“Friends are the family you choose.”Jess C. Scott
The weekend following that of the college campus tour, Chase was standing watch while Colton was trying to peek through some shrubs into a backyard.
“See anything?” Chase whispered.
“They got a pool …” Colton whispered back.
“Dude, I don’t give a shit about a pool! I am not here for sightseeing. Do you see someone?!”
“No, backyard’s empty and of course YOU wouldn’t care about a pool, you got one at home. We don’t. I wish we had one.” Colton whispered as he joined his best friend again.
“A pool in Forgotten Hollow, yeah, sure, any other mental issues, dude?” Chase said, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
“What’s YOUR malfunction, bruh?” Colton grumbled at Chase.
“Forgotten Hollow is always dark, gloomy and cold like a cat’s butthole. Whatcha want with a pool there? And how would a pool look with those old-timey buildings everywhere, that would totally clash. You can go swimming in that lake behind you guys’ house.” Chase said as they wandered back towards the front of the house.
“You’re a moron, Cameron! How does that even compare? That lake is nasty, you’d probably be dirtier coming out of it than going in. I want a real pool, like you guys got. Hey, is that your chick?” Colton pointed at something, Chase turned his head to see someone taking out the trash.
“Oh shit! Yeah, that’s her. And she is not ‘my’ chick. Just ‘a’ chick!” Chase jumped into the shrubs, pulling Colton with him, who nearly fell down, while Chase held his hand over Colton’s mouth as he peeked out to see if Hailey had noticed them. Colton pulled away from him and whisper-yelled at his friend.
“What the hell you doing?! Go talk to her, you consolation prize of a friend!”
“I CAN’T go talk to her!” Chase whisper-yelled back.
“You can and you will and you HAVE to! We have been sitting in the bushes by their house like foraging squirrels for hours waiting for her to come out. You are going to talk to her. NOW!” Colton said, then shoved Chase out of the bush, following him to make sure he wouldn’t take off, when the girl stared at them startled, Chase barely caught himself from falling at her feet.
“Chase-y?!” Hailey exclaimed.
“OMG! Did she just call you Chase-y?!” laughed Colton, which earned him a whack into the chest by Chase.
“Hi H-H-H-Hai ….H-H-Hai… ” Chase stuttered nervously until no more sound came out.
“What!? My name is still Hailey, you weirdo, really not such a mouthful! Mind sharing what you two were doing in our shrubs?!”
“Our Chase-y’s such a total window-licker …” laughed Colton.
“Shut up, Vatore! Sorry about this – and about him, for whatever reason this dumbass is my friend, brain-donor Colton. And I meant to say Hailey, but … ahem … sore throat …” Chase stuttered then finished his sentence in his head ‘…actually, my brain just had the blue screen of death… fatal error, total malfunction .. beep. At least I am not drooling on myself. Wait, I am NOT drooling, am I? Can’t be, Colton would already have pointed it out. Phew.’
“I am the only one who can put up with your weird ass, that’s the reason we’re friends.” Colton defended himself.
“Well, we know he’s got a point there. I’d bet you are not exactly on any most popular lists at your school. You guys wanna come inside for a soda?”
“Nah …” Chase mustered, his social anxiety kicking in, even with his best friend there, who now took over.
“YES WE DO WANNA COME INSIDE! You got a restroom I could use by any chance?” he told Hailey.
“No, Colton, my Neanderthal family and I pee in the yard but we have a box with kitty litter for guests. Well, follow me, gentlemen. I can definitely see why you two are friends.”
So, slowly a tender friendship between Hailey and Chase developed.
Since they lived far apart, she in Newcrest, he thousands of miles away in Del Sol Valley, and since she couldn’t know about his secrets, they mostly bonded by chatting online, occasionally he would meet up with her when he went for training at Vatore Castle in Forgotten Hollow. They even hung out as a foursome, with Colton and Nadia, which was very iffy for Chase in the beginning, until he got used to it. Colton and Nadia were dating, a real couple, he and Hailey were just friends, so both of them felt awkward whenever Colton and Nadia got romantic.
Hailey and he shared a lot of the same views on life and the world, she liked a lot of the same things, and sometimes he felt like he could tell her everything. He didn’t, and wouldn’t, obviously, his biggest secret, the vampire one, he had to keep from her, but at least as far as views, feelings and thoughts went, the kinda stuff he didn’t want to share with his parents, and which Colton would likely make fun of him for, that stuff he felt comfortable sharing with her and that feeling was mutual. Initially it was always her initiating their in-person meetings, which was a heaven’s sent for Chase as he would have never had the courage to ask her to meet. Eventually though, he would be the one calling her to spend time with him whenever he was in the area again. The bond became stronger each time. They were friends now, good friends. Finally another friend. A cool one. One he trusted. Like Colton. Just … different.
