Children at the table, doing their homework, a baby asleep in his arms, lunch boiling on the stove.
Heath had to force himself to stop basking in the scene, so he returned his infant son to his crib to continue sleeping there, then went on to check on lunch for the kids.
Heath still sometimes felt like he were merely dreaming, like he had so often before. Except in his dreams, his wife had always been Evey, as for most of his life she had been the only one to ever loved him unconditionally.
But she belonged with KC, he saw that now, and he had proven during the wedding, he’d do anything to keep them together. Plus, he loved Samantha, and could feel the same from her. A true love, finally united after several detours for both.
He flashed back to the wedding. Such a beautiful time. The ceremony, the friendly faces, the smiles, the happiness. A dream becoming reality.
Then he thought about the scariest, but also most memorable part of all.
In that very moment, when he looked up from laughing with his bride Sam and best friend Evey, he saw an man he did not know with KC by the gate, and could tell by their stances that it wasn’t a friendly call, which made him tense up.
Heath had just slid off the bar stool he had been sitting on, never once taking his eyes off them, and when the stranger reached for something in the back of his waistband, Heath became lightning fast as only a vampire could.
By the time the man had brandished the gun Heath had suspected him going for and pulled the trigger, Heath had long reached them, shoved KC out of the line of fire onto the ground, where he unfortunately hit his head hard on impact and ended up with a mild concussion, while Heath shielded the spot where KC had been before, to assure the bullet would not hit any innocent bystanders who may be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. He had done that despite of him not being 100% sure whether or not all his vampire powers had fully recovered, after wearing the Thrall collar for so long, which would continuously inject low doses of a substance that subdued the vampire powers.
The impact hurt him, burned pretty bad for a while and knocked the wind out of him, threw him backwards where he crashed to the ground next to KC, as he watched the mayor’s security detail take whom he now knew was KC’s father out of commission after he tried to aim his gun at Mayor Ellington and Isabelle, yelling profanities at them, before the gun was roughly removed from his hand and he was detained, equally as roughly. When Heath caught a glimpse of him being loaded into a police car, he was bloody, bruised, his clothing tattered. It took Heath a few days to fully heal again, but he did.
KC would not have.
Laying on the ground next to KC after the incident, Sam was kissing on him, tears streaming down her face, Everleigh next to him holding and kissing his hand while tending to a dazed KC, who in turn stared at Heath, his eyes filled with disbelief, confusion, shock and gratefulness.
After KC – and even Heath – had received medical care, all of them got so emotional, so Heath began complaining about his ruined suit, something he couldn’t care less about, seeing how his best buddy KC was alive and well. The men’s eyes met in a silent understanding. KC knew, as did Heath, and an equally silent agreement took place, that this ruined suit would from now take the place of sappy thank yous whenever one of them remembered this and felt like talking about it without actually talking about it.
Heath secretly liked KC’s teasing and playful jealousy. It made him feel even more normal, more like he belonged.
Still smiling he realized that the pasta water was boiling over right in front of him, while behind him the children were bickering.
He addressed the angrily bubbling food first.
“I only wanted to help. That is not how you do this, I can show you, that is all I said!” he heard Abby’s voice, a defensive tone in it.
“And I said, I do not need any help!”
“You DO need help, you just do not WANT any! If you listened to what I explain you would not constantly get Fs!”
“Just leave me alone, okay, freak!”
“Jacob!” Heath turned around.
“Never call Abby that again! It is not nice!”
“I wasn’t trying to be nice.”
“It’s okay daddy, doesn’t bother me. Not anymore. He’s just a dumb boy. And he calls me that all the time…”
“No, that is not okay, my angel. Why would you do that, Jacob?”
“You wouldn’t understand, since you are a freak too. I’ll be in my room!”
“No, lunch is almost ready and you will stay and apologize!”
“Lunch is crap, like it always is! You cannot cook. Because you are a freak and you cannot eat unless you drink some magic potion. Your food always tastes like a mud puddle!”
“Apologize this instant!” Heath had reached them now, standing face to face with the unruly child.
“Fine, go to your room and stay there until I get you. You are grounded for a week, no video games, no phone and no computer.”
“You are not my mother, you cannot tell me anything.”
“I am going to slap you for talking to my daddy like that!”
“Abigail! Go and set the table, please!”
“Yes you goodie-two-shoes go and do as your freak-daddy orders you to!”
Abigail jumped off her chair and slapped Jacob so hard it left a red mark on his cheek. Heath thought he had to be dreaming this. Abby has always been the sweetest, gentlest child. She seemed as shocked at her action as Jacob was.
Jacob woke from his shock now, his bottom lip trembling he ran upstairs, while Heath still could not move, and Abby looked guilty.
