Matthew and Camille Ch. 08byinnocent_angel©
**See, Matt's not perfect. Hope you guys don't hold his omission against him, he is, after all, only human. But anyway, here is a little more, hope you guys enjoy. Oh, and I meant to say this on the other update, but I'm just starting out in Italian, so my conjugation may not be as correct as it needs to be. I'm also doing it with the help of some translation software. Ok, well, I'm going to let you get on now, but first…blah, blah, errors…blah, blah, there may be some…that old chestnut. And also, this is the first time I've written a chapter like this, as you read, you'll catch my meaning, so, be gentle. Hope you guys enjoy.**
"What are we watching, Papa?" the excited little girl asked from the backseat.
Matt smiled. "I have no idea, tesoro. You would have to ask Camille."
"Miss Camille, what are we watching?"
Camille looked back at Ari and smiled. "Please, sweetie, no Miss, makes me sound old, just call me Camille, or Cam, or Cammie, or MeeMee…" she smiled as the little girl laughed at the rattling off of her mostly fake nicknames. "It's a surprise, sweetie."
Ari nodded and continued to bounce around as much as the booster seat and seatbelts would allow. Matt didn't mind; at any other time he would have scolded her for it but tonight, he didn't. When he'd walked into the bedroom she shared with her cousin to find her face buried in a pillow, her body shaking with sobs, he would have let her do just about anything she wanted, if it would get her to stop. When he told her what he and Camille had decided, she'd jumped up and threw herself at him, nearly knocking him from his sitting position on her small, twin size bed. She rained kisses over his face, saying thank you in both languages.
"You're welcome, baby, but be sure to thank Camille, it was her idea." She didn't forget, opting to briefly hug Camille, also, before slipping her tiny hand into Camille's.
He hadn't been able to keep the goofy grin off his face as they'd pulled up to the video store and Camille had insisted that they both stay in the car while she ran inside to make her selections, which she'd hidden in her oversized purse, even when they all got out to go into the grocery store. Inside said grocery store, he'd been double teamed by woman and little girl.
"This pizza will do fine," Camille had argued as the three of them stood in the freezer section.
"Yes, if you're lazy," he fired back, a half smile contradicting his appalled tone.
"Well, what do you prefer? That we make one from scratch?" She asked as if the idea were absurd.
"The thought had crossed my mind," he answered sarcastically.
"But Papa, that will take all night," Ari chimed in.
"She's right," Camille affirmed. "If we do that, we'll likely fall asleep before the end of the first movie."
"Yeah, Papa, please," Camille added, an amused smile on her face.
He smiled to himself as he remembered losing that argument as well as the one over what they were to drink. He'd wanted water, being that Ari would go to bed not long after, they wanted V8 Splash. His choice had been dismissed as too boring, so of course, they were going to be drinking V8 Splash. "It has fruits and veggies," Camille had argued.
"Well, ladies, we're here," he said as he killed the engine. He immediately got out and made his way around the SUV to open first, Camille's door, then Ari's.
"You live here? These are nice houses," she said looking around the gated community. Nice was actually an understatement. When she and Ellie had moved back to Montgomery, they'd looked longingly at the photos of the houses on the internet trying to convince themselves and each other that they could afford one if they could just live with out lights and water. In the end, they'd settled on an apartment that they could actually afford to live in, in separate rooms, furnish, and still have money left over for luxuries such as food and utilities.
Matt shrugged, as, groceries in hand, they walked toward his front door. "It's somewhere to sleep," he said turning for a second to look at her and Ari. He turned back and opened the door to his house. He pushed it open to allow them entrance first. Ari ran across the cream carpet to turn on the lights.
"Make yourself at home," Matt said, closing the door behind them, then walking to a nearby hall, turning off the alarm as he made his way to the kitchen.
It was huge, as Camille suspected it would be, and completely male. Every stick of furniture was either black leather or dark wood, neatly organized throughout the space. The only exceptions were the pictures on the wall. Most were pictures of a smiling, happy Ari during different stages of life, from crawling about on the floor to the traditional school pictures taken in the fall and spring of each school year. Each picture, even the one's of her playing and smiling with what she assumed were her cousins, looked as if a professional had taken them.
