Nicholas and Abby had to use their combined strength to keep Melanie away from the room in ICU where Daniel, Karen Long and some nurses were doing their best to save Carly.
‘Don’t let her die, please God, don’t let her die!’ Melanie wept loudly, trying to wrestle herself away from the hands holding her firmly.
Jennifer was staring at the glass window, her hand on her throat; frozen with fear for Carly.
Frankie and Molly came hurrying up; Frankie white faced. ‘The head nurse told us Carly was brought up here... something about a Code Blue?’
‘I was there with her...’ Jennifer turned to them, tears flowing. ‘all of a sudden she went into cardiac arrest.’
‘Christ...’ Frankie turned to help calm his niece while Abby let go of her to go up to her mother.
‘If she dies...’
‘She won’t, Mum.’
‘I’ll never be able to tell her how sorry I am...’
‘She’s going to make it.’ Molly said, her manner towards Jennifer gentler and kinder than their last encounter, seeing how genuinely upset she was, feeling certain Carly didn’t hold a grudge against her old school mate and would willingly forgive her... when she came out of the coma.
Bo, where are you? Carly’s life is hanging by a thread and you aren’t here! Damn you, you’re supposed to be here! Molly thought angrily, tears stinging her eyes as she and Abby tried to calm Jennifer down. Melanie stopped struggling after stern but well meaning words from Frankie but was still restless as she waited with her uncle and brother; Nicholas firmly holding her round the waist in case she wanted to dart into the room. She glanced at Abby and Molly through red eyes. Molly smiled reassuringly at her while Abby mouthed it’s going to be okay across to her. She looked at Nicholas. He looked tough but she saw the fear in his eyes. Her heart went out to him and Melanie, inwardly praying for Carly.
‘She’s stabilized now.’ Karen Long said when she finally came out with Daniel. ‘For a moment we thought we were going to lose her but Carly’s a real fighter.’
Frankie closed his eyes, his arms round Melanie as she sobbed quietly against his shoulder. Nicholas patted Molly’s hand resting on his arm and dabbed his teary eyes before asking quietly, ‘can we see her now?’
‘Sure, Nick.’ Daniel said sombrely, moving forward to hug Melanie tightly before she followed Nicholas and Molly. Frankie refused to make eye contact with Jennifer, ignoring her when she said his name. Jennifer sniffled, turning to Daniel who took her in his arms, pressing a kiss on her forehead, Abby rubbed her back. ‘It’s going to be okay, Mum. Stop crying... Carly’s going to wake up before we know it and you guys will be friends again. Please believe that,’ she pleaded. ‘She will get through this and you both will get past what happened.’
‘Honey, come on now,’ Daniel soothed her. ‘It’s going to be all right.’
Jennifer raised and nodded numbly, watching Carly’s family and Molly around her bed through the door’s window.
‘Hope, since the kidnapping I’ve been trying to figure out what’s going on in your head!’
‘You need that don’t you; you need that kind of harmony; just like what you have with Carly right now.’ That’s what really bugged her. It wasn’t just a physical affair... like he was trying to get back at her. This was a woman from his past, a woman he never told her about! Bo was clearly enjoying being with a woman who was probably more submissive... his perfect princess Carly.
Bo’s brown eyes were angry. ‘So, I’m supposed to feel guilty about that? Because you couldn’t live with the status quo, I’m supposed to what... live alone for the rest of my life?’
‘How about a month?’ she shouted, stung by his words even though she knew she had no right to ask him such a question. She was the one who left, who spoke of divorce.
‘I did try a month!’ he shouted back.
‘Oh please...!’ she scoffed.
‘And I tried to figure out what the hell was going on with you, what the hell you wanted!’
Okay... she left their house with Ciara... said some things out of anger; gave broad hints about a permanent separation. But she returned that night! She returned and found another woman asleep on their bed!
What right did she have to toy with Bo’s emotions... leaving him with the intent of divorce but immediately changing her mind, like she felt he was punished enough, punished for what? How could she have thought Bo loved her too much keep tolerating such behaviour just like before... when she left their home to be alone after Kayla’s shooting. He’d wanted them to go somewhere to heal, she chose differently and shut him out, to his frustration. What did Carly do except succumb to her love when Bo went to her for comfort? Bo was blameless, she’d known that the whole time and admitted it but insisted on blaming Carly.
‘We have a 25 year history together and my family’s become his family and they are very important to him. Now there could’ve been about 11 Hortons who could’ve come round the corner just now, who aren’t thrilled with him these days. How do you think that could’ve been played out, huh?’
