Winterfest was upon us.
Blaine and I had originally planned to have a quiet one again, but with Vivian living with us now and her dropping hints about how it used to be when she still lived here, it was not hard to read between the lines what she wanted. She looked better than she had in a long time, healthier, less tense and just downright happy. So we went with it, to make her happy and we all got on the phones and started planning a real Winterfest celebration on the very very last minute.
We invited the rest of the family and friends, naturally almost all had their own thing going, but oddly, Liam and his family flew all the way out here to celebrate with us.
They would only stay for 2 days, to spend with us and their old clique.
Finn and Ben had plans with their wives’ families, Autumn and Lucien just had twin girls and hence their hands full.
I worried about Casey, Adrianna’s estranged husband and their son, who was meanwhile a child almost teen, but he had been aloof.
Vivian was crazy into the Winterfest spirit, made all of us decorate together, sing carols and even helped me prepare the Winterfest feast, which only Leonie, Everett and Natalie would be able to enjoy. Hope they were hungry. I used to cook these for large groups and didn’t know any different.
Contrary to his commenting, Blaine visibly enjoyed having Vivian around. While with Silas, she had been very illusive, although she would always be there for everybody’s celebrations and had been instrumental in helping with Liam’s wedding, and with helping poor Leonie.
I had not seen her glowing like this in a very long time.
Silas did not believe in such traditions, which was ironic, since he insisted otherwise on very traditional living, which still clashed starkly with Vivian’s very modern views. She wore her hair short now, a beautiful chin-length bob and it was one reason for arguments again and again. Like me, our daughter was a trousers-type of woman, another thing Silas abhorred.
Winterfest was beautiful, hands down. I could have that all day every day and knew Blaine agreed. No worries, nobody is moving again. Just a dream and not truly feasible.
The day after, Vivian’s cell phone rang off the hook.
Various old friends of hers had heard about her separation and checked in on her and lastly, even Vitto called. Evidently Vitto had heard the news now, assume he went home to see his folks, even though he lived in Brindleton Bay, I never really ran into him anymore.
They chatted for hours. Once done, her phone went off again. Silas. Wanting to go out.
She declined. Instead, she went to Club Zero, THE dance club in Windenburg.
After some dancing she sat at the bar to order some drink when Silas showed up.
She told me while their talk was generally pleasant, he just would not leave again.
She finally snuck away and ran into her brother, who was on his way back from dropping off presents at Ben and Fey’s Windenburg home before heading to the airport.
On her way home, Vitto called again.
The next day, Vivian decided on window shopping, then felt like a drink when her phone buzzed. Silas again. This time she agreed to meet up with him.
He was attentive and pleasant company, but she was not convinced.
Not ready to return to him.
The day after, she told me she would go and visit an old friend, a long overdue visit, as she put it. I know immediately whom she was referring to. Vitto.
She rang the doorbell, heard it echo throughout. It took her half a dozen times till she finally heard movement, and the door opened.
“Vivian?” he looked and sounded drowsy and surprised.
“Hey Vitto. Bad time?”
“I am still not sun-proof, Viv. It’s in the middle of the day, I sleep during the day and am up at night unless I have to work. Please come in.”
“Not much sun to complain about, Vitto.” she smiled as she walked in, referring to the overcast skies.
His stiff reaction to her attempt to hug him made it awkward and caused her to halt and just smile instead.
“We ARE still friends, right?” she asked.
“Sure.” he looked at his shoes.
“Wanna go sit?” she asked.
“Cat got your tongue?” she smiled, wondering if she should just leave.
“I don’t have a cat.”
“Vitto! What is wrong with you?” she had enough now.
“I should ask YOU that. Did you not just break up with Silas? You are pretty upbeat for years of marriage down the drain.” at least he finally looked up at her.
“I have my moments. But I made my decision. So, you still sleep through the day?”
“Yes, most vampires do.” he said defensively.
“OK, you grump, I can see this is not the right time. I’ll come back some other day. And after dark. Nighty night.”
She turned on her heels and opened the door, when Vitto came to life, holding on to her.
“Wait! Please don’t go.” he sounded different now. More alive.
