Jacob was now attending a private school in Del Sol Valley.
Abby was a freshman at Brindleton Bay high.
The relationship between Abby and Jacob was never fully mended, his visits had been sparse for the majority of the past months, and his father wanted to make up for lost time, so he took his son on various extended trips around the globe to interesting and exotic places, sometimes to new filming locations, always with private teachers in tow.
Jacob had begged his mother to agree to him skipping visits, which she did with a heavy heart, hoping the old adage held true that absence would make the heart grow fonder and maybe remedied things for whenever Jacob’s visits would resume as scheduled.
Even before the many trips with his father, the timing of his trips back to Brindleton Bay somehow never seemed to work in the oldest kids’ favor.
Whenever Jacob was scheduled to come by for a weekend to see his mother, Abby would be away, either on school trips or on planned weekends with her friends.
Both Heath and Sam had the suspicion that it wasn’t truly as coincidental as all were to believe, but didn’t want to stir up more hormonal meltdowns than Abby already generated, especially when the topic of Jacob came up.
The handful of times the kids did end up in the home together always felt more like a documentary on a Mexican standoff than the overly sweet and happy family life you saw on TV where the entire clan would grin happily as they skipped through fields of wildflowers holding hands, so eventually neither Heath nor Sam pressed the issue anymore and settled for a truce and for the kids to interact on their terms.
Usually whenever Jacob would drop by for extended weekends together in Brindleton Bay, it would always start out promising. Jacob would come home, he and Abby would be somewhere between friendly and tolerating each other, but then Jacob would always do or say something that set Abby off, she would clam up, become illusive and resentful with a highly combustible temper.
Jacob in turn would mope around in his room, looking confused, usually trying to get back on Abby’s good side, only ever making things worse.
Then he would leave, Abby would usually not come down to say goodbye but they would always find her glued to a window watching the limousine disappear looking everything but happy or relieved. More like on the verge of tears.
Weeks would pass and suddenly they would find out that Abby and Jacob had been chatting on the computer or even talking on the phone, like nothing ever happened.
Eventually Heath and Sam accepted that not all patchwork families always worked out picture-perfect and left them be.
“Abby! ABBY! Telephone!” Samantha called up the stairs.
Normally she would have just gone upstairs rather than yell her lungs out, but she was heavy with her pregnancy and stairs were the enemy now, to be avoided whenever possible.
“Coming!” she heard Abby’s new teen voice now, shortly after which she already came running down.
“Here.” Sam handed her cell phone to Abby.
“Who is it?” Abby asked the obvious question as she took Sam’s phone.
“Answer it, then you know.” Sam winked at her and walked into the kitchen.
“Hello?” Abby inquired.
“Hey stranger! Remember me?” she heard a male voice, sounding vaguely familiar, then it dawned on her.
“Yup.” he sounded amused. His voice was deeper than she remembered it.
“Where are you?” Abby asked after hearing odd sounds in the background. Like parrots.
“I am in the jungle! Dad had to re-shoot a scene and took me along. It is sooo cool. I’ll text you a picture. But you have to answer me back.”
“Okay, I will. Why are you calling?”
“Just to talk.” Jacob’s told her.
“Want your mom back?”
“Nope, I wanted to talk to you. I would have called your phone, but someone always ignores me.”
“Yeah … sorry …. I have been busy … and I don’t ALWAYS ignore you.” Abby blushed when he called her out. He was right. She did. She had made herself sparse. And now she regretted it and felt guilty.
“Do you want to come visit me?” he asked her.
“In the jungle?!”
“No, silly. Del Sol Valley. We’re flying back tomorrow and Spring Break is coming up and I thought you want to see … umm … the Valley.” Jacob almost said ‘see me’, but thought that would deter her for sure.
“Jacob, you know we do not have that kind of money.”
“Dad offered to pay. And you’ll be staying with us. We have plenty of room.”
“Your father does not even know me.”
“He knows that I know you … ”
“I’d have to ask daddy. And mom… I mean your mom.” Abby corrected.
When he wasn’t around she had called Sam ‘mom’ since the early beginnings of their parents’ marriage, but that word had always been a sore subject with Jacob. Many fights happened because of it. And because Jacob refused to call Heath ‘dad’.
“You can call her mom. And mom already said yes. So your dad is going to say yes for sure.”
“You think?” Abby was enamored by the idea of spending Spring Break in Del Sol Valley.
“I KNOW.” Jacob predicted.
“Okay. I’ll come see you.”
“Awesome! Can’t wait. I’ll tell dad and have him send the details to mom.”
“WOW!” Abby looked around as they got out of the limousine and were walking up endless flights of stairs leading to the front door, past a huge gate. Mansion as far as the eye could see, everything pompous and gilded and … more like a palace than a home. All that for ONE small family?!
