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Monday, June 17, 2013

CARBO FAN FICTION: Return Journey Chapter 20

Chapter 20

‘How are we doing over here, honey?’ Bo asked.
‘I’m almost done, Daddy.’ Ciara replied, setting her books neatly in a box. ‘I hope my room won’t be too crowded with all my stuff.’

Bo smiled at the enthusiasm in his little daughter’s voice. ‘You’re pretty excited about us moving in with Carly and Byron for good, aren’t you?’
Ciara nodded; her face all smiles. Going to her, Bo lifted her in his arms, kissing her fondly on the cheek as her arms went round her neck. ‘I’m really glad you’re okay about Carly and I getting married.’
Ciara stared at him in surprise. ‘Why wouldn’t I be okay about it? Every night, I wished that you two will get married and we’ll live with her and Byron forever.’
Bo chuckled, lightly tugging at her nose. ‘We sure will; little one and we’re going to be happy from now on.’ He studied her face. ‘You know you’re important to me; as much as Carly and Byron are. I realize it’s been very hard for you… with what happened with your mother…’
‘Yeah, but I’m alright now, Daddy; really.’ Ciara interrupted him. ‘Carly’s been like my Mum too; she took real good care of me and I love her very much.’
‘And she loves you too; we both do.’ Bo brushed back a strand of hair from her cheek. ‘But your mother also loves you very much, don’t forget that, honey. With the letters she’s been sending you, you surely know that, right?’
Ciara nodded curtly before scrambling to get down. ‘I better finish packing, Daddy.’ She mumbled.
Puzzled by her coldness, Bo stroked her hair. ‘Sure.’
As he walked down the stairs, the door bell rang and he went to answer it; stiffening at the sight of his ex father-in-law.
‘Hello Bo.’ Doug Williams said curtly, entering the house before Bo could invite him in. He surveyed the nearly empty living room, the expression on his face speaking volumes. ‘You’re moving out, I see.’
‘Ciara and I are moving in with Carly, permanently.’ Bo replied calmly, bracing himself for an argument. ‘We’re getting married.’
‘You’ve certainly swept my daughter under the rug pretty quick, haven’t you?’ Doug snapped.
‘What did you come for, Doug? So you know; Ciara’s upstairs and the last thing I want is for her hearing you thrash Carly…’
‘I don’t have any quarrel with Carly,’ Doug interrupted, his eyes hard. ‘So keep your shirt on. I’m here to ask you what the hell have you been doing with the letters.’
‘What letters?’ Bo demanded.
‘The letters Hope’s been writing to Ciara; it’s obvious Ciara’s not been getting them because Hope never got a reply. Breaking my daughter’s heart is one thing but turning her own daughter against her is another and I won’t have it, Bo!’
‘I don’t understand what you’re accusing me of. Ciara’s been getting the letters; I personally handed them over to her!’
‘Yeah right…’
‘It’s the truth! And how dare you accuse me of turning Ciara against her own mother.’ Bo struggled to keep his fiery temper in check; mindful of Ciara’s presence.  
‘Then explain why Hope hasn’t heard from her, if you’re telling the truth.’
‘It’s not Daddy’s fault, grandpa.’ The two men turned to see Ciara coming down the stairs, her face pale and strained but defiant. ‘He gave me the letters. But I never opened or read them. I tore them all up.’
Shocked, Bo hurried to her. ‘Honey!’ he exclaimed, squatting and holding her face between his palms. ‘Why in the world would you do a thing like that?’
‘Yes, dear; why?’ Doug walked up to them, also shocked by Ciara’s confession ‘Your Mummy’s been very worried that she hasn’t heard from you.’
Ciara said nothing. Bo stroked her face anxiously. ‘Honey, it’s okay; nobody’s mad at you. We just want to understand the reason why you did this.’
Ciara still said nothing, refusing to look at Bo and Doug. What could she say? That she regarded her own mother as a monster and didn’t anything from her, including her letters full of lies and excuses.
‘Ciara…’ Doug began.
