Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CARBO FAN FICTION: Return Journey Chapter 21

Chapter 21
Bo and Carly hoped to get married as soon as possible but the dark cloud came in form of a devastating phone call from Abe. Lexie’s mysterious illness, an inoperable brain tumour, had taken a turn for the worse and she wanted to say goodbye to her friends.
‘Why... why didn’t she tell any of us?’ Bo asked, his voice shaking as he embraced his old friend on getting to the house.
Abe, who looked like he’d aged ten years overnight, replied, ‘She wanted to live the time she had left without seeing any sad faces around her; it’s what she wanted and I couldn’t refuse her. Everything we’d planned on doing together as a family, we’ve managed to do it all this time.’
Carly hugged him as well, keeping her tears back with difficulty. While she and Lexie were never exactly as close as she and Isabella had been; it was like losing Isabella all over again. How could this happen to Lexie of all people; she who’d always been so vibrant and energetic all the time and a great doctor to work with. How will Abe and Theo ever cope without her?
For Bo, it was like when Mrs. H was dying and he and the rest of the family had conveyed to the house to bid her farewell. Everyone had been so sad and teary seeing the white haired old lady they’d loved so very much fading away; her smile still intact, ready to go on the new world beyond after a life well spent. But compared to Alice Horton, Lexie was still a young woman; she was leaving them way too soon. Daniel, who’d come along with Darcy, was really shaken by the news. He was fond of Lexie, having worked with her for quite a while and he couldn’t imagine her gone forever.
Lying on the well cushioned couch, Lexie looked frailer than ever but the familiar smile illuminated her thin face. She held out her arms for Byron and Bo placed him on her lap. Theo was in the garden, being entertained by Ciara and Abe.  Carly and Bo did their best to keep up a conversation but the sad look in their eyes and Daniel’s shaky voice betrayed them. But Lexie insisted on no tears, she was resigned to her fate.
‘I’ve had a long, good life. True, there were ups and downs and I made a lot of mistakes... but in the end, I spent a lot of wonderful years with Abe and our boy.’ Her face was calm but her eyes sorrowful. ‘I treasure every one of them and I’m going to take those memories with me.’
Carly shook her head. ‘Why did this have to happen to you, of all people?’
Lexie shrugged. ‘It just happened, one of the mysteries we’ll always ponder on.’
Bo shook his head, at a loss for words, while Daniel averted his face.
‘Bo, Daniel... I want to talk with Carly and Darcy alone. Could you please keep Abe and Theo company?’
‘Sure, Lex.’ Bo kissed her on the cheek, hugging her close and Daniel did the same before leaving the room.
‘I want to use this chance to apologise to you, Carly.’ Lexie said slowly. ‘For what I said to you; about siding with Hope over a battle for Bo...’
 ‘Lexie, please don't! It doesn't matter at all and I’ve forgotten about it ages ago. Please don't talk about it anymore, okay?’ Carly pleaded. ‘There’s nothing to forgive.’
Lexie shrugged, her tired dark eyes on Carly. ‘Well, I’m glad that you and Bo are back together. For a while, I thought you might never forgive him for the mistake he made.’
‘For a long time, I thought I was the mistake.’ Carly said dryly. ‘I didn’t think we could ever be together again, the way we were before that is.’
Darcy rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. ‘Love is more powerful than anything else, Maman.’
‘Darcy’s right about that. Abe and I had our own share of problems and trials and it was love that brought us back and kept us on. When he wanted us to try again, I told myself I didn’t deserve to be loved like that. I’m so grateful to him for giving me that chance, for giving me Theo.’ Lexie smiled faintly, looking down at Byron. ‘You have this beautiful boy and this lovely girl born out of love. Be grateful for what you have, Carly and never make Hope’s mistakes. Bo’s a great guy and I’ve seen that deep connection that’s still between you- that’s what led him back to you; not loneliness or rebound like we were all stupid enough to think. You’re his true soul mate and I’m so happy he got you back.’ Carly pressed the hand resting on her cheek.