Carly stared back, green eyes impassive.
‘He doesn’t want to lose them, Carly. But just think, about what you’re doing.’
‘Do you see this as condescension to him?’ Carly said at last.
‘What I see this you want this to play out as a great love story and it’s not. You say that you love Bo? Then maybe you should start thinking about what you’re doing to his life.’
Hope sighed, staring at a photo of Bo and herself, standing between Alice.
She was the one who packed her belongings and left their house with their daughter. She’d thrown the fact that she had the Hortons and Bradys, both families who were once Carly’s friends, in the woman’s face. Yet in the end Bo was able to forgive her and they’d moved on, refusing to think of the woman they both wronged... ignored her existence. How ironic the guilt she refused to succumb for so long was now out in the open; during Bo’s absence. She wasn’t vindictive but she’d been more than glad to have Bo back and their unspoken agreement not to discuss Carly after he admitted his time with her had been a mistake. But now, it was pretty much a hollow victory. It was discovered later she and Bo weren’t legally married. He left town to put an end to Stefano DiMera’s empire for good and she had to endure months without him.
God... what am I saying? What about Carly? She was the one who had to watch them all happy after being left in the cold- no doubt hating them both- she was the one who was lying in a coma at the hospital! Was there any wonder Jennifer and Roman and probably other members of the family now felt guilty? Was there a reason for her to feel resentful Bo has another child? Hope shook her head, still staring at the photos, knowing the answers to her questions.
Now she had Aiden, or will have him if she truly wanted him. And to be honest... she really wanted him in her life.
‘Mummy, is something wrong?’
She turned to see Ciara standing behind her. Watching her daughter, Hope couldn’t help but think how she and Zach probably wouldn’t have been born at all if Carly was the one with Bo when she’d returned to Salem years ago. ‘Nothing’s wrong sweetie.’
‘But you’re crying.’
Hope blinked, her hand moving up to her wet eyes. ‘I’m fine... really.’ She assured her. Staring at Ciara, she knew what she had to do. It was time.
‘Come sit,’ she took the girl’s hand, drawing her to the couch and sat next to her. ‘There’s something I need to tell you.’
‘About Daddy?’ Ciara asked hopefully.
‘No, not about Daddy.’ Hope paused, quickly working out the best way to tell Ciara this piece of news.
She stifled an impatient curse when the doorbell rang and up to answer it.
Ciara rushed up to Maggie and Julie and was warmly hugged and kissed by both women.
‘We’re just from the hospital.’ Maggie said after Hope sent Ciara upstairs.
‘Oh.’ Hope sat down. ‘How’s... how’s Carly?’
‘Melanie said she coded but her doctors were able to stabilise her; thank God.’ Maggie replied, her expression grave. ‘I’m just glad Melanie’s not alone at a time like this; Daniel, Brady, Frankie and Nicholas will do all they can for her.’
Hope was aware Carly and Lawrence have a son but she frowned at the mention of Frankie. ‘Frankie’s in town?’
Maggie nodded. ‘He’s not exactly pleased with us right now and to be honest, it would be best if you don’t run into him.’
Hope was baffled. ‘Why not?’
Julie and Maggie looked uncomfortable, Julie finally saying quietly, ‘Frankie is Carly’s brother.’
‘It’s true, they were born Katerina and François Von Leuschner; scions of a very powerful European family.'
‘I don’t understand... when Shawn and Caroline adopted Frankie his name was Donner!’ Hope couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
‘Frankie and Carly ran away from their parents- at different times- and changed their names.’ Julie explained further.
Hope closed her eyes, shaking her head. ‘Oh God.’
‘Yes. And he’s very angry; especially with you and Bo. He wants nothing to do with us at all.’
Frankie had shrank back when Maggie tried to hug him and looked through Julie as though she wasn’t there. Roman, who was present, was annoyed; telling Frankie not to let his anger go too far by refusing to give them a chance to make amends.
‘Did they care about my sister’s feelings at the time?’
‘Granted... Carly was mistreated and she didn't deserve it...’
‘But she was mistreated anyway,’ Frankie glowered. ‘All to protect her. Besides, Kayla already made it damn clear how you lot thought of Carly.’
‘Kayla doesn’t speak for all of us,’ Maggie had corrected, wincing at the contemptuous use of you lot.
‘Whatever. But once she comes out of the coma, none of you will be able to hurt her again, because I’m going to convince her to get out this town. She can raise Starr in a whole new place and finally get some stability.’
