"Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit." ~Peter Ustinov
"For you see, each day I love you more Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow." ~Rosemonde Gerard
"Love is a sweet tyranny, because the lover endureth his torments willingly." ~Proverb
I was cruising the highway in my Ferrari; hearing loud music and driving like a maniac so I couldn't have the opportunity to think or appreciate the changing scenery surrounding me. With every new conquered mile the green woods were more and more prominent.
I couldn't understand my brother; why did he insist on living there? That small town where we grew up, where I only have had bad experiences… bad memories. I didn't want to understand him. I didn't have that luxury. The truth was I wanted to forget everyone and everything from that damned place.
How ironic? Now I was driving directly to my personal hell. I went to stay for a couple of days. It would be too much time for me, but it was enough time for the baptism of my beautiful niece. Thanks God she looks like her mother!
The Linkin Park song finished and Evanescence was next. Van Halen, Kiss, Metallica, Aerosmith, Guns N' Roses among others were my companions. I only wanted to hear the hard noise of the guitars and just follow the beats of the music. Rock, hard beats… endless noise that's what I needed. The distraction had worked very well until the green of the forest became the ever-present feature on my journey.
Those woods made me think about little brother, my niece and her… Elena; the woman who crushed my heart. That was the version I wanted to believe, but the truth was more cruel than illusions and fantasies. I was the one who broke my heart. It was simple I never wanted to read the signs and didn't pay attention every time she told me "I love your brother." I was confident of winning her over because I was capable to stir confusion in her heart. I was blind and at the end I end up losing... Everything. My stubborn nature didn't let me see the truth in front of my eyes and I lost her in a blink of an eye.
I played and manipulated that truth and the sad, pathetic part was that I was too late to win her back. Seeking the impossible I lost the real thing. She was always near me and… I didn't see her. I didn't want to see her. She wasn't anything I always wanted for my partner, for my woman. She didn't fulfill my standards. She was cute, naïve, foolish, faithful… She was my Little Bird. The girl who needed protection; my Red Bird. Well, at least that's how I saw her back then.
Now I understand she was the only one who forgave me every time. I honestly never understood that part of her. I couldn't see or understood her heart. And I always wondered if life would give me the opportunity to ask her, to tell her the truth.
I served another drink and walked to the backyard staring at nothing in particular. I tasted the richness of the whiskey cherishing the slow and warm burn of it. My ill-fated relationship with Mr. Whiskey, preferably the older version of it, is long and hurtful. Mr. Whiskey as I usually called in my drunken state, had always been there and it would always be there with me.
I scoffed at my train of thoughts. I was pathetic…
"Brother, you want some?" I offered it not really wanting to give it up. It was just manners and beside what would we talk about?
"It's early for that." I shrugged and drank another sip.
"Thanks for coming."
"No problem. My niece is the only one worth my time anyway." I said that to tease him. He only moved his head reproving my words.
"You never change, do you?"
"Nope! What for?" I said that popping the p sound. Another annoying trait of mine, so I had been told and I really didn't care.
"I appreciate that you're here, I really do. I…"
"You for once want to be a good brother to me. Old story Stefan."
"Damon for heaven sake's we are not teenagers anymore."
"Yes, father I know."
I gave him the glass and walked out. I was angry at everything and for the first time in a long, long time I didn't want to take my anger over him. I do love my brother and I was envious of what he has. That's what was bothering me, because this couple of days had made me think of the "what if" of my life. I didn't like to feel defeated. I had acted like a fool most of my life and I didn't have a clue if it was worth the effort to change who I was at the moment.
"Don't wait for me, father. I'm coming late."
I strolled absent-mindedly Fell Church's streets. I said a couple of hello, but mostly I kept re-living old memories. Memories of a time when we believed we were going to conquer the world.
I had conquered part of the world, business wise speaking; I was someone among my peers. I had the money and the influences to prove it, but at the end of the day my companion came packed in a bottle and I kept it under my mini bar.
