The house on Lake Shore Avenue – Lea's all time favorite as far as Blaine's houses are concerned – is a stone and stucco two stories mansion five minutes away from the Westerville Reservoir. It's nestled in a half acre wooded lot and it's even got its own private river. The area is so protected – a real necessity more than a commodity after Blaine's second Oscar – that you can't even street view it on Google Maps.
The great room has a wall of windows and a freaking floor to ceiling fireplace. The first floor den – which is bigger than Lea's entire house – has got French doors and built-in shelves that almost gave her an orgasm the first time she saw them. It has five bedrooms, four and half bathrooms, and a three car garage for a total of 5,000 square footage. The gourmet kitchen – whatever that means – has a walk-in pantry and stained steel appliances. It's a completely waste of space for a man who can't cook an egg, but literally heaven for her, whose second best favorite thing after having sex with Blaine is making him dinner. The master bedroom – pardon, the owners suit, as it was described by the real estate agent – on the second floor has a whirlpool tub and a huge walk-in closet that at the moment contains the entirety of Blaine's wardrobe and has still got space to spare.
It costed $700,000 and it was Blaine's big gift to himself for his fiftieth birthday. A gift the rest of the family appreciated too, especially Lea since it meant that he was relocating closer to her for good after ten years of wanderings between New York and Los Angeles. Not that she didn't like to fly around the Country to meet him every now and then, but it's way better to have him here whenever she wants.
And yet, for all the stunning features of the house, it's still a nightmare when the alarm clock goes off, releasing a mix of warm lights, essential oils, and slightly discordant chirping sounds. The clock itself – or, as she calls it, the monstrosity on the night-stand – is a squared white block with an intricate pattern of black lines on the front, which turns it into a designer piece, justifying its ridiculously high price. The thing doesn't just go off when you want it to, as any normal alarm clock would do, but ten minutes earlier than that, starting with a warm, rosy light that is supposed to simulate dawn. Then comes the perfume, which is sweet orange today. And last but not least, a flock of tiny birds, like parrots or doves, wakes up too, turning the room into a bird cage. Blaine likes it because it's like waking up in the middle of the forest.
As if this was a good thing.
There's nothing Lea hates more than camping. The last thing she wants is being woken up by the bird equivalent of a pretty messy tenants' meeting. She groans, rolling on her stomach and hiding her head under the pillow. Morning can't reach her if she doesn't see it. But the alarm clock goes on mercilessly. More light, more orange, more birds. She sighs and reaches out with one arm towards the night-stand, slamming her hand three times on top of the thing. Finally, the happy cacophony of the woods is gone and she's plunged back into silence and darkness.
Too much silence and too little darkness, apparently.
The house is unnaturally quiet. It takes her at least five whole minutes – her brain is always slower in the morning – to realize that the kids are not in the house. The kids coming to the house are actually the only plan for today. She groans again, finally opening her eyes. Blaine's nowhere to be found, but that doesn't surprise her. The man never fails to wake up at dawn – real dawn, not the synthetic one – and go running, even after quite a demanding night like last night, while at the moment she's having problems moving her legs even with ten hours of sleep under her belt. This is clearly tantric sex yelling “In yo face!” at her, or whatever is the Indian equivalent of it, after she mocked Blaine for months because of it.
“Ah, my princess is finally awake.” Blaine shows up, leaning against the door frame, wearing only his linen yoga pants. It should be illegal to have that kind of V-lines at his age.
“Is that coffee?” Lea asks, nodding towards the mug he's holding.
Blaine shakes his head. “Cranberry juice. It's an antioxidant,” he answers. “Want some?”
She makes a face. “Keep it. I'm not deteriorating at the same speed you are,” she says as she at least manages to sit up. Her hair is a mess of curls going in every possible direction. She used to wear it short when she was younger, but Blaine loves to see her curls cascading down her back and, as independent as she is when it comes to her own look, she still likes to please him on this particular thing. Besides, he had to put up with the tattoos on her arms, her tongue piercing and even her septum when she was seventeen. She can give him the hair, at least.
