“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”Steven Spielberg
Strangerville Carmichael Residence
Smiling, Cordelia looked at her younger sister Maeve who joined her, her second husband Prescott and Maeve’s husband Everett in the Carmichael’s kitchen.
“There she is now! Thought you got lost on the way downstairs, even though our humble abode is nothing like the palace you two live in! Even made a fresh pot of coffee to summon you, hoping you’d follow the scent, you coffee addict, you.” Cordelia sounded bemused.
“Sorry, but that baby of yours is soooo adorable! Makes me want to have one of those again, too!” Maeve swooned about Cordelia and Prescott’s latest family addition, infant son David.
“We can make that happen! I still work as advertised, so do you.” Everett offered smirking.
“Uh – no. We have our hands full with our careers and Blaine. Plus it took me ages to get my figure back to where I did not look like a stampeding rhino on stage. And that was 15 years ago. Women don’t ever look decent again if they have babies at 40!”
“Thanks.” Cordelia said, acting offended.
“Oh come on now! You look great, and you do not get overanalyzed every second of every day and don’t have to perform on a stage, with people judging you and photographing you from every angle, you know what I mean. People can be cruel towards celebrities, act like they own them. It’s just different for me.” Maeve defended herself.
“I DO know what you mean and it does take a lot more time, but I think I am not looking too shabby already, all things considered. And I am two years older than you.”
“Yes, I can attest to my beautiful wife being absolutely stunning from every angle. Even in my permanent state of daddy-to-a-newborn-delirium she continues to make me feel like the luckiest man on earth. I can’t speak about figure problems, but the lack of sleep is rough, I tell ya.” Prescott now added, smiling.
“It is! My ex left the triplets to me to take care of, day and night. Talk about rough. If I complained, Julian would just set the in-laws on me, those incapable know-it-alls. Not once have any of them changed a single diaper on any of the triplets, but sure wanted to decide what was right for them all the time. No thanks! You have no idea what it means to me that you help, baby. Seriously guys, Prescott never skips a beat. If David cries and he wakes first, he gets the baby, even if he has a meeting in the morning. Won’t hear of me getting up instead.” Cordelia emotionally said into the round.
“Luckily I have no in-laws to torture you with and I helped make that baby, I’ll help care for him. No question about it. He’s my son too. I don’t find what I do particularly worth mentioning, but I take it.” he said, then kissed his wife. It was obvious that her ex was always a bit of a sore subject for Prescott but he had a way to make the best of it.
Everett winked at Maeve, both grinning. Cordelia had changed significantly since her divorce, for the better, but really blossomed after meeting Prescott. He was perfect for her, and after moving out of the constant grasp of her strict, demanding parents, all the way out to Strangerville, much closer to Del Sol Valley and therewith closer to Everett and Maeve, she had loosened up a lot, was fun to be around now. Easy-going Prescott even got along well with his two step-daughters, who lived with them, teens now, a little older than Blaine. The boy completing her set of triplets with ex-husband Julian lived with his father and was a little stand-offish with Prescott when he came for visits, but it may well be the age. He was like that to pretty much everyone at this point. Beyond that, a blind man could see the positive dynamics for Cordelia and her family now. She and Prescott had found the love they both deserved, even if it had taken detours.
“How are things with Blaine?” Cordelia eventually inquired.
“Hard to say for sure, he is so withdrawn these days, but it’s getting better, I think. Sending him for a semester to Windenburg High, have him stay with his grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins at least took the bullying at school out of the equation and nobody dares to mess with him with Declan’s twins around. We miss him so much, the house is so empty without him, and he misses his best friend Kai a lot, they usually hang together all the time, but it’s just for a few more months. For now we Skype almost daily. Hopefully when he comes back home, things are better for him at his school, maybe all those kids forgot all about it. If not, we have to find an alternative, but there isn’t much comparable in Del Sol Valley where a kid of celebrities could go without being treated weird. Public schools are out of the question, unless Blaine really wants to try it, maybe under a fake name. The only thing we could come up with aside from that was a boarding school, but that is really the last resort. I don’t think he’d like that idea at all. I’d almost rather have him stay in Windenburg until graduation even. Hoping college will be different for him.” Maeve told her.
