Wow, it seems weird to write that number; a new millennium, a new chance for us all perhaps? The earth didn’t stop spinning on its axis, the computer’s around the world didn’t all crash – life has went on, much like before. Y2K is now just a memory.
Things have been really hectic the past few days; and heartbreaking as well. I know diary, I haven’t written in a while, but as I said, well things are kind of crazy right now.
Where to start? Good things first I guess. Robbi is engaged! Yep, she and Kevin have decided to get married after her graduation next year. They met last summer on the ship in Alaska and I must say he is perfect for her. He is already a marine biologist and they really ‘get’ one another, that’s for sure. Kevin is tall, with blonde, surfer boy appeal and looks adorable in his nerdy ‘doctor’ glasses. Robbi adores him and you can tell by looking at him that the feeling is mutual. He already works for the Graehm Institute and they will probably work on many projects together. There are several couples that work together there which is kind of a good thing because a lot of the studies involve many months away from home as they study different species. Anyway, way to go Robbi and Kevin – I hope you will be very happy.
Lani, well – this year has been a bit of a struggle for her, academically. She has actually had to hit the books to maintain her grades since the HR subjects are getting more intense. But you know what? I think it’s been really good for her and she says she agrees. She is very focused on her goal and has already been courted by several large firms and if all goes well she will be well-set after graduation. She has wonderful negotiation skills (can we actually say ‘manipulation’ here) and is proving to be an effective trainer as well. Seriously, she has always been the natural leader among the three of us and all this doesn’t really surprise me at all, although I think it does her!
And diary, there is another engagement to celebrate! My mom and Clark are engaged! It happened over Christmas, but I have to say I’m not really surprised, only a bit confused as to why it never happened before. They are so perfect for one another, always have been! They are getting married in May, after school is out. Ever since Grams died they have been closer; I think it is safe to say that mom wouldn’t have known what to do without Clarks support during that time – I know that I wouldn’t have. He has always felt like a dad to me and so I welcome him to my family – officially – with more than open arms.
Carl graduated in December, as planned and with honors I might add. He now has his bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and starts the police academy in February. He is really excited and I know that he will make a wonderful cop; he is honest and has so much integrity. Yeah, he was a fun-loving frat boy here in college, but he was always more than that and has proven himself in so many ways.
The sad news is that he and I are no longer together. We tried, but I think in many ways we are just too different. We’ve tried, but when the trying became harder than the just being, we both knew it was time to end it. I think I can say that we will always be friends; there was nothing hateful in the breakup, just recognition that this was the best thing for both of us. I wish him the best of luck and happiness in his life, always…
Two weeks before…
Mick smiled as he recognized the number on his caller ID and picked up the phone with a “What do you want Josef?”
“What, is that anyway to talk to your best friend? Tsk tsk, here I was planning on inviting you to my New Year’s Eve party! After all, we gotta party like its 1999! Or so Prince tells us anyway.”
The words grabbed at Mick’s heart, causing a momentary bit of panic. He hadn’t been back to LA in, well since he’d left. He pondered for a moment if he was ready to go back. He remembered Clarks words when Grace had died, that Beth knew he wasn’t there:
"She knows you aren't here anymore Mick; she misses you."
God, he missed her too, watching her from afar, seeing her smile light up her face, hearing her laughter. Could he risk going back?
Josef could feel his hesitancy and said, “Come on Mick, it’s time to come for a visit! I promise to have lots of ‘red’ on tap for you!”
Still Mick hesitated. Frankly, he wasn’t sure he could trust himself to go back and not be drawn back into her life. It was safe being a thousand miles away and every now and again a whole day would go by and he wouldn’t see her face in his mind, wouldn’t wonder what she was doing, if she were happy. It had to stay that way and he was just about to tell Josef that he couldn’t make it when Josef said, “Look Mick, I know that something is keeping you away. I know we’ve never talked about what it is, but boyo, it’s time to come back here and face it. You can’t run forever Mick.”