Camille made her way to one picture that immediately caught her eye. It was one of Matt and Ari embracing, their figures the only clear elements in the photo taken outside in the warm sun. Matt smiled into the camera as his daughter looked at him with all of the love and pride a child could muster for her father. It was one of the best pictures that she'd ever seen. Looking at it, she became lost in thought.
"Camille," Ari said from behind her. "Are you coming? Papa is putting the pizza in the oven."
Camille took a deep breath before turning to face the little girl. Giving her a smile, she nodded.
"Are you okay?" She asked, studying Camille closely.
Camille waved a hand, making a mental note that the kid was really observant for a five year old. "I'm fine, just a little hungry."
"Oh, okay," she said, still studying Camille. "Well, come on, Papa, is going to show you how to work the T.V. in the den," she said slipping her hand into Camille's. "So are you going to tell me what the movie is now?"
Camille laughed unexpectedly as they made their way deeper into the apartment. "Sorry, girlie, you'll just have to wait, but don't worry, you don't have too much longer."
"Aww, no fair," the girl grumbled, but Camille dismissed it when she saw the brilliant smile on Ari's face.
A little over an hour and a half later, they were all sitting on the very large sofa in front of the television watching The Emperor's New Groove, one of Camille's favorite animated movies. At the moment, however, Matt seemed to be the only one watching it. Ari had fallen asleep not long after the movie had started. She had been very obviously exhausted after their so called dinner, and now her head was resting on Camille's lap, her small legs curled up in front of her. Camille sat close to Matt, resting against his side, and his arm was along the back of the sofa, draped on her shoulders. Camille's gaze shifted from Ari, to Matt who apparently was still engrossed in the movie on the huge, flat panel television. She couldn't squelch her curiosity, but she couldn't bring herself to say anything. She wanted badly to know about Ari's mother, and what the current status of his relationship was.
Her gaze subtly traveled from Ari's angelic face to Matt's strong, masculine profile as he continued to watch the movie. She looked like him, sharing his light olive skin tone, full lips, and expressive brown eyes. Eyes which displayed emotions that the face of the beholder may not.
But she also saw someone else in her. Where Matt's nose narrow and angular, hers was slightly rounded and less narrow. She likely got it from a much softer, feminine person who was probably beautiful. Her gaze once again shifted between the two.
Matt watched her in his peripheral vision. He waited patiently for her to ask the questions that he knew were swimming around in that head of hers. When her eyes shifted again, he smiled to himself.
"You know, Camille, if you want to ask me something, you can. I don't mind answering questions," he said still looking at the screen.
Camille looked at Matt sheepishly. Slightly embarrassed at being caught staring. "What do you mean?" She asked trying to play it off.
Matt's smile broadened. "You want to know more about Ari?" He asked turning to her. At her nod, he picked up the remote, muting the animated movie that he had long ago stopped paying attention to. He shifted slightly so that he could see Camille's face and his daughter sleeping soundly on her lap. He smiled as he watched Camille unconsciously stroke Ari's silky hair.
"What would you like to know first?"
Camille didn't hesitate. "Tell me about her mother."
Matt glanced at Arianna before his eyes met hers again. "Ari's mother, is a woman I met at a client's birthday party in Atlanta. Her name is Stacy Parker," he said then waited a moment.
"Stacy Parker, the horrible actress, Stacy Parker? The one who spends more time in rehab than on movie sets," Camille asked a note of shock in her voice as she looked down at the child. "That Stacy Parker?"
Matt laughed. "That would be her. Stacy and I met at a party. We didn't so much date as just get together to…" he looked down at Ari's form confirming that she was still asleep, "…well, you get the picture. Anyway, we slipped up. She called me when she was in her second trimester and told me that when the child was born, she would be my problem, that she had a life and it didn't include a kid. I think the only reason she didn't terminate was because she didn't know until it was too late. Thank God for that."
Camille glanced down at the little girl, trying hard to imagine having such a smart, beautiful little girl and giving her away so willingly. She couldn't.
