Sam arrived first, when she already saw Evey come hurrying across the street from the EC Architects building, smiling at Sam before reaching her.
They hugged briefly, then went inside the cafe they met in front of to place their orders.
Both met like this often, in the cafe located between both their places of work, whenever their busy schedules would let them escape for 15-30 minutes for a chat among friends.
This had been a long standing tradition ever since they reconnected years ago.
In the middle of the conversation Evey looked at Sam.
Sam only shook her head, she was obviously not well at the moment.
“Yeah. No. I think I may be pregnant.”
“Of course not! Heath and I got a little frisky one day, he teased me, we chased each other through the house and … ended up in the bedroom. I am sure you can guess the rest. I am still breastfeeding so no pill and in the heat of the moment we forgot the other stuff. Now I am too much of a chicken to take a test. Too afraid it will tell me I am right.”
“Wow, I would have loved to be a fly on that wall. For the teasing and chasing, not the … other stuff. So hard to imagine Heath losing his usual stiffness to actually be silly like that. I think I haven’t seen that since we were kids.”
“He has changed a lot, Evey. So much so, that I constantly forget that he is a vampire. If he weren’t so pale I think nobody would ever guess. You should see him with the kids. Masterful. I feel like an impostor next to him, even when it has to do with Jacob. That man is absolutely amazing. While I can barely keep the shop from burning down, he never missed a single deadline for his Freelance Writing gig, he takes care of the entire household, takes care of a baby, drops off and picks up the kids from school, helps them with homework, makes them breakfast, lunches and has dinner waiting when I get there. Now, for the most part his cooking is in serious need of improvement, but it’s the thought that melts my heart. And he does all that with a smile, never once a complaint.”
“No need to pimp Heath to me, I am his biggest fan, I have adored him since I was 5 years old. And I remember all that from when you guys were living with us. I am jealous. If you are ever done with him, KC and I will take him immediately.”
“Well, you cannot complain, you didn’t do to bad either with that hunk you married. He worships the ground you walk on. You and KC, seriously. Forget the Brangelinas of the world. You are a serious power couple and he is soooooooo sweet with you. I am surprised you two do not have a dozen kids yet!”
“Don’t even joke about that! KC and I are lucky if we get to steal a kiss or hug when nobody is looking, especially since our lovely brood figured out how to open doors. Last time he and I felt it was save to get jiggy with things it ended up a near disaster, in the middle of …. you know …. the door flew open and the circus entered, while both of us scrambled to get decent under the covers, KC ended up in a tug-of-war for this boxers with Alpine, that dang mutt – while I had two toddlers fighting about something while sitting on top of me pinning me down until KC won his breeches back by tossing his shoe across the room and plucked them off of me. I was praying for the ground to open and swallow me whole!” The women laughed.
“That’s nothing. They are way too little to figure out what was even going on. Abby recently called Heath out on us ‘kissing the way that sometimes makes babies’, right after we just got through actually doing just that. Heath practically ran and hid from his own daughter, I thought he would need therapy. Hahaha, poor guy.” Sam caused the next round of laughing.
Evey got serious again.
“How are things going with Jacob and Abby?”
“Abby is a dream. The perfect little girl. Jacob is … trying. In all senses of the word. I do not know where I went wrong with him. He was such a sweet toddler. I had been under the impression that I am a good mom and that he and I were close, like Heath and Abby. Boy, was I wrong. When he is being mean to Heath or Abby I am so embarrassed that he is my son. Total parenting fail. I just don’t get him. I am afraid when he hits the teens. Mercy on us all.”
“He’s not that bad. Pretty obnoxious, but not THAT bad and it’s not your fault, Sam. Maybe he is just going through puberty early, and when he becomes a teen, he’ll be perfectly solid.”
“I cannot even figure out for certain if he and Abby are friends or foes. Abby is so sweet and kind, hard to be sure. The things he says to that sweet little girl sometimes. Or to Heath. And he will not tell me why he is like that. Ever since Heath and I got back together, he turned into a monster. And I tried to make him feel that he is not second now. He even told me that he knows that. So I do not get it. Did I mention that I am teaching Abby gardening? She is learning fast too. I feel like a proud momma. Even though that one isn’t even mine … sadly.”
Soon the coffee was empty and the conversation ended, as both of them had to return to work.