Can’t I? I can certainly try…
Mick cleared his throat and tried to think of something to say to Josef but the truth was that there was nothing he could say to justify not going. He certainly didn’t want to get into the whole reason behind his coming to Seattle now. Would it be so bad if he just went for a day or so? He just wouldn’t allow himself to think about her while he was there, it was that simple: just don’t do it. He was strong enough for that; he believed that didn’t he?
“Okay, I’ll come down for the party Josef, but that’s all. I’m not staying, are you hearing me on this? If you are planning on coaxing me back you might as well give it up.”
Mick’s word stunned Josef; he had been prepared to launch into his next set of prepared reasons why he should come when Mick agreed. For a moment he was speechless – well, almost!
“Well, great. I’ll send the jet up for you, okay? Full prodigal son treatment, how’s that sound?”
“Just keep it simple, okay Josef? Don’t make me regret saying yes!”
Beth sat in the auditorium with her mother, Clark, Lani and several of Carl’s cousins, watching him graduate from UCLA, with honors, top of his class. Beth was so proud of him; he had so much going for him, a completely new phase of his life was beginning today. She watched as he walked across the stage and accepted his diploma as she stood and cheered, along with the others in their group.
As he retreated across the stage, a huge grin splashed across his face she sat down and thought about the past couple of days; they had argued several times about a story she was working on for the campus paper. Carl didn’t want her involved with it because there was a serial rapist on campus and he felt that her efforts to expose the rapist put her right in the line of fire. All of the arguments had ended the same way – a stalemate with neither one of them willing to concede their point. Things were a bit tense right now, to say the least.
At the party later that night Beth received another call, the rapist had struck again; a solitary co-ed in campus housing, the typical MO. She was mostly alone since classes were over for the semester and many students had left to go home for the holidays. Beth made her excuses and went to grab her coat and purse so that she could head over to the dorm.
“Beth, you’re not leaving now are you?” he had asked, deep brown eyes staring into soft blue ones.
“Yes. I have to cover it for the paper Carl, you know that. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Then I’m coming with you Beth, it’s too dangerous for you to go running around out there alone with this guy on the prowl. Hang on for a minute while I get my coat.”
“Carl, it’s really not neces…” Her words trailed off as Carl went to get his coat. He was back a minute later and they made their way to his car. She took her seat and sat patiently while Carl got in and waited for him to start the car.
He put the key in the ignition but instead of turning it he leaned back in the seat and turned his head to look at her. She met his gaze and tried to read what was in his eyes, but they were masked, hiding his thoughts from her. Her gut twisted for a moment, knowing that sooner or later he was going to have some things to say and she doubted if she was going to like them.
He let out a huge sigh and reached to turn the key on. The car started quickly and he flipped the lights on and put the car into gear. Wordlessly they drove to the dorm, each one with heavy thoughts on their mind.
For the two hours it took Beth to talk to the police and a few witnesses, Carl waited patiently, observing the scene with a cop’s eye, missing nothing and noting with satisfaction that the investigators didn’t either. This was the fourth rape this semester and they were only now just beginning to get a bead on the guy. Beth plastering it all across the front page of the paper didn’t help anything either. The guy was going to be caught, soon most likely but until then she was right in the line of fire.
She’s a big girl and had to live her life as she saw fit; he got that. But it didn’t make for a peaceful night of sleep for him. He admired her tenacity and the long hours of dedication she put into the job; but standing by and watching it was a different matter. His thoughts were interrupted as she came over to where he was waiting for her, shrugging into her coat.
“You’re ready?” he asked.
“Yeah, we can go. I’ll write up the story tomorrow.”
He nodded and opened the door for her as they left the dorm building. Both were silent as they walked to the car in the quiet of the night, their footsteps sounding loud and sharp on the pavement. Carl looked up at the inky sky and watched as his breath turned frosty in the cold night air as he walked around the car to get in.
After he had started the car he turned it in the direction of Glendale, heading to her mother’s house since she was staying there over the holidays. The ride went fast at that time of night but it seemed interminable to both of them; the silence between them roaring loudly, exacerbated by the tension that filled the air. Both of them were lost in their own distressing thoughts; a prelude to what was coming.
