“When something bad happens you have three choices. You can either let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”Dr. Seuss
San Myshuno Senator Suites Apartments
After that fateful night with the unfortunate slip-up it had taken days for Vivien and Liam to be able to act sort of normal around each other again.
The morning after that night had Vivien feeling embarrassed and humiliated alike, so instead of talking about it with Liam when she found him in his kitchen the next morning, she decided to act like nothing ever happened, which he did as well.
Both never spoke of that night again, and kept their distance. Vivien was confused about it all and could tell Liam felt no different. The matter was swept under the rug, hoping it would just disappear one day.
On a Saturday morning exactly a week after that night, Liam went to answer the door, revealing a familiar face.
“Scarlett? Come on in.” he offered surprised.
Scarlett entered, a quick hug and kiss on the cheek later she looked at him with urgency.
“Is she here?” Scarlett asked, meaning her daughter Vivien.
“Yeah, upstairs taking a shower, I think. Something happen? Want me to get her?” Liam offered.
“Hey mom …” Vivien had probably heard the doorbell and was coming down the stairs, then hugged her mother.
“I am so sorry to show up like this, but I need you to come with me right away, Vivien. We have a situation at home.” Scarlett said with urgency.
“Oh no, what happened?!” Vivien asked, worry in her tone, while Liam’s ears perked up.
“I’ll tell you everything once we get home. Sorry Liam. She can catch you up later.” Scarlett smiled apologetic at him.
“I’ll call you!” was the last he heard Vivien say, before she grabbed her purse from the hallway, then her mother hugged her and only a dark cloud fading away remained in their wake. A very quick way to travel, vampire style.
About three hours or so later his phone rang. It was Vivien.
“Everything all right?” Liam asked concerned, without bothering with any greeting.
“No, Liam. Nothing is all right. They took Celeste!” Vivien sounded distressed.
“What?! Who took her? Abduction?!” Liam stiffened.
“Child Protective Services! They came to the house with police and just took her just before my mom came to get me. Something moronic about all the bad press my family had gotten with my problems and Blake’s stuff and now Chase has been getting into trouble too, everything my family does seems to go viral on the internet these days. They said my parents are not fit to foster an orphaned child under such circumstances, especially with my alleged sex-capades. They said I set a terrible example for her and that Celeste is still traumatized from losing both her parents so suddenly at such a young age. Do those CPS fools think taking her away from her home won’t traumatize her even more?! She calls my parents mom and dad, Liam! To her, my brothers and I are her siblings. According to mom and dad she screamed and cried frantically as the CPS people dragged her with, but my parents couldn’t do anything to stop it. CPS won’t even let them see her! Her uncle Phillip is on it now, trying to get them to release her to him, to keep her out of the system. Total nightmare, Liam!”
“WHAT?! Why didn’t you call me right away?! I am an attorney, remember? They can’t just take a foster kid out of her environment without proving she’s in imminent danger or something! What the fuck?! What the hell were those people thinking?! Bad press isn’t a sound enough reason for any judge. I am gonna look into that right away!”
“Liam, I am just venting. Kai’s already working on it, I don’t know all the details, but now that her uncle wants to take her back and since he is blood-related to her and none of us are except Blake-y, but he’s a minor, so her uncle has more weight. Plus Phillip raised three kids already without ANY drama … so … you know … it’s pretty shitty and looks bleak! I know Phillip is only trying to help, but even if they release her to him, he has no room for a teen girl, they don’t have much money, he works a lot, so does his wife to make ends meet – and they live in Willow Creek. That is so far away! Poor Celeste! My poor parents! My poor brothers! Poor ME! Can this family PLEASE catch a break already?!”
“I can call my boss, the one that is licensed to practice in Del Sol Valley and …”
“Liam, that’s sweet, but Kai’s got it. We really don’t need too many cooks in that kitchen now. We’re basically Kai’s only clients nowadays, he’s been around the legal block a million times especially with celebrities, just let him handle it. He has been handling our cases forever. like his dad before him, before you and I were even born. They know exactly what to do. He’s on a plane over here already.”
Liam felt rejected for some reason.
“When will you be back?” he asked.
“I don’t know. Soon probably, definitely sometime today, I am booked for a show tonight, I can’t back out of that and I can’t do anything productive here anyway, even though the last thing I feel like right now is performing. Just waiting till Kai arrives, schmooze with him and hear what he thinks and then I’ll probably have mom take me back.”