Leave me alone!’ Ciara’s voice shook as she clung to her father, hiding her face against his neck. Bo held her tightly, consoling her while Doug watched, distressed beyond measure.
‘It’s okay, sweetie; hush now.’ Bo soothed as she began sobbing quietly, picking her up. Doug stroked her head; looking at Bo in askance.
‘I think it’s best you drop this for now; Ciara’s upset enough as it is.’ Bo said firmly, his chief concern his daughter’s well being rather than the torn up letters or Doug’s opinion of him. ‘I’ll call you and Julie later okay?’
Doug’s lined face wore the look of angry suspicion but he nodded curtly and departed, after kissing Ciara’s on the top of her head.
Ciara was lying on her stomach on the bed, raising her head when Carly entered and closed the door behind her. ‘Daddy told you about the letters, didn’t he?’ she asked quietly.
‘Yes he did and we both want to know why you ignored them.’ Carly sat beside her, stroking her soft hair. ‘Why, Ciara?’
Ciara sat up. ‘You know why, because of what she did. She hurt you and she almost killed Daddy.’
‘Listen, whoever told you about that…’
‘Nobody told me!’ Ciara snapped, her eyes flashing. ‘Everybody’s been treating me like a baby, even Shawn D! I found out when Grandpa Doug and Grandma Julie were talking about it.’
God, how careless adults could be! Carly thought, filled with anger towards Doug and Julie. ‘Your Mum…’ she paused, wondering how she could explain Hope’s case to Ciara in a diplomatic way.
 But Ciara shook her head. ‘No Carly, I already know everything. You don’t have to explain it to me.’
‘Okay then. But we’ve talked about this before; Ciara. Hope’s your mother and she loves you, will always love you. She obviously wants to  know that she still has your love and Shawn D’s. Since you’ve torn up her letters, why not visit her instead?’
Carly!’ The child exclaimed in disbelief at the suggestion. ‘She tried to kill Daddy and she could have killed you too! Why do you want me to go and see her, she’s a monster!
Carly held her face. ‘Because it’s the right thing to do; and you would have that feeling of doing the right thing even though you didn’t really want to do it. It’s called obligation, Ciara. She misses you or she wouldn’t have written to you at all. And I’m sure you miss her, deep down.’ She placed a hand on Ciara’s chest. ‘If you don’t want to do it for your Daddy, at least do it for me; okay?’
Ciara scowled, wavering. She really didn’t want to see Hope; but she figured Carly and her father and probably Doug and Julie would keep pestering her about it until she said yes. ‘Okay… I’ll do it.’ She muttered sulkily.
Good girl.’ Carly hugged her. ‘You’re doing the right thing honey. And listen, your mother’s not a monster, she’s not,’ she insisted when Ciara gave her an incredulous look. ‘She’s just a very angry person and anger makes people do things they never expected they could do. But I know that she could never do anything to hurt you or Shawn D. A mother’s love is forever. I wish you could believe that.’

‘Did you love your own mummy?’ Ciara asked.
‘I loved her as much as I could,’ Carly replied quietly; thinking of Francesca Von Leuschner with pain and bitterness. Her elegant mother had been as much of a stranger as her father Henri; no maternal instinct in her body. Carly and Frankie were mostly raised by a nurse and governess; they hardly ever saw their parents who were always away rubbing shoulders with co-members of high society. Their parents’ neglect however only made the bond between the two Von Leuschner children all the more closer and much later on Carly had run away from boarding school; determined to follow her on path instead of the one her parents had mapped out for her.
Ciara saw the look on Carly’s face. ‘Did she hurt you too?’
Carly shrugged. ‘She thought she was doing what was best for me. She and my father chose my future husband when I was eight years old.’
Ciara’s eyes widened. ‘That’s horrible!’ she exclaimed, disgusted at the very idea.  
‘Like I said, they thought they were doing what was best for me. You see, we were a very rich and titled family; they wanted me to marry someone who was even richer and from the royal family. But you’re very lucky Ciara; you have a wonderful father and, no matter what, a mother who’s going to be so happy to see you again.’
