“Everyone has untold stories of pain and sadness that make them love and live a little differently than you do. Stop judging, instead try to understand.”–Anonymous
Brindleton Bay Cameron Cliff Home
With a sigh, Lana placed the magazine on the wooden table next to her lounge chair on the patio as she shut her eyes to soak in the warm sunrays of the balmy afternoon, in the distance the waves crashing into the cliffs, she could smell the saltwater in the air, as a few gulls screamed overhead.
She exhaled long.
She felt good. Great even. Content, save, happy, her life felt complete and perfect. Not the type of reaction seeing Liam grin from the VIP headlines section of her magazine with his famous vocalist wife Vivien, her old arch-nemesis, plus their meanwhile two kids would have evoked from her only two years ago. But today, she just couldn’t care if she tried.
Two years felt like an eternity ago now. She had been married to Eric for almost that long now, and despite of being almost ten years younger than her, he was every bit the partner and lover she had always dreamed of, Eric was kind and mature, usually worked through difficulties with his sense of humor and infectious laughter rather than mean words and accusations. Lana could count the number of disagreements they had had on one hand.
Lana’s daughter Meaghan sometimes called him dad, sometimes Eric, and he answered to both without batting an eyelash. Not once had he tried to force being her father on her, but he also didn’t shy away from the role. Eric’s son Rhys evoked strong motherly feelings in Lana, Rhys was a good kid and let her live them out on him, but she could feel that he had not grown up wanting like her daughter had, wanting affection, attention, security from more than one person. Rhys always had a village to help raise him, support him, love him, and still did. He called her Lana, never mom, but would kiss her cheek.
“Lana – how do I know when it’s time?!” Rhys entered the patio like a hurricane right into her thought process.
“Time for what, honey?!”
“Geraldine. The vet said to watch for panting. She is panting – a lot!”
“Oh sweetie, she’s a dog, they pant, we still have a long way to go. She’s just uncomfortable now, the puppies are heavy, and it is a bit warm out today. Just make sure she has lots of water.”
“Is that what you did when you had Meaghan?”
Lana had to laugh, imagining herself very pregnant, panting and lapping up water from a bowl at the prestigious law firm of her late first husband.
“Sorry sweetheart. It is different for humans. But yes, I was uncomfortable a lot and I did drink a lot more water than normal, which makes you pee a lot. On that note, make sure she doesn’t make messes in the house.”
“M’kay mom … ” Rhys took off back into the house.
“Mom? Did he just … ? Or am I hearing things?” Lana mumbled to herself.
She looked at her wristwatch and realized Eric would be home from the station in about an hour, so she went inside to get dinner started. In the midst of it came flashbacks of the Lake House, of Vivien and her literally cat-fighting over Liam … and now here she was, once proud owner and head of the largest law firm in San Myshuno, a matching luxurious penthouse and closets full of designer clothing – before losing all in a bitter divorce from her second husband, now working as just one of many attorneys in a legal department of a large company, a simple 9 – 5 job, with the option to work from home, like she had done today, and now she stood in a homely kitchen in a small-town idyll called Brindleton Bay, breading pork chops for dinner, Eric’s favorite. His mother Jenna was a tough cookie and had taken it upon herself to teach Lana the exact way to make them like she used to. Lana took it in stride, and somehow, as the only spouse, past or present, of any of Jenna’s three kids, she was the one Jenna genuinely liked. It was almost embarrassing sometimes during family gatherings, when Jenna was picking apart Eric’s twin sister Everleigh’s poor husband Justin, but their oldest brother Ethan’s wife Vanessa always got the worst of it all. Lana felt sorry for the poor girl. After denying it for the longest time, Ethan had accidentally let it slip that Vanessa had in fact been his student at some point, he was a history professor at Britchester, and while they had met at a bar and only later discovered the professor-student part, it had taken them a while to get her transferred out of his class. They used to love living in the Brindleton Bay Beach House where now Eric’s parents lived, but when Ethan got an offer to move into a faculty home on-campus, they jumped at it, just to put some distance in between them and Jenna.
As if her thinking about her had willed her into existence, Lana looked up and out of the window right as a pedestrian came from the side of the house, which lead to the beach.
Lana groaned, wiped off her hands and answered the door, letting Jenna follow her into the kitchen.
“Your dog is getting fat!” was Jenna’s greeting as Geraldine waddled past them, panting heavily.
“Oh, that breeding nonsense, right, I forgot. Hope you guys know what you are getting into here. I cannot believe you and Eric indulge a 15-year-old boy like that. I see we already splurged on a sign. Isn’t that a bit premature?” Jenna pointed out the kitchen window at the brand-new sign reading ‘CamBay Kennels’.
“Rhys really wanted this. He’s not the flighty type and he always loved dogs. We didn’t see any harm in it, and he is a good kid.”
“I know that – I raised him. After his mother died, his father still had to work, he was still patroling back then, his grandfather went to the office, and I got stuck working from home to take care of a baby. I saw Rhys’ first steps, heard his first words, helped him with his homework. Still, I would not have let him open a dog kennel. Such frivolous nonsense! He has so many options to choose from as a career, he could take over C-Genix, someone has to unless Jordan and I are supposed to die one day still sitting in our offices. His brother Jamie and wife Averie retired, Jamie was even the Mayor of Windenburg and groomed his son-in-law for the job, yet, we cannot. I’d much prefer handing the reigns of the company we build from the ground up to someone blood-related, not Justin or that Vanessa, but that is all we got so far. I hope to God that one of the grandkids has a mind for business and marketing. Instead, our oldest grandson breeds dogs! Ridiculous!”
“Right. Did you need anything? I am in the middle of dinner, as you can see.”