“Ah, good!” Liam exhaled relieved, then added “I mean, none of this is good. I just .. .well … you know.”
“Hey, I gotta go, I think Kai’s here. I’ll be in touch once I know more. Bye Liam.”
“Just come home. I mean, here. Come back here, no need to call, just come back whenever you can.” Liam corrected himself.
After the call was disconnected, he chewed on his lower lip.
This was horrible, and the timing was even worse, he felt bad for her family, but more important to him was the way that awkward evening had left things between them. He felt like he and Vivien needed time together to make this right again, slowly. Her being away would just make the gap between them bigger. And the absolute last thing they both needed right now was even more drama.
“Why did you not stop it sooner, you dumbass? Anything instead of sitting there on the couch like a moron, kissing your fucking cousin. Second cousin. Argh. And technically, SHE kissed ME. SHE climbed atop ME. What am I saying here?! Not like that makes a difference. Goddamn it, Cameron, get your act together before she gets back or you’ll end up pushing her away. You are a man, act like one, not some hormonal pubescent teenage boy without any self-control. Dammit all!” he said to himself into the empty room, the faint echo felt like a reiteration of urgency.
Del Sol Valley Cameron Mansion
At the same time Vivien struggled with her own problems. Her parents and Kai were holding war council in the dining room, her brothers didn’t know what to do or think and Celeste was god knows where, probably scared out of her mind. And Vivien had to go back to San Myshuno to not be in breach of her contract with the concert lounge where she performed nightly. She had a lot of people paying good money to watch her show, after her rough and rocky start, this was an opportunity she couldn’t risk. The entertainment business wasn’t forgiving or lenient, she lucked out to get a second chance. And then there was the issue with Liam now too. Urgh!
The gigantic mansion felt as if it was closing in on her, she had not been downtown Del Sol Valley in ages, so she decided to get out and buy a gift for Liam. He had been the best friend and supporter any girl could ask for, he deserved to know he was on her mind, despite of it all. Maybe that could even the keel again.
Del Sol Valley Downtown
Walking along the shopping mile she looked into the storefronts at the designer clothing and jewelry, realizing she never had bought a real gift for a guy, other than family. What would Liam even like? She eventually found a few small things that made her smile, thinking about him, but she wasn’t satisfied yet. Randomly entering a store looking around, she dismissed the store clerk who instantly came running. She didn’t want to talk to anyone, she didn’t want anyone to talk her into buying anything for Liam. It had to be all her, or it wouldn’t be special enough.
Picking up dress shirts and ties, running her fingers across the buttery smooth fabric, she tried to imagine them on him, his tall, slender frame moving about with grace as he was making some statement in court, gesturing to make his point, the fabric stretching around his muscular chest with every move and a faraway smile appeared on her face when she remembered how nice to the touch it felt. How nice he had felt so very close to her. Sigh.
“Vivien!” she heard, realizing someone behind her had said her name, now tapping on her shoulder. When she turned around she saw a very familiar face.
“NIKKI?!” Vivien exclaimed a little too loud, causing the store staff to look her way, concerned.
“Hi. Sorry, I saw you in here as I walked by and … I had to speak to you. Do you have time for a coffee?”
“Uh, ahem. Yeah, sure.” Vivien agreed, shocked beyond words.
They exited the boutique when Vivien noticed something.
“OMG – You’re pregnant!” she burst out as if Nikki might not have been fully aware of that fact.
Nikki’s smile turned sad.
“Yeah. That’s a long story. Let’s sit down somewhere and I’ll tell you all the dirt.”
They went to a café nearby, ordered, once settled, Nikki began.
“First of all, I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for everything. I know there is nothing I can say to …”
“Nik, stop. You had nothing to do with what he did. That was all Malik, and I know that. You always warned me about him, you told me not to date him. I should have listened. You were my best friend for so long and you knew him better than I ever could. He was always a dick, he never liked me, and I am the idiot for falling for his lies.”
“WERE your best friend? I was afraid of that …” Nikki looked sad and defeated.
“Maybe not were. I don’t know Nikki. This is so messed up.”
“Agreed. But, I was wrong back then. Malik really loved you, cared about you. Still does actually. He didn’t want to do this … not really …”
“Hey, wait. Stop right there! I don’t care what you say now. Malik is an asshole! You have no idea what he has done to me, what kind of avalanche his actions buried me under. What you think you know is not even the entire tip of the iceberg. He really fucked me over so bad, Nikki! Loved me, my ass. A fucking gnat has more integrity than that fucker!”
