Life is about decisions. You either make them or they’re made for you, but you can’t avoid them.Mhairi McFarlane
Windenburg, Cameron Jr. Residence Blaine 55, Viktoria 54, Anastasia 29, Brendan 24, Chase 32, Natalie 24, Collin & Claire 2 years, Declan 1 month
Let’s start off with a recap. So much happened all at once, while time flew by for everyone. There were, of course, very exciting and happy news: Brendan and Natalie were expecting their first child!
They had known for a while, carefully hiding Natalie’s baby bump under loose clothing until they were well into the second trimester already, when they invited all of us out to their now mostly finished home to share the news with the entire family while Natty was flaunting her already sizable belly, out and proud.
By the time the ultrasound images were made, both were so emotional (full disclosure, so were Blaine and I).
Smiling, Natalie told us that she would catch Brendan often staring at the grainy image of their baby. She added giggling, that she did the same when nobody was around.
After seeing both of them meet Anastasia and Chase’s twins and ever after, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that they were very eager to have their own.
The months after the official announcement rushed past, filled with preparations and everyday life. Natalie’s pregnancy was fairly smooth, I knit baby things for their son and toddler things – times two – for Anastasia’s ever growing twins, as did Natalie, who had learned knitting from me when she was a teen and first started dating my son. She had kept up and gotten really good at it over the years. And then suddenly we got Brendan’s frantic call from the hospital – in the middle of the night Natalie had gone into labor and with little time to spare delivered a healthy, precious baby boy.
Windenburg, Cameron Sr. Residence
A few weeks after the birth of his son, Brendan showed up at our home right into the middle of Blaine ranting on about something, so our son got the brunt of it, not me.
Still grumbling on and on Blaine went to answer the door, but his mood instantly improved when he saw Brendan.
“Brenny boy! Come on in son, didcha bring your gun?” Blaine asked our son.
“My what? No, dad, I am off-duty right now. Why?” Brendan looked taken aback while he waved over to me in the kitchen as he walked into the living room with Blaine.
“Could use it to shoot them damn squirrels that keep fucking up the house, and yesterday Max got his dumb ass bitten by one of those lil fuckers! Right smack dab into his big honker, the tongue and flews. That big ole baby could swallow a good dozen of those in one bite, instead he runs after one to ‘play’- play, my ass – only to get his ass handed to him. Luckily his father ended that drama, Obi hates those destructive furry tailed rats as much as I do. Had to take that damn Max to the vet, he said he looked okay but gave him some shot anyway, and that damn mutt and I both left the practice crying. That damn giant fur baby got his feelings hurt when the vet stabbed him in the ass with a needle, and I sobbed hard because the bill for that hurt my wallet! And if this idiot mutt doesn’t learn to keep out of trouble, he’ll have to learn to ride bitch on my motorcycle, I hate driving your mother’s clown car!”
I started laughing, despite the insult to my small car, as I imagined our furry, floppy-eared and very hyper Max sitting behind Blaine on his motorcycle, clinging on for dear life, while trying to lick Blaine’s ears or something, naturally, that was just a joke, and I could hear the amusement in Brendan’s voice when he told Blaine that the government issued weapons were not for vermin control. Brendan was an agent with the FBI, he had changed careers a year or so ago from being a detective to being a secret agent after they contacted him with an offer he could not refuse.
“But what I came here for was to ask what the policy is on visiting the Vatores during the daytime.”
“The hell you want with Caleb now?” Blaine asked, grimacing.
“Nothing, I wanted to go see Riordan. He still lives with them, right?”
“Far as I know. Why are you looking for Ri?”
“Just something I needed to ask him. Stuff going on … long story.”
“Please don’t tell me he tried to screw your sister again! If he did, I swear I’ll catch those fucking squirrels and stick them all down his pants! That’ll settle that problem for good as those suckers will make his wanker nothing but a faint memory in minutes! They’re like piranhas! One day soon your mother and I will be in a tent, because they ate this shed!”
“What?! Dad! Seriously?! Huh?!” Brendan looked absolutely confused now.
“If you only knew, kid.” Blaine shook his head.
“Argh Blaine!” I sighed.
Oh, that husband of mine! Way to keep a secret. See now why sometimes I just could not tell him things?
“Oops, right, I guess I said a bit too much, didn’t I?” Blaine realized his blunder.
