Vito felt giddy but nervous when he entered Alyssa’s house. He’d been thinking about it ever since Snowflake Day, but before he needed her blessing before he could do much. He took a deep breath.
“Oh, hey,” Alyssa looked up. “Aslan’s not here, Larobb took him to Hallie’s to spend some time with the orphans.”
“They’ve been hanging out a lot recently, huh?”
“Ugh, are you gonna interrogate me about how I can trust Larobb around his ex too?” Alyssa rolled her eyes.
“No, I actually meant Aslan and Hallie’s lot. He’s been going over there a lot.”
“Oh.” Alyssa drew back. “Sorry, I guess I’m getting annoyed by default. Everybody seems to be making my relationship their business these days.”
“Been there,” Vito smiled. “And for the record, I think it’s great that you trust Larobb that much. Not to mention you’ve got nothing to worry about with Hallie.”
“Well, if I couldn’t trust Larobb then what’s the point of being with him?” Alyssa shrugged. “Anyway, what’s with you trying to butter me up?”
Here goes nothing, Vito thought.
“So, I’ve had this chat with my dad recently, about how a part of him wishes he could have passed on his last name to me and my sisters…”
“Touching.” Alyssa sounded disinterested. “Get to the point.”
“I’d like for Aslan to have my last name.” Vito said finally. “I mean, we could hyphenate it with yours if you want. And I’ll understand if you don’t want him to. But… he is a Newcrest heir. It would make sense for him to be a Bloomer, if you…”
“I agree.” Alyssa interrupted.
“I wasn’t born yesterday,” Alyssa explained. “The Bloomers run the show in Newcrest. Aslan Leoni won’t get anywhere. But Aslan Bloomer… well, all the doors will be open for him. Why wouldn’t I want him to get a jump start in life?”
“It’s not like being a Bloomer automatically makes your life easy,” Vito protested.
“Oh please!” Alyssa smirked dismissively. “But let’s say I’ll play along and pretend the little bubble you live in is real. Having your last name definitely wouldn’t hurt Aslan in the slightest.”
“So… you’re ok with it?” He asked cautiously.
“I am.” She nodded. “You just need to see what Aslan wants. It’s his name, after all. Should be his call.”
Vito knew better than to question Alyssa leaving such a big decision up to a child. She was far from conventional, after all. He was simply overjoyed she’d okayed this to begin with. Surely the rest would be simple…
Donnell snuck into the boys’ room, looking around briefly before bursting into tears. Luckily for him, no one else was around. He crawled into his bed, hiding under the sheets.
It didn’t take Hallie long to hear the sobs and identifying where they were coming from.
“Donnie? What’s wrong?” She asked gently.
The boy peeked from under the duvet.
“It’s nothing, really…”
Hallie sat down beside him, concerned. “Doesn’t seem like nothing.”
“I should be happy.” The boy shook his head. “For Sigrid. It’s great for her that she got adopted…”
“Is that what this is about? Do you miss Sigrid?”
“No, well, yeah, but… I just… I don’t think anyone will ever adopt me.” Donnell admitted.
“Oh Donnie, I wouldn’t worry about that for one second.” Hallie told him. “You’re a joy to have around!”
“Of course I do. You’re smart, compassionate, kind, and you draw some awesome pictures.” She said encouragingly.
The boy smiled ever so slightly. “But still… what if I never get adopted?”
“Then you’ll always have a home here. And always have me as a friend.” Hallie reassured him.
“Sure thing.” Hallie nodded. “You know, Donnie, I lost my parents when I was about your age. My older sister’s family took me in, though I barely knew them. I never got adopted by them, because it didn’t feel right, but they gave me a home. And love. And friendship. Happiness can have many different shapes. So on the off chance you never get adopted, I’m still here for you, as long as you need me. Does that sound so bad?”
“No, it doesn’t” Donnie replied. “That doesn’t sound bad at all.”
Hallie beamed, relieved. “Now come here you little munchkin! How about a big hug to chase that gloominess away?”
“That’s a cool shot, dad! Though I don’t know if I like the creepy tree in it.” Aslan examined the photo on Vito’s camera.
“See, I like the creepy tree,” Vito smiled.
“But it’s so old!”
“Exactly,” Vito said to his son. “It’s been here as long as I can remember. When I was just a little boy. And probably long before that.”
“Like, when grandpa was little?”
“Yeah. I think it was probably here all the way back when your great-great-great… uh, I don’t even know how many greats the grandpa who first found Newcrest would have. But it would have been a long long time ago. And he started it all. Started building Newcrest for us. With this tree in it.”
“I guess that’s kinda cool.” Aslan shrugged.
Vito decided this was the best opportunity he was going to get.
“So you know how our family has been building up Newcrest for all these years? One day, it will be yours. And then you can build something really neat.”
“Whatever you like.”
“Exactly!” Vito nodded enthusiastically. “But, you see, up to now, all Newcrest heirs have been called Bloomer. And it would mean a lot to me if you could have that name too. It’s an important name, you see. That great-great-grandpa, he had it to. And now I do. So I would like to pass it on to you. Would you like that?”
“Me? I’m Aslan Leoni!” Aslan said immediately.
“I like my name.” The boy didn’t budge. “Hope said it during Snowflake Day! Names don’t matter. She’s a Forrester, and she’s a Newcrest heir too! Why should I have to change my name?”
“Well, you don’t have to,” Vito replied slowly. “Hope has her dad’s name. And I thought it would be nice for you to have your dad’s name. But Leoni is a good name, of course.”
“It is a good name. Makes me sound like a lion.” Aslan grinned.
“True.” Vito tried to hide his disappointment.
“Are you sad?” The boy noticed something wasn’t right. “It’s not that I don’t like your name. Or that I don’t like you. Cause I do. I used to think I didn’t need a dad. And with any other dad, I probably wouldn’t. But I got you. And… well, you’re the best dad. Don’t tell anyone I said that, ok?”
Vito wasn’t sure what to say. While Aslan refused his last name, this was more of an expression of love than he’d ever had from the boy.
“I can keep a secret,” he told his son finally.
Aslan seemed torn for a moment.
“Dad? There’s this other secret I need to tell someone. But promise you definitely won’t tell anybody, ok?”
Vito leaned down to hear Aslan’s whispering.
“It’s Alexus… she has a secret that she doesn’t want anyone to know. I can’t tell you what it is, but I’ve found out by accidnet, and I don’t know what to do with it.”
That was unexpected. Vito had hoped it would be a couple more years till Aslan started to have problems related to girls.
“Well, I think you should talk to her about it,” he gave it his best shot. “It’s her secret, not yours, so it wouldn’t be right to tell anyone. But if you tell her you know, maybe she’ll stop hiding it from others. And in any case, it might be good for her to share it with someone.”
“You’re right.” Aslan nodded. “I hope she does tell people. It’s pretty cool, actually. Thanks dad!”
Something was telling Vito this wasn’t the last he’d heard of these newfound girl troubles. He kissed Aslan’s cheek, knowing that his son’s innocence wouldn’t last much longer. Hopefully he’d stay this little sweet boy for just a little bit…
“Eww, dad, gross!”
Vito laughed. It seemed that the teen struggles were not far off…
But why think about that now?