Lexie turned to Darcy. ‘Never let anything or anyone stand between you and your husband, Darcy. Be happy with Daniel and live your life to the fullest; and paint whatever comes from your heart.’
Darcy nodded; her heart heavy with sorrow at Lexie’s calm words. Lexie pressed her face against Byron’s plump cheek. ‘And you little man, you will keep Theo company for me, okay? I’m so glad I was able to know you before...’ she didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, she kissed him on the forehead and cheeks, stroking his silken hair. ‘Take care, sweet baby.’ She whispered in his ear before handing him to Darcy.
That night, Bo heard from Abe that Lexie died peacefully in his arms two hours after they’d left.
Lexie Carver’s funeral was attended by her family, friends, colleagues and former patients. Stefano stood with Kate, EJ and Chad; his face a rigid mask. Abe held his bewildered little boy’s hand; his manner towards his father-in-law as frosty as ever. They never got along during Lexie’s lifetime, even with her untimely death, the enmity still remained; something Lexie wouldn’t be pleased with but Abe could never ever be friends with Stefano. Carly and Daniel gave eulogies; describing Lexie as an outstanding physician, a loving mother and a person they had been proud to work with. Bo also spoke of her time in the police force and what a good and supportive friend she had been.
 ‘We’re born and in the time we try to make a difference anyway we can and then we leave.’ She said, looking down at Lexie’s gravestone after everyone had left; Darcy and Daniel having taken the children home. ‘It’s always at the back of our minds but it’s so hard all the same, especially for those left behind. I can’t even imagine what Abe and Theo are going through right now.’
‘Abe’s accepted it and he’s doing all he can to be strong for Theo. And he believes Lexie will always be there for them, in spirit.’ Bo replied.
‘I almost feel guilty over how lucky we are,’ Carly said softly.
‘No... Don’t be.’ Bo held her by the waist from behind. ‘We had our share of trials and bumps, just like Lexie and Abe had. And like them, love won. It’s just too bad their journey ended so soon.’ He turned her round, holding her face between his large hands. ‘But life’s for the living and our own journey’s just started again. And more than ever; I’m holding on to what I have in front of me; you. You see why I wanted us to get married right away?’
‘Of course, yes; I wanted that too.’ Carly glanced back at Lexie’s grave, again thinking about how unpredictable life was then turned back to face him soberly. ‘More than anything I want to marry you but... We have to show some respect too; you know? Let’s postpone the wedding, for a week or two at least.’
Bo wasn’t happy about it but he too had loved Lexie enough to understand Carly’s request. ‘I’ll call the judge when we get home and tell her.’
With one last look at their friend’s gravestone, Bo and Carly left the cemetery arm in arm.
With Lexie’s death, the vacant position of Chief of Staff needed to be filled and the board’s top candidate was Carly. Carly however informed the board during the meeting that she wasn’t planning on going back to work any time soon as her son needed her so she couldn’t possibly accept the job. With no one else in mind, the board appointed the next choice; Daniel who at first refused, worried that Darcy wouldn’t like it. But his young wife however was more than supportive; urging him to accept the position. It wasn’t what Daniel wanted at all but he decided to take the job, secretly planning to turn it over to Carly if she ever decided to come back; she was far more suited to be Chief of Staff rather than him.
Carly took Theo under her wing; reaching out to the autistic child as best as she could. Having been used to ‘Auntie Hope’, Carly was somewhat of a stranger to Theo but he slowly responded to her care and became attached to her. Ciara of course played a huge part at cheering up her best friend and Theo found himself wanting to go to Bo and Carly’s house all the time; as Bo and Carly always made him feel welcome and he loved playing with Ciara and the baby. Darcy too did what she could for him.
Abe was very grateful to Carly for being there for his son. ‘But of course, I shouldn’t expect anything else from you, Carly; you’ve always been so great with kids.’ He held her hand between his, his eyes stark with sadness and Carly’s heart went out to him; again feeling rather guilty of her own happy future with Bo. But Abe, clearly reading her mind, urged her not to be and not delay the wedding further; reminding her of life’s unpredictable nature. ‘Lexie knew you loved her, Carly; so please don’t feel like you’ll be showing any disrespect. You and Bo deserve your happiness after all that time apart; so just go for it.’
