“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.
We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
Liam, Vivien and Aria-Grace all looked up when Nick walked out to the pool area of their Italian rental home to join them. Smiling, Vivien greeted him.
“Ah, there you are sweetheart. I was just about to text you; we are getting hungry and wanted to see if you and Addy wanted to join us for dinner at our favorite restaurant down by the coast?”
“I don’t think I can ever eat again after seeing Addy’s old man in Speedos. Yikes! I think I want a binkie and to sit in your lap, mom.”
Everyone burst into laughter, even Nick couldn’t help crack a smile.
“Yeah, you all just laugh it up at my expense. My eyeballs were bleeding all the way over here from an afternoon of seeing that bloated Italian raisin squished into leopard Speedos that were already too tight several decades and three sizes ago. Let me just say his body is well past its heydays, that itty bitty panty thingy kept disappearing into all his wrinkles and folds, probably trying to hide from the humiliation, I was seriously scared his ass would literally eat them breeches and I would have to see what little was left to the imagination. If that wouldn’t have turned me to stone like looking at a Medusa, I’d’ve have nightmares for the rest of my life. Might need therapy anyway after this.”
“Why was he with you and in Speedos anyway? I thought you and Addy were going clothes shopping downtown.” Vivien labored out in between laugh attacks, while Liam and Aria-Grace were snorting and shaken by roaring laughter.
“Was the idea, but daddy dearest decided what we really needed was a big family group snuggle, so he suggested – and by that I mean demanded – we should all go hang out at the beach because it’s such a lovely day, not like EVERY day in this place is sunny and warm. So we, meaning Addy, her little sister Bianca, daddy-from-hell-Auditore and yours truly, did and I got scarred for life. Speaking of dinner, he invited all of us to the villa for that. Tonight. Guess that bitch just can’t get enough of me.”
“I can’t wait to take a Selfie with him in his speedos. #ItalianBirthControl” laughed Aria-Grace.
“I sure hope that man puts on a little more fabric for dinners. At the very least a shirt. Preferably a very, very long one. I’ll take a family pack of blindfolds just in case.” Liam snickered.
“From the sounds of it he will be in his Sunday’s best for a simple dinner at his home, while the four of us are gonna show up in resort wear, flip flops and all.” Vivien giggled.
“I just hope he won’t say the wrong thing and you or dad go apeshit on his ass. I mean, we can all stack hands on agreeing he’s a moron, but I need to keep him somewhat happy or I can forget about ever seeing Adrianna again. So, there is that.” Nick shrugged.
“Nicholas – language! And daddy and I know how to behave as guests somewhere, we’re not Neanderthals, thank you very much. Speaking of Neanderthal, you go shower and get dressed. When is that dinner supposed to be?”
“I don’t know. Around dinner time I guess. Whatever that is translated into Auditore logic.”
“Nick! Please call Addy and find out!” Vivien told him, and Nick already started typing on his phone.
“Fiiiine … I’ll text her. Hang on, she’s already responding. At six she says”
“WHAT? It’s 5:15!!! OMG – I will never get my hair done by then. Liam, Aria-Grace, get dressed, formal wear please – NOW. Nick, respond to her that we will be there, and then go shower, NOW! And I am just gonna go with all black, my Escada silk blouse and linen pants. Can’t go wrong with that. Dear lord, how I hate being rushed!”
Slightly out of breath they all arrived at Villa Auditore, Liam knocked and a few moments later the door was opened by none other than Auditore Senior himself, who demonstratively looked at his wristwatch.
“Ah, fashionably late. Must be a celebrity thing and something I am probably too old to ever be able to appreciate. Si prega di entrare.” he said, gesturing them inside.
“Yeah – they don’t speak Italian either.” Nick said as they all entered.
“No surprise there. I made it a point to raise all my children fluent in at least three languages. I am painfully aware that our Nick here barely masters one without having to resort to … let’s call them sentence enhancers.” Auditore retorted.
