Hope brought Ciara over to the apartment later. Ciara, wild with joy at seeing them again, squeezed Carly tight with her small arms after hugging Bo. ‘I missed you so much!’ She squealed.
‘We missed you too and look what we brought you.’ Bo handed a small box to Ciara; which revealed a silver charm bracelet. Hope watched as Carly clasped it on Ciara’s wrist, her face impassive. ‘So... how was your trip?’ she asked.
‘It was great; it was something I really needed.’ Carly replied as Bo didn't seem inclined to; his manner towards his ex wife decidedly frigid.
‘Well of course, after what you went through.’ Hope hesitated then looked down at her daughter. ‘Sweetie, why don't you go to your room for a bit, I want to talk to Daddy and Carly.’
‘Okay.’ Flashing a hero worship smile at Carly, the child scurried to the guest room she used whenever she stayed with Bo.
‘Well?’ Bo asked, frostiness at full blast.
‘Bo, please.’ Carly said quietly, wanting as much as possible to avoid an altercation.
‘No it’s okay. He has the right to be mad at me, you both have that right, what with my behaviour towards you before you left town. The way I acted so ungrateful and heartless and I’m not, Carly... really.’ Hope’s face was now earnest.
‘Then why was it so hard for you to go and at least say thank you to the woman who saved our daughter, huh?’ Bo snapped, ignoring Carly’s imploring look. ‘You, Kayla, Ma.... Doug and Julie and Maggie; you were all simply too proud to admit you were wrong about her.’
Carly shifted under Bo’s protective arm round her shoulders, very embarrassed and greatly longing for this awkward conversation to end very soon.
‘Yes, you’re right!’ Hope snapped back, feeling like a child being rebuked, a thing she’s always hated but she forced down her anger with great effort. ‘I was too proud to come; after everything that happened to you and everything I said and thought about you... you actually saved my daughter even after you lost yours and probably blamed me for it...’
‘You didn't cause my miscarriage.’ Carly said quickly. ‘Neither you or Bo had anything to do with it, it happened and I’ve made my peace with it. And what went on afterwards was a period we’ll do well to simply forget and move on.’
‘How can you possibly just forget it?’ Hope demanded, incredulously. ‘I have so much to apologise for, so many things I regret...’
Bo looked away, irritated by the drama. If she really wanted to apologise to Carly, she should get on with it and be done.
‘Hope.’ Carly said emphatically. ‘Life’s far too short to go over regrets. What I did for Ciara that night, I would do again- miscarriage or no and I don't hold any grudge against you. Please, please... don't wear yourself out with guilt.’
That only made Hope feel worse, far worse than how she’d felt after Shawn Douglas had told her all about how Carly had gotten him out of the oil shaft and the many ways she was there for him, especially the two agonising months Bo was missing. If she had to lose Bo to another woman, she gladly and sincerely preferred relinquishing him to Carly Manning, who definitely deserved to be happy with him and vice versa.
‘Thank you.’ she said at last. ‘Lord knows I don't deserve your forgiveness and I can’t think of anyone else who would let me off this easy. But all the same Carly and you too Bo... I apologise for my behaviour and I hope we’ll be able to get along from now on.’
‘Well we hope so too, Hope.’ Bo said, still not letting go of Carly. ‘And you might as well know now, Carly and I got married in México.’
‘I know.’ Hope nodded, smiling faintly. ‘I noticed Carly’s rings. Congratulations, I really mean that.’
‘Thanks.’ Carly’s returning smile was also faint but she knew sincerity when she heard it. Hope was letting go at long last.
‘Well...’ Hope adjusted the strap of her shoulder bag. ‘I have to go, tell Ciara I said goodbye.’ She hesitated and then gave Carly an unexpected hug. ‘Thank you again.’ She said softly, her smile wider before departing.
‘That wasn't so bad, thank God.’ Bo remarked after closing the door after her. Carly was wearing an odd expression on her face. Concerned, he touched her shoulder. ‘Princess, what’s wrong?’
‘I...I don't want this, Bo.’ She turned to look at him, eyes troubled. ‘ I don't want people lining up apologising to me. I won’t be able to forget everything that happened if they keep reminding me with their “I’m sorry, Carly”!’
‘It still doesn't mean they don't have to do it. Even before we slept together your name was already dragged into the mud, like they never knew you before! How do you think that made me feel?’
‘I didn't care.’
‘Don't lie to me, princess, you did; you just managed to hide it and you barely managed to hide what I put you through...’
‘Will you stop referring to it!’ Carly cried, exasperated now. ‘Just stop! I don't ever, ever want you to go back to guilty memory lane; not you, not the family, not the Hortons. I don't want to be reminded of that terrible time and I don't need words to know that they’re sorry.’ She cupped his face with both hands. ‘ You want to know the moment I actually forgave you? When you read the scroll with me at the hospital. You took me back to where we were all those years ago, when we belonged to each other... so nothing mattered from then on.’
‘Really?’ Bo asked, touched by her admission.
