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Sunday, May 05, 2013

CARBO FAN FICTION- Return Journey Chapter 17

Chapter 17
As Chelsea was now in the bridal party; Billie decided to extend their visit but knowing very well that her grandmother Kate would have nothing but negative things to say about Daniel and Darcy; Chelsea opted to stay at Carly’s house- wanting to spend more time with her sisters and her baby brother.

 Carly was surprised when Chelsea asked her but didn't mind the least; she too wanted to get to know Chelsea better. In the meantime, Darcy’s wedding dress was almost ready and she’d made a few changes. To Ciara’s amazement and disappointment, Darcy informed her that she wouldn't be the flower girl after all; ‘Why not?’ the girl demanded, petulantly.
‘Because you’re 9; that’s a bit old to be a flower girl, môn petite.’ Darcy explained. ‘But that doesn't mean you won’t be in the wedding. Instead of flower girl, you will be my youngest bridesmaid and wear a more grownup dress.’
Ciara’s face lost the sulky look and her eyes widened. ‘Really?’ she gasped.
‘Yes. You will look lovely in it, especially with your lovely hair up. Sydney will be flower girl instead.’
‘Yay!’ Ciara hugged her tightly, feeling much better. Chelsea smiled at her indulgently. ‘Run along, squirt. Darcy and I have loads to discuss.’ Wrinkling her nose at being called “squirt”, Ciara obediently left the room and went upstairs. ‘So fill me in; Melanie’s the maid of honour- then there’s me, Lynn and Ciara. Who’s the ring bearer?’
‘Cousin Sami’s little boy, Johnny. And Daniel chose Nathan to be his best man. The  reception will take place at grandpa’s.’
‘Huh? Whose idea was that?’
‘His, he practically begged Maman to let him host the wedding; we almost said no but he was so insistent that we finally gave in. Daniel doesn't have any objections.’
Chelsea shrugged, tucking her legs under her. ‘I heard Grandpa was so awful to your Mum initially; when you guys came to Salem.’
‘An understatement,’ Darcy grimaced. ‘He was so filled with that ancient resentment towards her for spurning him; he couldn't stomach seeing her and Papa together after so many years, he was so open about it.’
‘What changed his mind?’
‘I’ve asked that question many times, Chelsea!’ Darcy threw up her hands. ‘He suddenly became kinder to Maman after I got injured and things got better between them after that. I was suspicious for a long time until Maman said that they had a long talk and he apologised to her.’
‘Grandpa would sooner let himself be buried in quicksand than apologise to anyone. I don’t believe it.’ Chelsea found it very hard to picture Victor Kiriakis humbling himself like that.
‘Well, he did. Whatever his reasons; he gets along with Maman these days and that’s enough for me.’ Darcy pushed back strands of hair from her forehead. ‘Now all that remains is Grandma.’
‘I can’t believe she didn’t come to Byron’s baptism. She and Aunt Kayla are really carrying things too far. That means they won’t come to the wedding.’
Darcy shrugged, her brown eyes cold. ‘It’s of total insignificance to me if they don’t come.’ She replied, her French accent a bit thicker than usual. ‘They didn’t come to the baptism, not only because of their enmity towards my mother but out of loyalty towards that evil woman. Besides, anybody who regards Maman as their enemy is my enemy as well. I’m not going to beg them to come for my sake; neither is Papa. He’s fed up with their behaviour as much as I am.’
Chelsea shook her head, at the back of her mind hoping that Caroline and the few others would end the stupidity they were currently displaying before it was too late.
Carly applied a bit of blush-on to her cheeks. She was surprised at how different she looked since Byron’s birth; the paleness and worry lines on her face have simply disappeared. Now she looked younger; almost like how she’d looked over twenty years ago. The lines and sickly complexion were probably caused by the sadness, anxiety and worry she’d suffered the whole time she was pregnant; now she looked and felt rejuvenated. She suddenly remembered that Ciara was standing beside her chair, watching her. Amused by her scrutiny, Carly playfully dabbed the child’s nose and cheek with her brush; making her giggle.
‘You look very pretty, Carly.’
‘Thank you, sweetie.’ Carly kissed her on the forehead before reaching for the bottle of Chanel. For her date with Bo, she’d chosen a simple but expensive black Givenchy dress.  After regaining access to her inheritance (which had increased in interest over the years) after Lawrence’s death, Carly had spent a lot of money on clothes, jewellery, shoes and accessories for Darcy and herself. Of course she’d sent whatever she could to the convent for Darcy’s clothes, education and upkeep but Darcy’s wardrobe had consisted of very plain dresses and blouses on examination when she’d come for her. So before their return to Salem, they’d toured Paris for two weeks; staying in a rented apartment and hitting the couture houses with full force; Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Valentino and Prada. While Carly had found the shopping spree a huge form of liberation after the years of misery with Lawrence, it had been a whole new and exciting experience for Darcy. The salespeople had more than enjoyed helping them out and as Darcy was an artist with the inborn ability of colour combination and style; she was able to select what suited her best.
