He sat in the house, it was quiet. Too quiet. But quiet was what he needed.
He had finally beaten those terrible withdrawals, and as tough as it was he watched Viktoria pour out all the alcohol in his house without even one attempt to stop her.
He had tried to cheat once by stashing one small bottle of vodka, but Viktoria had been smarter and had replaced the alcohol in one bottle he had hidden from her with water, vinegar and food dye.
His tongue was still bright blue when she came to check on him, he had tried to avoid her noticing, but she had known something was up, taken his face into both hands and demanded he open his mouth. She had shaken her head at the evidence of his foiled cheat attempt, given him her speech but then both of them laughed.
All his life she had kept him straight, and as often as he had made her mad, he had always known she would never abandon him.
He loved making her laugh. He played the fool for her, just to have her laugh, and he played his role as – what did Vik call it again? Manwhore? – well he played that role to the T.
Vik had often accused him of not even trying to be a ‘real man’.
He had tried.
He once thought if he married Olivia he would grow to love her, he loved his children. He never wanted children of his own. His own childhood had been what you would not wish on your worst enemy, luckily Blythe, his younger sister, had lucked out and lived a semi-normal life with grandma. He was not so lucky, but he knew it was because he had been a little shit back then, even though it was a mask to make it all hurt less. Had it not been for Viktoria and her mother, he would have never made it to age 10. One of his parents would have beaten him just a little too hard for a little too long in their intoxicated madness.
He was a fragile looking child, very skinny and malnourished, with terrible nightmares but aside from that tough as nails. But none of this deterred Viktoria or her mother. He wished sometimes he could go back to those days. The good did outweigh the bad. Nowadays it was mostly bad. He just lost control somewhere and despite Viktoria’s attempts, he had his doubts that he would make it. The nights were just to long and lonely, the days too dull. And the time between Viktoria’s visits decidedly too long. And even when she was here, it always felt like a juicy steak being dangled in front of a starving dog, so close you can almost taste it, but still so far out of reach. Whenever she sat next to him, hugged him when he was down, he felt tense, afraid to slip up and let his real feelings show – and scare her away in the process.
She was the only woman in his life he ever truly loved. For the longest time he did not realize this, felt incapable of feeling anything, except drunk and sexual pleasures. But deep down he always kinda knew … since they were teens he knew. But Viktoria deserved better. He tried but academics would not come easy to him. Then he did not finish high school, despite Viktoria’s and her mother’s attempts. He remembered that day vividly. He came home from school and his father was already in a drunken rage. He beat Blaine badly, and when he tried to run away his father caught him in the hallway of the run down apartment building and beat him some more, Blaine was screaming in pain. An old man heard it and tried to help, but Blaine’s father now beat him till he did not move anymore. Then he went back inside and locked the door. Blaine crawled over to the man, whose eyes were glassy and open, but he was not breathing anymore. Everywhere there was blood … Blaine cried and ran. He wanted to run to Viktoria’s home, but thought that he may go to jail or get them in trouble somehow, so he just ran.
He committed several small crimes, just for food and to live. He stole, then eventually he burglarized a small business, but got caught and spent the years till his 18th birthday in juvenile detention. After that he was kicked out on the streets with not a dime to his name. His first instinct was to see Viktoria and her mother, but when he passed a storefront and saw the mirror image of himself, he realized he could not face them. He had let them both down. So he began to try to do odd jobs, just making enough for food. Then he found his niche, realizing that he had that certain something, that tough boy appearance and attitude that many women liked. He spent nights with women, a warm bed, a meal and physical pleasures. And then another woman. He got around. He was still homeless the day Viktoria saw him playing at the festival. His heart raced and beat out of his chest, as he played it cool. Seeing her again made him want to be a better man, but when she invited him to one of her parties at her sweet little apartment he soon realized that he did not fit in with any of her friends. Most of all that man that kept showing up. Viktoria was polite but seemed to avoid him, and one day Eric, his and Viktoria’s childhood buddy, told him that that was Viktoria’s boss. It did not take rocket science to see that this man didn’t show up everywhere because Viktoria was his favorite employee. He wanted her. And soon enough he got her. Blaine cursed himself for procrastinating his move for too long, still insecure because of his unstable life. By the time he had the courage, the other man had his kraken-like grip on her.
