Mom was a push-over compared to dad. Brann had her charmed in no time flat.
He even found something he and dad could agree on - trying to annihilate each other in the latest Sim Fighter game.
Colt and Jia arrived home for the party bringing a little surprise of their own. Colt is finished with his book, and they are moving back to Riverview to raise their family.
Heather and Fiery share the same birthday, so she was up next. I'm pretty sure she is thinking up new ways she can annoy Bennie, now that she will be a teenager.
She has more confidence and ambition than anyone else I know. I'm sure she'll go far.
Mom and Dad, of course are thrilled about being grandparents.
Jia Li was the center of attention all evening. Everyone wanted a turn to play with her growing tummy, and she certainly was a proud mama-to-be.
But the party atmosphere took a turn for the worse when Dad decided to call me on my promise right in front of everyone.
"You see son? It's not that hard. I'm sure if you put your mind to it, you can do as well as your big brother. I don't think you're even trying, promise or no."
"Aw geez, dad. Please. Not now. It's the middle of a birthday party. Can we please talk about this later?"
If truth be told, I think about it almost every spare moment, and I'm truly not any closer to a solution for my dilemma that I was the day I made that promise. There seems to be no way out without hurting someone, and that I won't do.
Fortunately we were interrupted by the arrival of Heather's boyfriend Jonathan from across the street. He is an up and coming musician, and according to Brann, is on the fast track to rock stardom, being a Lessen and all. I think Heather has enough talent to make it in the music industry as well, but she has no interest in any career whatsoever.
I don't think anyone else noticed, but I'm pretty sure Jon never left that night. And there were many, many nights after, that Heather spent across the street at the Rock Star Retreat.
"Hey Bro, you have a minute?"
"All the time in the world, sis. What's up?"
She didn't answer, just stared at me with a faraway look in her eyes. I should be used to it by now, but most of the time talking to Heather is like conversing with the TV: You can talk all you want, but what you hear back has almost no bearing on what you just said.
I tried again. "I haven't seen Jonathan in a while, where's he gotten himself to?"
"Oh, he's in France, visiting my friends."
Success! I had gotten a real answer. I vaguely recalled a news blurb trumpeting a 'Lessen Eurosim Tour.'
"You mean he's on tour in France?"
I had lost her again; she stared at me in sudden confusion, her eyes wide.
"There's going to be a baby, you know. I don't know how it happened, but the doctor showed me the picture on her screen, and there she was."
I had a pretty good idea how it had happened, but arguing with Heather never gets you anywhere.
"Did you tell Jonathan yet?"
"Why would I tell Jonathan?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure he's your baby's daddy, isn't he?"
Uh oh. Wrong thing to say. Heather began laughing hysterically.
"Hahaha. You think.. this is Jonathan's baby? You think this is my baby? You are so hilarious, Brook."
Her voiced dropped to a conspiratorial whisper as she gestured randomly behind her.
"It's them. They did it. Don't tell any one about this. I probably shouldn't have even told you, but you're the only one I can trust."
I sighed. What to say now?
"We at least need to tell Mom and Dad about the baby, sis. It's not like they're not going to notice pretty soon anyway."
"If you want to risk they're wrath, be my guest, bro. But I'll deny everything."
I have no idea who her mysterious "they" are, but I have no doubt "they" are an integral part of her many conspiracy theories. Best not to dig too deep, in my experience.
Of course I did impart her little secret to everyone, and Mom and Dad are totally on board with having a second grandchild. And a third one! Jia Li is expecting again. Mom and Jia can spend hours talking babies. The first time she visited, mom had to drag me along. But once I met little Louis, I was hooked. Now he can hardly wait to see his Uncle Brook. He is just about the most adorable toddler I've even seen.
One Saturday on my way back from visiting Louis, I stopped to get the mail, and noticed a fairly large fat envelope in the box. Pulling it out, I checked the return address. Hmm. M. Slayer. Bridgeport. I don't think anyone here knows anyone by that name. Must be a wrong address. I'll check with Dad first before I return to sender, though. Might be one of his clients.
Dad and Heather were watching Fiery pwn Brann in a game of Super Smash Sims.
"Whatcha got there, son?"
"Probably nothing. From someone by the name of M. Slayer. Shall I return to sender?"
I never saw dad move so fast. He was up off the couch, snatched the letter from my hand, and had disappeared into his office before I could even blink.
I was so curious I had to follow. Dad was at his desk tearing open the envelope.
"Uh, dad? Who is M. Slayer?"
"Oh, nobody special."
I could tell by the expression on his face he was not being totally honest.
"Come on, Dad. It's not often you get this excited by anything any more."
He thought a long moment, then nodded.
"Alright, I guess you deserve to know. It's from my brother Mel."
I gaped. "You told me he died years ago, before I was born."
"Hmm.. yes, well, that was not entirely a lie. Here, see for yourself."
He handed me a card along with a stack of photos. The card was a birth announcement, with a handwritten comment at the bottom.
It's a Girl!
Meloire & Elvira Slayer proudly announce the birth of a daughter
Talia Olivia Slayer
7lb 12 oz
Sorry I haven't been in touch, bro. Lost your e-mail in a hard drive failure. Shoot me a line when you get a chance so I can update. I'm a little behind ya in the baby making game, but have no doubt I'll catch up eventually LOL. Enjoy the pics :)
El pissed off at me for taking pregnant pictures
Managed to sneak this one without her knowing
El in labor
El trying to hit me with my camera for taking labor pictures
Talia & El
Talia & me
Why didn't you ever tell me babies were this great?
"Why did you tell everyone your brother was dead if he's not? And the date on the announcement is last week? How can that possibly be your brother? He doesn't look a day older than me."
I was totally confused, wondering if my dad was going senile or something. But he was regarding me very seriously.
"What do you know of vampires, Brook?"
"Rumors mostly. I figure some people out there have some vivid imaginations. Wait... are you telling me.."
I grabbed the stack of photos and hurriedly flipped through them again.
"What... how? Is that what you meant when you said it wasn't really a lie that he was dead?"
"He met a girl .. Elvira... she turned him. I was offered the same deal. I turned it down. So much power, and I turned it down..."
"You sound so sad. Are you sorry you turned it down?" I whispered hesitantly.
I was relieved to see him break out in a smile.
"Nah, I just miss Mel sometimes. All that power... but I would have to give up too much.. your mom, Colt.. you, Heather, and Fiery. I can't even bear to think of it. You all are my life."
I regarded my dad with new respect as I helped him to his feet. The beginnings of a plan were starting to take shape in my head. I hope I can pull it off.
"One more thing son. Please, please do not mention any of this to your mom. It would only dredge up long forgotten animosities."
"Sure, Dad." I hope that promise doesn't come back to haunt me.