Ciara rested her head against Carly’s bosom. Going to visit her mother was going to be an ordeal but she was willing to do anything for Carly. Besides, it’s not like she was going to be alone with Hope. ‘Will you come with me?’ she asked quietly.
‘No, honey; better if your father went with you. I’ll only be intruding. He’ll be glad to know that you’ve agreed to go see her.’
Ciara muttered something Carly couldn’t quite catch but Carly was satisfied with the result of their conversation. Bo’s been so worried about the reason behind Ciara’s action and her refusal to talk to him about it; he’ll be relieved to know Ciara’s decision.
Bo listened silently to Carly as she told him. ‘But how the hell did she find out?’ he demanded.
‘Apparently, she eavesdropped on Doug and Julie’s conversation when she was staying with them.’
‘I’m angry about it like you are but don’t let’s be too hard on them; they couldn’t have known she was listening. So, when you’re able to, you’ll take Ciara over there.’
But Bo still looked troubled. ‘I don’t know if that’s a better alternative, princess. I don’t trust Hope around our daughter.’
‘Ciara’s her daughter as well as yours. And because she’s a part of you, I think of her as mine too.’ Carly said softly. ‘But I feel we should at least let Hope see her; at least she and Doug and Julie can’t accuse you of keeping Ciara away. Ciara’s a very bright girl; somehow or other she had to find out why her mother’s in prison. But I think I was able to convince her that Hope’s not the monster she regards her as. Once she sees her mother again, I’m willing to bet she’ll see that I’m right.’
Bo smiled at her gratefully. ‘Thanks, princess.’ He stretched out his hand, rubbing the back of her neck.
‘You’re welcome.’ Carly replied, nestling closer to him on their bed. ‘I want Ciara’s mind to be clear of any dark thoughts; especially now that she’ll be living here permanently. I don’t want anything weighing her down.’
‘With you as a mother figure to her, I know she’s going to be alright.’ Bo held Carly tightly in his arms. ‘You were so great with Shawn Douglas.’
Carly smiled. ‘Shawn D was so easy to love. From the moment I saw him, all I ever wanted was to look out for him in any way I could. I remember that day; Marcus took me to the carnival and I saw him with Kayla and Steve. We took to each other right there and then.’
‘And to think I almost denied him a chance of having a mother like you.’ Bo kissed the top of her head. ‘I let you go twice but I’ve got you for keeps now, princess; for the rest of our lives.’
Carly held up her hand to once again look at the ring flashing on her finger. Bo took her hand and pressed his lips against it. ‘It’s so good to be finally together like this.’ She murmured.
‘I think one of the things I missed about you was waking up beside you.’ Bo replied. ‘I would open my eyes and there you are, watching me.’
‘You know I always like watching you sleep.’ Carly smiled, one enameled nail stroking his jaw. ‘You look so peaceful and sweet…’
‘Hey, lay off the “sweet”, will ya? I’ve got a reputation to keep here.’ Bo’s stern voice didn’t go with the twinkle in his brown eyes; in a matter of seconds a smile was tugging at his mouth. Carly brushed her lips against his and immediately, Bo deepened it; kissing her like a man starved. She’d described being back together; living under the same roof again as ‘good.’ To him, it felt like they were in the height of heaven; their own special heaven. It wasn’t just the sex; it was the huge, warm feeling of compatibility they’ve always had despite their different backgrounds. After their symbolic Mayan wedding; that compatibility had only grown stronger and kept them very much aware of each other. And their love too was stronger; more binding than ever before. But all the same, Bo couldn’t wait for the day they would finally say “I do.”
‘Darcy and Daniel better get their butts back here on time; otherwise I’ll drag you in front of the justice of peace without them.’
‘You do that and Darcy will have your hide. In case you haven’t noticed Bo Brady; your oldest daughter has your temper- she’s just better at keeping it.’
Bo snorted, making Carly laugh again. ‘Calm down, sailor; we’ve got plenty of time. And you and I both know that you’ll want her to be there.’
