I love you for a great many reasons and despite a great many others.
~Richelle E. Goodrich
Eric shifted nervously on the couch of the Seymour’s living room, sitting stiffly in the spot the butler had assigned him to wait, until he heard footsteps approaching fast, a determined walk.
Eric rose up at the same time Judge Martin Seymour entered the living room, and the facial expression instantly showed what he thought about the visitor, even though he extended his hand for Eric to shake, naturally not without a glance at Eric’s burn scars again, covering part of his face and hand.
“Mr. Cameron, what brings you here? Charlotte is not home, but I would assume you knew that, since my butler said you asked for me?” he addressed Eric in his determined ‘judge’ voice.
“Yes Sir, I deliberately came to see you when Charlee … Charlotte wasn’t home. She and I have been a couple for over a year now, we are very serious about each other …” Eric started the speech he had practiced for days, but was cut off right away.
“Let me stop you right there, young man. I can already tell where this is going to go, so let me tell YOU a few things. My wife and I tolerated our daughter’s wish to go out with you, she is a grown young woman and I cannot stop her if she really wants to waste her life with you, but if you are here to get my consent to this, you won’t. I do not care much for you as a potential member of my family, never have and never will, same goes for my wife. If you want to marry her, propose for all I care, but make no mistake: should I ever get wind of you not treating my little girl right, I will come after you full force, without mercy, same goes for my wife. Are we clear?”
“Clear as a church-bell, Sir. Just one question: why do you hate me so much?” Eric demanded.
“Hate you? I don’t hate you. You’re a good kid, just not what my wife and I wanted for our daughter. Pardon my candor, but a disfigured small town cop with not much to his name but a tiny beach house he shares with his parents is not the stuff any parent’s dreams are made of.”
“In other words, you and your wife would have preferred her married off unhappily to a prince who never treated her right, rather than with a simple man whom she loves and who worships the ground she walks on?”
“So you worship her, do you? Fine, Mr. Cameron, answer me this: how are you going to provide for her? She dabbles at the art gallery now most days without a single customer, which I suspect will seize completely once a baby comes around. Are you prepared to provide for a family on a small town cop’s salary, assuming the plan still is to live in that fishing village you are from? Or did you think my wife and I would fund you two plus whatever grandchildren you may decide to put into this world? Will you still worship her when I tell you that as soon as her last name is no longer mine, she won’t see a single penny from us until my wife and I passed on, Mr. Cameron?”
“I will worship her rich or poor, Sir. I may not be royalty – let alone rich, nor be much to look at, but I make decent money and we do not need much. I also have a small inheritance from my grandparents, not a fortune, but enough for a down-payment on a house. This is going to happen, Mr. Seymour, whether you like it or not. I would have much preferred to have your and your wife’s blessing, but Charlotte and I both bent to your wishes once before, which almost ended very badly. We won’t make that mistake again.”
Eric walked to the door.
“Mr. Cameron – ”
“We all do what we think is best for her. Whatever you may think, I love my daughter dearly and only ever meant to make sure she will have a good life, which I am not convinced you can give her. Remains to be seen who of us will be right in the end. For Charlotte’s sake I hope it is you.”
“Yeah – bye Sir.”
Eric left, snorting frustrated.
Not the way he hoped this would have gone, but not a real surprise either. He wasn’t the first nor the last future son-in-law in history the bride’s parents didn’t like. Luckily they didn’t have to deal much with them and it would be even less once Charlee moved in with him as soon as they could afford to.
When he arrived home, he found someone waiting near the front door of the Beach House. As he recognized the visitor, Eric’s bad mood lifted off him like a blanket and he tried to hide smile.
“Hey you beach bum, no loitering here or I’ll have to write you a ticket!” he yelled out grinning as he watched the young man wince, before he turned to him, grinning.
“Damn cop – snuck up on me you bastard. That should be illegal.” he told Eric.
“It’s not. I can still write you tickets till I run out of paper! Insulting of an officer can get pricy …trespassing, loitering, …”
“My fist is gonna loiter on your face here pretty soon. But write those tickets, whatever works for you to get enough money together so you can finally afford to move out of mommy and daddy’s house and act like a real man!”
The two young men chuckled as they hugged.
“Parents aren’t home, hope you didn’t hang around here waiting long. Should have called me. I didn’t even know you were in town.” Eric said now.
“Neither did I until I decided to get on a plane yesterday afternoon. One of those on the whim things. Just needed to talk to someone with a good head on their shoulders and was hoping you’d know someone like that.” Ewan smirked.
“Wrong address. I am a Cameron, none of us have good heads on their shoulders. I am the prime example. Just got back from the most idiotic idea I ever had, and naturally it blew up in my face.” Eric gestured to the front door with his head, Ewan followed him.
