It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice.Ursula K. Le Guin
Listening to another one of my daughter’s rants about complicated high school life, bitchy girls and immature boys I managed to look interested and moved by it, until she put the cherry on top by closing with
“You are so lucky that you found a man like dad. It is so hard to find a decent man nowadays.” followed by a deep sigh.
That did it. I snorted my sip of coffee back into my cup and couldn’t stop laughing, which earned me an angry glance from our now 15 year old daughter.
“I do not see how that is funny. Like at all.” she informed me, definitely upset by outburst.
“It’s not, honey, sorry. I just had to think about something funny Brendan said earlier. I am sorry, this is definitely no laughing matter, and you are absolutely right, Mr. Rights don’t grow on trees.” I said with a straight face I should get a Starlight Accolade award for or at the very least a nomination.
The reason it was funny to me was not only the obvious irony of hearing a 15 year old girl talk about the hardships of relationships, which she had still zero personal experience with, not even a first kiss yet, let alone anything beyond that, but also the fact that on any given day our living room was packed up to the rafters with teen boys, obviously decent enough in her book that she would probably trust them with her life, but evidently deemed unsuitable to date, perhaps because she looked at them more as brothers rather than potential suitors.
‘Ana’s boys’, as we all called them, her childhood friends, who would come over, eat empty our fridge and pantry, block our tiny living room, the TV, or – weather allowing – the patio furniture for hours on end, while plotting teenage stuff to antagonize their poor parents with.
Brendan had his friends over often enough too, but they were smaller and usually easily contained in his room or playing video games, but above all they preferred to be outside, if at all possible.
Oh, all the parents had tales to tell, not just us. We thought having a teen daughter was tough, but the other parents to boys had meanwhile set us straight. They all had the parenting cross to bear in one way or another.
All except Caleb, who was basically the main parent to his nephew. He had all under control, somehow. Whenever I asked him what his secret was, he would just snicker. I decided it probably had to do with the fact that Riordan wasn’t your average teen boy, and that things were just different for vampires. Riordan was on an accelerated learning curve now, since Caleb and his new wife Amelie found out that they were expecting twins, a boy and a girl which they would name Desmond and Celeste.
As happy as I was for Caleb to finally have found his slice of happiness, I worried about his illegitimate daughter Cara, after I learned that her mother was now pregnant by her husband. Ever since the truth had come to light about Caleb being Cara’s biological father after her mother had tried to pass her off as her husband’s child, the relationship between all three had been strained by the broken trust. I knew Caleb would take in the little girl in a heartbeat, but bureaucracy prevented that from happening.
Anastasia still had not made any female friends to talk of. No, Blaine and I didn’t love that, but couldn’t do much about it. Every time we suggested it, we got a long laundry list of all the shortcomings of the girls in her classes.
Brendan’s friends list was a lot more typical for his age. Mostly boys, he had one best friend named Donovan, and they were thick as thieves. The only girl he considered as not ‘gross’ was Cara, Caleb’s illegitimate daughter.
We spent a lot of time battling Anastasia, AGAIN, but this time she was mostly sweet as pie, just kept breaking rules. Our beautiful daughter had discovered clubbing and preferably wanted to do that in minuscule outfits and far beyond curfew hours and all weekend long, which naturally didn’t fly with Blaine – or me – but especially not with him.
Stubborn as she was we went through the whole cliché of her sneaking out or alternatively leaving in baggy outfits with the forbidden ones underneath, she’d break curfew, all that on rinse, repeat. It was bordering ridiculous dimensions. A never ending argument every single weekend.
No amount of grounding or punishment could change her mind, again and again she’d make tear-filled promises to never do this or that again – and not long after would get caught again.
Until the unavoidably day came that pretty much happens to every teen girl sooner or later: the first broken heart. The object of her desire was some guy in school I had never even heard of before she started talking about nothing but him. From the sounds of it he was some perfect Adonis who walked on water. I’ll cut through many weeks of this sickening swooning straight to the unhappy ending. The moment she came home from school I knew what had happened and when I found her in her room totally destroyed, all I could do was try to pick up the pieces.
Her infatuation was unrequited, instead he had toyed with her feelings, tried to pressure her into sex, when that didn’t work, it crash landed in some teen flick worthy high school hallway showdown scene. He even tried to start vicious rumors, but when Ana’s friends got wind of what was going down, they took over, teen boy style. Not that I condone that per se, but he got what he had coming to him. If you asked me, I would have wanted his head on a stake for hurting my little girl, so he already got off easy.
Ana may have been a little shit towards me at times, but seeing my precious daughter in such pain broke my heart. In the days and weeks following the incident she and I had many mother-daughter talks and for what it’s worth, it bonded us closer together. Blaine tried, but this wasn’t his forte and his attempts to console a teen girl’s broken heart usually ended with her running off to her room slamming the door behind her.