“I’d say! So let’s back that truck up, dad. Ana slept with Ri? When? Why? What? I always thought they were just … but wait … the way they always looked at each other … oh wow, I am really late to that party. Dayum!” Brendan looked shocked between his father and me and I could see the wheels turning.
“I know nothing about … anything. Babygirl?!”
“Oh no, you rode that horse straight off the cliff yourself, honey, you fix it. I am not saying a word! I am not gonna tattle on our daughter, nor lie to our son just because you have diarrhea of the mouth!” I informed my husband.
“You know what guys … never mind. Ana can handle herself. Just about the Vatores … can I go there now? Just show up at their door or is there a specific time? Never been there without you guys.”
“As long as your plan isn’t an afternoon at the nude beach with either or all of them, you can go whenever. They can take some sun, just not work up a tan or some shit like that. They definitely can open doors for ya. Even in the brightest sunshine, which, that I have yet to see in Forgotten Hollow.”
“Do you want to call or text Caleb so he knows I am coming?”
“Do I look like his secretary, kid?! Go or don’t, I don’t care. If they don’t feel like company, me calling him wouldn’t change a thing. Caleb is stubborn and his sister is a bitch. And that Riordan is a … I don’t even know a good word for that kid.”
“All right, thanks dad. And call an exterminator, like mom has probably already suggested five times.”
“Yes, I have!” I had. More than five times. Of course I could have just called someone out without Blaine’s approval, but we all know how charming my husband could be toward unwanted company. It just was not worth it. And Blaine proved he wasn’t ready for it yet with his next rant.
“I don’t need no chunky dude come here to scar my babygirl with his ass crack out while he spreads poison all over the damn place that makes the damn dogs keel over dead and then I’ll have to rip his butt cheeks over his head! I can get rid of some fucking squirrels my damn self! But whenever you come by next time, bring that gun and a ton of ammo. Or a shotgun if they issue any of those to you! If they ask you about it at work, just say you had to light up some intruders – no, squatters – at your parents’ house! It’s the truth! Nobody invited those fuckers and they definitely don’t pay rent while they turn the damn place into Swiss cheese!”
“Dad, I am sure you got that exterminator confused with a plumber, but … whatever. I’ll see you guys later. Love you!”
“Baby, wait, I want to show you the onesie I am knitting for your little boy …”
“Of course you are, mom. Before he was even born you and Natty had knit him a whole closet worth already. Look, I am sure the onesie is great mom, all your stuff always is, but I really need to get going.”
“I did go with the classical blue for this one, because of Natalie’s eyes …. and ….”
“Fantastic, we’ll take that off our still insanely long ongoing baby wish list – we thought we had it all but guess not and Natty already caught baby fever again after playing with my niece recently. Now she is constantly in my ear about wanting a baby girl too. I just don’t know about all that. But mom, maybe you could knit us some more baby toys. Yeah, knit some toys for my son, mom. Sorry to be so rude, but I really have to go.”
“Your mother don’t need to knit toys, I’ll make him some toys out of those damn squirrels when I catch them!”
“Yah, you do that, dad. I really gotta go now. Love ya guys and see you Sunday.”
Brendan turned to open the door and leave but nearly ran right into Anastasia.
We all halted and stared for a moment, at her, and the bags she was lugging around.
“Oh, this ain’t gonna be good …” Blaine said just loud enough for me to hear.
“Agreed. We’re about to level up from your squirrel problem for sure.” I replied quietly while watching Brendan let his sister enter and helping her bring in the bags, piling them up in our already narrow hallway. This wasn’t a weekend visit. Not even Ana overpacked this badly. Uh oh.
“Evening everyone … as you probably guessed I was hoping that offer of being able to stay with you whenever I need to still stands …” Ana said, her voice unusually tender and quiet.
“Ana, what’s all this about?” I asked concerned.
“Chase pretty much kicked me out.”
“What the fuck?! The hell that fool thinks he is!? I am going over there right now and he’ll explain to my fists why he …”
“Dad, stop, it’s not exactly undeserved. This is my own fault.”
“Oh yeah? What could you probably have done that’s so terrible that it would justify that man kicking my beautiful little girl out on the street in front of her two little children?!”
