Where had I disappeared off to you are wondering?
Into the jungle.
Oh no, not Selvadorama. Just Granite Falls.
When I was a child, we used to come here a lot. My parents loved this place and so did I. According to my dad I was even conceived here, but you know my dad, that may or may not just have been a made up fact to gross me out. One of my dad’s guilty pleasures. (read the truth about Vivian’s conception here)
Anyway, here I was, during a time of year when few people would choose to spend time in a forest, so perfect for the type of soul searching I wanted.
I went for walks daily, exploring farther and farther from the cabin.
I already knew what was going to happen, once I felt ready to return. Mom was right. Everybody was right. I needed to slow everything down, yet start my own life.
I got married so young that I never had that time to myself, and I was about to catch myself up on it.
I would sell the ring Silas had given me to have some money to get me started out until I found a job.
I had tried to return it to him so many times and he would never accept it. I had even just left it there on the counter in his kitchen before and found it the next day in an envelope waiting for me at my parents’ home with a handwritten note
For that unnecessary jab alone, I would. And the proceeds would go to furnishing my own apartment. I would get me a job, just anything and enroll in college to complete the missing credits from when I dropped out years ago. Once I had my Business degree in the bag, I’d get a real job with prospects to a career.
Where did Vitto figure into all of this?
Unclear. I assumed we were still together and I still loved him, so that would not change on my account, but I would cool things down with him. No more naughty moments out there for all to see. Instead, dating like a regular couple. Kissing, maybe more, but as an exception, not the rule.
If he was up for that.
His father may have utilized my absence to brainwash him into not wanting to pursue this relationship.
After another beautiful sunrise I watched from atop one of the small mountains I had ascended I felt ready to face the convoluted mess that currently was my life again.
For the first time in two weeks I turned on my cell phone and ended up with several dozen unread text messages and missed calls. Most of them by Vitto. I guess he was still interested, since “we’re done” just did not need so many words.
I neither read any nor responded. I went home, kissed my parents, then got to work.
Within a short amount of time I managed to get re-enrolled, found some simple data entry position and had my first apartment in San Myshuno.
Small, tiny even, and nothing to showboat, but all mine.
I was brooding over some complicated topic for school when there was a knock on the door.
I moaned as it interrupted my train of thought but answered.
“Hi Vivian. I hope it’s okay that I just showed up? I had the address from one of the party invites you sent me, I would have called first but have not had much luck with calling or texting you of late.” he looked at me sheepishly.
“Sure, come on in!” I had thrown a few get-togethers with old friends and new ones, and always invited Vitto too, well aware that the odds of him showing up were slim.
“I like your place…” he said politely, looking uncomfortable.
I offered a beverage, he declined, but I saw him looking at my homework.
“I can help you with that, if you like…”
“Sweet of you, but I got it. So, how have you been?” I pointed at the couch and started walking, he followed.
“Do you want the small talk version or the truth?”
“That bad, huh?” I smiled.
“Miserable without you Viv.” he looked like a dog that had been kicked by their owner. Hard.
“I am sorry Vitto, but I need this. Everybody has been telling me we are moving too fast and after the last drama I needed to pull the emergency brake. Let’s not forget you were not exactly my knight in shining armor when you basically blew me off the last time we talked.”
“But I didn’t! At least not intentional. My parents, they were so very upset with me and like you, I agreed that we may have been rushing things, so I tried to slow us down. The last two times I went against my father’s wishes about relationships it ended in disaster, so I get why he is so worried. But when I realized I may have hurt you with what I said and came to make amends you were gone. But why did you never call me back? Why did you not tell me about any of this? Does all this mean we are over?”
“No. But something needs to give. We are going to take it slow. No more constant sleepovers, no random sexual outbursts in the wrong places. We go on dates. Real dates. And then we will go home, separately. You have your work, I have school and hopefully a career at some point too. And if we can make it, we can think about taking it further. But not anytime soon.”
Now he gave me a look like a kid that anticipated the spanking but only got yelled at. Not ideal, but better than expected.
“Can I get a tour?” he smiled shyly.
“Sure, come on, won’t take long.”
My apartment was minuscule. I pointed at the living slash kitchen area, we squeezed into the tiny bathroom together and lastly, the bedroom. His eyes lit up when he saw the large, blown up Selfie of us on the wall by the bed.
He left an hour later, with a kiss and the reassurance that there was still an ‘us’.