“Okay, I get it. You have every right to be so angry. But hear me out, please, Vivien. If you care at all about me, just let me explain a few things. I cannot undo any of this, nor claim it wasn’t horrible, but we had no choice. It avalanched out of control for us too. It all happened so fast. You know grandpa has been sick for a long time. His health took a turn for the worse right around the time Malik was facing finals. The cancer came back, I tried so hard to keep us afloat but couldn’t do it all alone, taking care of grandpa, my two jobs, the medication and treatments were so expensive, I ran out of money, we were about to be evicted … and then I found out I was pregnant. This guy, Reece, he was here on a work assignment, he came into the diner where I work, it clicked, we fell for each other hot and heavy. He made my terrible life a little better whenever we were together. Well, at least for a few months, until I kept getting sick all the time. Morning sickness. I didn’t mean for it to happen, last thing I needed. I told Reece he was gonna be a daddy and he flipped out. Accused me of trying to tie him down with a baby, which was probably not even his, all the terrible things men say to get out of a situation like this. We fought, bad BAD fight, I grabbed his phone, convinced he had another woman … and found an electronic marriage certificate he had scanned in for some reason. My man was married.”
“Oh, gets better. He literally just got married the weekend before, while he was still seeing me, I was totally clueless, I thought he really loved me, but apparently I was just an affair. Worst of all, he was married to a man. Bi-sexual. Sound a little familiar? Maybe this makes you feel better, knowing I got what I had coming to me for letting all this happen to you. I just wish my lesson wasn’t about to involve an innocent child.”
“No, it doesn’t make me feel good. I am so sorry, Nikki. I know how this feels, thanks to Matteo. This sucks Nikki, I am really sorry.”
“Yeah, so here I was now, pregnant, a dying grandfather, who was wailing in pain cos I couldn’t afford the pain meds, Malik away at college struggling to make the grades needed to graduate, he was running out of money too … the pressure was too much for him, he lost it with you over something with Liam. The breakup fucked him up really bad. After that he came up with this terrible plan … to get the money we needed. I was so wrapped up in my own problems I didn’t realize what exactly he was doing until it was too late. The plan was for him to just go on some talk shows to talk about how he dated the daughter of a celebrity musician, and get paid for that. No harm, no foul. But before he knew what hit him this story had become so huge and it just snowballed out of proportion.”
“What the fuck!? Why did none of you come straight out asked me for help! Why did you never tell me about any of this?!”
“Vivien, I was dealing with my own mountain for problems and honestly, I was caught in the middle. Once Malik realized how quickly his attempt to get us the financial help we needed had gone out of control, he panicked, didn’t know how to stop it or fix it, guilt was eating him alive, and you have known him long enough to know he is not famous for making sound choices, especially not under stress.”
“BULLSHIT! Nikki, I don’t want to talk about Malik! He had a choice. And he chose to fuck me over!”
“No. It wasn’t like that Viv. Believe me, he was miserable about it all ….”
“Nikki, I don’t want to hear another word about your fucking cousin or I am walking away right NOW!”
“Okay, sorry! Is there any way you could forgive me? I really miss you, Viv. I’d do anything to have my friend back. Maybe we could meet for coffee more often to inch back together?”
“Honestly, I don’t know Nikki. I know this wasn’t you, and I want to go back to how things used to be, but … it’s all still too fresh, I am still recovering from it all, and really confused. I need some time. Besides, I am currently living out-of-state, just here for some more family drama which doesn’t seem to let up, but have a long-term work engagement to perform in San Myshuno. I don’t know how long that will last yet. I’ll think about it all, okay.”
“Phones work in San Myshuno too, Skype as well, right? We could get closer again that way … and I could use some input for baby names … maybe that would be a start for us to rebuild what’s been broken?”
Vivien’s phone buzzed, she glanced at it briefly.
“Yeah, sounds good. I am sorry to cut this short now, but I have to get back home. That was my mom texting. Look Nikki, I’ll think about it, okay? Please give me time.”
“Let me give you my number. Call me?”
“Okay, I will. Eventually. Promise.”
They got up, the hug was a bit awkward, then Vivien drove back home, said her goodbyes before her mom ported back to Liam’s apartment with her.