One afternoon Sam returned home unusually early from work, Heath was in the kitchen, cleaning up after lunch, and she wasn’t alone. In tow she had a stranger, someone Heath didn’t recognize.
His name was Orange Bailey-Moon, Jacob’s biological father, as he learned.
Heath sent Abby to her room, Sam looked on helplessly as Jacob was talking with his father.
Both feared a big melt-down.
When Jacob finally did get up and ran off, his father came to speak with the couple.
“I am taking him with me for some ice cream.”
“No, you are not. I have full custody and you would have to ask me first, which you didn’t. He does not even know you.”
“Mom, please!” Jacob begged, already wearing his coat, ready to leave.
Sam looked cornered, then reluctantly agreed. A big mistake.
Within the week they had a letter from the lawyers requesting custody. Sam declined, a short court battle followed, which – adding insult to injury – Sam lost at a dwindling speed, and for no apparent reason other than Jacob’s father being a celebrity with a stable of top lawyers. Heath could do nothing but watch, since he wasn’t even a legal guardian to the boy.
So Jacob was to move to Del Sol Valley with his father immediately, but was allowed to come for visits during certain school breaks as decreed by the court.
“Why are you doing this?” Samantha asked Bailey-Moon when he came to pick up his son.
“He is my only son, my only heir. My parents are not going to live much longer and I am not married and not getting younger. I tried to have another kid, but something down there doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. I considered medical help and even adoption, but since I already have a son, who I have been paying for since birth, might as well enjoy him and grant him a life like you and your new husband never could. Look at the bright side, Samantha. You have other kids, as I see. I am doing you a favor by taking this burden off you. You won’t even know he’s gone.”
“He is my SON! Of course I will know he is gone. How can you say something cruel like this? How can you do this to me, to him, to all of us?!”
What hurt Sam and Heath even more was seeing how unfazed Jacob was, how excited he was to pack up and go with this quasi-stranger, who once hurt this little boy him so very deeply with words and deeds and his absence and rejection. And that there was nothing at all Sam could do now to protect him.
Packed and ready to go, Abby watched him put the last of his bags by the door.
“Why are you going with him? You told me he was nothing but mean to you.” Abby fought hard against her trembling lips.
“He has changed. He is really cool and a movie star. Famous! I mean, here I am nobody. I don’t belong here. There it’s like .. I mean, it’s Del Sol Valley!” Abby had never seen him so excited, which hurt even more.
“I am going to miss you, Jacob.” Abby hugged him, barely suppressing the tears.
“You’ll get over it.” he replied shrugging and not even welling up.
“Aren’t you going to miss me?” Abby just wanted to hear him say it.
“Why would I?” BAM! Abby’s heart burst into a million tiny pieces as she tried to keep her composure.
“What about your mom? And Ash?” she scrambled for any sign of regret from him.
“Mom doesn’t need me anymore. She has a new kid and she has you. You are their favorite anyway, while I can’t do anything right. I gotta go now. Bye freak!” That last word cut the deepest.
She hated when he called her that.
Abigail stood by, looking deflated and sad as he hopped into his father’s limousine and didn’t even turn back once.
“Don’t cry my angel.” she heard her dad’s voice next to her, so she turned and hugged him, crying into his shoulder the tears she could not control any longer, he spoke softly to her as he raised her up with him.
Abby didn’t know what upset her more, the fact that she cried or that her daddy caught her crying.
She had wanted to be strong. For her daddy. But his hug felt good and she just wanted him to hold her now. She’d be strong again – later.
Why did everybody she ever cared about always leave her?
Even her beloved Aunty Evey barely had time for her now, with her own kids and her being back at work full time. When she still worked from home, Abby would sometimes go to her house after school.
But now she worked again and she would only see her every now and then, usually when it was almost bedtime for her.
While Uncle KC was always fun, she’d only see them for an hour at a time, he worked too, and sometimes until really late.
Jacob had been different, he was her own age and she could connect with him on a different level than the adults.
Sure, she had friends in school, lots of them, but they were just regular kids with normal lives. While Jacob was not a vampire like her, he was somehow different too.
As much as she pretended not to notice, she had known for a while that she never really fit in anywhere and would only be more and more different with each passing year. Just like her daddy had always struggled, she did too, but a lot more secretive than Heath had.