A few days later, Vitto and I had been on our first date, he walked me home and we kissed each other goodnight at the door. I watched him walk away, then turned to unlock, when I heard
“Lovely evening to defy one’s parents, isn’t it?”
“Dad! What the hell?” he had startled me.
“Hello pumpkin. That guy looked an awful lot like that kid I asked you not to see anymore.” Dad sounded too amused to truly be mad.
“Daddy, you also stipulated that if I did, I’d have to find a new place to live. Voila, wanna come into my new place to live?”
“Smartass! Who raised you like that?” he smirked.
“Always the one asking, daddy.” I smiled as he hugged me and kissed my forehead.
My parents had been to my apartment many times, they had helped me move. It’s just the Vitto thing they did not have the updates on. They never asked and I never offered.
“So, he is still around, huh?” dad poked for information after we walked in. I stoically walked to the couch with him in tow and we sat.
“Yup.” I was not planning on airing that mess before my dad. Not right now.
“I really do not see why it has to be him. You are such a smart and beautiful young woman. Maybe you should go out with a few other guys and see how they compare.”
“Daddy …” I rolled my eyes.
“Vivian, your mother has already hammered all the romantic reasoning into my brain, but I still think this is not a match made in heaven. Especially for me. The Mafioso as part of my own family? Your potential father-in-law. Urgh. Really Viv, if you love your good old dad at all, rethink. ”
“Dad, you weren’t exactly besties with Leonie’s dad…”
“But that one did not turn up at our doorstep all the time, because shitheads like the Mafioso apparently tend to roll downhill, which is where our house happens to be.”
“I thought he and you broke up and he stays away?”
“Oh, that did not last long. That Cameron charm is just too irresistible. He just came by to harass your mother yesterday.”
“Poor mom, what about?”
“The reason I am here. He wants her to come work for him again, temporarily.”
“Huh, weird. Is she going to do it?”
“With your mother, you never know, but not if I get my way. He wants to send Vitto abroad for a while, something business related and your mom is to fill his spot until he comes back. My guess he heard that you two are dating again or still and this is his solution.”
“Wonder why Vitto did not tell me!”
“He does not know yet. Mr. Spicy-Meat-A-Ball swore your mother to secrecy.” Dad explained.
“He really is dead set on keeping us apart, isn’t he?”
Dad left soon after. I was torn. Tell Vitto? That would get mom in trouble with Auditore Sr and dad in trouble with mom. Would not do anyone any good nor change a thing for Vitto. So I went with no.
The next day I came home from work and found Vitto lingering around outside my apartment door. He looked like the devil himself was after him.
“Sorry Viv, I know this is not what we agreed on, but I needed to talk to you. May I please come in?” he looked like he’d been through a lot.
I let him in, shut the door and he pulled me into the tightest embrace, without speaking, just held me.
I knew Vitto well enough to be sure that this was not his way of circumventing our agreement.
Finally, he told me, about his father’s plans, to send him to Italy for a year to open up a branch of Auditore Financials there.
“Vitto, hey. It may be a great opportunity for you.” I tried to cheer him up.
“Vivian, I am still not sun-proof. What the heck am I to do in sunny Italy? And without you. For a YEAR!” he looked like he was about to talk himself into a panic fit.
“You need to bring that up to your father, Vitto. And you need to continue working on your skills.”
“I will. But I needed to know that I still have a reason to want to fight him and stay here. And that skills thing … you know how I feel about that whole vampire thing.”
“Not liking it won’t change what you are. For better or worse, you are a vampire. And if you can be outside during the day without bursting into flames, it would give us more options to spend time together.”
“Can we still practice together?”
“Of course, silly.”
“Viv? I know your rules, but may I spend the night here? Just once? An exception?”
I was going to stay firm but he was just too much for me the way he asked. Vitto truly was the exact opposite of Silas. I could tell he needed TLC.
“Sure my little nerd, stay.” I smiled.
“Nerd? Little? Why little? I am taller than you, even in those dangerously high heels you always wear!”
“No, you’re not.”
I was preparing sodas for us, but while Vitto was rambling on and on about our heights, until with an evil grin I turned to him.
Before he could react I had stuffed a handful of ice cubes down his shirt, then ran behind the couch, watching him dance. Once he had removed the ice and came after me we circled the couch a few times till I fled to the bedroom. Yes, I know, it is obvious where this was going.
Vitto surprised me with his bout of force when he wrapped his arm around my waist, flinging both of us onto my bed.
We ended up with me on my back and him propped up on his arms atop me, our faces inches apart.
