Kip smiled. “At SimTech incorporated. We’re the best brand in the whole world,” he continued. “Our office in Bridgeport just focuses on sales, mostly. But we have a big factory up north that makes hundreds of products a day!”

“I see,” Ian smiled. “That’s mighty impressive, laddie. And what do you do besides work?”

Kip’s smile faltered.
“Besides… work?”
“Yes. Hobbies, or sports, or crafts. What kinds of things do you like to do?”
“I… I, uh…”


Kip watched as Derek’s gaze softened.
“It’s all right, laddie. I know that look better than anyone.”

“Would you like to share some breakfast with us?” he asked kindly. “We always make too much for the two of us, anyway.”
“I… I wouldn’t want to be a bother,” Kip mumbled. But Ian shook his head in response.
“It’s no bother, lad. You’ll have some fried eggs. We’ll take the seed packet off your hands and then you can be on your merry way. In the meantime, I’d like to tell you a bit about myself, if that’s all right. I like sharing stories with youngsters like yourself.”
“If… if it’s no bother to you.”
“It is not. In fact, I insist.”

“I think you’ll find this story quite interesting.”

Kip had expected Derek to lead him over to the dining area. But the elderly man stayed right where he was, sitting down on the couch with a frail slowness that betrayed his old age.
“I’d like to talk to you about some memories, laddie,” he said, looking up at the pictures on the wall. Kip followed his gaze. Derek was looking directly at the photograph above the fireplace mantle. It was a picture of him and Ian in the Finchwick square, arms around each other affectionately.

It was probably going to be some kind of love story. He liked those, although it wasn’t manly to admit that out loud. Kip smiled, glancing at the man seated next to him.
“They’re lovely pictures,” he nodded. “You must have many stories to tell.”
“Oh, I do,” Derek replied. “They are quite wonderful – I’ve written most of them down, in fact – but the memories on the wall are not what I want to talk to you about, Kip. I want to tell you about what came before.”
“What came before?”
“Yes,” Derek McMillan nodded. “When I was your age. Maybe a little younger, actually. My hair still had colour in it, and I didn’t have a beard back then. It was when I still lived in San Myshuno. I’d like to tell you about a very specific moment.”

As he talked, Kip watched Derek’s expression slowly cloud over. His brow pulled into a frown. It was not the kind of face that someone who was about to tell a love story would make. Kip wasn’t entirely sure what the Derek was about to share with him. A self-made success tale? Memories of his family? A horror story?

As it turned out, it was none of those things.

And the salaryman was not prepared for what came next.

“I want to talk to you about a day that happened more than fourty years ago,” Derek said softly, staring off into the distance. “The day that I jumped off a highway bridge.”

For a moment, Kip was stunned, completely unable to speak. He couldn’t get his mouth to open – and when it finally did, the words that came out were barely audible.

But Derek heard them anyway.

“You… jumped?”
“Yes. I did.”

“I had lost myself, you see,” Derek explained, eyes distant as he gazed at something that only he could see. “I had gotten so trapped in a world that I didn’t belong in that I lost all track of who I was. I lost my hobbies. I couldn’t remember my own likes and dislikes. Back then, I believed that I was a failure. That I couldn’t do anything right – that I was a burden on everyone,” he whispered softly. “I became convinced that the world would be better off without me.”

“I’m… so tired.”

“I believed that there was no way out,” the elderly man continued. “After my performance review, I jumped off a bridge. The fall didn’t kill me, but it broke both of my legs. Revalidation would turn out to take months. I couldn’t work anymore. When my company found out what had happened, they fired me without a second thought.”

“That… horrible,” Kip said quietly, not knowing what else to say. Derek nodded at him in response.
“It was. And do you know what else it was?”

Kip looked away. The salaryman had no idea. He didn’t want to talk further – he didn’t want to think about it at all. Kip could feel a terrible knot form in his stomach, tightening itself further and further with every word that came out of Derek’s mouth. He didn’t want to hear it.
He didn’t want to hear about his future.

