Misfits need a place to get away, too. All that trying to fit in is exhausting.Sarah Addison Allen
Windenburg Cameron Lake House Several months later
The ability to recover from traumatic events has historically been one of the Cameron family’s strongest traits. Fate had also always made sure we had plenty of opportunity to stay in training.
Let me quickly catch you up to where we were now.
Chase had kept his word to Ana and the divorce plus custody hearing had gone over as smooth as something like that can go, Ana had kept the rape off the record, both never mentioned cheating on either side, instead the divorce was handled as one of those “irreconcilable differences” things, which was in everyone’s best interest, especially the twins’. Chase and Anastasia were awarded shared custody, the kids lived at the Cunningham Estates, but Ana could see them as much as she wanted, they could visit us and their aunt & uncle just as before.
A divorce was still a divorce though, rough for all parties involved, as was helping Ana get over the deeper lying effects of what had happened to her. There was a lot hidden beneath the tough surface with her. She cried a lot, smiled very little, was skittish, had lost most of her appetite and almost all lust for life, leaving her very apathic. It took months, before finally Ana began to look, feel and sound more like herself again.
One big step towards the healing process had been her name change back to Cameron.
During all that time Riordan proved instrumental in her recovery, he reached her on levels we as her parents, and Brendan as her brother simply couldn’t, so Ri was still at our house a lot, preventing or fixing Ana’s meltdowns, just like the olden days, I guess. He even got her to reconnect with old friends again, got her to go out for drinks with him sometimes or at least walks, just anything to get to to not constantly sit inside and stare at walls. Whenever he wasn’t around, Ana all too quickly would spiral into severe anxiety attacks that were very hard to snap her back out of without Riordan’s help. Initially we feared she’d latch on to him and rely on him too much, but then again, we knew Riordan and he had his ways to keep that from happening. Nobody could ever make her madder than he could. Been that way for as long as we all could remember.
Ana could barely stand to be touched by anyone, including me, even worse any man that wasn’t her father or brother – or Ri – including doctors. She could deal with it from us because she loved and trusted us, but we still had to approach slowly, gently and carefully. It was currently hard to imagine her ever being in a relationship again, ever fully being able to trust anyone again.
To get Ana’s mind off things we had remodeled her old bedroom to one more fitting for her current needs, including a queen bed, as I was well aware that Riordan spent the nights in her room anyway, if only to be close by when nightmares woke her, screaming, confused and scared out of her wits every single night. Ana had started wearing one of his shirts to bed almost exclusively, like a suit of armor of sorts.
During breakfast one morning, Riordan appeared in the kitchen, casually clad in only his boxers and shirtless, possibly because Ana was wearing his shirt, while Riordan now exposed the muscular chest and the large tattoos. HAVE FAITH IN ME it read on his chest, which made me smile. I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but he once told me, many years ago now, that he got it because of Ana, some time around his 18th birthday.
“Morning all …” he offered, but his smile was just for Ana.
“Morning handsome.” she purred from the coffeemaker, which made his smile even bigger. The faux-flirting was fairly new, to me it signaled another step in Ana’s healing process, but otherwise I considered it completely harmless, while it upset Blaine greatly. He liked Ri and loved his daughter, but didn’t like the idea of them together again, not even the playful baby steps. He said nothing, but growled some complaints laced with sentence enhancers into his coffee mug next to me.
“Getting ready to go to work?” Riordan asked Ana, while watching her pour a cup for him.
“On a Saturday? Nope. Hmm … and even if it were not the weekend, when you come in here looking all delicious like that, my mind goes everywhere but to law and order.” Ana giggled as she handed him the beverage. Smiles and giggles were still rare for her.
“Oh I’d like to hear more about that!” Riordan countered, his voice deep.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! None of that in my kitchen! And put some pants on, son, the only sausages I want to look at are those on the table! Decent people are trying to eat here! ” Blaine protested from the dining room table.
“Oh, we have decent people visit, daddy? Too bad I always seem to miss those.” Ana giggled and dodged the slice of buttered toast that came flying.
“BLAINE CAMERON! Will you desist!?” I complained, as the kids – well, grown kids – left the room giggling with their coffee mugs.
“No clue what that means, but if you want me to, I will. Here’s to hoping that it’s something sexual.” Blaine snickered at me, his coffee mug raised.
“It is NOT! And whatever happened to ‘decent people eat here’? Decent people do not throw food and YOU are going to be cleaning that up, Mister! I am not your maid and I certainly do not clean up your immature outbursts after you!”
