“Success comes in a lot of ways, but it doesn’t come with money, and it doesn’t come with fame.
It comes from having a meaning in your life, doing what you love and being passionate about what you do. That’s having a life of success. When you have the ability to do what you love, love what you do and have the ability to impact people. That’s having a life of success. That’s what having a life of meaning is.”
Del Sol Valley
The day after Aria-Grace’s 18th birthday party
She blinked her eyes open to a room fully illuminated by the golden morning sun, looking at the ceiling the memories of the previous day, and especially the night, returned, quickly her head snapped to the side, and with a smile and a silent sigh of relief she noticed the male form next to her, so she propped herself up to get a better look and ever so carefully touch him, almost to make sure he was not a figment of her imagination after all.
Before her fingers ever touched him, as if he had felt her eyes on him, his opened now, meeting hers with a slight turn of his head as he smiled too.
“Good morning, beautiful.” he said, his voice strangely deep and husky from the preceeding slumber.
“Great morning even. You’re not a dream. This is real. It really happened! Everything really happened.” she smiled, then kissed him as their hands intertwined playfully.
A small kiss, a kiss good morning, a greeting. Yet, he seemed slightly uncomfortable afterwards.
“Oh AG … I might have bad breath. Let me brush my …” he looked horrified, trying to get up and hide his mouth before she could kiss him again, when she pushed him back down, placing one leg across him to make the point.
“Don’t you dare ruin this moment, Doctor Sharma! You and me, waking up in the same bed for the very first time; this is sacred. If you do have bad breath, I probably do too, so it will just cancel each other out or we’ll both faint.”
He chuckled at her lighthearted way to dismiss his worry, then kissed her.
“I am sorry, AG. I’ll work on this. Promise.”
“You better. Hey Rohan, have you ever taken a shower with a girl before? No? Then I have an idea for a first for both of us, let’s make another memory. Come!”
By the time they both came downstairs, Nick and Adrianna were already seated at the table, Liam and Vivien went to get plates of scrambled eggs and some coffee for the new arrivals, gesturing them to just sit down.
Rohan’s feeling of exhilarated floating on air ended abruptly, instantly he felt naked and exposed, just by looking at everyone he could tell that they all just knew he hadn’t spent the night in the guest room, causing him a ‘Gulp!’ moment, Nick smirked at him in a certain way and winked. Oh yes, he knew! And the way Liam looked at him when he sat the plate down in front of him now … he knew too. Everyone just … knew. Oh man. Awkward didn’t begin to describe this.
“Don’t worry, it’s not poisoned.” Nick said to him, just loud enough for Rohan to hear, pointing at the breakfast in front of him.
“Oh … hee hee, funny. Look, Nick it all happened so fast, I was gonna tell you.” Rohan responded quietly, but a side-glance showed Aria-Grace and Addy were busy talking among themselves and not paying attention to the boys.
“For my sister’s sake I hope nothing happened too fast, hint, hint, considering she never had a serious boyfriend before you. Joking aside, chill, we’re cool. Nobody here wants to kill you. Relax and eat up, knowing my sister’s temper, you’ll need the sustenance.” Nick snickered.
“I’ll treat her right, like a queen. I swear. I’ll be the kind of guy she deserves. I’ll work on myself. For her.”
“I have no doubt, otherwise AG is well capable – and probably unable not to – hold you responsible herself. I only snap into action when she needs muscle, but she can take your skinny ass no problem.” Nick laughed, taking a sip of his coffee.
Liam and Vivien joined them at the table now, sitting across from each other, each of them at the head of the table, when Liam cleared his throat a few times to command attention.
“Well, now that we are all assembled here, I think it is due time to address the unpleasant and uncomfortable elephant in the room …” he began but was cut off by Aria-Grace.