I knew he was going to kiss me and once he did, what was sure to follow, so I was torn between sticking to my guns or just letting it happen. I chose the latter. All those naysayers could take a long walk off a short pier tonight. My doors were securely locked and I had missed him. So deal.
And there it was, the kiss.
Hesitant at first, but his inhabitions melted like ice in the sunshine as soon as our lips touched. I felt butterflies in my stomach. My sweet shy nerd Vitto was the one to have my tail in a spin after all. And moreover, unlike normally where he would mostly follow my lead, this time he was the aggressor. Absence seemed to truly make the heart grow fonder.
If there had ever been a doubt in my mind if that man wanted me, the way and speed in which he discarded of our clothing and had me beneath him would have been more than a sufficient answer.
After we were done, laying snuggled up with each other, Vitto told me, his voice still unusually husky from the preceding excitement
“I’ve missed you so, Vivian.”
“I could tell. I think I may continue this ‘keeping-my-distance-thing’ indefinitely.” I teased.
“Don’t even joke about this. I do not know how much more of this I can take. Days seem endless when I don’t get to see you.”
“Vitto, as flattering as that may be, there is truth about what everybody has been harping on about. You cannot build your entire life around me. You need to be important to yourself and then you can add me in that mix.”
“I think I am way ahead of you in the alone department. I spent most of my life that way with brief cameos of a horrible wife and a golddigger. No, I am done being just Vitto. I respect that you need time to yourself, but please don’t take too long.”
“It will take as long as it will take. I need to finish school and I want a career. No interest in dragging that out unnecessarily, but it will be more than just a few weeks. I may be almost as much of a nerd brain as you, but am no machine.” I used to excel at school and academics always came easy to me, unlike my brother Liam who had the roughest time with school and learning. But as a poor single mom, I had dropped out of college back then because I had different priorites.
“You can pursue a career even if we are together. Even if we were married. I would never keep you from it.” Vitto said plainly.
No, he wouldn’t. I had no doubt he would be supportive. But his father’s words had hit home and still resounded with me. Most of all the comment about ‘sticking him with a child’. That alone made me regret what we had just done together.
“Vitto, just to be clear, this was an exception, not a new rule. No more of this for a while, okay?”
“Why? Did you not like it?” he looked worried.
“I did. But last thing I need now is a baby. And no matter how careful we may be, there is always that chance. I just cannot take that risk.”
“Would it be so bad? You would still be able to pursue your dreams, I promise you.” I knew Vitto wanted a child of his own badly, but has been denied that wish so far. The thought of me possibly becoming pregnant made his eyes light up.
“It would feed every little bit of prejudice your father has about me. I am not going to give him the satisfaction of telling everyone how right he has been about me.”
“Viv, my dad is not that bad. He is very very nice, actually, just wants the best for all of us. Sometimes he goes a little far…”
“Your dad has basically called me a gold-digger to my face, in front of my parents, Vitto. He may be a good dad to you, and for some reason my mom still thinks highly of him, but I don’t. He hates me and I know it.”
“Vivian, he just does not understand. Yet. But he will. I know it, because I know him.” Vitto defended his father, which upset me a little. I rolled over and away from him, he followed.
“Then explain it to him.” I demanded.
“Ok, I will.”
I swallowed the ‘yeah right’ that was already at the tip of my tongue. There would never be any parallel universe in which that man would happily embrace me as his daughter-in-law. My brother Liam could speak volumes to why that can be problematic. Landed him in jail even. I did not even want to fathom what the old Auditore would dream up if I pissed him off enough, but I knew he was influential enough to really be able to ruin my day. Or life.
I remember the strange feeling of “home” I had, watching Vitto sleeping peacefully there in my bed later on, a smile still on his face, the usual tenseness replaced by a quiet serenity.
At some point, with the intimacy of an old couple, I removed his glasses which he would fall asleep with all too often, then I joined him. Drowsily he wrapped his arm around me.
I tried to usher Vitto out very early the next morning so he could take a cab back home and make it in time before his father’s limo would show up to pick him up for work, but he declined. He intentionally stayed and walked to work from my San Myshuno apartment to make his point.
Maybe my sweet lil nerd had grown a pair and was going to show daddy he really was serious about me. Your guess was as good as mine about how that would work out for everybody.
Two days later I received my answer in form of a phone call from Vitto. Ezio and Melissa had invited Vitto, me and my parents to a ‘dinner’, which would mean coffee while seated uncomfortably around a large table under the probing eyes of the old Auditore, which only ever seized when my mom shot him one of her ‘be nice or else’ looks, while my dad looked ready to explode at any second and Melissa looked ready to pounce on anybody who would dare to lose their temper first.