“Come on, let’s go inside, before you turn to ashes.” Jacob nudged her grinning.
“Wouldn’t that be your job?” he smirked as they entered
“Seriously?” Abby retorted, but was smiling.
Jacob looked and acted excited, even though it was obvious he was doing his best to hide it.
When the dust settled, after the tour of the house, a meal cooked by their butler, and looking at all the fancy things, Jacob and Abby went to his huge room to talk.
“That view though!” Abby swooned after looking out of a window, now sitting down next to Jacob.
“Yeah, Del Sol Valley, where dreams are big and disappointments are even bigger.”
“Ha ha, I think you could say that about any city. You look good, Jacob. Finally growing into that big mouth of yours.” Abby smiled, referring to Jacob’s immense growth spurt.
“You look good too, Abby. So different. I barely recognized you at the airport.”
“Good thing you didn’t see me until about 5 months ago then. My hair was PURPLE. All over.”
“Exactly what mom and dad said. I mean, your mom and my dad said.”
“I told you, you can call her mom. I don’t mind. I have grown up too.”
“Yeah, you look and sound no day younger than 11.”
“I was told I appear older. Most guess me about 15.”
“And they are lying to you.”
“Probably are. Lying is a big thing in this city.”
“So what do you do here every day?”
“Lots of things. As long as I completed all my school work, dad let’s me do almost anything I want. My private tutors come at 10, we’re usually done by 1 or 2 …”
“Private tutors? What are you now, King Jacob the First?”
“I used to go to a private school, but stuff happened and … dad thought it was better if the teachers came to me instead.”
“I need to suggest that to my dad. I’ll let you know how that went. So, what kinda stuff did you do? Bust some kid’s knee caps, gansta style?” Abby giggled.
“None of your business, freak.” Jacob chuckled.
Abby’s smile faded and changed to a disgusted grimace.
“Sorry, old habits.” Jacob shrugged.
“Shitty habit. I think I am gonna go lay down or something, jet lag and all.” Abby stood up and headed for the door.
“Abby wait. Please don’t go.”
She looked angry and sad now, and Jacob felt guilty.
“Don’t ever call me that again, or I will leave right away and never come back.” she hissed at him.
“Sorry, I forgot it’s such a trigger for you.”
“Trigger? For what? Me to turn into a bloodthirsty freaky monster and kill the entire neighborhood?” Abby was very angry now.
“Where did THAT come from. That just made no sense…” Jacob looked very confused, angering Abby even more.
“You calling me freak. Do you have amnesia?”
“You thought I called you freak because you are a vampire? Are you kidding?”
“Well, if not because of that, why then?”
“Because you are a freak of nature, there is nothing you cannot do and you’re always better than everyone else at everything, everybody loves you, you are always happy, always nice, never one bad day, you’re really pretty. You are just too perfect to be real. So you are a freak. Duh. I thought that was obvious.” Jacob looked taken aback for having to explain himself.
Abby stared at him.
All those years she thought he called her a freak for what she was, what she didn’t want to be, what she hated herself for being. A vampire.
“Are you okay?” Jacob asked worried when Abby still only stood and stared at him.
“I …. I …. I … thought you …. I thought you meant … ” she stuttered.
“Abby, I am not that kind of a moron. Besides, that does not make you a freak in my book, makes you literally the coolest person I know!”
“Cool? Do you have any concept about what being a vampire is like?” Abby looked disgusted.
“Yeah. I know they drink blood, turn to dust in the sun or when sprinkled with holy water or when they enter a church, the can turn into bats …” Jacob listed the cliches.
“Whoa! Wrong. Most can live off plasma fruit, my dad and I can’t, but most can. But with dad’s serum we can eat human food and don’t need blood. I never tried blood and I never will. If my dad ever runs out of serum I’ll rather starve to death. Now we would burn in the sun without the serum, so that is true. But I can enter churches just fine and holy water does nothing to me. How else would we attend funerals? Duh? You know I go to the cemetery frequently to bring flowers to my mom’s grave. The only bathroom is inside the church. Of course I can enter. A lot of vampires go to church frequently. And nobody can turn into an animal. Not bats and not any other ones. Not even I.”
“I have seen you turn into a fire-breathing dragon when you are mad. Especially at me.”
“Ha ha – funny.” Abby had to smile, something about the way he said that was sweet.
“OK, you wanna know why I am no longer in private school? Because I failed out of it. I am too dumb. Without you helping me and explaining stuff, I didn’t get it and just gave up. Supposedly a learning disability. My father was so embarrassed that I have a disabled brain, as my grandfather calls it. So to hide the shame, special teachers come to the house. There, now you can laugh about me.”