‘Fine! What’s two more weeks of waiting after all?’ The duration of Darcy and Daniel’s honeymoon was four weeks. It was a pity that Shawn Douglas and Frankie wouldn’t be at the wedding but Bo didn’t want to drag them all the way back to Salem so soon. Roman however was going to be present; so were Adrienne, Maxine, Melanie and Nathan and of course Victor. Victor however wasn’t keen on them getting married at City Hall; he’d suggested a small ceremony by a minister in his garden but Bo had refused. He didn’t want to be married at the very same place Carly was joined in matrimony with Victor; the memory of that day still gave him the horrors. So he’d politely told his biological father that he and Carly were going to do things their way; a simple civil ceremony and that was it. Adrienne had been disappointed but she’d insisted organizing the reception at the house afterwards.
‘I just thought of something.’ Carly broke into his thoughts.
‘Actually of someone; Vivian. I haven’t seen her about town lately.’
‘Oh, she’s still around; laying low- the old witch. She’d better not ever come near you or Darcy while she’s still here.’
‘She can’t; not with the restraining order I had E.J DiMera serve her. I just wish she would leave town for good, I’ll certainly rest easier once she does.’
‘After that crazy stunt she pulled years ago; I’d like her to try anything else.’ Bo’s voice hardened. ‘And I’ll so make her sorry she dared. The woman’s inhuman; just like Larry.’
‘Don’t mention him.’ Carly muttered, shivering.
‘Right… sorry, sweetheart.’ Bo kissed her forehead, tightening his hold on her. ‘Don’t worry, Vivian can’t do anything to you; you have me, front and center to take care of you.’
Carly felt more cheerful. ‘I know.’ Raising her head, she kissed him again. ‘I have something for you.’
Bo raised an eyebrow, immediately interested. ‘Yeah? What is it?’
Carly moved away from his arms to open the drawer of the nightstand; bringing out a small silver wrapped box.
‘It was something I got for your birthday… before we broke up.’ She explained, handing it to him. After a long time of misery and keeping it in her drawer, she’d finally given in and returned the custom-made silver crucifix; receiving her money back. But after they’d reconciled, she’d regretted her decision and went to the jewelry store to get it back. However, she’d seen something else that Bo would find even more meaningful.
Bo unwrapped the box and opened it; pulling out the object slowly. It was something he’d once had; the only thing different about it was the colour. ‘Princess, is this…?’
‘Yes, it’s black jade.’ Carly answered his question. ‘And it has several purposes besides bringing luck.’ Taking the ring from him, she held it up. ‘It’s gives protection to the wearer, for one thing. Also, it’s a strong amulet to wear to heal feelings of guilt; it’s the stone of calm in the midst of storms…’ Taking his right hand, she slid it on his finger. ‘And it guards against negative thoughts and entities.’
Bo flecked his fingers, admiring the ring; touched by Carly’s thoughtful gesture. ‘Carly, this is so great… I love it.’ He whispered. He pulled her close, kissing her. ‘Believe me; I’m going to wear this with pride; just like the first one you gave me years ago.’
Carly was pleased at his reaction. ‘I wanted you have something very meaningful.’
‘And it is meaningful, princess. Really it is.’ Bo assured her, holding her face between his palms. ‘It’s the meaning behind every gift we exchange that makes our love even more special.’
 ‘Yeah…’ Carly agreed softly. ‘And the memories; especially those happy memories of how we first started. It was a bumpy journey.’ Her smile faded a bit. ‘Then after we broke up and I thought I’d lost you forever; I told myself the journey was over.’
‘This is a whole new journey princess.’ Bo said, his thumb tracing her lower lip. ‘For me, it’s my return journey; back to the woman who really holds my heart and who I’m destined to be with for the rest of my life. A woman who I love more than life itself and always keep close to me now that I’ve learned from my mistakes.’ With his thumb, he wiped off the tear falling down her cheek. ‘The whole time I was without you… when I wondered if you’ll ever forgive me, I was so scared you’d stopped loving me.’