Carl pulled the car into the driveway and turned the ignition off. He took a deep breath and looked at Beth, seeing her swallow quickly, watching the muscles in her neck tense with the effort. He knew how that felt; he had a knot about the size of a tennis ball in his own throat right now.
Both began at the same time and both closed their mouths nervously as the other began. Beth felt the corners of her mouth turn up in a tense smile that was really a grimace and she said, “Go ahead.”
“Beth…I, you know I admire what you do, your enthusiasm for your job. I do, it’s admirable. Some day you are going to make the best reporter imaginable. And as much as it is hard for those of us around you to watch you constantly pushing the limits to get the story, well, we also know that you wouldn’t be who you were if you didn’t. But it IS hard; so hard to stand by, knowing that you sometimes don’t think of the danger you are in as you work those stories. And someday, when you are working for the Times or somewhere else just as impressive the need to push will be multiplied even further. Beth – I, I don’t think I can handle that. I’m trying, I really am but I can’t focus on my own life while I’m so worried about yours. This is pretty lame, I’ll admit it, but I just can’t handle it.”
Beth reached over and took his hand; it felt warm to her chilled fingers. “Carl, I do understand, really. But this IS who I am; I can’t change that, not even for you. Maybe it’s some sort of flaw in me, I don’t know, but I have to follow my dream, the way you have to follow yours.” She felt warm tears beginning to streak her face and she ignored them; they would be the first of many she knew. “It has been pretty good though, hasn’t it? You’ve changed my life. I’ve learned so much from you.”
“Yeah. Never could teach you to keep the beer down though,” he quipped, trying to lighten the moment a bit. He realized he had tears running down his own face right now as well; he also realized that there wasn’t going to be a magic save here – that this was goodbye. He heard her stifle a small sob and he raised her hand to his mouth, pressing a soft kiss to her palm. He licked his lips and said, “I want you to be happy, okay? Go out there and knock them dead in the news world. I know you can.”
Beth laid her hand on his cheek, gently wiping away a tear. “I will, I will. You too, you’re going to be an amazing cop you know. Police chief someday maybe? Carl, I want you to be happy too; go out there and find what you are looking for okay?” As soon as the words left her lips she threw open the car door and dashed towards the front door of the house.
When she got to the door Carl watched as she fumbled through her purse looking for her key. When she had found it she inserted it into the door and turned the key in the lock. The door opened and Beth turned to look at him one last time. He saw her trying to smile through her tears and she half raised her hand to him before disappearing inside the house. He sat for a moment before he started the car and backed out of the driveway to head home, feeling more alone than he ever had in his life.
Josef sent the jet for Mick on December 30th and Mick settled in for the journey to LA. He watched the lights below him as the jet streaked through the night, tiny pinpoints of light, far away and belonging to another world. He had almost backed out at the last moment; only a brief taunting call from Josef who had anticipated a last minute ditching effort had kept him on course and gotten him on the jet.
The flight was altogether too short Mick thought as he fought a moment of panic rise in his chest as he heard the landing gear come down. Soon they were touching lightly down and he held his breath as the jet taxied to the hangar, finally releasing it in a giant ‘whoosh’ as the jet stopped. It didn’t take long to de-plane and he watched as the limo pulled up and the door opened for him.
As he crawled inside he wasn’t surprised to find Josef seated there, along with some ‘liquid refreshment’.
“To provide succor for the weary traveler, of course,” he stated, offering the wrist of the red head to Mick, who declined. She sank back into the seat of the limo, a pouty expression on her beautifully painted red lips. Josef patted her arm comfortingly and murmured, “Later my dear.”
Mick quirked at eyebrow upwards and shook his head as he watched Josef and the freshie. He thought of times past when he might have not have passed on the opportunity and wondered where all his abstention had gotten him; certainly not any happier, that was for sure. He absolutely felt better by at least drinking fresh these past years in Seattle; he owed a lot to Josef for forcing that issue he acknowledged.