Ciara watched Carly as she sprayed on some perfume. ‘Are you going out with Daddy tonight?’ she asked.
Carly nodded. ‘We’re having dinner at a restaurant.’ She replied, placing the bottle back on the dressing table. ‘But don't wait up; I’ll probably be home late.’
Ciara shifted from one foot to the other. ‘Are you going to marry Daddy someday?’
Carly assumed a neutral expression as she fastened a strand of pearls round her neck. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘Well, you aren’t mad at him anymore and Byron needs a Mum and Dad. I mean, you can’t be Daddy’s girlfriend forever, can you?’
Carly chuckled, before turning to cup Ciara’s chin. ‘I don't know about that, sweetie. Your Dad and I... well, we’re just friends. We haven’t talked about marriage.’
‘But you will talk about it sooner or later?’ Ciara persisted. All the things she’d found difficult to understand were now clear to her. Her father loved Carly very much and so did Shawn Douglas; he’d told her the amazing story of Carly climbing down a deep, dark oil shaft to rescue him and how she’d saved their father from a serious illness. Ciara had also noticed how her father behaved round Carly; a look of tenderness and yearning on his face that she hadn't seen before. That made the girl realise that Carly was the key to his happiness; and to hers. She too had grown to love her- for her kindness and gentle manner and the way she’d allowed her into her home unconditionally.
‘I don't know, Ciara.’ Carly replied softly. ‘It’s really complicated. Besides, your mum...’
‘I know what she did; to Daddy and to you.’ Ciara’s voice was now cold. No one would tell her anything so she had eavesdropped on Doug and Julie’s discussion during her stay with them.
‘How on earth did you...’ Carly began, shocked.  
‘It doesn't matter!’’ Ciara spat. ‘I just don't ever want to think about her again!’
Carly slipped her arms round Ciara, pulling her close to her. ‘Ciara, Hope is still your Mummy and I’m sure where she is now, she misses you very much.’
Ciara’s face didn't soften. ‘When she tried to kill Daddy, was it because she loved him?’
‘I don't want to talk about her, anymore.’ Ciara said firmly. ‘I want you to marry my Daddy, Carly. I know he’ll be happier with you and we’ll be a family with Byron.’ She suddenly hugged Carly. ‘I want that, Carly; I really do.’ she whispered.
‘Oh honey... I wish I could give you a sure enough guarantee about that. But your father and I haven’t really talked about that yet. And I don't want you to keep worrying about it, okay?’ she pulled back, caressing the child’s cheek. ‘And remember this, I love you very much and you’re Darcy and Byron’s sister; which makes you a huge part of my family already.’ She hugged Ciara tightly, kissing her on the forehead.
Ciara nestled against the woman she’d come to love; turning her head to kiss her on the cheek. ‘I love you too, Carly.’
Carly was standing on the lit porch with the girls when Bo pulled up in front of the house, Ciara holding her hand. As he walked up the path, Bo decided that he had never seen his princess look more beautiful than she did tonight. Her hair pulled back in an elegant chignon drew more attention to her face and green eyes, which- to his joy- were warm and lively for once instead of the sad, impassive look they’ve worn for months. Smiling, he handed her a rose. ‘You look great, absolutely beautiful.’ He said.  
‘You don't look bad yourself, Dad.’ Chelsea’s eyes skimmed over his dark blue suit.
‘Why, thanks sweetie.’ Bo kissed Chelsea’s cheek.
‘Ciara, don't stay past your bedtime; Darcy, Chelsea... please keep an eye on Byron...’
Maman, concentrate on having a wonderful evening instead of worrying about the baby; of course we’ll look after him.’ Darcy kissed her on both cheeks and did the same to Bo. ‘Go on, now.’
‘Bye Daddy, bye Carly.’ Ciara said, smiling as Bo took Carly’s arm and led her to the car.
‘Where are we going?’ Carly asked as Bo opened the door for her.
Bo smiled, his eyes dancing mysteriously. ‘You’ll see. Or not.’
Carly narrowed her eyes suspiciously. ‘What do you, don't you dare!’ she warned as he pulled out a blindfold from his pocket.
‘Good evening, Mr. Brady.’ the deep voice addressing Bo had a hint of amusement, no doubt at the sight of Carly blindfolded. ‘Good evening, Dr. Manning.’