It was my brother's fault all this soul searching thoughts that were plaguing my mind. Every time I visit him I always leave this damn town with this feeling of unfinished business.
I walked into the woods. The Old woods that had been an essential part of our life here in Fell Church. This Old wood was the silent witness to our mischievous activities. I smiled remembering some interesting, unique and juicy events of my life. I did have interesting teenage years and I missed being so carefree.
I kept going forward with no apparent destiny. I was only walking the memory path of my history. My love and hate relationship with my past was more palpable than ever. The old Wickery Bridge appeared in front of me. I grimaced a little remembering my friends who had lost their lives on that bridge.
Strangely for everyone, even to myself, every time I had drank and went to huge parties I had never driven my car. Most of our parties were held in the woods, so it was easier just to walk to the party, besides I always wanted to drink everything that my body could handle. Sometimes I had another kind of pleasurable encounters and the mysterious atmosphere of the woods were the perfect companion for such activities.
Thinking carefully about it, I was a brat. How in the world the Red Bird stood by my side? How did Elena think I was worth it?
I shook my head a little; in the spur of the moment I decided to visit my lost friends. I crossed the bridge and took the path towards the Fell Church's cemetery. Contrary to most of the Fells Church's inhabitants, I liked the cemetery especially the old historical section. I had to agree with the conception that the cemetery was kind of scary, but what I liked the most of it was its peaceful ambience.
I walked the old path slowly trying to drink the essence of the cemetery. I knew it was a creepy attitude, but I urgently needed some kind of peace. I stood there for about ten seconds when I saw her.
I blinked twice, I had to be sure that she was there or if she was a long due after effect of my friend Mr. Whiskey. I kept staring at her, she didn't move. She was so still and she was beautiful, breathtaking. She no longer looked like the teenager I once knew. She was a delightful woman and I cringed; because I just realized I had been a biggest fool of all times. I had let her go.
I stood there watching her intently when she moved. She didn't glance towards me. She just walked down the path. I silently followed her. I couldn't stop my impulse; I was drawn to her. Her hair looked smoother, slick; the wild curls were none existent. Her skin was the same captivating pale shade and I could bet my whole fortune that she still had her delicious pout lips. I couldn't wait to see her deep chocolate doe eyes and watch the perfect match on her features on her heart shaped face. It was a discovery for me because I was craving her enchanting smile.
Suddenly she stopped and turned around. She looked directly at me.
"Do you plan to follow me for too long?" I didn't utter a word.
I just kept watching her and asking myself why did I let her go? Why on earth didn't I accept my feelings? My man's pride decided that she was not enough and that dumb decision had bitten my *ss. She shrugged a little, turned around and continued walking and I followed her like any domesticated dog.
She stood in front of a tiny tombstone. She cleaned it and place fresh flowers on it. She looked at me.
"Why are you here?"
"I don't have a reason to be here, but if you mean why am I in Fells Church? I came back to my niece baptism."
"Elena sent me a picture of her. She's beautiful."
"I didn't see you there."
"I decided not to go. Through the years I stayed in touch with Elena and Stefan but I kept my distance. I guess it's still too painful."
I kept staring at her. I couldn't believe that I was so near to her and at the same time I felt I was oceans away from her.
"You can come closer."
"Are you sure?" Silence was her answer. I closed the gap between us and now I was able to see the name on the tombstone.
"She was my baby, Alanna. She died within hours after birth."
"I'm sorry." She blinked surprised at me.
"Since when you're sorry about something."
"I deserve that."
"True." She waited some seconds.
"After I lost her I left Fell Church. This town holds too many bad memories for me."
"I was the cause of most of them."
"Partly true. I'm responsible too. I always wondered how would I react if I see you again? I'd never imagine it would happen here and on the only day I gather enough courage to come back. She would have been eight years old today."
"Bonnie?" She chuckled a little.
"That's really rare coming from you Damon. If I recall correctly you never used my name."
"I'm not that boy anymore. I have changed and I like to think that I grew up too."
