Some people create their own storms, then get upset when it rains.Unknown
Brindleton Bay Cunningham Estates
ripple effect [ˈripəl əˌfekt] NOUN the continuing and spreading results of an event or action
Chase’s initially polite and friendly expression changed to a dark one, before he angrily growled
“You just cannot be serious about that! This has to be a terrible joke!”
“It was a surprise to us as well, things just suddenly progressed really fast, and this was not exactly planned but …” Anastasia tried to explain, but he quickly cut her off.
“I would think not! We have not even told the twins about your lover, for good reason, and now you want to stack a pregnancy on top of that? After barely half a year since the divorce?! You really didn’t waste no time at all! And no, our children won’t be exposed to this nonsense right now! Absolutely not! Not on my watch! I have no idea how to make that palatable for their tender little minds and hearts! They haven’t even fully gotten over you moving out, let alone the divorce yet and now here you are with baby news and twins again?! As if one baby wouldn’t have been more than overkill for you in your situation now!”
“Well, Chase, it’s not like I could absorb one of my babies to please your preference, besides, I don’t know why you are so upset anyway. We both realized we are toxic together, we are over, have been for long enough that it should have sunk in and there was no way in hell we would ever be back together. Ergo, this isn’t your choice, you get no say, I am pregnant, that is a fact, so we will have to tell our children that they will be big sister and brother come next year. They aren’t as fragile as you make them sound. If this is explained to them calmly and neutrally, they will understand that sometimes mommies and daddies can’t stay together and find new partners. They are ten years old, not 3! They need to be told about this, either together, but if you want to be like this, I will tell them without you.” her tone was now a lot more forceful.
“That will be the day! You clearly are in the middle of some sort of midlife crisis. Procreating with a man like that Riordan so fast it makes everybody’s heads spin just screams that you are trying to do the exact opposite of what you lived prior to our divorce. That is some mental revolt, but most certainly not a solid base to bring children into. You and him barely made it through the early stages of dating, far cry from being engaged, let alone married and I doubt he will make you an honest woman, now or ever. He’ll probably leave before the children are even born. Men like him are a dime a dozen. Then what?! You know that one infant is a lot of work, but twins?! You want to do that by yourself? This right here, this foolish discussion we are having to have now is exactly what I was afraid of, your mindless, impulsive acts, that always seem to have a rat’s tail of problems for everyone else involved, something you never even waste a moment of thought on. Not even, evidently, when it’s your own children, costing them dearly now! You are unbelievable!”
“That is hardly fair, Chase! I deserve happiness too! Riordan is a wonderful man, there are just a few things that prevent him for acting as you expect him to and frankly, one marriage was plenty for me, I really do not need that ever again. I am not the marrying type and I do not need a ring on my finger to raise these babies with Ri. We will be fine, thank you for your – let’s call it ‘concern’.” Ana said and noticed that he was still wearing his wedding band, while she had taken hers off months ago.
“Not the marrying type. Laughable. At least it would be, were it not also so very sad. I specifically remember all the many discussions you and I had about you not wanting any more children. I remember how many times I tried to get you to see that once the twins are out of the worst, you may change your mind, but no you knew better. Appears to me that you have no problem having more children, just evidently did not want them with me, now obviously Riordan – once more – trumps me in your book. You talked me into getting a vasectomy, which I did, for you, out of love and respect for your wishes, even though I always wanted more children. And now, here we are, as the biggest slap in my face, you are pregnant with yet another set of twins, you get whatever you want, with Riordan, while I am left in the dust, once more everybody’s fool unable to ever father a child again. Unbelievable to think that I have been so gullible all this time. I must be the world’s greatest idiot!”
“Chase, that is not true. I didn’t want more kids, I didn’t lie. Back then, when we had those discussions I thought – like you did – that you and I would last forever. But we didn’t. And let’s not forget that you are partially to blame for that. I didn’t break us up, WE did. I didn’t wake up one morning and decided to divorce you. Both our actions contributed to us ending in divorce! We just weren’t compatible. And you, as a doctor, should know that vasectomies are often reversible. So if you want more children, you can probably have them. Get yourself out there, date, and reproduce. Just not with me. The world has changed for all of us, not just you.”