Heath grabbed her hand and pulled her to face him, laying into her as firmly, but gently as he could
“Never, ever do that again! That was bad and wrong, Abby! You KNOW better!”
“He is EVIL! Mean and miserable. I don’t care that he is like that to me, but I won’t let him say mean things to you. Or about you, daddy!”
Heath was torn. Part of him knew it was wrong and he should strongly discourage this, but his heart melted when his little girl fiercely defended him.
“Abby, two wrongs do never make a right. You should never hit others. You should tell teachers and parents. So what did you mean when you said you do not care that he does this to you? Has he been mean to you before?”
“Is he going to get in trouble?”
“No, his mom and I will sit him down and talk to him.”
“Pity. I’d rather he get 7 spankings in a row and grounded for 5 years.”
“Abilgail! What is wrong with you? You have always been such a sweet and gentle girl.”
“I still am, daddy, but he is just awful. I tried, really, I did. I thought he was like Uncle KC, you know, when they told us about him being a brat when Aunty Evey first met him. But she said alone with him, he was always sweet. Jacob is just as mean when I am alone with him. The only reason I stay with him in school is the other kids hate him even more and I still feel sorry when he sits alone in school. But after today, he can go and simmer all by himself!” Abby pushed out her lower lip, which looked comical, but Heath didn’t feel like laughing.
Of course there had to be problems. His life had been going too well.
He kissed Abby on her forehead, hugged her and sent her to set the table, while pondering what to do.
He knew that Jacob didn’t like him. But being mean to Abby? Nobody was ever mean to her, she was just so sweet, gentle and kind. And as a father it bothered him to no end. Nobody was ever allowed to hurt his little girl and it angered him, no matter how much he tried to tell himself it was just a scared and sad little boy’s cry for help.
Hopefully Sam would have a way into the boy’s soul.
Over the next weeks he and Sam tried everything, involving his teachers, a therapist and even KC offered to talk to him, thinking maybe they’d be a bit alike. Jacob only deflected until reaching his boiling point when he told KC that he did not want to associate with convicts whose fathers try to kill them.
Evey seemed to have the best luck, and that wasn’t saying much, but he mouthed off to her and she set him straight firmly, which seemed to impress him and made him do the chore he had been asked to do. Still, two nights later Evey found chalk drawings outside her and KC’s home depicting her, KC and Heath in a very unflattering way.
The therapist suggested ignoring the lashing out, punishing him by grounding if he went too far, but instead giving him what he apparently missed: a father figure.
So they sat him down one night, carefully inching towards the topic. When Heath offered to call him dad, Jacob had his meltdown.
Abby stepped in and told him, her daddy could adopt him, and they would be real siblings. Jacob stormed off after telling her one unwanted brother was enough for him, he did not need an unwanted freak sister, too, which made Abby cry to a nearly inconsolable level. Abigail had always been a very sweet and happy child, readily smiling, always gentle and kind with all creatures. Seeing that angel cry, really upset Heath. And Sam too, who had known Abby since she was a baby.
Then one day on a Saturday, Abigail had made excellent grades on her last report card, so Heath and Sam surprised her with her own laptop.
She was very excited.
“Why is she getting one and I don’t?” Jacob growled watching his step-sister unwrap her present and getting excited as Abby would.
“Honey, you barely made it to the next grade. You promised me you would try. I guess we need to sit down more and do homework and study together. And you can always use the family computer. Just let me or da.. umm Heath know first, okay?”
“Thank you daddy!” Abby was still in seventh heaven.
“Don’t thank me! I think you are too young, it was Sam’s idea.”
“Thank you, mommy!”
Abbi hugged Sam, as Jacob lashed out.
“Don’t call her that! She is not YOUR mom! She is MY mom. You cannot call her that!”
“Jacob! Yes she can! You come with me right now, young man, we will have a talk!”
Sam dragged Jacob with her to his room.
“Sorry daddy, I didn’t mean to cause … that.”
“Oh I know sweetie. He is just having a rough time with …. something. You did nothing wrong. Now let’s get that pesky laptop set up.”
“I know exactly where I will put it! Come on daddy, hurry!”
Jacob continued to be unruly, bring home bad grades and avoid all efforts to include him. He even withdrew from Sam, who had tried all ways possible to get him to open up and share what was bothering him.
Instead he was brought home by cops for stealing candy in a local store.
Then again for scratching a teacher’s car.
Then he got into fights with boys in school.
Then the therapist refused to see him again after the boy had physically attacked him, kicking him in the groin when Jacob wanted to rush off during one of his meltdowns and the therapist had blocked the door.
Sam and Heath were at their wit’s end.
“Sam, darling, I know this may sound harsh but … what are your thoughts on looking into an all boys boarding school for Jacob?” Heath carefully suggested after another ruined family dinner, courtesy of Jacob.