‘Starr’s a Brady, Frankie. Mum will be crushed if she never gets to be with her.’ Roman said.
‘How convenient, given what she thought about her mother.’
‘Frankie, you really need to get past this; we’re sorry alright?’ Julie had pleaded.
Frankie’s face was scornful as he stared her down before turning back to Roman. ‘You know what’s funny, Roman? The whole time Carly told me everything, she actually made excuses for you all. She felt you were all still mad at her for leaving town with Alamain. She said Justin told her she deserved whatever Larry did to her. Is that what you all thought?’ he hurled at Maggie and Julie.
‘No!’ Maggie exclaimed, appalled.
‘Did you ask her? Did anyone of you care enough to ask her what happened to her all those years? I’ll tell you- after Lawrence took advantage of her amnesia and finally lured her back... he beat her, he raped her, threatening to kill me if she dared call me for help! She had to keep me away by pretending she didn't want to see me! He wrenched Melanie out of her arms and took her away. Did you ask her all this? No! You lot just believed she was out to get Bo away from Hope! You believed she gladly gave her daughter away... don’t you touch me!’ he pulled his arm away from Julie’s touch, his eyes glinting with anger.
Melanie had been with Carly so she wasn't present but Molly was and had nothing to add, except a look of reproach.
‘I can imagine he is.’ Hope said after recovering from what she just heard. ‘What did he say about Bo and me?’
‘Honey... what does it matter?’
‘What did he say?’ Hope’s tone was harsh.
Maggie and Julie looked more uncomfortable. ‘He said you and Bo caused Carly a lot of pain and if Bo tries to seek custody of Starr when he comes back, he’ll make a lot of trouble for him.’ Maggie said quietly. ‘I have a feeling Carly made Frankie Starr’s legal guardian in case anything happened to her.’
Hope said nothing. You and Bo caused Carly a lot of pain. Frankie’s anger was more than justified. And of course Carly wouldn’t want her daughter to be raised by her and Bo.
‘Hope, please...’ Julie said, seeing the broody look on her half sister’s face. ‘Don’t be hard on yourself.’
Hope raised her head. ‘What are you trying to say, that I have no reason to feel guilty?’
‘No more pretence, Julie; enough. The three of us know the real truth. I treated Bo very badly but he forgave me and Carly was the one who really got hurt. And I was jealous of her because I finally realised what you all refused to tell me, what we wouldn’t admit... that he would’ve stayed with her when I came back. Carly was the one who really replaced me, not Billie and obviously the hurt of losing her to Alamain was too much that Bo couldn’t even talk about her. He never talked about her; none of you did. Yes, we caused her a lot of pain for something that wasn't her fault but mine. I doubt Bo would’ve gotten involved with her if things were fine between us when she came back. And it was Melanie she came to find in the first place, not him.’ Hope shrugged. ‘But then again... we’ll never know, will we?’
‘Well... we just hope that Carly will make it.’ Maggie said at last. ‘and as for Frankie, in time...’
‘He has the right to be angry, I would if it was my sister who went through what Carly did.’ Hope interrupted. ‘But... I don’t want Carly to deprive Bo of Starr either.’
‘I’m sure she won’t; Carly’s not vindictive.’ Maggie assured. ‘and since she helped raise Shawn D, I’m sure she wouldn’t object to you being around Starr. She’s Shawn D and Ciara’s sister after all.’
‘Well, Starr will probably be more around Bo and Ciara and the rest of the family than me.’ Hope faced Julie and Maggie squarely. ‘I’ve found someone else. And I’m falling in love with him.’
Abby rubbed Nicholas’ shoulder consolingly as they sat on Carly’s couch and he quietly talked about his relationship with Carly from the time he was told she was his mother; how at first he wanted nothing to do with her and then did his best to ruin her relationship with Bo and Shawn D. And how he wasn't there for her when Lawrence continuously abused her.
‘You are not like your father. I don’t believe for a minute you would ever hurt anyone.’
‘But I hurt my mother so much.’
‘Mel’s gone through this guilt trip already and she’s managed to forgive herself. Now you have to as well. Carly forgave you both a long time ago, didn't she? You two and Starr are very important to her. You made your mistakes but it wasn't you who abused her. Please Nicky, don’t beat yourself up like this.’ Abby pleaded, hating the miserable look on his face.
Nicholas nodded, dabbing at the corner of his eye. ‘I was so afraid she was going to die today.’
‘She’s going to make it, believe that.’
