Detaching does not mean we don’t care.
It means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy.
San Myshuno Senator Suites Penthouse (Liam and Nick's home) Nick's 18th birthday party
Standing on the balcony of his San Myshuno penthouse, the music and party noises from the inside only a dull rumble, especially when mixed with the sounds of a busy city, Liam’s gaze fell on the Skyline Club below, almost gleefully located right in eyesight and just seconds walkway from his home, owned and operated by his soon to be ex-father-in-law Blaine Cameron. A heavy sigh escaped Liam.
When he and his soon-to-be ex-wife Vivien still lived here, together, as a couple, as young parents and later as a little family, this seemed incredibly convenient. Now, it felt like a sad reminder of their failure.
As much as Liam didn’t want to, he felt like a failure too, as a father and certainly as a husband. Why couldn’t they just quit fighting? Clearly, they loved each other. Still. Not a shadow of a doubt in his mind. Both of them loved their kids. So why could they not conquer the differences? Why?
Every time after a fight, especially the really bad ones, things were good for a while. Harmonious even.
But sooner or later something happened, no matter how small it started, and things just went off the tracks again, to the degree that any neighbor would have called the police on them – had there been any. The penthouse had nobody in earshot and living at Vivien’s mansion in the exclusive Del Sol Valley hills; neighbors were few and far between. Privacy was currency there, so unless it were to happen out in public view, nobody would even take notice.
Except their kids.
This was what both had always agreed on, the kids were paramount, they had to be protected from this madness. That worked well for most of the time, but had become next to impossible of late.
The only way keeping the kids out of it now even seemed possible was by separation, and such a separation only seemed logical with a divorce. Vivien was constantly in the limelight; paparazzi were everywhere, and their split was reported as Breaking News before the moving company even had delivered Liam and Nick’s things to their penthouse in San Myshuno. Hard to explain otherwise.
It was Christmas Day today, but even more importantly today was their son Nick’s birthday. Eighteen. Officially an adult.
The stressful time of high school finals was over, Nick would graduate in only a few weeks from now. And in a few more weeks, he would be off to college.
As proud as Liam was of his son’s superb grades and big plans, not to mention the wish of following in his father’s footsteps, he feared the loneliness this would leave him with. Nick had always been his little buddy, sharp and witty even as a child, and the past weeks had felt more like living with a roommate than father and son, both thoroughly enjoyed their time spent together. Nick was a cool kid, and Liam probably a pretty cool dad.
With a sigh he went back inside, careful not to look at anyone to keep a low profile as he rushed up the stairs to the master bathroom, without hesitation he entered, since guests customarily used the bathroom downstairs, he shut the door and halted.
Someone was in here.
“Vivien! Oh … umm … sorry I …. didn’t mean to barge in on you, didn’t realize anyone was in here. Why didn’t you lock the door, Viv?”
“It’s okay. Just reminiscing. Do you remember the very first time I ever came here, and you gave me the tour? Do you remember what you said about this bathroom?”
“Can’t say I do, no.”
“You pointed at this here window and said from the bathtub you could see the girl in the apartment across when she undressed.” Vivien smiled. A sad, faraway smile, which Liam could feel more than see.
“Oh, that. Yeah … I was so young and immature … had the worst secret crush on you and didn’t know what to do about it. We were both just slightly older than Nick is now.”
“18 years. Can you believe it? Our little baby boy is 18, an adult now. Well, sort of. I remember so vividly when we found out I was pregnant with him. Here, in this very bathroom. Man, we have a lot of history in this bathroom. Kinda disturbing in a way. A bathroom is not really the most romantic base for stories to tell the grandkids.” Vivien sounded melancholic.
“No kidding, and not just THIS bathroom. Remember, we conceived Aria-Grace in the master bathroom shower at your place. Our grandkids will not like our ‘how this family started’ stories.” Liam responded in kind.
“Oh boy! No wonder we’re so messed up.” Vivien said, turning around to face Liam, as usual, her nearly ageless and perfect beauty gave him a sting in his heart. Almost out of reach again … divorced. Sigh.
“No kidding!” he responded upon realizing she was looking straight at him.
“How are you doing, Liam?” her question was sincere.
“Exhausted. Preparing for this party and Nick’s finals was a doozy, work is insane but …”
“Liam! No. How are YOU doing?” Vivien’s tone was more pressing, Liam understood, nodded, then answered, matching both her sincerity and melancholy.
“Oh. I see. Well, frankly, screwed up covers it best, I think. Me, my life, my future, my dreams, my outlook, … I believe swearing was invented just to be able to properly describe our family and situation.”
