“I am done arguing with you! You are coming, you are bringing Abby and that is the end of it! If you butt has not walked through my front door by 9 PM sharp on Saturday, I am coming to find you and trust me, Heath Grainger, you would not want that! You will curse the day you were born!” Everleigh looked upset and almost scary, even to a vampire.
“OK OK, I will be there. With Abigail. Please calm down!” Heath tried to calm her.
“I am calm, this IS calm, if that gives you a general outline of what hell I will unleash upon you, should you flake on me!”
“I said I will be there, Little Leigh! I swear, no hell or high water will keep me!”
Heath had received Everleigh’s invite for a gathering to celebrate her and KC setting a wedding date for summer and tried to tell her ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
No matter what excuse card he pulled, it backfired worse and worse. Whatever kind of celebration it was supposed to be, nobody ever heard of such a thing. Heath guessed it was Evey’s attempt to keep KC’s mind of the sad and dreary events of late and focus on the happy occasion ahead. Their wedding. In summer. THIS summer.
“So, flowers then, I guess.” Heath said aloud to himself after an extensive internet search on his phone for gift suggestions to bring to an event like Evey and KC had invited him too had yielded little result. He was not any more enlightened than before he started, but at least everyone loved flowers, Evey was a romantic girly girl, and he would not show up empty handed.
“All right, my angel, looks like we are going shopping. The only decent flower shop I know of that is probably still open when you and I can venture out is by the Magnolia Promenade, almost all the way to San Myshuno. Hope Little Leigh will at least appreciate the gift – and effort.”
He called a cab, loaded the baby plus stroller in and hoped for the best.
It took him a moment to find the store, but much to his relief they were still open. As he navigated the stroller inside, an employee came to try and compliment him back out.
“Sorry Sir, but we are about to close. We reopen at 9 AM tomorrow.” the lady flashed a generic smile.
“I just came all the way from Newcrest …” Heath argued.
“Sorry to hear that, but we closed 5 minutes ago!” this time the smile was still generic, but only a hint.
“Is there a problem, Mariah?” a voice called from the back room.
“Uh, this guy doesn’t want to leave. But it is past 7 now …”
“It’s fine, go pack up, I’ll take care of him. Hah, I’ll be damned. Hello again, single dad.”
“Grocery store heroine!” Heath burst out, unable to hide his surprise.
“Hmm, I like that. Has a ring to it. And who is this?” she smiled and pointed at the baby.
“Abigail.” Heath said.
“Well, good evening Abigail. Why does your daddy drag you out so late when you should be sleeping in your cozy little bed at home, huh? Mean daddy, right?” Smiling she addressed Abigail in the typical baby talk voice, which made Abby coo and giggle with sheer delight.
Brownie points in Heath’s book.
“She is used to odd hours with me. Umm, maybe you could help me. I need some flowers.” Heath said, which was met by an open laughter.
“You definitely came to the right place, seeing that this is a flower shop. What kind of flowers?”
“For what occasion?”
“Well, umm … it is to celebrate two people getting married… sorta…my best friend and her fiance.”
“So for an engagement?”
“No, they already had that. Twice actually. This is something in between engagement and wedding.”
“Good lord, is nothing in your life normal?” she laughed.
“Not as far as I know.” Heath smiled.
“OK, so the bride to be, what are her favorite flowers?”
“I have no idea.”
“You are a horrible best friend!” she said it smiling, obviously only teasing.
“No doubt. Her middle name is Rose, so maybe roses and something else?”
“When is the wedding?”
“I don’t know. Sometime later this year? I think.”
“So summer, fall, winter?”
“Probably one of those.” Heath smirked.
“Jeeze dude. Lucky for you, I am excellent at all things flowers, not to toot my own horn. Hang out while I will wave my magic wand!”
A cat came up to Heath now, meowing loudly.
“Sorry, that is my very spoiled brat cat named Flora. Most fitting name, right? She is just hoping you have food. Do you?”
“Sounds like you will not be making a new furry friend tonight. Once that brat figures that out, she’ll drop you like a hot potato.”
Both laughed as she started choosing flowers for the arrangement.
“Story of my life. Oh, I am Heath by the way.” he told her as she was already done with the flowers and brought them over to him.
“Samantha. Sam to my friends. And to people who steal the last shopping basket from me, make me drive them home, only to return to keep me late at work.” he laughter was infectious.
