Blake and Hailey got four days to fully enjoy, Blake started to get over his disabling guilt with Hailey’s help, he showed her around town, took her out.
It was so much fun. Relaxed, crazy, silly.
When they got home things got romantic quickly, both snuggled up on the couch together, after a shower – together.
Getting comfy – together.
Both were about to drift off to slumber – together, when they were startled by loud banging on the door.
Blake’s first instinct was to ignore it, but whoever wanted to see him was persistent and the walls were thin, he didn’t want to get on the apartment manager’s bad side for disturbance. Finding a new affordable place if he lost this one would be close to impossible.
He had told Hailey to go into the bedroom out of sight, just in case this was something dangerous. He opened, his jaw dropped to his knees.
“Is she here?! Where is she?!” Jason Loughlin – Hailey’s father – asked roughly.
“Mr. Loughlin … grandpa?!” Blake stuttered, unable to believe his own eyes, as the men pushed inside.
“Where, kid?” KC pressed him for an answer.
“I am here… please don’t yell at him.” Hailey came out of the bedroom sounding and looking like a little girl in trouble.
“You are in such big trouble, young lady! Get dressed, get your things, we are leaving!” her father told her angrily.
“No daddy….” she begged.
“GET! Or I will pack for you and dress you!” he threatened while stepping closer to her.
“He didn’t know, this was a sur…” Hailey came to Blake’s defense, pleading with her father who kept trying to point her towards the bedroom.
“Get dressed NOW!” Jason Loughlin ordered and Hailey disappeared into the bedroom, when she tried to shut the door, her father held it shaking his head. He pushed it to a slightly cracked position, just in case Hailey even dreamed of making out the window.
“Mr. Loughlin, Sir …” Blake tried.
“Nuh uh! YOU have to answer to ME. What the hell were you thinking?” KC stopped him.
“We didn’t do anything wrong! Just a couple wanting to be together!” Blake said defensively.
“Blake, seriously? She is 16 years old! She worried her parents half to death.” KC shook his head.
“Almost 17 … and grandpa, she really did surprise me. I had no idea she was coming here.” Blake told him.
“But you knew she is a minor. You KNEW she couldn’t travel alone. That little girl there broke some laws to get to you. Is that what you want for Hailey?! Using her friend’s fake ID to be able to fly alone?! There is a reason airlines call people that age ‘unaccompanied minors’!” KC roared.
“I am sorry …” Blake mumbled defeated.
“You should have called me. Let someone know!” KC reprimanded him.
“This young lady would like to tell everybody goodbye now. Make it good, she won’t have her cell phone or computer for a while, and she will be grounded.” Mr. Loughlin said as Hailey emerged, dressed and with her bags, which he took from her.
“During Summer break?!” she whined.
“Yes! And I want no more words out of you – not one peep – until we get to the airport! We are flying back tonight!” he told her firmly.
The teens hugged and kissed like this were the very last time they’d see each other, before Hailey was dragged off by her very upset father.
“Grandpa …” Blake whimpered after they were alone again, after sitting down on the couch next to KC.
“Grandpa nothing, kid! Her father was worried sick! That friend she supposedly went hiking with got in a car crash and is in the hospital with a few broken bones. Imagine how he must have felt when they called his house wondering if Hailey wanted to visit her friend, whom she supposedly was hiking with. And she turned off her phone. Can you imagine that? He came to me, thinking I may know something. Oh, boy, I may not have known but my guess sure was a good one!” KC shook his head.
“You could have called me … I would have taken her to the airport. Tomorrow …” Blake tried to explain.
“Ah yeah? So she can fly back on a fake ID, breaking the law again? Really Blake?! Think, boy! With the head on top, please! Reminds me, you still good on little raincoats for your little friend?”
“GRANDPA!” Blake was horrified.
“Kid, I know this sounds more like your grandma than me, but I admittedly cannot wait to see you as a daddy. You will think about me and your dad SO many times once that happened. BUT – now is not the time for that. Since you have proven that you are very impulsive, I am helping you out. And will continue to do so for as long as I can.”
“I know grandpa. And I am grateful. For this and everything else you have done for me and still do. I don’t deserve any of it … just like I don’t deserve Hailey .. I am …. dammit!”
Blake’s voice failed, KC pat the young man’s back.
