The man who can keep a secret may be wise, but he is not half as wise as the man with no secrets to keep.Edgar Watson Howe
Brindleton Bay Cunningham Estates Anastasia's 30th birthday party
Riordan turned towards the young woman who impatiently had tapped on his arm and called out his name, he now glared at her, annoyed and borderline upset.
“What?!” he growled.
“I …. just … I was wondering if you maybe wanted to dance …?” nervously she giggled up at him.
“Dance? DANCE?! Do you not realize how bimbo that sounds? See anyone else dancing? No. You know why? Because it’s a birthday party, not a rave, so no, I do not want to fucking dance!” he roared, instantly clouding her bright blue eyes with unpleasant surprise as they started to well up.
She turned from him and rushed away, torn and cursing at himself, Riordan looked back over at Anastasia, who was still talking to others, laughing, then he hurried after the girl. He barely caught the bathroom door closing and heard it lock, so he stood there, helpless at first, before he carefully knocked.
“Evangeline? Vannie, open up. Please. Vannie, I am sorry, I didn’t mean it!” he called through the shut door, guilty feelings already gnawing on his conscience.
When there was no reply he put his ear on the door and heard soft sobbing.
His face darkened with shame about his dismal behavior.
“Evie, I am sorry. Really, I didn’t mean to upset you. Please … open the door, okay?”
After several more minutes the door did open, without barely looking at him Evangeline stepped out. Riordan came closer but halted when he noticed her taking a step back to get out of reach.
“Just take me home.” she demanded quietly.
“Home? Already? We haven’t even …”
“Forget it. Don’t worry about it!” her tone was unusually dismissive as she cut him off, then dug for her phone and began typing on it.
“What are you doing?”
“Ordering an Uber. You have fun. I am going home.”
“No! Evie … Vannie, okay, I will take you home.”
“That’s okay. My driver is less than 10 minutes out. Bye.” she looked around quickly, before heading out the front door.
Riordan followed her down the walkway, where they now stood awkwardly.
“Please, let me at least come with you.” Riordan begged.
“To … see you to your door, safely. At least.”
“No thanks. It’s 2020, I have pepper spray and I can hold my own. Your old-fashioned BS is not required. If you wanted to be gentleman, that ship sailed already for you after tonight. You can get your own Uber, you are so not riding with me!”
“Please, Vannie, come on. What can I say or do to make it better?”
“Just leave me alone! Why did you even bring me here, Riordan? I thought you wanted to introduce me to your friends, you know, next level us or something, instead you brought me here as your beard so you can spy on your ex! Seriously!”
“I … what?” Riordan felt naked now.
“Oh, you think I am THAT stupid?! You definitely got the wrong girl then. I may be gullible and naïve, but I am no fool and I definitely do not need whatever this was. Ah, there is my car. Have fun doing this crazy stalking business, and don’t call me – ever!”
Evangeline jumped into the Prius with the Uber sign in the window, all Riordan could do was watch her drive off.
Cursing and kicking some rocks along the Cunningham residence’s walkway Riordan remained, then screamed out his frustration. This had gone South quickly. He felt incredibly bad and guilty. Why had he been so uncontrolled and stupid?!
Yes, he had brought Evangeline here partly to show her off to Ana and the others, to proof he wasn’t some pitiful lonely creature anymore but had someone new in his life too, finally. He also enjoyed spending time with Evangeline, her sunny disposition and positive attitude were like medicine for him.
Unfortunately when he saw Ana that night, for the first time in a long time, he just found himself on a terrible emotional rollercoaster, couldn’t help staring, hoping to catch her alone if only for a few minutes.
Just to talk freely once more.
For almost six months now he had only ever seen her from the distance, or if not, there had always been someone else around, listening, so their conversations were idle banter at best, not the honest and deep talks they used to be throughout their lifelong friendship. Nearly 30 years quasi ending so abruptly was tough, especially since Riordan had kept his promise and stayed away, not just romantically, but completely to avoid any potential for issues.
