“By three methods we may learn wisdom:-Confucius
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
Windenburg Cameron Lake House
It’s me, Sophie. Right, you wouldn’t know who I am. Sophie Cameron, of the Windenburg Camerons, Abigail and Jay’s youngest child. I am 23 now, so not THAT young, I guess, but the last born of five kids, only two pregnancies, triplets, followed by twins. Yeah, my mom really won the lottery there, but it’s all good. That’s me in the bottom right, next to my twin brother Silas. He’s almost 5 minutes older than me. I think that pic was taken not long after we graduated high school, so it’s a few years old. Si has short hair now and wears suits. Giggle. The other three are Ewan, Esmée and Emmy. Mom and dad in the middle of the beautiful mess that is my family.
Anyway, you know how some people just always fade into the background, not memorable, no real ups or downs in their lives, no drama whatsoever, just chugging along, doing their thing … nothing much to talk about, some may call it being boring? Yeah, that’s me. I am THAT person. At least until recently I was.
I have a story to tell now, too. Bear with me while I try, I am not exactly the best storyteller, I don’t usually talk much about myself, and this isn’t the easiest story to tell, so I will probably bounce around chronologically a bit. It is still very fresh, all this happened only within the past two months I think, maybe a little longer than that. If you promise to not judge me too harshly, I’ll promise to be as honest as I can be.
So, it all started at my home, the Cameron Lake House in Windenburg.
I am sure by now you are well familiar with it, if not, it is the oldest Cameron home in existence, the original legacy house, where everything Cameron-related once started SOOOO long ago now, long before the Cameron family tree was as huge, diverse and branched into a million different directions as it is now to the degree that there are some natural born Camerons with the same last name as me but no real relationship anymore unless you dig MANY generations back. This house is still in Cameron family possession, always has been.
Currently in mine.
Well, I have been living her since right after the death of my beloved grandma Averie, a trained chef who instilled my love for cooking and baking in me. After she passed very suddenly and without warning middle of last year, I moved in with my awesome grandfather Jamie, whom I took care of until he passed earlier this year.
Technically the house now belongs to my Uncle Liam, since he’s the oldest of Jamie and Averie’s three kids, but he lives in Del Sol Valley and lets me live here. He’d never kick me out, he’s really sweet. He’s married to a really famous singer and their daughter is now a real-life princess. Yeah … big difference from my family.
I love it here. So cozy, beautiful and peaceful, so many great memories of my grandparents and my siblings and cousins romping around here as children. In this very kitchen is where my love for cooking first started, at the hand of my grandma. Oh, we had the best times together here. Here on that photo is me outside the Lake House with three of my siblings holding one of my grandma’s Havanese she used to breed. Yeah, lots of history here.
BUT – while Windenburg is a pretty sleepy and save town overall, a young woman living on the outskirts of town all by herself … well, I am not all by myself. My late grandma’s two remaining Havanese dogs, Huey and Molly are here and for as small and spoiled as they are, they are a pretty good alarm system. Anyway, some might say me living here by myself is a bad idea and I think after you heard my story, you might agree.
Flash back to approximately two months ago.
I sat down across from him to watch him put down the meanwhile third full to the brim plate of the leftovers I still had in my fridge, wondering if he had a hollow leg. I had never seen any one person eat so much in one sitting!
The way he was shoveling the food into his mouth, one heaping forkful at a time, wouldn’t pass my late grandma Averie’s manners screens, my dad Jay would call it eating like he’d been to prison. My guess was that would probably be truer than I’d be comfortable with. I had been too scared to ask. Not scared of him per se but scared of the answer. He obviously was a bad boy; I just wasn’t keen to find out HOW bad exactly.
My current dinner guest was a perfect stranger to me. Never seen him before and something told me he wasn’t from around here.
I had spotted him earlier that day from my backyard which overlooked Windenburg Lake, hence the befitting name “Cameron Lake House”, he was just laying there, like dead.