“And this is why I am going to be here for a week. I read between the lines. Something is wrong. You’re having nightmares again. Something triggered them.”
“How did you know that?!” Blake was shocked.
“Because I have ears and Hailey told you to call her no matter the time if you have them again. That nice offer will be on hold for a while since we heard that she won’t have a cell phone for a while.” KC said.
“I hate that I caused Hailz even more trouble now .. after everything I already put … ummm.. ” Blake was so comfortable having his grandfather around, that he almost accidentally spilled the beans.
Naturally KC caught on. After a while of cat and mouse, Blake broke down and told him everything.
“Please, don’t take me home now. I need this. I have come so far …” Blake begged, sounding like a 13 year old.
“Kid, as much as I want to, I cannot just take you home anyway, unless you want to come, you are an adult. At least according to your ID. So here are your options.
One: I go and beat some sense into that fool who blackmailed you into this BS.
Two: You go and tell him things are going to change, gambling on whether or not he really would go through with his threat.
Three: You count your losses and come back home, where you belong.
We will figure out some marketable talent for you, if all else fails you’ll work at the Skyline till we find your niche.”
“None of those, please grandpa. I need to see this through. I am too far invested to run away with my tail tucked now.” Blake was serious.
“Spoken like a real adult. So, I will tell you this. From man to man. You come from a long line of womanizers. Blaine Cameron once got into every pair of panties in the entire San Myshuno region, his son Liam told me stories about his conquest tally that made even me blush, his kids broke the mold, but his granddaughter married another one of those white trash rebel bad boys with a long rap sheet. Me. Given, I kinda skipped over the man-whore part, most likely because either I smelled like trash or was incarcerated, but I will tell you it is hard to get on the other side of the tracks of life, and even harder not to go totally numb when there. Getting out of it is even harder, most never make it, I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for Liam, so if you actually plan on continuing down that route and do what that fool told you to, you will come out a different man on the other side, no telling if you will still even like yourself. And if you really choose that route, you have to let Hailey go. I demand it. No matter how persistent she may be, how much she may try to fix ya, and she will, cos she reminds me of someone very dear to me, you will have to stick to your guns and send her away, since you obviously do not want to fix it, you want to immerse yourself in it. I wanted to be fixed, you don’t, which is where this becomes quicksand. You may or may not be able to deal with all this, but that girl won’t be able to, not long term and not repeatedly. It will break her spirit, sooner or later, and my money is on sooner. I cannot stop you from doing what you want to do, only advice you against it, but I am firm on Hailey. You won’t let me protect you, but I will protect that sweet little girl from the avalanche you are about to unleash on all of us. You choose this, you have to find a way to do it without her, no matter how much it will burn. I am sorry kid, but I will not budge here. Hate me all you like. You’ll still have me, if you want to, I’ll always be on your side, but I will continue to sing the same ol’ tune, just know that.” KC was so very serious now, he looked almost dangerous for determination.
Almost two years later.
Location: the penthouse of an upscale apartment building in the hills of Del Sol Valley.
The young man lit a cigarette and seemed lost in his thoughts.
Deep thoughts. Melancholic ones, by the expression on his face.
He walked over to one of the big windows and looked out.
Nighttime over Del Sol Valley.
The Valley of Dead Dreams, as it was dubbed among the local aspiring stars of tomorrow, most of which never made it.
He had made it.
Had beaten the odds, yet his current enthusiasm was muffled.
The price had been tremendously high and it had been very tough.
He made it in record time, barely two years total for his rise to fame.
His first leading role in the TV show found a lot of admirers, turns out women really do like the bad boy, no matter what kind of douchebag he was.
And Blake was.
Or better: his character Drake was, but the lines had gotten awfully blurry over the years.
Other main roles followed, cast each time as the outsider, outcast, fallen-from-grace-hero-turned-villain, the reckless, ruthless anti-hero and always surrounded by attractive women, eventually he practically stayed in character all the time.
By now he fully embraced his rebel image.
It had become second nature to him.
His eyes searched the horizon for the not so great areas of town, wondering if he could see that old apartment from here. A flood of houses, lights. Maybe he was already looking at it without knowing it. Hard to tell.
In that shabby little apartment was the last time he had been genuinely himself, and genuinely happy.
He looked around his current home.
A new home.