“Man, sounds serious. Is this idea even dumber than the last one, when you came home after you decided to join the police force?” Ewan joked as he waited for Eric to unlock the door.
“Much, I went to Charlee’s father to ask for her hand trying to do this the right way. Got a boot up my ass instead. I don’t know why I thought that would go anywhere but straight off a cliff.”
“Hey, it’s the thought that counts. Bet Charlee is going to be super impressed. Are you proposing today?”
“Yeah, taking her out to a nice dinner and will pop the question. So what did you need?”
“Advice! Remember Ava? I recently introduced her to everyone at Hannah’s wedding. Well, that little girl has been driving me crazy! I’d like for things to get a little more serious, but try as I might, I end up chasing my own tail. Of course my life never follows a straight line, which leads me to the next issue: apparently I went from being engaged to someone who enjoyed draining me dry financially and emotionally until they put the ultimate cherry on top by cheating on me right under my nose in my very own home, to someone who barely will accept a piece of gum without trying to pay me back – even though she and her crazy family live paycheck to paycheck.” Ewan got worked up while talking, making Eric smile.
“Doesn’t sound half bad. Sounds like just what you needed, to be honest.” he told Ewan.
“Ha – you haven’t heard the half of it! She is back home working at that diner and if I want to see her I have to fly to that dusty godforsaken Podunk town in the middle of the desert where she lives in some trailer the size of a shoebox with about 50,000 relatives – plus/minus whoever feels like just walking in off the street at any given time of day. Usually my visits go something like this: I fly in, get a rental car, I go sit at that diner drinking nasty coffee till she gets off work, then we go home to hang with her obnoxious brothers, father and all the others who are up at all hours of the night, meaning we are hardly ever alone. One time – ONCE in Del Sol Valley – we went further than me just sitting there drooling over her. Still, she won’t go to a hotel with me while I come see her. ‘Waste of money’, she says. So we stay in her tiny room in her father’s tiny trailer. Out of respect for her father and brothers I usually keep my hands and other parts to myself while staying with her, but last night I had enough – thought ‘fuck it’ and was gonna go in for a sequel – she was more than interested – we were this close to getting jiggy with things, when the door opens – none of them have locks – and in walks one of her brothers, drunk beyond all recognition, calls me Brittney, squeezes my ass, tries to kiss me on the mouth before he attemps to climb into bed with us. Once Ava was able to quit laughing she kicked him out, but the mood was GONE! Beyond frustrated!”
Eric doubled over laughing for a good while. When he finally was able to calm down he tried hard for a straight face before telling Ewan
“Well, Brittney, here’s my advice for ya: move to the Bay. Much closer to her dusty old hometown, you could drive there to see her or even bring her back with you for a weekend or whatever. You could stay with your parents and younger siblings and see how it goes. Plus, we all miss you, man.”
“You sound like Hannah! And screw you – Brittney, pah!” Ewan was not amused and really seemed at his wit’s end.
“I sound reasonable. You can literally live ANYWHERE, your work has phases of crazy amounts of back to back engagements followed by dry spells where you sit at home twirling your thumbs. You can twirl them on your parents patio – with Ava, cos she has come here a few times now and I am sure she’d visit you here since it is in driving distance to her home – and when you need to be in the Valley you take her home, fly out and stay with your sister. What’s the big deal?”
“You make it sound so easy …”
“Because it is!”
“So you want me to tell my manager and the entire hoity toity movie biz brigade they can find me at my mommy and daddy’s home in a sleepy coastal town so I can date a stubborn little waitress? They’d tip over laughing.” Ewan frowned.
“Once they see a pic of your mommy and daddy’s home they’ll stop. That house is sick, even by Del Sol Valley standards. Why you move is none of their business. So shut up and start packing. Your dad would love to have you home, as would your step-mom, your half-siblings and the rest of us.”
“If I were to move back home – not saying I am even really considering it – but if I were, it would definitely never be quiet again with two teen siblings roaming the house. The last few visits had my ears ringing for days after I already got back home again from all the Lucas and Veronica teen outburst – they’re not even fighting just … who knows what, communicating, I guess, at the same decibel level as a commerical airplane. I felt like in some reality TV drama. Oh speaking of drama – I have a bone to pick with you, you goddamn traitor! You dug around your little police computer thing with your little cop fingers and then ratted me out to my father! I was not ready to come back home just yet!”
“You just disappeared without as much as a note, you did not react to calls or texts – for over a month! There were missing persons reports filed on you in Del Sol Valley by your manager and here by your family. We were all worried beyond recognition! You betcha I told them! You are lucky that I had to work that day or else I would have come get you myself, kicking your dumb ass all the way back home instead of putting it on the cozy backseat of a luxury car! So you can thank me, you fool!”