Josef watched several different emotions play across his friends face before Mick saw him watching and his face became a blank mask. In many ways he looked so much better than he had for years; the healthy, fresh blood had done him a lot of good but he could still tell that whatever Mick was carrying around emotionally was still there. Whatever had prompted the move to Seattle hadn’t gotten better; Josef knew that it wouldn’t until Mick finally opened up about it and he knew that it needed to be soon. Dark and brooding may look sexy as hell, but Mick wasn’t benefiting from it so it was worthless in the long run.
As soon as they got to Josef’s house in the hills Mick accepted a glass of A positive from Josef and sipped it as he looked around. Not much had changed in the past few years he realized.
“A positive, in your honor,” Josef said, raising his glass in a salute. “Enjoy!” He sipped his own glass and said, “I still don’t know what you like about this stuff so much though!”
Mick only smiled and asked about the upcoming party. He sat down on a sofa and crossed his long legs and settled in to listen to Josef talk about the party.
“Mostly vamps, but a few friends of the family too, a hundred or so people I guess. Oh, and the girls too; after all, we need to provide for the needs or desires of the guests. I’ve had them on a special regimen the past week or so, vitamins, diet, etc. I’m sure the demand for their services will be appreciated by many.”
“Probably,” Mick conceded. Josef was well-known for his selection of freshies and parties at his house always meant free-flowing refreshments. Mick finished his drink and stood up, intending to head for the freezer.
“So soon? You just got here Mick. It’s not sunrise for a couple more hours!”
“Yeah, well I’m pretty tired. In order to make the trip down here I had to push pretty hard to get some things done before I left, not much freezer time the past few days. I’m assuming you want me perky tomorrow night?” He smiled as he said the last and watched as Josef almost choked on a mouthful of blood. The smile turned a bit wicked and he added, “I’m assuming you have me in my old guest room?”
Josef sputtered, “Perky?” before coughing in to a handkerchief. When he recovered he nodded and said, “Yeah, same old room. Good night.” He watched as Mick left the room and muttered, “Perky?” He started laughing then and couldn’t stop. Perky!
The party appeared to be a huge success. Everyone, vamp and human seemed to be having a great time Mick observed as he grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. It was two minutes until midnight and he wanted to be prepared. He acknowledged that he was actually having a good time, catching up with a few old friends and meeting a few new ones.
One of the new ones made her way to where he was standing and smiled at him. She was beautiful he thought and fascinating too. She was tiny, by most standards, even for a female, only about 5 feet tall and if she weighed 90 pounds soaking wet he would be surprised. When he first met her he couldn’t decide if she were of Spanish origin or what but he had since learned that she was Sioux, Native American, turned in 1837 after a battle between the Sioux and their enemies the Crow.
He skin was flawless copper, with high cheekbones and wide coffee - colored eyes that had tiny laugh lines that crinkled at the corners when she smiled. And she smiled a lot Mick noticed. Her lips were a deep rosy pink color and if she were wearing any make up Mick couldn’t see it; that in itself was unusual in today’s society. He was intrigued, more than he wanted to admit.
He lifted his glass towards her and said, “Hi Elka. Almost midnight I see.”
“Um, yes.” She looked around the room, noticing that everyone was getting ready for the moment. “I just wanted to be assured that if the worst happens and everything goes dark I’d be with someone who could take care of me,” she laughed.
Mick laughed as well and said, “I have no doubt that you could take care of not only yourself by me too if necessary. But I’m glad you came over! So, care to make a bet? Does the world stop in,” he looked at his watch and added, “um, 45 seconds?”
She laughed again and it sounded to Mick like water that trickled down a small brook, sort of a tinkling and he knew that he wanted to hear it again. “No, no bets, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens, shall we?” She placed her arm through Mick’s and they waited as everyone in the room started the 10 second count down.
Mick looked down at her arm, startled for a moment and then felt unexpectedly thrilled.