“He has that from my dad. He curses a lot.” Aria-Grace blurted out, receiving a nudge by her brother and warning glares from both parents.
“What?! It’s true! Not like that’s a well-hidden secret!” she protested.
“A spirited young lady I see. Much like your brother. Since his manners seem to fail him, let me introduce myself. I am Ezio Auditore, Adrianna’s father. I know we all have met before, briefly, but never had a proper introduction. Seeing how our children seem to be very attached to one another, I felt it was time. Thank you all for coming, by the way.”
“Right. I am Liam Cameron, this is my beautiful wife Vivien, you know our oldest, Nick, and this is Aria-Grace.”
“Aria Grazia, lovely name for a lovely young woman. Very Italian inspired.” Auditore smiled.
“Very professionally inspired, actually. I am an artist, you see. Music.” Vivien corrected him.
“Oh, I am aware who you are. You have been a headache in my household since my oldest sons were teenagers. They were rather fond of your music, but I always suspected even fonder of your beauty and shockingly scarce stage outfits. I had to forbid them from hanging your posters up unless I sanctioned them. Half the time I felt like an editor of a raunchy gentlemen’s magazine. And then those music videos for your songs. Oh, mio dio!”
“Preaching to the choir here … I have never been a fan of her barely-there stage wear either. That has been the reason for many a marital disputes, to put it mildly.” Liam muttered, now receiving an icy glare from Vivien. An old and still sore subject between them. Auditore wasn’t impressed either.
“Well, maybe rather than complain it would have been advisable for you to recall in time that you are her husband, and our wives always also represent us publicly. Not sure what a sparsely dressed wife seen so publicly on stages and televisions the world over says for an attorney husband’s credibility, but luckily, that is not for me to rack my brain over. Oh, there they are now, my lovely daughters. You all know Adrianna, this is her sister Bianca, my youngest child. She favors her late mother, my beloved Melissa in shape, while my Adrianna has my late wife’s eyes and hair. Oh, my Melissa was a wonderful cook. I can tell by looking at your family that domestic duties are not your forte, Mrs. Cameron? Never trust a skinny cook, an Italian proverb, and looking at your family, all skinny as rails, I take it cooking is not a priority. How sad.”
Vivien was fuming but managed to keep her cool. Aria-Grace responded instead.
“Mom’s in showbiz. You have to be skinny in that industry, especially as a woman, or the press eats you alive. Even my great-grandmother Maeve always says that. A woman in showbiz really can never be too thin or too rich.”
“Oh dio mio, che famiglia! Adrianna, please tell the chef we are ready to eat. Come all, this way please.”
The dinner was delicious, all seven courses of it, making Vivien sweat at the thought of the number of calories she would have to burn off to be able to fit into her tailored haute couture clothing. Table conversation was pleasant enough, even though Vivien had to kick Nick a few times under the table so he would quit making googly eyes and silly faces at Addy.
The after-dinner coffee and cake plus digestives were also unusual to Vivien and Liam, while Aria-Grace and Bianca had been excused from the table now. Both about the same age, found out during dinner they liked some of the same boybands, so Bianca had asked if she could show Aria-Grace her room.
Nick and Adrianna were stuck with their parents. Adrianna had tried, but her father insisted she and Nick stayed.
“So, Mr. And Mrs. Cameron, what are your thoughts about our Nick and Adrianna’s future together?” Auditore Senior asked casually.
“Huh? How do you mean?” Vivien wondered.
“Well, I understand Nick wishes to follow in his father’s footsteps as an attorney at law, which I generally applaud, but he put the idea into my daughter’s head that she should attend university as well. I don’t see much of a need, but if that is what Adrianna wishes, I won’t deny it. Still, I am not comfortable at the thought of what all could happen to a young girl like her. You hear terrifying things about dorm life.”
“My wife and I both attended university, same one in fact Nick sent his application to as a first choice. It’s really not much different than high school, plus, it prepares kids for life after living with their parents.” Liam explained.
