“Loyalty Is About People Who Stay True To You Behind Your Back”
San Myshuno Senator Suites Apartments
“Hey Liam. Got a minute?” Vivien stepped up to him, sitting on the patio typing on his phone.
“Uh oh … someone has been thinking and is about to shower me in convoluted thoughts to help sort through them with her.” he smiled up at her, slipping his phone in his pocket, as he watched her sit down next to him.
“Scary how well you know me. It’s about Nikki. What do I do? I don’t know Liam, really … her excuses seem real, but I can’t get over the fact that she could have called me at any point, if not to ask for help, to warn me about what Malik was planning. But then again, we all screw up, she really had a ton of crap pile up and if ANYBODY knows who that feels, it would be me. And she’s pregnant …” after her return from Del Sol Valley Vivien had told Liam all about her meeting with her former best friend.
“What do you WANT to do? Gut feeling?” he asked.
“I kinda want my friend back. But I don’t know if we can get back to the way we were. She also hurt me so bad, and I don’t want to be the pushover here. But I really want to see her grandpa again before .. you know .. it’s too late. Both of them were a big part of my childhood and teen years. ARGH!”
“You already answered your question then. Give Nikki a chance. Let her back in your life slowly, tiny baby steps at a time, don’t rush it, so you can pull the emergency brake when you realize it’s not working out for you. Just be realistic about it, don’t expect all to be like it used to be. And go see that grandpa, so you don’t end up with a regret you can never fix. Just stay away from Malik, but that goes without saying, I think.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I keep flip flopping about this, it’s just such a mess. Thanks! And no worries about Malik. He can go fuck himself with a giant cactus as far as I am concerned!” Vivien leaned in, kissed Liam’s cheek, then halted, pulled back, looking guilty.
“Sorry … old habits.” she told him.
“Vivien, it’s fine. We can’t do this tip-toeing and distance thing all of a sudden. I know we both … that night … maybe we should have talked about it right away, at least the next day, instead of trying to act like nothing happened, when we both are so aware that something DID happen. Then again, there isn’t much to say about it all. You know me, just an old horny son of a bitch, I had alcohol that night and got carried away. Bad Liam. Won’t happen again.” he smiled apologetic.
“Except – it wasn’t you, Liam, and we both know that. It’s sweet of you to try and take the blame here, but that would change nothing, just be another lie. I have a lot of flaws and issues, but I am pretty self-aware. I kissed YOU, not the other way around. By accident initially, I meant to kiss your cheek, like I have done hundreds of times, but I am woman enough to fess up the rest was 100% intentional and I started it. My big problem with it all is that I don’t feel as bad about it as I probably should, I can’t stop thinking about it. And that’s exactly what gets me.”
“Wow. Okay .. I guess we are not just sweeping it back under that rug and walk away, huh?”
“No. I don’t want to. You are way too important to me, Liam. If we gloss over this, it will just fester beneath the surface and I am afraid what would happen to us if that bursts wide open when we least expect it. I don’t know what this really is between us, I know you felt it too, but I am not willing to risk losing you over it. We can handle this like adults. Somehow. We’re bigger than that, we cannot let some weird inexplicable tension ruin what we have, this friendship is way too old and way too important to me. I need you in my life, my wonderful creepy, amazing friend. By the way: I got you a gift.”
“You didn’t have to buy me anything, Vivien. You weren’t there on vacation. And I agree. We can handle whatever this was. Or is.”
“I wanted to get you something. Here. Unwrap it already! I want to see your face.” she grinned.
Liam unwrapped a beanie, with the word “CREEP” written on it, a sort of nickname she had given him for his many crude jokes and sexual innuendos all the time. Both laughed as he slipped it on, which triggered a Selfie moment with Vivien.
When they said goodnight later that night Liam got back to his room to find a gift box from a designer boutique sitting on the seat by his bed, and a funny card next to it with a handwritten note inside.
Sorry, I know, I promised not to go in your room, but I had to, a one-time-exception,
or this wouldn’t have been a real surprise.
Another gift for your big day in court tomorrow.
Hope you like it.
P.S. please don’t be mad that I came in here. I swear it’s a one time thing.
Smiling, he directed his attention to her gift, shaking his head.
“Oh Viv … what am I gonna do with you, crazy girl?” he mumbled to himself.
The next morning she smiled and cheered when he turned around to her from the coffee maker.
“You’re wearing it!” she squealed.
“Of course, this is now my lucky suit. Thank you for this, Viv. You really didn’t have to.” he came to her and hugged her.
