Chapter 36) Shell-shocked

Life is a big test, of many choices and for most people there are no bad choices only bad outcomes.

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Brindleton Bay, Trail's End Park

Hand in hand Anastasia and Chase strolled through the park in Brindleton Bay. Ana was staying over with him at his parents’ home for the weekend again, enjoying the quiet quaintness of the maritime town. They had eaten lunch in a cute little seafood restaurant by the harbor, then decided to walk off the food, strolling around the old scenic downtown, window-shopping, until Chase suggested to go up to the small park.

Ana couldn’t help but think about how nice it was to have someone you love whom you can stroll in the sunshine with on an early winter day, enjoying the first, still sparsely shy snowflakes in the cool, crisp and refreshingly salty air. This would never be possible if she had been able to be with Riordan.

They ascended up the tall lookout tower taking in the stunning views when Chase kissed her, then said.

“This is where my dad proposed to my mom a long time ago.”

Ana stiffened, shot him a quick glance.

“Uh, Chase … I am not even 23 yet.”

“Oh, of course I didn’t mean anything by it. We only just started our journey together. I was just day-dreaming a few years ahead. But I did want to run something else by you. I am well over-due for a vacation, got another one of those threatening emails from the personnel department telling me to ‘use it or lose it’, and I would hate to lose precious vacation days. I know you work a lot too, so how about we go away together? Thinking Sulani. A week just us, palm trees and sunshine, you and me laying around on some beach, making everyone jealous when we come back several shades darker and so relaxed and happy that we cannot stop grinning.” hopeful he smiled at her, kissing her hands, which he had been rubbing between his to warm them up. A simple, yet oh so precious gesture.

“Yeah, vacation does sound nice. I’ll check with HR on Monday and let you know.” Ana said, glad to have dodged the ‘together forever’ bullet for now, while in her mind wiping the proverbial sweat off her forehead that he didn’t just drop to one knee, as she feared for a moment.

Windenburg, Cameron residence

Monday evening right after work my lovely daughter nearly ran down our front door, literally dragging me with her to her old room, shutting the door behind herself after double-checking to make sure nobody was following us, as if we were going to conspire treason or something.

“Mommy, I am freaking out here!” she said.

“I noticed. What happened?” I asked as calmly as I could while mentally already running through the list of things that could be all about. Must be pretty serious if she was so shaken by it to call me mommy.

“OMG, mom! I think Chase was going to propose to me on Sunday, but got cold feet and didn’t when I sorta freaked out, and now he wants to go on a tropical beach vacation with me.” she rattled out.

“Honey, that sounds lovely. A vacation would be …” I stated, but she cut me off.

“MOM! Focus! I said he was gonna propose, almost, and if I go on that vacation with him, what if he goes through with it?! What if I am stuck on an island with him and he hits that knee?! With a RING!?” Ana sounded like this was the most threatening thing a person could do to another.

“Ana, baby. Then just tell him you are not ready for that level of committment yet. Him thinking about that just means he loves you very much and can see a future together. You love him too, don’t you? And an engagement is just a promise of marriage, not a marriage and definitely not a crime. Plus even if you were to accept, you wouldn’t have to get married on the spot, after all, you are only 22 years old. Some people stay engaged for several years. Usually weddings take lots of planning. Or you could be honest and tell him you are not ready for that step just yet. Or maybe after you had some time to think about it, when you are not so freaked out by it, you want to say yes.” I tried to calm her in the most diplomatic way I could dream up.

“But mom, I don’t even want kids. And I am so never gonna change my last name. This girl is a Cameron for life. So, no use getting married. Like … ever.” she stared at me like a deer in the headlights.

“Then you should explain that to Chase. If he cannot live with that, and you cannot see yourself ever changing your mind, then it’s best to get it out there on the table early on rather than going on as a couple, both with hopes for a future that will never align, only to end up with broken hearts down the road. Rip off that Band-Aid before the wound festers. I really think you may be overreacting a little, so just relax and calm down before you do anything, sweetheart.”

“But I don’t want to hurt Chase … or worse: lose him! I do love him so very much. And he is so incredibly sweet, kind and gentle, understanding .. just perfect. Oh mommy, why are relationships always so damn difficult? First the Riordan drama, now this. What is wrong with men? Or what is wrong with me?!”

“I don’t know what to tell you, baby.” I said softly.