“I know what university is like for young men, Mr. Cameron. I attended university; both my sons did as well. My oldest is running my businesses now, sadly, my other son passed from this life much too young. A tragedy. Anyway, my two older daughters did not go to college, both married straight after high school. I do not see my girls as providers, if they cannot find a young man that can take care of them, I don’t think it’s meant to be. Call me old-fashioned, but there is a reason women bear children, not us men, so we shouldn’t argue with nature about our natural roles. Women take care of home, hearth and children, we men provide. Aside from that, all my children have and will live with me until they are married. Boys and girls alike. Obviously, my sons lived on campus, but moved back in with me after until they got married. I never had an unmarried daughter away from home for longer than a week. You see how dorm life would be a conflict of interest for me? Especially for a girl as beautiful as Adrianna.”
“I see how it would be for you, but I can tell you I fully intend on sending both my children to university. As the proud Italian you are, you should know that many great thinkers, inventors and forward thinkers who improved the world and still influence it today were much less conservative than their peers. Macchiavelli, Leonardo di ser Pieri da Vinci, …”
“Ah, a man who knows his history. Does my heart good and I applaud it. At least one member of this family seems to have more in their head than fashion and fun.”
“Excuse me?!” Vivien’s eyes were narrowed and her voice slightly shrill.
“Viv, let it go …”
“I don’t think so! You are letting enough things go for the both of us! You pipe up when he says unflattering things about you, but after he blew some sugar up your ass you are now best buddies, and he can call me a shopaholic airhead and you want me to sit here and swallow it?! I do not think so. You see, in MY family, Mr. Auditore, women are treated as equals, not as breeding mares and free household staff. As a matter of fact, most women in my family as the ones with the high paying jobs and the money, we don’t need our men to pay our way for us. For your information, this airhead graduated college with honors and a solid degree in Music Education, Theory and Composition, Jazz Studies and Performing Arts. And as for your precious Italian heritage you are so damn proud of …. you are not the only one with Italian background here. On that note, I bid you farewell and leave you with this: Sei proprio uno stronzo! Arrividerci, Signore Auditore. Il mio nome da nubile è Vatore. Si, Italiano! Vai a cagare, cazzo!” Vivien hissed across the table.
Everyone else at the table gasped.
“You know what actually? I had quite enough of this nonsense! I am leaving, you can all come with me or stay here for all I care, but I am DONE with this backwoods medieval soap opera we stumbled into. DONE!” Vivien added, pushed back her chair and rushed out.
Nick, Adrianna and Liam sat there with their eyes wide in shock, while the old Auditore merely shrugged.
“Hm, who would have guessed this. Not very classy, the lady, but her pronunciation and grammar are flawless for a foreigner, I give her that.”
“Dafuq did my mom say?” Nick whispered across the table to Adrianna.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know the details. She basically called him unflattering names, told him her maiden name was Vatore, said that it’s Italian too, then told him to go fuck himself.” she whispered back.
“Oh shit! Go mom!” Nick couldn’t help but snort a laughter, making Adrianna giggle, while Liam now sat there, horrified. Part of him wanted to run after his wife, the other part felt obligated to not ruin this evening any more, since it was important to his son.
“Ahem, my apologies, Mr. Auditore. My wife is very … ahem .. spirited and temperamental, I assure you she meant no disrespect in your home. Nick, say goodnight and let’s find your sister. We should go. No reason to overstay the kind welcome here.”
The old Auditore rose up, a smirk curling the corners of his lips.
“I’ll see you to the door. You do not have to apologize, Mr. Cameron. I probably deserved it. My late wife, may God rest her soul, was as Italian as a cheeseburger, but you wouldn’t know it by her temper. Your wife’s outburst reminds me of my Melissa. So spirited and confident, which was why she stood out to me from all the other women. I knew right away, she was genuine, never would say or do anything she didn’t mean, she was graceful like a swan but a fierce fighter for her loved ones. You see, wealth is nice, but comes at a high price when you are looking to find a match. Most things are not what they seem. My daughter will be a very wealthy woman when she marries, so you understand how I want to be sure she doesn’t throw herself away to some playboy mooch.”