“Oh, but you will, my darling,” Blaine keeps going, utterly unfazed by her remark. Only being always aware of his age he can take care of his body responsibly. This is what his psychologist guru always says. He also should be aware of his feelings and the feelings of others, the environment and his inner strength. The man is big on awareness. “Why not starting early?”
“Because you are the vegan health freak in this relationship,” Lea nods with conviction.
“Oh, and so what are you?” Blaine looks really interested in her answer as he sits down on the bed. She likes the hour or so after she just woke up and right before the house is taken over by Blaine's children. It's a moment of pause between two different kind of madness, their newly found relationship and Blaine's everyday life, which hasn't completely included Lea yet.
“I'm the new brunette bimbo you're hanging out with,” Lea explains, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. She didn't bother to cover herself, so her breasts are pleasantly pressed against Blaine's back. “Or at least that's what the tabloids say.”
“You're not a bimbo,” Blaine makes a face.
“Oh, I know that.”
“And you shouldn't read that rubbish,” Blaine continues.
“Why not? It's funny. They also say I'm the soon-to-be third ex wife,” she goes on, nosing Blaine's neck. She wonders how much time they've got before the invasion.
“That's low,” Blaine pretends to be really hurt. “I haven't even married you yet.”
“It's a good thing you never will, then,” Lea says, leaving a big kiss on his cheek to soften the blow. They've been at it for enough time for it not to be a real issue, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
Blaine whines a little. “Can we at least talk about this?”
“Not before I had at least three Martini, and for breakfast that would be too much even for me.” She pats him on his shoulder twice as she gets off the bed. Her clothes are nowhere to be found, but one of Blaine's t-shirt will do just fine. That's where being short comes in handy. “Come on, you can drink only your juice if you want, but you're going to watch me stuffing my face. I'm not gonna eat alone in the kitchen.”
“Wait, I came to tell you something.” He looks at her smiling calmly. This is his dazed, almost stupid-looking face before dropping a bomb. “I have a good news and a bad news. The good one is that the twins are coming in an hour.”
She finds her panties on the armchair and puts them on. “Is that really a good news, tho?” She asks in a tiny, dubious voice. She likes the twins, they're cute and hilarious, but they're also three and they can be a handful.
Blaine chuckles. “It is. They were supposed to be already here, but there's been a set back and Michelle left the house an hour ago,” Blaine explains, and it's clear from his resigned tone that the set back was probably just Michelle's own disorganization. “So, I let you sleep. Count the small blessings.”
“Hallelujah!” Lea sings, throwing her arms up in the air in a mocking praise to the Lord. “What's the catch?”
“The bad news is I'm not gonna be here when they arrive and probably for the rest of the afternoon either,” Blaine says.
“Wait, what?” Lea looks at him in shock. “No, no, no. You said to me, The kids' gonna be here this week end. I remember that. I agreed to that. You didn't say anything about you not being there.”
“Because I didn't know I wasn't going to be here. A meeting came up and I couldn't say no,” Blaine explains, calmly.
“You open your mouth and let out the sound,” Lea says, her eyebrows knitted in a very worried frown. “It's not that hard. Try it.”
Blaine sighs. “You know how it works, baby. I've got a contract, they call the shots,” Blaine reaches out to her and pulls her towards himself. “If they want to talk about the new movie, they're gonna talk about the new movie. And I can be there or expect someone else to play the lead.”
Lea sits on his legs and sighs. “Michelle hates me, Blaine.”
“She hates me too, and that never made my day with the kids any harder,” he shrugs. “Besides, the twins love you.”
“But I've never been alone when she came to drop them off.”
“Ah, but that's my other good news,” Blaine smirks. “Timmy's going to be here before his siblings. He will help you out.”