“Well, whatever. At least I still have Ava. Sort of. At least sometimes.”
“Is she your girlfriend now?”
“Ha! Not even close. I wouldn’t even know how to go further with this crazy relationship. Out of the blue when I least expected it we ended up doing it when she visited me in Del Sol Valley and I tell you what, man, I am ruined for all other women. Sometimes when I close my eyes I can feel her again and … man.”
“Do me a favor and don’t close your eyes. This is where we eat.” Eric told him dryly.
It was obvious to Eric how frustrated Ewan really was, both young men started chuckling until Eric patted Ewan on the shoulder and said
“You know what we need? The other member of the trifecta and her feminine take on all that. Hannah may be able to translate Ava for ya or at least have some good advice. I’ll call her.”
Less than half an hour later Hannah was there too and for a little while it was just like the old days, the three of them laughing, trading funny stories, teasing, confiding and discussing life and everything in it.
“I am glad I have you guys. I really miss you two in Del Sol Valley. Seriously thinking about buying a house, a mansion that’s for sale up in the hills, sinfully expensive but Ava and I went there one day, took off our clothes, went in that pool and … uh … well, we … ”
“That’s okay, man, we can imagine. So you want to buy a house because you trespassed on it to have sex in a pool that’s not yours, all of which against the law by the way, hoping your girl will then agree to move in with you, when she won’t even do that for the apartment you already own.” Eric looked at Ewan, one eyebrow arched.
“I hate being friends with a cop sometimes! But yeah, it’s a great once-in-a-lifetime memory and the house is awesome. It was her first time, can you believe that? A girl like her? I thought at our age I’d never be someone’s first ever again unless I start cradlerobbing.”
“Ahem – ecstatic for you, Ewan but totally TMI! And – you have to buy a house HERE – in the Bay!” Hannah stated.
“Hannah, you know property rarely becomes available in the Bay.” Eric told her.
“He can live with his family then. That mansion is huge! We all need you back!” Hannah determined.
“One day, I may, but I really can’t now. Maybe if I bought that mansion though, Ava couldn’t resist. I mean, she still fondly remembers that day too, she told me so. Definitely a first time to tell your grandkids about. Well, actually … never mind.”
“Maybe she would. And maybe she’d bring all her brothers with her. Let me talk to her, feel her out, woman to woman. I’ll tell her who you really are, from the woman’s perspective. After that, you’ll probably have to beat her off with a stick. She may just need a woman’s take on what an awesome guy you really are to know that it’s not fake.”
“I am desperate enough to try it, but please be kind. And whatever you do, don’t tell her about that … you know the … the time in the park.”
“You kidding, taking that to my grave.” Hannah motioned to lock her lips.
“Guys? Can I get that memo? What time at what park?” Eric asked.
“Nothing Eric. Forget it.” Ewan dismissed.
“Ah, we’re keeping secrets now. Good to know.” Eric wasn’t happy with the answer.
“No, it’s just something personal.” Ewan tried to appease him.
“Opposed to all we have talked about being public knowledge?” Eric shook his head.
“Oh for heaven’s sake: Ewan and I slept together. Once. There you have it.” Hannah told him.
“Hannah what the fuck!” Ewan gave her a look as if she were crazy.
“He is part of the trifecta. No secrets. Besides, it was only once. We were heartbroken after finding out what Cassandra and Sven did and that she was knocked up by him. We learned we love each other but not like that. Now you are all caught up, Eric.”
“We are all cousins!” Eric grimaced.
“No, you and Hannah are cousins. I am a very distant, around many corners, cousin. That’s different.” Ewan told him.
“Your father and our grandfather were brothers. Your dad is our great-uncle. Not THAT distant, Ewan. I cannot believe you went along with this, Hannah!” Eric was not crazy about the newfound knowledge.
“Eric – don’t make me regret trusting you. I am sure I am already gonna catch plenty of crap from Ewan for telling you. Besides, Ewan looked it up, it wasn’t even illegal. He and I could have gotten married even.” Hannah said.
“You can bank on me giving you shit, you tattletale!” Ewan shook his head again.
“Wow! Imagine the entire family’s relief that you didn’t get married to each other at least! Well, can’t undo the past and if it only happened once, I guess a broken heart can make people do really stupid things. Made me get a huge tattoo.” Eric said.
“What?! YOU? A tattoo? A permanent one?! When?” Hannah was shocked.
“Yes, permanent, Hannah, or have you ever seen a temporary tattoo the size of someone’s entire back?! I got it when I thought I lost Charlee just before she was getting married to that royal pain in my ass – after we had the worst fight and weren’t talking. It’s a phoenix rising fighting a dragon .. on my back. Long story, but she painted that on me in watercolor the same day we slept together for the first time and … uh.” Eric blushed.