With that in mind, Carly went to the Brady Pub, accompanied by Darcy and the baby. ‘You think she would want to talk to you?’ Darcy asked.
‘Your Dad and I are getting married and this feud has gone long enough,’ her mother replied. ‘One of us has to make the first move anyway. You stay here with Byron... I’ll let you know when you can come in.’
Darcy nodded, taking hold of the pram. Taking a deep breath, Carly pushed open the Pub’s glass door. Caroline was behind the counter, making some notes and she looked up; her expression impassive as Carly walked up to her.
‘Hello, Caroline.’ Carly said, her calm voice disguising her nervousness.
‘What are you doing here?’ Caroline Brady asked coldly; her tone definitely not encouraging. But Carly was determined to make her point.
‘Caroline, I came here to see if we can make peace and be a family again. You’ve always been like a mother to me and I miss you; now that Bo and I have children together, we should be closer.’ Carly said, her tone pleading. ‘Please... Bo and I are getting married soon and our wedding can’t be complete without you and Kayla. I’m doing this for Bo and for our kids- I don’t want us to remain strangers, please.’
Caroline regarded her silently for a while and Carly braced herself, hoping that the cold eyes will soften.
‘Have you ever really loved Bo, have you ever actually and truly cared about his feelings?’ Caroline said at last.
Carly blinked, confused by the unexpected question. ‘Of course I love Bo, I always have; you know that.’
‘No Carly, I don’t know anything of the sort.’ Caroline sneered. ‘You married his father, even though you knew from the bottom of that place you call a heart, that you didn’t love him at all. You were attracted to Victor’s power, naturally but the reason you really married him was because you wanted to hurt my son after he scorned you.’
‘That’s not true...’
‘That’s the real reason; you did it out of spite; you refused to stomach the fact he was still in love with his wife!’ Caroline spat; her words raining like bullets. ‘And when you finally got what you wanted, Victor was no longer of use to you so you left him- and you began sneaking around with Bo like a common harlot and drove Victor to jealousy, causing him to plan his own son’s murder; how ironic that you fell into the trap instead- it was more than you deserved. Then you drove Bo crazy with all those secrets you kept from him; after everything he risked for you! You’re poison and a damned jinx- he and Hope were more than happy until you came back... you used Lawrence, just like you used my son and then discarded him by killing him! You are the reason why Hope’s in jail- you drove her to madness! I will never accept you into my family; just count on that!’
Carly stood there as though made of stone, unable to speak; sheer shock rendering her speechless. Then a cold, angry voice came from behind her, ‘How dare you... how dare you talk to her like that... for shame!’
Darcy glared at Caroline, her brown eyes glinting in utter fury; looking more like her father than ever; her hands tight on the hand grip of Byron’s pram. ‘How dare you blame that evil woman’s actions on her?’
Carly finally found her voice but it sounded so shaky and faint. ‘Cricket, no...’ she began.
‘No, Maman... I will speak!’ Darcy wrestled her arm from Carly’s grip, trembling with anger. Caroline paled at the sight of her granddaughter’s anger, horrified she heard everything but said nothing, facing the young woman defiantly.
‘What does it cost you to accept my mother, blood?’ Darcy shouted. ‘She came here with the best of intentions... to make peace with you and this is what you can offer her, reject and hatred? Are you as white as snow yourself, grandmamma? Are your own sins a deep, dark secret that you think you can insult my mother like this?’ She shook Carly’s restraining hand away again. ‘So this is your attitude, you will not accept her? Well, let’s see what my father will say about this when he finds out and I hope he makes you sorry! You should be ashamed of yourself; just like I am so ashamed of you!’
How Caroline was able to keep her expression neutral, she had no idea. With her action, she’d ruined what chance of ending her estrangement with Bo any time soon and she knew Roman would be so angry when he found out about this. She was already sorry for what she said but pride forbade her from taking back her cruel words.  ‘Whatever.’ Was the tight, cold word that came from her mouth before she could stop herself; making things even worse. 