Now it would appear that he just lost someone else from his life.
The argument with Evangeline made Riordan trip back down memory lane.
Flashback About three months ago Newcrest
Riordan met Evangeline by sheer coincidence, not looking for someone new at all. Lost and lonely with no place left to go after losing his former best friend, he ended up snooping around his father’s home, to see him with his new family, see what he could have had if his father hadn’t rejected him and his mother for what they were. Suddenly there was Evangeline, looking like an angel sighting to Riordan with her long wavy blonde hair framing her face illuminated by the light behind her.
“Excuse me, can I help you?” she called out to him.
“What?! Oh, no thanks. I am just …. ahem ….” Riordan stuttered, she had surprised him. The last time he had been here this house was sitting empty like it had for a long time, so he never even bothered to notice the light in the many huge windows all over.
“What you are is standing in my yard – trespassing – in the dark, staring through my neighbor’s fence into their home. So, please stop that and leave right now or I am calling the cops.” her voice was determined, but still so sweet that it left Riordan discombobulated.
“Please don’t. I … look … That man who lives there, your neighbor and I … long story.” Riordan stuttered.
Before she could reply they both heard another voice, an angry one, when Akira Kibo now appeared near Evangeline’s mailbox and instantly laid into Riordan.
“Are you here again, you awful creep!? I thought I made myself perfectly clear last time! How many times do I have to tell you to leave my family and me alone?! Go back to your decrepit mother and leave decent people alone! You should have never been born, you abomination of nature!” Kibo yelled.
“Wow – that’s super-rude, Mr. Kibo.” Evangeline called back, her tone surprised.
“Evangeline, stay out of it. And stay away from that guy. You do not understand who – or what – that is! He is bad news and shouldn’t be here, I do not want you around me or my kids! And you stay away from that nice girl or I swear I will forget myself and off you for good! I’d do the world a huge favor, should have smothered you as a baby!”
“Oh my God! That is quite enough now, Mr. Kibo! This young man is my guest and I thank you not to insult my friends. Come on … ahem … friend, let’s go inside now!” the girl yelled while dragging Ri into her home with her and onto a couch. And like a toddler he let her.
“Oof, sorry about that! Mr. Kibo is usually so super-nice, the whole family is. Whenever something breaks in my house, he’ll come and fix it for me. Like a total dream-neighbor. Not sure who peed in his Cheerios this morning, I swear I never heard him even raise his voice before. What in the world could you have done to him to make him snap like that?” she told Riordan.
“I was born, that’s what set him off. He is my father. He and my mother dated a long time ago and he ditched her when she was pregnant.” Riordan answered, surprised by the truth spilling out of him so freely.
“Mr. Kibo has an illegitimate son? A deadbeat dad?! OMG! No way! Wow! I swear, you really never know about people. Well, I am Evangeline, by the way, but that’s a mouthful, so you can call me Eva. Or Evie. Or Vannie. I have a lot of names and I listen to them all.” she giggled.
“Riordan. Friends call me Ri.” Riordan replied politely, while laughing at himself for acting as if he had any friends. Not really, not anymore. Ana had been pretty much it. And the Camerons, but he didn’t see them much now, since they were Ana’s family and it was just odd.
“Want some kombucha, Ri?” Evangeline now offered.
“Kombucha. Fermented black tea, very healthy. Bit of an acquired taste, I guess.”
“Uh, no, thanks, pass.”
While she chatted on about healthy and sustainable living and such, Riordan had been debating with himself whether she would be something to pass the time with, possibly a good live snack, maybe even a one night stand.
But instead he started listening, watching her animated ways to tell a story, which he couldn’t help but find incredibly charming just like the freckles across her nose and cheeks. He realized she wasn’t the ditsy he initially thought she was, but instead so genuinely sweet, kind-hearted, soft-spoken, pleasant and fun to talk to that Riordan dismissed his original plan. She was too good for that. And she made him feel good, just watching her, listening to her. Like a walking, talking antidepressant.