Vivian pushed the door shut now, as he gestured towards the living room.
Vivian had visited Addy a lot when she was still alive, and nothing had changed around here even though Vitto and Madelaine had lived here for years now.
Nothing at all.
Especially since all of the old photographs still up were depicting moments from Ezio and Viktoria’s marriage, their resulting children Addy and Marco at different stages of their lives and older relatives. All of them dead now, including Addy and Marco, save Ezio and Viktoria, which was debatable as they were both vampires and not truly living.
Yet, not one single photo of Vitto and Madelaine, or the rest of their families.
Vivian wondered how Madelaine, Melissa and the others must feel about that.
“Nobody comes here. Not ever.” he answered her mental question.
Her surprised look made him crack a faint smile.
“It was not hard to figure out, Viv.”
“OK, then read this.” she tilted her head and shook it.
He frowned and change the subject.
“Coffee? Ha, why am I asking, you are a Cameron – well, maybe not in name, but …” he refered to the one common denominator throughout the entire Cameron family, a thorough love for a good cup of coffee.
“Ha ha, a cappu would be great. And maybe the name thing will change again too. I am strongly considering it. After the divorce of course.”
He was in the kitchen preparing her cappuccino, the floor plan was open and they could still talk and see each other.
Without looking at her, he said
“So you are really going to go through with it? The divorce, I mean?”
“Yes.” she replied.
“I am not sure what to say, Viv. You do not seem sad about it.”
“It would take hours to explain and is actually pretty sad and boring. But – where is Mrs. Auditore?” she asked, looking around demonstratively.
“My mom is at home.” he replied without looking up from his task.
“You know which one I meant. Mrs. VITTO Auditore.”
He halted again, stood stiffly for a moment, then resumed his task, now carrying two cups over to the couch set, Vivian followed. They sat down next to each other before he finally replied, quietly
“I do not keep tabs on her, but assume with her new husband and child.”
“WHAT?!” Vivian was glad she had not picked up her cup yet, as she would have dropped it.
“Holy hell Vitto! When did THAT happen? Why am I only now hearing about that? What the hell, dude!? Are you okay?” she rubbed his arm. He looked very sad now.
“Do I look okay?” he simply asked.
“Not at all. You look like shit, man! Come here!” she pulled him into a hug.
“Vivian, please don’t ask me about this. There is not much to say. I always said, I am just not that desirable as a man. She got tired of me. Bored. She kept leaving me. Somehow I managed to convince her to return to me a bunch of times, but not this last time. She told me she was already pregnant when we broke up. I wanted to see the child, but she told me it wasn’t mine. It took a paternity test to prove to me she was telling the truth. Just like my dad always warned me. Exactly like that. All she wanted was a green card and money. She got both and a better man, plus a child now. And I am all alone again, discarded after being played the fool. Always the fool.”
“You have me! And your family! And my parents, come on now. My mom helped raise you for years before Melissa came around. Why did you not say anything?” Vivian was really confused and shocked. It pained her that her friend obviously did not seem to find her trustworthy at all anymore, and that he had been hurting for so long – alone.
“Why do you think? What good would it do? My parents know. All they do is say things and try to hook me up with someone when all I want is to be left alone.”
“You KNOW I am not going to do that, right?”
“Which is why I never told you. Until now, because I had no other choice.”
“Ouch! Need me to beat some sense into you? You know I will!” she smirked at him, gently nudging him, which made him smile too.
“Oh – I remember vividly. And no thanks, I got enough beatings, mostly verbal and emotional, I am good for a few decades now. Plus, I am not convinced that Silas is just going to let you go. No way. Not interested in being his punching bag again.”
“No worries. He is trying to win me back, but I told him again last night that I’m done.”
“Last … night?” Vitto’s facial expression made obvious what he was thinking.
“At a restaurant. Come on now, give me a LITTLE credit!”
“He is still your husband.”
“Only until my attorney files on the next business day.”
“You REALLY are serious this time?”