“Ridiculous. The only thing that changed is my attitude towards all this. I am done being your fool, Anastasia, while you recklessly publicly make me the laughing stock, pulling the entire Cunningham name and reputation into the dirt, without the slightest regard for me, my family or even your own children! I will tell them about your set of bastards with Riordan, I cannot trust you to do this right without scarring those beautiful kids for life with your recklessness! And I also think you should leave now. You’ve wreaked quite enough havoc for one day. I need some time to digest this latest blow by you. “
Ana shook her head, got up and left without another word. There was no use trying to debate this any further.
Windenburg Cameron Lake House
Then one day – completely out of the blue – an auditor from the IRS showed up, showing us volumes of files proving Ana severely underpaid taxes, fines and fees had accumulated, so we were left with a gigantic bill none of us could pay, so Ana ended up losing her law firm, seized, foreclosed and sold out from underneath her, rending her unemployed from one day to the next, and still owing much more money, which Blaine and I were helping her pay off in monthly installments, once more drastically depleting our savings.
I honestly cannot tell you if Ana really had screwed up or if somehow, somewhere, someone knew how to fabricate evidence to make it look like she did, both were valid possibilities, all I know is that we all got a life lesson in ignorance not protecting you from punishment. Or maybe the real life lesson was, that if you piss off powerful people with friends in high places, you will get burned. Who knows, all we could do is speculate, but never prove anything.
Brindleton Bay Cunningham Estates
Something I did blame the Cunninghams for, particularly Chase, was what occurred during the next visit with the twins, which was nothing short of a giant drama. Whether they were to blame directly or indirectly didn’t matter to me, but evidently someone didn’t handle conveying the news to the twins well at all, or someone talked bad about Ana and her recent news in front of them. Either way, I consider that bad parenting, even if it was accidental.
As soon as we arrived at the Cunningham Estates – Blaine and I went along – it was nothing like the excited greeting we were used to, instead both Collin and Claire were stand offish, bratty, they had to be almost dragged from their rooms. To call the situation uncomfortable would have been a solid understatement.
It took a lot of coaxing by me to learn they were absolutely convinced their mommy didn’t love them anymore, which was why she moved out and is having new babies, twins again, to replace them with.
Chase and his parents were quick to assure us they hadn’t instigated any of this, Chase even tried to talk sense into the twins, they mouthed off to him too and ended up sent to their rooms, grounded. This made me believe that whatever got to the twins, maybe hadn’t been intentional. Maybe they just overheard a still very obviously heartbroken Chase venting to his parents. While him punishing the 10 year olds now may have been proper parenting, it cut our already less than enjoyable visit with them short. Any following visits didn’t go any more pleasant either. Just dreamy all the way around.
Windenburg Cameron Lake House
A few days later, I was in the kitchen, Riordan had joined me and we were talking, when the front door flew open and Brendan came rushing in. Both kids always had keys, while Ana lived with us again, Brendan was usually respectful and would always knock or ring the doorbell and wait for us to let him in. Not today though.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO EVANGELINE?!” he laid into Riordan, who was just as surprised as me.
“Dude, what the heck?!” Riordan protested.
“Brendan, get a hold of yourself! Nobody here is a mind-reader. What are you talking about, baby?” I told Brendan, shock as heck to see him so unhinged.
“Are you so sure about that, mom? Cos I am not at all sure anymore what this guy there is capable off! So, I am asking you again, what did you do to Evangeline?!” Brendan demanded furiously.
“Nothing. What do want from me, Brenny?” Riordan sounded taken aback and I believed him.
“Don’t you Brenny me! Natalie is in tears! Because of YOU! I don’t care what you do with my sister, her life, knock her up, whatever. But when you make my wife cry and my boys, it’s on!” Brendan threatened.
“Dafuq you talking about?! I adore Natty and your boys, I would never intentionally make either of them cry, and I haven’t even seen Vannie since the breakup!” Riordan tried to diffuse the situation.
“Brendan, baby, use words. What happened?” I asked calmly.
My son didn’t have Ana’s temper, he was always calm and composed until he had reason not to be. If he was this upset and for him to come in here guns blazing accusing Riordan of something, considering Brendan and Riordan were also friends, meant something significant was going on.
“I was working from home, Natty wanted to go to the farmer’s market, Everett went with her while Declan stayed with me. When they came back, Everett was crying, and then Natty started crying too. Evidently Evangeline had a stand there selling her honey and kombucha and crap, so Everett and Natty went over to her, all happy trying to hug her, and she acted like she didn’t know them anymore. After I heard about that I went to give her a piece of my mind and that girl was scared shitless by me. I made a living with reading people, now I am teaching that to others, and I am telling you, she wasn’t playing, Evangeline had not the faintest idea who I was! The same Vannie, that you brought over to our place almost weekly for game night. Now she can’t recall a thing? Puh-lease, that’s not normal, and you and your wicked vampire witchery instantly came to mind.”
