“As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people.”– Joseph B. Wirthlin
The precursor of this chapter was a Facebook post, here a summary:
During a planned game night at Liam and Vivien’s on-campus home with Malik and Rhea (Liam’s girlfriend), a visitor turns up.
University of Britchester Campus Cameron/Vatore on-campus housing A few days later
Slamming her coffee mug down onto the table, while angrily glaring across it at Liam, Vivien indignantly hissed.
“Are you kidding me?!”
“Nope. As serious as a heart attack.” he replied unimpressed.
“He may be having a kid with another girl, and you want ME to crawl back to him?”
“Well, first of all, we still don’t know if it is his or not, and yeah, freezing him out on some accusation by some girl none of us know is a shit move, Viv. Whatever the outcome, it was clearly before your time, she looked almost ready to give birth, definitely much longer than the three months you have been with him now. I feel seriously sorry for the man, he came by here a million times and you didn’t want to see him. He stopped, but you wanted my thoughts and that’s what I think. I said nothing about crawling, just go and hear him out.”
“And I think you are nuts! Such a dude thing to do, the one with the dick siding with the other dick in this situation! Typical.”
“Okay, look Viv, I know you are still upset, I know this is a red flag to you, but you know I always got your back and wouldn’t recommend anything to you I wouldn’t do myself. We all know if you have sex, someone may end up pregnant. Or did you think he lived celibate before you? I didn’t, not by the bits and pieces I have heard about his past so far. Clearly, he is trying to make big changes, and clearly, he could use you in his corner now when some of the shit he may have done comes to bite him in the ass, else it makes you a shitty girlfriend. I wouldn’t date you anymore if you did me like that. Nobody needs fair weather friends – or girlfriends.”
“What?! You are putting this on me now? I wouldn’t date you either if you came up with a pregnant ex you never once mentioned before!”
“Lucky for us then we’re related and I know how to use condoms, I guess. If you don’t want to listen to me, call Nikki and ask her. Pretty sure she’ll tell you the same thing.”
“Ugh!” Vivien made as she collapsed onto the table with a theatric sigh.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t tell your best friend you were dating her cousin!”
Vivien didn’t answer, just made theatric crying sounds from beneath her folded arms.
“Seriously, that is not the Vivien I know. You’ve been dating him for three months and change now! You’d think you had some time to update your supposedly best friend about that. The Vivien I know is strong and independent, she is there for her friends, doesn’t keep secrets …”
Vivien shot up to cut him off.
“Seriously now? The Vivien you know has never been given a choice, and you know SOME of those secrets and have to keep them yourself! You may wanna update your Vivien-file then! I do HAVE to keep secrets, whether I want to or not. A BUNCH of them, from different people.”
“Okay, fine, I guess that one secret several of us have to keep.” Liam signaled he got her implication about the vampires she was related to.
“And then the secret you kinda stumbled into, about my uncle dating someone he’s not allowed to, has been for the past four years now. You don’t know the half of it, but I do, and I know that if that secret came out, it could cost him his life. I used to hang out with Caelan so much, but because my uncle is a dumbass and choses to sneak around with that chick over hanging with me, I barely get to see him anymore! I told him to stay away from her and he won’t, instead if I ever see him now, it’s mostly to gush about her, putting me in a seriously bad spot. That’s a lot of secrets for someone my age!”
“Agreed, that’s a lot on your shoulders, but don’t you get it? Caelan seems to love that woman. Isn’t that what you always wanted him to do, find someone? Now he has, and apparently he can’t tell anybody except you, so he wants to share. I am sure you shared a lot of your secrets with him too.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. I should be happy for him. And I try to be supportive, but it scares me. What if my grandpa were to find out?! I am not even a vampire, I couldn’t even fight for Caelan. I am too weak compared to any of them, I couldn’t protect him, prevent whatever they’d do to him.”
“Vivien, lay off the drama! I know I am totally on the outside looking in about vampires, you are definitely the expert there, but I have known Caleb all my life and his wife too, and your mom and Riordan, that’s four vampires, all of them high ranking from what I understand, there is NO WAY Caleb would kill his own son, nor would Breana, Scarlett or Riordan let him. Nor would YOU and if you do not realize how much influence you have on your grandpa, you are in serious denial. No doubt Caelan would be in super deep shit for a long time, but he’d live to suffer every second of it too, just like the rest of us when we fuck up.”