But when Kip finally turned back towards Derek, he wasn’t greeted with the desolate look that he’d expected.
Instead, the elderly resident wore a wise, warm smile.

“It was the best thing that could have happened to me.”

Kip blinked. He didn’t understand. That made no sense.
“But… you lost everything,” he mumbled, trying to wrap his head around why Derek was smiling. “How… how could that be a good thing?”

The elderly resident didn’t answer him. Instead, Derek’s smile widened as his eyes lingered on the pictures on the wall.
“I’m going to ask you a question, Kip,” he said. “It’s very a simple question. Most people can answer it easily. Without even thinking about it.”

Slowly, Derek turned his head, looking Kip in the eyes.
“As you are now… do you know what you have to look forward to?”

“What about you, buddy? What do you have to look forward to?”

He hadn’t been able to answer back then, either.

Kip… didn’t know.

It hadn’t always been like that. The salaryman had known before. Things had been different. He hadn’t had much, but if Derek had asked him a year ago, then Kip would have been able to answer his question easily. Clearly.

Without hesitation.

“Get a grip. It’s just a pet – it’s not like your child died. You need to get this done by tomorrow. Don’t be a burden, Kip.”

It was his fault.

“…I don’t have anything.”

On the seat next to him, Derek let out a small sigh.
“That’s all right, lad,” he muttered. “I didn’t know what I had to live for back then, either. I thought I’d failed everyone around me, too. I thought that there was nothing else to be done. Back then, I was convinced that nothing good would come from me doing… anything.”

Slowly, Kip glanced over to his left.
“If… if that’s what you thought,” he muttered, “then… then how come…”
“How come I’m here now?” Derek asked, smiling as he finished his sentence. “It’s simple, Kip.”

“I proved myself wrong.”

Kip followed Derek’s gaze, his eyes passing by the pictures one by one. The elderly resident lingered on each and every one of them as his eyes glistened with distant memories.

“Leaving that place is the best thing that ever happened to me,” Derek whispered. “It didn’t ruin me. It set me free. It let me do things that I never thought myself capable of. I wrote sixteen books, Kip. Sixteen. Children’s stories, and novels, and smutty romance and even a formally recognised history book. I didn’t think that people would want to read anything I had to say. I didn’t think that they cared. But I was wrong. I was wrong about so many things.”

“Sweetheart. Talk to me. What’s the matter?”

“I know that look in your eyes,” the elderly man continued, glancing in Kip’s direction. “I know it because I used to wear it. I almost drowned in it. But if I was that wrong about myself… then I bet you’re wrong about yourself, too.”
Kip finally realised. He understood what Derek was doing – what the elderly resident was trying so hard to show him.
What they were all trying to show him.
But he was wasting his time. They were nothing alike. Kip looked down at the ground, shaking his head as he gripped the sides of his trousers.
“I… I really don’t think-”
But the elderly resident didn’t let him finish.
“But you’re very different from-”
“Wrong,” Derek said again, his eyes twinkling as he cut Kip off mid-sentence. “I understand, laddie. You can’t see it right now. And that’s okay, Kip. It really is.”

“But that doesn’t mean that you won’t be very different later.”

“Ol’ Agatha knows – Poppy flowers like you don’t grow well in concrete. You need lots of earth and sunlight.”

“How much longer are you on holiday for, Kip?” Derek asked, catching the salaryman by surprise. Kip quickly glanced over at the clock.
Forty minutes.
“A… a week,” he lied. “Give-or-take.”
“I see. Would you like a piece of advice from an old man?”

Kip nodded, a gesture that seemed to please Derek greatly. In a kind voice, the elderly resident spoke.
“Take a walk around Henford today,” he said. “Don’t look at the clock. Or your phone. Go wherever you feel like going, laddie. We’re a small village, but there’s so much to see,” he smiled. “There’s always more to find, and learn, and do, and discover. There’s so much more that life has to offer. More than you’ve ever let yourself see. There’s so much more to be, Kip. We just have to give ourselves a chance.”

