“The true alpha male is always willing to walk away.“
Windenburg rural area Cameron Lake House
Following his grandfather into the living area of the small, cozy old home by one of Windenburg’s scenic lakes, built over a hundred years ago, but remodeled many times since by several of his ancestors, and so aptly yet simply dubbed the “Lake House”, Liam’s flow of words seized, his smile vanished in an instant when he spotted Jay Randalls.
“What the hell is Cameron Enterprises’ latest toilet bowl deep diver still doing roosting here?! Don’t you have no trash cans to empty or spills to mop up, Randalls?” Liam snarled, glaring over at Jay, who now retorted in the same tone and demeanor
“None of your business, you professional desk chair farter!”
“Gentlemen! That’s quite enough.” Liam’s grandmother Rory reprimanded.
“No, grandma, seriously, why is he still here? I thought this was temporary. He’s been here since early summer, it’s almost fall now! Dad definitely pays him well enough for what little he does to be able to afford his own room SOMEWHERE ELSE by now!” Liam roared.
“Mind your own business, you yuppie dickwad!” Jay growled at him.
“You’d be the expert on all things dicks, seeing how often you been to prison!” Liam taunted, making Jay visibly fume for anger.
“JAY! And Liam! Stop it, both of you! Jay, you said you didn’t mind helping me with the garden beds. I think I would like to do that now. RIGHT NOW, if you please, young man.” Rory’s very obvious way to separate the two didn’t seem to want to take.
Jay remained where he was, his stance ready to fight, the entire body tense and his eyes affixed on Liam, who looked very much the same, both just seconds from throwing down.
“Do I REALLY have to ask twice?” Rory said in the typical calm voice, but with the tone that had been enough to make her and Declan’s twin boys mind when they were young, and now six grown grandchildren. And Jay, evidently, as he loosened up his stance, turned to walk to the small backdoor leading into the small vegetable garden off the kitchen, opened it and held it for Rory to pass through first, never taking his eyes of Liam, until he followed the old woman out.
“Sorry Mrs. C.” he mumbled apologetic, Rory nodded and flashed him a small smile while rubbing his cheek on the way out.
Once the door closed, Liam heard Declan exhale.
“Phew! For a minute there I thought you two would end up in a fist fight. I was never good at being in or breaking up fights. That was always Rett’s forte. I just never have been the type of Alpha Male as he was and still is. You are too, so is Jay, guessing that was the problem here. Two Alphas who don’t see eye to eye in one room is always complicated.”
“You would have been right about the fight! I’d love nothing more than to beat his smugness out of him! I can’t believe he’s still here using you guys. Do you and grandma really not realize how dangerous he is? Do you know what he has been to prison for? He beat a man into a coma, and that was only the last offense, there is more where that came from. He has stolen and vandalized so much property, he was involved with all sorts of shady people and last but not least, the drugs cliché, as usual.”
“Yes, Liam, Rory and I are aware. He even told us all about that. I know it is wrong to make excuses, but fate dealt him terrible cards and the boy made bad choices in his youth, he then got stuck with them, since it’s always easier to get into trouble than it is to get back out, slippery slope. I would like to ask for your kindness and understanding towards him. If you value my opinion at all, then know, I am not a fool, neither is your grandmother, so just have faith in us knowing what we are doing.”
“Of course I value you guys’ opinion, but gimme a break. He pulled the poor abused choir boy routine with you, and you both ate it up? Grandpa, he is preying on the elder. And the weaker. Did you know that he has been hitting on Abby?”
“Liam, I will say this only once: despite our advanced age, neither your grandmother nor I are feeble old numb-minded bitties! Our brains may be in their 80s but still work splendidly. We are well aware what we are doing here, and while I do not feel I need to justify myself to my grandson, I will say this: yes, Jay was a criminal. He has done terrible things routinely. But he finally realized that is all wrong and bad and there is another way, maybe it was the traumatic event from the fire. Maybe it was that he never has been given a real chance to change it all. Maybe a combination of both, who knows? All I know is this: there are two choices presenting to us. Lend a helping hand to someone who needs it badly, knowing there is a 50% chance for successful redemption and a 50% chance he’d fall back into old habits. The honest life is hard and often ungrateful, helping him is risky, but if we don’t help, there is a 100% chance this young man will be a criminal for the rest of his life. That serves no one. So, Liam, tell me again, which way should we choose? Helping when we know we can, or looking the other way, without a doubt in our minds we are helping unleash another career criminal on society?”