There was a second chance. Viktoria was hurting, because of that man and he hated seeing her so sad. He wanted to be a good friend, but when they started drinking that night, the fact that it would take a LOT more to get him even as much as tipsy when Viktoria was very drunk after three glasses of white wine, clouded his judgement. She was so giggly, so silly and leaned on him, she was clingy and for once she didn’t keep shutting down his slight advances. He saw his chance and he took it. He thought for sure his sexual talents would swing her his way once and for all. Sadly, he was the only one who really remembered much of that night. All Viktoria took from it was shame and guilt. When he realized that the morning after, he felt like a fiend who had taken advantage of her vulnerability. Even after that most wonderful night, she cried after that Italian bastard who had hurt her so much. So he went after Olivia. Maybe they could work out.
When he heard that Viktoria got engaged to that stupid rich man, he proposed to Olivia. At least now he had some stability in his life. Then Olivia told him she was pregnant. It was a shock for him. He did not want a child. He had too much of his father in him and feared he would break a child as much as he had been broken. So he went to the only person he knew would understand. Viktoria. But instead of compassion he was met with tears of joy. Evidently, he learned, she had just found out she was also expecting. His heart sank. She had just moved even further out of his reach.
The next decade just passed him by. He barely felt anything anymore. He loved his son, and his daughter and the daughter after that. He tried hard to be a good dad. And his kids thrived. Until the moment when his son became 15 and brought home a girl, dark haired, but the same facial features and body shape as Viktoria. Even her voice was similar. Nobody needed to tell him who she was. Seeing his son, the spitten image of himself with a mini-Viktoria turned his entire life upside down. He drank, secretly, just to dull the worst pain. To take the edge off. He avoided Olivia. And eventually the house of cards crumbled.
And here he was. Once more the loser, once more with no options left, once more relying on Viktoria to help him. The one person he wanted to be a strong knight in shining armor for, saw him at his worst. He would end himself had he not promised Vik he would not. Especially after she just lost her mother. No, he owed her that much. But he also knew that Viktoria hated having to sneak around to see him and probably lie to her husband. Even though there was nothing going on. Blaine did try his best to make her feel that she could trust him, even though his heart … and body… often belied his theater. He still wanted her. More than anything. He had grown to be very careful with alcohol around her, as he realized that it made him lose his mask.
Viktoria had suggested that he should see his kids, but he was still not ready. After all the hard work he had let them down after all. Now they did grow up in a broken home, because of their father. Olivia was bitter. She used to be the sweetest woman, kind and soft spoken, but years of realizing that she was just second choice had done it to her. Loser. Again and again, he was a loser.
Hopefully his kids would take after their mother. The middle daughter, Emmy, was the spitten image of Olivia, while their son Blaine and the youngest daughter took after their father, Blaine only hoped that it would not cause any rejection from their mother. But Olivia was a wonderful mother and it was not long until even the youngest would be a teen.
He sat down on the couch and leaned back, letting out a big sigh.
“Ok, look take these three palettes of garden soil the the “Rosa in Fiore” and the rest goes to the Walmart on Cooper street. Got that? Good, once you made the drops, report back, I need you to fill the 2 tons of manure over there into sacks. Need to finish today. Got that?”
Blaine nodded. Viktoria had found him a job at a gardening supplier. It was a terrible job, but it was honest work and they did not ask questions. The best thing was, he got to make deliveries to Viktoria’s flower shop ever so often. She needed to accept the deliveries herself, so he would see her. That alone was worth having to dig in tons of cow shit.