“My house, my rules. Especially for FREELOADING VAMPS! That sunnovabitch may not eat, but drinks coffee and my alcohol like a drain! And is he low on shirts and pants, or why is that kid running through my home half nekkid in his drawers?!”
“Oh Blaine, seriously! YOU are the last one to complain about lack of clothing! Ever since we were teens I have been trying to keep you from being half naked and nothing has changed over the years! I mean, look at yourself! Also, this is OUR house, not YOUR house. And did you hear me about cleaning up your mess?!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll pick up the toast and lick the floor if the dogs haven’t already by the time I get to it. So, our personal friendly neighborhood mooch can run around almost bucknekkid, but I am forbidden to in my own home?! Didn’t hear you bitch at him about it! Why do you think he does it, huh? To get into our daughter’s panties again, just like before, if he hasn’t already! Those boxer shorts are probably coming off as we speak and I don’t even want to imagine the rest! URGH!”
“Oh my GAWD, Blaine! Not everything in life between a woman and a man is always about sex! They are still only friends! Both assured me so, Ana says she needs time and is taking things slow, which I understand and accept at face value. Beyond that, she is a grown woman and what she does with her life and body is her choice. I am glad to see her smile again, took long enough, wouldn’t you say?! So if she really were screwing Ri and that puts a smile back on my poor girl’s face, I’ll break out the cheering gear for them!”
“Wish you had that enthusiasm whenever I suggest stuff like that for us.”
“Oh, quit your pouting! You get plenty of nookie, Mister! But I have a life and things to do as well, other than you.”
“Oh, right, reminds me, I got that shit service thing again today. Fuck me sideways, no clue how many more hours. Feels like I have been doing that since back when the dinosaurs still roamed. Wonder what idiotic community task they dreamt up for us this time. Mop the freeway? Scrape gum off the subway seats and feed it to the homeless? Shave stray cats’ asses to make wigs for the needy?”
“It’s called community service, there are about 80 hours left and it is still better than the alternative, which would have been me having to visit you in prison, whenever you wouldn’t be too busy pleasuring some butch guys named “Tank” or “Bowser” or something, my dear growly bear!” I groaned.
For his assault on Chase, Blaine had been sentenced to 185 hours of community service in various assignments, because Brendan pulled some strings and Chase had dropped all charges like he said he would. Since his assault had been pretty major, police still had it prosecuted. The judge wasn’t too impressed with Blaine’s long criminal record from when he was younger, so he piled it on. Despite of it all, he still got off easy, but trust me, Blaine’s whining and bitching about it every single time was enough to make me want to go do it for him, if that were possible.
“Aww, you know you like the bad boy in me. Always have.”
“Yeah, dreamy, having people at the market whisper behind my back about me being the wife of that awful brute who beat up – and I quote – ‘poor sweet Dr. Cunningham’.”
“Well, they are wrong about him, just like we were both wrong about him. And good thing we’re not for idle gossip, huh babygirl?” Blaine grinned.
“Hardly idle gossip if it’s true.”
“So you are still mad at me, aren’t you?”
“I never was mad at you, Blaine. Quite the contrary, I am proud of you for stepping up to the plate like an avenger. I know I should not condone such violence, but I do. You didn’t just sit there and watch our daughter hurt, you did something and you did something significant. If I could love you any more, I would now, my sexy hunky hero rockstar.”
“Now that’s the tunes I want to hear. To speak in the words of our personal household mooch ‘I’d love to hear more about that!’.”
“I’m more than wiling to demonstrate.” I purred. Oh, don’t you all judge me, as if you wouldn’t if Blaine were your husband!
“I have 30 minutes before I have to leave for my court-ordered work in the coal mines. Will that be enough?”
“For now … I am willing to work with installments.”
“ALL RIGHT!” He dropped his breakfast, grabbed my hand and pulled me along to our bedroom.
At the same time Riordan was in Ana’s room, where she now turned to him.
“I am gonna get dressed now.”
“Cool. Thanks for the warning.” he mumbled unimpressed, while looking at all the many pictures from their youth at her walls.
“Why don’t you go do the same? Or are you planning on spending all day in your boxers?”
“Why not? I can’t really go anywhere now anyway. It’s early daytime.”
“But I have errands to run. So would you please?”
“Would I what?”
“So I can get dressed!”
“Uh – Ana. You literally have nothing I haven’t seen before, many times. We used to be a couple.”
