“You changed your hair … ” Ezio muttered, carefully circling the bourbon in the glass he was holding, as we were sitting on the patio of his home, overlooking the beach, the bay … and my home, which seemed like a shed in comparison to Ezio’s huge mansion atop the hill.
“I have been growing it out for months now. It’s my natural color. Just now noticed?” I smiled, attempting to make some form of small talk.
“We haven’t exactly seen each other much, and the last time we did our son shot himself right in front of us.” Ezio seemed neutral, but I knew him better.
Today had been the anniversary of Marco’s funeral Ezio had insisted on making a celebration of life party and have another service at the grave. Blaine had not been able to go, it was a morning ceremony on a bright sunny winter day, mocking the sadness of it all. Afterwards, Ezio invited me over for a drink and to shake off the inevitable comments of all the other guests, which were probably meant well, but just kept reopening a big wound. Coming here with him seemed like the right thing to do. His wife was absent, something about seeing her family. His son was taking piano lessons at some academy downtown.
“Are you ok, Ezio? The truth please, no BS.” I had a hard time getting a good reading on him. Of course it was tough for any parent, I knew that first hand, but he was putting on a front, somehow Ezio had not seem himself lately. I thought even before the sad event with Marco, but never said anything, thinking it was no longer my business.
“I am all right. It’s just work and Marco and … you know what? That is a lie. I do not like lying to you. I always felt you were the only person in this world I could be honest with, show my true feelings to. You knew how my parents were and that my siblings never dealt with such ‘nonsense’. The truth is, that after I lost you, everything just went downhill from there for me …”
“Ezio, not again …” Would this never end?!
He looked at me directly now and seemed serious, not like a love sick ex trying to get me back.
“You asked me to be honest with you. Now I am. I do not understand you Viktoria. What do you expect? You find a new love and go your merry ways, leaving your first family behind thinking we all just dust off and be all right? If Marco’s death has shown us anything, it would be that this equation does not add up.”
“Are you blaming ME for our son’s death?” I sat up straight, ready for defense.
“No. I am saying that we both messed up bad. I told you about me again and again. But honestly, I have been waiting for you to accept part of the responsibility for our marriage failing.”
“Me? How? What did I do? May I remind you that you acknowledged that I never did anything a wife should not do, and also that you were the one to throw me out and divorce me, not the other way around? And truthfully, I am not in the mood to fight over this with you yet again. Thank you for the espresso, my condolences again and I will see you around!”
I got up and headed for the door, where Ezio caught up with me, holding my upper arm.
“Let go!” I demanded.
“Please stay and let’s talk.”
“Not interested, let go of me.” I pulled on my arm but was halted when he pulled me into a very tight embrace and kissed me, hard. I tried to fight him off, but his grip was strong, until he finally let go, I stepped back, seriously considered slapping him, instead I just turned around on my heels and ran out the door. WTH was wrong with him? I heard him running after me, calling my name, when I slipped on the sandy path and fell. Yes, I felt idiotic, just like those stupid predictable scenes in the horror movies. To my defense, I was dressed up and wearing heels for my late son’s service I attended hours earlier. Not the best running shoes, especially not on a beach path. And there he was now, Ezio, holding out his hand, I shook my head and labored up onto my feet.
“Please wait. Forgive me. I … should not have done that. I apologize.” he looked at me, seemed sincere. I nodded.
“The past weeks … months actually have not been easy on me. Julia and I … it does not seem to be working out as well as I had hoped. I think I am on the brink of another divorce. She dislikes Vittorio, and wants her own children, but I am too old to start a new family, which causes fight after fight. As a result, I bury myself in work, neglecting my son in the process, because I cannot get myself to go home and face my wife. All the while I catch myself living in the past, remembering how happy we were, you and I with Addy and Marco, all those years ago …” he stopped talking and hung his head. Good grief. So now what? Was I supposed to console my ex now?
I gently patted on his arm from an armlength away, safe distance you know, telling him empty platitudes about things will get better, it is just the stress. Stuff I didn’t even believe myself. I did feel sorry for him. He truly was a good man, mislead by his strict and old fashioned upbringing, which caused me a lot of hardship in the beginning of our relationship, but I could have just as well walked out then. But didn’t. So he was not to blame. He was right, we did have a great family life. He had worked too much then, but I understood why, and when he was home, he had always been a very attentive husband.
“Let’s get you back home, Ezio. It is freezing out here and you are not dressed for it.”
“Did you hurt yourself? When you fell?”
“No, thanks for asking. You know me, clumsy as always.” I smiled and winked at him, he faintly returned the smile.
Eventually there we were, standing in his hallway.
“Ezio, I know this is an awkward situation, but do you not think that your ex-wife is the wrong address to confide your marital issues to? It puts me in a very iffy situation, and truthfully, I am no expert on relationships.” I shrugged.