Carly’s rosebud mouth tightened for a second but she replied, ‘Good evening.’
‘Is everything ready?’ Bo asked.
‘Everything you requested for has been attended to, sir. This way, please.’
Carly held on to Bo’s hand tightly as he led her to lord knows where. ‘Where are we?’ she asked for the third time. She figured they were in a restaurant judging from the sound of voices and soft music but Bo seemed to be leading her elsewhere.
‘Patience, princess, patience.’ Bo kissed the hand he was holding.
Finally, they came to a stop. ‘I’ll take it from here, thanks.’ Carly heard Bo say.
‘Have a pleasant evening.’
‘Can you take this off me now?’ Carly asked.
‘One second.’ Bo slid open the double doors and led Carly into the room. ‘Careful, steps. Okay, I’m taking the blindfold off now.’
Carly blinked, rubbing her eyes then stared round at the room they were in. ‘Oh, my God...’ she whispered.  It was the private dining room of The Wings; the venue of their first official date over twenty years ago. The walls were now royal blue but the arrangement was the same, including the candles burning on the candelabras; champagne in an ice bucket, their dinner elegantly laid. ‘I... I don't believe this.’
Bo watched her anxiously. He’d gone through all the trouble of having a wonderful memory re-enacted, feeling sure Carly would love it. ‘You don't like it?’
‘Oh, I like it... I love it. It’s exactly like what I stepped into years ago.’ Carly stared round, before turning to him. ‘I came in...’
‘You were wearing that fabulous evening gown,’ Bo added, smiling broadly.
‘And you stood in the middle of the room, waiting for me. You didn't scrub up too badly yourself.’ Carly replied, smiling back. She hesitated, longing to go over and kiss him but held herself back at the reminder that they were not really back together. Instead she cleared her throat. ‘Well... are we having dinner now?’
‘Wait...’ he took her hand and kicked the rolled carpet at their feet, making her laugh. ‘The princess must walk always walk on the red carpet, remember?’
‘You thought of everything.’ Carly’s shoes sank into the plush red carpet and Bo led her to the table, pulling out a chair for her. ‘Comfortable?’
She nodded, watching him as he walked over to the ice bucket and opened the bottle of champagne; filling two glasses. How handsome he looks tonight; she thought, so sharp and dapper in the suit he was wearing... so yum. He looked great in anything he wore but she found herself missing the jeans, sneakers and leather jacket he’d preferred back in the day; he only wore suits and dinner jackets on formal occasions. Despite the few grey hairs, he still looked younger than his age and obviously kept himself in shape all the time.
Bo saw Carly was looking at him; rather closely. He was glad she wasn’t uncomfortable being around him in this familiar setting but the intensity in her eyes was giving him some thoughts already; that old, familiar, hot effect only those emerald-green eyes could evoke. Steady on Brady; he told himself sternly. You can’t afford to scare her away and ruin the whole evening!
Aside from the brand of champagne, Bo had given orders on what was to be served for dinner. Bo watched Carly’s eyebrows rose when she saw what the main course was. ‘Roast squab?’ she said.
‘Remember when I brought you Chinese food for lunch years ago; and you said you imagined champagne and roast squab...’
‘I loved what you brought me. Besides, you didn’t know what a squab was.’ Carly retorted, picking up her fork.
‘Hey, I’ve moved up the culinary ladder!’ Bo fired back.
‘Yeah right, I saw the look on your face when you read the menu at that French restaurant you took me to; you still can’t pronounce Canard à l' Orange.
Bo gave her a mock glare. ‘Okay, so I couldn’t read anything on the menu but I wanted to give you a very special night.’
‘I know and it was really  sweet of you...’ Carly dug into the food, not looking at him. ‘And the place was charming like I told you that evening but we’ve always been the type to keep things simple.’
‘That’s true; except on a few occasions.’ Bo took her free hand, rubbing the back of it with his thumb. ‘Remember that time years ago, when I surprised you with a full continental breakfast at my office?’
Carly blushed red at the memory; it was during the time he ran the private investigation agency with Isabella. He’d dragged her inside and locked the door behind them and she was treated to the sight of his surprise on the white table-clothed table. They’d fed each other and then he’d made love to her on the floor afterwards... several times. ‘Yeah, that was a memorable day.’ She murmured.
Bo smiled, pleased that he could still make her blush. The plan was going very well.
Then came desert; which was another surprise for Carly but she couldn’t help but smile. ‘You did say that we liked keeping it simple.’ Bo reminded her.