Wanting to help I ran down to the banks of the lake and I could tell he was alive, but battered and bruised, just regaining consciousness from having passed out from his injuries, which were clearly from some serious brawl he must have gotten into. He could barely get up, let alone walk, but begged me not to tell anyone about him, so instead of calling him an ambulance, and against every ounce of better judgement, I dragged him to my home and fixed him up.
A young woman living all alone in a remotely located home, bringing a perfect stranger there, who – without trying to sound prejudiced – clearly didn’t appear to work as someone’s tax accountant – what could happen, right? Yeah, I know and did it anyway, my parents raised me better than that, but I took him in, tended to his wounds, cleaned him up, fed him, discovering he had an immense appetite.
Surprisingly, I didn’t get murdered, raped nor robbed that night. He never forced anything, only took what I offered, and never tried anything with me, which was probably less him being a gentleman and more the fact that I just wasn’t his – or anybody’s – type. No men ever tried anything with me. Nor had the boys in high school, I was just always blissfully ignored. At least I wasn’t bullied, but that was probably because of my twin brother Silas, who would have unleashed hell on anyone being mean to me. I was neither the ugly duckling, nor the stunning swan type, just somewhere in the middle, I guess.
I really wasn’t anyone’s dream girl, and painfully aware of that fact, I mean, I owned a mirror and knew very well I didn’t even put a fraction of the effort into my looks than my sisters and cousins did. I think even my brothers cared more about their looks than I ever had. While my older siblings had all been blessed with great features naturally and had super-interesting lives, I was the Cameron family wallflower – someone had to be, I guess – and somehow, I just had no real ambition to change it.
At 23 years old, still unkissed, untouched, pure as the driven snow and ignored, and now also after spending a long while taking care of my elder, widowed grandpa until his death just some months ago, all I really had to show for was a high school diploma with mediocre grades and a job as one of many in the kitchen of one of the local restaurants – even though my dream was to run my own restaurant one day. Sadly, my side of the family wasn’t the wealthy crowd of the Camerons, we did all right, my sister Ezzy and brother Ewan even owned a successful business called “Cameron Enterprises” together, inherited from our grandpa who once built it from the ground up, but even though that ran well, it wasn’t the type of big money to afford private planes and fancy mansions.
Don’t let that huge property my parents and brother live on, the Cameron Estate, fool you either, that was bought and paid for by very wealthy relatives for my great-grandparents a very long time ago, well before my time, and those wealthy relatives STILL to this day pay for most of the upkeep otherwise not even all of my family combined could afford it, plus, until my twin brother took over, my dad was the Mayor of Windenburg, my grandpa before him, and that gives us some really healthy tax cuts to help with the big property. There was a reason none of us kids fought to live there. It was our childhood home, we all loved it, but none of us wanted to take on the financial burden on their own. That’s why Silas and his wife and twins lived there with our parents. Former and current mayor tax benefits, plus four adults with incomes. Not all that glitters …
My family is simple people. The others are not as boring and uneventful as me, but none of us live big. Simple, middle-class and middle of the road, that would be us. But we were happy, and that’s all that matters, right?
Maybe that was why I took in that man. I was so boring, my life was so uneventful, and he was so uber-interesting to me, the forbidden fruit, I mean, which girl doesn’t like the bad guys, right? Plus, I always had a maternal, caring side. If anyone in my family was sick, I was the one to call. If they were sad, I’d be the confidant. I was the standby babysitter for all my siblings’ kids, and no complaints here. I loved kids, if I could have, I would have just kept them all, and maybe had a bunch of my own too. Oh yeah, that’s what I liked. Cooking, kids and family, all day long. Here I am with two of my sister Emmy’s babies. Love it! LOVE LOVE LOVE it and them! She might not get them back this time.
I loved watching those old Hollywood movies where the happy beautiful wife keeps house and welcomes her handsome, loving husband home with a yummy dinner, as their two kids, one of each, happily do their homework. So what? To each their own, I know my sister Esmée flipped out every time she caught me watching movies like that, she had really strong feelings about emancipation and sexism and women being self-sufficient and career women, like her. She wanted nothing to do with marriage, ran a company, had this on again off again boyfriend, she had a child by some baby daddy who turned out gay, and left him to raise their daughter with his husband. Yeah, that whole idea gives ME the creeps. If I had a kid, I’d want to be married to the baby daddy and live with him. And no way – NO WAY – would I let ANYONE else ever raise any child of mine. That’s just me. Guess even same genetics didn’t guarantee the same characteristics.
