The characters in the following story, with certain exceptions [notably the Parker family], are owned by Spelling Television Inc. [A subsidiary of Spelling Entertainment Group Inc.]. Vampire: The Masquerade is owned by Mark Rein*Hagan/White Wolf Publishing. My use is in no way a challenge to their copyrights. Lion the cat was created by Kelly Schweighauser. This piece is not for profit and is entirely fictional. The short story and events are mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE — PLEASE READ: This story is in a time line with, and directly follows, "AN AFTERWORD." To summarize: Caitlin has moved to Vermont to assume a position with the Montpelier Herald. She is happily married to the paper's publisher, Ryan Parker. This is not meant as a story, merely an isolated scene in her to show how her life turned out since leaving Julian and San Francisco.
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Begun September 24, 2000
Completed September 30, 2000
A short tale based on "Kindred: the Embraced"
by Jenny Hagiwara
-- September 2001 --
Caitlin Bryne-Parker hummed softly, holding her new baby over her shoulder. He was so soft, so little, so completely perfect in every way. Caitlin was pleased, she could tell even at this early age that Steven looked a great deal like her husband and she knew he would grow to be just as handsome as Ryan some day. Caitlin glanced around the cozy nursery room she had wallpapered herself. As she had once remarked to Lillie Langtry, when the Toreador had unexpectedly showed up at her former house in California, homemaking had always been a special hobby of hers.
Lillie… Caitlin stopped humming. It had been ages since memories of Kindred had crossed her mind - including, Caitlin had to admit, any thoughts of Julian. She hadn't exactly chosen to keep in touch with him when she had moved to Vermont nearly three years ago. And she hadn't really had the time to miss him much either, she reflected. Her new job at the Montpelier Herald had consumed much of her time - Caitlin blushed, as had dating its publisher, Ryan Parker. They were married a little over half a year later. Caitlin's family and relatives, as well as one or two old friends, were the only West Coast denizens to have received invitations.
Caitlin honestly had no idea if Julian even knew she was a married woman now - not that it really mattered anymore, anyway. Julian and his dangerous, forever dark world were a part of her past - admittedly, one that she felt safer without, despite the lure of the brief, intense passion they had shared when her own investigative world of people and facts had led her to write an article about "The Most Powerful Man You Never Met." At the time she had simply no idea how powerful Julian truly was. Caitlin sighed sadly and shook her head. It was amazing she'd made it through that ardent yet thoroughly nerve-wracking, Kindred-human relationship with her sanity intact.
Both Caitlin and Ryan had decided it was best to make a new start together as a family. Rather than have Caitlin move into the former house that he had shared with his deceased wife, Sarah, together they purchased a turn of the century Victorian house and Caitlin had certainly let her creative home arts show. They both liked their Victorian home and Caitlin was especially fond of it. It was large and airy and full of light, yet had enough nooks and crannies to be snug.
Caitlin went over to the nursery's window and sat at the wide, bench-like sill, careful not to disturb Steven in the process. It was a brisk, cool autumn day in the Vermont full of blue skies and bright sun. The kind of day she had come to adore. The trees had already turned - their dark shades of green now revealed magnificent shades of reds, orange and yellows. They made an impressive backdrop on forested, high climbing hills which surrounded the Winooski River Valley, wherein Montpelier was gloriously situated. Caitlin's smile broadened as she caught sight of her husband diligently trying to rake the large front lawn, his efforts all the while hampered by their daughters running and jumping in to the great pile of leaves, strewing them everywhere in the process. Skip, their full-grown Golden Retriver who had come with the house, kept getting in Ryan's way as he charged around the yard after imaginary squirrels.
Caitlin felt a warmth in her heart as she watched the two children play so well together. Mindy, Caitlin's step-daughter, was busy giggling as she threw brittle brown leaves on her toddling half-sister, Carla, who squealed peels of ready laughter. Caitlin watched as Mindy readjusted her pink ear muffs with all of her seven-year old vanity. Mindy was a fashionable child and she had been the one to pick out the dark pink coats that she and Carla wore. The coats had been a fairly recent acquisition from the Main street shopping trip (Caitlin had rapidly discovered nearly all of Montpelier's clothing stores were located along Main Street), which Caitlin had taken the children on just before she had had Steven. Mindy had also selected out matching pink muffler, scarf and mittens, so naturally, Carla insisted on them as well. Carla loved imitating her older sister and followed her everywhere once she had learned to walk, much to Mindy's delight. She liked the role of big sister, Caitlin and Ryan could tell it made her feel important.
Caitlin had often remarked to herself was an adorably sweet-looking and charming child Mindy was. She had bright brown eyes and her caramel colored hair was wavy, tumbling down the length of her back. Caitlin had pulled the sides of her hair back that morning in a large white barrette of Mindy's. Mindy's thick bangs were neatly curled under, as ever, thanks to Caitlin's curling iron. Mindy had discovered Caitlin curling her own hair one morning shortly after Caitlin and Ryan had been married and insisted on Caitlin curling her hair too. Caitlin was glad to do so as she had welcomed every little opportunity to bond with her step-daughter. Caitlin had been concerned that Mindy might resent her father's new wife occupying his attention, but to Ryan and Caitlin's happy surprise, Mindy liked having a mommy. Since her mother had died when she was a few months old, she had no former memories of Sarah to hinder her establishing a relationship with Caitlin.