“Well, if you put it that way …”
“That, my dear boy, is the ONLY way to look at things. I needed a chance once, I was messed up, albeit not in a criminal way but it was ruining my life all the same and your uncle Rett and grandma Rory were there for me when I really needed them, no matter how idiotic my behavior sometimes may have seemed to them, without that help, you wouldn’t be sitting here, and if I may say so, that would be a giant loss, as you are a brilliant human being. As for Abby, yes, we are aware that they seem – let’s call it – enamored with each other. She has visited him under the cover of wanting to visit her grandparents and thinks we are too dement to catch on. We’re not. There isn’t a lot we do not see going on among all our grandkids, just not usually our place to meddle. Now, about the news about that great-grandson of mine you and Viv created, what splendid news! I really like the name you and Vivien have chosen. Nicholas Cameron. Nick Cameron. Yes, yes. A strong name. So glad you came to your senses about naming him after me. And looks like I will really be around to hold the little fella when the time comes. I must say, I didn’t have much hope when you two were dragging everything out like chewing gum, but now am very excited.”
“I told you, you would meet your great-grandson. And who says about the name? Middle name, grandpa. He’ll still be Declan.” Liam grinned.
“Oh you. Well, maybe you can name the next one Rory. In Henford-on-Bagley, that is a male name anyway. Since your grandmother deserves most credit and she and your wife have been very close since Viv was little.”
“No next ones, grandpa. After this one, I am getting snipped and Vivien wants the surgery once her body has recovered from the birth.”
“That’s a bit … drastic, isn’t it?” Declan frowned.
“We both have Cameron blood in our veins and we want an only child. That’s the only reliable way.”
“I’d rather you didn’t cut around on your gonads, kid. I am sure you could find a less final way, kid.” Declan said, causing Liam to burst into laughter, shaking his head.
The doorbell rang, Liam went to answer so his 82 year old grandfather didn’t have to, but his mood changed when he opened for none other than his younger sister.
“LIAM!?” Abigail was no less surprised to see him.
“Please tell me you are not here to hang around that Jay again!”
“Well, hello to you too, big brother and mind your own. Are YOU here to see Jay? No? I visit grandma and grandpa just like you do. So, can I come in or is there a cover charge now?” she hissed, as Liam stepped aside to allow her inside.
She had just entered the living area when Rory and Jay came back inside and Jay’s face noticeably illuminated when he saw her. Liam recognized that stupid smile Jay now wore all too well. Oh yeah, that guy liked his little sister. The little sister who was pregnant with triplets by Jay’s dead half-brother. ARGH!
Liam theatrically clapped his hands now, before with a for sarcasm dripping voice he added
“Bravo, bravissimo for the Romeo and Juliet routine here, we can all almost see you being her babies’ ‘uncle-dad’, and maybe father a few more anchor babies with Abby, to play with their ‘cousin-siblings’. Gotta get your hands on that big Cameron Estate somehow, huh, knocking up my sister while she is still mourning Elliott and confused about being pregnant with 3 kids at only 21 seems like a pretty easy way to get there, huh!? Gotta hand it to ya, you really ARE good at weaseling your way into good people’s lives and wallets.”
“FUCK YOU, asshole!” Jay snarled.
“I second that! What’s wrong with you, Liam!?” Abigail shot him warnings with her eyes.
“And I hate to repeat myself here, but I thought I was clear about all that earlier, Liam?! And you too, Jay. Enough!” Rory’s tone was the firm one again.
“Just asking a question, grandma. A legit one.”
“I will answer it for you, Liam. Women and men can be friends, you moron! Jay and I are FRIENDS! FRIENDS! That’s it! I don’t like the way you talk about me, and him and my children, besides, you are DEFINITELY not one to throw the first rock here, cos out of the two of us, I am not the one who married our second cousin.”
There was the sore spot. Liam had almost forgotten about the fact that he and Vivien were related around corners. Abby’s comment exploded like a grenade in Liam’s head, he just turned and ran out, seconds later the tires of his car screeched on the asphalt.
“Fuck! Sorry all, about this!” Jay ran out back, moments later Abby followed him.
“Sorry about my brother. He can be a bit overbearing sometimes. He’s the oldest to two sisters and I guess everyone telling him ever since Leonie and I were born to watch over us made him like this. I feel sorry for my cousin Evey. She has TWO brothers. Surprised she’s not been committed yet.”
