There’s a very fine line between one person’s reality and another person’s fantasy.Conor Oberst
The next years rushed by, Blaine was working in his old job as the barkeep and occasional musical entertainment at the Skyline in San Myshuno, I had found an office job again.
Along the way we had a sweet sixteen party for Ana, went through a handful more crushes with her, and lots of the usual high school drama. And then suddenly Anastasia was 17 years old, closing in on 18 and high school graduation, college applications and campus tours became our weekend entertainment.
Brendan was at the verge of his teen years now, and into all sorts of extracurricular things from science clubs to sports, plus wanting to spend time with his many friends, making our schedule very tight. Not much time for Blaine and I to do couple things anymore. We’d get through this too.
The college response letters were more drama. I would get them from the mailbox and put them on Ana’s desk, she would then stare at them as if they were disgusting, scary and hairy tarantulas for a long time, before bringing them to either Blaine or me to open while she looked on close to exodus from anxiety.
Ana had dated a little bit, even had a boyfriend for a while. A fiery redhead named Cyrus Carlton. Sweet kid, but sadly it didn’t last. At least this time it all went mostly drama-free. They just split one day and both went on with their lives.
Time was starting to run out for her to figure out what she even wanted to go study, she was all over the map. Luckily her grades in most major subjects were outstanding, so that the choice was hers for the most part. All she had to do was figure out at least a general direction, but she seemed paralyzed when faced with the decision, while dismissing every single one of Blaine or my suggestions.
We had several fruitless father-mother-daughter meetings about just that.
“I could do performing arts. That way I can be an actress or a musician like you, but I would totally live out the fame and fast lane, people would admire me and look up to me and …” Ana suggested.
“Over my dead, cold, rotten corpse. That life ain’t happenin’ for you on my watch, try again, sweet pea.” Blaine said dryly.
“What do you mean no? It’s my life, my future.” Anastasia argued faintly.
“Which your mom and I will be paying for. You failed out of high school theater class and you wouldn’t even focus on playing the guitar, since you have the attention span of a gnat. And for every fan who likes whatever you do in performing arts, there are two who hate it, and one of those is bound to be vocal about it. You do not deal well with criticism. Plus your mother and I already test-drove that route, it’s shit, toll it takes is too high and I won’t okay that. You are going to learn something solid and keep music and acting and all that shit as a hobby. If you still end up famous somehow, at least you’d have something solid to fall back on when fame fades or you want out. How about Business, like your mom. That’s solid. Stayed home for a decade to raise you kids, then got right back in it like that.” Blaine determined.
She didn’t even bother asking me, one look at my face and she knew I felt the same way.
“Business? No thanks. Well, I guess I like painting.” she shrugged.
“Hobby!” Blaine just growled at Ana.
“I am good at gardening, I think … and cooking I guess … mom taught me a lot.”
“Good, maybe you can make all of us dinner, then pull weeds and make a lovely compost heap to toss that gem of an idea onto, while you think about a REAL education. All those are hobbies, Ana. So, what else you got, kiddo?”
So far I had let Blaine spearhead this, admittedly because I could never get over how dead-set and firm my former bad boy rock musician, who when he was Ana’s age did not waste half a thought about his own tomorrows, could now be about his daughter’s education and future. Blaine was relentless and unbending in getting Anastasia to focus, but now I just had to speak up.
“Blaine, cooking and tending the garden are hardly my hobbies. I do that because it has to be done.”
“Fine, good point, babygirl. Our daughter is not going to go to college to get a Bachelor’s degree in chores. Do something of substance. Read through the coursework again and then figure out what calls out to you.”
The rest of that talk, just like all the others, ended exactly where they began, with her confused and us worried as she was running out of time.
One evening, in the midst of a blizzard, I saw Ana slip out the front door without telling me, peeking through the window I saw Riordan waiting, so I relaxed again. Better than her usual route, out her bedroom window. Riordan really was a sweet and decent boy, I trusted him. Caleb got lucky with him.
I watched them talk for a little while. It seemed normal, just what they always did. To be perfectly honest had Riordan been an average 18 year old boy I would have not allowed this, but he wasn’t, so Blaine and I both overlooked things like this.
Suddenly they both turned and ran off towards the lake right by our home. There was a little bench they often sat on to talk, just the two of them. The older they all got, the more obvious it became that Riordan was destined to be a loner. He was still part of Ana’s group, but somehow did not seem to fit in anymore, even though not for lack of trying. Just like his uncle Caleb, Riordan seemed to want to be like everyone else, but just wasn’t, which often lead to frustration.
The other boys didn’t seem to notice this at all, or if they did, didn’t act differently towards him, but I noticed. And Ana seemed to as well, so she would often meet alone with him, he seemed more comfortable that way. They had done that since they were toddlers, so it wasn’t really anything new.
They sat next to each other in silence for a while.
“How has it been?” Riordan broke the silence between them.
“Busy. College applications. I am like all over the place with it. Just don’t know. I always wanted to be famous, like dad, but for real. They nixed that. I mean, I guess I could still do performing arts and try to pay my own way ….”
“Bad idea.” Riordan interrupted her flow of words calmly but with certainty.
“Remember all that happened to your dad because of this. Plane crash, abduction, the constant harassment, the motorcycle crash. You sure you want that?”
“Maybe I’d have bodyguards. Really sexy hunks.” Anastasia giggled, Riordan remained serious.
“You know it would take a lot to get to that point. And what about that #MeToo stuff?”