Carly picked up the pink Sno Ball from her plate, very much amused. ‘This is as simple as it comes but I’m not complaining.’ She took a bite. ‘I still love this.’
‘So do I,’ Bo took a bite out of his. ‘There was a time I always had one of these with me, whenever I was taking a trip.’ He looked at Carly meaningfully. When she didn’t answer, he went on softly, ‘We were at that freezing cold cabin; it was your birthday. I wanted to make sure you had a birthday cake to celebrate the occasion. It even had a candle, as I recall.’
‘A lit matchstick, actually,’ Carly’s voice was quiet. ‘And you asked me to make a wish.’
Bo watched her. ‘That was the day we fell in love. Actually... when we realised we loved each other.’
Carly nodded. Putting the cake down, she got up from her chair abruptly. Bo sprang up, hurrying to her and turned her round to face him.
‘Carly, I didn’t mean to upset you!’ Bo begged, alarmed at the tears running down her cheeks.
‘No, no... You didn’t upset me, you didn’t! Carly assured him, accepting his hanky to dab her eyes. ‘But just remembering that wonderful day...I just couldn’t help myself, I’m so sorry.’
‘You don’t have to apologise for anything, princess.’ Bo said, caressing her face; very much relieved. Going back memory lane was a huge risk, he knew; but it was a way of showing Carly that their past was as significant and priceless to him like it was to her. He didn't want her to feel like a poor second to Hope ever again; wanting her to let go of her fear and be with him again.  ‘Come on... let’s enjoy the rest of our evening; focus on the present for now, okay?’ he urged. ‘Let’s see that smile first.’
She obliged; a faint one but at least she didn’t look sad anymore. ‘What now?’
On their first date, in this very room; they’d danced afterwards, followed by some heavy making out but Bo wasn’t going to push his luck that far, at least not tonight. Instead, he left Carly for a minute to put on some music. Carly said nothing, but took his proffered hand and they slowly danced under the brightly lit chandelier.
‘Good night, Father Matt; thanks so much.’ Daniel hung up. Everything was completely in order and he was more relieved for Darcy’s sake than his own. He was a divorced man about to remarry and if the divorce had been his fault, he wouldn’t be able to have another wedding at the church. Not that he would have cared that much but he couldn’t bear for his darling Darcy- who was a committed Catholic- to be denied being married by a priest. But Father Matt knew the ugly facts of Chloe’s infidelity after the debacle during Parker’s christening and he was accommodating and understanding; doing a lot of work to make sure that there was nothing preventing the ceremony from being carried out at St. Benedict’s. The wedding was a month away; he’d already made reservations at the hotel in Tahiti. He smiled to himself; anticipating the wedding, the honeymoon and then the rest of their lives together; with their children of course. He got up to take a shower; his fourth for the day. After their return from New York, he and Darcy made a pact not to make love until their wedding night and two whole months of abstinence was driving him insane. As he allowed the cold water pelt over him and trying not to picture his fiancée’s willowy body; the phone rang again.  Wrapping a towel round himself, he hurried back to the bedroom and picked it up. ‘Hello?’ he asked, hoping it was Darcy.
A pause, then a hesitant voice at the other end spoke. ‘Hello, Daniel. It’s me.’
Daniel stiffened. Why was Chloe calling him? Since she left Salem, he hadn't heard a word from her; and he never cared to find out how she was doing. But since his life was back on track; he could afford to be civil to her. ‘Hello, Chloe. How have you been? And how’s Parker?’
‘Oh, Parker’s growing like a weed; he’s started walking.’
‘That’s nice.’ Daniel felt a brief flash of regret. After all, before all was accidently revealed, Parker was his son. The innocent boy was not to blame of course, but he couldn't live with Chloe’s betrayal. ‘So... why are you calling me?’ he asked abruptly.
‘I was thinking of coming over with Parker; to see you. I miss you, Daniel. I want us to talk things over properly.’
Silence. ‘I... I thought...’ Chloe paused then went on, ‘I thought, after all this time apart; you’d somehow managed to forgive me. Phillip and I aren’t together, Daniel; we just share a son.’
‘What are you trying to say to me?’
‘I still love you, very much. And I’m so sorry for what I did... not a day goes by that I don't regret losing you!’  Daniel heard the sound of her sobbing. ‘God... I wasn't planning on saying this over the phone. But, will you forgive me... and let’s revive what we once had?’
‘We had a great love.’ Daniel said quietly. ‘I loved you, as deeply possible for a man to love a woman. But you didn't trust my love; that’s what hurt far more than when you slept with Phillip. You chose to believe that I was having an affair with Carly; you hated her for no reason.’  
