The security guard seemed unimpressed.
“I am sorry Miss, I am going to have to ask you to leave.”
“Call up to his secretary. Tell her my name. He will see me.”
“Miss, I have direct orders not to let anyone through today. ANYone. Even if you were his grandmother. Please leave now.”
“Call up. If his secretary says no, I’ll leave.”
5 minutes later she was in the elevator, grinning back at the security guard. Told ya.
“Mrs. Cameron?” a very polished middle aged woman was already waiting at the elevators, looking taken aback once the doors slid open.
“MISS Cameron.” Vivian corrected.
“Very well, please follow me.”
They walked down a long hallway, their steps echoing off the marble floors and walls. The secretary knocked, then opened the door and announced the arrival.
Ezio got up from behind the desk and crossed the large office when he looked surprised.
“Yeah. Sorry, I am sure you thought I was my mom.”
“I admit I did. I like your new hairstyle, by the way, very becoming on you. Now, what brings you to my office?”
Ezio gestured over to the seating arrangement across from the desk, where he gallantly let her take a seat first, then joined.
“Thanks. I need your help with something. I hate involving you, but I have been biting on granite here and think you may be able to get results.”
“I will do my best. May I ask what this is concerning?”
“Your nephew. Or great-nephew. Whatever. Lucca.”
“I see. Is he defaulting on child support?”
“Worse. I got this in the mail few days ago.” Vivian pulled an envelope from her purse.
Ezio accepted it, pulled out the letter and read briefly, then inhaled sharply, nodding.
“Yes, I can see why you are here. You want me to talk sense into them?”
“If you would? I tried. I called, I texted, I went by their house. They won’t talk to me or see me. And I need not tell you that this is bullshit. Lucca wanting full custody of Finn now, when for nearly 6 years he didn’t give a hoot about his son? No.”
“I am afraid it is not going to be quite so easy. Technically he has every right to see him, and potentially even to have at least part custody.”
“No. They told me when I was pregnant that all they ever wanted to do with him was to pay support.”
“Do you have that in writing?”
“Does not look good, Vivian. I am sorry, but you may need a lawyer, if I cannot make them understand.”
“A lawyer? Mr. Auditore, I cannot afford a lawyer.”
“Don’t worry about that. Should it come to this, I will of course help you. Do your parents know about this yet?”
“I am going to try to put this nicely, but your father has a reputation of being rather aggressive when upset. Flawed or not, Lucca and his parents are my family and I do not want harm to come to them. This includes you, young lady! I still have a bone to pick for involving my boy in your fights, earning him a black eye.”
“MY fights? What exactly did Vitto tell you about that night?”
“He has yet to give me details.”
“I gave him the shiner.”
“What? Why would you do that?”
“Because he was watching my boyfriend and me in some intimate situation.”
“Vivian! Vitto would never!”
“Or would he? Cos he did. Seriously, Mr. Auditore, if you really take family so seriously, you may want to work on getting to know yours a bit better. I appreciate the help and am sorry to have bothered you, but I think I better go now!” Vivian stood up, as did Ezio.
“I think you are right!” Ezio sounded firm yet preoccupied.
She stormed out.
“All riiiiise!” The bailiff called, everybody stood. The usual show ensued. An attorney spoke, monotonous, then the judge addressed her.
“Miss Cameron, looking at your submitted documents here I have some further questions. What is your annual net income, please?”
“Umm… it depends. It is always enough for Finn and me, and I …”
“Miss Cameron, this requires a figure, not a guess. How much do you make as a .. umm …” the judge lifted his reading glasses, hesitated, frowned, before lowering the glasses again and looking at Vivian.
“… as a fashion model, do I read that correctly?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“So, how much annually, net? Or gross.”
“It varies greatly. I would guess maybe about 20K a year gross, but I am only starting out. Once ….” she was interrupted by another question.
“Miss Cameron, is it also correct that you are a vampire, but your child is not.”
“Yes, your honor.”
“And you live alone?”
“Who looks after the child when you … work as a … model?”
“My parents, your honor. Sometimes my boyfriend. But mostly my parents.”
“Are any of those human?”
“No, your honor.”
The judge leaved through the documents, frowning occasionally.
“Miss Cameron, your parents are listed here as Blaine and Viktoria.”
“That is correct.”
“Your father is Blaine Cameron? Was he born here in San Myshuno?”
“Yes, I believe so, your honor.”
The judge snorted disapprovingly, before waving over the bailiff, whispering something to him, while handing him a piece of paper. The bailiff hurried away.
“Miss Cameron, you had this child when you were how old?”
“16, almost 17, your honor.”
“You went to college here in San Myshuno. Arts, I see.”
“Yes your honor.”
“What year did you graduate or when are you planning to graduate?”
Oh no. Vivian closed her eyes briefly. This was not going well.
“I temporarily put my college education on hold, your honor.”
“In other words you dropped out?”