Chase got comfortable enough with Hailey to talk to his parents about coming clean with her, about who his family really was, just not the vampire bit. Not yet. Not for as long as he could avoid it.
Until now he had evaded all those questions about family, home, etc. Blaine and Scarlett agreed and ended up flying her in for his 16th birthday, they had called her parents to make the arrangements and agreed to have her stay for a long weekend since Friday and Monday were school holidays anyway.
Del Sol Valley Cameron Mansion
The birthday party was a lot of fun, all the family was there, as usual. This time Hailey was the nervous and borderline shy one, shocked stiff by all the fame and wealth, and by realizing her new friend’s dad was none other than THE famous Blaine Cameron, his sister the famous pop-singer ViVa, aka Vivien and his brother was the handsome heartthrob actor Blake Cameron. When Celeste Collins showed up and was introduced as another sister, Hailey’s mouth gaped wide open. She had been following Celeste’s YouTube channel for years, being confronted with her live and in full color was surreal.
The only thing that would remain a secret was the vampire part. Had to. It was way too early to lay that on her. Not for another year, maybe longer. Or ever.
Later the evening following the party Chase found Hailey out by the pool, so he joined her. She seemed quiet and down, which worried Chase. Did she not have fun? He had fun. Maybe she was homesick? Hopefully she wouldn’t want to leave early now.
“You okay, Patches?”
“Am I okay? Are you kidding? I am a small town girl, whose family’s greatest achievement to date was to afford a nice family home in Newcrest with a little pool, after my parents worked their butts off for it, yet now I am sitting here poolside at a gigantic luxurious mansion in the hills of Del Sol Valley which makes my house look like a garden shed, I am literally overlooking Del Sol Valley, my fun and dorky new bestie, whom I randomly met during the lamest college tour ever, forgot to mention that somehow he lives in some LaLa-Land VIP modern castle and is related to some of the most famous people Del Sol Valley has to offer, who all just showed up at his sweet sixteen, totally normal, right? Why wouldn’t I be all right? Just another Friday night … happens all the time.” sarcasm was almost literally dripping of Hailey’s words.
“Right. By the way – Boys don’t do sweet sixteens. Just another birthday. One that marks my independence as I can FINALLY drive my ass places without begging mommy and daddy to go with.”
“Yeah, and you got the fancy ride to go with it. That car they gave you, insane! I was gonna invite you to my birthday too, but now I am not so sure. I can’t do anything remotely comparing to this. We don’t even have a guestroom I could offer you for coming all the way to Newcrest from here. And the gift I gave you – I thought it was a great find – but seeing what all the others gave you … I feel totally Walmart right now. I could have REALLY used a heads up here, Chase.”
“Please don’t mad at me and definitely DON’T feel bad, I love the one-of-a-kind comic art print! It’s uber-cool and goes perfect in my room! And of course I will come and help you celebrate, duh! I never thought anything bad of you for not being one of those fake Del Sol Valley chicks, besides, neither of us can choose what family we’re born into, obviously I am definitely not the yuppie of the family, I don’t mind the simple life and I have family who doesn’t live that far from Newcrest, they can totally put me up for a weekend or something and I can borrow a car or someone will get me a rental. But if you think the Cameron Mansion is a castle, wait till you see where my mom’s side of the family lives.” Chase burst out laughing.
“Don’t tell me they are rich and famous too! I seriously can’t even …” Hailey groaned.
“Well, not in the same sense as my dad, sisters and brother are. The Vatores are more … ahem … old money, I guess. Like a very old, important family with very old roots and shit. And their house really is a castle. Like one of those places where royalty used to hang out in the Middle Ages.” Chase danced around the truth best he could.
“Oh jeeze! Had I even guessed any of this I would have never talked to you at U-Brite. If I ever felt inadequate …”
“Don’t feel like that, please, am glad you didn’t have a clue then, cos I would have NEVER had the balls to talk to you first. But now you know why I didn’t tell you sooner. All this is kinda hard to explain without sounding like a big douche. And you see why I was so weird in the beginning, I have a hard time talking to people. You wouldn’t believe how many fake people you meet. They can seriously do some damage, if you’re not careful.”
“Well, not to burst your bubble, rich boy, but weird is your default. As for the gold-digging part, I guarantee you, I am not one of those girls. I am the type who wants to make her own money one day, be independent from everyone. Honestly, I don’t even know how to tell my parents about all this. If my friends knew … I’d probably go from someone at my school to most popular girl overnight – for all the wrong reasons – no thanks! I don’t like being the center of attention. You are right, this is hard to explain. I totally get it now. I feel like the lead in one of those teen chick flicks now. By the way, full disclosure here, my mom is your brother Blake’s number one fan. I mean, obsessed, as in she would leave my dad and us kids in a heartbeat if he were into middle aged pregnant women.” Hailey giggled.