In the hills of Del Sol Valley. A penthouse only, he had made it far, but not far enough to be able to afford one of the houses. He had offered money and new homes to his grandpa and father, but none of them wanted any of it. Somehow his father seemed aloof. The only one still in occasional contact with him was his grandpa.
Blake continued his pondering, lighting yet another cigarette, topped off his drink, quickly glancing at the bar cart to his side, considering if it were time to switch over to hot, strong coffee yet, but dismissed the idea.
The buzz he had felt good, helped take the edge off a little.
The thought of coffee reminded him of home.
He missed home.
Sleepy old Brindleton Bay, the woods of Granite Falls. Everett Heights.
The Loughlin farm on the outskirts of Windenburg.
All that had once seemed so natural to him, like it would just all always be there.
But now it wasn’t.
Visiting now, he felt like an outsider, a stranger. More a tourist, than a native.
Guess it was true what they said, you really can’t go home again, once you left.
His visits had become fewer and fewer and now almost completely seized.
When his career took off, things became so complicated of a sudden and he had a hard time straddling the real Blake and his persona Drake, which lead to friction with the family.
Especially his favorite cousin Ally.
Even Harvestfest he had been alone in front of his TV at the penthouse. And he would be for Winterfest too. New Year’s he was booked for a performance, music, his first and still biggest love.
When he thought about love he inadvertently thought of Hailey. A hint of a smile flashed across his face.
The smile faded into sadness when he remembered that she was no longer in his life. He had done as his grandpa had asked him to. Eventually she stopped trying to change his mind.
Grandpa had been right and Blake knew it.
While he did break things off with her not long after the talk with his grandfather, he had needed someone to hate for it, and started resenting his grandpa.
Over time he realized the only one to blame for it was himself. But his stand-offish demeanor towards KC before the realization had damaged the relationship between them, and the rest of the family, and guilt prevented Blake from seeking them out to really make up, apologize.
He was too much Drake now to be able to crawl to someone begging for forgiveness.
Drake, the rake never apologizes, to no one. So Blake didn’t either.
The now constant news stories with very descriptive images of him making out with a different woman each time, all the naughty, nasty rumors, some of them even true when he stopped caring, all that would have been toxic for a girl like Hailey. Grandpa had foreseen this, had been right. By now, she would have likely given him an ultimatum to stop, which he wouldn’t have, they would have fought, he would have said Drake-like things to her, and it would have been messy.
Either way, he had made his choice, knowing he could not have both, felt he was too far invested in his career with no other options to make a living, simply too far gone, but she had a chance to live the life she wanted.
Love was letting go in this instance, not holding on, dragging her down with him, destroying everything that made her so very special in this cold world. And Hailey was so very, very special to him and would always be. His strength and his kryponite, then and still. On nights like tonight, when he allowed himself to be honest with himself, he knew he still loved her. His one and only girlfriend – ever.
Drake, the rake doesn’t date. That had become a much quoted line from his TV show, a line he used to say when he was still ‘only’ Blake, which Darim Devarim, his manager/agent/producer liked enough to have it written into the series as Drake’s tagline.
Once intended to appall people, give them more to resent his character for, had the exact opposite effect – much to Darim’s delight – and made many women try to be the one who could ‘fix’ Drake, make him love them, and only them.
‘Fat chance!’, Blake thought, snorting an unamused laugh.
But Hailey’s memory remained and every once in a while he allowed it to take him back to that place where he had been so happy – with her.
During his last visit home many months ago he tried to go see her at the farm, just couldn’t help himself, but was told she no longer lived there, that she was traveling the world with some ‘activist hippie group’, as her father dismissively called it.
Saving the world.
That sounded so much like Hailey. The thought of that made Blake smile, briefly.
She would be 18 now.
Blake was 20.
Still not legal drinking age, but nobody ever challenged that and he indulged whenever he could to numb himself.
Had for years.
If he walked into a club or a bar, he got whatever he ordered, nobody ever ID’ed him.
Nobody ever challenged anything he did anymore, except his grandpa, but he was far away. Had only been by once for a visit. He hated Blake’s penthouse. Said it was not like him. Said it was all Drake and no Blake in there.
Drake Callaway, rebel, womanizer, covert criminal, and much worse, all according to script, yet the female viewers loved him.
And it carried over into real life.
Blake had become Drake. By any name …