‘I was wrong, I see that now. It was Vivian Alamain’s fault; I should never have listened to her.’ Chloe replied. ‘Let me come over and make it up to you, please. You were Parker’s father before he became Philip’s.... blood doesn't matter.’
‘This isn't the case of forgiving you anymore, Chloe. I accepted what happened and I’ve moved on. I’m in love with someone else now, very much in love and we’re getting married. I’ll never give her up, for anything or anyone.’
 ‘You are?’  Chloe asked, her voice now trembling.
‘Yes, I am. She makes me very happy and I can’t imagine my life without her.’
 ‘Who is it? Jennifer Devereaux? Or... Carly?’
 ‘No, it’s Darcy.’
 ‘Darcy Manning...Carly’s  daughter?’ Chloe exclaimed. ‘Her?
‘Yeah, we love each other and you will not say anything about her to me.’ Daniel’s voice held a hint of warning. ‘She’s the centre of my world and that’s never going to change.’
 ‘But Daniel...’
‘It’s over between us, Chloe. I made that very clear before you left town. I’m about to start a whole new life with Darcy and there’s no place in it for you.’
Long pause and a sigh. ‘I guess there’s nothing left to say. Congratulations on your engagement... I’ll never bother you in any way. Goodbye, Daniel.’ The sound of sniffling before the line went dead.
Daniel replaced the receiver; completely unmoved. When he divorced Chloe, a door was shut tight. When he’d fallen in love with Darcy, another door had opened and he’d embraced his future wholeheartedly. His past with Chloe was way behind him and he was never looking back.
Bo and Carly stood on the hill overlooking the brightly lit town of Salem. Years back, they’d driven up here in Lawrence’s commandeered limo to enjoy the breathtaking sight and each other’s company after their estrangement over the Lisanne Gardner fiasco. And just like that night, Bo placed his jacket around Carly’s shoulders; despite her protests.
‘It’s still beautiful from up here; actually more beautiful.’ Carly said softly. ‘The only thing that hasn’t changed about Salem; its view from up here.’
‘You’re far more beautiful than the view, princess.’ Bo caressed her loosened hair from behind. He’d sensed uncertainty running through Carly’s mind during their dance, even though she’d done her best to be more relaxed around him. But at least she was no longer exhibiting coldness or repulsion; just doubt and something else.
‘I don’t know about that,’ Carly shrugged. ‘The view’s best at night but sometimes before I got heavy; I would come up here to gather my thoughts; a form of therapy.’
Bo sighed, smarting under the acute sting of guilt. ‘There was no day that I never thought of you, Carly; I’ve told you that already.’
‘I didn't say that to make you feel guilty...’
‘The guilt’s never left me.’ Bo said truthfully. The morning after, after he and Hope made love for the first time since their reconciliation, Carly’s image had loomed in his mind and he’d forcibly pushed it away; not wanting to face his guilt. ‘Especially after that first run-in we had at the hospital.’
‘So that’s it? Guilt? That’s what made you keep coming back to check up on me?’ Carly asked flatly, turning round to face him.  
‘I thought that was all it was, at first. Like I told you before; I realised it was because I was missing you... that I still loved you. I love you mostly because, you’re still you; the Carly I fell in love with a long time ago. Knowing that, I had to let you know how I felt.’ Carly turned her back on him, not speaking but in the moonlight he saw her shoulders trembling. ‘Princess, are you afraid of me?’
‘The whole time we were together, last year and back in the day, I was always afraid for you; never afraid of you.’ Carly replied quietly. ‘But now... I’m so afraid of what to expect from you.’
‘You still don't trust me, is that it?’
 ‘I don't know,’ her voice shook. Carly turned to him, her face the picture of utter misery in the moonlight. ‘I always saw you as my protector, my soul mate; the only man in the world who would never betray me. But you did, Bo! I couldn't stay with a man who couldn't let go of the past; that’s why I ended it. I knew it was only a matter of time before you ended it yourself. And when you renewed your marriage vows, I no longer existed. I know all about heartache and betrayal but I never, ever imagined I would experience it from you! So don’t you talk to me about how you feel; ponder on how I felt the whole time you were glad to have Hope back in your arms! When you were kissing her at the same place where you kissed me, our special place where you told me you loved me again... I heard what you said to her. The way you two reconciled so fast told me it was what you’d wanted it the whole time... you were thinking of her the whole time! Tell me... why on earth should I trust you after the way you treated me?’
Bo walked up to her but she pushed his arms away when he tried to hug her.  ‘Don't touch me!’ she shouted angrily, tears falling down her cheeks again.
But Bo kept his arms round her anyway and held her tightly, his grip far stronger than her frantic struggling.
 ‘Let me go...’
