Riley had always been a fan of Laura Hale. She had been her childhood hero. Laura, being five years older than herself, had always been cool and a role model. She acted, often alongside her twin James, in the kids' shows she watched when she was young and had also sung a few songs, most of them title songs to the shows she acted in. But these days Laura was not her favourite Hale any more. That title now belonged to Derek.
Derek was special. He was the only Hale that did not act, model or make music. No, Derek was a photographer and since he had been 16, every official picture of any Hale, that was not taken on an event, was taken by him. Of course, there was the occasional paparazzi shot. But generally, they were all his doing. He was good at what he did and of course he did not only take pictures of his family. He also worked for National Geographic and travelled a lot.
But his true passion, as far as she as a mere fan could tell, was his blog. He had a massive fan-base and Riley loved to read what he wrote and the pictures he posted of the cities and landscapes he visited. Sometimes he travelled with friends, like Erica Reyes, Vernon Boyd and Isaac Lahey, who were all more like family to him than anything else, but more often than not he was on his own.
Every once in a while, when he was on a project but knew beforehand that he would have a couple of hours' time, he would snap a picture of a public place, but without any indication where exactly he was, and headline it with something like “meet me on Friday at 3pm?”. The followers who knew the location of where the picture was taken would then be able to go and meet him, but there was an unspoken understanding that nobody would post the address anywhere. Usually the date he gave was less than 24 hours after the picture went online, so the group would not be too big. This way he had met fans and followers from all over the world and they all loved him for that.
Because of those meet-ups and his blog he was, after Cora, who had her own reality-TV show, the Hale people knew most about. He had written about his love for the music of Queen, Fall Out Boy and Beyoncé (“No, I really don't care if you think it's “unmanly” or not, this woman is awesome, beautiful and an amazing artist. So please, don't be a sexist and leave stupid comments!”) and his love for anything strawberry. He explained why he appeared in Cora's show and wrote about his life but did not do anything else to get more famous. (“I love my job and my family and admire what they do, but I really don't think that would be the right thing for me to do. I would not be very me. And I'm really bad at creating music.”)
But nobody knew anything about his love life, which, of course, he also commented on. (“ Me knowingly giving information about my private life is one thing, but it's a whole different story if it's not just about me. If I was with someone for a long time and we were both sure that it was serious and decided together that we were okay with going public, maybe I would. But until then I think there is enough of my so called private life out in the open that you shouldn't beg for more knowledge about me. Also, it's called private life for a reason. ”)
Riley was totally okay with not knowing about Derek's love life, but she still read fanfic about it. Which Derek knew existed. (“ Of course I know about it. But the few I was forced to read, Erica, I'm looking at you , had nothing to with reality. I'm flattered, but it's weird to read about myself. Also some of you are really wasting their talent. Write original stuff, you could make a lot of money with writing skills like that. ”)
The first time Derek's content pattern shifted slightly was when he posted a photo, a day after a meet-up in Berlin, showing the front of a restaurant with the caption: “ I was there during my stay in Berlin and had a really good time. The staff was nice and the food delicious. It's a quiet, little place and they were so kind to translate the menu for us. If you are in Berlin and looking for an awesome place, look no further. They also deliver. To parks. Which we of course did not try. ”
Normally when Derek travelled with someone they would appear in at least one picture on his blog, but Riley thought there was probably some kind of reason why his travel companion did not appear in any of them.
Another picture that seemed off was uploaded when Derek had been in France for Laura's wedding. The picture showed a beautiful beach, completely empty, if it wasn't for the camera bag, which obviously was Derek's, and two pairs of shoes. One pair was Derek's, a pair of red sneakers, which he had shown in a photo, claiming he never wanted to wear different shoes ever again, and one pair of black Converse, probably a few sizes smaller than Derek's. Commenters were asking whose shoes they were, but Derek did not answer any of those comments. Rumours began spreading that Derek was seeing someone.
The next time a blog entry showed something that clearly did not belong to Derek, without anyone knowing who he travelled with, was when he took a picture of a café table, showing two cups of coffee and a book about some kind of werewolf romance. Riley googled the title. But she knew that Derek had once written about his taste in books and that he liked fantasy stories, but loathed stories with any kind of vampires or werewolves in them. Additionally, the book was in Polish and, as far as Riley knew, none of the Hales spoke Polish. So his mystery travel companion was none of his siblings or other relatives. Maybe the rumours were true.
It was about four months after that, that Derek himself addressed this topic for the first time. The post showed a picture, shot in a hotel room, with a view of a public place, which the commenters claimed to be the “Potsdammer Platz” in Berlin. The text accompanying the photo read: “ We are once again in Berlin, this time for pleasure and not for work. Yesterday we went to the little restaurant where we ate last year and had a phenomenal evening. Today we went sightseeing in the beauty that this city is, before we leave towards Poland. Apparently, it is time for me to meet the grandparents. After two years of dating and being engaged and all that. ”
After that post Cora, who was most open about speaking to journalists, was asked if Derek was really seeing someone and, more importantly, who he was seeing and was engaged to. She had laughed and then answered: “Yes, my brother is engaged. They have been an item for two years and three months, I think, but they knew each other since Derek's better half and I had to work on a project in school together and Derek came into my room without knocking while we were researching. They are an amazing team and I hope that I will find someone, one day, with whom I can have what they have. The only thing that amazes me about them is that they needed six years to figure out that they are attracted to each other.” Riley watched the video with the interview about four times and read a lot of comments and posts speculating which of Cora's former class mates, was Derek's chosen one.
Riley was not very surprised when Derek's uncle Peter “accidentally” reduced the group of possible partners by half by saying: “My niece Cora is right, it's a mystery how those two needed so much time to realise that they liked each other, but it is also a blessing, since Derek's future father-in-law probably would have shot him, if they had been together when his son was still under-age.”
On October 7 th , half a year after Derek had told the world he was engaged, he uploaded a picture of him, wearing a grey-blue suit, kissing a young man with brown hair who was wearing red dress pants with a vest in the same colour and dress shirt in the same colour as Derek's suit. The text said: “Let me present to you my husband, as of yesterday, Stiles Hale.”
Riley smiled. She liked it when her favourites were happy.