“Hey! Gotcha!” Jacob said bursting into Abby’s room, where she sat on her laptop.
“Yeah, shocker that I would be in my own room.” she rolled her eyes.
“No, but you forgot! And I caught you!” he smirked triumphantly.
“Forgot what?” she was unfazed.
“That I was coming for a visit, duh!”
“I didn’t forget, duh. Just didn’t think I needed to join the parade. You’re not here to see me. I am kinda on my way out anyway.”
“What? Where to?” his excitement deflated like a balloon with a hole in it.
“Going over to my friend Gabriel’s.”
“Is she the one with the red braids?”
“Gabriel, not Gabrielle, and he has blond hair. He plays soccer and has invited me to watch.”
He? As in a boy? Since when did Abby hang out with boys outside school?! Jacob wondered silently to himself.
“Oh. Here I got this for you.” he smiled and handed her a purple bear.
“Uh – thanks.” she took a quick look at it and just sat it on her desk without giving it another glance.
Not even remotely close to the reaction Jacob had expected.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Why are you acting so weird? You used to like presents. You used to always get so excited. Why are you not excited now? Because I didn’t wrap it? They don’t allow that when you fly …” Jacob thought he had found the problem and explained, but was cut off.
“Still like gifts. Who doesn’t? If they are real presents. We both know that is just some reject toy you are re-gifting from all the stuff your father showers you with. You didn’t like it so you gave it to me. Yay, I’ll do cartwheels later. Gotta go. See you around.”
“What?” Jacob responded, thunderstruck as he watched her leave.
Defeated he went to his old room.
His face reflected the disappointment he felt.
What just happened?
In the meantime Abby had arrived downstairs.
“Bye daddy, bye mommy, see you later.” she chimed in her usual tone.
“Where are you going?” Heath inquired.
“Over to Gabriel’s house.”
“Abby, you knew Jacob was coming. You cute butt is staying home.” Sam told her.
“Abby, you heard your mother. You are staying home, that’s final.” Heath determined.
Abby did not like that at all. But since her flight instinct had been muffled by her parents, her fight instinct kicked in.
Pouting and mumbling to herself she went outside, slamming the door shut, angrily kicking around pebbles on her way to the swing set.
“What is up with her now?” Samantha asked.
“I haven’t the foggiest idea. I thought she’d be thrilled to see him.” Heath said.
“Same. I am scared of her 13th birthday. If this sweet angel can turn into a pouty brat so quickly as a pre-teen, I do not even want to see what puberty holds for Jacob. Kill me now! Luckily his father will get the brunt of all that now. But still …”
“Maybe she is just tired. She has been so unusually withdrawn and quiet of late. Maybe she is coming down with something. Hope it’s just low-hanging cloud that passes. Quickly.”
“Hi mom. Hi Heath. Do you guys know when Abby will be back?” Jacob had arrived downstairs as well.
“She’s still here. Change of plans. She’s out front on the swing set, honey.” Sam told him smiling gently.
The boy’s eyes seemed to light up.
“Can I go swing too?” he asked with excitement.
“Of course. This is your home, too. Always will be.”
“Thanks mom. I’ll be outside then.”
He rushed over to the swing set, where he saw Abby, so he slowed down to a casual stroll.
“Don’t call me that!” Abby stopped swinging, jumped up and rushed off towards the backyard.
Jacob ran after her.
“Wait! Ok, I won’t call you that. Just please stay, ok?”
She didn’t stop, but slowed down, he matched her pace.
“Do you really not like the bear I got you?” he asked carefully
“Just okay?” No, okay had not been what he was going for. Tight bearhugs and giggles were what he had hoped for.
“What do you want from me? I am too old for toys. I am almost 13, not 3.” Abby lashed out at him, as he followed her inside, and through the kitchen, past a confused looking Heath and Sam in the background.
“Right. Next time I’ll just bring you purple stiletto heels….” he said
“You are not as funny as you think!” Abby growled.
“And you are about to grow a few more heads and breathe fire!” Jacob retorted.