‘I can never stop loving you.’ Carly sniffled, shaking her head firmly before pressing her face against her fiancé’s face; his kiss leaving her breathless with need. Bo’s hands suddenly slid under her T-shirt, the kiss intensifying. Breathing rather unsteadily, he lowered her onto the soft mattress.
‘Ciara might come in, you know.’ she whispered as he covered her leg with his.
Bo was far too fired up to care. ‘We’ll risk it; she won’t come in without knocking in anyway.’ Was his husky reply before resuming the kiss. However the interruption came in the form of the distant sound of a certain baby waking up; causing Bo to swear loudly and Carly to giggle helplessly.
‘Byron… Not now for heaven’s sake!’ Bo pleaded but as though on cue, their son’s crying only grew louder. Carly moved from Bo’s arms again, sighing. ‘Quality time later, sailor. I’ve got a baby to feed.’
Bo groaned, settling back against the pillows. ‘Hurry back princess, otherwise I might make our little boy settle for a Popsicle the next time he’s hungry.’ He placed his arms behind his head; grinning at her. ‘I’m not about to waste what I’m feeling right now with a cold shower.’
‘Five minutes tops.’ Carly said, deliberately sashayed out the room; drawing Bo’s attention to her rear end.
‘Change of plans.’
Vivian raised her eyebrows. ‘Oh?’
‘The plan to kill Carly, we’re scrapping it.’
Vivian’s lips tightened in anger, glaring at the woman sitting opposite. ‘Please explain to me this sudden change of heart if you don’t mind, after all the time we’ve been planning Carly Manning’s demise and getting revenge on your ex husband at the same time. What game are you playing?’
‘I’m not playing any games, Vivian; hear me out.’  Hope’s dark eyes stared back at her. ‘I want to kill Bo instead.’
It took a lot to shock Vivian Alamain so Hope’s words rendered her speechless for a few minutes. ‘Indeed.’ She said slowly. ‘Why?’
Hope swallowed, more to keep her anger and sense of betrayal down. Bo brought Ciara to see her a few days back and she’ d been so happy to see her precious child again; hugging and kissing her after Bo discreetly left her alone.
‘You’ve grown a little taller.’ She said, smiling down at Ciara’s impassive face, stroking her hair. ‘I’ve missed you so much. How have you been, what have you been doing at school lately?’
Ciara shrugged instead of replying. Disappointed, she tried her best to get her to talk. ‘I heard you were one of Darcy’s bridesmaids. I bet you looked very beautiful that day.’
Ciara still didn’t say anything. She tried drawing her onto her lap but the child resisted.
‘Sweetie… Why won’t you talk to me? You’re not afraid of me, are you?’ Hope pleaded. ‘I thought we’ll have a nice long chat while you’re here. Please say something.’
Ciara’s impassive expression then turned hostile. ‘Why did you do it? Why did you try to kill Daddy, why?’

Hope’s heart sank. She’d lost Bo and her reputation but she’d nursed a large amount of comfort that she still had her daughter’s devotion. ‘Whatever Carly told you about me honey; it’s not true. I love your Daddy; I’d never do anything to hurt him… or you. And what happened with Carly was an accident, I told the judge that, but she didn’t believe me. I told you in my letters…’
‘I never read any of your letters. I threw them away, because you are a liar.’ Ciara’s voice shook.
‘Daddy almost died and you were going to kill Carly too- I know everything now. And I hate you… I hate you!’ Ciara pushed Hope’s hands away, her eyes blazing with anger.
Hope had tried placating her but then the child began screaming for Bo and Bo had taken her away and Hope was dragged back to her cell; where she’d spent the whole night sobbing and filled with hatred for Bo and Carly; yet again vowing to pay them out if it was the last thing she did.  
‘My daughter’s now against me; they fed her with lies. Bo’s mostly responsible for this and I want him to pay.’
‘By killing him instead of Carly?’
‘Yes. And not by a quick death either; I want that woman to suffer- long and hard. She stole my family from me, but she won’t find it great watching the man she loves die a slow, painful death.’
Vivian nodded, intrigued. ‘Now it’s my turn to ask you, what do you have in mind?’