She gave him her number, he left, while walking to find a dark alley to teleport home without any witnesses he carelessly balled up the piece of paper with her number on it and tossed it while walking on, but within minutes he found himself right back there, crawling on the ground searching for it.
The next day he called her to go out for a date.
Three days later they shared their first kiss after he had walked her home from yet another date together.
Two weeks after that he slept with her for the first time and it made him feel so alive. While he left with some excuse before morning, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. Vannie was so very different from Ana, not at all his type, almost the exact opposite of the type of women he was normally attracted to, but she was almost addictive to him. She possessed a quiet confidence, knew what she wanted, but wasn’t as volatile about it as Ana. Unlike Ana’s cool composure only ever interrupted by passionate outbursts, Vannie was just a ray of sunshine, seemingly always in a good mood, always a smile on her face, always looking for the the good in people and the positive in any situation. This calmed his explosive temper and constant anxiety.
Over only a few weeks of going out with her there was a noticeable difference in Riordan’s attitude, she calmed him, made him better, happier, he smiled a lot. Even his uncle noticed a difference, so eventually Riordan mentioned Evangeline to him. Surprisingly Caleb seemed okay with the news, rather than trying to talk Ri out of dating her.
When Ana and Chase invited him to Ana’s 30th birthday party at the Cunningham Estates he agreed, thinking he could show he was living his best life while flaunting pretty little Evangeline.
Current Day Newcrest Evangeline Chamberlain's home
By now he had teleported near her house and walked up to her front door, knocked when he spotted her through the large glass door. She clearly had been crying, it broke his heart, she was way too sweet to go through this, and it pained him even more knowing he was the one who caused this.
Shortly after he gently knocked, it was opened. She let him in, probably mostly to not entertain the crowd of people loitering across the street near the bowling alley there.
“What do you want, Ri? I really do not want to talk to you now.”
“Just let me apologize to you.” Riordan’s voice was soft and pleading.
“What for? I can save you that effort, I really have no desire to be the rebound girl. I know I am no major prize, but I can do better than that.”
“You’re not a rebound! Why would you even say that?!” Riordan didn’t even have to act shocked.
“Don’t even try, Riordan. Now that I have seen your ex, I know there is no way you really like me. I am like the exact opposite to her, she is gorgeous, rich, an attorney, graceful, …. And here I am, nerdy and clumsy old freckle-faced average girl next door me, with my glasses and mostly second hand clothing. Come on now. It’s like you purposely chose me to be the exact opposite of her. I saw you staring at her, I bet you were wishing you were her husband the way you bit my head off when I interrupted. Just leave and let’s both get on with our lives, while I wallow in my shame of having been such an idiot to think a guy like you would fall for a girl like me. Seriously, what was I thinking?”
Something made him realize he was genuinely afraid of losing her.
Riordan looked into her sad eyes, leaving him to feel like he was about to face the most important test of his lifetime.
“First of all, you are beautiful, stunning even. I can’t believe you can’t see that yourself. I can. Secondly, you also have inner beauty that shines outwards, giving you a sort of halo on top of all. Like an angel. Thirdly, I was the one to break up with Ana. Look, I wasn’t staring at her because I want her back, I was staring because she and I grew up together, spent nearly every day together since we were babies, and now, for the past few months she has been almost completely gone from my life. We used to hang together so much, before we ever even fell in love, used to tell each other everything. And now … she has her husband and family seemed to have moved on and I am all alone, left in the dust, feeling discarded in a way. Just a tough pill to swallow and I got emotional and took it out on you, which I shouldn’t have.”
“Ok, I do get that, better than you think. I too lost my best friend, someone I grew up with, spent every moment of my life together with, shared every secret with. And then suddenly … gone. One of the reasons I just up and moved here. Total on the whim decision. Kinda stupid in retrospect. I mean, look at this place, I pretty much live in a giant fish tank, my every movement out there for all the world to watch.”