“Yeah, maybe you’re right. I know my grandpa is very strict, but I agree, he loves Caelan and my mom too much, and he knows even if he managed to bring himself to do anything bad to CaeCae he’d lose my mom – and me and his grandson. And probably my grandma too. But still, no, I couldn’t tell Nikki about Malik and me, not over the phone or in a chat. It’s on my list for Thanksgiving break. I wanted to do it in person, but last time I was home, it was for a weekend and we had to get back to campus, we just had enough time to hang with my family, make the intros and for them to get to know him a little. I chickened out and had the impression Malik wasn’t all that keen on going home to tell grandpa Reggie and Nikki about me and him. Not after they both literally had to separate us many times or we would have beaten each other up when we were kids. There were several times when I was still in Grade School I was about to throw down with him. That’s how much we hated each other. So us dating requires a face to face …”
“Yeah, I told you Nikki and Malik have no parents, both were raised by their grandpa. Grandpa Reggie. He’s known me since I was 8 and I think I’ve called him that since then. What else was I supposed to call him? Mr. Williams?”
“Uh yeah, that’s what I did and still do with my friends’ parents and grandparents. Sounds to me like you are already part of their family. Anyway, if they have known you for that long, it shouldn’t be so hard. People change, mature. How come I met Nikki a million times, but not the grandfather if you are that close? I don’t remember him at any of your birthday parties and I thought everyone your family ever met was at those. Don’t tell me he wasn’t invited!”
“Of course he was invited! I invited him every year, still do, to every event, even Christmas. But because he’s a stubborn proud old man he didn’t want to come. Not once. Couldn’t afford a present and was uncomfortable going to our Mansion.”
“Can’t say I blame him. That shed is ridiculous!”
“Not like you have been suffering!”
“Wasn’t saying that, but let’s be honest, my parents would never have such a huge house had it not been for your grandfather buying it for his brother, who happens to be my grandfather. And had my dad not started multiplying so early on, with an unplanned pregnancy, by the way, hint, hint, then we would have never ended up with that house, I guess.”
“Save me the hints. I wasn’t planned either. I do get it, it happens. That’s not even the point.”
“Especially if you are a Cameron … “
“Which I am not. My last name is still Vatore.”
“But your dad is a Cameron and so is your mom now … trust me, you are not save from the Cameron curse. So how would it have played out if you were the one pregnant right now? You’d want him to know, right? And you’d want him involved, don’t you?”
“Don’t even talk about me being pregnant! If I only imagine … ugh. And yeah, of course I’d want the father involved. But he never even mentioned that Janelle girl before. And oh my god, she is like the exact opposite of me. How did you think THAT part made me feel?”
“Duh Viv, maybe his taste in women has changed. And since I don’t know her, but know you, I’m gonna say, it improved. From a man’s point of view, there is not one way for a girl to be beautiful to us. I’ve dated clear across the board as far as looks are concerned, and will tell you, it goes deeper than skin and figure. Besides, did you bring up your exes to him?”
“What exes?! There is only ONE ex and yes, he knows about the Matt drama.”
“Okay, fine. Me personally, I don’t want to get the list of exes from any girl I ever date, nor is she getting one from me. Vivien … you need to talk to Malik. That is the only way you get clarity, about all those questions we admittedly ALL have, and about how you feel about it all. The head in sand method is clearly not working.”
“Fiiiiiiiine. You win. I’ll go talk to him.”
Foxbury University Dormitory Williams Later that same day
About an hour later Vivien found herself over on the Foxbury campus, which neighbored the Britchester one, knocking on the dorm house where Malik lived.
Ethan let her in, he looked slightly uncomfortable with the obvious conflict at hand, which he undoubtedly knew about, since he shared a room with Malik, which he pointed her towards after their brief greeting, then disappeared.
Vivien knocked, then just entered. Since Ethan wasn’t obviously not in the room, she chanced it, even though Liam had hammered into her head very early on when they moved in together on campus to never enter a boy’s room uninvited unless you’re ready for a potentially unpleasant surprise. While he never specified what exactly he meant, she had a good idea that most of it probably involved some level of nakedness. Thinking about Malik undressed turned her stomach into a knot, remembering the times they had been intimate. He had been her first. He had made sure at least that first wasn’t wasted like all the other ones with Matt, even her and Malik’s first kiss somehow seemed to have replaced the one with Matt in her memory of firsts. So far they had made it three months … was that it then? Was the fairytale over? Already?
Into her mental turmoil she found him fully dressed, sitting on his bed, and noticed the packed bag near his feet.
“Are you going somewhere?”
“What about classes?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to try and catch up when I get back. Nikki called earlier, said Janelle texted she thinks she is going into labor. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I need to get there. Fast.”