‘Come Maman... we are leaving. Let’s go.’
Carly looked pale and ill as Darcy took her by the arm, pushing the stroller with her other hand; darting another angry look at Caroline. As the pub’s doors closed behind them; Caroline turned and stared at a framed photograph of Shawn on the wall. His gentle eyes seemed to look at her with heavy reproach.
Carly was weeping in Darcy’s arms when Bo came home. Ciara too was there and she looked very upset at the sight of Carly crying; stroking her hair consolingly.
 ‘Princess!’ he exclaimed, hurrying over to her. ‘What’s the matter; what’s happened?’ 
Instead of replying, Carly disentangled herself from Darcy and fled the room. Ciara hurried after her.
‘Carly!’ Bo turned their daughter helplessly. ‘For god sake Darcy, what happened?’
Maman went to the Pub today to talk to grandma in the hope they can make peace.’ Darcy replied quietly. ‘But instead, grandma said a lot of ugly things to her; it was terrible...’
‘What exactly did she say?’ Bo demanded harshly.
Darcy gave him a detailed narration and he cringed. ‘Oh, God...’
‘Maman now feels that it’s best if she went to England after all; she cannot marry you with the family divided.’
‘That’s crazy!’
‘Well, you must try and convince her otherwise!’ Darcy held up her mother’s engagement ring. Bo took it from her, his heart sinking. No, this couldn’t be happening... no... no...
‘Where’s the baby?’ he said at last.
‘In the nursery; asleep.’
‘I’ll see to your mum sweetheart, you go on home.’
Darcy still looked anxious. ‘You will make her change her mind, yes?’
‘I’ve talked her out of tighter situations than this, haven’t I? Don’t worry about it; she’s just upset.’
‘And stubborn.’
‘I’ve outdone her in that department; trust me.’ Bo kissed Darcy on the forehead. ‘Go home, I’ll call you later.’
‘Okay, papa.’
Carly was no longer weeping but her eyes were red and her cheeks tear stained. Ciara was cuddled close to her, her eyes fixed on Carly’s face anxiously.
‘Ciara, leave the room; Carly and I have to talk.’
His younger daughter looked at him rather resentfully, as though he was the one who made Carly cry, but she slid off the bed obediently and Bo closed the door after her.
Carly turned her back to him as he leaned over her. ‘Carly, come on... you can’t make this decision just because of someone’s opinion. She’s not going to dictate our lives or ruin our plans. I can’t let you go- I love you.’
‘I love you too,’ was Carly’s quiet reply. ‘But I can’t do this- I can’t be your wife with your mother’s attitude towards me.’
‘We’ve got the right to be happy.’ Bo insisted. ‘I would marry you in a heartbeat even if your parents were around to set the dogs on me, you know that, princess. We’ve beaten so many odds to quit now, please... don’t listen to what my mother said.’
‘But she’s right...’
‘No, she’s not right!’ Bo spat, turning her to face him. ‘What happened between us was Larry’s doing; he was so obsessed with breaking us up that he stooped low enough to use your own son! And if I hadn't been so stupid and spineless; you would never have married my father- the fault was all mine, mine! And for the last time, I don't ever want to hear about that Lisanne Gardner affair! You did what you had to do to protect Nicholas, like a good mother! I did the same remember... to keep my daughter from going to prison and I would do it all over again!’
Carly shook her head. ‘Bo...’
‘You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.’ Bo stressed. ‘I’m never ever letting you go again; never again. Carly Manning... Katarina Von Leuschner; after all these years, after everything we’ve been through, nothing and nobody can stop me from marrying you. I will not lose you again, you hear me? If I have to handcuff you and drag you in front of a judge, I will!’
Carly stared at him and then sank into his arms, sobbing. Bo stroked her hair, pressing a kiss on the top of her head. ‘It’s going to be alright, princess.’ He soothed; crushing her in a fierce hug.
Carly raised her head slowly and he wiped away her tears before reaching into his pocket. ‘Here... put this back on and don't you dare take it off again.’