“Sorry to hear about your loss. What did she die of, if I may ask?”
“Oh, no. She is actually a he, and very much alive. He just fell in love. Not with me, but his new girlfriend – sorry, fiancée now – felt he and I were too close and after some intense behind the back warfare against me she made him choose: me or her. Well, he chose her. I don’t have any family, my parents died when I was 12, don’t have many friends aside from him and then he kicked me to the curb. So I left. I had to. Too many memories, everywhere. But yeah, I do get your outburst now. That stuff hurts bad. Makes you do nonsensical stuff, like donating almost everything you own, choosing your new home with eyes closed while pointing at a map, like I did. So not like my usual behavior.”
“Wow, that’s even shittier than my story and doesn’t sound fair at all. His fiancée sounds like a major bitch. He should have stood up for you, I mean what kinda basis for a relationship is some ultimatum? What a loser!”
“Agreed, he should have, but he didn’t and I wasn’t going to beg. To be perfectly honest Ri, there is more to that story, making it more awkward. You’re not the only one who had his heart broken badly. I was secretly in love with my best friend since I was like 14 or so. I am 23 now, meaning I have been sitting on that for years, watching him date, drool over other girls. One day – like about a year or so ago – I finally worked up the courage to tell him how I felt. I went all out, cooked some nice dinner, dolled myself up, practiced my speech in the mirror all afternoon … when he finally came over I never got the chance to say what I wanted to say, as he immediately excitedly told me about the girl he fell in love with. Spoiler alert: wasn’t me. So, I suffered in silence watching him date her instead of me, get engaged to her. She never liked me at all, and when she instigated against me, and he chose her side, I just had to get far away.”
“Wow, that super-sucks. I really do get that better than you’d think. Wish I could just leave and start over somewhere.”
“Why don’t you? What is holding you back? I would recommend a realtor and research over the finger on map method to find your next home though.”
“Oh, my life is so complicated. There is so much about me you don’t know, that you can’t know and if you did know, you would not like me one bit anymore. You’d be running.”
“Ah, so you have a criminal past then? I knew you were too good to be true. How bad is it?”
“Nothing criminal. I wish that were it. It’s something about me. My … person. My body. Inside of me. Something is seriously wrong with me.”
“Wrong? You don’t have an STD or something, right? Or are you telling me you are some insane serial killer or something? Oh, please don’t tell me you have a terminal illness?!”
“No, of course not! None of that. It’s very complicated. I .. maybe I should go now.” Riordan felt cornered and thought evasion would be the best approach.
“Ri, …. stay.” she said quietly, something in her voice made him feel funny all over.
“Yeah. I feel maybe neither of us should be alone tonight.”
“I do want to … but I am not sure I should. Evie, there is so much about me that would make you turn your back on me, appalled. I … probably should have never wasted your time to begin with. You are way too good for me, too nice, too sweet, you deserve so much better than me … and you saw what kind of an asshole I can be. I wish I could claim that was a one time thing, but I kinda have a problem with temper and bad decisions.”
“Ri, look. I hope I am not speaking out of turn here, but I like you, a LOT. I mean, something real, something that could have a future. And I kinda had the impression it was mutual, especially with how you are acting now, coming after me to apologize and so on. But there is no future for anything when big things are kept a secret right at the beginning. Way I see it, you have exactly two choices if you don’t want to get into something that will for sure crash and burn sooner rather than later. Option 1 is to just call it quits, right now. Walk away, never look back. No risks, but no gain either. Option 2 would be to tell me the truth about you, get it all out there, and then we both re-evaluate where we stand with each other. I am not going to insult your intelligence by pretending that no matter what you tell me will be fine with me and we will skip into the sunset together, but at least it wouldn’t stand between us anymore. The truth will set you free, as they say. Your choice.”