Lea closes her eyes and sighs in relief. She just loves Timmy. He's a real human being already, not a tiny not-always-getting-to-the-bathroom-in-time version of it. And they get along great. “Thank God for Timmy.”
Blaine chuckles. “Thank God, indeed,” he agrees. “You two can turn this place into a teen-cave, play video games and watch movies I wouldn't do for anything in the world as long as nothing that I bothered insuring gets broken and you don't let any of my children drink alcohol.”
“Anderson, you do realize I'm now a responsible adult and I babysat children before, right? Some of them were even yours.”
Blaine gives her a solemn look and hugs her. “You grew up strong and beautiful, but you will always be my baby girl.”
“....and he makes it awkward.”
An hour later, Lea has had a shower and she's wearing a simple blue t-shirt and a pair of jeans, what she thinks is an appropriate outfit for Blaine's new girlfriend meeting his ex-wives; even if she knows perfectly well that Helena wouldn't mind even if she were wearing her pajamas and Michelle would mind even if she were wearing a nun robe. She can't win with Michelle. And the fact that Lea was already there way before her is never taken into consideration when arguments arise. If Lea was a little more touchy than she is, that would be another problem for Blaine.
Fact is, Lea was there before, but she's aware that Michelle has been married with Blaine and had children with him, and this must count for something. She has to respect that. Besides, she came and go, but Lea's still here, so...
As expected, Helena and Timmy are the first to arrive. Timmy is old enough to come alone – and he usually does – but sometimes his mother has got errands to run in the area and she gives him a lift. She and Blaine are in extraordinary good terms, so it often happens that she stays for a while after she dropped her son off, for a coffee or something.
They only married because Helena was pregnant, and at the time that looked like the right thing to do, but it wasn't a great idea. They both realized it couldn't work about a year later and agreed to file for divorce – this was about the time Blaine met Lea. Helena understood instantly she wasn't made for marriage and never thought of trying again – she's been happy with her new partner, Daryl, for the last fourteen years – while Blaine went on and marry again, with disastrous results once again. They still care for each other a lot, tho, and they have their perfect dimension in being two friends raising a son they both love to pieces.
“Every time I see you, you are always more beautiful than the time before. How do you do that?” Helena says as soon as Lea opens the door.
“It must be the blood of the innocent,” Lea answers, knowing that she can joke like that with her. It's even easier than with Blaine, who sometimes just bears with her sense of humor more than laughing with her.
“Thought so,” Helena says, sure enough. “Come here, honey. It's so good to see you.”
Lea lets Helena wrap her in a warm, motherly hug. Her long blonde hair – the same color as Timmy's – are tied in a practical ponytail on top of her head. She wears a simple shirt dress over a pair of leggings, every piece of clothes nice and clean, but coming straight from the nearby mall. Looking at her now, it seems impossible that she was married to an Hollywood star, but she comes from a time when Blaine wasn't an Oscar-winning actor, and she hasn't changed since then.
That's what Lea likes the most about Helena: her approachability. She looks like a normal person with normal problems, unlike some of those glamorous people surrounding Blaine every now and then. Or like Blaine himself when he gets into full Hollywood-mode. Of course it's nice when the whole world seems ready to kneel at the snap of his fingers, but simple things are always nicer, and as though she enjoys the nice dinners in fancy restaurants, her favorite memory will forever be the two of them having a two-dollars hot dog at Coney Island the night they decided to get back together for good. This is just who she is, no matter her suburban upbringing and her on and off Hollywood boyfriend.
Behind his mother, Timmy raises a hand and briefly waves at her, smiling. He's fourteen going on fifteen and he's very tall for his age. He's got his father's strong jaw and his mother beautiful blue eyes. He reminds Lea of Adam, her best friend, former boyfriend and all-time brother from another mother. Adam was pretty much the same kind of handsome, blonde jock in high school. Everybody loved him for one reason or another, but mostly because he was to die for. And he grew up to look even better. He must be the most good-looking ex-quarterback artist the world has ever seen. So, Timmy has a bright future ahead of him.