“A-ha! Look at the infallible Mr. Perfect here. Slept with a girl who was engaged to another man. So, two things, we want to see that tat and we want more details!” Ewan snickered.
“I’ll show you the picture she took of the painting with her phone … that’s what I gave to the tattoo artist. Came out pretty damn close.” Eric said.
“No, you will show us your back or we will strip you down dude!” Ewan promised.
“Oh no! You know I don’t take my shirt off ..”
“We will take your shirt off then!” Hannah giggled, as she and Ewan had pulled Eric out of his chair, a playful fight ensued, until Eric surrendered and took off his shirt himself, turning around, his back to his friends.
“WOW! OMG – Eric I love it!” Hannah stared at it, carefully retracing the lines with her fingers.
“Yeah, that is pretty damn cool, dude.” Ewan affirmed.
“Oh shit guys! I need to get ready for the dinner!” Eric grabbed his shirt and ran upstairs.
“He’s gonna propose tonight.” Ewan explained to the very confused Hannah.
“Awww! What does the ring look like?” Hannah went into full girly mode.
“I don’t know, haven’t seen it. Don’t look at me like that, dudes don’t care, all we care about is the girl wearing it. You’ll see it soon enough. If she says yes, that is.”
“Why wouldn’t she?”
“Because she is female and I learned one thing: women make NO sense!” he smiled.
“We make perfect sense! You guys just don’t get stuff half the time. Lucky for you we girls just usually love you guys way too much to worry about it and roll with it all. Ewan – dinner at my house?” Hannah offered.
“YES! Now that does make sense! I miss your cooking more than I care to admit.” he told her as he followed her out the door, arm around her shoulder like the old friends they were.
Eric had not been this nervous about going out with Charlee in a while.
He picked her up like hundreds of times before, they went to her favorite restaurant, requested a table on the patio overlooking the San Myshuno skyline, ordered a nice meal. She was beaming, he was nervous, knowing what he was about to do would change their lives for good.
Before the dessert arrived Eric pulled Charlotte to her feet, kissed her, then got down on one knee.
“I had this really long, eloquent speech prepared, but honestly, I think I won’t make it all the way through, baby, so without any ado: Charlotte Amabelle Seymour, will you make me the luckiest, happiest man in the whole world and become my wife?”
“Oh my God, Eric! I am going to cry! You have no idea how long I have been waiting for this very moment. Yes, I’ll marry you. Right here, right now if you wanted to!”
The kiss was the stuff dreams were made of.
When they parted ways, after Eric dropped Charlotte off at her parents’ Windenburg home, then drove home to the Beach House himself, both of them broke the news to their respective parents that same night, the reactions differed tremendously. The Camerons were so happy for their son, while the mood at the Seymour’s home was halted at best.
A few days later Hannah answered the door for a person she didn’t know.
“Are you Hannah Johansson?”
“Yeah …?” her tone was suspicious and not exactly the most friendly.
“I have a few documents here to deliver to you. Read them over, sign on the flagged pages and bring them by the title company at your earliest convenience – address is on this business card – to finalize it all. Payment already went through, just need the title transfered from a Mr. … umm … E. L. Cameron over to you. He already signed everything in front of a notary since he was gonna be out of town, just your signature is missing for all this to become official. Congratulations, Mrs. Johansson.”
When she joined Sven in the kitchen a little while later, putting down the pile of papers, she looked floored.
“What’ happened, babe?” he asked concerned.
“Ewan happened. That guy just bought me that little restaurant by the pier I’ve been wanting so badly. As a wedding present for us.” hearing herself say those words out aloud made her knees weak.
“What?!” Sven’s eyeballs seemed to come out of their sockets.
“Yeah …” Hannah’s widened eyes met her new husband’s.
“Well, I can’t say I am crazy about the idea of another man buying you something so expensive, but I know he is family, you two are close and old friends and he has the money to spare, so all I am gonna say to you is ‘congratulations baby’. I am happy for you, at least you got your wish long before I could have made it real for you.”
“I am so shocked – but so excited! Oh my God, Sven, this is really happening!”
“Gimme a hug – and a kiss – and then call Ewan to thank him. Oh, and tell him from me that normal people give gift cards for restaurant visits and such stuff as wedding gifts, not the entire restaurant!”
Right as she pulled out her phone to call him, she got a text from Eric, just three words that probably changed his entire world.
‘She said YES!!!’
After calling Ewan she and Sven celebrated with sparkling wine and lots of affections.
Sven seemed genuinely happy that his new wife’s biggest wish had come true for her so unexpectantly, even if he much would have preferred to have been the one granting it for her. Either way, she was happy and that was all that counted.
Later that night, long after Sven had drifted off to sleep next to her, Hannah was barely able to keep her eyes shut that night for excitement … her life was perfect!
-to be continued-