‘Funny enough, Bo was actually the one who gave me this brilliant idea. But it’s you who has to find it for me.’
‘What exactly?’ Vivian wished Hope would get to the point.
‘A virus.’
‘What virus?’
‘I don’t know its name but it was something Bo got infected with while I was gone and Carly saved his life, which he enjoyed reminding me whenever he defended her.’
Vivian knew what Hope was talking about; Lawrence had told her of a virus he’d used to poison the nosy ISA agents investigating him after he’d disposed of Bo’s brother-in-law; Steven Johnson. Carly however had worked relentlessly until she found the antidote after Bo himself got sick. ‘What’s the use of infecting him with a virus that Carly will be able to cure?’ Vivian demanded then stopped. Hope stared back at her, a knowing look on her face. ‘Oh…’
‘You get the idea now?’
‘Oh yes, yes I do understand now.’ Vivian finally gave her a smile in return. ‘You’re right; it’s a good idea… a brilliant idea.’
After the disastrous visit; Bo contemplated sending Ciara to Marlena for therapy but Carly asked him to let her talk to Ciara first. Ciara surprisingly opened up to her after her stubborn refusal to talk to anyone about her mother. After eavesdropping  Doug and Julie’s conversation, Ciara had seen her mother in a whole new light after loving and idolizing her all her life.
 ‘She always said she loved Daddy but she was so mean to him.’ She sobbed against Carly’s bosom. ‘She made us live with grandpa after Daddy saved us from Dean, I didn’t understand but I never asked her why; even when I remembered Daddy’s face looking so sad when we left. I never thought she could do anything wrong. It’s like I never knew her at all; everything about her is fake.’
Carly stroked her hair, allowing the child to unburden herself. Ciara then raised her head, staring at Carly intently. ‘But you’re not fake, Carly. You really love Daddy; you would never do anything to hurt him.’
Carly was unable to speak and Ciara went on, holding her face with her small hands. ‘I love you so much Carly… I  really wish you were my mummy…’ she choked and Carly, tears falling down her own cheeks, held her tightly. ‘I don’t ever want to see her again; don’t make me go back there Carly, please…’
‘It’s okay, honey.’ Carly soothed. ‘You don’t have to if you don’t want to. Daddy and I will take care of you from now on.’ 
Bo, who was standing at the half open door listening to the conversation, went over and placed his arms round them, pressing his face against the two joined heads.
Doug, on hearing the whole story, was very upset yet abashed after Bo also told him about Ciara overhearing their conversation. Reluctantly, he accepted that neither Bo nor Carly was to blame.
 ‘Hope’s still my daughter, Bo and as her father, I have to protect her rights and one of them is helping her maintain a relationship with her children.’
‘I understand that,’ Bo replied, his expression grim. ‘Shawn D’s a grown man but Ciara’s young and confused. When she feels ready to see her mother again; she will but in the meantime, I’m not going to force her into doing something she doesn’t want to do. Hope can still send her letters and I’ll put them away until Ciara wants them. That’s the best I can do.’
Doug shook his head at his ex son-in-law. ‘What happened, Bo? Many years ago, you bent over more than backwards for her.’
‘And that’s exactly what I did the whole time we were together.’ Bo pointed out, his voice harsh. ‘I loved her but in the end, I had no idea what she wanted from me because I gave her everything a husband and partner would give. Her bad choices are the reason why she’s in prison; not me or Carly.’
‘So you say, Bo. But in my opinion, my daughter must have found something lacking in you. It’s just too bad that she chose to reconcile with you in the first place instead of just calling it a day. I knew what I was saying when I told Tom and Alice over and over you weren’t right for her.’