“Two, one – Happy New Year!” the crowd roared. Mick looked down at her as she licked her lips and that was all encouragement he needed; he bent and pressed his own against Elka’s and savored the feel of them against his. The kiss only lasted a few seconds, but he wanted more. From her darkened eyes, he knew she did too.
Just then they were interrupted by Kelly, who he had met earlier. She had a slight frown on her face as she looked at them both and faced Mick. Elka looked at her and excused herself for a moment to go and greet another old acquaintance.
“Kelly, Happy New Year,” Mick said, starting to take a drink from his glass, only to realize it was empty.
Kelly was a cleaner and even though she wasn’t on duty tonight she was still dressed in black leather. She was attractive, in a sort of ‘in your face’ kind of way, but for some reason she sort of creeped Mick out.
“Happy New Year to you too Mick,” she said and then reached up to pull his head down for a kiss that lingered just a bit too long in Mick’s opinion. She smiled at him and said, “I know you aren’t going to be in town for long Mick, but I wanted to give you my number.” She gave him a card with her information on it and said, “You know, there doesn’t have to be a cleanup for you to call me Mick!”
Mick stared at her for a moment, trying to find a way to escape. She was certainly straight forward; he had to give her that. She saw the panic on his face and gave him an amused look before turning and walking away.
Those old-fashioned guys! But wow is he hot!
A waiter came by and he sat his glass down on the tray and looked around the room to find Elka. They had unfinished business and he was looking forward to the negotiation.
Beth sat in the living room at her Mom’s house her eyes blankly staring at the TV as the typical New Years Eve programming was on. She had decided to stay at home tonight with her mom and Clark instead of going out with Lani and other friends. Robbi was in Utah for the holidays with Kevin’s family and wouldn’t be back for another week. Lani was out partying like mad she was sure; Lani never let an opportunity for a party go by.
Dorothy and Clark both stared at Beth surreptitiously from time to time, worried sick about her. Since she and Carl had broken up there was no sparkle in her eyes, no laughter, and no joy in her life. Dorothy and Clark talked about it a lot; they both knew that she was hurting, it was to be expected, especially since Carl was the first man she had ever really cared about. They heard her pacing the floors at night and more than once saw her stare at the phone as if fighting herself to keep from picking it up.
As midnight approached Dorothy went to get a bottle of champagne for them to share. She brought it and three glasses into the living room on a tray and Clark opened it, popping the cork. It launched itself across the room, hitting a chair with a loud ‘thump’. As the champagne bubbled out of the bottle Dorothy tried to catch it with the glasses and laughed as she mopped up the excess that had spilled onto the floor. She held a glass out to Beth, softly calling her name.
“Beth? Beth sweetie, do you want a glass?” Dorothy asked.
“I – uh, what?” Beth asked before noticing the proffered glass. For a moment she was tempted to turn it down and then decided it was easier to take it. Go with the flow, anything so that they wouldn’t ask questions or pity her. She had seen their eyes, she knew she was pathetic right now, how could she not be? “Sure Mom, thanks.”
The TV flashed midnight and all three raised their glasses. Clark bent to kiss Dorothy and then pulled away at the last moment, a movement that Beth noticed.
“For God’s sake, kiss her! It’s New Years, your first official New Years together.”
They looked at her and one another. Clark bent and briefly kissed her and then they both pulled away, guilty at the bit of pleasure they felt being together when Beth was so unhappy.
Beth sat her glass down on the coffee table and stood up, looking at both of them; seeing the pain and pity in their eyes. It was the last that she could take of this.
“Enough! Enough of all of this! I can’t handle all of this tip-toeing around me, the worried glances, and the fear in your faces! Yes, Carl and I broke up. We did, we can’t go back. We wouldn’t even if we could, it wasn’t meant to be, don’t you get that? It wasn’t a case of one of us cheating, or betraying the other, it was about just not being ‘right’ for each other. It hurts okay? It hurts so fucking much, but I will be okay, I will.” She left the room, heading for the bedroom.
I will, I will be okay…