“Oh … I see. Okay. I get it now. I thought she was just really angry when I never heard from her again and didn’t want to wake sleeping dogs, but I guess uncle must have really done something. Without me asking for it, he had just gone and fetched my coffin from her house shortly after we broke up, but that’s all he mentioned. I know there are supposedly some ways to wipe minds, but I sure as heck never bothered with that crap. Sounds like uncle’s handwriting. Yikes. Sorry about that man.”
“Good ole Caleb, huh? Well, let’s find out, shall we?” I sighed.
I dialed Caleb’s number, he promptly materialized in my living room and without too much coaxing he quickly and readily confirmed Riordan’s guess.
“And you never thought to even mention this to me?” Riordan frowned.
“Or me?” I piled on.
“Wait, since when do I have to justify my actions to my nephew or you Viktoria?! With all due respect, but last I checked, we’re not married!” Caleb complained.
“My sweet daughter-in-law and grandson are crying and my son is upset because of you, Caleb. Don’t need marriage for it to make me wanna drop a Mentos into a coke bottle and shove it up your ass!”
All three looked at me, befuddled.
“What?! If I were Blaine saying this you wouldn’t even flinch!”
“Jeeze mom, sometimes you really scare me.” Brendan said, at least now he was grinning.
“Caleb should be scared. Any input on what Brendan could tell his wife?” I glared at Caleb.
“How about the truth? Brendan can handle it, why not his wife? She is family and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. And she is just as solid of character as Brendan is. I have no beef with her knowing. Hold off on the children though.” Caleb suggested.
“You want me to tell Natty you and he are vamps? I really have no clue how to sell that. Not happening. What else you got, uncle Caleb.” Brendan was shaking his head while talking.
“I could wipe her mind and your little boy’s.” Caleb said.
“NO!” came from Brendan, Riordan and me simultaneously.
“Guys, what do you want me to say here? I am not a guidance counselor. All I know is that I couldn’t risk Evangeline sharing the secret. A woman scorned is not something to toy with. Just tell Natalie that Evangeline told you she was very angry at Riordan and wants nothing to do with anything he brought into her life. Sad, but unavoidable. For what it’s worth, I liked her too, very much, but it would appear that my nephew had his sights still firmly set on little Miss Trouble.”
“You liked her? Ha! You specifically told me to not even dream about reproducing with her or else!” Riordan fake laughed at his uncle.
“Well, it would appear I missed that step with Ana and now, here we are. You better pray both those children are mortals.” Caleb glared at his nephew.
“Okay, and this is where I am out. Far as I am concerned, my new niece and nephew will be just like any other kids, so you guys yell at each other about that without me. I’ll go home then and lie to my wife, like I never want to do. Thanks uncle Caleb and Riordan for that!” Brendan left through the front door, Caleb also vanished in a black cloud, leaving just Riordan and me again.
“I’m just the gift that keeps on giving. Sorry auntie. No matter what I do, trouble always finds me.” Riordan said.
“Well, you have bigger fish to fry now. Don’t think for a minute that I will be the one remodeling Brenny’s old room as a nursery. Oh no, not at my age and neither will Blaine, especially not when there is a healthy strong young man around. Your babies, your remodel job. On that note, start packing up in there, neatly please, and accurately labeled, it’s all Brendan’s stuff and he may want it at some point. Then we will talk colors, and when Ana gets home you go over that with her. And tomorrow you will be painting. Get cracking, kid.”
“Yes Ma’am. One night of fun, forever in the dog house.”
I pretended to wanna smack him but he vanished into the usual black cloud, chuckling.
This was when I realized something essential, something that I had missed until now.
Anastasia and Riordan were basically Blaine and me all over again. It was almost the same story even. Girl meets boy when they are little, girl and her mom help raise boy, they bond, both grow older and realize they have feelings for each other, try to deny it, boy realizes he is too rough around the edges and nothing but trouble, tries to stay away to protect girl, breaking her heart, no other man works out for girl, boy comes running to console and protect girl, finally they realize together they’re indestructible.
Maybe her and Riordan would never have it easy, but now I was convinced they belonged.