Bo longed to ask Doug if Larry Welch- the man he’d chosen for Hope for a husband and the same man who had kidnapped her and Zach- was any way better than him but he bit back the sarcastic retort. Doug was free to think whatever and however he liked. Despite all that’s happened and what he knew, Doug was still blind when Hope was concerned; he saw her as a confused little girl who made a mistake- not a scorned woman who committed a serious crime. Hope was no longer his problem anyway. Instead he replied coolly, ‘That’s your own opinion, Doug. And we’ve called it a day; like you just said. It’s just too bad she ruined whatever chance she had at avoiding prison by yelling at the judge like a banshee…’
‘Sentences can be overturned, as you very well know,’ Doug interrupted curtly. ‘Justin’s going to file for an appeal and Hope’s going to be out of that prison before she knows it and things will be back to normal with her and her children. Just you ponder on that.’
Doug took his leave, slamming Bo’s office door behind him. Bo seriously doubted Justin would succeed but if by a miracle he did, Hope just better not come anywhere near Carly again. If she did… Bo scowled ominously.
At long last, the newly weds came back to Salem. After depositing their luggage, Darcy and Daniel went over to her parents’ house where they were given a rousing welcome. ‘We’ve really missed you around here, sweetheart.’ Keeping one arm around Darcy’s waist, Bo shook Daniel’s hand. ‘Welcome back; how was the honeymoon?’ The mischievous, intimate look the newly weds exchanged told him more than enough. ‘I see it was great.’ Bo said dryly.
‘Tahiti is the most beautiful place on earth; we had a wonderful time.’ Darcy said enthusiastically. ‘My little precious, did you miss me?’ She took Byron from Carly, kissing his plump cheeks.  Ciara beamed brightly; very happy to see her sister again, sitting close to her on the couch.
‘Sorry we didn’t call or send any postcards, we sort of forgot to.’ Daniel grinned, not looking the least bit apologetic.
‘Sure you did.’ Bo said sarcastically.
‘Oh Papa, don’t be angry with us; when you are in a place like Tahiti, there is no room to think of anything else.’ Darcy laughed, her wedding and engagement rings flashing on her finger as she stroked Byron’s head. It still felt strange to Bo that his little girl was now a married woman. He saw the way Daniel was looking at her, hanging on to her every word. He was clearly besotted by her; just like the way Bo felt about Carly.
‘Don’t worry cricket; all honeymooners are like that.’ Carly winked at Bo; remembering how they’d completely shut the rest of the world out during their memorable ‘honeymoon’ at Cancun.
‘So, what’s new?’ Daniel asked.
‘Daddy asked Carly to marry him!’ Ciara jumped at the opportunity to get a word in before Bo or Carly could say anything.
Darcy’s eyes widened. ‘Is this true?’
Her mother’s face wore the look of complete radiance as she nodded, holding out her hand for Darcy and Daniel to see the ring.
‘Well, it’s about time, I’ll say!’ Daniel exclaimed. ‘Congratulations!’
‘Oh, this is wonderful news!’ Darcy said, overjoyed at the beautiful ring and the radiant look on her mother’s face. ‘Have you fixed a date?’
‘No, we’ve been waiting for you guys to come home; there’s no way we can get married without you, cricket.’ Carly replied. ‘We’re going to have a civil wedding at City Hall.’
‘A small and short civil wedding.’ Bo emphasized.
Darcy and Ciara looked rather disappointed. ‘You aren’t going to have a wedding like Darcy’s?’ Ciara asked.
‘I understand it being a civil wedding but why at City Hall? Surely you will give us time to plan the wedding…’
But Bo shook his head adamantly, slipping his arm round Carly’s shoulders. ‘Oh no… I can’t wait a month to marry your mum; this wedding’s over twenty years overdue and I’m not waiting any longer than I have to.’
Darcy turned to her mother in appeal but Carly also shook her head. ‘I’m with him on this; no elaborate preparations. We’re going to get married by a justice of the peace and then we’re going to have a small reception here.’
Groans from her daughter and step-daughter-to-be made them laugh. ‘I feel you, Bo.’ Daniel said. ‘You have no idea what I went through; all that planning and waiting drove me nuts. It was a nightmare.’
Darcy silenced her husband with a reproving look.
‘Never mind, you and Ciara and Melanie can  help me pick out the right dress at the bridal store.’ Carly said, turning to smile at Bo. ‘At least your Dad can’t expect me to show up at City Hall in jeans and a T shirt, can he?’
