“There is always a way out of a situation. Might be ugly. Might leave you feeling like the earth had gone and shifted under your feet. But there is always a way around.”― Jojo Moyes
Myshuno Meadows Park
Liam breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted Nicholas bouncing around the playground, then hurried towards him.
“You are in big trouble, little man! You cannot just run away from me! What were you thinking?! When I couldn’t see you anymore, I was worried sick about you! We’re going back to the hotel RIGHT NOW!”
“DAD, stop, you’re embarrassing me!” Nick tried to pull away from Liam.
“Excuse me?!” Liam stopped, let go and softened his facial expression and tone.
“Meaghan is gonna think I am a baby. I am not a baby! I am a big boy!”
“What? Who’s Meaghan?”
Nicholas pointed at a girl about his age, swinging, then ran to join her again, both immediately trying to outswing each other. Liam sighed defeated, then chuckled. Yup, your children are payback for all the crap you pulled on your parents as a child. Well, Nick had been so good waiting for him while Liam had been in business meetings. The boy deserved some fun before dinner.
“Not so high, both of you, or you are gonna fall!” a woman’s voice sounded behind Liam.
He turned and both he and the woman froze, mouths agape.
“Holy fuck!” Liam blurted out.
“Wow. Is that your little boy? Has it been that long? I think last time we spoke your wife was pregnant with him.”
“Nicholas, yes. Your daughter?” Liam pointed at the little girl.
“Yeah. My little Meaghan. Your son’s adorable, such a little heartbreaker already. Looks just like you. Do you have any more? I know you always were a family man, I figured you’d have at least two, if not three.”
“Ah, no. My wife only wants one and you know, happy wife, happy life. Which is why I live in Del Sol Valley now, next door to her parents and siblings, far away from my own parents and sisters and why I still don’t have my own practice, but run their legal affairs now. Happy wife, happy life, yeah. Fuck the husband. Ha.” Liam was shocked to hear so much bitterness coming out of his mouth.
“Oh, I get it. Been there done that. It was the same way for me with first husband, Meaghan’s dad, the old Bagley. So controlling, everything was always about him, he decided everything, all had to go his way. After he died, I was so relieved, even though I know how that sounds, but finally I could breathe again, be my own person again. You’d think I’d learn from it. But no. Got married again, another frog that never turned into a prince, now we’re separated, headed for divorce and he wants half of what I suffered through my first marriage for. You’d think as an attorney I would have been smart enough to make him sign a prenup. I wasn’t.”
“Ha, my wife’s attorney – before me, I mean – was smart enough to make me sign one. And I did. So, if we break up, if she gets tired of my ass, all I would get is the shaft. You’d think I would have been smarter than that, too. Maybe it’s for the better that I don’t run my own law firm. Evidently, I am not all that, and I don’t know what the hell I am doing.”
“Oh, you do, you always have and you still are one of the best lawyers I ever met. You’re a great guy and you love your wife. Who enters a marriage thinking about the end, right? Well, I guess I did, with Bagley, but so did he. You remember that story, it was a business transaction, nothing else. The second one was me being tired of being alone.”
“How is your little girl taking it?”
“She never really had a father figure. Bagley was disappointed Meaghan was a girl, not a boy, and ignored her and Dane, my current husband just doesn’t like kids. I was practically always a single mom who was married to a man who didn’t want to be a father.”
“I get that. Ever since Vivien got back into showbiz, we’ve been two ships passing in the night.”
“I hope Vivien knows to appreciate all your sacrifices.”
“To be honest, she doesn’t. She has always been pretty self-absorbed and I knew that going in. I guess we all ignore the flaws hoping the other will change, which they never do. I can’t even talk to another woman without her going into a jealous fit, but she is on stage half naked, only one wardrobe malfunction away from flashing the world. Not exactly what I thought I signed up for.”
“Sounds like you need a strong coffee, a shoulder and a friend. I can offer all that. In return for someone to talk to and a shoulder myself. God knows I am desperate for both.”
Del Sol Valley
Some weeks later when Liam got home from yet another trip to San Myshuno, this time without Nicholas, Vivien welcomed him with a slap in the face in front of a mountain of packed bags.
“What the fuck?! And what the hell is all this?! Where you going?”
“I am going nowhere! YOU are! Get the fuck out of my house! Leave the key. Oh, and I am keeping the cat!”