“So, you still love her then? What about me?”
“I never loved Janelle. That’s not what this is about. If that kid is mine, I need him or her to know I was there for it all. Not like my father. I don’t even know who my father is. And my mother dumped me on my grandpa after I could barely walk. I need to be there in case Janelle does stupid shit.”
Vivien didn’t like the sound of that, but realized he was right. She knew his family situation had been the trigger to all his bad behavior and still was something that could get him very upset in seconds.
“Malik, we need to talk.”
“I agree. I tried.”
“I know. I am sorry. I was just in shock. So, who is Janelle to you exactly? Gonna be honest with you, seeing her scared me. If that is what you are really into … I mean, look at me. I am like the exact opposite of her. I feel like back with Matt, wondering how to even try to compete. She’s gorgeous. I am skinny, pale … I get asked if I am feeling all right a million times a day.”
“There is no competition, she never was anything to me, Viv. I was a different guy back then. Janelle is a hoe, no matter how beautiful you may think she is, she is not that gorgeous on the inside, unless she’s changed big time too. And I – obviously – think you’re beautiful.”
“If you didn’t like her, why didn’t you use protection when you slept with her?”
“You just don’t understand. I didn’t care then, Viv, not about her, about babies, about my future. I wanted to screw, she was easy, it happened. I really didn’t give a shit about much, plus, honestly, the way we were … condoms are expensive, most girls couldn’t afford birth control, nobody had that cash to spare. And if I did, I bought things that would make me forget who I was for a while, not something so unimportant to me back then as birth control. As you know, I have changed that attitude, but still can’t turn back time.”
“Okay. So, where does all that leave us then?”
“Honestly, I had hoped you’d have my back. I could have really used a friend after that shock. Especially my girlfriend. Now I am not so sure if you even still are.”
“To be brutally honest, I am wondering that myself. I get this is rough on you, but it’s not as easy as it may look from my side either, Malik. I am still 19. I don’t feel ready to be some step-mom of my boyfriend’s kid with another woman. That’s a lot to ask, especially since we’ve only dated for three months now.”
“But isn’t that exactly what your mother did?”
Hot and cold washed over Vivien. He was right. Blake wasn’t Scarlett’s son, but other than from the telltale appearance, he was blond like his mother’s side of the family, while both Blaine and Scarlett had almost black hair, yet you would never be able to tell by the way they all interacted that he wasn’t Scarlett’s biological kid. Same with Blake’s half-sister Celeste who wasn’t related to anybody, except Blake. Celeste called Blaine and Scarlett mom and dad, Blake, Chase and Vivien were her brothers and sister and that was that for her. Vivien couldn’t recall her even asking about her birth parents anymore, even though Scarlett and Blaine took her and Blake to the cemetery whenever they went to visit family back in Windenburg.
“I guess you’re right. But that’s a very different situation and they were much older than me when all that went down. I am in the middle of college. Academics are super-rough on me, without Liam I would never even be here anymore. Now all this? How is that even supposed to work if the baby is yours? You’re here, they’re in Del Sol Valley, right?”
“Strangerville now. She moved in with her new lover. And her ex. The one she has a kid with.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, what?!”
“Yeah. Welcome to my life. That’s the type of crowd your boyfriend used to run with. The type of crowd I was, maybe still am in a way. Maybe it would be best if you just dumped me. I don’t think I can escape my past. I knew Juvi would come up again and again, but if that is really my kid … I don’t know how to make it work either. I am gonna have to find a job, for child support. Hoping I can swing that with college, but this is already been hard on me. Not sure I can. I don’t have a car, so I would have to be closer to see my kid …”
“Are you telling me you are dropping out? That better NOT be what you are saying!”
“I don’t know yet, Viv. If the kid’s not mine, then no. If it is … I see no other way.”
“If she’s so close to giving birth, why doesn’t she know the gender yet?”
“Because nobody has health insurance and all that costs money. Ethan told me days ago to get her to take a blood test to find out paternity and the gender. He doesn’t understand either that we don’t have money for that.”
“This is driving me nuts, Malik.”
“Try it from where I sit. It’s not a great feeling, Vivien. I finally did something with my life, something my grandpa could be proud of, I would be the first in our entire family to ever have finished college, was hoping I could pull it off and have him there at my graduation, with Nikki … but right now, it’s all circling the drain.”
Vivien looked at him, then leaned up against him.
“I don’t know what to do, Malik. I don’t want any of this, but I still want you.”
“I am sorry you got dragged into the mess that is my life, babe.”