“Like a heart attack. The kids, well, Finn and I are super-close, still. The twins are …. different. I do not know what is going on there Vitto, and that is definitely a discussion for another time, but something is with the kids. I know, I am their mother, but I never could connect with them once they outgrew the toddler stage. Believe me I tried. Mom and dad and even Finn agree that they are strange. And Silas ALWAYS sides with them, especially with the girl, Zoey. She is evil, Vitto, I swear. She is doing things, I am sure of it, that if Caleb found out about, the entire Blackbourne family would be banished, or worse. I needed to get out, while I can. They are so … dark. And I am .. not. I may be a bitch, but they are a whole different level.”
“What kind of things is she doing?” Vitto asked concerned.
“I don’t know, it’s all speculation on my end, but I think she ‘hunts’. Humans. Not just small drinks either. She may kill them, if she has not already. And I think she sabotaged Leon’s relationship … I have no proof. She keeps tricking people into doing things … it’s … let’s change the subject. Please.”
“Thanks for coming to see me. I wanted to, but just did not have the balls.”
“Well, you had enough balls to call me the other night, which was nice. Been a while since we did that, too.”
“Yeah. Only took me a few drinks to make that call.”
“You drunk-dialed me?” Vivian laughed.
“Just about.” he joked, smiling.
Both laughed. Both probably thought about their old friendship, wondering if it could truly be rekindled. Vivian regretted abandoning Vitto, but after the last time he got beaten by a very jealous and possessive Silas, he had not been too interested in spending time with her and her life was so busy then.
“Oh, it’s you.” I said when Ezio himself opened the door and not his butler or maid.
“Imagine that, and I tell you a secret: I live here.” he smiled, a hint of sarcasm in his words.
“Smartass. I meant not one of your minions opening for you.”
“I am not Ebeneezer Scrooge, Viktoria. My ‘minions’ get the holidays off. And some take vacation time for a few more days. Now, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, my dear? And without Blaine, huh?” he asked as I followed him into the kitchen.
“Not sure about pleasure, as I am here to yell at you!”
“So, basically like every other visit then. Do you want Moscato for lubrication of your yelling voice, or maybe a coffee?” he remained unimpressed.
“I’ll take the coffee but can start yelling at you while you are preparing it. Where’s Melissa? I may include her in the yelling, too.”
“Luckily she is at her studio and will have to miss it. And why would you want to yell at her anyway?”
“Same reason as I am yelling at you now, Auditore, what the hell?!”
“You will have to be a little more specific, Viktoria. You yell at me so much, for so many different reasons, even for me it is hard to keep it all straight. Oh wait, this would not have to do with my son, huh?” Ezio guessed.
His sharp mind again.
“Ding ding ding! Why did you not tell me, Ezio?!” I gestured wildly to underline my disbelief.
“Because Vitto specifically asked me not to. Melissa too. So there is your answer. Yell away, if it makes you feel any better. Here is your coffee.”
Ezio handed me the cup, his facial expression unmoved as he took a sip of his Espresso, awaiting my response. I was processing the info, but then asked
“Why would he?”
“Because it is hard on him. And he barely wanted us to know. He got hurt badly, Viktoria. Exactly as I was always afraid it would happen. Some girl got into his heart, via his pants, and ultimately into his bank account. She has moved on, created a new life for herself with another man and a kid, her deep pockets lined with a chunk of Vitto’s wealth, leaving the boy heartbroken and most likely damaged for life. Just like I always feared.” Ezio was visibly affected by this.
He was a good man. Truly. Despite the stiffness and extreme correctness he was someone I knew I could always count on, and if he ever cared about you, you had someone in your corner for good. Which is why I insisted on remaining friends with him, even after we divorced, no matter how awkward it was then at times and sometimes still was nowadays.
“Can I now go talk to him?” I asked.
“I am pretty sure he already figured that Vivian would tell you. I don’t see why not. But Viktoria, leave Blaine at home. It all happened over a year ago now, but the boy is still very vulnerable. I do not want him to get hurt more by becoming fodder for your husband’s jokes.”
“Ezio. Seriously. You should know Blaine better than that. But I plan on going alone anyway.”
“Oh, and Viktoria? Any chance you could make sure your daughter does not use him as her rebound man?”
“Sometimes I want to slap and hug you at the same time, Ezio. Of course she wouldn’t and of course I had that talk with her. She is truly worried about him. And still on a strictly ‘just-friends’ basis.”