“Fine, dad, what would you suggest then?”
“Dad? Me? Why, because I think before I speak? Maybe you should try that once in a while.”
“Bite me!” she stuck her tongue out at him.
“Really poor choice of words around a vampire.” Riordan chuckled.
“As if. Uncle Caleb would skin you alive if you even thought about doing that to me and you know it. And my dad would break every single one of your bones, and mom would unleash hell upon you.”
“Not if I am good at hiding bodies. Drink you empty, then dump you somewhere nobody would ever find you. You sure that I am not? Maybe that’s what they’re teaching me in training …” Winking, while purposely flashing his fangs, Riordan knew that Ana just wasn’t scared of vampires, least of all him, nor would she ever have to be.
“Yeah, whatever. Back to real life problems. Any brilliant ideas for my conundrum or just random know-it-all-isms? Because that I already get plenty from the counselors and the parents, thank you very much. Just never anything actually helpful.”
“Law.” Riordan said plainly.
“Yes, law. You argue all the time, you learn fast, you are smart. You can fake confidence to intimidate others, you are brave. You could even get famous if you are good enough, defend some celebrities, if you play it right.”
“You know what? That is not the dumbest thing you ever said. That may actually work. And I get to wear fancy designer outfits and strut my stuff while everyone’s looking at me. Plus, mom and dad would probably go for this.”
“Like I said, perfect for you drama queen.”
“I am going to ignore that, because your idea was actually pretty damn good. I can already see it, fancy building, my name in bright letters over the glass entry: Anastasia Cameron, PLLC, Law Firm for the rich and famous… yeah, that has a nice ring to it. Although, Anastasia sounds a bit whimsy. Maybe I should go by Ana. Or add an n and make it Anna. Or Anya? Hmm.”
“How about Stacy?” Riordan grinned.
“Screw you! That sounds like a hairdresser or something. I guess you get one good idea a night and that’s it. Suggesting law for me was yours. Now all we’re gonna get out of you is bound to be swirled BS.”
“Well, you do spend hours on your hair … I think I am gonna call you Stacy from now on.” Riordan had found a button on her to push and he was laying on it now.
“I think you are gonna die from now on. I spend adequate amounts of time on my hair, because I actually have a hairstyle, unlike you who looks like they lost a fight with the lawnmower. So what’s in store for you? No college at all? Uncle Caleb is so bookish, figured there would be like a Hogwart’s for vampires.”
“Hogwart’s?! Do I look like Harry Potter to you?!”
“Not that far off if you add some round glasses and a magic wand. You totally got the nerd part down!”
“Oh, you are going down for this, Stacy!!”
Next I saw the kids chase each other through the snow until they were out of sight. I assumed Riordan would eventually cheat and use his vampire speed to deliver a healthy face full of snow to Ana, like he had done so many times before, it used to make her cry and complain bitterly when they were little. This was totally normal behavior for these two, so I diverted my attention back to the housework begging to be finished. What I didn’t see was what really happened and I never would have guessed it. Nobody would.
They ran, laughing, he caught her and pushed her up against a tree, both halted and just stared at each other, and then … a kiss. Not just a friendly peck on the cheek, a kiss, deep, passionate and long.
After a moment of realization and shock once the kiss ended, Riordan let go of Anastasia, turned and took several long strides away from the tree.
“This was wrong of me. Very wrong. Uncalled for. Sorry. Probably should go.” Riordan stuttered.
“Ri, wait … don’t leave. I won’t tell. Promise.” Anastasia followed him, reaching, then held on to his arm tightly, hoping this would prevent him from just teleporting away now.
“Thanks Ana. That would really not end well for me if uncle found out. Not well at all. He would probably never let me see you again.”
“I know. Don’t worry. I won’t get you in trouble, cross my heart.”
“Thank you. I am truly sorry about that. I didn’t mean to … it just … somehow happened. Accident.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t mind. We’re cool. Happens, I guess. Already forgotten.”
“It shouldn’t have happened, and won’t again. That redhead boyfriend of yours would be mad.”
“No, we broke up. Few days ago.” Ana told him.
“Oh. Sorry to hear. Hope you are okay. If you need to talk …”
“I’m fine, Ri, it was mutual, he and I parted as friends. But thanks for offering.”
“Did you … sleep with him?” Riordan asked, his tone now deeper than usual, gloomy.
“That is none of your business, Riordan Vatore!”
“Yes, you’re absolutely right, sorry again, seems I cannot help but overstep boundaries tonight. I really should go now. See you when I see you.” He took a few steps away from her, then a faint hissing sound filled the air, which began to flicker around Riordan, a black cloud formed suddenly engulfing the boy, then it dissipating was all that was left.
I did notice Ana was quieter than usual that night, but when she told us what Riordan had said about her studying law, Blaine and I wanted to throw that boy a parade. Neither of us could have guessed the rest of what had gone down by the lake.
Back in her room later on Ana’s mind was light-years away. She knew Ri was right, nobody could ever know about what happened. If Caleb found out, he would 100 % forbid Riordan to see her ever again, same with her parents.
Biting her lip she tried to spin the tale out anyway, imagine what life with a vampire boyfriend would be like and she didn’t like it at all. They all were right. Their lives were just too different.
He was a friend, her best and oldest friend, she could tell him things she could never tell Clay or the others, not even her parents.
She decided the kiss really had been meaningless, just stress and hormones getting the best of him. And her.