‘Yes. It was so sweet and meaningful, a huge bouquet of roses with a card saying “forgive me” wouldn’t have been half as precious.’ Her arms now circled his neck. ‘That was the reason why I forgave you; besides the fact that I love you so very much. I don't need an apology from them before I forgive them. I already have.’
‘I can’t believe you sometimes...’ he whispered, pushing back her hair with his fingers. ‘Even after everything?’
‘Even after everything.’ Was the soft reply. ‘Real forgiveness heals and helps a person to forget, not referring to the past and passing judgement over and over again.’
Overwhelmed with love and tenderness for her, Bo kissed her passionately, not once but several times; holding her tight in his arms. The whole time they’d been apart, sixteen long years without each other, she never changed; remaining the stubborn yet compassionate woman he’d fallen in love with so many years ago. And he’d come so close to losing her all over again; to another man and the cold hands of death. Every day for the rest of their lives, she’ll always see just how much he loved her.
Ciara came out as the last kiss ended and they broke the happy news of their marriage to her which resulted in a joyful and emotional group hug.
Later on, Carly phoned her brother, who was ominously silent when she told him she and Bo were now married. ‘I’ve forgiven him Frankie and I need you to forgive him too.’ She said pleadingly. ‘He loves me, really he does.’
‘Is he there?’ Frankie asked.
‘He’s right beside me.’
‘Put him on.’
Carly put the phone on speaker. ‘Bo?’
He heard his brother, or rather brother-in-law clear his throat. ‘Audra keeps calling me a hot head and maybe I am but I have to be where my sister is concerned. You surely understand why it’s hard for me to trust you.’
‘I do, man. But I really love Carly and believe me... she’ll never suffer any pain from me, ever again.’ Bo said earnestly, willing for Frankie to be convinced. ‘I want us to move on, be friends again; what do you say?’
A minute of silence and then Frankie spoke again, ‘Well, since you two have done the deed there’s nothing else except give you my blessing. Congratulations to you both, big bro.’
Bo and Carly smiled with relief. ‘Thanks so much, honey. Where’s Audra?’
‘She’s out but I’ll tell her your news of course. She’s going to be psyched that her idea turned out more than great.’ He said with dry humour.
‘It did and we can’t thank you both enough.’ Bo stroked Carly’s hair. ‘Give her our love and we hope to see you back here soon.’
Carly had told Bo she needed no apologies from the family but they didn't give her a choice in the matter all. Caroline showed up at the apartment the next day with a chocolate covered cheese cake, a single white rose on top of the box. As she handed it to Carly, she looked at her earnestly, lips trembling with emotion. ‘Carly, I’m...’
‘Don't, Caroline.’ Carly interrupted, putting the box down to take her hands. ‘Please don't.’
‘Please dear, just let me do this, or I’ll never be able to live with myself.’ Caroline gripped Carly’s fingers in hers, tears already forming in her eyes. ‘I’m so... so sorry for the way I treated you, for everything I accused you of...’
Carly shook her head firmly, hugging her tightly. ‘It’s over, all over... we never have to refer to it again. Please...’
And like Hope had felt, Caroline felt all the more ashamed at Carly’s unconditional kind-heartedness as she hugged her back; kissing her on both cheeks, tears pouring down hers. ‘Welcome.’ She said softly, touching Carly’s face. ‘Welcome back to the family.’ She turned to Bo, hugging him as well. ‘I’m sorry too, son, for everything.’
‘That’s okay, ma. I’ve forgotten all about it.’ Bo kissed his mother.
Caroline smiled at both of them. And congratulations to you both on... I know you’re going to be very happy.’ The couple exchanged loving looks. There was no doubt about that.
‘And...’ she added enthusiastically, clapping her hands. ‘Since we didn't make the ceremony, we are going to have a proper reception with the whole family.’
‘Oh that’s not necessary...’ Carly winced as Bo squeezed her wrist a tad too hard, signalling her not to argue.
‘No, no... We must have a celebration and we will!’ Caroline said firmly. ‘We’ll have a big cake and all the trimmings!’
Which is what they had at the house a week later, the guests including Carly’s children, Daniel and the out of town Bradys; Frankie and Audra, Shawn Douglas, Belle and Claire, Carrie and her husband Austin, Kimberly and her sons, Sami’s twin Eric and Max and Bo’s daughter Chelsea.
Frankie embraced his sister and solemnly shook hands with Bo, wishing them both happiness. Audra, overjoyed they were now married, insisted on hearing all about the ceremony.
And there was of course Kayla who held Carly in her arms for several minutes, crying quietly. ‘Forgive me.’ She whispered in her ear.
‘Kayla, hush.’ Carly said, kissing her. ‘We’re sisters again, so none of that.’
Kayla smiled tearfully as Kimberly hugged her as well. ‘Only one person’s missing... Isabella. I wish she could have been here to see you both happy at last.’
‘Oh, I wouldn’t say that, Kim.’ Bo said, exchanging a knowing glance at Carly. ‘She’s always with us and I’m certain she’s more than happy we’re together.’
‘Hey... my turn to hug the bride.’ John elbowed Bo aside to pull Carly close. ‘Looking even more beautiful doc.’ He grinned, scanning her face.
