“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”― Anne Frank
Brindleton Bay Eric, Lana, Rhys and Meaghan's Home
Having both teens assembled at the kitchen table, Eric and Lana had to have an uncomfortable talk both parents had dreaded.
Neither Eric nor Lana liked the fact that money was too tight to be able to afford paying the astronomical college tuitions for two kids, and they were not going to do it for one and not the other. Ever since Eric and Lana’s wedding about four years ago now had cemented the little patchwork family into something resembling a real family, both parents had been adamant about being full and fair parents to both kids.
“I know you both didn’t get the scholarships we were hoping for, but time doesn’t stand still, and we need to get your futures squared away … we still have many nice options that don’t require college … and there are also still student loans, which aren’t ideal, but … ” Lana started what was to become a longer speech, only to be interrupted by her daughter.
“Mom, chill, I got this. I am just gonna get a job, anything, just something to get some money coming in, until my YouTube thing takes off.” Meaghan explained.
“YouTube?! You have to be joking!” Lana looked as if she had found a bug in her soup.
“Why? Influencer is a thing nowadays, mother. Get with it!”
“You wanna make money uploading rants to YouTube?” Eric interjected, confused.
“No-hoooo …. not rants. Get-ready-with-me’s, tuts, stuff people want and – looking at people I see outside – desperately need in some cases.”
“What are get … whatever that was and tuts?” Eric frowned.
“OMG, dad, tuts are tutorials … where people explain how to do something and get ready with mes are where you like tape yourself getting dressed and putting on make-up and link the stuff you wear and use.” Meaghan explained with the usual teenage short fuse.
“Videotape yourself getting dressed!? Absolutely not! If you like fashion, you can work at a boutique or beauty salon or something. We are not going to support you hosting a peeping tom channel! Erase that idea – QUICKLY!” Lana ranted.
Eric quickly addressed his own son, realizing if he didn’t diffuse now, it would turn into another mother-daughter showdown. While Lana and Meaghan were close, they could also get into terrible fights, something that Eric and Rhys never really had to worry about.
“Ahem – so what about you, Rhys? Where are you on plans for your future? Please do NOT say dog breeding. Your grandmother was so right with her prediction. Out of what – six or seven litters – we maybe sold two? The rest we gave away for free to friends and family because you wanted to keep them all. No, Rhys, that won’t fly. Geraldine and Cooper are getting snipped. Those vet bills when she is pregnant are costing us arm, leg and firstborns! I am pulling the plug, son!” Eric’s rant was underlined by three of the currently four Irish Setters living with them framing him in his seat now.
“Yeah, dad, I know, I am kinda over the breeding too. I wanna do vet school, dad. Then work somewhere until I can afford my own practice. That’s my plan. The old doctor we see keeps talking about wanting to retire. Maybe he can teach me and then I’ll buy his practice and continue it.”
“Oh, another fresh hell! Rhys, honey, you know that being a vet doesn’t just mean you get to pet dogs all day. There are very gruesome aspects of that job and you are such a sweet and gentle young man, I am not sure that would be right for you either … Eric, feel free to take over!”
“Right. Son, what the hell? I thought you wanted to be a detective like me?”
“Ah, nah dad. That was when I was like 5 or something. Nowadays everyone hates the police. Not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole. Plus, I don’t want to worry about getting shot a new butthole every workday until I can get a desk job like you.”
“Sorry dad, nothing personal … I mean, good for you that you love your job, but it’s just not for me. I’ll be a vet, I love animals, I am good with animals, and I have a lot of experience with the gross stuff already because of the breeding and I can handle the rest. So … is this it then? Or can it be? I am kinda gonna be late for something here.” Rhys glanced at the wall clock.
“Late for what? It’s 7 PM. What could you be late for?”
“Rhys-y’s got a date!” teased his stepsister Meaghan, making Rhys blush while looking like he was trying to become invisible. Unsuccessfully, as both parents now stared at him, while he shrunk in his seat.
“A date? With a girl?!” Eric’s eyes grew big.
“What do you think? With a tree? No, he’s got game with actual girls again.” laughed Meaghan.
“Okay, so what about that date, Rhys? How come this is the first I am hearing of it?” Eric wondered, surprised, but also a little bit hurt that his son hadn’t told him about it at all.
Rhys blushed in the deepest shades of purple, but only shrugged, not looking at his dad.