“Yes. but see you honor, they never even tried to see Finn until now. Not once. They told me when I was pregnant that they wanted nothing to do with me … never once came to see his son!” Vivian blurted out fighting back tears.
“Miss Cameron, Mr. Auditore claims that you have been withholding his son from him on purpose, by leaving your parents’ home and moving to an undisclosed location, ignoring their phone calls and …”
“Undisclosed location?! He knew full well where I lived. They could see my home from theirs on a clear day, I was right there in Windenburg not far from the island where their mansion is. Our neighbors are Auditores, and they knew where I lived, he is just …
“Miss Cameron, I really do not know what to do here other than the obvious. It is your words against a boatload of proof, actual proof on paper they submitted. Aside from all that, the child’s father has an intact family, well able to take care and provide for the child. There is a stable home with humans, giving the child a better chance to grow up as a human child should. Now if your child were vampire, this may look different yet again, but under these circumstances I really do not see any other way than to rule in favor of Mr. Lucca Auditore. I will grant you frequent and firmly scheduled supervised visitation rights, of course, it would be cruel otherwise. I would however prefer the child not to be alone with just vampires again until he reaches an age where he would fully understand the difference.”
“No, your honor, please no!”
“Miss Cameron, I am sorry, but my hands are tied here. My job is to decide what would be in the best interest of the child. And I have.”
“Your honor, you cannot do that!”
“I just did, Miss Cameron, and I ask you to lower your tone and act respectfully.”Tears were running down Vivian’s face.
On the small table next to hers Lucca was hugging his father.
“I will never give Finn to you!” she screamed at him.
“Miss Cameron! Please get a hold of yourself or I will hold you in content! The child has already been seized from your home by CPS and will be surrendered to Mr. Auditore, the child’s father. My office will be in touch to arrange the visitation schedule. Please be aware that this court is equipped for vampires and potential unruly behavior, so before you get any funny ideas, I would like to discourage you of bad behavior. Good day now!”
The bailiff called the next case. Vivian felt like she was wrapped in cotton wool as she somehow made it out of the nighttime court into the night. When she arrived home she felt numb. There was a note on the door about it having been opened to retrieve the child. Vivian sat in Finn’s room holding his favorite teddy bear, crying for hours on end.
“Oh honey, why did you not come to us before?” I asked my daughter, who was looking like a pile of sadness hunched over on the couch.
“Because you would have just run to the old Auditore, like you always do and I did not want him involved!” Vivian hissed. “And you dad just would have made everything even worse, like you always do!”
“VIVIAN! Do not talk like that to your father!” I reprimanded. Blaine just sat there and took it.
“It’s the truth.” she yelled, crying.
“Vivian, I know you are upset, but maybe Ezio could help. He is …”
“I said I do not want that him involved. I am through with all those fucking Auditores!” she screamed at me.
“Vivian, stop!” I tried to hold on to her, she shook me off and ran out the front door, leaving us behind with the shocking news. We let her go, she would likely go to Silas. Maybe he would be able to calm her. And hopefully he would not do anything rash, which would only make things ten times worse.
“You’re gonna call Ezio anyway, aren’t you?” Blaine asked sincerely.
“I don’t know what to do here.” I was at a loss.
“I cannot believe I am saying this, but I think we have to get Ezio involved.”
“I’ll call him.”
A darkened bedroom, just some faint light seeping in from the outside. A man and a woman atop the bed, cuddled up together.
She lifted her head from his chest to look at him before speaking.
“I think I need to go apologize to my dad. I was really mean to him. And mom, too. And maybe even Mr. Auditore. Not his fault his stupid nephew and offspring are asses.”
“You probably should.”
“I need to figure out something to get Finn back.”
“I have an idea.”
“One that would solve several of their hang-ups all at once. Marry me.”
“Silas …” Vivian dragged his name out.
“Think about it. They do not like that you are a single mom. I would be there. Stable home. They won’t need to worry about your income …”
“Silas, you do not have a job.”
“I do not have one, because I do not need one.”
“So what? Now you are suddenly rich?”
“I wouldn’t call it suddenly, but we’d all be comfortable for a very long time.”
“How comfortable exactly?”
“Let’s just say not quite Vanderbilt or Auditore comfortable, but VERY comfortable.”
“Shit, I had no idea. What do you know. I got me a rich hunk. Hit that lottery!” Vivian grinned at him. Silas smiled back.
“The only thing we cannot change is the fact that we are vampires. I assume we would not the first or last couple in that position.”
“I’ll check with mom tomorrow to see if she knows a lawyer .”
“We should get the formalities out of the way first, don’t you think? Hand me my pants, will you, Viv?”
“What for? You’re not going somewhere now, are you?”
“No. The pants, please.”
She pulled herself sideways, fishing for the pants among the pool of clothing on the floor by the bed, then finally pulled them up and handed them to Silas, who dug around in them, producing a small box.
