Liam smiled as he turned the corner on the sandy path and the beach house came into view. His childhood home, where his parents still lived.
It still felt like ‘home’ to him, and probably always would.
His and Leonie’s house was just up the street from here, a longer stroll away, but he felt like he needed the exercise.
When he left, Leonie was watching some show with Emily, whom Liam preferably avoided of late, as there seem to be some severe marital issues between her and Corbin. Since Corbin was his best friend, and Emily was Leonie’s, it was best not to touch that subject with a ten foot pole. Liam really did not want to get dragged into this, nor did he want to side with either of his friends, especially since his loyalties would have to lie with Corbin, his oldest and best friend.
Instead he decided to see his parents. Those two always made him feel better.
He knocked. He heard something metallic fall inside, loud cursing, then his father came to the door.
“Hey dad…” he greeted Blaine.
“Hey son. Do you happen to know where your mother has any microwavable bowls? I swear she reorganized the kitchen again and now nothing is where it should be.” Blaine asked as he let his son inside.
“Not a clue dad.” Liam shrugged.
Knocking on the door again, Liam turned around and opened it. It was Ezio.
Liam greeted him then lead him to the kitchen, where Blaine was still rummaging around noisily. He peeked up, then continued, while saying
“Did I not tell you not to let in any rabid strays, kiddo?”
“Oh my goodness, what happened here? And what is that godawful smell?!” Ezio immediately complained, making Liam grin. Yeah, he had missed this.
“I don’t know, Meatball it didn’t stink until you came over. Maybe you should leave again, should clear up then.” Blaine responded, his head still buried inside some of the bottom cabinets.
“More likely that you should keep your mouth shut or brush your teeth every once in a while to keep all living things from keeling over dead from the stench you exude.” Ezio retorted.
“Don’t you worry about my teeth brushing habits. Viktoria brushes me every night before bed after she washes and diapers me.” Blaine was now standing up, looking at Ezio.
“Maybe she should use something other than the toilet brush.” he said now.
Liam sat back, resisting the urge to break out some popcorn. Yeah, this was exactly what he needed now, as he got comfortable on one of the chairs, chuckling.
“What are you even doing, punk?!” Ezio asked in an annoyed tone.
“What does it look like? I am cooking.”
“Could have fooled me. If I didn’t know you lived here, I would have thought you are vandalizing the place.”
“Not everybody has staff for everything. Some of us enjoy doing the daily chores themselves.” Blaine grinned at him.
Ezio walked over to the pot simmering on the stove, lifted the lid, smelled the contents and cringed.
“Mio dio! What in the world is that? Decomposing squirrel and dirty gym socks!?” he said, still grimacing.
“Aww, was supposed to be a surprise. Your favorite dish.” Blaine quipped, smirking.
“Only if you are cooking. It all tastes the same anyway, none of it ever edible. Why are you cooking anyway?”
“Cos I was hungry, duh.”
“Where is Vik?”
“Off to an all day spa thing with Vivian. Vitto’s idea. He is watching the kid and Blaine starves to death. Inconsiderate kid of yours!”
“Gimme a break! Ever since we all got un-turned we are ALL battling weight issues. I can see you are chunking up too, no surprise, I know Vik has always been a very decent cook. So a day of living off the fat of the land should do you well. It’s called a cleanse.” Ezio told Blaine.
“I am going to cleanse your dumb mouth with my bony fist if you do not knock off the BS. If you think you can cook so well, go right ahead.” Blaine pointed at the stove.
“Yeah, you’d like that, huh? Sorry, I have no interest in playing your wife for the day. You cook your own food, stronzo!”
“I am already done cookin’. Excuse me while I indulge in my …. ummm … my … dish cooked in one pot right over yonder.”
“A stew, dad?” Liam helped.
“Yeah, that’s it. It’s a stew.”
“Baloney! This is as much of a stew as I am Heidi Klum!” Ezio argued.