Either way, after that experience, she was ‘done with love’, which naturally neither Blaine nor I took all too seriously. During the mourning period while licking her wounds Ana became more clingy towards Blaine and me, barely went out anymore, even wanted to spent time with her little brother. We also got a new puppy, one of Charlie’s offspring with Joaquin’s dog, the puppy looked just like Charlie had when he was that little. Having a young dog to care for kept everyone on their toes and distracted.
Riordan was absent a lot which didn’t help Ana’s mood, Caleb loaded that boy’s schedule up with ungodly amounts of training, but whenever Riordan did catch a break, he was here, and he always seemed to know what to say to make Ana perk back up.
Anastasia still considered Clay her best friend as well, with him she was a typical teen, laughing and giggly about teen stuff. I can’t say for sure, but if she had to pick one over the other, I am pretty damn sure it would be Riordan, if only for the simple fact that Clay had a ton of other friends beside Ana and their gang, while Riordan didn’t.
Riordan was more on the serious side, somehow melancholic, they seemed connected on a different, deeper level. I wondered what would happen if Caleb ended up taking Riordan out of the equation longer term, all was possible, who could say? Caleb was tight-lipped about all things vampire. All I knew is that they would have to be separated at the very latest once Ana graduated high school and would go off to college one day in the not that distant future. 3 years may seem long now but time had a way of getting away from us. However it would play out, it would leave a mark with all of them.
Speaking of Riordan, funny little story to describe the full Anastasia-experience best.
One evening she came flying into our living room, where I was visiting with Caleb Vatore.
“Uncle Caleb! This is ridiculous now! Ri, the others and I were gonna go out on Friday, he just texted that he can’t now. That is not fair! You have to let him go! HAVE to. We have to all go!”
My eyes grew wide at the unleashing of an angry Ana-beast on Caleb, who remained absolutely calm. He had known her all her life, and was familiar with her temper, just had never been on the receiving end of it. Oh, this was gonna get good. Where was my popcorn?
“Apologies, Anastasia, but …” Caleb tried in his calm, soft spoken ways and was cut off.
“NO! No but. Postpone that stupid training! I mean seriously, Ri is young. I don’t know how long ago it has been that you were young, but once you were and you would have hated this too. It’s a fact of life that young people don’t want to constantly learn stupid dusty vampire stuff. They want to dance and have fun!”
“Ana, watch your tone please ….” I tried.
“It’s okay Viktoria, I understand why she would be upset. Alas …”
“Fine,” I thought to myself, “then handle it yourself, oh Master Caleb. Don’t cry afterwards about me not trying to save you from the beast.“
“No, you DON’T understand, uncle Caleb! Ri is going or I will totally come over to your house and make a riot. Like super-loud all night long. Or maybe all day, since everyone is a vampire there. Anyways, I’ll TP your yard, put dog shit in your mailbox…”
“Ana, enough!” I stopped her threats.
“As amusing as waiting to see how you would make it out to Forgotten Hollow without a car would be, my sweet Ana, I do not appreciate being threatened. You know very well that Riordan isn’t like you and your other friends. This is just part of it. You are going to have to understand.” Caleb started using his firm tone on her now.
“Pleeeeease uncle Caleb …. pleeeeeeeeaseee….” she immediately changed her approach, something I was all too familiar with and was trying so hard not to smirk, as I watched Caleb’s defenses crumble. Oh buddy, you were in for it now. She found your soft underbelly. Enjoy the ride.
“Look, Anastasia,…” he started, his voice already much softer and apologetic, when she loaded up the big guns upon realizing he wasn’t giving in yet. Ready, aim …. and fire!
Tears. I saw Caleb’s face turn from composed to concerned as the tears began to roll and she started to sniffle heartwrenchingly. I was hiding my grin behind my cup of coffee.
“Oh! Oh no, no, no, no, no, sweet girl, please don’t shed bitter tears about this silly thing. All right, all right. I suppose we can postpone it a week as an exception. Once I get back home I shall let him know he may go with you on Friday since he evidently already promised …” Caleb said gently.
“No need! I’ll call him right now! Thanks uncle Caleb, you’re the best!” she exclaimed, tears seized, she planted a quick peck on a dumbfounded Caleb’s cheek, then ran out, already typing on her phone – with the biggest, brightest smile.
“I have been had, haven’t I?” he asked me.
“Like the village’s only hooker on a Saturday night. Mark that one down for when your own daughters reach that age. And next time I try to save you, just let me. I live with her and she is no Riordan.” I told him laughing, patting his leg, which made him smile.
“No, she surely is not. She is a force of nature …” Caleb agreed.
“I think she’s also right. Let Riordan be a teen every once in a while, Caleb, he’s got time to be a vampire for eternity.” I said softly, resulting in a deep sigh by Caleb, followed by a nod.
We would often share a good laugh about this experience.
So Blaine and I weren’t incompetent after all, and Caleb wasn’t this infallible teenager-whisperer. The Grand Master vampire had met his match. In a lithe little 15 year old girl. Ha, the more you know.