“Sorry.” Heath smiled.
“Yeah, you keep saying that.”
“Ummm … sorry?” both burst into laughter now.
Once they calmed down, Heath admired her work, paid and was about to leave, when Sam waved goodbye to the baby.
“Bye little Abby!”
“Nannnaaaaannaa Mama! Dadda … Mamma.”
Both stood in awe. Abigail advanced much faster than other babies, but Heath did not want to let on, so he said nothing when Sam giggled and told the baby.
“Oh no, honey, I don’t think so. At least not that I could remember. Did we get married and have a child sometime between the grocery store and your home, Heath?”
“So sorry – again – she has never said that to anyone.”
Including her actual mother, mostly because her real mother has not come to see her even once since walking out on us, Heath thought bitterly.
“I am sure we’re both just hearing things, isn’t she a bit young to be talking anyway? She was likely just babbling something. Good seeing you again, Heath, and nice to meet that sweet angel of yours. No wonder you were in such a hurry to get back to her, I’d’ve been too.”
“Do you have children, Sam?”
“Only that fat cat over there.” she smiled.
Heath was on his way out the door, which she held for him, about to walk off, when he turned around.
“I know this is probably considered way too forward, but … would you like to go grab a coffee with me at some point?”
“Are you hitting on me now, single dad?” she grinned.
“NO! Maybe, just a little.” Heath felt himself blush.
“Tell you what. Give me your number and I will think about it, okay?”
“Fair enough.” Heath jotted down his number on the back of the receipt for the flowers.
“Where is your car?” Sam asked him, folding the receipt with his number into her pocket.
“I … don’t have one.”
“And how are you planning to get home?”
“That is a very good question and I wish I had a fabulous reply to it now.”
“All right Heath and Abby, if you can give me about 15 minutes to close up my shop, I will drive you home. Again. Seems to become some sort of single dad car pool thing.”
“Again – I will promise to be on my best, non-serial killer behavior.” Heath joked.
“Good, I would hate to have to sic Flora on you. She is feistier than she looks. Here are the keys, the red car, you know which one, get that baby loaded up, Flora and I will be with you shortly. Oh, and please do not steal that car, okay? It will shock you to learn that I am not as wealthy as the tattered and dirty floral apron would lead you to believe.”
“Which house was it again?” Sam asked as she turned onto Main Street in Newcrest.
“Oh, if you wouldn’t mind letting us out early. We are already late to Evey’s party. She’ll skin me alive.”
“Evey? Not Evey Cameron, right?”
“The very same. You know her?”
“Went to school with her. Small world. Tell her I said hi, please. From Sam Steward.”
“Why don’t you tell her yourself? I know she wouldn’t mind a surprise visit by an old friend. She is my best friend and I know Evey.”
“Maybe, I do want to see that fiance of hers. It’s not Tyler, is it?”
“Oh no, Tyler married one of her cousins, Cailean, maybe you know her?”
“I do. I was away for a while and lost touch. After high school we all went off to college and I ended up travelling the world afterwards, you know, I studied botany and wanted to get some first hand insights. Moved back about two years ago and lost touch with everybody. Was busy opening that flower shop.”
“You own it?”
“Yes, Sir I do. Ate up what little savings I had but it’s my pride and joy.”
They arrived, unloaded Abigail and the flowers and walked up the long stairwell. KC opened them, but Evey saw them right away and came over.
“You are 10 minutes late! But you brought my sweet baby, so you shall be forgiven!”
“Sam?! Sam Steward?! No way! Come on in! You HAVE GOT to meet my fiance!”
The women hugged and started talking.
“Here I’ll put those flowers over there. She’ll see them later. Want a drink?” KC addressed Heath.
The gathering was already in full swing, it was loud, there was laughter everywhere, in- and outside of the house. Oddly, Heath did not feel out of place this time. Quite the contrary.
Before long the baby was asleep upstairs and the four friends were talking about the past, present and future.
More than once did Heath thank Evey in his mind for insisting he show up.
Especially when after he arrived home, and put Abigail to bed, he thought about the coffee date he and Samantha had planned for the next evening.
“Are you getting cake? Please say yes, so I do not feel like a fat cow?” Sam was pleading with Heath at the table of the small cafe.
“You are not a fat cow, but no cake for me. I … can’t eat it. Or anything for that matter.”