Did I just get ‘mommy’ again? Twice now? Man, she really had to be on emotional crutches right now. Poor girl. And all that over what she thought could have become a proposal – maybe, or maybe not? I thought her father was terrible about hating weddings, but this was fifty times worse. No clue why, as I knew that Brendan wanted to get married at some point down the road. So I’d guess it had nothing to do with the parents. Maybe hatred of weddings was inheritable? She was a lot like Blaine in many things. Brendan took more after me. Although, come to think of it, I used to sound almost exactly like my daughter, even broke up with an ex-boyfriend when he started talking marriage and I never wanted kids. But now look at me. Married for 23 years with two grown kids. Maybe there was hope for her yet.

Really, I didn’t have a clue. What do you say to your daughter in situations like this? Tell her to marry Chase, because we all adore him and his folks and he is a doctor and will always be able to take care of her, or say fuck it, run with tall, dark, handsome Riordan, who’s like a son to me, even though as a vampire’s bride, she would never have a normal life? Because, come on, we all knew that he wasn’t all the way out of the picture yet. I was born at night, but not last night!
What would business dinners look like if she rolled up with her vampire boyfriend Riordan. But what if she married Chase and was miserable … wouldn’t that be my fault then? And did I even want my 22 year old child thinking about marriage already? She was a brilliant student and now a young attorney, had a budding career ahead of her she was working so hard for and her whole life in front of her. ARGH!

By the time she left to drive back to her apartment, now armed with a bunch of leftovers even though she swore she could ‘never eat again with her stomach in knots like it was’, I had calmed her down mostly. In addition, I was almost certain Chase had just gotten caught up in the romantic moment and with rose colored glasses dreamed about what their future may hold, rather than as Ana seemed to think that he had a wedding band loaded up and ready to go along with the ball and chain she seemed to see marriage as. Although, Chase was almost 3 years older than her, only natural that he was starting to plan out his future. He was also the Cunningham’s only child, and I was pretty damn sure he wasn’t gonna change his mind about wanting kids one day who’d bear his last name. Oh, I smelled the drama cooking already. And it smelled burned to me. Prepare for the eruption of that volcano. Eyeroll and theatric sigh.

San Myshuno, Anastasia Cameron's apartment, almost a week later

A shrill shriek escaped Anastasia when she opened the bathroom door and found a man lingering in her hallway, who was grinning as he casually said

“Boo!”

After a rant laced with choice words, she finished with

“Have you lost your mind!? Are we back to you just showing up here again?! Maybe your uncle should take the teleporting ability away from you again, if this is what you do with it! Do we have to go over how that is not okay – AGAIN!?”

“Nah, spare me. Besides, apparently I have been stuck in that gay closet all my life so far without realizing it, so no worries, right? Joking aside, I missed you. Haven’t seen you in over a week and I didn’t want you to disappear with your precious Chase again for the weekend before getting some ‘us’ time in. After all, you promised me!”

“Man, you are complicated. Sorry about telling Chase you were gay. I was just so shocked when you turned up all of a sudden. And I still have a bone to pick with you about that! What the HECK were you thinking barging in on us like that anyway? Couldn’t have stayed hidden for the love of all that is holy?! It was like you wanted us to get caught!”

“Get caught doing what, Ana? Nothing? Cos, we didn’t do anything, remember? If he has you on such a short leash that he won’t even let you hang out with an old friend just because he is male, I’d really rethink that relationship if I were you! And I didn’t know he would show up, I came out of your bathroom, ran right into you guys and he saw me. What would you have me do differently? Vanish in a black cloud right in front of him? I think that would have been a lot harder to explain yet.”

“Right. Fine. So what do you want then?”

“I told you what I want. Spend some time with you. Or do I need to call your secretary to get an appointment for that now, Miss big shot attorney? Please don’t tell me your doctor is on his way again.”

“He’s not, he’s working night shift, and they are called assistants nowadays, not secretaries, you should know that because my mom was one for a long time and I do not have one. I am a junior attorney and not a senior partner. Yet. But one day. Still dreaming about my name in neon lights over the door to my own firm.”

“Incredibly captivating, that lecture, you female rendition of uncle Caleb. You know what else you are – and at least FINALLY for a good reason?”

“What?” Ana asked.

“Super-pissed at me.”

“No, I am not.”

“Not yet, but watch this!” Riordan smirked.

With a quick movement of his index finger Riordan undid the fastening, sending her towel to the floor, exposing her completely.