‘No!’ Bo said roughly, pressing his cheek against hers. ‘Don't ask me to do that, princess! I can’t let you go again, never! If I could turn back the time; I would, believe me I would!’  He stroked her hair and held her more tightly as she cried. ‘I’m so sorry, princess...’ he whispered shutting him own damp eyes. 'It broke my own heart watching you walk out that door that day; knowing how much you were suffering inside. Yes, I tried to forget you; but not for the reason you think. I didn’t want to face up to what I thought was my guilt.’ He brushed a hand over his eyes, keeping a firm grip on her with the other. ‘Hope and I reconnected because it felt like old times working together... bringing down that bitch Lee. And then the old feelings... no, hear me out!’ he tightened his grip when she began struggling again. ‘We had a lot of years together Carly; you’ve got to understand that. We’ve been apart and then back again and everything would go back to normal. But this time it was different. My life changed the day I saw you on the pier all those years ago. And when you came back with Darcy; I knew you were still under my skin and stupidly I denied it to myself at first. All those months after we broke up you stayed in my heart and in my mind and then I saw it wasn’t guilt; it was the love I had for you, the love that never really went away all those years!’
Bo pushed back the hair from her face. They were both crying now.
‘The last time we stood here... I told you, promised you, that our love story was never going to end. And I don’t want ever it to end; I love you Carly, I want you.’ Bo’s voice shook. ‘For the sake of the love we shared back then, for the sake of the love I know you’ve still got in your heart... you have to forgive me. Please, you just have to forgive me- my life’s nothing without you, princess!’
Carly shut her eyes, pressing her face against his. ‘Bo...’ she whispered, stroking his neck; longing to give in and finally let go of her fear. If only it was that easy to overcome her lingering doubts as they’d dealt with their problems in the past. But this wasn’t 1991.
Bo held her against his chest, his hands on her hair; down her back, willing for Carly to believe everything he’d just told her. If that didn’t convince her, hell... he would fight even further until she was his again. He was not prepared to lose her yet again.
Finally Carly spoke quietly, ‘Bo, there are no guarantees in life. I thought we would raise Shawn D and Nicky and grow old together but we ended up going our separate ways. When you said you wanted a second chance with me; I embraced it because I thought we would get part of what we lost. I gave you up when you went back to her...’
‘I’m yours, Carly... no one else’s.’ Bo whispered, kissing her lightly the lips. ‘Please believe me.’ He kissed her again, probing into her sweet mouth hungrily. But all too soon, Carly pulled away, ending the kiss. ‘It’s late. We should head back.’ She muttered, not looking at him.
Bo didn’t argue. Taking her hand, he led Carly down the hill towards the car. When he walked her to her door, he hugged her briefly and left; resolving not to give up. There was still Plan B.

Darcy’s princess-style wedding dress was an updated and, to Carly, a far more beautiful and stylish version of the dress she wore on her first wedding. It had a low cut neckline, embroidered lace-lined sleeves, narrow to the elbows but very wide bells downwards and the hem of the full skirt was trimmed with the same exquisitely embroidered lace, so was the bodice. Melanie, Lynn, Chelsea and Ciara were enamoured with the dress; exclaiming over the sheer beauty of it when Darcy tried it on for all of them to see. ‘You must have spent a fortune, Carly; it’s breathtaking!’ Sami exclaimed. ‘Darcy honey, you look gorgeous.’
‘Thank you.’ Darcy smiled, looking at herself in the mirror. ‘I really want to look beautiful for Daniel on our wedding day.’
Melanie hugged her friend from behind. ‘With the way you are; trying to look more beautiful than the bride that day would be a mission impossible.’
Everyone in the room laughed. ‘Well, you girls are going to look great in your dresses too.’ Carly commented, equally impressed with the floor length cream, organza dresses trimmed with lace of the same colour. Ciara was especially proud of hers; she truly felt very grownup but also thought that her sister looked enchantingly fairy-like in her wedding dress. She was going to miss living with her but she would still be with Carly and Baby Byron. And so far, Carly hasn’t said anything about the living arrangements after Darcy moved out but neither has her father who still came to visit her and take her for the weekends. But Ciara was determined to beg and plead with him about it the moment he raised the matter. Suddenly, all heads turned to the direction of the baby monitor on Darcy’s dressing table as the sound of Byron waking from his nap came through the speaker. ‘Hang on sweetheart; Mummy’s coming.’ Carly left the room, followed by Sami. ‘Need a hand?’ she asked.
