Music filled the air of the Beach House, laughter, voices, animated talk, the smell of an abundance of home-cooked meals and cake, as well as the ever-present coffee.
Even his great-grandparents were acting like young lovers again.
Blake sighed, then slipped outside. He needed the peace and quiet of the ocean and the salty air now and sat down to enjoy both. But he wasn’t alone for long.
“Are you hiding from the Cameron-Gray-family-mania again?” his cousin Ally grinned at him, while joining him.
“Not really successfully. Looks like one of those annoying Grays found me anyway.” he smirked faintly.
“Ah, you love me. Did you try those cookies with the red whatever glaze?”
“No, did you make them?”
“Me? Because I am a girl, hashtag: sexist?”
“No, you because you asked about it, hashtag: wrongfully accused AGAIN.”
“Sorry. I just hate that people just assume girly stuff from me.”
“Maybe because you are a girl. Kinda.”
“Yeah, 21st century and still totally Middle Ages around this bitch. Nah, my mom made them and they are addictive. We still have a gazillion at home. By New Year’s I’ll be 400 pounds!” Ally sighed, playing with her visible breath in the cold air.
“Skinny runs in our family. You’ll be fine.”
“Big booty runs on my dad’s side of my family, I am screwed. So why are you out here?”
“Too much Cameron-ism in there.” Blake said.
“Way to take a big dump on the season spirit.” Ally teased smirking.
“I can only fake happy so long. Already have to at my house so dad and the step-wanna-be will let me go to the talent show. I have practiced so much with grandpa, I probably rubbed my fingertips completely off when the time comes.”
“Really cool of grandpa to listen to your awful noise all the time …” Ally teased and laughed, earning a playful punch.
“You just have no ear for music.”
“I do when I hear some … just playing cousin, you really sound pretty good. Wish I could come too and cheer you on, but dad already vetoed that. But guess everybody has their favorite and you are grandpa’s. Nobody loves me .. insert big sigh here.”
“Oh my gawd, seriously Ally? If I have to listen to your mom – and even more extreme – your dad fangirl you one more time I swear I will puke on his shoes. That is borderline obsession. Must be nice, to be the firstborn and still be loved. I wouldn’t know …”
“Here we go again. The Blake Cameron pity party, attendees: ONE. If you tried to be nice and actually meant it, your dad would go right back to fangirling you too. And my mom almost died when she had me, so I guess that makes me kinda extra-special to them.”
The kids spoke some more, when it got too chilly they went back inside for some hot cocoa and the gift giving.
New Year’s came and went, January brought cool but sunny days, most of which Blake spent indoors practicing his guitar and singing with his grandfather KC.
Both of them seemed to thoroughly enjoy music, KC loved finally being able to share his favorite activity with family, after neither of his twins had shown much interest in it. Now his grandson seemed to love it equally as much as he did, it kept him out of trouble and gave him a vent for his emotions, making family life for Ethan, Blythe and little Elias better as well.
In order to fuel the fire, KC had learned about a talent show in Del Sol Valley, talked Ethan into letting Blake enter and promised to take him and not let him out of his sight while there. Blake was ecstatic like nobody had ever seen him before, and he had to be forcefully stopped from practicing too much.
When KC was busy or Blake wanted to spend time with his many friends, they did so trying to remodel – in a very primitive and teenage fashion – an old, abandoned and condemned house he stumbled upon once while trying to find new hiding spots when he wanted to be all alone.
Well hidden behind decades of unattended nature, nobody would find this place unless they knew exactly where to look, which made it so much more attractive to the teens.
Until Blake had found the abandoned house, they used to spend most of their spare time in the basement of the youth center across from the school, but after getting caught smoking and with pot a few times, they were all banned to keep it family friendly for the toddlers and grade school kids frequenting.
Now they had a new place where no adults would interfere.
Blake was fifteen now, his birthday had been a drag to him, a lame family affair with a picnic and homemade cakes, so the younger kids could enjoy it.
The only way Blake got through it was by imagining all the trouble he and his friends would get into at the abandoned house on Sunday.
His dad knew he was going to meet with them, just no details.
And definitely not where.
The party was crazy.
Some of the party-goers, all of them underaged, had raided the parental booze hiding spots for the party, there were cigarettes and pot and loud music and some dubious pills with whatever in-drug was currently making the rounds.
Blake loved it.
He saw some of his friends making out with some random girls, so he followed suit. He didn’t care too much who they were, as long as they were willing and he’d go as far as they’d let him. Since all of them were well intoxicated and none were used to it, luckily none of it went to extremes.
All Blake kept thinking was how much fun he had and screw parents and rules and society and … let’s have another beer!
Happy birthday to him!