“Has crossed my mind. But he would feel even more unwanted then. And those schools are so expensive. The house is great, but costs a lot in taxes, insurance and maintenance and kids are not cheap. My store is no gold mine and neither is your writing, baby.”
“I still have those rare gemstones and artifacts my father left behind. We don’t display them. I’ll sell them and it should be enough for a few years.”
“Heath, I could not ask you to do that. They are all you have left of …. ”
“Of people and times I rather forget? And you are not asking Sammy, I am offering.”
“You called me Sammy.”
“I call you that in my head all the time.”
“Finally a nickname! I was always so jealous you had one for Evey, but not for me. Why do you call her that anyway? Little Leigh?”
“When we first met as young children, she and I, she was still very involved in ballet. The first time I went to watch her at ballet class, she was dancing a solo for “The Phantom of the Opera”, a personal favorite of mine. In it, Raoul, the protagonist Christine’s childhood friend, used to call Christine “Little Lotte”, for her Danish heritage. So in my head, Everleigh became my Little Leigh.”
“Oh wow, still jealous. That is a heck better story than “Sammy”.”
“I could call you “Lil Momma”…..”
“I dare you to try!”
“You are going down!”
She chased him into their bedroom where Sam launched herself atop Heath and they fell backwards onto the bed where they play-wrestled, which turned into kissing in no time … and into more.
Laying in each other’s embrace after heated love-making, Sam suddenly made
“You didn’t happen to slip on protection with your vampire speed and I just didn’t notice, did you?”
“I am still breastfeeding, so I am not taking the pill.”
“Uh oh. What are the odds?”
“I have no idea. 50%?”
“Are we taking a test now?”
“Too soon. And I refuse to acknowledge that possibility until I cannot ignore the fact any more. Maybe if we both do, it will just go away.”
“Can I be honest?”
“I hope you are pregnant. I hope it’s twins.”
“Are you drunk, Heath?! One angel child, one demon child, an infant, three cats, a big house with a big yard, my shop … and you want twins?! I am going to have you committed!”
“I love you, Samantha Grainger. Like I have never loved before. Not even Abby’s mother. More than even Evey. I want another child with you. I didn’t realize it, but now I do.”
“I love you too, Heath, always have, even though that meant I had to wait my turn to be with you again. But you, my love, are talking crazy talk. Don’t make me get a bucket of ice water to dump on ya.”
“What would that do? I don’t generate body heat anyway. I’d get out of the way before it would hit me so all you’d create is a wet bedroom.”
“That vampire thing won’t always get you out of my punishment. And I need a coffee!”
“I will get it for you. You stay in bed.”
“Aww, you are so sweet!”
“That, and I do not want you moving around when you should be incubating twin babies. Triplets if we’re lucky.”
The pillows just barely missed Heath.
Still grinning he arrived at the coffee maker, where he found Abby in the kitchen.
“Why are you smiling like that, daddy?”
“You are smiling differently. Were you and mommy kissing again?”
Heath felt caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
“Uh – Abby, did you do your homework yet?”
“Of course. I always do it right after school. So you were kissing. What does that kissing feel like? I mean, I know it must feel good, you two do it so much …”
“I have kissed you many times. You know what it’s like.”
“No, I mean, like when mommies and daddies kiss. The way that makes babies sometimes.”
Now Heath felt like he had been hit with a cast iron frying pan.
“Abby … how is your new laptop? Everything set up? Do you need my help?”
“Daddy! You are not answering my question. It’s a serious one.”
“I need to bring your mom some coffee. She is very thirsty!”
“But daddy, the coffeemaker isn’t even done yet!”
Heath nearly ran off with the coffee mug.
“What happened to you?” Sam asked amused when Heath arrived, looking discombobulated and hurried, leaning against the bedroom door after closing it behind him.
“You do NOT want to know. But I think you are right. Another child may be a bit too soon. And be careful with that coffee, it may be really strong. I couldn’t wait for the coffeemaker to finish.” he said as he handed her the cup.
Sam had taken a sip, her eyes wide open, face a grimace, as she stared into the thick and deep dark broth.
That same night, laying in his bed, Jacob was staring at the ceiling.
Snorting he turned around in bed.
Then he tossed to the other side.
Heath was dumb. So skinny. And pale. And dumb. And a freak.
As was Abby. Even though … she was the only one in school who would talk to him … NO! Abby was dumb. And a freak. The end.
The baby too. Stinky, loud and annoying.
He could not find sleep so he slipped out of bed to get some orange juice. Walking by Abby’s room he halted when he heard her cry.
He pushed open the door that was only cracked and saw her looking at something in her hand, speaking quietly. Jacob’s interest was piqued. He entered, when she noticed him she hid what she was holding in a drawer, wiped her tears and asked what he wanted.