“Emphasis on ‘used to’. That was years ago, but we are not now. So please … privacy.”
“Are you serious? You are kicking me out of your room, because you need to put on a frigging bra? What about all the times you couldn’t even find you damn underwear because you were blinded by tears from having one nervous breakdown after the next, courtesy your ex. You didn’t mind me helping then, nor the fact that I saw you undress – you even had me HELP you undress! While you were healing, I saw so much of your naked boobs and ass that I can draw it all blindfolded now! So what is this sudden modesty shit all about now?!”
“That’s different. Please leave!”
“Why are you such a bitch to me now?”
“Because you are being a dick!”
“Whatever. I hope your errands at least include clothes shopping. Lots of that. You need it – bad!”
“Huh? What is that supposed to mean now? What’s wrong with my clothes?” Ana was instantly combative.
“What ISN’T wrong with them? They are great if your name is Mrs. Doubtfire, but those ugly rags aren’t you, none of that crap. It all looks weird on you. I always thought so and I am not the only one.”
“Are you joking? They are designer clothes, tailored specifically to me. How can they look weird?”
“Not your style. Doesn’t suit you, that dowdy ass shit, even your underwear, frigging nuns would be ashamed to wear that crap! I mean, you are a Cameron again in name, might as well look like one again. You used to be our Cameron-Barbie and now you look like a Stepford wife half the time, no wonder you are wearing my shirts more than I am! Your mom wouldn’t wear half that ugly ass junk in your dresser, because it’s too matronly. She’s literally got better style than you have had ever since you got Cunningham-ed, and she’s 60!”
“My clothing isn’t dowdy or matronly! It’s classy! It’s designer, it’s one of a kind and expensive! And bye bye Ri, door is right there. OUT – NOW!” Anastasia was almost literally fuming now.
“Fine! I’ll be in my room then, covering my eyes and ears, so I don’t even accidently hear you open or close a zipper, to accommodate your sudden extreme sense of humility.”
Riordan stomped out, pulling the door shut demonstratively loud, then doing the same with Brendan’s room door down the hall, leaving behind Ana, shaking her head.
“Men! They just really don’t have a clue! And my clothing is fine!” she yelled after him.
Then she turned to her dresser, digging through everything, snorting, sighing.
Blaine and I had just finished our … uh … talk, were about half way dressed again, interrupted by another make out moment, when Ana burst into the room.
“OUT! Kid! Exposed body parts here!” Blaine protested.
“EEEWW – parents! That’s gross! You guys still try to do that?! And during the day?!” Ana complained, immediately turning her back to us, while we scrambled to put on more fabric.
“Try?! No trying about it. I could give lessons in fucking I am that good at it! Babygirl, confirm.” Blaine growled.
“NO MOM, PLEASE DON’T!” Ana exclaimed disgusted.
“Uh, Ana, why did you just come into our bedroom? If the door is closed, don’t you think knocking would be appropriate if you needed to use the computer?” I said calmly. To get to our home office, you had to cross our bedroom.
“I don’t need the computer, I need your clothes mom. Please.” Ana turned to me, looking upset.
“My … what?!” did my daughter, whom we all had nicknamed the Cameron-Barbie back when she was in her teens, just ask me for my clothes?!
“Clothing. Come on, mom. Can I please borrow something decent to wear just for today, I am going shopping later anyway, but need something until I can buy stuff. I don’t even have any jeans anymore …. can I have your skinnies? The ones you are wearing? And maybe your black leather jacket? Please. PRETTY PRETTY PLEASE!”
“You want my … what?” I asked discombobulated.
My fashion-victim daughter was literally trying to take the clothes off my back?! At my age?! Happy opposite day everybody.
“Ha – now even my own daughter wants to get into my wife’s pants. HA HA HA, how about that?” Blaine was highly amused.
“Blaine, quit it and get yourself ready for your community service. Sure, Ana, you can borrow the clothes. The jacket is hanging up and let me get some other bottoms and then you can have my jeans, I guess. Blaine, stop laughing and finish getting dressed now. We have to leave.”
“Do I haaaaaave tooooo?” he whined. Now he sounded like a teen as well. Oh, poor me!
“Knock it off. Get dressed and Ana, please remember to knock from now on.” I delegated, and felt like the only adult in the home – while taking off my denims to hand them to my adult daughter before digging for an alternative. So, this was my life now, huh? All righty then.