Matt nodded. "I thank God at every opportunity that she didn't begin to have her drug problems until after Ari was born. She drank, but not heavily. She was shooting a movie at the time and her contract stipulated that she refrain from drinking until the end of shooting. Ari was strong, she fought to live and because of that, she wasn't permanently harmed by her mother's bad habits. She did have to remain in the hospital briefly for monitoring, though, and she was underweight, her lungs hadn't quite developed as they should have. That was probably due to Stacy's other habit of not eating."
"She's healthy now though, right?" Camille asked, looking down at Ari, then back up to him.
He nodded. "Yes." He grew quiet for so long that Camille thought that he was done. He sighed and continued. "She didn't want anyone to know that she'd had a baby, which meant disappearing for a few months. Ari has always been reduced to being her 'niece' in public, she even went so far as to pay some obscure relative to let her use her name to hire a private doctor and check into the hospital when she went into labor.
"Over the years, she'd get on this kick where she'd get clean for a while and try to spend time with her 'niece' Ari, no more than a week or so, but it always ended the same way. She'd spend time with her but as soon as something new popped up, whether it be a role, or a man, Ari would be dropped off with my sister or me, and Stacy would be in the wind, yet again."
"When was the last time?" Camille asked after a moment.
"About a year ago."
"Was that the last time that she saw her?"
Matt nodded. "She's talked to her on the phone a few times but Ari's a smart girl. She's figured out that her mom is not going to change," Matt gave a humorless laugh. "That was probably obvious by her comment at Mara's," he said referring to Ari yelling at him before she ran to her bedroom.
"That's so sad," Camille said absently, looking down at her.
Matt shifted slightly, bringing his free arm up to gently grab her chin. "She's happy and healthy, that's all that I can ask for," he said, then dropped his hand.
Camille nodded her understanding. They each grew silent again, staring at the muted television.
"So what's different now?" She asked after a moment, still rubbing the child's curly hair.
"Hmm?" Matt asked, not understanding.
"You said the other day that you've never introduced her to anyone you've dated. Why now? What's so different about this time?" She asked looking at Ari again.
Matt watched her for a moment, studying her expression as she looked down at his child with more care than would normally be seen in a woman looking at a child whom she'd just met. He was awed at how Camille very obviously cared more for his child than the woman who had given her life. He lifted his hand, gently tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. He lowered his head until his lips were on her neck, just below her ear, placing light feathery kisses there. "You are," he stated simply.
Camille tore her eyes away from Ari to look at Matt. Her lips parted slightly as the smooth skin of her cheek came into contact with rough stubbly skin of his. He lifted his head so that his eyes could meet hers. She searched his eyes looking for some explanation as to what he had meant, but he didn't elaborate. He just brought up his other hand to cup her face. He gently smoothed his thumbs over her cheekbones, his eyes leaving hers to study the contours of her face.
"Siete molto bella," He whispered, his eyes still roaming over her face. "You are very beautiful. Did I tell you that?" He asked earnestly, his eyes finally meeting hers.
Camille diverted her eyes briefly before meeting his gaze again. "Not tonight."
Matt laughed, causing Camille to laugh, also. They each paused when Ari stirred. When she didn't wake, Matt met Camille's eyes again. "Well," he whispered deeply, "you are and I apologize for not telling you so earlier."
"Thank you," she said smiling shyly at him.
They were silent for a moment, until Ari stirred again. "I'd better go put her to bed," he said indicating Ari.
Camille nodded. "Okay."
Matt gave her a sweet, but brief kiss before standing and reaching down to grab Ari. "I'll be right back."
Camille smiled as he kissed the top of the child's head then disappeared down the hall.
Matt flipped the light switch in the bedroom that Ari had almost completely decorated on her own. The very pink, white, and pastel yellow room was covered with fairies and unicorns. It was enough to make him cringe, but it had been what she'd wanted, so he let her do it.
He walked further into the room, stopping beside her bed. He held Ari securely in one arm and pulled her pink and white comforter back with the other. He gently placed Ari down, pulling the comforter back snuggly over her. He had insisted that she take a bath and dress for bed before the movie, in case she did, in fact, fall asleep during it.