Carly smiled faintly, meekly allowing him to slide the ring back onto her finger. ‘I’m sorry... I guess it was the shock of hearing what Caroline thought of me.’ She sniffled. ‘I don’t want to be the reason you and her not talking, Bo.’
‘She made her choice, Carly; it’s got nothing to do with you. She wants to forget who you are for some reason, so let her. We’re getting married and we’re going to be together for the rest of our lives, whether she, Kayla or that stupid jerk Justin likes it or not.’
Bo kissed her, a long, bruising kiss as though daring her to contradict him and Carly’s eager response reassured him all was well between them again.
Ciara was hugely relieved to see Carly smiling when they came out of the room and they talked and laughed over dinner, watching Cars 2 afterwards. Carly phoned Darcy to assure her the wedding was still on while Bo locked up and turned off the lights. Taking her by the hand, they went upstairs and tucked the children in for the night; Carly attending to Byron while Bo saw to Ciara, kissing her goodnight.
Carly was waiting for Bo in their room; green eyes inviting. Bo locked the door behind him and went to her; his mouth fiercely taking possession of hers, the sense of urgency running hot in both of them. Undressing each other, they sank into the soft double bed; arms and legs and lips locked together- conscious of nothing but each other and their love. Carly’s fingers ran over Bo’s muscled body; trembling with aching delight at the heated touch of his lips and hands; the force of their lovemaking as they again became one person. Bo shuddered wildly against her and her nails dug into his back, gently biting his shoulder as intense ecstasy washed over her.
They held on to each other, panting; hearts hammering. Raining kisses on her lips and neck, Bo turned over; cradling his lover against him, his fingers stroking her tinted curls. ‘Don’t ever think of giving up on us again, princess.’ He murmured.
‘Never again.’ Carly kissed his chest. ‘We’ll swim or sink together.’

Cher, are you there? I was wondering if you would like...’ Darcy’s voice trailed off, stopping dead at the sight of her husband drawing away from Chloe Lane’s embrace.
‘Oh... hi Darcy,’ Chloe greeted, not looking the least bit embarrassed at being caught by Daniel’s wife. Daniel on the other hand looked positively livid.
‘I just got into town and of course I decided to look up on old friends,’ Chloe went on. ‘I was just congratulating Daniel on his wedding.’
‘By wrapping yourself around him like a serpent?’ Darcy asked, an ominous tone in her voice. Immediately, she was sorry for the remark; she’d long vowed never to let Chloe get to her if she ever returned to Salem and now she was sounding like a jealous shrew.
‘Oh come on now...’ Chloe began only to be interrupted by Daniel. ‘Please leave us, Chloe.’ Daniel’s voice was so vehement that Chloe winced, taken aback.
‘I... well sure, but really Darcy, I didn’t mean any harm... I have no hidden intentions or anything.’
‘Well... that remains to be seen, no?’ Darcy replied coolly.
Shrugging, Chloe left the couple alone; hiding a mischievous smile.
‘Before you say anything,’ Daniel jumped in, ‘it wasn’t what it looked like. I was pushing her away when you came in.’
‘She can come and go as she pleases, cher; but she should keep her distance where you are concerned. I trust you but I do not trust her. From her manner, I sensed that she returned to make trouble for us.’
‘I love you,’ Daniel said forcefully; drawing her into his arms. ‘Only you; she’s in the past. She can do anything but she can never, will never break us apart, do you understand me, Darcy Jonas? You’re my wife and I’ll never betray you.’
‘I know.’ Darcy touched his neck, her eyes earnest. ‘And I love you too but I don’t want conflicts of any kind.’
‘If Chloe’s here to see if she can get me back, she’s wasting her time. And I’ll make sure she knows that, before she tries pulling any stunt.’
‘Just be on your guard, okay?’
‘Okay.’ Daniel kissed her, pressing her close against him. ‘Now...’ he pushed back a long strand of hair from her forehead. ‘What did you come to see me about?’
Darcy frowned. ‘Actually, I’ve forgotten.’ She admitted.