“How was the trip?” Lea asks Helena, inviting them both in.
“Uh, as usual,” Helena says, leaving her huge bag on the couch and taking off her jacket. “It'd be a fifteen minutes ride if all the traffic in Westerville didn't pass by State street. It's Saturday morning and it looked like half the world was there.”
After the divorce, Helena and Blaine agreed on joint custody for Timmy – who was one at the time – but Blaine was starting to become really famous and wasn't home half the time, always moving around the Country for auditions or shooting movies, so Timmy ended up living most of the time with his mother in Walnut Hills and visiting his father as much as he could. When Timmy was about six, Blaine's career was well underway and he could have renegotiated his son's accommodation but he didn't want to uproot him, so things pretty much stayed the same. But Blaine has always been a very present father and he and Timmy are very close.
“I had all the time to have her listen to Tricksters' latest album,” Timmy grins to Lea.
Helena makes an exaggerated show of rolling her eyes and Lea laughs. “I don't know, maybe I'm just too old, but I really had an hard time considering that music,” she sighs as she moves around the kitchen and grabs the precious moka pot Blaine bought in Italy and never uses from one of the top cabinets. The first time she and Helena met, Helena would not dare to make herself at home like this, out of respect for her being Blaine's new partner, but Lea had made instantly clear that there was no problem at all for her, possibly because at the time she didn't feel Blaine's house as her own house. Actually, she still feels that way – she's spending a lot of time here, but she's not living here yet – but at this point the sight of Helena making coffee would be perfectly normal no matter what.
“Tricksters are hard to understand,” Lea agrees. Heavy metal bands usually are, especially if your cups of tea are country and ballads. “But they grow on you, I promise. Next thing you know, you'll be singing A Measure Of Delusion as you're making dinner.”
And just like that, without having planned it before, Timmy starts humming the melody as Lea sings the first verse in her beautiful voice, kept lower than usual because the song requires it. “The world is a cold place where angels come to die. Just empty words and humble pie. The tables have turned, now there's revenge in sight.”
Timmy is so into it that he totally steals her thunder as the guitar solo approaches, He starts playing air guitar, headbanging like crazy, reproducing the one-minute long string of notes perfectly with his own mouth. Then, his unripe, occasionally squeaky voice booms together with Lea's in the refrain. “The problem must be fixed. We can't hear him speak. God has left for good.”
The end of this heartfelt performance is welcomed by Helena's amused laugh. “Gosh, you two are something,” she says. “I stick to my previous statement, tho. My kind of music is different.”
“Your kind of music is old,” Timmy states, but without malice.
“I'd like to disagree,” Helena nods checking on the coffee. And then, nonchalantly, she adds,”But Lea seems to share your opinion. Maybe she can take you to the concert.”
Lea's eyes grow so big that she suddenly looks like a cartoon character. Timmy, on the other hand, just beams and instantly loses all the composure and self-restrain his teenage years are pointlessly trying to impose on him. “Lea, can you take me?” He squeaks. “That would be so cool!”
“I-I don't know,” she stammers. “Where would it be?”
“Cleveland,” Helena answers, pouring coffee for both of them. “Daryl's sister lives there, so you can crash at her place after the concert.”
“Lea, please!” Timmy is suddenly next to her. There's so much hope in his big blue eyes you would say he's wishing for world peace.
“What about Blaine? Does he know?”
Helena shakes her head. “Not yet. He has to be eased into the idea,” she explains. “We don't want to give him an heart attack.”
“And you can convince him!” Timmy insists, now grabbing her hand. “He does everything you tell him to.”
“I could get offended,” Helena says, not sounding offended at all, “but I'll accept anything as long as I don't have to go.”