“Uh, I was going to get some OJ … wondering if you wanted some?”
“Me? Umm .. yes, sure .. that is very … nice of you.”
Jacob left, when he came back with two glasses Abby was not in her room but he saw light underneath the bathroom door. Curious he opened the drawer where she hid what she had in her hand earlier and found a small framed photograph of what Jacob assumed was her dead mother.
Abby appeared, ran towards him, ripped the frame from his hands, shoved it back in the drawer, than slammed it shut.
“Don’t ever do that again!”
“Was that your mom?”
“You miss her?”
“Was she … nice?”
“Yes. Even though at first she didn’t want me, just left daddy and me. But she came back. And then she realized she loved me too. But now she is dead. She won’t come back ever again.”
“But you have my mom now.”
“True. And you have my dad now. I really don’t get why you are so mean to him all the time. There is no better daddy in the entire world than mine.”
“My dad never wanted me. My mom tried to make him, but he only said mean things. He said I looked like a monkey. Said I was fat and ugly. I drew him a picture of mommy, me and our cats and he only laughed at it, called me ‘retarded’.”
“And still you miss him? But you call ME a freak?”
“I don’t miss him. I just wanted a dad who wants me to be his son.”
“Like my dad?”
“Your dad does not really want me. He does not even like me. He only acts that way in front of my mom so she stays with him.”
“My dad does not act like anything so she stays with him. She stays because she loves him and he loves her. But you are too little to understand what love means.”
“You are not even two years older than me!”
“But those seem to be two important years, cos you are just dumb. Maybe because you are a boy. On TV they said they take a lot longer to mature. I think that means be smart. So you will always be two years dumber than me.”
“I brought you OJ!”
“You probably spit in it!”
“Fine, here!” Jacob swapped out her glass for his.
“Eew, that glass probably has your cooties on it!” Abby frowned.
“Women, just cannot make them happy!” Jacob sighed theatrically.
“You can. By being nicer to me. And my daddy.”
“If I am, can I use your laptop sometimes?”
“Deal. Umm … Abby …. I didn’t do my homework yet.”
“How is that new?”
“I was thinking maybe I should start. Maybe it would go quicker if you helped me…”
“Are you going to bite my head off again if I tell you when you are making mistakes?”
He shook his head.
“Are you going to help me or not?”
“Are frogs butts water-proof?”
Jacob burst into laughter and Abby joined in as she followed him into his room to help.
While he was unpacking his books, she looked at the orange juice in her hands, contemplated for a moment, looked at Jacob, shrugged and emptied the glass into a flower pot.
“Better safe than sorry…” she whispered to herself.
After that night things changed. Slowly, but there was noticeable improvement.
Jacob actually tried to be nicer to Heath, he tried in school and he did do most of his homework, even though his grades remained passing at best, nothing like the excellent grades Abby continuously brought home.
There seemed to be a constant attempt on his part, and while there were slip-ups, some of which teeth-grinding ones, his good behavior remained in the majority, so for that, he received a simple desktop computer as an incentive to keep trying for the good behavior and decent grades.
There were still issues with his attitude, he still refused to call Heath ‘dad’ and what kind of reply you got when asking him to join a family activity remained a roll of the dice. Still, nobody complained.
At least not too much.
He got along fairly well with Abby, he seemed to trust her.
Abby was nice to him, helped him with school questions, played with him, but retained a healthy dose of skepticism.
Whenever Jacob would lash out at Heath, Abby was right on his case. The sweet, gentle girl would turn into a feisty little monster just short of breathing fire.
While it caused Heath’s toenails to curl up, she seemed to only one able to get instant results.
Every single time.
While Heath and Sam were happy about seeing some change in the right direction in Jacob, they worried about Abby. They loved the idea of her being sweet, innocent and gentle.
One minute they would sit and do homework together, then Jacob would lose his temper with Heath and Abby was unrecognizable. Jacob would freeze in his tracks, often it would end in a tongue-sticking out match, sometimes crayons would fly back and forth across the table, but there would not be a Jacob melt-down.
“Ugh, they are finally all in bed. I think parenting is going to drive me into alcoholism.” Sam sat down on the bed.
“And they are not even teens yet.” Heath added.
“Way to ruin the night completely.” Sam frowned.
“Just stating the obvious. It’s coming. Sooner or later.”
“And to think we have another child that will go through this and then be a teen. Ugh.”
“And maybe more. Or have you taken a pregnancy test yet?” Heath said plainly.
“No! And shut up! No more out of you tonight!”
After laying next to each other for a while, Heath asked into the dark room.
“Have you been feeling nauseated at all?
His answer was a pillow to the face.
“Only after eating your cooking, darling!” Sam told him.