“Chase suspects that I have an affair. And … I hate to admit this, but he is not all wrong …”
“WHAT THE FUZZY FUCK?!” Blaine roared.
“ANA!” I exclaimed.
“Holy crap!” Brendan added.
“Anastasia, who?” I asked carefully, but could already guess the answer.
“You know who, mom.”
“Ana, not again, we have been over this and through this before.”
“Anyone got that in slow and English for the dumbass here?” Blaine protested.
“Blaine, she is talking about Riordan. Again.” I ‘translated’, causing Blaine to shake his head, grimacing.
“So that’s why! That makes a lot of sense. I get it now. Ha, whaddya know?” Brendan mumbled.
“Quit sounding like a fucking oracle and share or shut up, son!” Blaine told him.
“The reason I came here asking you about the Vatores was because I wanted to go and confront Riordan about something I know he did, but nobody else knows I know it was him, since he is not in any official records, and the blood we found on scene was very inconclusive, presumable because he is a vamp and none of the blood is his own but a mixture of everything he consumed at some point.”
“BLOOD!? Someone hurt Ri?!” Anastasia stared at Brendan, highly alarmed.
“Yeah, what blood? Can everyone please start using a few more words whenever they have some epiphany or more shit to dig us into, this isn’t ‘Problem-Jeopardy’ and I am not your mother who can detect what you kids mean with her mommy-radar.” Blaine grumbled.
“Fine dad and relax guys, you know as well as I do that bullets can’t do anything serious to Riordan. It’s just one of the cases I am working at the moment, it erupted into a shit-show last night, while trying to apprehend a suspect, some of my colleagues fired shots at his leg to stop him. I wasn’t on scene, as was working it all from another angle, following another lead, but saw the videos from the surveillance and the body cams later and I recognized Ri right away – don’t worry, I didn’t let on. But there he was, clear as day on tape, trying to buy fake documents from one of our undercover agents, posing as black market dealers. When they busted the op and tried to arrest him, he ran, two shots seem to have grazed him during the pursuit, but suddenly he was just gone – and I quote my colleagues’ report ‘as if vanished into thin air once around a corner’. That was Ri all right. That is why I wanted to go see him, to bust his balls about this nonsense, but now I get it. He is trying to get some ID so he can be with you, right?”
“I don’t know, Brenny, I swear, he didn’t tell me anything about any of that. He knows I would have tried to stop him. And Ri doesn’t know about my fight with Chase or about me leaving. I came straight here.”
“So you’re marriage is seriously on the rocks? Yikes. Chase is such a great dude. I mean, Natty is going to have a nervous breakdown if she can’t get frequent play time in with the twins, she’s totally obsessed with your kids, Ana. And I like Chase, he’s my friend now. That is just not cool at all. How is all this supposed to work? So you want to leave him for Riordan or what now? I mean honestly, I never really understood girls, but this totally makes no sense. You literally just got married to Chase, and now you may end up choose a douchebag like Riordan over him?! Sorry mom, I know you like Ri, but compared to Chase, that guy’s a dick and he has done nothing but make you cry, Ana! I guess girls really prefer the assholes. You’re an idiot, Ana.” Brendan finished his appalled rant.
“Brendan, get off your sister’s ass, will ya boy! I don’t like it one bit, but I can sympathize. Love rarely answers to reason, trust me, I would know. They always say, daughters look for guys who are like their fathers, Riordan would definitely be a Blaine 2.0. But you cannot just end things with Chase, you need to at least talk to him. And also: goddamn it, kid!”
“Daddy, I am sorry … and I don’t know how all this happened. I never thought it would ever come to this. I tried to let Ri go, so many times, and he tried to set me free, but we just can’t stay apart. The kids don’t know a thing, they were already fast asleep in bed and I didn’t want to scare them, so I had to leave them there. I agree with you dad, Chase is very hurt, I am pretty sure nothing I could say to him tonight would make a difference anymore. I am going to let him calm down and then try.”
“It’s okay, sweet pea, we’ll figure it out. You stay for as long as you need to. But whenever I see that Riordan next, I am going to kick his ass.” Blaine muttered.
I could see that Anastasia was shaken up by all this, so I didn’t want to be anything but encouraging, but I will admit I was worried about the future of my daughter’s marriage with Chase. Had he reached his limit with her antics or was there a gleam of hope left? I honestly couldn’t say.