Just – in order to have my own child I would have to have a man first and … well, as already mentioned, I wasn’t exactly eye-catching and also disablingly shy around boys I wasn’t related to, the more attractive I found them, the worse it got.
So, I instead coddled this guy now, fed him and took care of him like we belonged, even though I knew nothing about him. He had not asked anything about me personally yet, so I didn’t offer any info – for safety, ya know – HAHAHA, that was a joke, as if any of this was safe – and I extended him the same courtesy of not asking. Plus, like I already said, I was super-shy and also afraid of what asking might get me.
The truth isn’t always the best. If he were to turn out to be some convicted serial-killer who escaped prison, it would be hard for me to deal if I knew. Ignorance is bliss.
I trailed off again. Sorry. Back to day one of this tragedy .. or travesty on the day I found him, both of us at my dining room table.
Still chewing audibly, he looked up at me, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand in a very Neanderthal-esque manner, never putting down the fork and knife he had used for the steak we started with and the bangers and mash that followed, and he just kept using the same utensils for the chili he was now plowing through at an alarming rate, obviously that would require a spoon, which I put on the table for him and which he blissfully ignored, but I sure as heck wasn’t gonna say anything.
“Just ask already.” his raspy voice demanded, while he pointed at me with the fork. At least it wasn’t the knife.
“Hm?” I wondered nervously.
“You’ve been staring at me with the same expression someone has when looking at a long line in front of a bathroom stall. Just ask it.”
“I .. I … don’t know what to call you.” I stuttered.
He wasn’t exactly a man of many words. I didn’t have long to decide whether it was wise to give him my real name, then again, he already knew where I lived and that I lived here alone, plus my mind was blissfully devoid of any names except my own.
“I am Sophie.”
A small smirk appeared, and I couldn’t figure out if it meant he liked my name or if he was laughing at me for it. Molly, one of my late grandma’s Havanese came by and Stryker bent down and pet her, summoning her overprotective mate Huey, who had never been the most social dog, but even he allowed Stryker to pet him for a moment, before Stryker dedicating himself back to his food, which told me everything I needed to know about him. No way was he a bad person. Huey’s doggie truth detector skill was infallible.
“So … Stryker? Is that like your first or last name?” I wondered bravely.
“Does it matter? It’s a name. Good as any.”
“Right. Never mind. So, how old are you?”
“Seriously?!” his tone told me I was upsetting him, so I backpaddled, by shaking my head, and averting my eyes.
Yup, he was definitely dangerous. Better not piss him off. Easier said than done.
“What now?!” he asked, raspy and irritated.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re staring again.” he remarked, and I realized I was indeed staring at him. Oops.
“I am not … staring … I am just …. ahem … looking at you. That’s all. You just remind me of someone. My dad, Jay. He used to be like … you, I guess. You know … outlaw-y and probably run-ins with the law and … well, actually he’s been to prison a bunch of times long ago when he was really young … he would get into brawls and all that … My great-grandparents took him in, at this very house actually, and … well .. gave him a chance for a straight life and he took it … things progressed, and he became my dad. Well, he didn’t become my dad, he met my mom and they you know … married and then I was born. Well, my brother, then me. Same day though. Twins. Not right away, of course. Just …. eventually, many MANY years later.” I told him more than I probably should have. Sorry daddy. Diarrhea of the mouth was one of the symptoms of my shyness. I’d either be unable to get a single word out or utter random nonsense or TMIs.
Stryker snorted an unamused laugh, shaking his head. His angry face softened slightly, and his lip even cracked a slightly lop-sided smile.
“Daddy issues.” he said, then huffed, making me gasp.