“You are my only true friend, Viktoria. The only one I dare trust something so sensitive to, my feelings, something that leaves me so …. vulnerable. And I miss you. Your sense of humor. Just talking to you without constantly censoring myself. You have always been so easy to talk to.”
“Well, I am here now, aren’t I? But it is getting late, we both had a long day. Let’s talk some other time ok? Maybe then either one of us had an idea on what to do, okay. Oh, and Ezio…?”
“You do not have any guns in the house that I should be worried about?”
He smiled and shook his head.
We said our goodbyes and I went home.
The next weird news did not make us wait too long. Some weeks later, a dinner invitation arrived for both Ezio and me, along with our respective spouses and children. Addy timed it so that Blaine was able to comfortably attend. Seemed harmless enough until we all wondered why Blaine Jr. and his son Ben, who had grown in to a teen boy, arrived after all of us and rang the doorbell instead of just unlocking the door. Well, you guessed it. They had separated. Somehow they had chosen to be friends instead of lovers, and annulled their marriage somehow many months ago.
Addy was already engaged to another man, a nice, polite and handsome young guy named Casey, who was there too. They all assured us it was for the better, the news was already several months old when we all first heard about it, but Addy and Blaine Jr. had felt it was better to wait for a better time. We then learned that she and Casey were expecting a little girl and were going to get married in a very low key ceremony next week.
Well, what can I say? It is their life. It turned out that Addy and Blaine Jr. were truly still great friends and hung out a lot.
The rest of the evening was pleasant. I had to use the restroom at some point, the one downstairs was taken, so I went upstairs. When I left it, I ran into Ezio, who pulled me into the home office, which was still the same way it always had been. He closed the door.
“I just want to talk to you alone for a moment, please.” he said calmingly when he saw my defenses going up. I relaxed.
“Sure, shoot. All ears.”
“Vittorio and Vivian seem to be getting along really well, wouldn’t you say?”
“Yeah, sure, I mean, they go to school together …” odd question, didn’t know what to reply.
“I’ll cut through the chase. I am in the process of changing my will and wanted to ask you if you would agree to be the legal guardian to Vittorio, should anything happen to me.”
“Ezio … do not do anything idiotic!” I warned.
“No worries, cara mia. Just a precaution. I am not a young man anymore, and being a workaholic with a love for wine, bourbon and good food has taken its toll. My heart is not in the best shape, and other things are not working as well as they should. You should see the feast of pills I take each day. Anyway, I need to make sure my son will be taken care of, should something happen to me.”
“Not to be Captain Obvious, but you do remember you are married, right?”
“The question is for how much longer.”
“Not me. See, I have been in business for a very long time and know a lot of people. Sometimes that means that I am privy to something I shouldn’t technically know. She is secretly talking to an attorney about divorcing me. I am not surprised, really. She does not want to be the mother to a vampire child that is not hers, and a wife to a man who is physically and emotionally unavailable. Not even if that man is very wealthy. I am leaving my wealth to Addy, Vittorio and you, Vik.”
“Ezio, I do not want your money …” Aaawkwaaard!
“You are right. Blaine and you could use it now, not whenever .. you know. I will get a transfer ready Monday morning…”
“Ezio, NO! I thank you for your kindness, really, but no. Blaine and I are fine. We are not rich, but we are okay. Keep the cash. Or give it to Addy and your son. And stop the doom and gloom please!”
“Will you promise to be my son’s guardian?”
“Ezio … that is so weird. There is at least a dozen, if not more, Auditores out there, related to you and your son by blood. Much better suited than some ex-wife, don’t you think?”
“Out of all the Auditores, there is not one I would trust a cat to, let alone my son. My brother Petruccio is just aimlessly dating while working as a barkeep, my sister Claudia is on husband number .. I do not even know, 6 or 7? No thanks. You know Frederico is dead and his wife remarried. My nieces and nephews are young people, who certainly should not get stuck raising their uncle’s young son. And I do not want to leave him in his mother’s claws. Probably do not need to elaborate why. Besides, you already have solid vampire experience. And I know you are a great mother, you are reliable, I would trust you with my life. Still. Please say yes.”
Why? Why? Why me? But I could see his reasoning. I agreed, hoping that he would get nice and old, or at least live happily until his son turned 18. Otherwise, Blaine would kick my butt every day until Ezio’s son came of age. Yikes.
“Just so you know, I will fight to keep the house. I really like living … there. Great view.” Debatable, and it was a toss of what view exactly he was talking about. The bay or my home?
Typical. When I was younger, I had the hardest time finding a good boyfriend. Now, I had two men constantly battling over me in some way. Really bad timing. I really was not happy about this at all, and sometimes even wished Ezio and I were like most divorcees hating each other’s guts.
Would be less awkward.
Speaking of awkward. Adrianna married Casey Hayes and both welcomed little Lauren weeks later, we all were at the hospital that day, the same day Nicole Vanderbilt had twins, a boy and a girl named Bryce and Brooklyn, which we later learned from the local news. To this day none of us has received any cards, calls nor invitations to meet them.