“Your house? YOUR house! This is OUR home! I live here too and I am going NO-the fuck-WHERE, I just got home, I am tired and not in the mood for you having some wild hair up your ass which got you in one of your moods again! Find another verbal punching bag! And slap me again, Vivien, and we’ll REALLY tango! WTF, woman!?”
“One of my moods? Oh, that’s rich! And this is MY house, according to the deed – and the pre-nup, you cheating bastard! That’s right, you deserved that slap! I know all about you and Lana. And you WILL leave, unless you want me to call the police – or better yet, my uncle Caelan. You know he’s not known for patience.” Vivien tossed a stack of photos on the floor in front of him, which fanned out like a curtain of shame. They all showed him and Lana in very unmistakable and undeniable situations.
“You had me followed? You had a P.I. on my ass?”
“Evidently for good reason, you man-whore! Leopards really can’t change their spots. You were a whore before we got together and you are one now!”
“Look who’s talking! YOU really are not the one to play holier than thou about this!”
“It’s best if you go now, Liam. You can pick up the rest of your things soon, just please not now. Needless to say, Kai will be taking over the legal representation for my family again. You’ll get a nice severance package, which should help tide you over till you find a new job and a new place to live. We’re over. It’s better that way. We both know this relationship was doomed from the start. We tried, but we’re both too flawed to make this work.”
“Vivien, it was one mistake! You cast me aside! You have barely acknowledged that I still exist for months. I need love too, emotional and physical. You KNOW I am a very sensual person, we both used to screw each other’s brains out daily, then suddenly you cut me off completely, probably because you were already getting some new D on the side, huh? Let’s remember for a moment that you did whore around on me first, I don’t remember me assaulting you for that or kicking your ass out on the street with packed bags! I admit I wasn’t exactly happy and may have had some choice words, which husband wouldn’t, but we worked through it. So how is this different?”
“Nice try! You KNOW how it’s different. I had a new person, you had someone from your past. We both screwed up and this is broken now. There’s no use. And I don’t want to try anymore. Blame me all you want, but I am throwing in the towel.”
“Wow. So, after all those years, after all we’ve been through, that’s it? You fuck up, and we clean it up together. I fuck up and that’s the end? I get the boot and am supposed to just swallow that? Well, fuck it, if that’s what you want, but I am taking Nick.”
“No, you are not. He’s with my parents and if you even try to go near him, not only will they handle you, but the police will too. Kai made sure of that! And if you lose your temper with me, I am calling Caelan. He will put you through the meat grinder for this!”
“Excuse me?! You cheated on me too! I didn’t take our son away from you then and threaten you with vampire relatives with anger management issues! Whatever is fucked up between us doesn’t have to be fought out on Nick’s back! At least I wasn’t caught on camera fucking some dude in a trailer, like you were! I kept that out of the media for you. And for Nick, so he won’t grow up having to see his own mother’s sex tape leaked on the internet one day! I forgave you! How about you extend me the same curtesy? I fucked up. I know that and I am sorry. I shouldn’t have. But you cannot take my son from me! That is unjustly cruel on me and him. Don’t hurt Nicholas for this.”
“This isn’t some tid for tad scenario and it is not what is hurting Nick! Don’t you see something is seriously broken between us and has been for years? YEARS, Liam. Nick’s a smart boy, only a matter of time he would pick up on our happy family facade. This is well beyond fixing. By now we’re already sitting on the Titanic with red solo cups trying to shovel out the water to keep it from sinking. We can’t win this, no matter how hard we try to keep it together. And I am done fighting a losing battle.”
“Fine Vivien. You want to throw this marriage away, go ahead. You want to fire me from a job I only took because of you, and kick me out of a house I only live in because you wanted to live here, fine. But you are NOT taking my son from me. I am taking Nicholas with me, no matter what Kai, Blaine, Scarlett and Caelan say. Caelan’s a father, I am thinking he’d side with me here for a change!”
“Nick’s not going with you! It’s the middle of the school year; he has his friends here and his entire life is here. You are not uprooting and confusing our son. You’re a lawyer, you KNOW no court in the world will let you take him now. This is his home; he has lots of family here to watch him when I have to travel. Kai made it waterproof, if you go to battle about this, you will lose the war. Try taking him now, you’re going to jail.”
“You cruel beast! Do not threaten me with jail or your crazy ass vamp relatives when I am trying to be a good father! Do not use our son as a pawn in this shitshow! That’s as ridiculous as it is unreasonable! You cannot withhold my child from me!”