“I can see that. Went a little light on the breading, don’t you think? Saving money there to pay off that sign? I am here to see if Eric’s sister already shared the news.”
“What news? If Evey called him, he hasn’t texted me about it. She definitely didn’t call the house. Is everything all right?”
“Not sure what the right answer would be. She is pregnant again. At 30. I don’t understand what that is good for now. Their daughter is about to be 9, and they come with another baby?! Just because she turned 30? What kind of logic is that, I ask you!? I don’t understand my children sometimes.”
“Maybe it was an accident. Happens …”
“Initially I thought so too, I am sure you are aware of that Cameron curse nonsense Jordan’s family always peddles like cheap knock-offs. Such rubbish! Jordan and I wanted two pregnancies and I got pregnant exactly two times, not one time more. It’s not that hard to use contraception. Cameron curse, my foot! Now I knew there was a risk we could have multiples, Jordan being a twin himself, and that’s why we got three kids instead of two, but no Cameron curse or malfunctions at all. Just plain science. Everleigh straight up admitted to me it was fully intentional. ‘So romantic at the rental after the Onsen bathhouse, mom’, she told me. She’ll think romance when getting up every night to clean poop off a screaming baby! Well, to be exact, her words were that they wanted to chance it one more time. Chance it! Since when do we gamble on conceiving children?! Fools! Hope they enjoy cleaning up their jackpot’s messes for the next 18 years now! For her sake I hope it’s not multiples, seeing how she and your husband are twins! She barely has room for the three people they have now!”
“Oh. Wow! I’ll be sure to tell Eric when he gets home.” Lana said politely, trying to usher Jenna out, since she seemed groomed for conflict. But no such luck. Jenna stayed and continued undeterred.
“No, I think I will stay, so I can make sure Eric knows to have a serious talk with his brother. Last I need is Ethan and that little childwife of his to get silly ideas now too! Both of those kids live in homes the size of matchboxes! Barely room for that one kid they got. Ethan does not need another kid. One is enough for him!”
“Jenna, Vanessa is 29 years old, not a child. I’ll be sure to tell Eric to call Ethan about avoiding procreation. Although I didn’t have the impression either wanted more kids.”
“That’s what Jordan and I thought about Evey! Yet, here we are. Thank goodness you are too old for these shenanigans. Bad enough Jordan’s twin brother Jamie’s kids procreated like crazy, not to mention his cousin Blaine and his horde of offspring! I’d like our side of the family to remain civilized.”
BAM! OUCH! Right into Lana’s soft underbelly.
Yes, being in her forties, Lana wasn’t in the prime conception age anymore, and never wanted another kid. The accidental pregnancy with Liam had scared her, after the pain of losing the baby faded, only sincere relief remained. But recently something changed. Maybe it was all the talk about dog breeding and puppies, maybe it was the moment when Lana dusted off Rhys’ framed birth certificate displayed in the hallway upstairs by the old nursery, which was now Eric’s photo room, a pang of sadness, a feeling of missing out, went through her, hot like a glowing arrow. The sincere feeling of regret, of not getting to experience something wonderful and special with a man who is finally absolutely worthy, who has shown he is a father to her daughter, a partner to her, loving her no matter what, all that had planted doubt and regret in Lana’s mind. A man she could experience all facets of parenthood with as it was meant to be. Ever since, that feeling had been eating away at her. Secretly, she had even started researching IVF methods and statistics.
“LANA!” Jenna’s voice pierced through her thoughts, and Lana returned to a burnt stench in the air and Jenna’s confused glare.
“Are we a little mature to be day-dreaming like a teeny bopper!? You just about burned dinner! Good thing I was here and could save it. It’s a bit well done on the bottom, but we’ll just arrange it on plates and drape vegetables around it, they will never know. But sweet darling girl, I don’t know you as the ditsy type. What is wrong with you today?”
Lana tried to deny it, but as harsh as Jenna could be, she was a mother and had a golden heart, before Lana knew it, she was crying into her mother-in-law’s shoulder, about terrible choices, loss and finding love too late.
Strangely, Jenna was gentle and soft, managed to calm her and Lana felt like she was talking to her own mother, who had never been this sweet and whom she lost as a teen.
“There, there. No need for tears. Lana, you didn’t lose out on anything. So, you may not have a baby with Eric, but you have two kids with him now, like it or not, but Rhys looks at you like a mother and I have the feeling your Meaghan has finally come home too. You have two kids. Lana, when we lost Emily the way we did, I didn’t think Eric would ever recover. He was not in a good place, not for a very long time, which is why he lived with us until recently. He and Rhys both needed Jordan and me around. I think it wasn’t until he met you that he finally found stable footing. He was completely overwhelmed having to take care of a baby by himself, he was still so young, he loved Rhys, but it scared him to death, so I am not convinced he would even want a baby. Especially not if it already comes with a lot of risk going in. You know, your age and all.”
Lana nodded. Jenna was a businesswoman and it showed. She kept a cool head while working through Lana’s crazy thoughts. And she was right. Everything Jenna said was right.
“Jenna? Any chance you could keep all this to yourself? The meltdown, the baby thing .. the stuff I told you in secret about Liam and me. Eric doesn’t know about that. I just couldn’t … it was too fresh back then and afterwards; it never crossed my mind again.”
“Lana, I know people see me as a bitch, for good reason, I want them to. I rather that than be taken advantage of. Your secret is save, and I’ll leave you to it then, there’s Eric’s car now. Give him a kiss from me and know you will always find a shoulder when you need one right next door, just a brief stroll across the beach away. ANYtime, Lana.”
Jenna hurried out, moments later Eric appeared, kissed Lana then wondered
“I could have sworn I just saw my mother leave …”