“This is the best meal I’ve ever had, Gaston. Thank you,” I say as I take another bite of blackened fish. I could really get used to living on this kind of food.
“Thank you,” Gaston says with a smile. “You ate like you were starved. When was the last time you ate?”
“Ate or ate well? I don’t have a lot of money, and it’s usually to pay the rent and all that for my dad, and I’ve never really been able to get good, healthy food. It’s always been whatever’s cheap and filling.”
Gaston nods. “Well Vivian, my kitchen is always open to you. You need to eat, child. Trace is taking care of you, and God certainly was when He led you and Trace together.”
“Meeting Trace has kind of made me rethink on whether God exists or not,” I confess. “My mom tried to raise me in a Christian home, but it didn’t really work out too well, and after she left and my dad started beating me, I stopped believing in Him because I thought if he was real, he wouldn’t have let this go on.”
“Sometimes suffering happens because God wants to draw us closer to him, Vivian,” Gaston says as he sits next to me at the table. “Like with me, both of my parents were killed in a car wreck when I was little. It had been just after we’d moved to America. I was a six year old boy with nowhere to go and no one to look after me. I went to a couple orphanages, but I never understood anything that was going on because I didn’t speak English yet. And once when I ran away from an orphanage, the man who found me and brought me back was German, and he kept visiting me, and then one day, he brought his wife, and they adopted me. They were both of strong faith, and they instilled that in me.”
I nod. “My mom would tell me stories like that, and read to me from her bible, but after she left, I felt abandoned, like if my own mother didn’t even want me, then who would?” I look down at my plate.
“I understand completely,” he says gently.
Before he can say anything else, Trace walks in, followed by a tall, muscular man that looks so similar to Trace, it can’t be anyone but his dad.
“Dad, this is Vivian, Vivian, this is my dad, Seth Daniels,” he says. “I went to go check in with them, and he kind of followed me back.”
Mr. Daniels steps forward and shakes my hand warmly. “It’s very nice to meet you, Vivian. And just for the record, I didn’t follow Trace, I came with him to see who the beautiful girl that he was helping was.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too, Mr. Daniels,” I say, hoping I won’t have to meet his mom tonight, too. Based on the few times Trace has talked about her, she doesn’t seem like the greatest person.
“Gaston, is there any more food leftover from dinner? Lori wouldn’t let me eat too much since her socialite friends were here tonight, and I’m starving,” he says as he sits next to me. “Trace, I have a feeling that you didn’t eat too much tonight either, so why don’t you join us? Don’t make Vivian and me eat alone.”
Trace smiles and sits down across from me as Gaston stands and starts making two more plates.
“So how was school today, Trace?”
“Not too bad, but my calc teacher is insane,” he answers.
I nod in agreement.
“How so?” his dad asks.
“He gave out fifteen pages of homework over something that we haven’t even covered yet,” Trace says. “I don’t see how this is going to help me in the real world.”
“Angles and trig helped me in baseball when I was first getting started.”
“It did?” I ask.
Mr. Daniels nods. “I had to know the right angle to hit the ball so it would go where I wanted it to, and I had to know the right way the field would make a triangle with the ball so I would know where to catch it.” He reaches up and taps his head. “I’m a lot smarter than people give this athlete credit for.”
I smile. “I never knew that, Mr. Daniels. It’s nice to know that some people still use their brains instead of just their bodies.”
“But you can’t just go out and tell everyone my secret now, Vivian,” he says with a wink.
“Dad, she’s not going to tell anyone about that. And besides, no one can think that fast the way you do with those formulas. They’re way too complicated,” Trace says as Gaston sets a plate in front of him.
“Alright then, new conversation topic,” Mr. Daniels says with a laugh.
“What about if Trace will make the school baseball team because he’s talented, or because he’s your son,” Gaston offers.
I smile as they start debating the reasons why Trace will make the team. They feel like a family, a family that I’ve never known and one that I’d like to stay apart of.
“Did you have fun tonight?” Trace asks as he walks me back to my apartment.
I nod. “I like Gaston, and your dad. They seem pretty cool.”
He smiles. “Sorry if my dad came across a little strong tonight, that’s just who he is,” he apologizes.
“Don’t worry about it. He seems like a pretty nice guy.”
“He is. When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to be just like him, to grow up and be a pro baseball player, marry a trophy wife, and spend my life flaunting what I had to the media.”
“What changed that?” I ask.
“When my brother died. That’s when things started changing for me. His death opened my eyes.”
“I never knew about that, I’m so sorry,” I say quickly.
He shrugs. “It’s okay. He died in a boating accident one day, and that’s when I first realized that the life my parents had wasn’t perfect. I realized that I want something with sustenance, something that will last longer than just now. After he died, everything that my parents had seemed like it was nothing.”
“What was his name?” I ask softly.
“Justin,” he answers. “He was three years older than me, and he was my best friend. We used to play in the empty rooms in the house and pretend like we were knights or kings, always saving the girl from the dragon or the evil wizard,” he says with another lopsided smile.
I smile with him. “One more question.”
“The scar on your neck and your lip, where did those come from?”
“The boat accident that killed Justin,” he says softly.
“He was taking out my dad’s new jet ski, and I was tubing behind it. The throttle got stuck and caused the jet ski to run into a dock where someone’s yacht was. Both boats exploded and caused the line attaching the tube to sever. A few pieces of the boats hit me, and that’s where those came from. Justin was killed on impact,” he says stiffly.
I hug him tightly. “I’m so sorry,” I whisper against his shirt.
He hugs me back just as tight. “It’s okay, it’s not your fault.”
I’m not sure how long we stand here on the beach like this before we finally start walking again. After that story, I’m starting to see Trace in a new light and with more depth. There is definitely much more than meets the eye with this boy, and it’s nice to know that he’s not just another shallow rich boy.