“OH. Don’t tell me you are …. OH!”
“I am. Sorry, I probably should have mentioned it. Kinda always think it is obvious.”
“You do look like you could use some sun there, but I guess that is not going to happen, huh?”
“Not unless you prefer me extra-crispy.”
“Pass. On that and the cake. So a real life vampire then, huh? Never actually met one, I think. I know Evey has some family that are vamps, but I never knew which ones. They are all out during the day, so no telling.”
“Yeah, they are …. different. Or rather I am.”
“So you roam the night. I am usually useless after 10 PM.” she chuckled.
“That is when I really start waking up.”
“So, Heath, let’s start cutting into the dirty laundry. Why single dad?”
“Because Abigail’s mom decided she wanted to neither be my fiance, nor a mother, moved to Del Sol Valley with another man, an ex of some sort. That was many months ago and also the last I heard of her.”
“Mother of the year award contender, huh?”
“You have NO idea.”
“Must be rough.”
“I learned to live with it. For Abigail’s sake alone.”
“Any family to help out?”
“Evey – we’re not really related but she is like family to me. What about you?”
“Nope, nobody. No kids, no parents, no siblings. I grew up in the system. Have no idea who my parents are or were. Don’t really care either. I don’t mind being alone.”
“No …. boyfriend/fiance/husband?”
“I would hardly be going out with you, if I had a boyfriend/fiance/husband sitting at home, now, would I?”
“After the debacle of my past relationships, it would not truly surprise me that much.”
“Aww, single dad. Don’t you go bitter on me. Truth be told, I am not really looking for a relationship. You seemed really fun and nice, which is why I agreed, but I do not foresee us riding off into the sunset together holding hands. Sorry, if that was what you were hoping for.”
“I wasn’t. I enjoy your company too, that is all.”
Heath and Sam began to go out or meet at each other’s homes frequently.
Several times a week, for several months now. Summer was about to start. Heath loved spending time with Sam, he could not recall another time in his life where he laughed so much and felt so free, normal, like he was fitting in.
After the first couple dates, the nervousness had given way to sheer excitement and anticipation, as soon as they parted ways, he started a mental countdown to the next time they would meet.
Months after that very first date they were still strictly on a friendship basis, although Heath had to admit he regretted that choice more and more.
From the first moment on he had felt something new around her, which seemed to be getting stronger. Looking up at one of the many pictures of her or them together all over his home, he felt that same bolt of lightning go through him from the top of his head to the very tip of his toes.
Once, when they accidentally touched hands after doing the dishes he nearly dropped the plate he was holding as he felt that jolt of electricity, then another when she looked at him and smiled.
‘What are you doing, you idiot!?’ he reprimanded himself in his thoughts.
The feeling only grew more and more intense.
‘No! You have tried that before, remember? Ended with lots of heartbreak and an innocent child caught up in the middle. Get that head on straight. FRIENDSHIP!!!’ he yelled at himself in his mind.
Then one night, a Sunday, she was over at Heath’s home to watch a movie, she looked over and smiled at him.
In some spur of the moment decision Heath just leaned in and kissed her. She did not fight him. Instead she returned the kiss, which grew from the intended peck into a full make out session.
When the kiss ended there was silence at first, until she whispered.
“So you are feeling it too?”
“Intensely.” Heath admitted.
“Not quite what we agreed on.”
“I am okay with that …” he breathed the words.
“If this is going to happen, I need it to mean something. Be something real and true, firm and monogamous. Something of substance. I am not interested in a fling, something casual, or one-night-stand kind of situation, Heath.”
“Neither am I!” Heath words were a clear affirmation.
“Abby’s mother is definitely out of the picture?”
“Any further out of the picture and she’d fall off the face of the earth.”
“OK. Just please, if you get hungry or thirsty or whatever vampires get, don’t take a chunk out of me.”
“No chunks, check. What about the serial killer scenario?”
“That’s a toss up, could be some kinky twist. Why are we still dressed and talking?”
What followed was more intense than anything Heath had ever felt, on many different levels, not just a sexual one.
When their eyes met he felt that familiar jolt, when their bodies connected it was an intensity of electricity at the same time a serenity he had never known.
As they lay next to each other atop his bed, both digesting what just happened, she turned to him and smiled, he automatically replied in kind, which is when he realized it.
She was his soulmate!