“Oh jeeze, poor kid! Well, at least over there in Windenburg he has a big support system and it’s such a sleepy town, whether or not kids know who he is, doubt they’d care all that much. And didn’t you guys talk about having your brother’s twins stay with you guys for a semester too while your brother and his wife do some more adventure vacations in jungles and such, Everett? That could help him in school.”
“Yeah, but naturally Jordan and Jamie have their friends and all in Windenburg. They love spending a few weeks during Spring and Summer break with us, but they don’t want to stay for a semester. Plus those kids have no issues other than constantly crushing on the same girl. So far they handled it, but Declan and Rory are a bit concerned about their taste in girls being so similar, it may lead to issues eventually. Knowing how things usually go for ya when your last name is Cameron, I am banking on it. Yikes. That won’t be pretty if that really happens.”
“Yeah, liking the same person can lead to serious friction …” Cordelia said, shooting Maeve a certain type of glance.
Cordelia and Maeve’s husband Everett used to be a couple in high school, Maeve had a crush on him all that time, but being significantly younger than both of them, he never even really noticed her beyond being his girlfriend’s little sister. Rett used to be too busy spreading himself around all the girls his age, even while dating Cordelia. Luckily, all of them had outgrown the foolishness of youth, twists of fate had Maeve end up with Everett eventually, now they shared a career as celebrity musician couple, a teen son and had been happily married for over 15 years, while Cordelia was on husband number 2, who seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for her.
“Just saying …. second kid is usually easier … ask my parents.” Everett winked to lighten the odd moment.
“Ugh! I need some coffee to deal with that new set of BS now!” Maeve made, shaking her head, while the other three laughed.
Forgotten Hollow New Vatore Residence
Blaine covertly eyed Riordan again, as he demonstrated his immense super-human strength by lifting two huge boxes on top of another as if they were empty.
Those boxes were the final batch of items, now Riordan and Anastasia’s old home in Windenburg was completely empty, awaiting demolition. Every single Cameron family member agreed, the old home contained too many bittersweet memories, nobody wanted to live there for that reason, now some severe foundation issues rendered it uninhabitable anyway. Whether it would be rebuild or sold remained to be seen.
Riordan and Ana had instead moved to Forgotten Hollow, into a newly built modern style home, designed by them, and it was mostly a practical decision. No uncomfortable questions to be faced here and Riordan was closer to the “action” in his position of second in command behind his uncle, the leader of the vampire community of the entire region. A big job, that at times required hands on involvement.
“Why don’t we get ourselves something to drink and take a little break. We are the only ones who haven’t yet. Might as well enjoy the moment of silence while the girls are all out shopping for new stuff.” Riordan spoke, his voice made Blaine wince briefly, but he returned the smile Riordan gave him when he turned to him. The “girls” were vampire Riordan’s mortal, now 72 year old wife Anastasia, Blaine’s great-aunt on his father’s side, and Blaine’s 67 year old grandmother Natalie, the two women long time friends.
“I am fine, don’t need no break. I am strong!” Blaine reassured confidently. It was a lie, he was exhausted, but wanted so much to be like the vampire.
“No doubt about that, but I think I want one. You deserve one, thank you very much for offering to help. Very courteous of you. So, how about a coke and some relaxing on the brand new patio? You coming?” Riordan told him with a knowing glance.
“Yeah, sure. Might as well …” Blaine secretly was grateful the vampire insisted. He was sore and beat.
Riordan tossed the teen a soda, which Blaine caught with ease, then followed Riordan outside.
“Ahem – shouldn’t we be somewhere inside? I mean … you know …” Blaine wondered as they sat down.
“No worries, kiddo, I won’t turn to ashes. I am much too powerful for that to happen on such an overcast day and it will get dark soon anyway. One of the benefits of living here now. Most days are rather … dark. Now, when we still lived in Del Sol Valley, that was a different story there …”
“I wished you still lived there. I mean, ahem, Kai misses you guys a lot since he grew up with you around and all, I mean. How did you become so powerful? Is that something humans can learn too?” Blaine recovered from his almost too honest confession. Kai was Blaine’s best friend, neighbor and also Riordan’s grandson.
“Humans? You DO realize that I am human as well, right? The term you are looking for is mortals and no, this is one of the few benefits exclusive to my kind. My turn with the questioning then. Why are you always watching me like a hawk? I have noticed that the last few times we met. If there is a question you have, Blaine, ask. You know you can always come to me, you know you can trust me. I have covered up many of your little – let’s call them ‘escapades’ – over the years. But if there is one thing I do not like it’s being treated like a specimen under a microscope.”