Lea doesn't say yes, but she doesn't say no either, everything is left to Blaine's approval, which will probably arrive anyway because the man is unable to deny his firstborn anything but life-threatening things. Besides, Timmy seems quite excited and the concert is what he asked for his birthday, so Lea can't really refuse to take him to Cleveland, can she?
About half an hour after coffee with Helena, who had to run at that point, the doorbell rings again, catching Lea and Timmy in the middle of a ruthless war campaign against space Nazi in the latest installment of the Iron Sky saga, which has been much more successful as a series of video games than movies. They usually play this particular game when Blaine's not around, because he never got over Hitler riding the T-Rex and he can't shut up about the nonsense of the plot every time he sees the logo on the TV screen.
Lea and Timmy are a very powerful team – he's a tactical genius and her aim's flawless – and they're massacring all the other teams, so it's very annoying when they have to stop to get the door. Actually, since it's probably Michelle with the kids and the kids are three, they'll have to stop playing period, and that's even more annoying.
Michelle is wearing a pair of reddish palazzo pants and a tight white tank top. On her long straight black hair, she's wearing a long fabric headband the same color of her pants that, once knotted, hangs low down her neck and shoulders. She looks like she came straight from the lovechild of Woodstock and Coachella.
“What are you doing here?” Are the first words coming out of her mouth, her strong French accent becoming even stronger now that she's annoyed.
“It's nice to see you too, Michelle,” Lea tries to smile because the alternative is to close the door on her perfect, tiny nose. She's trying to start this with the right foot, not forcing Blaine to pay for a nose job.
“I asked you a question, it'd be polite of you to answer,” Michelle says, shouldering her way inside the house. She holds Logan against her hip and pulls Harper by the hand. Logan waves at Lea, at least he seems happy to see her.
Lea thinks about not answering at all just because Michelle told her to, but then she decides to be the better person. “I'm here because I live here.”
“No, you don't,” Michelle points out.
“Most of the time, at least,” Lea specifies. She doesn't ask to help her with the kids or anything. Michelle's territorial with the twins and there's no point in being polite when you know you're going to be attacked for it. “Do you want some coffee?”
“American coffee? Please,” she snorts. She wears her nationality like a shield and doesn't make a secret of the fact that she considers herself better just because she's European. Lea dies to tell her that, for all her country could offer, she still married an American man. In fact, she came to the States to study, met Blaine and never saw the world on the other side of the Ocean again.
“Actually, we have a moka pot,” Lea says.
“And you don't know how to use it. Where's Blaine?”
Timmy gives Lea a supportive look as he takes his siblings away from their crazy mother. The two kids just follow him, mesmerized by the mere angelic light of his big-brotherhood. “He had a last minute meeting. He's going to be back for dinner.”
Michelle's patented look of indignant horror would be extremely funny if it wasn't on her face 90% of the time. “And I'm supposed to leave my kids with you?”
It wouldn't be the first time, but she will pretend it is. “It's just for a few hours. And Timmy's gonna be here too,” Lea offers.
“This is unbelievable,” Michelle says, taking her time to spit out every single word as if that would make the situation even more unbelievable. “First, he uses his corrupted lawyers to take my kids from me and then what? He just leaves them with... with you, whatever you are.”
“His girlfriend?” Lea suggests, sarcastically. From the other side of the room comes Timmy's chuckle.
As a matter of fact, Blaine didn't take the kids away from anyone, corrupted lawyers or not. What does corrupted lawyers mean anyway? What is this, an episode of a legal drama? The fact is that she prides herself on being an artist, but she's either very bad or her art is so obscure that nobody understands it. The result is that she rarely sells anything and basically lives couch surfing among her many friends. She's European, so instead of calling it being broke, she calls it bohemian life and she expected a judge to be okay with her dragging her infant children across the Country wherever her inspiration would take her.