“Yeah, no joke. Same for me. In a strange way it was easier last time we went through this, without a 13-year-old impressionable girl to worry about. Can’t exactly fall into my old routine of not eating but drinking wine till I pass out to the point that I end up hospitalized, just like a good celebrity should. I really have to keep it together for Aria-Grace.”
“Well, good. I worry about you. A lot. Both of you.” Liam was painfully honest, as he took Vivien’s hands in his, instantly remembering back across all the years they have known each other now, all the key moments, just brief flashed in his mind.
“Have you drafted the divorce papers yet?” he quiet question felt like a whack with a baseball bat.
“Me? I thought Kai or Dylan would do that.”
Vivien shook her head, looking incredibly sad, just on the verge of crying, but her eyes stayed dry. Long years as a performing artist, she was well-trained in keeping face on stages.
“Liam, I don’t want to do this.” her voice carried all the pain she felt.
“Me either, but we both know we can’t stop the destructive behavior. What point is a marriage if we cannot be in a room together without verbally bashing our heads in?”
“I don’t care, I don’t want a divorce. I want you. YOU! I miss you!”
Now Vivien’s dam broke, and the tears just shot out of her, breaking Liam’s heart, so he pulled her into a tight hug as if he could protect her from the pain that way. And himself, as he buried his face into her hair, inhaling the familiar scent of her shampoo, mixed with her perfume. Her scent, which he loved so much.
Downstairs at the party, some time later, Nick walked around.
“Hey AG, you seen our parents?” he asked his sister.
“I think I saw your dad go upstairs a while ago. No idea about your mom though.” Nick’s best friend Rohan answered in her stead.
With an eyeroll and a sigh, mumbling something under his breath about parents being like toddlers sometimes, Nick headed upstairs, knocked on the bathroom door before trying the handle, empty. With an exasperated sigh he just opened his father’s bedroom door, thinking he would find him staring out the window like he often had ever since the split.
“Dad, where the heck did you run off to? Seen mom anywhere? We’re ready to do the cake and … HOLY SHITPICKLES!!!!”
The rest of what he was originally going to say got stuck in Nick’s throat when he realized he had just walked into his parents about to have sex.
“Nick – OUT!” yelled Liam, while trying to cover him and Vivien up best he could, while Nick already ran out the door.
Before he could collect himself enough to run downstairs again, Liam caught up with him, still only in his boxers.
“Nick, wait! I know this must be confusing and …” Liam held on to Nick’s arm.
“CONFUSING!? For me?! YOU are confused! Never heard of locking doors?! Not to mention: are you even for real right now?! You two are talking divorce yet end up nailing each other on my birthday. You both are schizo!” Nick had indeed stopped, if only to give his father a piece of his mind.
“In the heat of the moment, door locks just didn’t occur to us and …” Liam tried calmly.
“I really do not want to hear about heat of the moment stuff with you guys. You both need help! Seriously, get counseling! Or better yet: both of you start looking for brain transplants, cos you guys’ brains are messed up beyond recognition!” Nick shouted.
“Nick, calm down! I am still your father and while I get why you might be upset seeing your mother and me in that situation … all things considered …” struggling for words to explain an inexplicable situation, Liam was interrupted by an angry Nick, his face glowing red now.
“Seriously dad, I don’t care! Fuck mom or don’t, I don’t care, but please put some clothes on, we have a house full of guests, some of them female and I really don’t need this type of humiliation of any of them getting a load of my X-rated dad. Especially not with Addy here! You have any idea what would happen if her father would somehow get wind of this?! And make sure mom doesn’t look all smeared and freshly fucked before she comes back down, AG may be young, but she ain’t stupid. Neither are the rest of them down there!”
Nick turned and ran downstairs, with a sigh Liam went back in his bedroom.
By the time the birthday songs had been sung, candles had been blown out, cake had been cut, and everyone had officially congratulated and celebrated Nick’s milestone birthday, the big feeding frenzy ensued, all guests scattered around the downstairs again, when Vivien spotted Nick in the kitchen, away from the rest of the crowd, so she went to talk to him, followed by Liam.
“Nick, honey, I am sure you are confused about …”
“Mom, save it. I don’t care, and I REALLY don’t want to hear you, or dad explain to me on my birthday why you two screwed. Not my business. I am familiar with the concept that you two do it, otherwise AG and I would be really hard to explain, besides I have heard you many times across the years, you two are not as covert as you might think. I just don’t want to watch it happen, THAT’s my problem. Knowing something goes on is very different from witnessing it happening. Especially for two people who are supposedly getting divorced. AGAIN!”
“Honey, please keep your voice down!” Vivien pleaded, looking around quickly but nobody seemed to have heard Nick’s outburst, however she saw his little sister on her way over to them.