“Rhys, buddy, I thought we were close, son? How come I don’t even know you like some girl.”
Meaghan laughed; Rhys shot her a glare.
“Are you seeing someone too, Meg.” her mother now asked, well aware Meaghan had a secret crush but vehemently refused to say on whom, which instantly ended Meaghan’s glee, caused her to blush, and her face to darken. Lana had ended the teasing by finding a sore subject.
“I hate being called Meg, mom! And no, I am not. Can I go then? As much as I enjoy watching Rhys squirm, I told Hannah and Sarah I would help them with prom dresses. We were supposed to meet at Hannah’s like 30 minutes ago.”
“Sure, fine, I don’t think this is going to go anywhere productive with you here to instigate and antagonize anyway. Please don’t be home late.” Lana sighed. Hannah and Sarah were both Rhys’ teenaged cousins, one by Eric’s older brother Ethan and his wife, the other by his twin sister Everleigh and her husband, who lived in walking distance. All four kids went to the same school. Small town life.
Meaghan left like a bat out of hell, leaving two parents eyeing Rhys, who squirmed in his seat.
“Well? Enlighten us, kiddo.”
“Okaaaay … look … so it’s nothing really serious … yet. She’s in some of my classes, 17 like me, she likes dogs too, she already knows that we are not the wealthy and cool branch of the Camerons cos her older sister is married to Chase Cameron’s brother-in-law, so she’s fine with us being uncool and basic bitches, … her name is Sandrine …” Rhys muttered the bare necessities out.
“We’re basic bitches?! And what kind of name is that?” Eric interrupted.
“It’s Italian. Goes by Sandy.” Rhys said.
“Ita – oh no. OH NO. Say it’s not what I think it is!” Lana said, while her tone already foretold she knew better.
“And that is why I didn’t tell you.” Rhys mumbled.
“Mind enlightening me too?” Eric looked confused between his wife and son.
“Eric, darling, THINK! Who is the only Italian family near and far of Brindleton Bay?” Lana challenged him.
“I don’t know … oh. OH! Rhys, are you seeing one of the Auditore kids?!” Eric looked shocked.
“Maaaaybe.” Rhys dragged out.
“Oh dear Lord. I need a drink!” Eric shook his head. The Auditores were a large, old Italian financier family, who not only owned the largest property in Brindleton Bay, but several impressive properties in the region, as well as several large financial institutions. The Auditores weren’t the types to socialize with the common people much, so the rap sheet and rumors were all Eric knew about them.
“Rhys, honey. Your dad and I agree that you are old enough to date and all that but think. The Auditores are very wealthy and just a very different type of people than we are. Her expectations may just be a bit out of your reach, sweetie … ” Lana tried to make palatable to the teen what seemed obvious to her, after she herself had married a wealthy and influential man many years ago in an attempt to better herself, which lead to many years of heartbreak, several failed subsequent relationships, eventually leaving her and her daughter destitute until she met and fell in love with Rhys’ father. They were far from wealthy, but they were a loving family.
“Chill parents! I just started DATING Sandy. Give me a break to get to really know her first. I was going to introduce her to you, eventually, if we are serious! I didn’t say I am gonna marry her tomorrow. And even if, so what? You saying I am not good enough for some rich girl? Great, thanks guys!” Rhys was visibly offended, jumped up, his head bright red for anger as he ran up the stairs, soon followed by a loud bang of his room door, causing both parents to wince in their seats.
Eric remained, with a deep sigh.
He knew why his son was so touchy.
Rhys used to date what seemed to all like a nice girl for a while when he was about 16, until she cheated on him, generating unconfirmed pregnancy rumors, which Brindleton Bay being a small town where everyone basically knew everyone, it turned into a public humiliating mess for a few weeks until her parents moved away with her in some cloak and dagger nighttime event, never to be heard from or seen again, leaving Rhys even more confused and hurt than before without even a goodbye.
Heartbroken, Rhys was done with dating for a long time.
Until now, leaving Eric to hope this wouldn’t turn into an even bigger mess, right at the cusp of adulthood for Rhys, while at the same time realizing that the closeness the early and sudden death of his mother had afforded father and son might have run its course, which saddened Eric, making him regret a little that Rhys was his only child, as it seemed that Rhys was about to grow up and grow apart from Eric unless things changed soon.