“Yeah no chance. Your Italian nose is way too big, more like a beak. But the size of the boobs matches.” Blaine grinned as he was ladling clumps of oddly colored food into a bowl.
“I am going to give you boobs! Right on your face! With my fists.” Ezio grumbled.
“After I eat, or you can pick up my dead, starved skeleton off the floor.”
“Skeletons tend to always be dead, you numb-nuts!” Ezio facepalmed himself.
It went back and forth like that, while Blaine ate, then he made coffee and both other men joined him in a cup. Eventually, when they had their bromance need out of their system, Ezio left.
“I didn’t want to ask while the Mafioso was still squatting here but why are you here and not with your wife and kids? Normally one has to pry you apart with a crowbar.” Blaine addressed Liam.
“Emily is over at our house, complaining bitterly to Leo about her husband and they are watching some chick flick. No interest. Thought I’d harass you and mom instead.” Liam told him.
“Emily as in Corbin’s wife Emily?”
“One and the same.”
“So when are they getting divorced?”
“Dad! They just hit a rough patch. Nobody is getting divorced.”
“If you say so …”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to get anybody in trouble. But if you want to be a good friend, you may want to reel that buddy of yours back in pronto. Dammit, that Italian rubbed off on me. Starting to sound like him. Urgh.”
“Reel Corbin back in? I don’t get it, dad.” Liam was confused.
“I thought you are best friends? Figured he’d tell you that he has a new flame. Or flames. More like a wildfire, actually.”
“I saw them. No mistake possible. He did everything but the mattress mambo right there in public, which is why I foolishly assumed nobody would be that dumb if it’s supposed to be a secret.”
“Are you sure it was him? Do you know the woman?” Liam was curious.
“Liam, that kid was more at our house than at his own when you two were young. Come to think of it, what is it with this house that everybody always comes here and won’t go away again? Maybe we need an exorcism…”
“Dad! Can you focus for a sec? You cannot just drop something like that on me and then move on to some random trivia.”
“Sure son, what exactly would you like me to focus on? Your best friend cheating? Yes, I am sure it was him, no I have never seen the flavor of the day before, but the one he was making out with behind the bar by the “Skyline” looked like his secretary, if I am not mistaken. Those were the only two I saw him gettin’ jiggy with. He was awfully chummy with some Latina looking gal but I saw nothing but them exchanging those certain kind of bedroom glances. You know the kind that say …”
“Yeah, dad, I got it, thanks! I wonder why he never told me. I am really worried about him now. I think I am gonna go over and see him.”
Liam borrowed Blaine’s motorcycle to go over to the Bjergsen’s fancy family home on the island by Windenburg, where only old money resided.
While on the ferry over, he was putting together his speech in his head.
When he rang the doorbell it took a long while until Jonah, Corbin and Emily’s oldest son, in his late teens now, answered. Liam learned that Corbin evidently had moved out and got the new address.
Liam was more than confused by all of this. Back on the mainland, he found Corbin’s new home quickly, parked, then rang the doorbell.
It took a while, but then he heard animated voices from inside, a female giggling then the door was opened and a female exited as he was attempting to enter.
“ZOEY!?” Liam thought he was looking at a mirage.
“Umm, yeah, hi uncle Liam … I really gotta go. Any chance you could keep this hush hush? Thanks, I appreciate it! Well, anyway, see you later Corbin? Call me!” she pushed past Liam, who now entered the small home, build in the typical old world style as most of downtown Windenburg.
“Dude, what the hell?!” Liam started right away, then told him about what he had learned, careful not to mention his dad.
“Hello to you too, Liam, and welcome to my new humble abode. And before you get all holier than though on me, so what? Here’s the Cliff Notes for ya, buddy. My marriage is down the shitter. For years it has been dead in the bedroom. All I ever heard was how I fall short of all her Harlequin novel ideas about what a husband should be like, when she would not give me anything a man needs. Constantly she was nagging me about everything. Eventually I got what I wanted from my secretary, Donna.