‘Well you don't look so bad yourself, and of course you too, old friend.’ Carly exchanged a hug with Marlena and then Adrienne and Jennifer who squeezed her joyfully, grinning all over their faces.
‘It’s so wonderful to see you again, Carly and lord knows you’ve aged better than I have.’ Marlena teased.
‘Well, I think we’re not bad looking for women over 40!’ Jennifer retorted jokingly, making them laugh.
While the women surrounded Carly, admiring her rings, Chelsea congratulated her father. ‘She’s beautiful, Dad.’ She commented.
‘Thanks honey, she makes me very happy.’
‘I can tell, from the look in your eyes.’ Chelsea smiled warmly. ‘Shawn D told me all about her and Mum added her bit. It must have so weird seeing her again after so long.’
‘An understatement because I never thought I’d ever see her again or we’ll end up back together after all that time. We found each other again after a lot of obstacles because it was just meant to be.’
‘Seeing you two with each other, no can say what you two got isn't deep.’ Chelsea kissed him. ‘You both stay happy.’
Roman led the toast after everyone’s glasses were full of champagne. ‘To my little brother and my new sister-in-law; the bravest and most wonderful woman I’ve ever known and many years of love and happiness.’
‘Hear, Hear!’ was the general chorus.
After the cake was cut, Melanie put on some music and the party became even livelier.
‘Happy, princess?’ Bo asked, hugging his wife from behind.
‘With everybody here, celebrating and sharing our joy; deliriously happy.’ Carly rested against him, watching Frankie chatting with Roman. ‘And one more thing besides being with the family again.’
‘Yeah, what’s that.’
In reply, she pushed his hands lower, pressing them on her stomach. Bo didn't understand at first but suddenly a wonderful thought struck him as he felt something.
‘Princess...’ he whispered, his fingers detecting a small bulge. ‘Are you... are we...?’
‘I found out yesterday.’ She whispered. ‘I didn't tell you because I wanted to be sure.’
‘Oh my God...’ he kissed the back of her neck, caressing her stomach. A long hoped reunion and now another miracle. ‘Are you scared?’
‘A little. But for the most part, I’m very grateful.’ Carly whispered back, emotion in her voice. ‘But I’m not ready to tell everybody just yet.’
‘Sure... whatever you want.’ Bo turned her round to face him, meeting her radiant eyes. ‘We’ll have our own private celebration when we get home. All night long.’
‘As long as we don't get too carried away and wake Ciara.’ She grinned, pressing her face against him.
‘Oh stop with the mushy stuff and get your butts to the dance floor!’ Justin exclaimed in mock disgust. Laughing with sheer joy, Bo dragged his bride to the middle of the room, every one applauding and cheering encouragement as Bo spun Carly to the music.
Everybody one, everybody two, everybody free
Everybody needs to touch, you know, now and then
And everybody wants a good, good friend
Everybody wants to be
Closer to Free
I said everybody one, everybody two, everybody free
Everybody wants to live
Like they wanna live and
Everybody wants to love like they wanna love and
Everybody wants to be
Closer to Free
Yeah, Closer to Free
Yeah, Closer to Free
Closer to Free.....
And that was how Bo and Carly Brady felt; completely free to love each other and openly live their love like they had the right to. For always.
Vivian Alamain was found guilty of attempted murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison, her accomplice Gus Pascal receiving the same sentence.
After making her peace with Bo and Carly, Hope began dating her divorce lawyer, Damon Ward but the relationship never lead to marriage; she was done with it.
Daniel and Jennifer got married in a simple civil wedding; Doug, Hope’s father, gave her away. He and Julie and the rest of the Hortons also made their peace with Carly.
Lexie and Abe moved to Philadelphia with Theo and Carly assumed the position of Chief of Staff , still managing to spend time with her husband.
‘Push again, Carly.’
Beads of sweat on her forehead, Carly obeyed, moaning in excruciating pain. Bo held her hand tightly.
‘Stay with me Princess, I’m right here.’
‘I can see the head... one more push!’ Dr. Heather Shaw urged. Carly pushed again with the last of her strength. A hearty cry of a new born infant finally sounded.
‘It’s a boy.’ Heather said, happy tears in her eyes visible above the surgical mask. ‘He’s perfect!’
‘Oh he is!’ Melanie said softly, tears running down her cheeks as she beheld her baby brother. ‘And he’s so beautiful!’
The baby was cleaned and wrapped in a shawl before placed in Carly’s arms.
‘Oh Bo...’ she whispered. ‘Our baby. We have a baby...’
Bo gazed down at their son, who quietened as he peered at them out of his tiny eyes, squirming in Carly’s arms. ‘He’s incredible.’ He said softly, stroking his soft cheek. ‘So beautiful. He has your eyes, princess.’
‘But he looks like you and a bit like Shawn D.’ She kissed the child on the forehead. ‘Oh my God...’ She looked up at her husband. ‘I love you.’
Bo kissed her, long and tenderly. ‘Love you too, princess.’
The child was baptized Ryan Francis Brady two weeks later in church; Frankie and Audra, who was six months pregnant, appointed his godparents. Bo and Carly’s happiness was finally complete.