“The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them.”— Simone de Beauvoir
San Myshuno Spire Apartments
Letting out an exasperated groan, Caitlin tried hard to focus on her book, in an attempt to study for an important History test at school tomorrow, but all that registered with her were the distinct bedroom noises from the room next door. Even headphones and her favorite music had barely taken the edge off only lead to her not being able to concentrate at all.
She got up and banged her fists on the wall again.
“KEEP IT DOWN, YOU ANIMALS! I HAVE TO STUDY, GODDAMN IT!”
It did little to change the X-rated sound effects from Leeora’s room, so Caitlin took her book to go study downstairs, where she found Heath at the table and joined him with an annoyed sigh.
“Oh, you’re down here too. Take it you were moaned into submission and retreat as well?” she told Heath.
“Yeah. Tried to study upstairs but my brain just cannot absorb History for the exam tomorrow to their humping rhythm. I re-read everything ten times, then realized trying to study with that going on is about as effective as sleeping with the book under my pillow. You’d think studying in our rooms would be quiet and it would be noisy in the shared areas, not the other way around.”
“No kidding! Same here! How can you have sex THIS loud? I mean, I am not getting the point of it. Does it really feel better the louder you scream or something? We both know my parents are sex enthusiasts, but I don’t remember eardrum-busting mating calls from them – EVER.”
“Don’t ask me. Was KC like that with you too … you know what? Don’t answer. Please don’t answer.” Heath shook his head.
“Oh, I can answer that uncensored: No. Cos we never did THAT.”
“What? You didn’t?! Oh! Cool! I mean .. ahem … that’s … unexpected.” no matter how much Heath tried to downplay his relief about the revelation, it showed. While they had spent most their time together since they were kids, Heath had shielded himself from anything involving Caitlin and KC together when they were a couple.
“Not really. I was barely 15 when he and I were dating. We made it all the way to kissing, Heath. And just the PG type. In other words, and probably TMI, but why not: I am as pure as the driven snow and at the rate I am going, that will probably never change. I will be the eternal virgin. Daddy would be so proud.”
“Well, since we are oversharing, my TMI is probably not as surprising, but that would make two eternally untouched then. Well, how’s History going for you?”
“It’s not, not at all, the info is just not sticking. At this point I might as well just guess tomorrow.”
“Yeah, same here. Oh boy, brace yourself, here they come. Surprised they can still walk.” Heath mumbled.
“Oh, they’ll hear it from me! I’ll give them a piece of my – oh my effing baby Jesus!”
Caitlin said the last part only loud enough that Heath could hear, as both of them stared at the couple coming down the stairs now.
It was Leeora and … someone who wasn’t KC! Whaaaat?!
“Oh, hey guys. Meet Vittorio Auditore, he’s an amazing guy I was lucky enough to meet. Totally serendipitous, guess it was just meant to be. He’s Italian, and I can vouch for everything you hear about Italian men, handsome, charming, passionate, great taste. Vitto, these are my two roomies, Caitlin and Heath. Cait’s also my cousin on my dad’s side.” chirped Leeora, unusually chipper for her.
“Nice to meet you and friends call me Vitto, less formal. Not to split hairs, but I was actually born here, my father is the true Italian, he came here as a young man, and my mother is a San-Myshunian, born and raised. I could be wrong here, but you two look familiar, could it be that we’ve met before, only briefly, over at the Hansons’ home. I think your brother Grady is dating my younger sister Giulia. I have many siblings, hard to keep up with all their dates and friends sometimes, when you are also a workaholic.” he smiled a toothpaste ad smile.
“Yeah, I thought you looked familiar. We have met, Grady is not my brother, but actually my brother Chase’s fiancée Hailey’s little brother, he’s the one who is dating Giulia. They just got engaged too, I am sure you heard. Heath here was with me when you and I met at Grady’s 18th birthday party.”
“Yeah, that’s right. Well, good to see you both again then. Sorry, this beautiful creature here has my brain all cloudy. I can see the relation between you two pretty ladies, you and Leeora have the same eyes. You are a lucky man, Heath.” Vittorio smiled a confident smile.
“Thanks.” Heath just said, never correcting Vittorio, who seemed to assume he and Cait were a couple.
“Well, I better get going. Work never rests, with an international business you rarely get a moment’s peace. Again, nice seeing you both again and I will call YOU later, cara mia.” Vitto said the last part to Leeora.
After a few more polite words for Heath and Caitlin, he kissed Leeora, before she walked him to the door.
“Can you believe that shit, Heath?” Cait whispered to him.
“Having a hard time here.” he replied.
After a while Leeora returned, flushed, probably from making out.
“KC sure has changed a lot!” Caitlin said, sarcasm dripping off her words, and she received a hard nudge by Heath and a frown by Leeora.