HR found out and let me go. I did well hiding that, helps to be independently wealthy thanks to grandma. Too bad she caught me with Beth then though. That went over like a lead duck.” Corbin shrugged, smiling, but it did not reach his eyes.
“Beth? Not your former girlfriend from high school Beth?” Liam’s eyes grew wide. Beth was older than Corbin and when she went off to college, she broke up with him cold turkey, as she did not want a high school boy as a boyfriend.
“Yup. I moved on from her though. Turns out she is divorced and has a super-hot daughter. Almost got myself in some serious trouble when I didn’t realize that hottie was underage.” Corbin grinned a goofy smile.
“What is wrong with you, man!? Are you going though midlife crisis or something?!”
Liam was appalled. Corbin had never exactly been a saint, but nothing like that. And they used to be very tight, now he felt like he was the last to hear about anything relating to Corbin. He did not even realize their marriage was so far gone. Weren’t they supposed to be best friends, who would tell each other such stuff?
“Wrong? I have never felt better! I think you mean you wish you were free like me. Four kids man, who would have thought you – oh well. All I know is that you’ll be stuck and tied down for a long time. At least most of mine are almost off to college.”
“Corbin, what happened to your morals? And do you not love Emily at all anymore? And how many more side-chicks are there, or have you lost count? And you do know that Zoey is my niece, right? I am this close to punching your lights out, and that is nothing compared to what my sister will do to you. And heaven help you if Zoey’s father gets wind of this… Silas will seriously mess you up!” Or worse, Liam thought, because Silas was a very dangerous and dark vampire. No telling what a father like him would do to any man messing with his ‘little girl’.
“Zoey is over 18, isn’t she? More like twenty something, right? Didn’t exactly card her but the things she knows how to do – and do well, if I might add, you don’t learn from reading some teen magazine.” Corbin grinned and nudged Liam, raising his eyebrows.
“Thanks for sharing that. It’s what every uncle wants to know about their niece. Are you dense, man?! What’s with all the women? If you are unhappy, get a divorce and find a new girl. ONE. We are too old to mess around like young college students. Take some pride in yourself.” Liam advised, still shocked at his friend’s words and demeanor.
“Why? I have been with the same woman for over 20 years now. It’s a rut, she turned into an ice-cold egoistic bitch, and I don’t want to have to settle on just one right now. Maybe later on, but no more breeding. I am done with kids. At least my current kids still like me. Bitch hasn’t spit her poison against me, like she has with Leonie. Last time I was at your house, your wife kept giving me those shooting-daggers looks.”
“Leo has not! She is the sweetest girl, still. She may worry about her friend. Emily looks pretty shaken up by all this…” Liam defended his wife, well aware that there was at least some truth to Corbin’s impression.
“It’s all a show. Bitch wants my money and me gone. Got both and the house on top of it all. MY house. Where I grew up. Been in MY family for many generations. Yet, who had to leave? Me. I need another beer. You too?”
“No thanks, I am driving. And my dad’s bike. If I even scratch that thing, he’ll spank me with it.”
Liam stayed with Corbin for a while, carefully trying to talk sense into him, but all he accomplished was to watch Corbin drink himself into a coma, while wondering if he even knew his own best friend at all anymore. He felt like a perfect stranger. How could this have happened? The clique still had managed to meet fairly frequent, despite of everyone dealing with their own issues and life as adults. There had never been any sign of Corbin and Emily’s marriage going downhill. Or had he just missed it all?
When Corbin finally passed out on the couch, Liam dragged him upstairs to the bedroom, took off his shoes and put him on the bed, then left.
He dropped off the bike with his father, then walked home, hoping the cool evening air would clear his mind enough to figure out how to fix this, while debating with his own conscience whether or not to tell Leonie about all this.
Maybe it would be better to try and fix it with Corbin behind the scenes first.