“Why would I laugh about that? It’s not your fault.” Abby felt sorry for Jacob. His grandfather sounded mean.
“See, you are way too nice. I missed that. People here are not always as nice as they seem. Actually, most are not. They are nice to you, you trust them, and then you find out they have been telling everybody your flaws and secrets. I have no friends here, Abby. I think that is why dad took me away. I think he is ashamed of me for many things.”
“No way. Why would he be? You are great, Jacob. If the kids here don’t want to be your friends, their loss. They are the dumb ones, not you. They are the freaks.”
“I am so glad you came. I missed you Abby.” Jacob just stepped forward and hugged her. She let him, even hugged him back.
“I missed you too. Really did. I feel bad now for being so mad at you for so long, for nothing at all, when all it ever was is a misunderstanding.”
“You can make it up to me by promising to write me back. Maybe we can chat more often. Or even talk on the phone sometimes.”
“Fine, you dork. I promise. We’ll do that.”
They spent the time together, laughing, becoming real friends. The week was over way too soon for both of them.
Watching Abby disappear through security Jacob didn’t even care about the tears streaming down his face. So what, that boys don’t cry according to his father and grandfather? So what if it showed weakness and what not? He was sad and felt weak right now having to watch his friend leave again, not knowing when they would be able to spend time together again.
They would see each other during the court scheduled visits in Brindleton Bay and whenever an impromptu weekend visit was possible, oddly now the timing always worked out perfectly and Abby was home from the minute he got there to waving goodbye as the car drove off with him again. When they didn’t see each other face to face, they would chat nearly daily, text and write.
One day, Abby was standing outside with her friends during recess when a text from Jacob came in.
A friend stole her phone and when they found a picture of Jacob, the interest and teasing was great.
“WOW, he is soooooooooooo cute!” her friend Audrey cooed, showing the picture around.
“OMG, YAS! Does he have a girlfriend? I mean, one he wouldn’t mind losing. I need to meet that guy! You HAVE to call me next time he is here.” Amber fangirled.
“So he is like rich? Is he arrogant or nice?” Kayla asked.
“No, Jacob is really sweet. Funny, considerate, I can talk to him for hours …and we usually do.” Abby told them smiling.
“You’d make a cute couple Abby! I can totally ship that!” Kayla told her winking.
Abby blushed, her heart raced, she smiled, eyes glazed over … until she crashed to the ground all the way from cloud 9 when Amber said
“But isn’t he like your brother. That would be just gross!” Amber pulled a disgusted face.
“Oh yeah, eeew. Gross.” Audrey confirmed, also frowning.
From that moment on, all she could think about was that Amber had been right.
The entire walk home, while running up to her room and even now, sitting on her window seat she was still pondering that fact.
He was her brother.
And almost 2 years, well 1.5 anyway, her junior.
She had totally forgotten about that and when he put his arm around her as they were watching the sunset over Del Sol Valley on the last evening there.
She had hundreds of butterflies in her stomach that evening and hoped he would lean over and kiss her, all romantic like they did in the movies.
That would have been the perfect first kiss.
“Gawd Abigail, you really are a freak. What the hell kinda creepy fantasy movies are you rolling in your messed up vampire brain. OMG, if anybody knew about this. Urgh.” she told herself as she still could not believe this horrible oversight on her part.
Exactly in that moment a call came in on her phone, she saw it was Jacob, she felt exposed, so she clicked “Ignore”.
Not two seconds later a text beeped.
‘U better be on the crapper!’
Abby couldn’t help but giggle about his crudeness as she texted back.
‘You are GROSS!’
‘And you were ignoring me, when you promised you wouldn’t.’
This conversation made her feel so much better already, so she dialed his number.
“Hey. It’s alive! Did everything come out all right.”
“What? I know you are not above bodily functions, Abby. Not gross, normal.”
“Can we just talk about something else?”
“If you weren’t on the pot, why did you ignore my call?”
“OMG – I was doing something. I do have a life, too. Chill. I called you right back.”
“I just don’t want you to forget about me again. I miss home.”
“I thought you were home? Where are you?”
“At my father’s house. That’s not what I meant. This doesn’t feel like home anymore. I miss home. Brindleton Bay. And mom. And you. Even the baby.”
“That’s just because you do not live here. He can be seriously annoying. Trust me. If you don’t believe me, we can trade places. I’ll chill in the big crib and you deal with a baby next door to your room.”
“If you were not there, it would still not feel like home, Abby.”
Her heart skipped a beat. She blushed.
NO! she commanded herself. NO NO NO NO NO!
But his words felt good.
She closed her eyes. For the first time ever she wished her father would never have married Samantha. That would fix all this in an instant.
“Too needy?” he asked quietly since there had been a long pause.
“What? No, I just thought of something one of my friends said today.”
“What did she say?”
