“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
Standing on the terrace of his sprawling estate, overlooking the sun setting on the hustle and bustle of Del Sol Valley in the distance below, Everett wiped a tear from his eye.
Memories played like a movie in his head, happy memories of celebrating his 30th birthday here just a few months ago now, the entire family had come to help him commemorate that milestone. It had been so much fun for every single one of them. Now it felt equally as if that day had been just yesterday, but also a lifetime ago …
After cake and song, all of them had piled into three stretch limousines and they moved the festive mood downtown for yet another enormous milestone in Rett’s life:
The dedication ceremony of getting his own star on the wall of fame.
With all his loved ones present. Every single one of them was there.
When the time came to add his handprints into the wet concrete, he pulled his very proud and emotional grandfather up to do it with him, each of them one hand, Rett asked Blaine to do the left side ‘for the left is from the heart’.
Officials had tried to stop it as it wasn’t proper procedure but Maeve, Declan, Brendan and Riordan stepped in their way, and it happened regardless.
For all eternity Blaine and Everett would be commemorated together.
His grandfather had been bursting with pride. Not for one moment did he stop smiling that entire day, neither had Rett, till the cheeks hurt. So much happiness. The perfect day. The memory made Rett smile inadvertently.
His smile faded now, making room for a melancholic expression.
The best day of his life along with his wedding day and the birth of his son was soon followed by the worst day of his life.
Just days after his birthday, he got the call.
His grandparents had died, both of them peacefully in bed together, in each other’s embrace just as they had fallen asleep.
He remembered intense, unbearable pain followed by total numbness.
Everything was just a blur for weeks after that, he lost whole days from his active memory, only vaguely remembered as if through a fog getting on a flight, being met by crying family members, many hugs and sobs, a funeral, once more the entire family was there, as well as Caleb Vatore and even Chase Cunningham. He recalled collapsing to his knees in front of his grandfathers open casket, his father and Riordan had to drag him to a pew so the service could commence.
Faintly he remembered being hauled off to the hospital after a nervous breakdown following the last eulogy, the same local hospital his aunt was being treated there for a heart attack she suffered during the funeral.
For countless weeks after it had happened the entire Cameron family had been in a complete state of shock and upheaval. Everyone was affected, young and old alike, Blaine and Viktoria had been so involved and ever-present in every family member’s life, now they were missing everywhere, all the time.
Even in their late 80s they had seemed so fit, healthy and indestructible, everyone had just assumed they would make it to 90 and even well beyond. Maybe even to 100. Their sudden deaths, hit everyone unprepared.
Windenburg Lake House Current day, almost 2 years later
Natalie looked slightly stressed as always when the entire family was over for a meal, she was trying to get everything just right, have the most delectable foods on the table and all her little sheep assembled to enjoy it. And as always Brendan was right there with her, assisting, so she wouldn’t need to stress.
“Gramma, can I have some brownies?” Blaine appeared.
“No sweetheart, we are about to eat, so find your cousins and all of you go wash your hands, then go sit at the table.”
“Okaaaaaayyyyy … would go faster if I had the energy only a chocolaty brownie could provide. Just a teeeny weeeny one … your brownies are always the best! Better than ANYBODY’S!” he cooed.
“Fine, here is a piece that broke off. But now get going, kid!”
“Thanks gramma! You are the best!” Blaine said, then grabbed the almost whole brownie with just a corner missing and made off with it.
“You are such a pushover, Natty! That boy is going to be out of control if he always gets away with everything.” Brendan told her, shaking his head.
“It was just … oh, just go and set the table, Brenny!” Natalie blushed slightly, clearly aware she had been wrapped around that 7 year old boy’s finger and caught.
“I already did that, mom, and both ladies already seated comfortably, which is why I am here to have you and dad sit now. Almost as if you raised me. Remember, I was always the good son. So let’s get back to mini-Blaine already having you wrapped tight, while my children are absolute angels!” Declan had caught the tail-end of the exchange, smirked while talking as the last part was clearly aimed at pushing his younger brother’s buttons, who was also just walking in.
“Damn, had I known I’d walk into bullshit up to my knees here I would have worn boots! Angels my ass! The only thing angelic about you and your brood will be the angels you hear singing when I give you five across the eyes for trying to instigate, you shithead.” Everett retorted, as intended. They were just brothers teasing.
“EVERETT! There are children in this house, so you will watch the pottymouth. Be productive and start carrying the food to the table you two!” Brendan ordered, trying to hide a smile.
“Yes daaaaaad….” Rett earned a warning look from his father, the scene transporting him back to his and his brother’s teen years.
“Oh, and Rett, honey … does your son have to be always dressed so dark? He is just a child. I get the whole musician celebrity thing, but … all his clothes … and his little room … all so dark. Kids need colors and light.” Natalie told him.