“We just have to open our eyes.”

“Tell me honestly, Kip…”

“Aren’t you a little curious to go see for yourself?”

Kip had thirty minutes left.

Then twenty-five.

Then twenty.

“Take a walk around Henford today. Don’t look at the clock. Or your phone. Go wherever you feel like going, laddie.”

He wasn’t sure…

When he’d finally lost count.

“We’re a small village, but there’s so much to see. There’s always more to find, and learn, and do, and discover.”

“There’s so much more that life has to offer. There’s so much more to be, Kip. We just have to give ourselves a chance. We just have to open our eyes.”

“This takes priority, Kip. We’re counting on you.”

“I’m sure they do. But right now is not about what they need, sweetheart. It is about what you need.”

What… did he need?

“Go on, city mouse. Have another one.”

“We’re all in this together, right?” 

“Aren’t you a little curious to go see for yourself?”

He’d missed his deadline.

Kip wouldn’t be able to finish that report. He couldn’t give John what he wanted- he’d probably get horribly reprimanded. Kip’s salary would be cut. He wouldn’t be able to make rent in time.

An hour ago, that future had terrified him so much.


Kip suddenly had trouble remembering why.

14 thoughts on “Chapter 4 – Flowers for a Stranger, Part III

  1. It’s really moving to see Kip’s transformation.
    Derek does such a good job of getting him ready. All the similarities between Derek’s description of his past and Kip’s own thoughts about himself are so well shown with the grayscale images.
    I love all the photo memories on the wall. You have done amazing preparations for this chapter.

    Kip’s memory of his dog on the vet’s examination table is heartbreaking. However, I would say it is an unusual vet with so little empathy. Fortunately, my own experience is that the vet has shown great care when my pet had to be euthanized.
    Well, it all helps to show how bleak Kip’s existence is.
    (NB: I have a dog in my game that needs an owner 😅)

    And yes! He chooses to jump. Not beyond the bridge, but into a future that now seems far less frightening.
    The last picture of Kip’s new trait says it all 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is my experience that a conversation with someone who has gone through the same thing always hits harder than a conversation with someone who has not. Derek knew exactly what was going on and luckily, he knew exactly what to say. Thank you for the compliment ❤ It was actually the pictures on the walls in Tusnelda and Trix that inspired me to tell his tale this way.

      Ah, that's not his vet, thank the gods. That's his co-worker. I'll add some extra text to make that clearer. Thanks for the feedback! I luckily share your experience with wonderful vets. They've always been highly sympathetic ❤ I hope your game's dog finds a loving owner soon, too!

      [He chooses to jump. Not beyond the bridge, but into a future that now seems far less frightening.] That is exactly what I was going for and such a lovely way to describe it ❤ you really have a way with words, Mona. Have people told you that? Because they should tell you again 🤭

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, I am touched that I have been able to inspire you. But that’s the beauty of having a network. We inspire each other ❤
        Thank you for your sweet remark about words. The metaphor was just right in front of me 😅

        Liked by 1 person

  2. That was indeed a very deep conversation, probably difficult for them both. Most people in this village really seem very empathetic with newcomers and even more willing to help them, it really seems like a nice community. And I also think Kip really needed to hear a brutally honest story to realise all the wrong things he is going through.

    Also, in the last scene, I really hoped he would have thrown his phone in the water, before remembering that probably he will still need it to communicate with the Henford’s people!

    I also liked a lot Ian and Derek’s characters and their house, that part of the chapter really looks full of details telling about who they are and their story (and I’m quite sure to have missed quite a few of them…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brutal honesty is one way to snap out of it and on that front, Derek certainly delivered. Kip was very fortunate to come across Agatha when he did. ❤

      Haha, I seriously debated having him do that, actually. but it didn't look right in the screenshot, so instead he just turned it off 😂

      Derek and Ian are such a cute couple. My first playthrough of Henford, they became my sim's best friends until they both passed. Derek especially reminds me of my grandpa a lot. 🙂


  3. Oh, wow. This chapter really moved me. You are an amazing storyteller. I’m actually kind of having a hard time figuring out what to comment. Kip’s feelings seem so eerily familiar to me.