“Sorry, but Blake’s married to Mila and totally into her. They are still in the honeymoon phase, mom says. Translates into them sucking face ALL the time, giggling and all that, I mean, you saw them yourself. And I think my parents may have already kinda let the cat out of the bag with your parents at least about some of this, or you wouldn’t be here. I mean … ya know? Would you send your daughter so far for a weekend to random strangers you met once?”
“Good point. Didn’t even occur to me yet. They didn’t say anything, but must know at least some of the truth. That’ll be fun flying back home to, my mom’s 20 questions. Speaking of Blake and Mila making out all the time …. Have you ever … ya know … sucked face with anyone I would know?” Hailey’s sudden topic change startled Chase.
“Like some celebrity chick. Someone famous. Or anybody else, really.”
“Have you or haven’t you?”
“What about you? How many guys have you kissed and stuff?” Chase turned the interrogation around on her. Something you learned fast as a vampire living among mortals.
“Ahem … how did we get here?” Hailey frowned. Asking and being asked where very different indeed, Hailey realized.
“I dunno. You said something and then I said something … ahem … pretty sure you started this.”
“Thanks Captain Obvious, I know how a conversation works. I meant the topic. How come we have talked SO much, but never talked about ANY of this, your family, relationship stuff … I thought we kinda talked about everything. Guess not. But if this was your Rainman way of asking if I had a boyfriend, the answer is no. I am not dating anyone. What about you?”
Chase burst into laughter before he could help it. If she only knew. Everyone at his school were kids of wealthy and famous people, all the hetero girls were into the typical Del Sol Valley stereotype guys, tall, tan, athletic, hunky – the type that would look great on their Instagram feed as they went to fancy places and parties together. Chase didn’t fit that description, he was wiry, pale, a computer geek and on the shorter side, still hoping for a growth spurt, plus he hated parties and crowds with great passion. And if he magically were to even get close enough to any of those girls to kiss her, they would inevitable find out his biggest secret, since vampire fangs were not retractable. You could learn to hide a lot of vampire things in order to blend in, but no way could you REALLY kiss someone without them knowing, unless they were super-wasted. Anything beyond a quick peck would give it away. And the Del Sol Valley girls lived and breathed drama. It would be a disaster and that would be putting it mildly. Vampires trying to date mortals always did best with outcasts or people they knew they could really trust. His classmates were neither.
“How is that funny?” she frowned at him, slightly irritated.
“Sorry. It’s not really, I guess. In case you missed it, the cool gene that seems to run in my family skipped me completely, I am the king of dorks. But to answer your question – and by the way, I am honestly flattered that you even thought I could have any game at all – I don’t, so no, I haven’t kissed anyone I wasn’t somehow related to, famous or otherwise.”
“Me either. I mean, boys. I haven’t kissed boys I wasn’t related to. I mean, that came out weird. Never kissed girls, for that matter, only those related to me. What? Gawd, you are contagious, I am starting to sound like you, Rainman.” Hailey blushed when she stumbled over her own words.
Chase laughed, then leaned into Hailey. No idea where he took the courage from, it just felt right and he felt safe with her.
“I like you just the way you are Patches. Don’t ever change – don’t become one of those girls and don’t ever get rich and famous. It’s just a hassle most of the time.” he said, his voice soft, as he breathed in her scent. Most of the females in his family used perfume, but Hailey was different.
“I like you too, even though you are rich and all that – and worst of all – you even kinda lied to me about it! But I forgive you, just like I forgive your mom for putting me up in a guestroom that is as big as our living room, kitchen and dining room combined! My room back home is smaller than the ensuite bathroom! I am gonna get claustrophobic when I go back home. All YOUR fault, Rainman.” she winked at him, he chuckled.
“Sure. Blame Chase, everyone else does. So what are the chances you could spend the whole week of fall break here with your new room … and me too?”
“I would, but I don’t know how to ask my parents. I mean, not only do I have to explain all THIS, but a whole week away from them with some boy they barely know … I don’t think I am a good enough bullshitter to sell them that, Chase.”
“But I know someone who is. My dad, seriously, could sell buckets of ice cubes on a glacier. Just say the word and I get him on that.”
“The word! I totally wanna come balling here with you for a week in fall! Work your magic, Chasey!” Hailey giggled.
Chase smiled. This was awesome. He was confident his dad could totally talk her parents into it, and if not, he’d get Blake on that. If her mother was really such a fan, a visit from him would probably get her to allow anything.
Maybe sometimes having famous relatives wasn’t so bad after all.
Having his cool new friend her for a whole week would be amazing! Especially since Colton was always so distracted with his girlfriend now.