“Mom. Seriously?! I was always in black too, well, at least as soon as I had a say in it. Some of us are just like that. Grandpa was too. And aunt Ana …”
“Anastasia is hardly the proper means of measure here, considering … you know.” Natalie cut him off.
“So now it’s all uncle Ri’s fault?” Rett argued.
“I didn’t say that. And you shouldn’t call Riordan ‘uncle’ anymore. You are a grown man and he … really … doesn’t look like … it’s just getting harder and harder to explain him. Best for all of us to just call him Riordan and be done with that.”
“I thought you loved Ri?” Brendan wondered.
“Of course I do, everybody does, he’s downright dreamy, charming, what’s not to love? I get why Ana gave up so much for him, but still, I mean … we really don’t need to set ourselves up for drama. If history has proven anything, then it’s that it finds us fine on its own.” she told her husband.
Once all were assembled at the table, the conversations all melted together. Updates on work, neighbors, old friends, the kids’ school days and all the mischief all three got into with startling frequency, Jamie and Jordan in Windenburg and Blaine in Del Sol Valley or with the tutors while his parents were touring.
Declan’s sons had not inherited his shyness and social awkwardness issues, even his had mostly faded away after everything that happened in the past some years. Life had him way too busy to worry about that and it just went away. But his boys had a pronounced mischievous side to them.
“Rory and I will be taking the boys to Mt. Komorebi in two months. Time for them to pop their skiing cherry.” Declan declared proudly.
“Dad, what does ‘pop the cherry’ mean?” inquired Jamie from the kids’ table.
Everett nearly spat out his food, earning a warning glance from his mother.
“What?! Declan did it, not me! That was him!” Everett pointed at his older brother.
“So what DOES it mean?” wondered Jordan.
“It simply means the first time for something.” interjected the boys mother Rory.
“It’s like what older boys do with girls, like in junior high …” added Blaine.
“BLAINE!” Natalie stopped her oldest grandson.
“What are you teaching your son?!” Brendan wondered.
“I didn’t! I swear that wasn’t me! Maeve?!” Rett shook his head, pointing at his wife.
“Me?! What are you smoking?! You must be joking! Blaine, where DID you hear that?!” Maeve demanded.
“From Graham, he and Grant were talking about popping a girl’s cherry and …” Blaine shrugged, talking about his oldest second cousins.
“That’s quite enough of that! And I will have a talk with my niece about that after dinner! Her twins are not even 14 yet! She needs to know! There should be no popping of any cherries anywhere on their radar!” Brendan interfered.
“Yeah, I’ll call her too! Everyone always acts like my kid is the worst of all, rebel and crap, and her two barely teens are hussies! HA!” Everett gloated.
“Don’t tell them you know it from me or I won’t be able to play with the big kids again. And why is that so bad? Mommy and daddy pop cherries all the time, always kissing and …” Blaine argued.
“BLAINE! Go get more water for refills.” Brendan muzzled his grandson.
“Okaaaaaay. If knowing things is bad around here …” he dragged himself off his chair.
“I will SPANK YOU! Water, now!” Brendan ordered, trying hard to contain his amusement.
“Ha, as if. With a wet noodle maybe, grampa!” Blaine told him unimpressed as he walked off into the kitchen with the empty pitcher.
“Everett ….” Brendan looked at his youngest son.
“Dad … I don’t know, I swear … uh … must be the nanny. We just had that tour and … “
“Everett. That kid clearly needs a stronger hand and more of your attention. I am certain Maeve already tries, but we need both of you on him! We all knew there was no way he’d be an easy child, but I am seeing things I don’t think I like. Fix it, before this snowballs out of control. You do not want that to grow into a teenager uncontrolled …”
“Dad, he’s only 7 …” Everett countered.
“My point exactly!”
“Okay, fine, I will be on his ass 24/7, even have him on stage with me, soap in hand, so I can wash out his mouth as soon as something you and mom wouldn’t approve of comes out.”
“First of all, one more curse word and I will wash YOUR mouth out, and secondly, I do not appreciate the sarcasm! I am giving you solid parental advice here.”
“Dad’s right …” Declan started.
“Oh, shut up!” Everett jumped up and went outside.
A few moments later, Brendan followed him.
“Oh good, more verbal beatings. All right, let’s get it out of your system, let’s hear what a total fuckup I am as a father.”
“Rett, I would never say that, and I most certainly do not think that. You are an excellent father and husband to your wife, making me more than proud, even without mentioning your other incredible and amazing achievements. I am trying to tell you to be careful about giving your son too long a reign. If you don’t watch it, he may break loose. You do not need me to tell you whom he already resembles a lot, do you?”
“Ever thought that may be why I overlook it so much? It’s like he’s still here.”