"Io vi amo, piccola," he whispered then kissed the top of her head. He flipped on the unicorn mobile next to her bed and the lighted shapes began to dance across her walls. He stood and backed out of the room, looking at her once more before turning and heading back to Camille.
Unable to remain seated as she waited for Matt to return, Camille stood and began to walk around the room. She walked past the television, making her way over to Matt's stereo system. She ran her finger along the CD jewels lined on the shelf above the speakers before pulling out a Marvin Gaye CD case. She nodded her approval then placed it back, moving on to the other CD's. She couldn't help but let out a laugh when she saw the massive collection of Kid's Bop CD's and Disney soundtracks, she pulled one out and flipped it over.
"Are you making fun of my music collection?" Matt asked, moving to stand behind her. He peaked over her shoulder, eyeing the case in her hand.
Camille glanced at him. "I didn't realize that you enjoyed listening to pop hits being sung by children," she said, waving the CD in her hand.
Matt smiled, plucking the case from her hand. "Those belong to my daughter."
Camille held up her hands. "Hey, I'm not judging."
Matt laughed, moving closer to Camille, he propped his elbow up on the shelf. "I can't tell you how many bottles of aspirin I've had to chew when she gets started with her music. And there's no escape," he said pointing at the ceiling.
Camille looked up in the direction that he'd pointed. She saw small speakers installed into the ceiling and walls throughout the room that she guessed were hooked into the system. She smiled. "Aww, poor baby," she said gently caressing his cheek.
Matt smiled then turned his head slightly to place a kiss in her palm. "Will you stay tonight?" He asked, meeting her eyes again.
Camille thought it over for a moment, then shrugged.
"Not to pressure you or anything, but if you decide that you would like to go home, I'd have to get Ari out of bed, and take her out into the night air…" he trailed off, giving her an innocent look.
"Well, I don't see that I have many other options. I don't want to wake Ari and I didn't drive."
"You make it sound as if you're getting dental work done," Matt said laughing.
Camille rolled her eyes. "That's not what I meant, stop being so sensitive."
"So, you're staying?" He asked placing a hand on her hip and pulling her closer. "I've slept at your place, I think it's time for you to reciprocate."
"Oh, so you're going to blackmail me into staying?" She asked, moving her arm to partially circle his waist.
Matt shrugged, giving her a boyishly eager smile. "Call it what you want, just as long as you're here when you say it."
Camille smiled. "All right, then. If you insist."
"Because you have class."
Camille's brow furrowed. "I have class. That's why you approached me that night?"
Matt rubbed the knee that was propped against his as he and Camille sat facing each other on the sofa. His hand traveled possessively up her jean clad thigh then back to her knee. Matt nodded. "Yes, because you have class."
Camille tried her best to ignore the hand that Matt ran down her thigh over and over, each time moving dangerously closer to her center. She looked down at his hand as it continued to move then back to his face. Either he had no idea what he was doing to her, or he was doing it on purpose, because his expression never seemed to waiver.
She cleared her throat before she spoke. "Uh, class. You approached me that day in the bar because I had class?"
Matt smiled. "You said that already, and yes. You could have said something scathing, you could have thrown a drink on them, you could have done any number of things to get back at them, hell, a lot of other women would have, but you didn't. You didn't let them get to you."
Camille shook her head. "No, I did let them get to me--"
"But you didn't let them see it," Matt said, interrupting.
She shrugged, looking away.
"Miele, look at me," he waited until she did before continuing. "You don't believe those things they said do you? Woman like that are never satisfied with themselves, so they lash out at others. You just happened to be close by." Camille nodded but she didn't say anything and Matt knew that she was still letting those comments from the women get to her. He let out a breath. "Come over here," he said pulling her to him so that her back was against his front.
Camille moved into the position that he was guiding her to. She felt the solid wall of his chest behind her as she settled in between his legs. She felt his warm breath against her ear as she rested her head on his shoulder.
"You are a very attractive woman," he said in a low voice.
Camille gave a breathy laugh. "You've been saying that since we met."
She felt his lips curl into a smile against his ear. "And I meant it. You don't think I would lie to you do you?"