“He’s not all wrong, you know.”
“Liam rarely is, that’s the worst part. What exactly were you referring to though?”
“Pretty much everything he said. About me. About you. About us. I am scum. I was scum, I probably forgot how to NOT be scum, I am really trying this time, but failed so often, even I have no clue how this will pan out. I don’t even trust myself, so how could any of you. Too many times I thought I was on the right path only to slide back down into the shit worse than before. And he is right about it being weird that you and I spend time together when you are expecting Elliott’s children. And if I am honest with you and myself for once, I do like you more than I should, against better knowledge …”
“Jay … stop. I can’t. Sorry, I really can’t. I can’t listen to stuff like that, I can’t think about stuff like that. If everything had happened a different way, maybe, but knowing the very last talk I ever had with Elliott was when I told him about the pregnancy. And about me messing with three guys, one of them you, which is so unlike me, but I had to tell him that there was a chance … since he was always gone and I never knew when I would see him next. He was so mad at me, talk about feeling like scum. I wonder if he would have ever forgiven me. Now I will never know. And I have to live with that for the rest of my life.”
“Tell me about regrets. When he came back from Thanksgiving with your family after you told him he stormed into the house and punched me out cold, when I came to he spent the entire night yelling at me, beating the shit out of me. When he finally let off me I fell into bed and passed out, didn’t wake up till I heard the fire alarms the next morning. Never felt so helpless in my life, I tried to save him, I really tried. Not only did I fail, but I have to live with the knowledge that the last conversation I ever had with my brother was him yelling profanities at me while using my face for a punching bag. Not exactly the type of memory to frame and hang on the wall either.”
“Elliott hit you? I cannot even imagine him raising his voice. He was always so eerily calm.”
“Are you kidding? I won’t talk ill about the dead, but I am not the only one messed up by our screwed up childhood. Had he not joined the military, he and I would have been colleagues with the criminal shit.”
“No way! That doesn’t sound like Elliott.”
“Look Abby, I won’t sit here defile whatever memories you have of my brother. If making him a saint helps you get through it all, so be it. But I know what I know. Let’s leave it at that then.”
“I need to go home. This is a bit much.”
“I’ll take you to the ferry landing and wait with you.”
“I took my car here. How you gonna get home?”
“A nice evening jog clears the mind, and I have been working hard on buffing up again. Besides, the worst I have to fear in this Podunk town is a rabid squirrel jumping me. Nice change from what I use to have to worry about.”
San Myshuno Myshuno Meadows Park
The next morning during his early morning jog through Myshuno Meadows Park Liam stopped his run, pulling out his earbuds, smiling crooked at the girl with the flaxen blonde hair who had stepped into his path.
“How did you know where to find me at this hour?” he called out to her as he was slowing down to a stop.
“You’re my big brother, duh. Can I tempt you with some yummy donuts from that new café in the Fashion District?”
“You DID see me running, right? I do that to stay fit, not get fat from chomping on donuts, Abby.”
“Please … I am buying. My triplets and I REALLY want a nice big glazed filled donut, Liam. And to say sorry to their amazing uncle for my behavior last night. I was out of line. I am really sorry.”
“Fine. Gimme a hug and we’re okay. I’m buying the coffee at least then I can be sure it’s small and decaf. Already have to watch that pregnant wife of mine like a hawk. Frigging Cameron coffee addiction.”
“So, you don’t hate me?”
“Of course I don’t hate you, Abigail. I may have thought you were a bitch, but I never hated you.”
“Well, you were right about the bitch part. Sorry. Can I blame it on the pregnancy hormones?”
“Sure thing, Abby. Come on, girl, let’s get that coffee.”
“Damn, you men really are easy, aren’t you.”
“Oh, yeah, totally predictable cheap hoes. Sex, food and coffee and you got any man wrapped around your little finger. Life lesson for ya, lil sis.”
Less than 15 minutes later they sat in the café and all was forgotten about any fights, instead they laughed about childhood memories and recent work events.
The Jay problem was still in the back of Liam’s mind, but he knew there was no way to sway his grandparents’ mind from helping the man. Hopefully Abby would be too busy juggling work and motherhood to get silly ideas about Jay. And maybe, just maybe, Jay really was only trying to get his life right. Hope, as they said, dies last.