“I wasn’t! I swear I wasn’t! I was just randomly looking … somewhere, anywhere, and you just happened to walk into my line of sight.”
“Blaine … here is a life lesson for you. A piece of unsolicited advice: never lie. Just do not. Lies are for the weak, and we are not weak. There are some truths that are better off hidden, but lies are never the answer. Omit the truth, dance around it, gloss over it, change the topic or simply say nothing at all. But do not lie. Lies are devils, they will never go away and consume you if they become too many.”
“Okaaaaay. It’s just, you are like – you know – the coolest person I know. I kinda hope one day I can be like that. So I watch what you do and try to do the same. That’s all.”
“Cool? Me? Ha ha ha, color me flattered! I can’t wait to tell Ana you said that.”
“NO! You cannot tell anyone! Especially not my … uh …”
“Great-aunt. Ana is your great-aunt, I am your great-uncle, by marriage. Really not that hard, Blaine.”
“Right. But you can’t tell her. Nobody can know. They already all just feel sorry for me. I don’t want anyone’s pity. I want to … be like you. Not care.”
“Is that what you think? Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong. I care. A lot. Too much for my own good sometimes. It’s just my age that changed the way I handle my reactions to it all. Don’t let my appearance fool you, I am almost 75 years old by your count. As you grow older you will grow wiser too. Look Blaine, I used to be just like you. Naïve, impulsive, unhappy with the cards life had dealt me, angry at things I couldn’t change. At your age I had just finished my transformation, suddenly much had changed, I could no longer eat regular foods, needed to learn to nourish myself a new way, an entirely new world opened up to me while another one was now closed forever to me, leaving me feeling caught in the middle, abandoned, with many new rules, new everything. At that same time I realized that Ana was more to me than just a friend. Which brought on a new set of trouble. For many years to come, actually.”
“Yeah, grandma and grandpa told me about all that. Why didn’t you just marry a vampire? Or, turn aunt Ana?”
“Personally, I already loved Ana, something you don’t just shake off if it is real. Also, many vampire women are a bit too … well, they are not what I like and there were none around my age at that time. Ana and her entire family would have killed me had I tried turning her, as would my uncle. There are strict rules about that for my kind, not some on-the-whim decisions as you see in the movies. So we made the best of it, after several detours. You know that whole story.”
“How did you know you loved her? Because I thought I loved someone and they me but … well …”
“Yeah, your grandparents told me about that. That must have been rough. I am sorry you had to go through all that, especially so young. After my uncle gave me my share of the Vatore wealth and we moved to Del Sol Valley to raise our kids, Ana’s law firm grew fast and we ended up sort of famous too, we figured out fast how fake many things there are. As a vampire I already had lots of training in being extra-cautious with the truth and letting people into my inner circle, same was true for Ana, dating a vampire isn’t for the faint of hard and among my people, she is my official wife, something the mortal government denied us to make official. But for a mortal 14 year old to have your most intimate moments blasted on public television though, oh, I can’t even imagine. Since we are honest here, and you are still very young, let me ask you though. Did you, or didn’t you with that girl?”
“Karlie? Naww. We didn’t. Not even close. I kinda wanted to, you know, eventually, because I REALLY liked her and thought she felt the same about me, but we had only been dating for a few weeks and I just thought … you know … wait. I was 14, she was already 16. Now, after all that, I am not so sure I ever will. Don’t think it’s worth it.”
“Okay, I may be overstepping here, but with a dad like yours, I will assume you know how to use birth control. So, as long as you are adamant with that, no Cameron curse should befall you if that’s what you’re afraid of. Your parents told you about that Cameron curse thing, right? The fact that you Camerons seem particularly prone to unwanted and unexpected pregnancies at the worst possible time. I can personally attest to there being a grain of truth to that. Aside from that, you really should wait until you are sure she is worth the risk anyway.”
“Yeah, I know about hat curse myth and also honestly uncle Ri, I don’t think there is someone like that out there for me. From where I sit, all girls are stupid bitches. I don’t even want a girlfriend anymore. And I am not even curious what that’s like, you know, doing stuff. Really don’t care anymore.”
Riordan laughed, a warm sound, not gleeful.