‘No, it’s okay; he’s not wet. Just enormously hungry, aren’t you?’ Settling down on the rocking chair, Carly unbuttoned her blouse and undid her bra. Byron immediately stopped crying and began suckling eagerly. ‘Greedy little monster.’ Carly murmured, positioning his little head properly. Sami smiled indulgently.  ‘How are things between you and Uncle Bo right now?’ she asked.
‘Sounds like most people want to know that.’ Carly remarked, rocking in her chair.
Sami shrugged. ‘Well, it’s pretty obviously what his feelings are, but it kinda difficult with you. Anyone could read you like a book before but now... it’s like you’re hiding behind a huge steel wall you’ve built. Not that I don't understand,’ she added hastily, ‘but you do love Uncle Bo, right?’
‘I can never love any other man like I love your uncle.’ Carly replied. ‘It’s just sort of difficult for me to imagine being with him again.’
‘Speaking from experience, having a baby together doesn't guarantee a couple’s happiness but you guys love each other so much. Is it really that hard, Carly?’
Carly nodded, her eyes now sad. ‘I wish it wasn't, though. Especially when I think about how happy we were before.’
‘Well, there you go... think about that!’ Sami urged. ‘And all those times you guys got through all that crap, because of that love and connection you’ve got going on between you. Don't make the mistake Hope made. She took advantage of Uncle Bo’s love and he ended up always making excuses for her, while she made him miserable; there just some things she wouldn't let go of! Don't do the same thing, Carly. You’re bigger than that.’
‘But what about your grandmother, your aunt... the Hortons?’
‘What about them?’
‘Caroline’s not coming to the wedding; that’s the extent of how much she hates me!’ Carly said, her eyes now filled with pain. ‘Kayla won’t come either; or Maggie. How can Bo and I ever be happy with the family divided like this?’
‘Oh, come on; Carly!’ Sami said impatiently. ‘Are you kidding me? Suppose you and Uncle Bo had met in Alamania when you were 17; would your parents’ feelings have stopped you from seeing him?’
‘No.’ Carly suddenly felt small.
‘Then don't let their stupid prejudice or anything else stop you from being with the man you love; the man you obviously miss so much.’ Sami gripped her arm, her expression earnest. ‘Don't keep holding back; or you’ll find yourself too late and end up alone.’
Again with the advice!  Carly thought ruefully but she smiled at Sami. ‘Thanks for caring so much, Sami.’
‘No problem, and don't worry about grandma. The rest of us are going to be there; front and centre. Maybe at the last minute; she and Aunt Kayla will change their minds. Darcy’s not letting it bother her so neither should you.’
‘I can’t understand how you can be so stubborn! This is your granddaughter’s wedding and you say you’re not going; how can you do this to Darcy?’ Roman raged.
‘I refused to discuss it with your brother and Victor, so I’m not going to discuss it with you.’ Tight lipped, Caroline Brady went on with her chores. ‘Carly changed everything the minute she stepped back into Salem and I’m not prepared to forgive her for that, ever.’
‘She’s the mother of two of your grandchildren! You haven’t even been to see Byron since he was born and what the hell did Carly do that’s so terrible to you? She and Bo fell in love again... so what? How is that a crime?’
‘The sort of love that springs up at the expense of other people’s happiness is never right.’ Caroline spat.
Roman couldn’t believe what he was hearing, from Caroline of all people. ‘This is coming from you; after what you did with Victor all those years ago? Did you think about Pop’s feelings back then?’
‘I’m not discussing this further with you, Roman! Do what you like, think what you like but I’m not going to that wedding, period!’ Caroline refused to think of Darcy, whom she loved very much and Baby Byron, who she yearned to see and hold in her arms. But stubborn pride and anger towards Carly prevented her from accepting Bo’s ultimatum. She just couldn’t do it, neither could Kayla and Maggie.
‘Fine.’ Roman said, filled with acute disgust and disappointment. ‘Stay away, hate Carly for the rest of your life. But just know that the real person you’re hurting is yourself, Mum. And let’s hope Darcy will find it in her heart to forgive you when you realise your big mistake.
Roman stormed out of the Pub; not noticing the tears in Caroline’s eyes.
Bo executed Plan B a week later. Carly was reluctant to go out with Bo again after the way their date had ended but found herself agreeing. Yet again, he refused to tell her where they were going but she found herself guessing when he pulled up at the marina. Taking her hand, Bo led her to the pier where a boat was waiting for them. ‘We’re going sailing?’ Carly said, unable to hide the excitement in her voice.
‘That’s right. And there’s a picnic basket and two fishing poles waiting for us on board.’
‘You’re being unfair Bo,’ Carly said as he helped her on to the boat, which was called  The Sabrina. Bo had borrowed it from an old friend who was a lawyer as he’d sold The Fancy-Face years ago, to Carly’s sorrow. ‘I haven’t gone fishing in  years.’