Mindy was now trying to teach Carla how to do somersaults in the leaves, but the two-year old lacked the gymnast agility of her older sibling. Caitlin chuckled as she watched Carla's ambling acrobatic rolls. Carla was such a precious child with Caitlin's own silky, fine hair - so blond it ivory - and it brushed Carla's shoulders in a large soft wave. Carla's eyes were brown and expressive, again, like Caitlin's. Right now Carla's round cheeks were rosy from the cool air and her own exertions. The expectation of their daughter's birth had brought Caitlin and Ryan such excitement. Caitlin had been breathless with the knowledge of her pregnancy and Ryan had been positively thrilled crazy with anticipation over her due date. He kept bringing home new presents for the new baby, Mindy, and Caitlin (and once even Skip), long before Carla ever saw the light of day.
Even the Evansons, Ryan's former in-laws and Mindy's maternal grandparents, had also been very supportive of a younger sibling in Mindy's life. Caitlin touched by the caring they continually showed toward her. Although she didn't know it, Ryan's remarriage had helped to fill a void that had been in their lives when they lost their only daughter to breast cancer. Once Carla had been born the Evansons had made it a point to treat her as much of a grand-child as they did Mindy. Caitlin had been privately amazed at their polite interest in her; at times she felt they treated her with more courtesy and respect than she received from her own parents and family.
As for Ryan's parents, Brant and Brenda Parker, they had been ecstatic over Caitlin's pregnancy, just as they had been on Caitlin and Ryan's wedding day - they had made such a to-do about that and Caitlin thought that half of Vermont must have been invited to the wedding. Caitlin couldn't help smiling at the memory, her younger sister had been practically green with envy. The Parkers had always liked Caitlin from the days when they had known her as Ryan's college friend. Moreover, they had been secretly hoping that their son would find happiness with someone new - it had been four years that his first wife had passed away when Caitlin had unexpectedly moved to Vermont.
Down below, Ryan had given up any pretense of raking and was now horsing around with the girls. Skip was running around them in circles, barking loudly. Ryan tossed Carla in the air making her squeal, when he spied Caitlin watching them. With a smile he set Carla sitting up on his shoulder and pointed her and Mindy's attention to the nursery window. The three of them waved wildly for a moment, making Caitlin laugh. She waved back, then continued to watch a moment longer as her young family turned back to playing around in the leaf pile below, which was becoming both wider and thinner by the moment as Ryan and the girls ran around the front yard, throwing leaves at each other. Skip was having a field day trying to keep up with them all.
Carefully cradling her baby, Caitlin placed Stephen gently in his bassinet, tucking him in with a kiss. She made sure the baby monitor was on before exiting the nursery. She headed downstairs to the kitchen to heat up some apple cider and cinnamon sticks for the girls and Ryan, when they came in. She sat down at the table to enjoy her own hot mug of cider and watched suddenly Lion saunter in, his tail held high. After sniffing at his food dish for a moment and finding nothing of interest, the cat rubbed Caitlin's legs a moment then head back out to the living room.
Caitlin sipped her steamy drink, and felt a smile rise unbidden to her face, upon hearing the front door bang open and the happy sounds of her family spill in from the front hall.
"In here!" Caitlin called.
Mindy was the first to appear with Skip trotting by her side. Skip obediently went over to sit in the kitchen corner on the cushioned dog basket just for him. Caitlin had very strict rules as to just where she would allow a dog to roam in her house. Lion, however, had free access to everywhere...
"Yummy! Cider!" Mindy exclaimed, quickly sitting at her place at the table. She grabbed her mug with relish.
"Careful," Caitlin cautioned. "It's hot."
Mindy puffed out her cheeks and blew on the warm liquid, then swirled her cinnamon stick. She took a sip. "Ummmm," she said appreciatively.
"Mama!" cried a little voice. Carla had just run in with Ryan after her - he making a grab for the ear fuzzy muffs that Carla still wore.
"Hey, come here, you!" Ryan said with a grin.
"Noooo!" pouted Carla, her hands covering her ear muffs. She ran to hide under the table.
Caitlin laughed. "She likes them," she explained.
"Well… then come here, you," said Ryan as he walked over to Caitlin, then bent over to kiss her upturned face. He gave her a charmingly boyish grin and whispered, "Yum!" As Caitlin laughed he kissed her again, after which he sat down next to her and tasted his cinnamon stick. "Thanks, Cait," he said.
"Yeah," added Mandy. "Thanks, Mommy. It's yummy cider."
"Me!" piped up a voice from under the table and suddenly Carla's fair head appeared by Caitlin's knees. "Want cider," Carla said eagerly.
"All right, pumpkin," said Caitlin with a grin. "But you get to have it in a special cup."
Ryan was already ahead of her and passed down Carla's small plastic mug with two handles on its side and a cover with a short spout on the top. As Carla drank, he grabbed her and pulled her up on his lap. "Ahh, that's better," he told her. "Isn't Mommy great to have cider waiting for us?" Ryan announced, giving Caitlin a wink of appreciation.
"Mommy's great!" Mandy agreed, munching on her cinnamon stick.
"G'wait!" proclaimed Carla, squirming for a comfortable position on her daddy's lap.
Skip promptly added a loud whoof.
"Oh, you guys…" Caitlin laughed.
As Caitlin took the time to look from Carla cheery visage to Ryan's handsome eyes which bespoke his love for her, to Mindy's sweet smile, and even to Skip's comical doggy grin, and then as Caitlin thought of little Steven nestled smug in his bassinet and Lion in his usual spot by the living room window… Caitlin realized that she couldn't imagine her life being any better than it already was.
± Yet it would be... and with every new year. ±
- Finis -