“That can change all too quickly. Ask me how I know.” he said, obviously referring to our past – and Blaine.
“Leaning a lot towards the slapping option currently.” I threatened playfully.
“You’d feel guilty if you did.” he winked at me, smiling.
“Umm – speaking of … Viv mentioned that he lives in our – ahem – Addy’s old home like in a shrine. She said everywhere there is still you and I and our family up. Any chance you could talk to him about that? I do not think that is healthy, Ezio.”
He nodded, averting his eyes.
“I know I should have a long time ago, but truth be told, I am to blame for that and you may yell away about this. I just could never bring myself to see it taken down. I asked Addy to leave it up, and I may have implied the same with Vitto. I will talk to him. I know this will not bring Addy back …”
Instead of yelling at him, I hugged Ezio.
He was a family man par excellence. Very attached to his kids. Addy and he always had that special bond, she was his first child and they were as close as could be.
“Hey, how about we all get together and go help Vitto remodel? You, Mel, Vitto, Blaine, Viv and me? If any or all of us have a breakdown, at least nobody else would know.” I smiled.
“I’ll think about it and will run it by Melissa.” Ezio said, leaving his way to back out wide open. I was sure though, that if he really did talk to Melissa about it, she would talk him into it. For Vitto’s sake, whom she could not love more if he were her biological son.
“Sooooooo – what interior styles do you like?” Vivian asked.
“I don’t know.” Vitto shrugged.
“Duuuuuuuuuude. Come on now. You have to have something you like. Clean lines, rustic, …. which?”
“Cozy, I guess. Less … sterile?” he shrugged again.
“There you go. So more like your apartment in San Myshuno and less like my mom and dad’s then?” Vivian asked, searching in his eyes.
“I like your parents’ place …” he quickly added.
“VITTO!” Vivian was getting impatient.
“Ok, yes, more brown, less white. Cozy.”
“Now we are getting somewhere. Let’s look through some magazines and figure out what you like.”
“Yay.” Vitto said unenthused, earning himself a side glance by Vivian, before she slammed a stash of interior decorating and remodeling magazines into his lap.
It took a few hours till Vivian and Vitto had a bunch of images torn from all the magazines, and it had turned out to be quite fun after all. Fueled by coffee, later wine and now hard liquor, they giggled and laughed till they were in tears…
Trying to stifle the last laugh attack, Vivian attempted to pour them another glass and found the bottle was empty. Trying to get up to get another, she did not realize how much the alcohol had already affected her when she stumbled. Vitto caught her and she ended awkwardly draped over his lap, both facing each other, silently looking at one another, neither one moving or speaking.
There was romantic tension in the air, a strange mood. Suddenly Vitto shifted, tensed up and exclaimed
“Oh no I am sliding!”
Just as they both crashed off the couch onto the floor. Scrambling up, intoxicated and laughing hard they both climbed back onto the couch.
Vivian awoke, even though the curtains were drawn the room was illuminated enough to make her eyes burn, a reminder of too much alcohol the night before. She opened them anyway and looked around. Not her room. This was … Addy’s bedroom. She sat up straight, looking around. Sure enough, the King size bed looked disheveled on both sides. Wait, she and … Oh boy!
She got up, feeling the effects of the alcohol, although as a vampire she was able to cope with it a lot better than any human would.
A quick once over in the selfie function of her cell phone.
Then she washed her face, used some toothpaste on a finger to fight the puppy breath and straightened down her hair, then grabbed her top and pants off the floor pulling both on.
On her way downstairs she noticed that the light seemed fainter in the hallway despite large windows.
Probably retrofitted with the vampire-proof glass, which let light in and let you see out, but filtered the rays harmful for vampires. She was barefoot as she went downstairs and found Vitto in the kitchen.
He looked up at her and went straight to the espresso machine.
“Good morning.” Vivian offered.
Her mind was going 100 miles an hour. Did they really cross that line? Why did he not try to kiss her then. At least embrace her. Or smile. He did not even smile at her. And shouldn’t she be a lot more upset about it all?