“Don’t you judge me. Look, I know how this is gonna sound now, but Vitto is handsome, distinguished, a generous lover and the Auditore family is LOADED. Almost like your family, Cait. KC is a god, but only a carpenter like his dad. Which is nice, knowing he works with his hands and trust me, he is great with his hands, but … you know … compared to the son of a banker, KC doesn’t come out smelling like roses to me. Vittorio’s family owns Auditore Financials, he is already some top level executive there and the oldest son, meaning the heir. If I were to become the next Mrs. Auditore, you guys could have this penthouse to yourselves. I would be balling big elsewhere, like some serious luxury mansion. Not like I don’t appreciate all this, I do more than I can say, but I need to think about my future, and I want security. Something I never had.”
“Ahem okay, I know I am not exactly a lawyer, but I have been around Liam enough to know that there would be a pre-nup. I don’t think falling up the ladder to extreme wealth would be that easy.” Heath told her.
“Not to mention that you are starting to act and sound just like your mom!” Caitlin added, and Leeora was instantly fuming at her comment.
“I am NOTHING like my mother! But you sound like a jealous bitch, Cait! Oh, by the way, before either of you go all high and mighty on me, you should know that KC told me. Even though neither of you did, some friends you are. I know you and he had a thing, Caitlin, and that you dumped him because he was poor. So don’t go holier than thou on me now about money issues. That would literally be the pot calling the kettle black!”
“I didn’t dump him because he was poor! I dumped him because he cheated on me!”
“That’s not what he says. He said you literally cut him loose right when he needed you the most. Something about his father and a heart attack and almost dying, his sister had a nervous breakdown when your you-got-dumped-text came in, after which you ghosted him. He said he tried for weeks to talk to you, cos he had no idea why you suddenly ditched him, but you wouldn’t give him the time of day. He is REALLY pissed at you because of that, still. So, don’t get judgy on me, Missy. I know what I am doing is shitty, but being a model has opened some doors to me I didn’t have before, if I can get in with the Auditores I will, I am sure KC would understand, knowing he knows what being left with nothing feels like. But until I know for sure, I need you BOTH to keep your mouth shut about Vitto when KC is around. And about KC in front of Vitto, obviously.”
“Sister? I didn’t know KC had a sister … OH MY GOD. Oh no! Oh, please no! OMG Heath … do you get what that probably means?! Are you thinking what I am thinking?” Caitlin was hung up on the sister-part, that she completely ignored Leeora’s request.
“You think that girl you saw him with was his sister? But why would he kiss her? That’s still kinda creepy. And how come you didn’t know he had a sister?” Heath wondered.
“I don’t know, Heath, I was fourteen when KC and I started getting romantic, I was immature, I didn’t like talking about my family because they are famous and everyone always asked me so many questions about them, nothing about me, and he just didn’t say much about his own. You never wanted to talk about your family, so I guess it seemed normal to me then. I only ever met his father a few times, briefly, never the mother and if a sister had ever come up, I forgot. Okay, it’s been a long time, but when I think about it, I am not all that sure I really saw them kissing. More like an intense hug, like you would give if …”
“… your dad is on death’s door. Oh boy, Caitie.” Heath completed her thought.
“I have to tell him! Apologize to him! OMG!”
“I can save you that trouble, he is super-pissed at you. I don’t think he’d care. That ship has long sailed off to another galaxy, Cait.” Leeora told her.
But Caitlin wouldn’t be Caitlin if she didn’t try anyway.
The next time KC was over a few days later, and she caught him alone, she went straight for it.
“KC, Leeora said you have a sister …”
“So? Great shirt by the way. I feel honored to be part of that elite club of the damned.” he said, the cynicsm impossible to miss.
Caitlin looked down on herself and wanted to sink into the ground, when she realized she was in her sleepshirt reading “Ditched the boyfriend, kept the shirt” Oops. Gulp.
“Ahem … right. Okay, hear me out. Back when you and I were dating, I had such a terrible time missing you after my dad caught us kissing and forbade me to see you again, so I ran away from home to come see you, to be with you, but after connecting on a bunch of trains and buses, then walking through the dusty heat of Oasis Springs till I found your house, the very first thing I saw was you on the front porch kissing a girl! Or at least that’s what it looked like to me. I was so hurt, I totally freaked out, couldn’t think straight, and that’s why I broke up with you. I thought you were using me, cheating on me. When you are from a famous family like mine, a lot of people try to take advantage and use you, and I thought I had totally misjudged you, felt ashamed and humiliated. So, I didn’t know you had a sister and thought that girl was … I guess what I am trying to say is that I am really sorry.”