After a second of shock and an exclamation of surprise, Ana ran after Riordan, threatening him, as he took off towards her couch, laughing so hard he could barely see where he was going. They circled it a few times before he ran down the hallway to her bedroom, her close on his heels, by now, both laughing hard, while she still yelled terrible, made-up threats at him.

She caught him, tripped him up and they landed on the bed, still giggling, tickling each other, just having fun like kids.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?! You have GOT to be kidding me!” that was me when I walked into just that scene.

To those of you who have kids, let me tell you that you have not lived until you find your own 22 year old daughter in her birthday suit atop a – mercifully fully dressed – young man whom you have known since he was a toddler, changed his diapers and all, and all that right below a large picture on the wall of her and her actual boyfriend, whom you adore.
Yeah, not the type of moment to treasure and look back on fondly as you share it with your grandkids while baking cookies. Although, Blaine probably would, if this was him. No, nix that, Blaine would have exploded into a fountain for curses and tried to dissemble Riordan. Either way, my mood had taken the express elevator all the way to the basement by now.

“MOM!” Ana stared at me like a rabbit in the claws of an eagle.

“Aunt Vik!” Riordan didn’t look much different than her.

“Both of you, living room NOW! And properly dressed please, young lady! Immediately!”

I stormed off to said location, fuming, seconds later Riordan joined me, sheepish like a dog scared to get the rolled up newspaper, shortly after my now dressed daughter came in as well.

I glared at them now sitting in front of me on the couch.

“EXPLAIN YOURSELVES!”

“Mom, it wasn’t what it looked like. We weren’t doing …. THAT … we were just … ahem … only …”

“Playing …” Riordan tried to help, but quickly looked away when he saw the look I gave him.

“I kinda figured that you two weren’t in the final stages of carnal pleasure, seeing how he is still fully dressed, unlike you, sweet child of mine! What the heck, Ana?! And as for you, Riordan, I do not want you to play around on my daughter, young man, not for any reason, and especially not if she has no clothes on! That ship has sailed for you, remember?! She has a boyfriend. Remember him, Ana?! His name is Chase and he trusts you, I really hope that trust isn’t misplaced! Or is this how you think you can cure yourself from the shock of his quasi-proposal?!”

“He proposed to you?!” Riordan exclaimed surprised.

“No … just … almost … but the topic came up. Long story. But I didn’t start it, Ri did, when he stole my towel!”

“Hey! I didn’t steal it, I just … loosened it. My hand … slipped.” Riordan protested.

“Riordan, zip it! What Chase did or didn’t do is none of your business, understand? She is HIS girlfriend to propose to all he wants! They moved past casually dating and are a couple in case you missed that memo. I know you are smarter than this, but I will say it anyway for the record: it is absolutely unacceptable for her to lounge around on top of you completely undressed – or otherwise! EVER! That goes for mortals and vampires alike!”

“Yes, aunt Vik. Sorry. It was my fault. Forgot we’re adults for a moment.”

“Well, you hero, you really think me THAT gullible, Ri?! You and I both know exactly why you did what you did and your angelic innocent puppy dog eyes won’t wash with me! Oh yeah, I know that situation grew on your fertilizer, I know it wasn’t Ana’s idea, even though I can’t say how you got her clothes off while keeping yours on. But I hold both of you accountable! Unbelievable you two! One minute you cannot stand him, and I have to beg, steal and borrow to even get you to talk to Riordan again, next thing I know I find you riding him into the finish line like a thoroughbred! What were you both thinking? What if it had been Chase and not me walking in on that mess?! Or your father, Ana! Think he would react as composed as I am trying to here?! He’d probably superglue the contents of your entire closet onto you, after burying that one under a mountain of garlic in the desert somewhere!”

“Chase doesn’t have a key … and you have yours to look after the apartment when I go away, not to spy on me, mom … “

“Seriously, Ana, THAT is your best defense right now?! That is – at best – beside the point! I came here to have dinner with you, but you didn’t hear me knock, I heard you laughing and all inside and thought you had your headphones on. That’s why I am in here if you must know. Definitely the first and last time I will make THAT mistake, as honestly, I want NO PART of this mess, not even as much as know about it, if I could erase that from my mind, believe you me, I would! But since I am now involved you will have to listen to this: If you want Chase, be with Chase and ONLY Chase, if you want Riordan, then choose him – just remember all that drama that follows the Vatores. I will not allow you to string poor Chase along, he does not deserve it and you do not get to have two lovers slash boyfriends! Either way you choose, that is your thing, you are an adult now, but I did not raise a whore, so you will have to pick or I will raise hell like you never known! That goes for both of you! Hands off my daughter until we have clear boundaries otherwise, Riordan, I am not going to tell you twice!”