“I will remind you of that one day, young Blaine. My suspicion is it will be one day soon, college at the very latest. All it takes is the right girl at the right time. You’ll know … trust me, young one. This, right here, is a repeat of a show I used to star in. Things will get better.”
“Yah, whatever. I need to change something though. I asked my dad, how to be more – ya know – like he is, have presence and he is so confident, but all I ever get from him is all that ‘be yourself’ BS, not helpful at all. So, uncle Riordan, you say you want to help and I can come to you with problems. Here is a problem. How can I become cooler?”
“Like, how you are.”
“How am I then, according to you? What is it that makes me ‘cool’ in your book? And please, don’t mention the vampire part. That is out of the question.”
“I don’t know. You are dark, quiet, mysterious. When I try that, it fails. Grandma is constantly riding my ass about wearing so much black, when I am quiet everyone is like ‘what’s wrong with you, are you sick?” and nobody thinks I am mysterious, no matter what I do. I am just such a dork. That’s what that one girl at Windenburg High called me the other day. A dork. Me! UGH!”
“That is exactly what Ana used to call me. Dork. Still does, sometimes. Oh, growing up she was always mad at me for something, half the time I had no idea what. Anastasia would never think I am ‘cool’. Guess it’s in the eye of the beholder. I think you are an amazing young man, Blaine. You look so much like your late namesake, and I can see him in some of the things you do, and some of the things you say. Trust me when I tell you, you have nothing to worry about. And sometimes when a girl calls you a dork, it can be a good thing. It’s always about the context.”
“I don’t get how an insult can be a good thing. And I don’t think I can ever trust a girl again. Not after what happened …” Blaine didn’t even realize how his defenses fell and now Riordan became the second person to know what really happened. Every little detail just began to pour out of Blaine until his mouth ran dry. As he finished his story with a big gulp of his soda, Riordan nodded to himself.
“I can relate to this, I remember feeling like I don’t belong anywhere at your age, aimless, like a leaf in the wind. Growing up there had always been Anastasia, she made friends left and right, her friends sorta became my friends, or at least so I thought. The older we all got, the harder it became to ignore and hide how different I am, and how my path would never line up with theirs. I couldn’t trust anyone but Ana with my truth, so they all just thought I was some oddball creep and would only put up with me whenever Ana was around. Translates to: I had no friends, except Ana, whom I had the worst crush on, but not only was I not allowed to date her, I was afraid to, in case we broke up, I’d lose my only friend. My long-winded way of telling you I understand you better than you may suspect. But I am also the prime example that things always work out in the end, no matter how hopeless it may seem at times.”
“So, how did you figure out my great-aunt was the one? I mean, how do you know if a girl is for real and not just a user? And why don’t you turn aunt Ana now? So much easier than knowing what’s gonna happen eventually. I mean, if you guys love each other so much, who’s gonna stop you?”
“There is a long explanation to this, which I will spare your young mind. Just know that the easiest way is not always the right way. She would never be happy as a vampire. It takes a certain type of person to withstand this, if you aren’t born into it. It’s my sacrifice to make, and mine alone, not hers. Another thing that will come to you as you get older.”
“Wow. You never hear about that in the movies. So complicated. You are so kind and considerate … In movies and books, vampires are always heartless and the big fat meanies.”
“Oh, growing up I always thought my uncle was such a big fat meanie, when in reality he did nothing but protect me from myself, vampires aren’t exempt from the foolishness of youth. But even he could never stop true love. Since we were on this delicate topic already, fun tidbit for you: your great-aunt Ana and I shared our first time together, a long time ago now, she had just turned 18, I was 19 then. Despite of times being very rough for us then, and us having to sneak around, I will never forget that very moment. It was very special. THAT is what you want and need to restore your faith in women, Blaine. So wait. When the girl and the moment are right, you will know. I promise you that. A wise woman once told me that lust rushes, but love waits. That woman was my sort of surrogate mother by choice, and your great-grandmother by blood.”
“But uncle Ri, how am I ever gonna find a girl who likes me for me, without lying to her. You said I shouldn’t lie, but if she knows who I am, chances are she just wants me because I have famous parents.”
“That, my young friend, is the eternal question all men face, famous or not. But know, there are girls out there who rise above such things, who don’t look at your appearance, heritage, bank account and all that. Even at your age. They are rare, but they’re there. All you need to do is wait.”