“Oh my God – DADDY – Stop – don’t even go THERE! Come on now, I am 18! A grown woman, not your little girl anymore. 18-year-old women have boyfriends and sex all the time, Rohan and I were careful, I am not stupid, I have been on the pill for years, take it religiously, and he used a condom! He made a mistake ONCE! I am smarter than Ezzy, I know how to have sex for fun and not get pregnant!” she ranted.
Rohan’s eyes grew so big they seemed to come out of their sockets, as he prayed for the ground to swallow him whole, Nick choked and coughed on his bite of food, Liam and Vivien stared at their daughter in shock, while Adrianna inhaled the air sharply, then pressed her hand over her mouth. She was raised conservatively and moments like this took her breath away. Still.
Liam caught himself first, cleared his throat again, before saying
“Thank you for that unnecessary and uncalled for in-depth analysis of your last night’s activities, female Blaine Junior, that was just the type of TMI outburst absolutely NO father wants to hear with his morning coffee. However, what I was ACTUALLY going to talk to you about were your college applications, Missy. Terms start in Fall, Summer will be here before we all know it, which will be a busy time and blur for all of us because of Nick and Addy’s wedding, in other words, you are running out of time and your mom and I ran out of patience weeks ago.”
Aria-Grace looked positively mortified and was rendered speechless, while blushing to considerably dark levels of redness. Nicholas spoke up in his sister’s stead.
“Ahem, if I can have the floor for a minute while AG is busy trying to turn invisible and quit hyperventilating, since you already brought up the wedding; Addy and I decided a few days ago to postpone it for a while, maybe couple years or so. To save everyone from jumping to conclusions, has nothing to do with us, we are golden, but have other priorities at the moment, and don’t want to half-ass such an important event. Right now, we’re both super-wrapped up in work, trying to help raise Rohan’s little girl, which made us decide there are just too many pregnant girls and newborn babies among the invitees everywhere, making logistics a nightmare. I mean, we really don’t need a repeat of Aunt Caitlin’s wedding where Aunt Hailey went into labor and ended up in the ICU. Addy and I already talked to the venue and vendors, all very accommodating, letting us rebook once we can figure out a date and times that work for all.”
Liam and Vivien traded glances across the table, then Liam spoke
“Postpone? And a couple of years at that? Wow. Well, while that does come a bit surprising so close to the planned date, I have to say it’s good news, your mom and I actually prefer it this way, since I really can see no reason to rush, no need to get hitched this young and it allows more time for planning. Bit unconventional but thumbs up from me. A mature decision, you two.”
Aria-Grace finally recovered and now chimed in.
“Okay, and I would like to sincerely apologize to everyone. So sorry guys. I guess I was a bit on edge because my whole life literally changed overnight. Anyway, now once more and a little more celebratory and official: Rohan and I are dating, which makes me incredibly happy. Sorry again for the oversharing, but on the bright side, you don’t have to worry and wonder if we are responsible or not. As for the college thing, I haven’t forgotten, just need a little more time, simply because I cannot make up my mind which direction I want to go, this is a really big decision I don’t want to rush into. You know I am on the short list for a Starlight Accolade award, so I made a pact with myself, that if actually WIN, I’ll study Fine Arts. That is if the damn committee EVER gets around to making their decisions, cos I have been waiting on hot coals for those nominations to go out for MONTHS now. Well, and if I don’t get nominated or don’t win I’ll go the safer, more conservative route, aka. Law. Alternatively, a third option would be, whether or not I win an award, just say forget college and just go straight into music. Someone will sign me, if not, Grandpa Blaine can produce me till someone does.”
“NO!” came in near perfect unison from both her parents.
“Oh wow, jinx. And may I ask why there is not even some consideration for my plan? I mean, at least I thought this through and it’s not like we are poor, and I would need a job ASAP to pay bills or something.” AG frowned, her glance was met by her father’s headshake, but it was her mom who spoke now.