‘Oh, no problem.’ Releasing her, he moved to lock the door of his office. ‘I have enough time...’ he flashed her a wicked grin as he lifted her bodily off her feet, ‘to help you remember.’
It was like Daniel had done the unthinkable. Chloe’s heels clicked angrily as she left the hospital, her amusement now gone. How could Daniel replace her with that French jam tart? What had been the main attraction; her virginity? And now she has taken her place as Daniel’s wife... somehow Chloe had thought that phone conversation had been a tasteless joke; a way for Daniel to hurt her. She hadn’t believed him when he said he was marrying Carly’s daughter thus her return to Salem with Parker. Daniel couldn’t possibly love that convent reject.  
It’s all Carly’s fault; she thought angrily. She was the one who pushed them together, she never liked me- that sanctimonious bitch!
As she walked on, she nearly ran into Carly who was talking a walk with Byron.
‘Chloe.’ Carly said, stunned to see her. ‘What are you doing back in town?’
‘It’s a free country, isn’t it? Like you, I can appear unexpectedly whenever I want.’ Chloe replied snidely. She bent over to peer at Byron. ‘And who is this?’
‘This is my son, Byron.’
Chloe looked hard at the gurgling baby then straightened. ‘He looks a lot like Bo.’ She said. Glancing down at Carly’s hands resting on the pram's hand grip, her eyebrows rose at the sight of Carly’s engagement ring flashing in the sun. ‘I see you were able to get Bo back, more power to you.’
‘Bo realised he was still in love with me and I forgave him; I would never use a child to land a man.’ Carly snapped.  
‘Isn’t that what you did with Darcy to get into Bo’s bed, Carly? His life was never the same again when you both came to town. And speaking of which; pushing your daughter towards my man was a real low.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘You obviously pushed them together after I left town; while I was still married to Daniel I could tell Darcy had feelings for him under that fake innocent smile of hers. Just like Victor and Kate, you felt I wasn’t good enough for Daniel so you set up a virgin for him. You sure outdid them at scheming, didn’t you?’
‘Darcy and Daniel fell in love; the only thing I did was give Daniel my blessing when he asked my permission.’ Was Carly’s cold response.
‘And you expect me to believe that?’
‘Do you know anything about love at all? If you did, you would have trusted Daniel completely instead of cheating on him with Phillip.’ Carly accused.
‘And I’m supposed to listen to life’s lessons from a home wrecker like you?’ Chloe fired back harshly. ‘Who are you to judge me, after sleeping with a married man and having his baby? What did you do that was any way different from what I did, huh... you tell me!’
‘I’m no saint but I’m in no way like you.’ Carly replied, refusing to rise to the bait. ‘You did what you did because you were paranoid and selfish. Daniel’s a good man and Melanie’s like a daughter to me; they didn’t deserve to be treated that way. And I hope you didn’t come back here to hurt my daughter’s marriage.’
Chloe’s intense blue eyes flashed maliciously. ‘Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t. After all, I was another man’s wife when Daniel and I met and it didn’t stop him, did it?’
Carly glared at her. ‘Don’t you dare do anything to hurt my daughter, or so help me...’
Before Chloe could reply, Brady walked up to them, frowning. ‘Chloe, when did you get back?’ he asked.
‘Yesterday, actually. Carly and I were just getting reacquainted.’ Chloe raised herself on tip toe to kiss Brady on the cheek. ‘But I can’t stop to chat, I have an appointment. We must meet sometime soon and talk properly.’ She shot Carly another malicious look. ‘See you later... Carly.’
‘Are you alright?’ Brady touched her arm. ‘It looked like you and Chloe were having an intense conversation when I saw you.’
‘Let’s just say that Chloe got a bombshell and she’s smarting over it.’
‘Oh... Daniel’s remarriage.’
‘Yeah and she more or less accused me of engineering it.’
Brady snorted. ‘Oh, don’t take any notice of her, Carly. Once she gets over her bitterness, she’ll see that Daniel didn’t need anyone talking him into marrying my cousin. Every one knows he’s crazy about her.’