Riordan turned away, stared out the large glass of the door, looking out at nothing in particular, considering what she said. This was so much like her. So calm, but so very honest and a total straight shooter. He considered leaving. It would be the safest way. But he had done so much leaving in his life, which only ever lead to heartbreak.
He turned around.
“Okay, you know what, Vannie? Fuck it. You want the truth, I’ll give you the truth. Sure you want that, though, because it may be very hard to handle for you?”
“Yes, I do want the truth, always the truth. And I am tougher than I look, Ri.”
“Okay. Do you believe in supernatural things, Vannie?”
“Like ghosts you mean?”
“No. Like vampires.”
Evangeline chuckled, then got serious when she realized Riordan wasn’t joking.
“No, Ri, I do not believe in vampires – or ghosts, or werewolves and all that – because I can’t, since it cannot be. I mean, you know I am very much in touch with nature and all things spiritual, but I like logic … and there is just no way mythology could be real. There is always a better explanation.”
“What if I told you that I am a vampire? An immortal.”
“Ri … come on. I get that goth phase thing a lot of us go through, but – no offense – aren’t we a bit old for that? I mean you are cute and all with that dark theme and hint of mysteriousness around you, but vampire is taking it a bit far.”
“Feel for my pulse, then, or heartbeat. You won’t find any of that. Because I am not really alive, not as you are. I even have fangs, surprised you never noticed them when we kissed in a more … spirited way.”
“Of course you have a pulse and a heartbeat or you wouldn’t be standing there, Ri, sometimes it’s just harder to find in some people. And many people have pronounced canines. Not really anything that special and certainly nothing that makes you a vampire.”
“Pronounced this much?” Riordan opened his mouth.
“Okay, wow, maybe that is a bit … extreme. Fine, I’ll humor you, let’s see then…” she reached for his wrists, first one then the other, tried several times and various other placed before she pulled up his shirt trying to find a heartbeat. Naturally in vain. To make sure she’d believe him, he teleported a few steps away, then back in front of her, which she watched in amazement.
“This … is … impossible. I don’t get it. How? I mean … what?!”
“I can’t answer any of that, I don’t know how or what or why. We just are this way. Somehow.”
“We? There are more like you?”
“I don’t even know what to say. This is impossible. I don’t even know what to think, how to react … how to act.”
“Which is why we are forbidden to mention it to any mortals. For fear for ending up causing a stir and ending up as lab rats and hunted. We are better off in the shadows and as a myths. Nobody really tries to hunt an urban legend.”
“So, are you like … dangerous? Have you bitten me before without me knowing? I am not gonna turn into one of you now, am I? Like in the movies, where vampires always want to take over the world and stuff.”
“Of course not! Don’t believe everything from the movies. Or books, cos before you ask, no I don’t sparkle in the sun, just curse a lot if I stay in it too long. And I would never feed off you. Nor would I turn you, or anyone else for that matter. That is not as easy as they make it look in movies anyway. And everybody has the potential to be dangerous in their very own way, even you.”
“So, let’s just go with that vampire theory then, is that why you never stayed with me until morning?”
“Because the daylight would hurt you?”
“Yes, kinda. It’s more the sun rays, really. Like a very, very bad sun allergy. Not as dramatic as in movies, I can withstand some of it, just not too much, as that burns me and if I could not get out of it, it would lead to my demise eventually. I also cannot eat the food you eat, makes me very sick, so I was trying to not have to explain why I can’t have breakfast with you. I also have no mirror image, which you almost noticed once when we were together in your bathroom to … when we … well … you know, you were there. I also do not sleep. We occasionally hibernate, which would be scary for you as I pretty much appear dead. Hibernation regenerates the body and can last any amount of time, like 10 minutes, 2 hours or 5 days.”
“How have I not noticed anything? You seem so … normal.”
“Thanks …. I guess.”
“I have seen you drink beer, coffee … so … that works?”