“You need to leave!” I said, fighting back tears from the hurt and anger, as I stood. THAT was too much. I loved my dad, and I had issues finding a boyfriend, but I did NOT have any complexes! I was just shy. And I said way too much!
He looked up at me, his eyebrows arched, his facial expression as if he was trying to decide whether to laugh or punch me out cold, he put down the silverware, then he rose up too.
“You’re kicking me out?”
“No, I am politely asking you to leave. I helped you when you needed help. You seem fine-ish now … stable, you ate – a lot – and I am tired. Please go away now.”
He nodded, smirking, then just turned and headed for the door, I followed, to make sure he would really leave, which was when he turned to me, looking at me like the cat at the mouse it caught, when he raised his hand and ran it across my chin I winced briefly. He opened the door and stepped out, I followed and right there in that doorframe I received my first real kiss ever.
One I would never forget, the kind that curled my toes up.
In a good way.
“Bye beautiful. And – thank you. For everything.” his raspy voice did me in.
Had he seriously just called me beautiful and kissed me?
He let go of me, then turned to leave.
Yup, you guessed it. I asked him to stay. And he did.
Well, I’ll speed up through the painfully awkward days that followed, one embarrassing moment chasing the next. Being shy sucks! Yeah, he stayed that night. In the guest room. And the next day and night. And the one after. And so on. He just didn’t leave, I didn’t ask him to stay, but I also didn’t ask him to leave, soooo …
The first few days I left him here alone to go to work were harrowing, I was so afraid I’d come back to a ransacked house, but instead he had actually cleaned up and the dogs were peacefully snoring on their backs, meaning he must have tired them out by a walk or play as normally they were dynamos and wore me out when I was already tired after my shift.
Somehow, some strange yet oddly comfortable routine started to set in.
Naturally, I had told NOBODY about him. Nor would I. How could I? And tell what exactly anyway? There is this guy at my house, all I know about him is that he goes by Stryker and likes to eat. I know sounds NOTHING like me. Proud yet? They might take turns bending me over their knees spanking me, can’t say I’d blame them.
Whenever someone would come to my house, which didn’t happen a lot, since I lived way out in the sticks and was usually the one visiting my family at their homes, but if someone did show up, Stryker would hide out in the guestroom or leave through a rear window, hiding in some shrubs until they were gone again. Sounds healthy, doesn’t it?
I don’t know what was wrong with me to do all that. Maybe I was tired of feeling like the ugly duckling, all alone.
And then came that one night. Yeah, I know you know already where this is going. We watched TV together, Stryker and I, I didn’t even question him sitting right next to me, so close I could feel his body heat through his and my clothing. My heart was beating so hard, and nearly exploded when he placed his hand on my knee. OMG! Then he pulled me into this weird-cool embrace and I felt like one of those girls in the romance flicks I devoured to this day.
You can probably guess the rest. Things progressed, I was so curious and allowed it, anything he wanted to do to me, I let him. So much uncharted territory for me. I was so nervous; literally shaking, he was so surprisingly patient and gentle with me. It started on the couch, then he carried me to my bedroom, and he became my first man.
The next morning, I woke up feeling oddly elevated, almost high, and in a crazy good mood, could swear I even looked different. I most certainly felt differently! Like a … like a real woman. Finally. I know I should have felt ashamed, but I didn’t. I was … relieved. Happy to finally not feel like a reject, an oddball out. None of my siblings were hussies, but none of them had been a virgin at my age. My twin brother was a father of two already.
I know I was being gullible and naive; I knew it then and it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that a few weeks later I got home from my shift at the restaurant to find Stryker was gone, around the same time when I had started getting suspiciously nauseated more and more often. He still hasn’t been back since; it’s been almost two weeks now. Yes, I know what that means.
So far, I have been able to hide most of the nausea from my family and at work, downplaying it. Nobody suspects anything, since none of them believe in immaculate conception. I am still telling myself if I do nothing to confirm it, it’s not real. To be honest, I don’t know how I will handle this. No matter what, it will be very rough on me, there is no easy way out anymore.
So, this is the beginning of my story. The rest is still unwritten.