"Good for you." Her voice trembled a little. It was the first sign that our encounter had affected her.
"I'm not the same either. The pain made me grow up too." I glanced at the tombstone and studied the dates.
"Bonnie?" She turned around to look directly at me. She didn't give me the opportunity to ask what I wanted to know.
"Could you follow me?"
"Yes, of course."
So we walked together to our favorite spot. We had lovely moments there. Moments that scared me away, because it was impossible for me Damon Salvatore to fall in love the way I was for my Red Bird.
We sat down in our spot. I looked at her and she was lovelier than ever. It was true she wasn't the same. She was irradiating a strength that I did not notice before; not ever.
"How have you been, Damon?"
"Well, I'm okay."
"Did you marry?"
"No. And you?"
"No. I didn't marry either." Relief was the feeling overwhelming my heart after hearing her answer.
"All these years, Damon. You must have had some company."
"You're not asking me. That sound more like a statement."
"Yes, it is. It's difficult to forget you or ignore you when from time to time you appear in magazines with beautiful women in your arms."
"Is that jealousy?"
"Think whatever you want." She sounded angry and that gave me hope.
"Well...I'll be honest with you. I had my one night encounters." She snorted a little.
"I guess you're right that it is not surprising, but you're an extremely beautiful woman and I can't believe you had been alone all this time." She gave me a wicked smile.
"Like you I had my encounters." My hands turned into fists. That surprised me, because I did it unconsciously.
"The truth is Red Bird, that I had a constant companion. At first I didn't realize she was with me. I didn't expect her to be with me. She entered my life and got under my skin without permission. Soon it was part of me like I was part of her."
I noticed that she was the one trying hard to not look at me.
"We eat together, we live together, we sleep all the time together. She's my drinking partner. She is the one begging me and telling me that I need to forget" She abruptly stood up.
"Why are you so mad? Do you still feel something for me?"
"That's impossible." She said that but her body language was totally different. She was stiff and troubled. And sometimes she looked angry. All these myriad of actions in seconds. It was fascinating to watch her.
"Before you go; let me finish. Please." She looked at me startled.
"First you said I'm sorry. Now you said please. You must be sick."
I gave her my typical smirk. The same one she loved so much. She flinched a little. I knew she was thinking the same thing as me. I gestured her to sit down again. She did it reluctantly after some seconds of indecision.
"Like I was telling you, Bonnie. She is with me all the time, even when I'm doing business. I grew accustomed to her."
"Do you love her?"
"Do you want to know her name?"
"It is a shame because I'm telling you anyway. And I recently discovered that I don't love her."
"Damon!" That was a warning. I couldn't help smirking again.
"Her name is Loneliness."
I surprised her. She tried to say something, but her words didn't come out. She was looking at me like I was crazy. And she was right about that, because after all these years I discovered I was crazy about her.
"Bonnie, who is Alanna's father?" That broke the spell she was under. Tears appeared in her eyes and I watched them fall. I gently touched her face cleaning her tears.
"I'm sorry... I can't stop them. I'm trying, but I can't. I said to my reflection in my bathroom mirror every single day that if I found you I wouldn't cry."
"Who is Alanna's father?" I did my calculations and I wanted to be sure.
"Alanna is your baby."
I felt the pain so acutely; so overwhelming. For the first time since my mother's funeral I felt tears in my eyes. How could she? How dare she do that to me?
"Why didn't you tell me before? I had to know, that was my right. You took it away." My voice was laced with anger and pain.
"I wanted to tell you, but that awful day I found you kissing Elena. And remember Damon you broke up with me that day. You didn't give me any opportunity to say anything. What was I suppose to do? You would have felt that I was trying to trap you. You broke my heart in the most horrible way. You were kissing my best friend and I was carrying your child."
By the end of her speech she was screaming at me. It was easy to see her pain. The pain that I had inflicted on her but I didn't care because a child is not something to be kept as a secret. I was torn between being angry at her and the overwhelming impulse to comfort her.