‘Princess,’ Bo said before Darcy could reply, ‘you’ve got a closet full of clothes upstairs; I’m pretty sure the right dress is in there somewhere… ow!’ he exclaimed as Carly pummeled him on the back of his head with a cushion. ‘What was that for?’
‘Are you trying to deny me looking beautiful on our wedding day?’ Carly demanded, a glint in her green eyes.
‘Of course not, but we agreed to keep in simple, didn’t we… ouch!’ Another whack with the cushion.
‘You actually expect Maman to just choose a dress from her closet? Oh non, non… this won’t do at all.’ Darcy handed Byron to Daniel and picked up a cushion. Giggling, Ciara took one as well and advanced on Bo.
‘Oh come on ladies; I didn’t mean… oww!’ Bo yelled as he was hit with cushions from all sides. ‘Hey, attacking an unarmed man is a crime you know…ow!’ He cowered as three cushions rained on him persistently.
‘Ignorant man!’ Carly said.
‘Mean Daddy!’ came from Ciara.
‘Cad!’ from Darcy.
Bo tried escaping the onslaught but was utterly outnumbered. ‘Daniel, help me!’
‘You’re on your own, buddy.’ Enjoying the fun being displayed in front of him, Daniel settled against the couch, bouncing Byron on his knee while Bo continued being attacked by his favorite ladies.
Choosing the right dress for a wedding proved rather difficult. Carly wanted something simple and off white; Darcy, Adrienne, Melanie and Ciara wanted her to pick something a tad more elaborate. ‘I know it’s going to be a simple wedding Maman but you should have a proper wedding gown; and white.’ Darcy insisted.
Isn't it stretching it a bit to wear white? I’ve given birth to three children and your father is going to be my third husband and this will be our third attempt down the aisle.’
‘We’re not going to argue over it, Carly; after all these years you’re finally going to marry Bo and you deserve a white dress.’ Adrienne said, pointing. ‘Look at this one.’ The dress was a corset style dress; with off-shoulder straps and a full skirt. Carly stared at it doubtfully.
‘It will look great on you.’ Melanie agreed, while Ciara nodded approvingly.  
‘And it is simple enough, Maman; chose this one.’ But Carly shook her head firmly.
‘Maybe years ago but not now, I’m not exactly 27 years old anymore; I’ll look ridiculous.’
‘No, you won’t!’ was the loud chorus but Carly refused to change her mind. ‘Really, this isn’t the one I want. Let’s keep looking.’
Resigned, the search went on.Byron tucked securely in the Snugli strapped to her,  Darcy scanned one dress to the other and then her eyes finally fell on one. It was quite simple compared to her own wedding dress but she could clearly visualize her mother in it. ‘Maman… what do you think of this one?’ Carly and the others walked over to her to examine the short eggshell knit dress with long sleeves and a low scoop back. 

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Carly stared hard at it, a smile appearing on her face. ‘This is it, this is the dress. It’s perfect!’
Ciara didn’t look impressed. ‘It’s not long.’ She said.
‘No, but it’s just right; I don’t need a long dress.’ Carly said, enthusiastic with her choice. ‘I hope it fits!’
Luckily for her it did and the others had to admit, she did look beautiful and sweet in it.
‘It’s actually great, Carly. Especially if you wear your hair up and put flowers on.’ Melanie said.
‘And maybe pearls?’ Adrienne suggested.
‘No...’ Darcy shook her head. ‘Somehow I feel pearls will spoil the look, don’t you think?’
‘Darcy’s right; no pearls.’ Carly turned round, examining herself in the full length mirror. ‘I’ll wear my North Star with it instead. Gold will look better with it.’
‘That would work.’ Adrienne shrugged smiling. ‘And Bo’s going to see just how beautiful you are.’
‘You look very pretty, Carly.’ Ciara smiled.
Carly smiled back at her fondly, caressing her hair. ‘It’s going to be a very wonderful day.’ She said, filled with happy anticipation; unaware of the dark cloud that was about to descend on them.

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