‘But you used to be married to her.’ Carly pointed out. ‘What happened exactly?’ As she spoke, she wondered if Isabella would have approved of Chloe Lane as her daughter-in-law.
Brady shrugged, his face clouding. ‘She wasn’t the woman I thought she was.’ He said flatly, ‘just forget about her; you’ve got a wedding next weekend, remember?’
Carly smiled in spite of herself but she couldn’t shake off the feeling of dread Chloe had caused.
Two days to the wedding, the sound of loud wolf whistles outside made Bo look up from his computer and he smiled when Roman entered his office, one arm round Carly, the other round Darcy. ‘Look who I found trespassing and causing a disturbance in the squad room.’ He said, grinning.
‘Should we book ‘em?’ Bo asked, grinning back, as the two women moved to hug him. ‘Where are my handcuffs?’
‘You should be so lucky.’ Carly whispered, her green eyes dancing. Darcy smiled indulgently while Roman rolled his eyes in mock disgust.
‘I. See. Nothing; I. Heard. Nothing.’ Roman intoned in a very bad imitation of Hogan’s Heroes’ Sergeant Schultz; causing Darcy to giggle helplessly.
‘What are you guys doing here?’ Bo asked after Roman left the room.
‘We’re on our way to shop for a last minute item...’ Carly winked, ‘and some other stuff. So we need to borrow your car.’
‘You’ve got engine trouble?’
‘No, it’s a lot of stuff and your car’s bigger.’ Carly held out her hand. ‘Keys.’
Bo grimaced, digging into his pocket. Carly took them, handing him the keys to her Camry. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t put a scratch on it.’
Bo leaned over to kiss her goodbye. ‘Scratch it and I might scratch you where...’
‘Okay, okay... Maman, let’s go before Papa causes me to cut my own ears off!’ Darcy took hold of her mother, blowing her father a kiss as they departed.
Bo’s nightmare began that night. Carly looked rather out of sorts when she returned home from her shopping trip so he told her to go straight to bed and rest. He and Ciara had dinner and he went to check on Byron. Carly was sleeping soundly when he went to bed so he didn’t disturb her, instead he kissed her rather warm cheek and got into bed beside her.
After some hours of sleep, Bo turned over and his hand rested on an empty space.  He sat up, blinking at the lit doorway of the bathroom. The shower was running; so he settled back to wait for Carly to come back to bed. But thirty minutes passed and she didn’t come out so Bo threw on a robe and went in. ‘Carly, are you okay in there?’ he called. No answer.
Filled with alarm and dread, he opened the shower cubicle’s glass door. Carly lay on the floor, curled in the foetal position; shivering uncontrollably as the water rained on her. ‘Carly!’ he exclaimed, dashing inside to carry her out. Settling her down on the tiled floor, he grabbed a couple of towels and dried her, covering her up with the other. ‘Are you okay? What happened?’ he asked anxiously.
Carly didn’t reply; she was shaking more than ever in his arms and her skin wore a ghastly pale sheen. Bo felt her forehead. She was burning up and her eyes looked glassy.
‘Don’t worry, princess; it’s going to be okay; I’ll call Daniel and we’ll get you to the hospital and you’ll be better in no time...’ Bo soothed, trying to suppress the feeling of panic as he carried her back to the bedroom and placed her on the bed, covering her with the duvet. How on earth did she suddenly become sick, was it something she ate? He dialled Daniel’s number. ‘Daniel, so sorry for calling so late but you need to get over here right away; Carly’s very sick...’
‘So is Darcy,’ came Daniel’s trembling voice. ‘I just called an ambulance; she’s burning up real bad and coughing.’
Bo turned as Carly gave a deep, harsh cough. ‘But they seemed fine today! They came by the station on their way shopping; Carly looked very tired when she came back... what the hell is this, food poisoning?’
‘No, Bo...’ Daniel’s voice was hard. ‘I recognise the symptoms. It’s not poison, it’s obviously a virus.’
Bo’s blood ran cold.

‘Get Carly to the hospital, fast; I’ll meet you there.’  

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.