He handed her the coffee, wordlessly.
Oh, screw it! Vivian thought and asked straight out the question that was burning in her mind.
“Vitto? Did we … last night …?”
He shook his head.
“Of course not! What do you take me for?”
Somehow the feeling of relief did not want to come, instead she felt something else. Regret? Why in the world? Must be the aftermath of the alcohol.
“It’s just … the bed … did you … sleep in there with me?”
“No. That was all you. When I carried you up to bed, you were still quite … active. You kept falling asleep, but when you were awake you were very animated. You took your own clothes off too, in case you were wondering, I left right when you went for the pants, by the way.”
“Oh.” Somehow even that didn’t seem as admirable to her as it should. Vitto was not the passionate type, she knew that, but somehow it would have been nice if he … wait what? No. What the hell was she thinking?! She took a big sip of the strong coffee.
“I hate to be that way, but I did not know you would be – umm – staying over, and I have to get to work. Just pull the door shut when you leave, the maid will lock it after she is done. Bye Vivian. Was really good seeing you and spending time with you. Hopefully we can do that more often now. I would really enjoy that.” Vitto seemed uncomfortable and more than eager to leave her, despite of his words.
“Of course, remember, we are going to remodel this house.” she tried to sound upbeat.
“Right. Ok, bye now. Do you need a ride home?” he halted as he was already walking away.
“Not thanks. I live 20 minutes away. I can handle that.” she smiled.
“I forgot. Right. Ok, till … later then.”
He gave her a strange look then left. Not even a shadow of a smile.
There was a lot she wanted to say, many things she wanted to ask him, but she was not ready and in no condition to even make those thoughts line up in her own mind, let alone fit for a discussion. She finished the coffee rinsed the cup and left.
As she stepped outside the sun felt good. The air felt crisp. Birds were singing. All was so pretty and scenic. She smiled to herself as she started walking.
“Vivian.” she heard her name and turned around.
“Silas?” she could not have been more surprised to see him if she tried. He came towards her now, his facial expression hardened and not the least bit happy. He was mere inches away from her.
“You do realize you are still married, to ME, do you? Yet you could not wait to throw yourself at another man? And not just any man, that Auditore wimp of all people? You could not even find someone a little less insulting to betray me with?!” he snarled the words at her.
“Excuse me? We may not YET be divorced, but as far as I am concerned that is only a matter of paperwork and time. As for whom I spend my nights with, that is no longer any of YOUR concern.” she turned around to make her exit. Naturally he reached out and held her back, his grasp strong like steel around her wrist, flinging her back around to face him.
“Do not leave me standing here like a fool! You think I will make it THAT easy for you to leave me and your own children? Or have you forgotten about them?” he hissed at her.
She glared at him, before she forcefully pulled away from him.
“How dare you?! Our children are the reason why I stayed with you ice-cold lump of stone with a solid disdain for anything and everything that makes life worth living for so long. They are old enough now and do not need me anymore. Especially not Zoey. Plus, she has you wrapped up so tightly, no room for me anyway.”
“So that is it? You are jealous of your own daughter?”
“I could not agree more!” his tone was still threatening.
“You still do not see it, do you? That girl is trouble. I told you again and again, we need to send her to that place where Mr. and Mrs. Auditore sent Elias, while we still can. She needs discipline and training, better than we are able to provide. Something is wrong with her. That can be dangerous!”
“You are deranged! I realize that – for some reason beyond me – suddenly you want out of this marriage, and as if that were not bad enough, now you want to blame your own child for it?” he snorted a laugh, but his face remained cold.
“This is one of the reasons why I cannot deal with you and this marriage anymore. You are not the kind of man I thought you were. As soon as you had me where you wanted me, the romantic gallantry was gone and out comes the Silas everybody thinks you are, cold as a fish, no passion or compassion unless you suddenly feel some sexual urge and then I had better be ready for it or else. And that constant bickering, trying to change me into something you KNEW I was not, like some medieval Barbie. No, I am so very done. You almost had me fooled again when suddenly you came crawling back pulling all those registers at dinner, but luckily I am not that stupid. It won’t work. I want out! I am done. You really do need a different kind of woman. Feminine, obedient, mother hen type with her sole purpose in life being to serve and please you. Not someone like me. And now leave me be.”