“AG, that is where you are wrong, which frankly surprises me as I was under the impression your dad and I have been very clear about our expectations all along. If not, let me recap for you. We are not going to bankroll some frivolous lifestyle for you, you actually WILL have to prove you can make a living for yourself, your daddy and I will always be there to catch you when you need help, but you have to prove you can be self-sufficient. Just like your brother, you have to go to university, get a degree, get a career, and pay your bills. It is fully your choice what you want to study, but you are going. Awards are in a few weeks, if you want to wait, fine, I am not sure that’s the right way to choose your further education route, but if that’s what you want to do, okay. Either way, after that event, you are making a choice and enroll ASAP. Universities have deadlines. And you better not miss those, or you will be looking for a temp job until next semester. Bet you’ll look adorable in a barista apron.”
“Ahem – first of all – you all do remember me turning 18 yesterday? You also remember the part where you are an adult then and get make your own decisions? Just thought I’d mention that, because I do value your and dad’s input, always will, and I do listen to reason and have been a pretty good and obedient daughter so far, so not sure why you felt it necessary to mention the part about cutting me off if I don’t play by your rules, but okay, duly noted. However, do you really think a university would hold me to a deadline when I am ViVa’s daughter? Blaine Cameron’s grandkid, THE Blaine Cameron, the man, the legend, behind BC Entertainment? Not to mention Uncle Chase, Uncle Blake, Aunt Mila, Reed, Sheri, Aunt Caitlin the supermodel, need I continue? Just saying, there are ways to bend the rules if need be.”
“I wouldn’t go there …” Nick warned.
“Listen to your brother. Don’t go there. We’re not gonna play VIP cards for something like education, Aria-Grace! ESPECIALLY not if it was you dragging your feet for no good reason at all. Majors can be changed if you realize it’s not what you want after all. But no ‘don’t-you-know-who-I-am?’ entitlement shortcuts. Just no! Your grandpa worked for his fame, as did I, and it wasn’t easy, but it taught me a lot of very valuable lessons. What we accomplished is NOT a get out of jail free card for our descendants.” Vivien told AG.
“Mom, dad, seriously, what’s the big deal? Uncle Blake didn’t go to college and look how he …”
“DEFINITELY don’t go there.” Nick interrupted again.
“Come on now! Seriously Nick, I don’t need a prompter or your censorship, thank you very much.” Aria-Grace silenced Nick, while their mother spoke up.
“Clearly, you do! You should listen to your brother, and frankly, your dad and I are about done wading through your BS this morning, AG. You are not getting special treatment at college, and you WILL go, and you WILL choose after the awards show. And by choose, I mean you will call, thank them for the acceptance letter, apologize for your very delayed response and enroll verbally, then send back your written forms ASAP. Understood?! Even with the wedding temporarily off the schedules, your dad and I don’t have time to play peek-a-boo with our daughter’s future!”
“Mom, you said yourself that I could tour with you, maybe even headline, once I am 18. We did shows together before! You know I can handle it – and you know I am solid!”
“Aria-Grace, baby, it’s not a question of talent. We are all aware that you are a very smart girl, dedicated and skilled, a musical prodigy, you could make it far as a career musician or a lawyer, no doubt. But you will not do so without a proper degree to fall back on. We never put a lot of demands on you, you and Nick always had a lot of liberties, more so than most kids your age, but there are some things where we will not budge. When I said that to you, I meant during school breaks and only single shows here and there as a special treat and to get you some more exposure for AFTER graduation. Ask Uncle Chase and Colton, and Hailey and Maddie, about trying to have a music career WHILE still in college. The four of them nearly flunked out so many times, everyone lost count, barely managed to get the grades up enough to graduate at the eleventh hour.”
AG looked at Nick, Adrianna and then Rohan, and could read in all their faces that they agreed, so she sighed and frowned, triggering Adrianna to speak up.
“Aria-Grace, you know I don’t normally meddle, I am hoping I don’t speak out of turn here …” Adrianna started, when Nick interrupted her, still chewing his food.