‘Oh come on, princess; it’s like riding a bike, you never forget how.’ Bo said briskly. Even if they didn’t catch anything, being alone with her was what he wanted; another attempt at reconnection.
The sea breeze blew Carly’s hair about so she tied it in a loose ponytail; feeling exhilarated as The Sabrina sailed along the calm waters. How she’d missed being on a boat. The Fancy Face had been their home until she’d persuaded Bo to rent Kim and Shane’s house in order to provide a conducive and more familiar  environment for Nicholas. Deep down, Carly had felt more at home on the boat just like Bo did but at the time, she’d wanted to do all she can to made Nicholas feel more comfortable. But it had driven a wedge between her and Bo, causing more and more arguments...
She blinked as Bo snapped his fingers in front of her eyes. ‘Princess, hello?’ Bo looked at her anxiously. ‘What’s wrong?’
Carly shrugged. ‘I was thinking... about the time we moved from the boat, into that house that was way too big for three people. The whole time I was trying to do all I could for Nicholas; I sort of ignored you and Shawn D.’
‘Come on, princess, that’s not true!’ Bo protested. ‘You  loved us all the same way; trying to please everyone just sort of got to you.’
‘But we fought...’ Carly replied quietly. ‘I thought I wasn’t doing enough, you thought I was doing too much and in the end you said I wasn’t thinking about your needs...’
‘I was pigheaded and selfish.’ Bo insisted. ‘And as a father, I was supposed to know better. Nicholas was stolen from you at birth so of course you wanted to make up for the lost years. I guess...’ he sighed, not wanting to tell her what Nicholas had tearfully admitted to him during her funeral; that he’d purposely come between them because he wanted Carly all to himself. ‘I was so used to it being just the three of us; you, me and Shawn Douglas- I wanted us to be that way again. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Nicholas; still do. But...’
‘Lawrence was using him to try and lay claim on me since I was Nicholas’ mother.’ Carly finished for him. ‘I knew you thought that. But I did all I could to prove to you that it wasn’t true. And you know I would never had gone with Lawrence if Vivian hadn’t done what she did...’
‘I know, I know...’ Bo held her in his arms. ‘But don’t let’s talk about that, okay? We’re out here to have fun; not think about sad things. Now come on, let’s catch some fish.’
To their disappointment, the fish refused to be lured by their bait. After an hour and a half, they gave up and Bo went down below to get the basket. ‘This really feels like old times.’ Carly said, as she nibbled on a sandwich; stretched out comfortably on the deck chair besides his. ‘Thanks,’ she said as Bo passed her a cold soda. ‘I almost wish we’d gone out later than this; I would’ve liked to see our...’ she hastily corrected herself, ‘I mean, the north star from here.’
‘Well it so happens, I can arrange that right now.’ Bo put his hand in his pocket and drew out something, holding it between his fingers. ‘Recognise this, princess?’ he asked softly, anticipating her reaction.
Carly stared in amazement and incredulous joy at what Bo was holding. ‘Oh my God, my God...’ she whispered, putting down her drink to take the gold chain from him with trembling fingers. Dangling from the chain was a familiar and much beloved pendant; a gold, star shaped pendant. ‘My North Star...’ she got up, staring down at it. ‘Where on earth... how... how...’ she was unable to speak, unable to believe she was holding a precious piece of their past.
Bo got up, slipping his arms round her waist. ‘I put it away, I simply couldn’t part with it. It was a huge part of you after all.’
‘It never left my neck... especially when Torres took you away; it was my symbol of strength.’ Carly murmured. ‘The star that guides you home... the whole time I felt you were near me; that any day you would come back.’ She smiled at him, her eyes bright. ‘Thank you, Bo. I’ve missed this little star for so long.’
‘You’re more than welcome.’ Taking it from her, he slipped it round her neck, her cream sweater providing a suitable background for it. ‘Well, what do you know... still a perfect fit.’ He stroked her cheek, moving his hand down her neck. Carly blushed then cleared her throat. ‘You’ve been so  very sweet... I’m sorry that I’ve been kinda distant...’
Bo held her face between his palms and kissed her full on the mouth. When the kiss ended, he looked deep in her eyes. ‘For the last time, princess; don’t apologise to me. You have the right to feel what you feel right now. And you should know by now that I would do anything, anything, to  have you back. It’s what I want more than anything.’
Carly stared back at him. He saw the fear and uncertainty in her eyes again. But as though she was unable to help himself, she slipped her arms round him and kissed him in return. The kiss lasted for a glorious five minutes.

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