“Argh!” Abby made, while demonstratively rolling her eyes.
“I was just kidding. So what DO you like these days?” he asked, now following her towards the stairs.
“Did you just see and hear that too?” Sam asked Heath when the children were out of sight and she heard their footsteps on the stairs.
“I am not sure if I did or am having a waking nightmare.” Heath said.
“Maybe it is it opposite day?” Sam joked.
“That would be the most logical explanation.”
The children had meanwhile reached the top of the stairs, where Abby turned around to Jacob, blocking her room door.
“Oh my gawd, can you not go bother someone else?” she asked annoyed.
“I’m bothering you?” he asked confused.
“Big time.” Abby confirmed.
“For starters, by following me like a puppy.”
“I just want to talk. We haven’t seen each other in months.”
“Just type it up in a message, I’ll read it later.”
“I write you all the time, but you never read my messages. Or you do, but you never write me back. Or answer my calls. Or texts.” his tone was unintentionally honest, reflecting his disappointment.
“Stalk much? Take a hint, little boy!”
Abby slipped into her room, shut the door into Jacob’s face and locked it.
He stood in front of it on the outside, looking lost, as he whispered to himself
“But I missed you … a lot. The old Abby. Not whoever this was.”
Abigail remained aloof and illusive.
Jacob was visibly disappointed, but nothing could have hit him harder then when Abby handed him the purple bear back as he was about to get into his father’s limo.
“Take it back. I don’t want it.”
Jacob just took it, without saying anything, before the driver slammed the door shut. This visit had not gone at all as he had imagined.
On the car ride to the airport, where his father would be waiting for him to fly back to Del Sol Valley with him, Jacob reflected on the past few months.
At first he could not wait to go.
Del Sol Valley!
Then the night before they were to leave it hit him. No more mom. And no more Abby.
He panicked and cried all night long.
The next day seeing how down everybody looked at breakfast he felt like crying again, but then his father arrived and he didn’t want to look like a baby.
It was so hard, seeing his mom like that.
Every time he passed her with another bag or backpack she just stood there, slouched shoulders, head low, tears glistening and ready to fall from those purple eyes.
He wanted to hug them, tell them he’d miss them too, but when he tried that with his mom he almost fell apart.
Instead he played it cool. Even when Abby hugged him, told him she would miss him and asked him if he would miss her.
Right as he wanted to tell her yes and hug her back, he saw his dad pass by.
So instead he played it cool, brushed her off by saying something that sounded cool in his head, but came out all wrong.
The first week in his new home was exciting and he felt like he hit the lottery.
Everything was big, beautiful, flashy, amazing.
He was special here.
Back home he was just another boy, mediocre at academics and sports, no special talents. Not particular popular. Just average. Here he was the son of a celebrity.
People treated him special. He lapped it up.
But then the homesickness set in.
He was too ashamed to admit it to his father, but he missed his mom. Missed her badly. So much that he would cry himself to sleep every single night. Secretly.
Missing his mom.
Every day. Every night.
He even missed Heath.
And the cats.
And Abby. Especially Abby.
He felt so guilty for having been so mean to her.
He recalled when they first met. And when their parents moved in together.
It was all so sudden.
At first he didn’t like Abby. Or her father. They were taking his mom from him. And Abby was just too much. While he was just a boy like many others with a handful of friends, that girl had it all. Everybody loved her, even his own mother, she brought home one A after the next, she was popular in school and just anything she’d touch she’d excel at. And she was pretty. Those eyes. Everybody talked about those eyes. And she was a vampire. How cool was THAT? He knew because his mother told him, but he was sworn to secrecy and not to tell any of his friends. Abby didn’t want any of the kids to know. If that was him, if he were the vampire, he’d have told every single one of them. he’d have given anything to be special. For any reason, no matter which. Against her, he just paled in comparison and felt inadequate around her, hated her for it, her being so sweet and nice to him only made it worse. Except when it came to her dad. She took his meanness in stride, but when Jacob was mean to Heath, Abby would defend him fiercely, and aggravatingly enough, that impressed Jacob. Even when his mouthing off to Heath earned him a slap from Abby once. After the first shock, he started crying, so he ran to his room, but as he was sitting there, he admired her for it. No matter what that girl did, it was just so awesome. All the more reason to hate her.