Nicholas nodded again, looking at Abby. ‘You’re a good friend.’ He smiled faintly. ‘And no one’s called me Nicky for a long time.’
‘No, that’s okay; I don’t mind.’ He was suddenly aware of Abby Deveraux. She was a pretty girl, beautiful actually; her upturned face looking at him with compassion and warmth, a hint of shyness in her eyes. Unexpectedly his heart began to race and giving in to impulse, he leaned forward and kissed her on the mouth. Abby’s arms went round him and she kissed him back so eagerly that he pulled her in his arms and kissed her again and again with mounting passion; desire for her running through his body. Eventually they pulled apart, stunned as they stared at each other.
‘What just happened?’ Nicholas asked, trying to catch his breath.
Abby touched his sensual, trembling mouth; her heart beating fast. He’s finally noticed me... finally. ‘I...’ she stopped, not sure of what to say.
‘We’ve just met.’
‘I know, it’s crazy.’
‘But...’ Nicholas touched her warm cheek, his hand moving up to stroke her hair. ‘It’s almost .... like I’ve been searching for you my whole life. I feel so connected to you.’
Abby smiled. ‘I’ve felt the same about you since Carly introduced us. I was so sure you would never notice me.’
Nicholas kissed her again. ‘Silly girl.’
‘You’re one of the world’s eligible bachelors. You could have your pick of any society or royal chick.’
‘Spoilt debutantes.’ Nicholas said, a touch of arrogance in his voice as he put his arm round Abby, pulling her closer. ‘none of them are you.’
‘That’s so sweet,’ Abby whispered.
‘Now that we’ve found each other,’ Nicholas went on, tracing an eyebrow with his finger, ‘we’re going to take it one step at a time.’
‘I saw the look in his eyes; I didn’t even have to say out loud things have changed. They reconciled on the run just like I knew they would and why wouldn’t they? They have 25 years and three kids together; she’s his true soul mate. How could he expect me to still go home with him when it was more than obvious what’s happened? He said he loved me but it wasn't the same as the woman he’s been with for so long; no matter what she did to him. And it wasn't like she was in her right mind at the time anyway. How could he abandon her now?
It took all my courage to touch that beloved face one last time, assuring him I’ll be alright. I thanked him for helping me find Melanie, even though my heart was breaking. Part of me hoped he loved me enough to beg me to stay, but the other part reminded me... he will always belong to Hope. Jennifer was right all along.
As I walked out, I was calm but I couldn’t help thinking... the best decision isn’t always made without involving some amount of pain.
How true that is, Melanie thought sadly, thinking about when she sent Nathan away. The words on the paper were blotched; her mother’s tears as she expressed her pain in her diary. She turned as a knock sounded on the door. ‘Come in,’ she said, wiping her eyes and sat up on her bed as the door opened.
Nicholas poked his head in. ‘Uncle Frankie’s taking us all out to dinner, including Abby. Coming?’
Melanie hesitated then shook her head.
‘Melanie, come on... you have to go out sometime.’
‘I’ll fix something for myself; I really don’t feel like going out. You guys go on... I’ll be fine.’
Nicholas didn't look pleased. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Just go, okay?’
Nicholas shrugged. ‘See you later then.’ He closed the door.
Melanie looked at Carly’s diary still on her lap, imagining Carly’s pain. Then she thought of what she heard from Molly about Carly’s past with Bo. I’ve never seen two people more in love than Bo and your Mum were back then.
If only I could see them back then, Melanie thought. And understand why their story ended in the first place.
Frustrated, she closed the diary and got out of bed. Suddenly she got the feeling someone was in the room with her, the air felt different and she felt a chill down her back. She turned sharply, shrieking in surprise at the woman standing near the door. She shrank back. ‘Who are you? How... how did you get in here?’
‘Don’t be frightened.’ The woman said, smiling serenely at her.
Melanie blinked, but the figure in white was still there. A ghost, God... she was seeing a ghost! She frowned, her mind going back to a framed photograph in Brady’s loft. ‘Wait... I’ve seen you before. You’re Brady’s mum; Isabella.’
‘That’s right. I was almost your aunt. But I’m glad to see that you and my son have a brother and sister bond all the same. I left this world the night Abby came into it.’
‘Oh...’ Melanie forced herself to stop trembling. Isabella Black looked anything but terrifying. ‘What do you want from me?’ she asked timidly.
‘It more like I want to give you, Melanie. Answers. You’ve been reading Carly’s diaries and you’ve learnt more about her from it and from Molly and Roman. But there’s a lot more to learn, for you to understand. Call this Carly’s’ virtual diary.’