“Thought you were cute. Wants to meet you.” Abby told the half-truth.
“What does she look like?”
“I don’t know, long blond hair, blue eyes, pretty I guess….”
“Not my type.”
“Oh, you have a type now?”
“So what is your type?” her heart beat fast, anticipating his reply.
“I’ll never tell you.”
“Fine, then I won’t play cupid. Naner.”
“Don’t you know that love will always find a way.” he said, laughing.
His last sentence kept echoing in her head for a long time after the call ended.
Abigail found Heath in the dining room, apparently working, his laptop and notepads sprawled across the table.
She sat down across the table from him
“Daddy, can I ask you something complicated?”
“Uh – sure sweet pea.” Heath attempted a smile, which failed mostly, due to him dreading her question. ‘Please let this not be about some monthly girl problems. PLEASE!’ he thought panicked.
“You and Auntie Evey … how did you deal with her being unattainable and how did you get over her?”
Heath felt like he’d have a stroke. He must have had misheard. Or misunderstood.
“What?” he pressed out.
“I just need some advice please.”
“What do you mean Aunt Evey being unattainable? And me getting over her?” she had to mean something other than what he was thinking. HAD TO!
“Come on daddy, it’s me. I know you had a crush on her. Probably still do. But you moved on. I need to know how you did that and ended up happy with mom after all.”
“Uh .. I … ahem… uh … what? Where did you get that crazy idea?!” Heath tried to deflect.
“Because I know you, and I saw the way you used to look at her. And sometimes still do.”
Heath could not believe his ears. Nightmare. Had to be. Worst one ever.
“Abby, that is not what you think. Your aunt Evey and I are soulmates, but not romantic. Just VERY good friends. Reminds me, I need to explain the concept of the vampire soulmate to you.”
“Daddy, I know what that is. And I have seen you and Aunt Evey kiss. REALLY kiss. Back when I was still really little. And not like I would kiss a friend. Daddy, seriously, it is cool. I won’t tell. Last thing I want is you in trouble with mom. But I need your advice, so please.”
“All right, 13 going on 30, there is no advice to be had. If you love someone you cannot be with for whatever reason, you have to count your losses and move on. Try to be happy some other way. Avoiding them sounds like the most obvious solution, but that didn’t work for me. Try to divert your attention, and affection, to someone you can have a future with and you may find yourself falling in love even harder. Wow, I cannot believe I am saying all this to my little girl. Please let this be a nightmare.”
“Daddy, you are a drama queen. Whom else would I ask than my incredible, amazing daddy? The bestest daddy in the world.”
Heath couldn’t help but smile about all that sliming she did now.
“Good grief, you are laying it on thick. Glad I could help. But how would you know about vampire soulmates?”
“You and aunt Evey, duh. Remember, I was always with you. I heard you two talk. Oh, I gotta go now, Jacob and I were gonna chat in 5 minutes. Thanks daddy, you are awesome.”
She planted a big kiss on his cheek then rushed off. Or tried to. Heath quickly held on to her.
“Wait a second. Why did you ask all this? Is there a boy you like? Does he have a girlfriend or what is the issue? Did he try to kiss you? Wait, he is not significantly older than you, is he? How old is he?”
“Something like that. Don’t worry about it, daddy. Nothing serious.”
“But I do. If there is a boy, I want to meet him, Abby. No sneaking around. I know you are no longer a little girl, you’re growing up, but I do not want secrets between us. Can you do that for me? I want to trust you, but I need to know I can. Unconditionally.”
“Sure daddy. But there is nothing TO tell. Just asking for a friend.” Abby kissed his cheek, then ran upstairs.
Heath was irked by Abby’s odd questions. He knew about teen pregnancies and online predators and such. His girl may be smart beyond her years and vampires aged and matured differently than mortals, but at the end of the day she was still only 13 years old by any count. She did spend a lot of time on her laptop, chatting to her friends and Jacob. Sam and he trusted her, she had never been sneaky or given them reason not to, but that conversation stuck with Heath.
He waited til Abby left for school the next morning, Sam went to work, he took care of Ashton and when the baby was napping, Heath went into Abby’s room.
Sitting down at her desk, he felt like a traitor for betraying her trust as he typed in her password.
Searching through the chat history, her pictures, emails, he found nothing out of the ordinary. Aside for volumes of chats between Abby and Jacob he read messages between her and her friends talking about celebrity crushes, gossip about classmates, complaints about teachers, trading tricks on how to pressure parents into buying that current item of desire.
It made him smile.
Until he got to the browser history.
In between homework research, teen boy band links, shopping, social media sites and music websites he found an online search that shocked him deeply.
Staring at it he finally woke from his paralysis and shook his head.
‘Is is illegal for step-siblings to date?’