Blaine parked and unloaded, then pulled the dolly to the backdoor of Viktoria’s shop. He rang the delivery bell. Not long after one of her employees beckoned him inside. “I’ll get her, put it over there in the corner, please.”
Shortly after, Viktoria appeared. Blaine’s heart raced, as he cracked a smile.
“Oh stop it Blaine, I am a sweaty mess … so just three today right?”
“Sweaty? What have you guys been doing in there today!?”
“Knock it off, you fiend. It’s called manual labor. We are closed today for inventory. So you actually are putting a hitch in our giddyup here by bringing us more to count. You should be ashamed of yourself” Viktoria teased.
“Hey, I am not the one placing the orders, just the monkey who hauls them here.”
“Ok monkey, want some lemonade and a slice of cake? It’s Gracie’s birthday today.”
“I have never been known to turn down free food and drink.”
“Follow me up to the associate break room.”
“Yes Ma’am! Which one of them is Gracie again? The cute one who likes me, the cute one who REALLY likes me or the old one who REALLY does NOT like me at all?”
“The one who opened the door for you.”
“Ah, well tell her happy birthday from the monkey with the dirt.”
“So you are basically a dirt-flinging monkey now? How adorable.”
“You should see the tricks I can do. And I’ll have you know the pleasures that await when I get back to the store. I was told I get to spend the rest of my day filling cow shit into little bags.”
“I have the feeling your tricks involve you removing clothing, so no, I’ll pass. Here is your cake and drink. Enjoy the sustenance, dear monkey. You’ll need all your strength for the dung shoveling later.”
“You’re not keeping me company?”
“Why? Need me to feed you?”
“That would be nice.”
“I’ll send Quintesha up. That is the one who REALLY hates your guts. She’ll feed ya.”
“No thanks. I still hurt from the tongue-lashing I got from her last time, when I may have flirted a little bit with Gracie.”
“Well, if she had not given it to you, I would have. My employees are off limits.”
“I’d like you to ‘give it to me’….” Blaine winked at her.
“Stuff that naughty mouth with cake or I will, but it will be the entire piece at once!”
“Oh hi Blaine … it’s my birthday … do you want another piece?” Gracie batted her eyelashes and blushed when Blaine looked at her. Viktoria rolled her eyes.
“Hi Gracie, happy birthday….” Blaine flashed his signature smirk and Gracie’s cheeks turned bright red.
“Thanks Gracie, Blaine is already full and needs to get back, he has cow shit to dig through!”
Gracie’s fangirl face turned to disgust and she went back to the showroom.
“What a party pooper you are.”
“You have no idea. Besides I already have two employees that got themselves pregnant with just their husband’s assistance. They need no help from you.”
“Come on already you big baby!” Viktoria pulled Blaine into the IKEA store, he followed reluctantly.
“Can I not just have your mom’s old furniture? I do not want pink chairs and mint accent tables!” Blaine frowned at one of the displays.
“Goodness man, they come in different colors. And no, you need modern furniture. Now shut up and shop! Rebate Day does come but once a year!”
They bought the basic furnishing for a single man’s home, with a subtle feminine touch. Had he known how much fun they would have together assembling his new items together and that it meant they would spend the entire day with each other, he would have done cartwheels into that damned store. She was his. All damn day just his. She had come over in the morning, early for him, 7 AM, with coffee and bagels, they had breakfast then drove to the store in the yellow work truck he had borrowed.
They ate lunch at the store. Then went out for dinner in between building the bed and the living room set.
Secretly he was hoping she would be too tired to want to drive home, but she insisted. As he turned up the new bedding on the new bed with the new end table and the new lamp, he knew he had secretly wished that she would lay here with him tonight to properly dedicate it. He knew he would never allow another woman to share this bed with him. No one but his Viktoria.
He spent the night on his new couch with the new TV and the new blanket and throw pillows.