Then one night he caught her crying in her room.
At first he wanted to be a smart Alec about it, tease her, make her cry more, but when he had pushed open the door and saw her so vulnerable, he couldn’t help but be nice.
When she opened up to him, he learned that she had her fears and feelings of rejection and not fitting in too. Just like him. In that moment he felt connected with her somehow. Like a real sister.
After that night they became friends. He realized that he liked her. A lot.
She helped him with school and had a way to explain things better then his teachers or mom could.
Even school projects were fun with her. And dressing up in bear costumes.
And now she was gone. Or better, he was.
His father had hired a nanny to help with his son when he couldn’t be home, even though there were grandparents, but they were …. odd. His father was gone a lot, and even when he was home he never helped with homework, never played with Jacob. That was the nanny’s job.
No mom, no Abby, just some stranger who got paid to deal with him.
And a butler.
And a maid.
And weird grandparents.
Every time he called his mom, just to hear her voice and feel like she was just next door – and he called her nearly daily now – he hoped she would also talk about Abby, so he wouldn’t have to ask. Whenever she didn’t, he just asked about ‘everybody’.
The homesickness only got worse and worse.
So one night he called her.
His fingers shaking as he dialed her number, holding his breath for the dial tone.
His call was rejected.
But not as much as not talking to her at all.
So he voice called her a few days later, after sitting in front of his tablet for hours waiting for that little dot next to her name to turn green, signaling she was online.
She didn’t pick up.
But he needed to hear her.
Hear that voice. Always so sweet. Gentle. Calming.
He kept trying and trying.
Finally a reply.
As soon as he saw her response he called again.
And then he saw her. Those purple eyes.
He had been so excited that he had completely forgotten to think about a topic, his heart was racing, brain completely empty, he felt like an idiot so he said the first things that came to his mind. Just random things about what he saw around him.
Just kept talking and talking so she wouldn’t go away.
In the midst of his verbiage the call was disconnected.
He tried her right back, no answer.
Tried again and again. Nothing.
She would not reply to messages, texts, phone calls.
When his visit came up he could not wait to see his mom – and Abby.
The day before the flight he begged his father to take him shopping for a gift for Abby. She always got so excited when receiving gifts, he wanted to be the one making her happy this time. She’d smile, giggle, bearhug him and babble excitedly like she always did when receiving presents. It used to annoy him, now he looked forward to it.
But it had to be the right gift. Just what?
Then he had the idea. A bear. A purple one!
One of the last things they did together before he left, something that made both of them laugh till their tummies hurt, was dress up as bears.
Abby’s favorite color was purple.
Like her eyes.
Toy store after toy store he scoured, his father patiently with him, until he found it.
And now she didn’t even like it.
Said she was too old for stuffed animals and that he was just a little boy.
But wasn’t she just a little girl too? She wasn’t even two years older than him.
That’s not THAT much older. Right?
Weeks passed. Abby’s 13th birthday was approaching, fast.
“Abby, sweetie, your dad and I want to throw you a party. You can invite all your friends from school, as many as you like.” Sam smiled at Abby.
“No, thanks. I’d rather keep it small.”
“What? Oh, honey, are you worried about the costs, please don’t. It’s your special day. That needs to be celebrated.”
“Not a big deal. Just you guys. Maybe Auntie Evey and uncle KC. And Jacob. If he wanted to, of course. He doesn’t HAVE to.”
“Oh sweetie, Jacob cannot come. He has school. And it’s not his time to visit. Sorry. I wished you had said something sooner, maybe I could have talked to his dad and made arrangements..”
“Why his dad? I didn’t invite his dad. It should be his decision, not his dad MAKING him. And honestly, he knows when my birthday is, so if he wanted to come, he would have asked already. But he didn’t. So I don’t want him there either. Not if his dad would MAKE him come.”