“I totally wanted to! You look amazing! It fits perfectly! I was gonna get you a tie that matches your eyes, but remember you said when you are inexperienced as an attorney you should dress as neutral as possible to fly under the radar. You’re flying undetected in style, man! You look like a male model! Jurors wouldn’t even remember why they are there.” she said after he released her.
“It’s a bench trial, meaning, there is no jury. Just a judge. From what I hear, a real ball buster too. I need all the help I can get, including a lucky suit.”
“Maybe the judge is female, she will be so dazzled by you that she won’t think about the case, just about you in that suit. Or probably rather you without that suit and then she’ll just agree to anything you say.”
Liam chuckled, then shrugged.
“I wish! Unfortunately the judge is male and has 7 grandchildren, so I think I am not quite his type.”
“I don’t know Liam, looking like that, you may swing his taste after all. You’ll do great.” she stepped up to him, adjusting his tie.
“Can I get a hug for good luck?”
She wrapped her arms around him, relieved the time of distance was over, they stood like this for a while and she realized he wasn’t as confident as usual, fidgeting, meaning he had to be incredibly nervous. Not only was this his first major case in court, but the success today was directly linked to a promotion that could get him closer to his dreams.
“If I were to start singing really REALLY bad, would that make you feel better?” she joked, hinting at his terrible karaoke performance some months ago to get her to sing on stage again.
“It never has before.”
She pulled away from him, unable to keep from giggling, as she swatted at him, who stood there laughing.
“You can be such an asshole!” she giggled.
“I know. I am despicable, but then again, I am an attorney so that comes with the territory. Attorneys don’t even like attorneys. Ha Ha Ha. I gotta run, Viv. Thanks again for the gifts. I’ll text you once I know how court went. We may either go out and celebrate big tonight … or I will spend the evening curled up in a ball behind the couch, sucking my thumb.”
Later that day Vivien sat alone in Liam’s apartment trying to continue writing a new song she had been working on, when someone was at the door. She went to answer. It was her uncle Caelan, the vampire.
“CAECAE! You came to visit me! Here! No way!!”
“Yeah, well, since you couldn’t be bothered to come see me … ” he smiled, teasing.
“Sorry, life’s been crazy for me recently. I am sure mom caught you all up by now. So good to see you!” Vivien pulled him inside, where he looked around, whistling through his teeth.
“Yeah. Liam did all this by himself. I am just staying here, freeloading kinda. I am so glad you are here! I missed you!” she said into the following hug.
“Is he here? Liam.”
“At work. He always works. Morning to night and even on weekends from home. Work, work, work.”
Vivien offered her uncle a drink, then joined him on the couch, thinking about how they had always been so close, but how her going off to college and his affair with Seraphina had somehow subdued that closeness. Maybe it was her getting older. Growing up and growing apart. Hard to tell.
“Are you still with me?” he asked, pulling her back into the present, she realized he was directly looking at her.
“Oh, yeah, sorry. Just … thought of … things. My head is a rollercoaster of confusion at the moment.”
“Anything I can help with? As long as it’s not girly stuff, I will try.”
“No, it’s not anything girly, don’t worry. Actually, there is something I could use some input on, something I cannot go to anybody else with.” Vivien considered sharing something with him, something that she had so far failed to figure out herself, and something she couldn’t share with anyone else, realizing with perfect clarity that Caelan would never divulge anything she told him to anyone, just as she would always keep his secrets, and it made her understand that their tight bond was still as strong as it had ever been, it was merely the time they were able to spend together that had decreased as both had their own crosses to bear. She smiled faintly.
“All ears, little one.” he said when she wasn’t forthcoming with her apparent concern.
“All right, but this has to stay between us, okay. Don’t tell anyone, under any circumstances. So, there is this guy, whom I have known for a long time, he is very important to me. But recently things have gotten a bit weird between us and I am so confused about how I really feel about him. There is the way I know I SHOULD feel, and then there is the way my mind and body react, which is contradictory to what it should be. But it feels good … so good whenever he is near me, at least for the moment, but then I feel guilty and like I am feeling something I am not allowed to. There is my dream world in which I tell him how I feel, he tells me he feels the same way and we just go with it – and then there is the stark reality. Part of that reality is that I honestly do not even know if he even feels the same way about me as I feel about him. I just cannot tell for sure. So even if I were to come out straight and honest, I may lose him over that. Even if I don’t lose him, we’d be opening a whole new can of worms. A catch 22. I swear I’ll lose my marbles soon.”