His eyes glared into hers, he did not say anything but brought his face very close to hers. She thought he was going to hit her, but instead he let go, straightened his coat, gave her another glare and left.
As soon as he was out of sight, Vivian exhaled audibly, closing her eyes, her hands up at her chest. He had scared her. She went down the hill into the old town and hailed a cab to her parents’ home, fighting tears all the way. She knew she had to be careful. For a long time she had felt that Silas was not somebody you would want as an enemy. If not for her sake, then for Vitto’s. She definitely should have made it clear to him that nothing had happened between them. Which gave her another sting, and now occupied her mind. Why had nothing happened? Vitto had passed up two perfectly good moments to kiss her, that she remembered, possibly more but the later part of the evening was at best fuzzy in her memory. She could recall they slow-danced at some point, their eyes locked, holding on to each other so tight that she could feel him all over her body. Unless it had been the alcohol combined with wishful thinking she remembered that she could feel him wanting her. So why had they not … No, Vivian, what kind of thinking is that? Besides, Silas had a point. Technically, she was still a married woman. Maybe that was why? The cab arrived at the beach house, she paid the driver and braced herself for her parents’ questions.
Luckily, Blaine was not home, only I was. Naturally I wanted to know. And she gave me the watered down version. Until suddenly I heard
“Mom? Can I ask you something that you cannot tell anybody about, not even dad?”
“I mean it. Don’t tell him. Please.”
“Ok, promise. What is it sweetie?”
“Is it terrible of me that I regret that Vitto and I didn’t … and that I actually wish we had?” she looked at me with a very sad expression in her eyes.
Oh dear. Not only was this not necessarily the type of topic any mother wanted to hash through with her daughter, I knew I had to tread lightly around that one now.
“Baby, you are very confused right now, your life is in a state of turmoil …”
“No mom, that’s just it. I have never been so sure of anything in my life. Look, coming back home to you and dad, watching you interact … Liam used to talk to me about how that made him realize things about him and Leo. It made me realize something about me too. I want a man like daddy. Not in a weird kinda way. I want a relationship like yours. Silas is … cold. There was never any laughter, little joy, no silly moments that make you almost wet your pants for laughter like you guys have. Like we all had. You were always so right about him. Once the honeymoon phase was over and I realized it, I was too proud to admit that I had been so wrong. And I was already pregnant. I did not want to be a single mom again. So I stayed. But I never felt more alone than when I was with him. I was hoping it was a phase and he would change back, but recently I realized that this is how he is. He won’t change . And I am so tired of fighting for any semblance of normality I have. We still do not even have a TV. And that house is such a tomb. Sure, the garden is great but it’s the only thing that feels alive on the entire property. I am done mom. I need a man who feels things. I love how sensitive and caring Vitto is. Dad is too, even though he is that man’s man kinda rocker type and even Liam is masculine, but so very sweet with Leo. I want someone like that for myself.”
“Ok, sweetie, I understand but you do not want to rush into anything with anyone. You need to get out of that marriage, I agree. And then you need time to yourself first. And then you can start putting yourself out there again. And honestly, I have not talked to your dad about it, but I am sure he would not hurt me too badly when I say you are welcome to stay here with us for as long as you need. I like having you home. Your dad does too, whether he admits it or not.”
She hugged me.
“Thank you mom. I think I may take you up on that offer. I have not felt THIS good and THIS happy in so many years. Winterfest here was awesome. Silas does not allow celebrations. Not even birthdays. Cold as a fish. Always.”
“Ok, it’s settled then. But – just to be clear: do NOT rush into anything with Vitto. You both are vulnerable and neither of you is ready for anything like that now. You both need a good friend now, so that should be where this begins and ends, okay baby?”
“Yes, mom.” She rolled her eyes.
I could not help but laugh – heartily.
Instant flashbacks to when she was a teenager. Eyerolling had been her signature move.
“Hope you are ready for the ‘parent porn'” I thought to myself chuckling.
Parent porn was what she had dubbed Blaine and my affectionate ways with each other when she was younger.