“You would not have to worry about that with Nick. I figured that was abundantly clear. You obviously know who his mother is, you know I have my own law firm, and you know who my in-laws are. We are not hurting for money.”
“Oh, I do know everything about your family and your wife’s. But making much money, marrying into it or being born into it is not always the same as having money, Mr. Cameron, especially not if the ever-flighty entertainment business is involved. One day you are top, the next a flop and with the fans’ affection goes your wealth, melting like ice in the sunshine as for most people sudden wealth often goes hand in hand with living at the cusp of one’s means. In many ways wealth is much like a relationship. Finding it is easy, keeping it long term is the hard part where most fail. I have met more gamblers and failed investors and really wealthy people who at second glance were just smoke and mirrors, because they spent a dollar when they had a dime, leaving them destitute and deeply indebted even though you would never know it at first glance. Those often look to strike a match with someone from old money, such as my daughter. As someone born into a long line of bankers and financiers, that makes me cringe. I love my children, Mr. Cameron. I am strict because I know what could happen if were not.”
“I get that, but there is such a thing as being overprotective and controlling. It’s called helicopter parenting. There is a fine line between overprotecting our children and raising smart, well-informed self-sufficient young adults. Kids are kids, they will make mistakes, they will fall down and we will have to dust them off, kiss their booboos and help them soar again and again, but we can’t stop believing in them and their abilities. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet some day or we, as parents, have failed them.”
Auditore looked at him, then nodded.
“I like you, Mr. Cameron. You have a good head on your shoulders. Between that, your natural good looks and your personal style, are you certain you do not have Italian heritage as well?”
“Positive, Mr. Auditore. As I stand before you, my heritage is all Scottish, with a sprinkle of German, even if I may not look it.”
“Well, Scots are said to be stingy with their money and Germans are known to be smart in banking, inventing and engineering. Coming from a long line of bankers myself, I am happy to hear this. I hope we can repeat this dinner at some point but on a better note and please, kindly extend my sincere apologies to your wife. I meant no offense. My heart is broken that she took it hard.”
“I will. And we may. Like you, I have the feeling that the story of Nick and Addy only just began, no matter what we as parents think about that, so we have to find ways to get along.”
“There are worse things I could think of Mr. Cameron. Believe it or not, but I rather enjoyed our exchange. It did put me at ease about my daughter and your son. I know they are both young, you and I have very different parenting styles, but you and I both know that time has a way of getting away from us and sometimes flies. Before we know it, they are graduating university and we all may be planning a wedding. I want to make sure our children enter into a life they both want long term, as I am sure you do too, Mr. Cameron.”
“Liam, please. And I have to agree with you on all counts.”
“Very well. Call me Ezio. My pleasure to drop the formalities.”
By the time Liam had pried Nick away from Adrianna and collected Aria-Grace, they returned to a still fuming Vivien at the rental villa.
“Oh, how nice of you all to finally show up too! Oh Liam, I sure hope you are late because you punched that motherfucker into the hospital!”
“Nah, mom, he and Addy’s old man are on first name basis now. BFFs.”
Vivien’s eyes shot sparks at her husband, she turned on her heels and ran up the stairs, while Liam shot his son a ‘was that REALLY necessary?!’ glare, which Nick acquitted with a shrug, before Liam ran up after his wife.
“You’re an idiot, Nick! If they fight and break up again, it’s YOUR fault! I will blame YOU!” Aria-Grace told Nick as she shoved him, then ran upstairs to her room.
“Sure. Everything is always Nick’s fault.” he mumbled as he ran up the stairs too, after some muffled yelling from his parents’ room, with a groan Nick buried his head under the pillows when the sounds implied that they had, indeed, made up and were celebrating it rather passionately in bed.