Vivien just huffed an unhappy laugh. If Malik only knew … all the secrets she had to keep. Shouldn’t she be more understanding of how sometimes you end up in the worst situations?
“Want me to go with you? For the birth and all? Moral support?”
“You would do that for me? After everything?”
“Of course. Nothing has changed, Malik. My feelings haven’t changed. I was just in shock, still am, actually. That night when it all went down, I thought we were gonna have a fun, relaxing game night after a stressful week, instead we turned it into the Real Housewives of U-Brite campus, feat. the Foxbury crowd.”
He enveloped her with his arms and held her as tight as he could without hurting her.
Vivien and Malik went to the administration office later that same day, then were on the next flight out, not even two days later they were already back.
University of Britchester Campus Cameron/Vatore on-campus housing Less than two days later
Liam looked up when they walked into the house he shared with Vivien.
“Congrats guys!” he said. She had texted him already from the hospital, they left right away after finding out the baby wasn’t his.
“Thanks! I need a shower, desperately. A nice, hot long shower! And later, we are gonna celebrate!” Vivien said, sounding relieved and happy, then immediately disappeared down the hall, while Malik walked into the kitchen towards Liam.
“Well, glad this worked out for you. Bet the Rockies fell off your shoulders?” Liam told Malik after their brief greeting, when they both said down with beers Liam just pulled from the fridge without asking, finding no argument from Malik who readily took the offered bottle, clinking it to Liam’s before taking a healthy sip.
“You got no idea, man! Viv just got front row seats to what a shit life I lead. I am so embarrassed of it all. When we got to the hospital, Janelle had already had the baby, and there was another dude in the room with her, looking at me like ‘dafuq you doing here’. You can probably guess, he was the actual baby daddy, as the test proved. Man, those were some long hours, but as soon as those results came through and the other dude got the 99.9% thing, I was about to do fucking cartwheels! I thought looking at the kid would give me clarity, but man, newborns are fugly! That baby looked like E.T. and crumpled up paper was his parents! Shit! For that lil boy’s sake I hope he outgrows the shrek-look. Glad it’s not mine, for sure!”
Liam laughed heartily, Malik eventually chimed in.
“So, are you and Viv good then?”
“I think so. She’s still a little iffy at times, but she definitely came through for me and I cannot tell you how I appreciate that. I owe her for the plane tickets, cab rides and that fucking test, but I’ll figure out how to pay her back and if I take three part time jobs. Feels good to have someone in my corner, someone other than Nikki and my grandpa. I heard you talked her into giving me a chance? Thanks man. Really decent of you. You’re a good man, Liam.”
“Nothing to thank me for. I am studying to be a lawyer, meaning I am gonna get paid one day to listen to the messes people got themselves into and help them fix them, you and Viv just won’t get the big bill that will follow then. She really likes you, dude, and her family isn’t hurting for money, so don’t worry about paying her back. Focus on getting your degree, that’ll help you both more in the long run. Vivien really cares about you, she really surprised me with how quickly she started hanging out with you just some months after Matt did her dirty, so she trusted you enough to give you a chance. You were clearly miserable about losing her, which is why I don’t get that you are sitting here with me, rather than help her scrub the travel grime off in that shower. I picked up on her big, fat invite, surprised you didn’t. She’s probably getting all wrinkly under that hot water wondering what’s taking you so long.” Liam smirked.
“You think she’d want me to? I was gonna give her time …”
“Only one way to find out. You know Viv isn’t shy about letting you know if you are doing something she doesn’t approve of. Oh, hey, there is a pack of condoms in the cabinet, right drawer. Help yourself, cos if she hasn’t mentioned the Cameron Curse to you by now, you and I need to have a heart to heart talk.”
Grinning, Malik finished his beer, gave Liam an acknowledging hand motion and left quickly.
With a fading smile, Liam finished his own beer, then mumbled
“Enjoy it while you can. Sometimes relationships are over in the blink of an eye, you never even see it coming. But that is gonna be a story for another day. No need to ruin their good mood with my own shitshow now. That definitely can wait until after their celebration, but I hope Viv is ready to return the favor and listen to my heartbreak for a change, about a boy who hurried to his girlfriend’s dorm room to surprise her with the trophy he just won with his team at soccer, only to find her butt naked scoring big in a game of mattress wrestling with some other dude in her bed. And I was gonna officially introduce her to the family at Thanksgiving. Oh well, more of my mom’s great cooking for me then – and another relationship that wasn’t meant to be. What doesn’t kill ya, makes you stronger. Should be the Cameron family motto anyway.”