With that I stomped off, door slam and all. Oh, I was not happy with my firstborn AT ALL and Riordan didn’t exactly tickle me pink right now either. Oh, that boy. Just like his uncle! Rode that ‘I’m-just-a-vampire-and-don’t-how-life-works’ pony to death whenever it suited them! And I used to be dumb enough to eat it up and coddle him over and over again, when in reality he was playing me like a violin. Now his nephew is doing that to my daughter and like me, she falls for it.
Let me be clear here, I knew that Riordan had a tough climb, trying to fit in the way he wanted, while straddling the life he was destined to live. That had to be very rough, and he was seriously depressed and lonely most of the time, which was the reason he clung onto Ana and the rest of us as much as he did, no doubt about it and I normally overflowed with compassion and cut him a lot of slack. But not when he was about to crash my daughter’s happiness into a wall at 100 mph with his reckless and idiotic behavior.

And I would have to keep this lovely morsel of situation from Blaine, or he’d bounce off the walls and probably start a war with the vampires. Oh, hell to the no.

Meanwhile the two young people I left in my wake to simmer in the tongue lashing I dished out for them hot off the grill recovered from their shocked paralysis.

“That was pretty brutal.” Ana stated.

“No shit. Think she’ll tell my uncle?”

“Nah, she wouldn’t risk him sticking you into vampire Alcatraz again. Pretty sure she won’t tell my dad either, for good reason. But that was really bad. I swear my butt’s hurting from that verbal spanking we just took. Ouchie wowzie.”

“Agreed.”

I did end up dropping it, all seemed kosher between them after that until Blaine and Brendan nearly choked on their dinner one night, while my eyeballs almost came out of their sockets, when Chase was over to eat with us, and in between bites he casually mentioned something about Riordan being gay. When I saw Ana nearly disappear into the table to avoid my glares I know who was responsible for that brand-new pile of doodoo.
Naturally none of us corrected the lie, but as soon as we were alone with Anastasia, she got an earful from all three of us. Even our dog Obi barked at her.

What was wrong with that girl these days?! Even if she would have told Chase that Riordan was an ex-boyfriend whom she’d known all her life, Chase wasn’t the type to flip out with jealousy, so what was all that theater good for?! Why lie to him about Ri being gay, which not only dragged the rest of us into that lie as well, but was bound to come out eventually, one way or another?
Riordan was a lot of things, but I was confident to say gay wasn’t one of those, if he were it would be a lot easier. He definitely liked women, one in particular, which was the root of a lot of the problems. I just prayed he would run into some other girl, fall head over heels, so we all could put that issue to rest.

The biggest problem was that Ana was not a child anymore, she was our child, but well over 18, and even as a kid she was incredibly hard to control, so now Blaine and I could get mad at her all we wanted, she was at the steering wheel of her own life and I was truly afraid she’d drive straight off a cliff unless she managed to get her head on straight soon.
And here I was, left with the nagging premonition that I was already watching what I was almost 70% certain at that point would end in a train wreck somehow, hoping I would be proven wrong.

8 thoughts on “Chapter 36) Shell-shocked

  1. Wow. Train wreck indeed. I would suppose you can say that Riordan is fighting for their love and for the right to be together. I don’t doubt if Viktoria hadn’t walked in things would’ve escalated. I don’t think Caleb would stop it this time given what happened last time.

    But Viktoria is right – Ana has to choose. Chase or Riordan. She can’t have them both. Covering my eyes waiting for the trains to collide. They’re both now on the same track pointing at each other. If she doesn’t decide, then Chase will decide for her after the collision. Poor guy. Poor everyone. 😭😭😭

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Train wreck ahead indeed. Just how to choose? Ana seems to genuinely love both young men, and both are so fundamentally different and more importantly, both seem to genuinely love her as well.

      With one she can be out and proud, live a life in the sunshine flaunting their relationship for all to see, but would probably have to get over her strong sense of independence.

      With the other she seems to have connected deeply so long ago, his emotions feed off her, but their love would be in perpetual darkness, he could not marry her officially (since he doesn’t officially exist, undocumented, since there “are no vampires”).

      Liked by 1 person

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