She realized years ago that it made him happy when she smiled and acted carefree, so she played that role for him, as she loved nobody more than her daddy, she wanted him happy too, not worrying about her.
Deep down inside though she felt like a leaf in the wind. Her mother not wanting her, at least not initially, had left a mark, hearing others say terrible things about vampires unaware she was one, seeing people hunt her sweet daddy down like an animal, the memory of seeing him with that collar on for the first time, watching him jump into a gunshot for uncle KC. And through the years she always knew how sad and lonely he had been. The only one there for him was Aunty Evey – and sweet Uncle KC – and when her burden of keeping up appearances and the worry about her daddy got almost too much to bear a few times she nearly confided in them, but didn’t, as they would tell her daddy.
He was to think she was happy and had not a single worry in the world.
Which had been the only reason she even put up with that insufferable Jacob. Her daddy looked so happy with Sammy, and she had always liked Sammy and longed for a mother, so she was afraid if she told on Jacob, told her daddy how mean he always was, Sam would leave and her daddy would be all alone again.
And then she started to like Jacob and thought he liked her too.
First chance he got he could not get away from her fast enough. And he was not even a little bit sad about it.
Abby played her happy little girl role at dinner, again while watching a movie with her parents and when they tucked her in, but once they left her room and the lights went off, tears began to flow.
Several weeks passed without even as much as a call from Jacob. At least not when she was home. Over dinner she learned he had been calling his mom directly a few times, but apparently not even asked about her daddy, his baby brother – or her.
It angered and upset her.
Then one night at home before dinner her phone rang. Abby frowned looking at the caller ID and rejected the call. Jacob.
“Who was that honey?” Heath asked.
“Nobody, daddy. Just someone who didn’t want me.”
“Oh, you mean wrong number?”
“Something like that …” Abby said while turning off her phone.
Some days after that, while playing a game on her laptop, she saw a chat voice call come in.
Her heart began to beat fast, she smiled, but then remembered how long it had been and that he told her he would not even miss her. And all the other things that had hurt her.
She sat back and watched it ring until it stopped, seconds later an instant message popped up.
‘Hey freak, are you online?‘
She didn’t respond. That word again.
‘I know you are, your light shows green, means you’re active. So answer already!’
Abby shook her head to herself, when the next messages popped up.
‘Come on already, write back.’
‘Pretty pretty please.’
‘With sugar on top’
Pushover! Abby thought as she started typing a response. Maybe he did miss her after all and just now realized it. Hope started to flicker within her like a small candle.
‘Sorry, I was busy. What do you want?’ she wrote as nonchalant as she could.
Immediately a chat call came in again. Dang it. She answered.
“What took you so long?” she heard his familiar voice, sounding odd through the speakers.
“I told you I was busy.”
“With what? Studying, you nerdy freak?”
“So what is so urgent?” Abby tried to play it cool. She hated that word even more now.
The picture on her screen changed as Jacob was turning the tablet he was apparently calling from so she could see all he was talking about.
“Look at my room! It’s gigantic! And look at that view! And I am getting a dog, dad said. I can pick whatever I like! This is all so amazing! We already went to a lounge, admittance is 21, but dad is super-famous so they didn’t care that I wasn’t. It was SO cool! I met all the stars from ‘SIMS LIFE’ there! This is THE life! So much better than before!”
His last sentence cut deep. While he ran about his new home showing her his new life and gloating about what all they had and did, Abby zoned out.
So that was why he called her.
Just to showboat.
No other reason.
You idiot, what did you expect? A leopard cannot change his spots. she told herself in her mind.
While Jacob on the other end was still rambling on and on Abby hit the hang up button and went to find Sam to help her in the beautiful garden. She enjoyed it and it was a good distraction.
Abby liked watching life grow, burst into colorful flowers and renew itself. Sam seemed to enjoy her interest so Abby had told her she would want to work in her flower shop with her one day.
That had made Sam so very emotional.
Maybe it was the baby she was expecting.
Or maybe at least somebody other than her daddy was excited to have her after all.
Sam was good to her and never once made her feel like she wasn’t her real daughter.
While Abby was listening to Sam’s instructions in their garden at home, in her room upstairs her laptop kept ringing again and again, dozens of times, only interrupted by the ding of new messages arriving by the dozens, all of which would remain unanswered.