As she spoke, the room darkened and Melanie felt she was in an endless void. ‘What’s going on?’ she exclaimed.
‘We’re going to the past; your mother’s past.’
Melanie felt she was in the middle of some weird dream but felt some excitement as well. Carly’s past. What she’d wished for... she was about to see for herself.
The void cleared and Melanie blinked at the sun rays. She looked round in wonder. Where they were looked like an opulent country estate. ‘Where’s this place?’ she asked.
‘Carly and Frankie’s childhood home; where they were born to Henri and Francesca Von Leuschner. Come.’
The house they were approaching was large, almost like a castle. Inside, Melanie’s eyes grew even wider, speechless. Compared to the interior of Victor Kiriakis’ mansion, the whole place screamed old money and aristocracy; marble floors, tasteful antiques and valuable paintings on the walls. This was where her mother and uncle grew up? Carly only mentioned in passing that her parents were well off but she and Frankie didn't get along with them; the reason why they eventually ran away from home.
Isabella led Melanie into a large panelled room which Melanie immediately saw was a study. And a man was talking to a little girl who looked mutinous and tearful. Melanie moved closer to the child. Green eyes... hair lighter but she immediately saw the little girl was Carly. ‘Oh my.’ She said, chuckling. She turned to look at the man. Blue black eyes in a handsome but austere face; Carly and Frankie’s father.
‘You should see this as a real honour, Katerina.’
Katerina? Carly was Katerina back then?
‘I don’t want to marry somebody I don’t know! How can you and mother do this to me?’
‘Leopold and Philomena Alamain have chosen you for their son. And you know what this means; an alliance between the Alamains and the Von Leuschners.’
‘Please Father; I don’t want to marry him!’ Carly’s voice was shrill. ‘I don’t want an arranged marriage... I don’t want to be betrothed!’
‘Silence!’ the man barked and Melanie shook her head, aghast. What was this, the 1800s? How can any father do this to his own daughter? Carly was just a child, from the look of her not yet ten.
‘It’s your duty, Katerina and you will do your duty.’
‘Katerina!’ Melanie turned as a woman entered the study. She had blonde hair worn in an elegant chignon, Carly’s green eyes and pearls round her neck, a perfect foil for the deep blue dress she was wearing.
‘This is... my grandmother?’ she whispered to Isabella even though no one in the room could see, hear or feel them. Isabella nodded.
The woman was beautiful but like her husband, there was no warmth on her face. ‘Don’t you realise what a privilege this is? The Alamains are royalty and as a Von Leuschner...’
‘I will not marry him! Never!’ Sobbing, Carly fled the room, running down the hall. Melanie hurried after her. Carly ran through open French windows into the garden, running to sit under a tree, burying her face in her hands. Melanie felt like crying too as she watched Carly sob. Born in this beautiful, grand old place yet it wasn't much of a home; not with parents like Henri and Francesca. And she’d addressed them as Father and Mother instead of Daddy and Mummy.
A boy ran up to Carly. Frankie... Melanie thought, grinning in spite of herself. Back then Frankie was adorably handsome; white long sleeved shirt, black shorts, white socks and leather oxfords. Carly’s hair spotted a bow, small pearl studs in her ears and her yellow dress had a lace collar; white socks and matching shoes. The formal dressing of children born in privilege; not every day kids who wore jeans, sneakers and colourful t shirts with cartoon characters on them. A totally different world from the Bradys.
Frankie put his arms round his sister, trying to console her.
‘François, what am I going to do?’
François. Melanie was no longer surprised. Katerina and François obviously changed their names after they ran away from home. Max told her years ago he met Frankie while on the run from Trent and both boys were taken in by the Bradys. But what about Carly?
‘Don’t cry Katerina.’ little Frankie pleaded.
‘Father and Mother don’t care about us. They just want us to marry money! I’m only eight and they’ve chosen a husband for me already. How can they do this?’
‘It’s going to be okay. Please stop crying, Katerina. I’m here.’ Frankie held on to her, both children making a sweet picture.
Melanie turned to Isabella, tears in her eyes. ‘How could they do it to her? She was just a kid, a child.’
‘It was the way of aristocratic families, Mel. To Carly’s parents, marriage was a duty, a business venture. And Carly and Frankie were more of Henri and Francesca’s assets than their children.’
‘Obviously. Poor Mum and Uncle Frank! No wonder they ran away.’
‘We’ve seen enough now.’ As she spoke their surroundings melted back into a dark void.