"I'm the villain in this story. That's not an excuse Bonnie." I was angry really angry and I was taking it out on her. It wasn't fair from my part because I was angry at me too. I was the one who caused the fracture between us.
"How dare you? How do you dare to make demands? You never loved me! Why do you care anyway?"
"Damn, Woman! I LOVE YOU!" My scream reverberated through the cemetery.
I walked toward her and grabbed her. I went on without giving her any opportunity to react to my confession. I knew I was doing to her the same thing I did so many years ago. That time I talked and I didn't let her fight for our relationship. I thought I had won over my brother and I just discarded her and in the process I discarded my daughter too. Now I needed to correct everything, I needed to confess my true feelings. I just needed to pour everything out.
"I love you, Bonnie and I'm sorry I discovered it too late. I'm the fool who took away the chance to meet Alanna. I'm the fool who chose Loneliness as my constant companion over you. I'm the envious fool who had wish what Stefan have all his life, when I had the real thing in front of my 'blind' eyes. I don't deserve anything from you. I don't have the right to ask anything from you. Could you... Could you forgive me?"
She never stopped her silent crying. It was hard for me to guess what she was thinking and it was ever harder to guess what she would do.
"The truth is... I had forgiven you a long time ago, Damon. You know me. I'm not capable to hate or held a grudge for too long. That doesn't mean that I had forgotten what happened between us. The sad truth is that I had never stopped loving you. Against any 'normal' logic my heart kept loving you and like you loneliness was my companion."
I watched her and I knew I would love her until my last breath. I didn't ask permission; I just kissed her. It was tender and innocent; it was the right kiss for us. After that I hugged her. I wanted to have her warmth enveloping me.
"I'm afraid of letting you in, Damon. Even if I love you, I don't know if I can handle..." I put my finger on her lips. I didn't break our embrace; I strengthened our hug.
"Let's begin again. Let's get to know each other. Give us an opportunity, Red Bird."
"You mean small steps, right?"
She then surprised me because she kissed me. This kiss was deeper than the last one. It was more intimate. When we finished it I kept looking at her mesmerized and confused by her actions. She stepped away a little and extended her hand to me.
"Hi, I'm Bonnie. It's nice to meet you." I smiled at her, and she looked surprised by that. I wasn't the person who smile easily that was her trait not mine.
"I'm Damon Salvatore. I am extremely please to meet you." We stood there holding hands like two teenagers.
"Bonnie, before we start this... this..."
"We can say it is crazy, but for me it's not an experiment." She granted me one of her enchanting smiles.
"Why do you kiss me like that?"
"The old Bonnie needed that." It was a strange answer, but I understood her. I knew what she meant by it.
"Tell me more about Alanna."
She took my hand. We walked back to Alanna's resting place. We never stopped holding our hands. I needed her contact and I guessed she needed mine too.
I walked over to my wife and peered over her head. She was writing in her diary again. I had never understood why my Kitten and my sister-in-law, Elena, had this obsession of writing every single detail in a diary.
I read some of the words and I immediately remembered that day. The day that pain and forgiveness had opened a new path for us. I leaned down and embraced her. She leaned her head back on my chest and I rested my chin on her head.
"Are you sure you want to record that?"
"It's our story and why not?"
I thought about and I couldn't find any reason to not have that part of our story on paper. I caressed her swollen belly and felt a kick. My Red Bird put her hands over mine. The peace surrounding us at the moment made me remember our little daughter.
"He deserves to know the truth and I wanted him to know that it was his sister that reunited us."
I turned around and took her hands and pull her up. I liked to feel my boy and the love of my life near me. I finally understood my brother. Now I was able to see what was essential for me. It was clear that love was more important than anything else. Love was the only thing that helped us heal our wounds. And love made us remember our Alanna. My Red Bird expectantly watched me, she was waiting my opinion.
"You're right. He needs to now and we need to always remember." I kissed her and murmured to her.
"I love you."