“Yes, I can drink everything you can that is not a food item. Milk is out. No juices either. Not really sure about this Kombucha stuff you mentioned, but I sure as heck am not gonna volunteer to find out. No offense.”
“And you sleep in a coffin? Or is that a myth too. But aren’t you kind of a myth? Well, guess by definition you wouldn’t be anymore, since you are real, but … are you even real?”
“Whoa, I am getting dizzy here. Look, yeah, sometimes I sleep in a coffin, but a bed will do just fine as well, if you can be sure you won’t be exposed. Once hibernating, we are pretty vulnerable, hence the preference for a coffin. Those rarely ever get opened just for the heck of it.”
“Makes sense, I guess, well, if any of this really makes sense. Your friend … the rich lady, does she know?”
“Yes. She, her brother and their parents are the only mortals who know. Because my uncle and mother knew them before I was even born. Which was one of the reasons why losing her was so hard. Oh, and my father obviously knows. Which is why he reacted so explosive that night you and I met. Needless to mention he is not a fan of what I am.”
“Your uncle and mother, are they ….?”
“Like me? Yes. My father obviously is a mortal. I inherited this wonderful blessing – pardon the sarcasm – from my mother.”
“You don’t like it?”
“Of course not! Who would want this?”
“So, this is genetic and can be inherited? I mean like, you could … I mean, if you and I were to … we could …”
“You mean could I father a child? Yes. And yes, it could be like me or like you. Nobody can predict that. But I was always very careful, you know that. No need to worry.”
“I really don’t know what to say now.”
She looked at him, their eyes met.
“Do you regret wanting the truth now?” Riordan asked.
“No. It’s always best to know the truth. Do you regret telling me?”
“Not sure yet. You are taking it better than I thought you would, but I can tell you are questioning everything now. Maybe I should have lied to you. Maybe that would have been better for both of us. I feel like I just made a really big and irreversible mistake.”
“Riordan … please do not take this the wrong way, but I think I need time to digest all this. I need to get my thoughts into some sort of logical sequence. Give me some time, okay?”
Riordan nodded, then turned to leave, wondering what would happen now.
As he was about to pass through the door, he felt her hand on his arm.
“Where are you going?”
“You said you needed time. I thought that was your way to compliment me out the door.”
“No silly. I meant I just needed to think for a moment without you wanting some comment or statement by me. But we do have to talk. I mean, if you really are this serious about us.”
“Okay. I am serious like a heart attack. Talk about what though?”
“Well, as you can imagine, I never dated a vampire before, and we are still pretty fresh, so I’d like to get to know you better since obviously we are in too deep now to act like we are still just casually dating. I am all for taking things slow normally, but what you just told me just slingshot us straight to boyfriend/girlfriend level. So, I need to know what to expect regarding your … condition. And I think I may have to start looking for a new rental, because his place is pretty much all glass, which annoyed me all along, being a single woman living here alone, but after meeting you and literally sitting in a display case for all to see us kiss and stuff really got old fast. I do want us to spend some quality time together and not have you disappear when it gets light out. Plus your bio-dad lives next door, not sure how crazy I am about so much potential for drama. I kinda like to live a little more zen.”
“Zen? So, does that mean we’re not over? Did you say boyfriend/girlfriend? You would move for me?”
“Uh, yeah. Hello? Did you miss the part where I confessed I had pretty strong feelings for you? And you seem pretty serious about us too, when you tell me some major secret, why would you, if I were just an affair to you? And I mean, who is really without secrets and rough edges, plus some skeletons in their closet anyway, right? So, let’s talk future.”
“May I kiss you first?” Riordan asked hopeful and relieved.
“If you try my Kombucha first.” she smiled.
Riordan’s face had Evangeline in stitches, until she planted a big kiss on his cheek.
“Relax, just messing with you. If I were half as afraid of you as you are of my Kombucha, this would be a disaster.” she giggled.