The old Auditore broke the silence first with his carefully groomed small talk.
“So Vivian, I hear you are attending evening classes at San Myshuno University. What’s your major?”
“Business and Administration. I am only missing a few more credits before I can graduate, hopefully soon.”
“Of course you will. Vivian is one of the best students in her class, if not THE best.” Vitto gloated.
My dad’s eyes were narrowed awaiting Auditore’s reaction, when he smiled and said
“We are always looking for new talent at Auditore Financials. I am sure once you graduate, there may be a position that would interest you.”
Was he tripping? My dad looked ready to puke.
The LAST place on earth I would want to work at would be there.
I smiled and thanked him, shooting a ‘down boy!’ look at dad, who rolled his eyes at me in response.
When finally nobody wanted to sit anymore, Melissa suggested to gather in the more comfortable living room while Ezio took the alcoholic drink orders, while Vitto offered to take me up to the raised deck to talk and enjoy the view.
“I am not sure that is such a good idea..” Ezio complained, apparently assuming we would tear the clothes off each other the second we got up there. Once you had the rep …
“Ezio!” Melissa warned, shaking her head.
“Fine, enjoy…” As Vitto and I were climbing up the stairs to the deck I saw him standing by the backdoor until my mom linked her arm into his and just dragged him away.
“That wasn’t so bad …” Vitto said.
I snorted a laugh.
“Viv, he really is trying. Just like your dad, who was staring me down the entire time.”
“My dad is harmless.”
“Bullshit!” Vitto rarely cursed, if ever. Sounded funny coming from him.
“Well, my dad has never insulted you to your face and called you a gold-digger or something.”
“I am never IN your dad’s face, for good reason, he is every bit as protective of you as mine is of me, and there is no gold to dig for, so that would not make any sense calling me that.”
“Nice of you to rub my face into the Cameron poverty.”
“You are not poor. But wealth like that of the Auditores comes with great responsibility. I have many siblings to think of. If I squander our money or risk our business, it would affect all of them. And I have gotten our family close twice before. So if you want to be upset about this, you have to blame me. You just unfortunately got caught in the crossfire.”
“Sometimes I wished you were just some random Joe with an average working family trying to make ends meet like the rest of us. Would make a lot of things easier.”
“True, but just like me wishing I weren’t a vampire, it still does not make it so.”
“You should embrace who and what you are. I think you’re pretty awesome. Always have.”
“Nice to hear after all the ego beatings I took before.”
He put his head up against my shoulder
“Nothing. My ex … she did not exactly give me rave reviews, not as a man, but especially not as a lover. She likened sex with me to a turtle race; painfully slow, all over the place and completely pointless.”
Dang lady, that was harsh!, I thought to myself. Still, while I didn’t mean to, I could not help but burst out laughing. Vitto joined in.
“I am sure I do not need to tell you this, but I would passionately disagree.” I told him.
“You know what that means, right Viv? Either she was wrong or you are just as terrible at it as I am.” he joked.
“At least we can be terrible together then, my nerdy turtle.”
I took his face into both hands and leaned my forehead against his.
“I told my father that you are my soulmate. He was surprised and tried to argue, but then realized I meant it. He is trying Vivian. He was serious about the job offer.” Vitto said.
“Appreciate the offer, but the last place I would apply would be that place. Even without the memory of that one night over my head. A couple working together is a recipe for disaster.”
“Not true. Your mother worked with my father back when they were married and your parents used to perform together. Seemed to work out well. I rest my case.”
I had nothing to counter that.
Silence fell for a few minutes till Vitto was the one to break it again.
“I told my parents that I want to marry you.” Vitto said quietly, standing next to me looking off into the distance. I felt butterflies in my stomach, while hoping he would not end up falling to one knee right here, right now.
“I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall for that discussion.” I tried to make light of it, as feigning surprise at the fact would have been an insult to both of us. I had known Vitto too long and too well to not have figured he was already hearing wedding bells in the distance.
“It was very civil. They both told me that they wanted me to be happy. I told them you were what makes me happy and that I wanted to make you happy as well, which is why I will wait until I think you may be ready.”
“Man, Vitto, you sound so mature right now.” he did. Not shy and nerdy at all.
“Would I be waiting in vain?” he asked, turning to me, trying to read my reaction to his question before I would even answer.
My response wasn’t words, but possibly the longest kiss in history.