“Hey, what’s going on here? Why the grim faces? Are you all fighting? On Christmas and Nicky’s 18th birthday, aka. his Independence Day? Seriously?” Aria-Grace joined them.
Vivien gave Nick a begging glance, but his eyes narrowed, before he turned to his sister.
“Nah, not fighting. Mom and dad are trying to justify to me why I just walked in on them fuckin’ upstairs. Hap-hap-happy Christmas and merry birthday to me. This special day brought to me with a free live demo on how I was conceived 18 years plus 40ish weeks ago, probably while making up after yet another one of their fights. Splendid. I feel so blessed.”
“NICHOLAS!” Vivien exclaimed.
“Whaaaaaaat!? They did what?! NO WAY! Are you serious? Oh em gee! So are you like getting back together now? Dad, are you moving back in? Cos I kinda don’t want to move back here, not after all the crap that happened in San Myshuno. Can we all live in Del Sol Valley, PLEEEEASE?!” Aria-Grace chattered on.
“Ahem … Aria-Grace, sweetheart, it’s not quite so simple …” tried Liam, who would much rather stand before a judge trying to justify some serial killer’s action than explain this to his young daughter.
“How could it not be, dad? Either you are, or you are not, but if not, why did you ..” Aria-Grace deduced but was interrupted by her mother.
“ARIA-GRACE! Enough! Let’s all try to enjoy this day, we all will have breakfast together tomorrow, so we will talk about this then, okay? OKAY!?” Vivien warned.
“Yeah yeah, okay, fine, whatev. Nick, some of the others are talking about going to the Skyline now and were wondering if you wanted to go, too? Cos I REALLY wanna go, but I kinda need you to go, so PLEASE PLEASE go.” Aria-Grace used her best puppy dog routine on her big brother.
“Wouldn’t that be a question better directed at your parents, young lady? You are not old enough to go clubbing!” Liam diverted her attention, slightly frustrated.
“Umm, dad, this is Nick’s birthday, and he is an adult now, so … I figured I’d ask him. Right?! Besides, I am not a baby, mom takes me to the one in the Valley all the time…” Aria-Grace told Liam as if explaining a very obvious situation to a toddler, as if a 13-year-old girl at a hot spot nightclub with a full bar and live performances nightly located near the exclusive Walk of Fame was commonplace, so visiting the one in San Myshuno should be not even worth mentioning.
Liam’s eyes shot to his wife, who shrugged, he rolled his eyes.
“Fine, we’ll make an exception because today is a special day. Operative term here is ‘exception’, Aria-Grace, and we will add that to the talking points for tomorrow over breakfast. You stay with the others, especially with your brother and you will listen to him when he tells you something. Got it?! Nick, please make sure to keep an eye on your sister.” Liam resigned.
“Yeah, gee thank you dear father, I would have totally left her to her own devices had you not told me. Will you explain to me how to walk and talk at the same time too, just to make sure I can function? After all, you and mom are such immensely great role models to me.”
“You are lucky it’s your birthday, Nicholas! Just for future reference, you are STILL my child, 18 years or not! I can – and will – still ground your sassy ass, kid!” warned Liam.
“I wanna go to the club noooooow, come ooooon Nick!” whined Aria-Grace, no telling if this was her teenage impatience talking or her personal way to diffuse what seemed to become a serious argument.
Either way, it worked, with a sigh Nick put his arm around his little sister’s shoulders and walked off with her, holding on to her tightly while blowing raspberries on her cheek, making her try to fight him off as she was complaining and pleading with him loudly, both of them giggling hard.
“We really need to get our story straight ASAP, Viv. We have till breakfast to dream up something to tell the kids, cos you know they will not let this slide. And honestly, I think I need to know what the hell is going on with us too. I am just as confused as they are now.”
“Oh yeah, I know. Same here. And you don’t hear your daughter being whiny whenever she misses you and Nick. Which is all the time, and the reason I took her with me to check on the Skyline and only during non-busy daytime hours. You know I help dad run it, so the whole forbidden fruit and cool factor got her mind of missing you and Nick for a little while. And mine too.”
“Yeah, I get that. I have my hands full keeping Nick entertained by throwing crap at him I normally wouldn’t, just so his mood bar stays above the red line. Cos damn, Viv, that fruit of our loins can be grumpy AF!”
“Trust me, I know! The other one is no picnic either. Okay, the kids and all their friends and cousins are leaving for the club, the adults look like they are about out of here, let’s do the goodbye line at the door, then I’ll help you clean up – and then we’ll TALK. Hope you have a whole bucket of wine around here somewhere.”
AN: Before wild speculations come up, nobody got pregnant. The focus is on the paradox of this situation.