    Give me a moment…

    Oh! Heh heh. I love the interaction between Derek and Ian (lol. I almost said “Ion” 😆 ). They seem like a couple who really love each other and have a sense of humor about the things they disagree on. I like them a lot. I hope we see more of them.

    Kip’s countdown, and the back and forth between the colorful Henford images and the greyed out scenes from work and the city gave me chills. It all built up so perfectly to that simple understated “I quit.” Masterful use of screenshots and silence. I am loving this story. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Takes one to know one, I’d say. I hope all the Kips in the world get the opportunity to be happy ❤

      Ha! I bet Ian and Ion would get along. He's a total goofball. Fingers crossed that we'll see more of them in the future!

      Thank you for the massive compliment ❤ I'm really glad this one landed well. Sometimes the screenshots say enough on their own and I don't have to write anything. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it always makes me proud.


  4. What gorgeous storytelling! ❤ Absolutely loved the pacing of the images during Kip’s thought process, especially intermingling the black-and-white memories. So masterful and moving and what a cathartic “I quit”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment! It’s a very cathartic “I quit” indeed – nowhere to go but up from here 😄 whether that’s upstream, uphill or up into the sunset is yet to be seen, though…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yowch. Not taking in any of the beautiful things other people love, faking an emotional response…Yup, all too familiar. This old couple seem fun though! When we saw their living room for me it was like…it hurts for Kip to see as a younger person lost, to see old people who seem to have it all worked out because you look at it and you’re like, yeah, that’s not gonna be me, I’m never going to work it out, that sort of thing. All of those photos are heart-melting < 3 Especially when he mentions retirement.
    'What do you besides work?' Kip in his head just 'Uhhh…work? That's what I do besides work.' : P I really like the way you write the scene with what Derek is so good < 3 Ah yeah, when something bad happens to a pet or even a family member you're just expected to work through it. No-one is allowed to react to anything, ever, you must forever be a clockwork robot and never show emotions, but that makes you evil, but if you show emotions you're too much, but if you don't show emotions you're evil, so on and so forth.
    I love him texting in. No formal notice period, just 'fuck this shit I'm out', good on him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Fuck this shit I’m out” is the perfect response here, ha. For him and for many other people in the same situation. We all deserve to be happy ❤ I've never understood people who react to the loss of a beloved pet with "just get over it", like it was an accessory that broke. Then again, that's probably how they see pets. 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yaaaassss, Kip. Quit 👏Without 👏Notice 👏! I have a somewhat similar experience quitting a toxic work environment (as I’m sure many of us do), and once you get past that hurdle of believing losing your job is the absolute worst thing that could happen to you, that immediate flood of relief is so validating.

    I retract my previous theory. This entire town is the embodiment of a salaryman patron deity. 😂It really does seem like everyone can read Kip like an open book and knows exactly what he needs to hear — the sheer amount of empathy and care where Kip expects none is so refreshing.

    I adore the way you wrote Derek and Ian’s dynamic (and Ian’s fantastic dad jokes 😂) — you actually encouraged me to check up on them in my own save, because I haven’t interacted with them much at all, and I discovered that Derek has already passed with Ian soon to follow. 😭Elders really don’t live long enough in this game, do they?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. QUIT 🔥 WITHOUT 🔥 NOTICE! 🔥 It really is. I’ve had three friends all switch bad jobs around the same time and all of them were scared at the time, but so much happier now.

      Haha, Henford the Salaryman Patron Deity! I’m so making that an actual thing in D&D. Countryside Paradise or something.

      Oooh yeah. I had the same thing my first playhrough. Ian had already passed and Derek was all alone. I invited him to live his last days with my household, so he would be surrounded with friends. Unfortunately my game does weird things with tombstones when sims die off-lot, so I never managed to find Ian’s gravestone and reunite the two of them 😢


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