“You kidding?! You’re pretty much my wife already, wedding or not. You are part of this family, I am sure yesterday was a reminder why that is not always a good thing since grandpa was in rare form, as is my little sister this morning, but you have just as much right to speak as I do. If you have something to say, Addy, say it.”
“Right, well in that case, I would like to say, Aria-Grace, get a degree, but not just to please your parents, do it for yourself. All my life I thought that all I was ever going to be, all I wanted to be, was another wealthy socialite waiting to marry a guy of proper social standing whom my father approved of, then have kids and represent, be arm candy, no interest in or prospects of any real career of my own – until this wonderful man here changed my views, and I cannot begin to describe how Nick changed my life by pushing me towards further education and my independence.
And who would have thought I’d actually enjoy college and learning about business management as much as I did. And I would have NEVER anticipated my father being so supportive and proud of my dedication and achievements, that after graduation he handed me one of the largest entities of Auditore Financials to run. An Auditore daughter running one of the family businesses was unheard of until then, and my family goes back centuries as does our finance business. I am a trailblazer for the females in my family, because of Nick. I don’t know how he got my father to agree to it but getting a college degree liberated me in ways I can never describe, and best of all, instead of alienating me from my dad, it had to opposite effect, brought us closer than ever, I rank so high with him, some joke about me being the unofficial new family heir, which in our circles HAS to be a male.
Yet, my father continuously bursts with pride about me, not one social event passes where he doesn’t sing my praises publicly to everyone who doesn’t run away fast enough. It truly even changed my relationship with my father, he loves me as a daughter and respects me as an equal now, we discuss family and work. I cannot tell you how that feels to not simply be decorative, a pretty girl and breeding mare with nice genes, but valuable and regarded for my intelligence and skill. Don’t rob yourself of that option, Aria-Grace. Trust me.”
Everyone was speechless at Adrianna’s revelation, she was always so classy, diplomatic and neutral, always finding a positive spin on every situation, despite the fact that on a few rare occasions she had proven the proverbial Italian temper slumbering within, always occasions involving Nicholas.
Aria-Grace finally spoke up, nodding.
“Wow, that was heavy and deep and a lot of food for thought to consider. Thank you for being so open about all that. Fine, college it is then. I will make my decision after the Accolade Gala – under one condition. I will enroll the day after the event IF – and only IF – Rohan will be my date for the event.”
“If that’s what it takes, Nick, you’re tasked with making that happen. Welcome to the family, Rohan, where the men seem tough until our women have a better idea. Eat up, you’ll need all the strength you can get if you are dating my daughter, I would know, I am married to her mother – for the second time actually and there were times it took all we had to give to keep it that way because she and I are a lot alike, which can be a neck breaker for a relationship if both are strong-willed, hot-tempered and stubborn. Congrats, you two, by the way. It was never much of a secret how much my daughter likes you, and despite of everything, I am not unhappy about the news. You’re a good kid, solid young man, Rohan.”
Nick wanted to say something right when two things happened at the same time; his cell phone rang at the same time as Villa ViVa’s doorbell.
Nick excused himself to answer his call, while AG went to answer the door.
Moments later both siblings stood next to each other, Nick off the phone and AG holding an envelope. Aria-Grace spoke up first.
“Guys – that was the courier from the event center. This is my invite! I was nominated! I am actually going to my very first Starlight Accolades Awards show as a nominee, not someone’s relative. Oh my God, I think I am gonna scream. Or faint. Or faint while screaming.”
While still staring at his phone in awe, Nick said.
“I think I can top that. I thought it was a client, but instead that was the National Lottery Administration calling me. Addy, Rohan, the three of us won the fucking lottery jackpot. We are getting a fucking million bucks! Rohan, your fucking money problems are over for good, buddy!”
Yeah, that REALLY happened!
ALSO: before anyone goes bashing on Aria-Grace, please remember the past few days were a whirlwind for her, changing her entire life, and while for the most part she is a very mature young lady, she is only tender 18 and allowed the occasional reminders of that fact.