“No way! Always prepared, you boy scout, huh?!” Vivian grinned, while Silas carelessly tossed the pants back on the floor, then opened the box, producing a shiny and very elaborate ring.
“I told you months ago that I wanted to marry you. Of course I wanted to be prepared if all your ‘nos’ ever had potential to be a yes.”
“Just when I thought nothing could surprise me.”
“Miss Vivian Cameron, will you do me the utmost honor and become my wife?”
“Ha ha ha .. don’t people usually get down on one knee for this?” Vivian teased.
“I would, but you are laying on top of me, so kinda hard to do.”
Vivian took the ring from the box, inspecting it, when Silas took it from her and said
“I am waiting.”
“Oh, I need to actually say it? Ok, I do.”
“That comes later. Usually the girl just says yes and kisses her fiancé.”
“Yes.” she kissed him, while he was trying to feel for the right finger to place the ring on.
“Why did I have to fall for such a modern woman?” he sighed before they kissed again after he rolled on top of her.
“Yes, my love?”
“What was it like when you got married the first time?”
“Those were different times, Vivian.”
“When was that again?”
“The summer of 1851, June to be exact, the 21st, Summer Solstice”
“Ah. And was that one of those arranged marriages from birth?”
“Ha ha ha, no Vivian, it was just two people choosing to be wed.”
“So, you just met her at … wherever people met back then, and got hitched?”
“Oh no. When a man, or a woman, reached a certain age, and became eligible to marry, they were introduced to potential suitors. If you liked them, you pursued them.”
“So nobody forced you?”
“No. We met, spoke, went on what you would call dates nowadays a few times, then I told my father my intentions, then went to hers to ask for her hand in marriage, an engagement and then eventually we married.”
“What was her name? Something odd like Griselda or Bertha?”
“Her name was Christine. And my daughter’s name was Emma.”
“Man, you are so boring … hahaha.”
“And you watch too many movies.”
I smiled and slid the phone back into the back pocket of my jeans, walking into the living room where Blaine was working on music for a new song.
“You would not believe who just called me.”
“First guess, same as always, the Mafioso. If not him, then Melissa.”
“Hollywood? I am finally making it big?”
“Why would they be calling me for that?” I played into his joke.
“Hey, I’d need a manager. So who then?”
“Vivian. She is on her way over with Silas.”
“Oh fuck, they’re getting hitched.”
“Or, she wants to apologize and brought backup.”
About 30 minutes later they arrived. I let them in, send them into the living room, where Vivian went straight to her dad and hugged him.
“I am so sorry daddy! I love you!”
“Love you too kiddo and it’s ok. But what the heck happened to your hair?!”
“I cut it, and dyed it.”
“And you couldn’t decide on one color so you used them all?!”
“Gawd dad! Why do I even bother.”
“Hey Silas, do you like this shit?” Blaine grinned, obviously teasing like he always had.
“I do. It is very modern.”
“Good answer. I see why she keeps you around.”
“Yeah, about that. Mom, dad, we have some news.”
“Wait for it….” Blaine nudged me in the side.
Vivian held out a shiny ring in front of my face then on to Blaine’s.
“I told you!” Blaine grinned at me, as he was getting up to hug his daughter, then it was my turn. Blaine bro-hugged Silas, I just held out my hand.
“Still don’t like me, huh?” he said quietly enough so only I could hear.
“Give me reason to and I will.” I whispered back, shaking his hand.
We opened a bottle of sparkling wine, talked some more, before Vivian looked at her watch.
“Mom, do you think it is too late to go over to the Auditore’s real quick?”
“Are you turning into your mother?” Blaine quipped.
“I want to apologize. I may have been a bit mean to Mr. Auditore.”
“I can text him, but at this hour he is usually mulling over some work papers as Mel and the kids would be in bed.”
“I am not even going to think about why you would know all that so well…” Blaine said.
“I’ll go see if he is available. Silas, wait here ok? I’ll be right back.”
“Vivian! What a surprise to see you.” Ezio really did seem surprised.
“Mr. Auditore, I won’t stay long.” Vivian declined to sit and beverages.
“Ok, but please, call me Ezio. I have known you all your life and vice versa.”
“Thank you, Ezio. I am here because of two things. First and most importantly to tell you that I am very sorry. I behaved like a spoiled brat and you really did not deserve that. And secondly, to have you be one of the first to hear about this.” she raised her hand and showed him the ring.
“Wow, well, thank you and congratulations Vivian. I very much appreciate your apology, I know that could not have been easy in light of all the things. I know first hand that Auditores can be an aggravating lot. Glad to see you figured out on your own that we are not all despicable. Some are. And I know you will make a very lucky man very happy. Plus, this will look great at the next custody hearing, but I think you already knew that.”
“Yup. And yeah, this part of the Auditores, plus Vitto, you guys are all right. More than that, actually. You guys are pretty awesome. Most of the time.” she winked at him and they hugged.