“She gets clothes and I get nothing but demeaning work …” Blaine groaned as Ana left the room in a sudden hurry.
A little while later there was a knock on the door to Brendan’s old room.
“Yeah?” Riordan called out from his hunched over position on Brendan’s old bed.
“Can I come in?” Ana called through the door.
“Sure, if you can survive me being shirtless and seeing not one, but both my exposed male nipples. Don’t want to insult your suddenly discovered sense of extreme humility, you wannabe nun.” Riordan’s tone was dripping sarcasm.
The door opened and Ana entered.
“Are you still grumpy about that?” she asked, Riordan looked at her.
“Are you wearing your mom’s clothes?” Riordan chuckled.
“Uh … no. I own jeans and t-shirts and leather jackets and stuff.” Ana retorted.
Riordan gave her a smirk and an arched eyebrow as he got up to face her, but said nothing.
“OK, fine. They’re my mom’s. Maybe you are right. I think I may need a style update. Wanna go clothes shopping with me later? Please.” she said, blushing slightly.
“Sure, I’ll just put my balls in a jar and go de-Cunningham your closet with you. At least then I don’t have to be ashamed to be seen in public with you anymore, people wondering if I am taking my grandma for a walk.”
“Asshole! You are going to DIE for this, Vatore!”
She shoved him, he didn’t budge, but grabbed her, pulled her close, their eyes locked, her struggle slowed down, both froze, got lost deep in each other’s eyes, Riordan slowly leaned in for a kiss, but Ana turned her head, pulled away, tears welling up her eyes, she was visibly distraught, so Ri let go right away.
“I have to go …”
She ran out of the room as if a demon was after her, leaving behind a surprised Riordan. He put on his clothing then went looking for her.
He eventually found her in the kitchen, she seemed nervous and antsy, he watched her hand shake so hard that she almost spilled the water she was trying to drink.
Riordan walked up to her, pulled the water from her hand and sat it down, then pulled her into a tight embrace, she protested, tried to fight him off, but he just pressed her trembling body against his, she started crying, until he whispered into her ear.
“I am the safest place you could ever be. Nobody is going to ever hurt you again, least of all me. I know my limits. Have faith in me, angel.”
Her trembling stopped, her crying increased, but now she pressed herself against him.
“I am so sorry, Ri!”
“Shhhhh. Nothing to be sorry for. You and I are a bunch of misfits, just like your dad has always been and will always be, and we need to stick together and be there for each other. And this misfit here will show you that you don’t have to be afraid anymore, I am not leaving ever again. I will always be there to protect you. Always.”
“I know! Hold me tighter.”
“Any tighter and I’ll break you in half. You’re too skinny now, need to work on that too. I may sleep in a coffin, but I don’t want to screw a pile of bones.”
She pulled away from him, instantly furious, glaring at him, which made him smile, as her tears and fear had vanished.
“I am not too skinny! There is no such thing as too skinny. I am at best slender, for your information! And who told you that you and I would ever screw again!? Ha – dream on, Mister!”
“If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” he smirked at her, when she realized he was purposely pushing her buttons.
“You are such an ass, Ri! I was crying … and all you do is tease me!” she complained.
“Well, you stopped crying … didn’t ya?” he told her with an arrogant smile.
“You are … ARGH!” Ana’s had no words, just stood there, fuming, glaring at Ri.
“Feel better now?” Riordan asked.
“Actually, I do. How do you always do that? Nobody ever makes me this mad, so fast, but I always feel better afterwards.”
“I just know how to remove that stick you got up your ass. Still. You had all the coddling you can handle, you need tough love now. I am just the right address for that and you know it.”
“I don’t have a … ah, no, not again. Not falling for it. I am totally calm. So calm. I don’t even care what you say. Or do. Pah.”
“Is that so?”
“One hundred percent.”
“Wanna bet I can get your panties in a bunch again without effort?”
“Try. And fail.”
Riordan gently ran his finger across her cheek, his eyes never leaving hers, he leaned in slowly, Ana moaned quietly, closed her eyes, when he pulled away, slapped her butt.
“Come on, it’s pouring down rain forecast has that all weekend, meaning it’s dark enough, let’s get to those stores to get you some decent clothes, so I don’t have to feel like I am trying to make out with your mom. And maybe a sandwich for you or two, real big ones, Bonehilda!” he chuckled, and left only a black cloud behind, while Ana ran out the front door where he was now leaning against her car, as she cursed him out colorfully.