Of course nor the first judge nor the second – when she appealed – were okay with her lifestyle and the decision of giving Blaine physical custody of the twins was basically automatic. Joint custody wouldn't have been an option even if Blaine had agreed to it, which he didn't. As long as he could have the twins, he was more than happy to sacrifice the house in the Hamptons – that she sold right away because the place was too upper class and therefore not healthy for her raw, genuine art – and the Lexus – whose upper class nature apparently didn't bother her as much since she kept it.
Of course she could have bought a smaller, more manageable house with the money she got from the Hamptons house and then appealed for the kids again, but she thought that money were better spent on a New York studio she hardly used until it failed, leaving her with nothing but her friends' couches.
“This is illegal,” Michelle says, pointing her finger at Lea. “He can't do that! No matter how much money he has!”
“Michelle, I don't want to intrude in this matter but he didn't—“
“Then, don't,” Michelle snaps at her. “What do you know about this anyway?”
Lea counts well after ten. “I'm just saying that—“
“I shouldn't even be talking to you,” Michelle continues as if Lea hadn't even talked. Besides, it's not the first time Michelle proves that she doesn't need a counterpart to have a conversation. “By the law, he should be here when I drop the kids back.”
By the law, he shouldn't leave the kids alone – which he didn't – and that's all, but what's the point in trying and stop the crazy monologue? Lea sits down on the couch with a sigh. Merciful as always, Timmy comes closer, bringing his sibling with him. They're so infatuated with him – Harper especially – that they become his shadow every time he comes around.
After a good five minutes of dissing Blaine for anything even vaguely concerning the kid, Michelle thinks that she expressed enough of her disappointment. “Well, I don't have any other choice but go,” she finally says to Lea, probably expecting some kind of sorry response from her. “I wouldn't leave them here if I could, you see, but I have important things to do and I can't bring them with me.”
“Of course,” Lea nods, and if Michelle notices the sarcasm in her voice, she doesn't show.
“But he doesn't care, no! Everything he does is always more important than what I do because he's Blaine Anderson,” she keeps going. “So, now I'm forced to leave the kids alone—“
“—while he's out there doing only God knows what!”
But she's past listening and she's already speaking French to the twins in a squeaky, overly sugary voice. She kisses them both four times, backing off towards the door very quickly despite the tragedy in her voice. “Tell him he's gonna hear from my lawyer!” She says right before slamming the door.
“What did just happen?” Lea asks when all the glass things in the house have stopped trembling.
Timmy shrugs. “Michelle happened,” he explains. “That was a five.”
“A what?” Lea asks again. Meanwhile, now that their crazy mother is gone, the twins feel entitled to participate in the conquest of daddy's new girlfriend and crawl all over her.
“Me and mom always give her tantrums a vote. That was a five, no big deal,” Timmy says. “You should have been there for my birthday party last year. That was a solid 8.5. She came to pick up the twins and hell broke loose. She started an argument over money right around the time mom was serving cake. Dad was furious, I thought he was going to slap her.”
“What stopped him?” Leah asks, chuckling at the mental image.
“His two hours of meditation a day, I guess.” They both burst out laughing.
Then Lea sighs, relaxing for the first time since this morning. Now that the storm has passed, everything seems incredibly easier. She looks around, suddenly realizing that something has been set in motion when she wasn't looking. Logan has nestled his face in her neck and he is almost asleep in her arms, Timmy is choosing a movie and Harper is lying on the couch, her head on Lea's lap, expectantly waiting for her big brother to be done. Some time ago – at this point it might very well be a lifetime ago – Lea would spend her Saturdays coming back to life after clubbing all night. And now she's taking care of the kids.
She doesn't know when exactly a document has been presented to her, but she sure has hell didn't sign for this. Then she smiles, because somewhere between Michelle's screaming, Blaine's work and her coming and going and then coming back again, after two ex-wives and a number of boyfriends she won't disclose, these are not Blaine's kids anymore, but just the kids.
And maybe these won't be Blaine's life or Blaine's house either.
Just the kids, the house, and a life.