Blake awoke, hungover, sick as a dog, and as soon as he managed to get upright his world was spinning, his stomach turned and he could barely make it to the shabby old bathroom with the only working toilet in the abandoned house.
There were only a few kids left, still asleep or passed out, there were vomit pools all around, the stench of stale food, booze mixed with the pungent acidic smell of puke kept him running back to the bathroom multiple times. Some others moaned and groaned in similar bad shape as he was in. He spent a good half hour, if not more, in the bathroom puking his guts out, regretting his decisions.
When he finally managed to get his bearing around him, the world stopped spinning and he could see clearly he looked at his phone, then started cursing colorfully, while scrambling up.
It was Monday, almost noon!
A school day. He had to get there- fast!
Not only did he not go home last night, which would be hell to pay, he missed an important Math exam at 8:30 AM!
He finally made it to school, throwing up and having to sit down a few times on the way, but as he was stumbling to school’s entrance, he ran straight into the principal’s arms.
The rest was procedure.
He was held in the principal’s office until his dad arrived, one look at him told Blake he was in for serious punishment, and Ethan barely Even tried to hide his anger, frustration, disappointment and disgust with his son, nearly unable to stifle it in front of the principal.
Since it was obvious that Blake was not sober, and it was a repeat offense he was routinely drug tested, which came back positive, and he ended up suspended from school for two weeks.
His father was unusually quiet on the way home, but once in the parental kitchen, hell unleashed on Blake. He felt almost deaf and sick, the headache and hangover plus his father’s screaming, the knowledge of having really disappointed him, made Blake hate himself, swearing to himself he would never do that again. His poor dad looked horrible, he learned he had searched all night for him, worried.
But then it all changed when his dad said words that cut deepest and unbeknownst to both at the time, would change both their lives forever.
“… and needless to say that your talent show trip to Del Sol Valley is cancelled.”
“Dad! No! Grandpa and …”
“Nothing grandpa. I will cancel the flights and your grandpa will have to understand. There is no parallel universe in which I will reward you for what you have put everybody through. You are grounded for three months!”
“Dad, please, no! This is my biggest dream! Please, don’t take that from me! Take everything, my computer, TV privileges, my phone .. anything, but not that. Not that please dad!”
“You should have considered that BEFORE you did what you did. Drugs?! You know how dangerous those are? Alcohol, too. Cigarettes again and heck knows what else you did wherever you were. And you missed the test. Math, of all subjects, one of the most important ones to become an architect. Not to mention what you put your entire family through last night. No, Blake, there is no leniency for you. Not this time and not ever again. Now go to your room. I cannot stand to look at you another minute. And clean up, please, will you? You stink as if you crawled out of the sewer!”
After simmering for hours in his room, a long, hot shower and an exhausted nap, he decided to go downstairs to try persuading his father one last time.
When he was half way down the stairs, he heard him talking, evidently emotional about something. Then he heard the deep baritone voice of his grandfather.
“Come on, son. There is no need to deprive him of this. If anything, it will give him something to strive towards, lick blood, and his focus will shift to that.”
“Dad, music can be no more than a hobby. He is supposed to take over EC Architects one day. He cannot do that high, drunk and strumming on a guitar.”
“You have another son. Have him follow in your footsteps. Clearly the boy prefers music and has a real talent for it.”
“Talent? Dad, no offense, but you have talent and how far have you made it? All the way to being a Thursday night entertainment at a club you own. Great but nothing to pay the bills. Without mom, none of us would be where we are today. Ez and I love and respect you, but you are not what gave the Camerons the boost they needed. Had we depended on you, we would be right back where Blaine Cameron once had us, at brink of poverty, not two Simoleons to rub together, while he strummed on his guitar and chased pussy.”
“You know what son, I tried. If that is what you think of me, fine. But mark my words, you only have to blame yourself for whatever happens next! I did not raise you or your sister like this, oppressive and conservative. I wanted both of you, and all following generations, to have options. I sacrificed too, just as much as your mother has, but evidently, that counts for nothing in your book. I even raised your boy, so you can go chase that corporate dream, but I did not anticipate that it would get me demoted to loser! I better get home to drag your mother down further into the gutter from which I came, so see you again when you managed to pull your head out of your ass, kid. Marrying a princess does not make you royalty. You are not better than your roots and you never will be, kid!”
“Get out!” Ethan’s voice was a deep growl.
KC did not say another word, just shook his head and turned to leave.
Blake hurried back up the stairs, pressing himself against the wall, as he saw the shadow of his grandfather’s statuesque and tall body rush by, door slammed shut.
This was bad.
Worse than bad.
In his entire fifteen years he had seen a lot of fights, but not one single one with his father and his grandparents.