“I am not! You were just caught cheating with an ex, we are separating, you do not have an official residence at this moment, nor a job, so you cannot properly provide for your son. Are you gonna live in a hotel with him? Or at your parents in Windenburg, making Nicholas change schools in the middle of a school year, miss all his friends and all he has ever known? You think that would be healthy for him? No. Nick has to stay here. You can have visitation, of course, even shared custody, once you’re settled somewhere. But now you need to go.”
“Quit this bullshit right now, Vivien!” Liam’s tone more of a yelp than a yell.
Vivien shook her head. Something about her eerie calmness told him she was sincere and certain.
“How long have you been hatching all this? You didn’t just come up with this, I know you too well. How long have I been on death row in this relationship?!” Liam pressed out from a throat that seemed to close up from the inside.
“Liam, don’t. We’re done. It’s over. The writing has been on the wall for a while. As you pointed out several times I stepped out on you, you found your way back to Lana. It’s only a matter of time that you and her start up what you used to have. And I have moved on. I am seeing someone new. I want a divorce. Kai is going to file on Monday, first thing. Please, do both of us and Nick the favor and don’t fight it, this will be hard enough on our son and on us, but it’s the only way for all of us to find happiness again – eventually.”
“Who?” Liam pressed out between gritted teeth. Maybe that’s what he deserved for cheating. A cheating wife. Reap what you sow.
Vivien fought with her composure, so Liam repeated his question with more urgency.
“WHO IS HE!? The other man. WHO?!”
“A professional football player. We met when I did the half time show at the Crown Bowl. Then we met a few times at TV appearances we both were booked for, and he came to a few of my concerts, said he really likes my shows and my music. Recently he was traded to the Del Sol Valley Devils as their new star quarterback and we kept running into each other, somehow things progressed. It’s Alex Montgomery.”
“Montgomery!? The same one you fucked in your tour trailer in Sunset Valley?! The mess I helped you clean up, helped legally sweep under the rug!? You gotta be kidding me! You lied to me! You told me it was a heat of the moment thing, a one-time deal! Instead, I am out, he’s in?! What the FUCK, Vivien!?”
Vivien shook her head, but with a much softer voice she told him.
“I am sorry, Liam, but whatever we may have had has been dying a slow death for a long while. Maybe you and I were never meant to be more than friends, we’re just too different, I didn’t want to see it then, now I cannot help see how obvious it is. Alex gets me. Being a performer isn’t a 9 to 5 job, I am so tired of the constant fights with you about my revealing stage outfits and about me watching my weight. I HAVE to be skinny; I have to look the part; my grandma Maeve is the same way and even she tried to explain it to you. But then you go and screw Lana – of all people. I could have maybe gotten over some random chick, but not her. When I saw WHO you were cheating on me with, I knew it was over.”
“Does he know? That Alex. Does he know he’s the lucky winner of your pussy lottery? Does he even want you, full-time I mean? And I am not sure I want him around MY son. And what are you gonna tell Nick where his daddy is anyway, huh? Don’t you dare make me the villain in this travesty.”
“Liam, please! Let’s keep this civil. Nick does not know yet, but I will tell him in a manner appropriate for a little boy his age. Look, Nick loves you, I know that, and you love him, you’re a great dad, I am not denying any of that, I am not trying to cut you from his life, he needs his daddy, and I would never villainize you, but we cannot be together anymore. We’re toxic. We tried, Liam. Maybe it was doomed from the start, it’s a miracle we lasted this long. Maybe one day we both can heal enough to get past this and be the great friends again we used to be. I miss that. I miss my old friend. I don’t know where he went, but he hasn’t been there in a long time. Maybe that’s why we both did the terrible things we did. Maybe that’s why we fell out of love with each other. We lost ourselves trying to make this work. We failed, Liam. This marriage failed. And not just because we both stepped out. That was just the icing on the cake.”
Liam looked about to fall apart, then turned on his heels, carried what he could out the door, send the rest after it with strong, angry kicks, then loaded it in his car and left, straight for the airport.
He hated having to abandon Nick, but there was no way Blaine and Scarlett would let him see him right now anyway and it would just make it harder for the poor boy.
And for him.
If it was true what Vivien said, and Liam had no reason to doubt it, and Kai filed her petition for divorce on Monday, then Liam had to find a place to live, and quick, as well as a job. He was a top-level attorney; he knew what he had to do to have a chance to get at least shared custody. And he knew it wouldn’t be in Del Sol Valley. He had grown to hate this place, now even more so.