“It’s okay Heath, I get it.”
“You still cannot talk to your mother like that.”
“She is NOT my mother. My mother is dead. A pile of bones and dust in the ground somewhere. She is Jacob’s mother and Ash’s and whoever that is in her belly. Not mine. And you just keep having kids to replace me. And Jacob. Not fair!”
Heath could not believe his ears.
Abigail started crying and ran up the stairs.
“Abigail Grainger!” Heath started after her, Sam tried to hold him back.
“Leave her. It’s just the hormones.”
“No Sam, that is not acceptable! I do not recognize my own daughter anymore. This has to stop!”
Heath went to Abby’s room, knocked. No answer, so he just entered, found her sobbing on the bed.
His heart broke. What had happened to his happy, little girl? For months she had been so very melancholic and explosive. A different person.
“Not now, dad!” he heard muffled from her face being pressing into the pillows.
Dad? Not even daddy anymore? Urgh. Heath thought.
“Abigail, please get out of those pillows and let’s talk. Something is clearly wrong. Maybe I can help.”
“You can’t. Just go away.”
“Let me at least try. Please, Abby.”
She turned to him
“Okay fine, then let’s see if you can help. Fix this. Fix me!” she pointed up and down on herself.
“But baby, what do you mean? There is nothing wrong with you. You are perfect. A smart and beautiful little girl, on the verge of becoming a smart and beautiful young lady.”
“WRONG! So so wrong.” Abby dismissed his words.
Heath was lost.
Overwhelmed he did what he had done when Abby had been sad or worried before, he laid down on the bed facing her. He knew she was getting too old for that, but that was all he could come up with.
Much to his surprise, she let him.
“What are you talking about, Abigail?”
“It’s already starting. I am changing. And I HATE it! I already sometimes get sick from food. Soon I won’t be able to eat at all anymore. I am going to need blood. BLOOD! That’s disgusting!”
“Abby, that’s just part of being a vampire …”
“I never asked to be one! It’s NASTY.”
“So you think I am nasty?”
“You don’t care. I do. I don’t want to be different. Jacob always called me a freak. And he was right. I AM.”
“Abby, we’ll just get you started on the serum, so you can be out during the day and you can eat food. Still. It’s no big deal.”
“Did Jacob really not ask to come to my birthday or are you just trying to surprise me? You can tell me daddy, it’s a lame surprise anyway …. if it were.”
She sounded so hopeful and it broke Heath’s heart to pop her bubble, but he didn’t want to lie either. He had absolutely no way to make Jacob attend, and doubted that his father would allow it on such short notice. From the sounds of it, he was always stretched thin and planned up. Jacob was not allowed to travel alone, had to be delivered and picked up by his father, per the court order.
He pulled her closer to him.
“Jacob cannot come since it is in the middle of the school year. It just didn’t work out right. I am sorry, my angel.” Heath decided to bend the truth a little.
“I thought he liked me, daddy. Thought he was my friend …”
The sudden quiet and sad tone in her voice melted Heath’s heart.
“Of course he does and he is your friend, but this is tough on him too and you have not been very nice to him the last few times he came to visit.”
“Because he hurt me, daddy. Badly.”
“Did he hit you?”
“No, worse. With words.”
“Oh, sweet angel, you two have said things to each other all ..”
“No daddy. Not that. It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand. But it broke something. Inside of me. You know what, never mind daddy. Sorry I yelled at you and mom. I didn’t mean it. But I don’t want a big party. Please. Just us. And Aunt Evey and Uncle KC. Please.”
“All right, my angel. Now go wash up and brush your teeth. It’s still late and still a school night so off to bed with you. I’ll be by in a bit to tuck you in. Or are you too old for that now too?”
“Not today, daddy.”
He kissed her forehead and left.
In the hallway he stopped and exhaled deeply, in vampires, who did not breathe, always a sign of tension.
If this sweet, easy child could become THIS complicated THIS fast, the thought of two more children scared him. One a baby, one not even born yet, but at some point they would all get here. Oh boy.
Then Abby’s birthday came.