Life after university was pretty good for a while, at least. It was busy and hectic and everyone was always running around doing their own thing, running by their own schedules, but we were all enjoying ourselves while we ran in all different directions, chasing after our dreams. It was no surprise to anyone when Ariel got a job at the stadium, quickly working her way up from a rabid fan to a rookie. Rayne predictably followed in our mom’s footsteps, starting off her singing career by singing for tips on street corners and delivering sing-a-grams. Incredibly enough, it was actually thanks to Rayne’s sing-a-gram gig that I managed to start gathering evidence against Nikki in the custody battle over Leander that I was planning on bringing to court.
“Dad, he’s my son. I can’t just give up on him. You would never just walk away from the three of us if you were in my shoes and you know it,” I sighed miserably to my father in the kitchen one night. Nikki had made it clear that if I ever wanted to see my son again at all, I’d have to win sole custody in court. She turned down my offer of joint custody and shared visitation. She was being petty about the whole thing, putting our problems with each other before what was best for Leander. I wanted him to have both of his parents in his life but Nikki was doing everything in her power to make sure it could only be one parent or the other and if it had to be that way, well of course I was going to fight for him. What decent parent wouldn’t?
“You’re right, I wouldn’t,” Dad agreed. “But that doesn’t change the fact that you need evidence to bring this to family court, Sebastian. Without any kind of proof that Nikki is an unfit mother, no judge is going to tear that child away from his home and the only parent he knows, no matter how respectable and upstanding you might seem.”
He was right, of course. I buried my head in my hands, defeated. “Then it’s hopeless… I’m never going to see him again…” I muttered, my chest squeezing painfully. My dad put a comforting hand on my shoulder just as my sister ran through the door in her sing-a-gram outfit, looking extremely excited about something. “Hey, what’s up?” I asked her. “Make a lot of tips today or something?”
“Nope, pretty much nothing actually,” she confessed. “But I delivered a sing-a-gram to Nikki today!” she gushed. I gave her a bizarrely confused look.
“And that’s exciting news?” I asked sceptically.
“Oh no, it was awful for me, but it’s exciting for you because Leander was with her along with some girl she apparently hired as a nanny for him or something and well… let’s just say you might have some material to use against her in court. Enough to start a bigger investigation, anyway,” she said smugly, crossing her arms. That got my attention. I was hanging onto her every word. She sat down and started filling me in.
“So at first, I wasn’t even going to do it. Seeing Nikki was so not my idea of a good day, but I figured money’s money, why not just get through it? She was at the stylist’s trying on a bunch of new clothes. Of course she completely made fun of me for doing sing-a-grams, rubbing it in my face,” she scowled. “She left Leander outside with the nanny. I could hear him crying outside so I went to go see what was going on and he was just sitting there on the ground, screaming while the nanny covered her ears and ignored him!”
“Go on,” I forced out through gritted teeth. I was furious, but I wanted to hear all of it. That was my son and if he was being neglected, I wanted as much information as I could get so I could show the court that he’d be better off in my custody.
“Well Nikki eventually got annoyed, too, because even from outside, his crying was loud. I guess she just wanted to shop for clothes and be self-absorbed in peace,” she said, rolling her eyes. “So she started yelling at the nanny to do the job her dad was paying her for and threatening to fire her if she couldn’t get Leander to be quiet. Then she started yelling at Leander, which of course only made him cry more. The poor kid’s not even three years old, I don’t even think he can talk in full sentences yet,” she frowned. “I got mad and told her to stop screaming at my nephew like that, but I think I just made it worse. She started yelling at me, too,” Rayne sighed. “That’s when I decided I’d probably be better off just leaving and telling you what happened.”
I swear I could have grabbed her and hugged her. Rayne had just given me what I needed to launch my own case against Nikki and get my son back.
But building a solid case takes a lot of money, investigators, lawyers, and time and I still had so many other things to deal with. I felt like a mad juggler. On top of preparing to face Nikki in court, I still had my own work to do. As both the heir of the Sword estate and fortune and a medical professional, I had two full-time jobs and both of them kept me insanely busy all the time. While Nikki had ruined me in so many ways, she had helped me in at least one respect; she made me realise that if I wanted our family to stay on the top tier of society in Starlight Shores, I couldn’t keep clinging to my mother’s fame. Mom had been dead for over two decades and her legacy could only carry on for so long. Dad was retired now so he was no longer the international business mogul he once was. My sisters were working on their own legacies in their own ways. It was up to me to keep the Sword name going strong, so I embarked on a large project that I hoped would turn out to be profitable and keep our family name in the spotlight for a lot of years to come.
Starlight Serenity is the newly constructed, five star modern resort on the edge of the beach, funded and owned by me. While its main purpose is to bring in prestige and profit, my sisters seem to like hiding away there, enjoying free drinks at the pool bar and spa treatments courtesy of their big brother. They’re lucky I love them.
You’d think building and opening a new resort would be the main focus of our lives but honestly, there was too much going on for us to solely focus on one single thing. I was getting promotions almost as fast as Ariel. My days were spent running around the hospital, seeing to patients, while my nights were spent reading research journals and sleeping with my emergency beeper by my head in case I had to rush back to the hospital in the middle of the night. My days off were non-existent. Every day I had away from the hospital was spent manning vaccination clinics and giving health speeches at medical conventions, but you know what? I actually loved it. Every time a patient walked away from my care, smiling and feeling better than they did before they went to the doctor, I got such a good, warm feeling inside, like I was really changing the world, one person at a time. I cared about being a doctor and helping patients a lot more than the business ventures like the resort, honestly. I’m proud of my achievements as the heir of our family, but I’m even prouder to call myself a doctor. I even got to deliver my two nephews! That’s right, my Aunt Aqua and Aunt Turquoise both had their babies just before their hair started turning grey. They had two healthy boys named Tyron Sagar and Bennie Sousa and I was the first person they both saw. Call me sappy and wimpy if you want, but I think there’s something really special about that.
But I can’t take all the credit for being successful. Both my sisters were doing as well as I was. I already mentioned Ariel’s a rookie now, but Rayne’s career is really starting to take off and people are starting to notice her in the streets. She really deserves it. She’s working so hard to get her name out there. She wasn’t a sing-a-gram for very long. After she landed a steady gig at Verde Park on Monday nights, the proprietor of the cafe started to take notice of her and asked her to perform there, too. She thinks it’s only a matter of time before she lands a weekly gig there, too, and her debut album, Little Fall Of Rayne, is selling like hotcakes around here. I listen to it in the car on the way to and from work every day (but don’t tell her I said that, her ego’s already huge as it is).
And as for Dad and Monica? Well compared to the rest of us, their lives are pretty quiet and uneventful. After Monica’s big sixtieth birthday, she retired so she could spend more time with Dad. They spend most of their days lounging by the poolside together, talking about this and that, and as far as I can tell, they’re still as in love as ever. I’m a little jealous of what they have, sometimes. I’m so busy with everything else that finding someone to spend my life with has fallen by the wayside… not that I ever had any luck when it came to love in the first place, anyway. I’m just hopeless. Both my sisters have long-distance relationships that they seem to be handling just fine along with the rest of their lives, so why is it so hard for me?