“Rett, he IS still here. In our hearts, always will be. He is in all of you, in me, in your son. The sun will set for the final time on all of us one day. Our job is to make it all worthwhile for us and those we live before that happens. We do not need to raise a bratty grandson, who will one day grow into a terror teen just for you to remember your grandfather. Believe me, terror teens aren’t the stuff parental dreams are made of, especially not if you have a demanding career. I would know. I raised one of those.”
“Yeah, Declan was nothing but trouble, wasn’t he?” Everett joked half-heartedly.
“Yeah, right, Declan. Look Rett, I am biased, because I helped make you, and for all intends and purposes, you and your brother and your kids all walk on water, but in reality yes, Rett, you were that bad. Ask Maeve. Or better yet, ask her sister.”
“UGH, don’t remind me of Cordelia! After years of Maeve not wanting a piece of them, she’s all ‘we should spend some time with them’ now. Ever since her mother called her out of the blue, acting all ‘oh, I miss you my little girl…blah blah … never even met my lil grandson … and you never met your nieces and nephew … wah wah wah…’, Maeve had her tail in a spin. She is making us go over there tomorrow. I can already see the three of us kumbaya’ing with her stiff-ass parents, her sister, Julian and their brood. And Julian’s family like spiders on their estate. Blech.” Everett made dismissive sounds while frowning repeatedly.
“Is that so wrong? For better or worse, they’re your family now too. I am not exactly the biggest fan of the Reeds or the DiLaurentis personally, but once upon a time, Julian DiLaurentis was a very good friend of yours and you were more than happy to spend time on that estate. And Cordelia Reed was good enough to be your girlfriend for a long time … twice even. Not to mention you have been married to her sister for many years. So either your taste is questionable or you are wrong now.”
“Dad, seriously?! The Reeds and Cordelia couldn’t be bothered with our wedding, we heard NOTHING from them after Blaine II was born, not a peep, we didn’t hear from them until I got my star and now Maeve is in the pool to get one too. All the years they’ve known me, which is almost my entire life, it was always “Everett Who?”. Even after I married their daughter. And even after she and I had a son. Yet, suddenly they come crawling from the woodwork? Gold-dig much?”
“Then be careful, be guarded, but give them a chance, don’t cheat your son out of knowing his entire family. And honestly Rett, your wedding caught all of us by surprise. We all had to scramble to make it. You and your last minute ideas, you two go jetting off to Sulani and next thing we all know you decided to tack on a wedding you pulled out of thin air plus a bun already in the oven. Really, Rett, not everyone can toss their schedules out of the window to fly to a remote island and attend someone’s on-the-whim wedding. Evidently they couldn’t, especially not her sister with infant triplets back then. Even with only one now, you should understand that. Maybe it would have been the right thing to do for you two to go see them after the fact to celebrate over dinner, locally.”
“Argh – do you always have to be so … so … “
“Reasonable?” Brendan grinned.
“Yeah, that. It’s disgusting, dad. Annoying too.”
“Well, then a hug couldn’t make it worse, huh?”
“Nah .. I suppose not …” Everett downplayed it, trying not to smile.
Father and son embraced, a lot longer than necessary. For the first time ever Everett realized the many threads of silver running through his dad’s blonde hair now and a pang of realization that his parents were aging right before his eyes shot through him. He fought back the tears suddenly evoked by his father’s earlier words about sunsets of life, it sinking in that nobody can escape it, all life is fleeting and as young, active and fit as both his parents still seemed, they were in their late 50s now. Suddenly his father’s advice made infinitely more sense and Everett’s hug tightened.
“I like you being home, son. Wished you didn’t live so damn far away.” Brendan said, obviously just as emotional as his son.
“Dad … we are here almost every other week unless we’re touring … we’re trying.”
“I know, kiddo, and that makes your mother and me – and your brother – very happy. But, you know, a lot can happen in two weeks …” Brendan’s words made clear how painful the loss of his parents still was for him, even after all this time and Everett realized how much they were alike.
“Dad! Enough with the gloom! You and mom just have to come see us more often. Live it up in the fast lane with us for a while, hang with your sister and the family in Del Sol Valley.”
“I love you, son. And I am more proud of you than I could ever put into words. You achieved everything in life you set your mind to. You make all of us so infinitely proud.”
“I know dad, you tell me all the time, always have, since I was little, even though I know I haven’t always given you too much reason. I love you too. Plus, that brother of mine ain’t bad either, is he?”
“Declan is the prototype of the perfect son to counter-balance the other one I have.” Brendan laughed, winking.
“Heyyy … wait a minute … why is it suddenly pick-on-Rett-day again?! Thought we had a moment here … ” Rett knew his father was teasing him and played along.
“Can’t feed that ego of yours too much, don’t need it to get any bigger.” Brendan winked.