“What am I supposed to do with all that now? What do you expect from me now? You think you apologize and all is forgiven and forgotten? You’re not the only one that got hurt back then. Honestly, all that was two years ago, water down the river. You screwed up, fine, happens I guess, but doesn’t change the fact that you abandoned me when I really needed you, you let me down, didn’t trust me, didn’t even have the courtesy to at least confront me about what you thought you saw, never giving me a chance to set the record straight. Now it’s too late. I thought you were a bitch after all that, still think you are a bitch and that won’t change now or ever. Not with any apology you could dream up, but if this coming clean to me makes you feel better, good for you. Doesn’t change jack-shit for me.”
“Okay, fair enough. I really screwed up, I know that, and you have every right to be angry. But I still want to say I am very sorry. Really. I mean it, KC. I am sorry you were alone and felt abandoned when you needed me. That’s not who I am, I am always there for everyone, but I failed you. I feel terrible about that and want you to know that it had nothing to do with anything but me misunderstanding something I thought I saw. You did not deserve that.”
“Outstanding. Now I can die in peace. Speaking of dying, also nice to find out years after the fact that you are a vamp. Never once told me. So glad we had all that trust – NOT! I think we both got lucky this thing didn’t last. We would have failed gloriously anyway, the way this all went.”
“Right. Look, back then the whole vampire business was still a very well-kept secret. I wasn’t allowed or supposed to tell, in fact, we were all supposed to get prior approval from our leader, who happens to be my grandpa, before telling any mortals anything about what we are. My brother Chase still had to get that approval to tell Hailey. I didn’t hide it from you because I didn’t trust you, but because I was bound by our laws. I know you have every right be mad at me. I am really VERY sorry. KC, do you have a picture of your sister? Just for my own peace of mind?”
“Seriously?!” KC looked genuinely appalled.
“Please.” Caitlin’s plea was just as genuine. She had to see it with her own eyes.
KC rolled his eyes, sighed annoyed, but pulled out his phone, tapped and scrolled around the screen for a bit, then handed it to Caitlin. On the screen KC with a girl in what looked like a backyard, THE girl, Caitlin has seen him with. It had only been a glimpse and two years ago, but the image was burned into Caitlin’s memory. She’d recognize that girl out of a million.
“That’s a pretty recent pic, from last summer, but neither of us has really changed much in the past two years, both of us have other problems than worry about stylish appearances. Just both a little older. She’s about your age, I think, will be eighteen next Spring.”
Caitlin took one glance and knew that was the girl she had seen that afternoon when everything got turned upside down. She remembered the feeling, like getting stabbed over and over again, while the ground opened up beneath her, then followed weeks of endless sadness and hopelessness. And all that over nothing? As great as the realization was that he never cheated on her, realizing all this heartbreak had been over nothing was almost worse. She closed her eyes and sighed heavily, then handed the phone back.
“What’s her name? Your sister. She’s very pretty by the way. I can definitely see the family resemblance.”
“Juliette. And McCoy, obviously.”
“Pretty name, suits her. How is your dad doing? Sorry to hear about that too. Maybe you could tell him hi from me, if he remembers me?”
“He’s okay. Had a pacemaker put in and a stint, so he can’t work as hard as before but at least we didn’t lose him. I had to take over for him, to pay the bills. There went my dreams of college. Juliette had to give up hers too, we both lost our college funds so we can keep the house and we can’t afford it without, nobody will give us a loan. She’ll just learn a trade or something, like me, already has been working part-time through school, and my mom started working again as soon as dad could be on his own while recovering. Good thing you got out when you did. You’re looking at someone whose family cannot even count the times we almost got evicted and foreclosed on. Not a great feeling.”
“Shit. KC, if I can help …”
“Don’t even go there! I don’t even want to be talking with you, let alone take charity from anyone, especially not from you! If I didn’t care about Leeora so much, I wouldn’t even show up here, that’s how little I want to see you! And of course, Heath, still there, still circling. Surprised you’re not married yet, popping out his little bat babies. He’s a fang too, right?”
“He is, but we’re not dating. Just friends, still and I am seventeen, KC, not exactly the typical married-with-babies age. I am not seeing anyone, actually. Haven’t since … you. But KC, about Leeora … ahem …” Caitlin felt so guilty and wanted to protect him from getting hurt again.
“What about her?” KC’s tone was rough, dismissive.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, but she may not be as serious about you as you are about her. Like, not all that exclusive …” Caitlin tried to be as gentle as she could.
“Oh .. nawww … come on now. This is ridiculous! Almost had me there for a moment, thinking you actually had changed and really meant it. And then here you go, trying to screw up my life again. You are such a conniving bitch! FUCK YOU, Cait. Manipulate someone else, not me!” KC stormed out, slamming a door in his wake. Caitlin sighed in defeat.
“Can’t win for losing with that guy. If I tell him the truth, he hates me, if I don’t, he hates me.”