Caelan let out a grunt.
“What does that mean? I don’t understand random noises, I need actual words, please!” Vivien asked confused and grumpy. Caelan had never been much of a talker but now she needed him to be.
“Means, you know I don’t tell anyone your secrets, never have, that goes without saying. Also means that I am not good at this relationship and social etiquette stuff, your mother always tells me I lack emotional intelligence, whatever that means, so I don’t know how to respond without saying the wrong thing.”
“Ugh, just say it. It’s me, uncle Cae, I can take it. I have known you all my life, you were always like this. Just shoot straight.”
“Vivien, I love you, but I really cannot advice you with such things. I want to, but I don’t know the right thing to do here and I do not want to say something just to say something and then you end up getting hurt because of me. I am sorry, but this is truly for you to figure out or maybe ask your mother for help with this. Look at me, and my miserable track record. I could maybe help you if you wanted some one night stands, but that is all. I may be an experienced lover, but beyond that, I am unlovable.” what was intended as a casual smile was only a sad grimace, showing that Caelan was still battling his own demons about failed relationships.
“Cae …” Vivien nearly overflowed with the urge to tell him about what she had found out, but remembered her grandpa and Riordan’s requests not to … and just moved her lips like a fish underwater.
“What is going on with you now?!” Caelan sounded slightly irritated.
“Uh .. oh … I love you, uncle Cae. And you are definitely not unlovable. You are very lovable, so loved. So very much, more than you ever will know. I love you. Others love you.” Vivien babbled nearly incoherently.
“I know that, little one. I love you too. The only mortal I will ever love.” he replied, slightly taken aback.
“About that … uncle Cae … if I knew something, something really important, but dangerous .. something I …”
“Vivien. Stop. I am pretty sure I can guess what you are trying to say. I know you, little one. I know a few weeks or so ago something happened, something that has to do with me, as right about that time your behavior towards me changed. I can feel you are hiding something and that it is weighing on you. Now with this context here, I am certain there is only one topic in this world I could think of that could cause you to feel like you need to hide something from me, probably because my father asked you to, and your odd behavior around me is guilt. So let me relieve you of your guilt. Whatever you think you know, but cannot tell me, it would make no difference to me anymore. That part of me, that would have cared about such news, is gone. Irrevocably gone. Even if you said the words out loud, it would not change anything. It’s too late.”
“Okay. All right. But let me at least say this much: I had this photo I wanted you to see, but Riordan deleted it from my phone. One of Liam with a really cute baby.”
“I see. Does the baby take after her mother or her father?” Caelan’s question signaled to Vivien that he caught on, when he knew the baby’s gender without her mentioning it.
“Both. Redhead. With her father’s silver eyes. Very pretty little girl … I almost stole her, so beautiful. Like a doll.”
“Did she look healthy?”
“Yeah. Healthy and very much loved. So loved. Very pink too and warm. Definitely not cool to the touch and pale like you. More like me.” Vivien was continuing the code-talk, telling him the baby was a mortal.
“You are almost paler than me, little one.” Caelan smirked, wrapped his arm around her shoulders, then pulled her close, before releasing her again, for her to look at him intensely.
“Cae, I need you to know that you were loved, still are and not just by me and our family. That baby’s mother, she didn’t know who I was, but she said things about the baby’s father, so beautiful and heartfelt, yet so sad, heart-wrenching. She misses him like crazy, is full of regret. She really loved him, still does, said she always will. I swear it, Cae. Liam agrees, he was with me and saw it too, she was genuine. That love story was real and it wasn’t supposed to end like it did. I swear it, someone else forced this. It wasn’t her and she had no choice.”
“It still ended the way it did though, which is all that matters. Only shambles remain. Some things get broken and cannot be fixed. But thank you, little one. You gave me something I haven’t had before, something very important, something I may find comfort in. Closure.”
“Sorry Cae, I hope I didn’t hurt you. Last thing I would want. But I couldn’t keep this from you, even though I had to make a promise to grandpa and Riordan to not say anything. And Liam. Oh well … guess I broke three promises to people I love very much. But I love you too and it didn’t feel right.”
“You did not break any promises, not to anyone. You said nothing definite. As far as I am concerned, we just talked about some child you and Liam saw, right?” his eyes belied his words, acknowledging another secret to be kept from all.
“Yeah. Right. Some kid. Random baby.” Vivien smiled relieved as she leaned up against her uncle, the warmth of the gesture belying the cold his body emitted.