Ciara Brady felt her heart skip at the sight of their baby sister nestled in the incubator, falling in love with her immediately. ‘Oh…’ she whispered, unable to stop staring at her. ‘She’s so cute and pretty!’
‘She is, isn’t she?’ Shawn Douglas smiled, looking down at Starr as well.
Ciara pressed a hand against the glass; completely drawn to the sleeping baby. ‘Hi Starr… I’m Ciara, your sister. I can’t wait to play with you.’ She said softly.
‘Don’t worry, you’ll be able soon; we’re all going to have fun with her.’ Shawn assured her. ‘Starr was born a little early so they have to keep her here for a while. But she’ll be able to go home soon though and you’ll get to visit her at Carly’s house.’
At the mention of Carly, Ciara went red as guilt filled her. ‘Will Dr. Manning let me come?’ she asked hesitantly.
‘Let you come? What do you mean by that, munchkin?’
Ciara swallowed and went even redder, unable to answer her big brother’s question. Shawn Douglas put his arm round her shoulders, determined to get to the bottom of her odd question. To his alarm, a tear rolled down the child’s cheek. ‘What’s wrong, tell me please. Why would you think Carly won’t let you visit Starr?’
‘I… I was very mean to her,’ Ciara mumbled, not meeting Shawn Douglas’ eyes. ‘I thought she wanted to steal Daddy away from us. So when she moved in… I… I got scissors and ruined her clothes…’
‘Ciara!’ Shawn Douglas exclaimed, shocked his sweet, affectionate little sister would do such a thing and to a woman he loved so dearly.
Ciara winced, more tears pouring down her cheeks. ‘I’m sorry,’ she sniffled.
Shawn Douglas glared at her. ‘Who put you up to it?’ he demanded. ‘Who asked you to do that?’
‘No one asked me to but she was making Mummy sad; I saw her and Daddy kissing and then I heard Mummy talking to Uncle Justin…’
‘Okay, that’s enough.’ Shawn Douglas struggled to control his temper. It wasn’t exactly Ciara’s fault, a child her age would jump into conclusions if the circumstances weren’t understood but it still made him very angry. ‘Ciara, you do realize you did a terrible thing to Carly who I’m willing to bet did all she could to be friends with you?’
Ciara bit her lip, nodding; remembering the times Carly offered to read to her or take her out but got coldly rebuffed. Even then she reluctantly saw that Carly was pretty and seemed to like her but Ciara had more loyalty towards her mother thus refused to give her a chance.
How could they let this happen? Shawn Douglas steamed. Maybe the families didn’t put her up to it but they did nothing to discourage Ciara’s dislike either. ‘Listen to me now, what happened between Mum and Dad had nothing to do with Carly; whoever told you that lied to you and I don’t want you to ever think that way about Carly again, understood?’
‘Okay but please don’t be mad at me, Shawn D…. I’m sorry, I really am.’ Ciara pleaded, rather scared by her brother’s hard tone. He’d never spoken to her that way before.
With difficulty, Shawn Douglas let his anger die down. ‘Honey, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad about what you did, but not with you. Come…’ taking her hand, he led her to a nearby seat and as simply as he could, Shawn Douglas revealed their father’s past with Carly; emphasizing the times she was there for them. How Carly took good care of him after going down the oil shaft he fell in, curing their father of a deadly disease, comforting him during the miserable two months Bo was missing and why she eventually left Salem. Ciara listened without a word, wringing her small hands as she thought about her past unkindness.
‘Carly’s a sweet, loving, wonderful woman and I was very lucky to have her while Mum was gone, so was Dad. So, if you really want a relationship with Starr, you’re going to have to get along with Carly from now on. Don’t listen to any one who says she’s a bad person because it’s not true.’
‘Okay.’ Ciara said in a small voice. ‘But do you think Carly will let me come over and play with Starr… after what I did?’
‘I don’t think Carly even remembers what you did and if I were you, I would do all I can to make it up to her.’
‘I will, I promise I will.’ Ciara said fervently. ‘I want to see her now, and tell her I’m sorry.’
Shawn Douglas hesitated.
‘Shawn D, I want to see Carly.’ Ciara persisted.
‘Well munchkin, I’ll take you over to see her if you like but Carly won’t be able to talk to you. She’s very sick right now and she’s… well unconscious.’
‘I still want to see her, please.’ Ciara replied, gripping his hand. ‘She might hear me if I talk to her.’
‘Okay, sure.’ He pulled her to her feet. With one last longing glance at Starr, Ciara followed her brother to the elevator, more than ready and determined to make things right.
What are you thinking about right now?
Melanie grinned at Brady’s text message and typed her reply. You.
How do you feel? He typed back.
Since they acknowledged their love for each other, it’s been like a dream for Melanie; for the first time in ages very happy even in the middle of her worry over Carly. After all the bitterness and disappointments of the past, Melanie finally found her soul mate and she couldn’t wait for Carly to recover and give her blessing, which meant a lot to her. Daniel was rather taken aback when she and Brady told him about them and somewhat reluctantly said he was okay about it. Melanie saw it was more of fatherly protectiveness towards her than disapproval towards Brady; considering his son-in-law slept with his wife, betraying and devastating them both. Now Melanie was in a new chapter of her life and so was Brady, who constantly told her she was his light and the love of his life thus would be lost without her. Frankie and Molly on their part were delighted about her and Brady. Jennifer however was still trying to get used to the idea of Nicholas dating Abby, according to Daniel who had to listen to her worry over her daughter’s boyfriend. Being the son of the man who caused Carly so much pain and heartache, she didn’t want history to repeat itself. Daniel, who had gotten to know Nicholas, did all he could to assure her that wasn’t going to happen.
She decided to be provocative. Empty, she typed. What are you going to do about it?
Plenty…If you’re game that is.
What do you think, Mr Black? Melanie stifled a giggle as she sat at Carly’s bedside.
See you tonight then, sweetheart. I love you. Kiss Carly for me.
I will, love you back.
Slipping her cell back into her pocket, Melanie leaned over her mother, pressing a kiss on the pale cheek. ‘I’ve found the love you once had, Mum.’ She said softly, brushing back a few strands of hair from Carly’s forehead. ‘And it’s so wonderful and real and… more than I ever imagined. I’ve found my soul mate and my happiness’s only going to be complete when you have yours back. And you will, Mum. He’s coming back, I just know he’s coming back… to you. And you’ll go back to living the love you’ve always deserved. You and Bo belong together, Mum; I really hope you’ll forget the past and let him back in.’ she turned as the door opened.
‘Hey Melanie, look who’s here.’ Shawn Douglas led Ciara into the room.
‘Hi Ciara, you came to visit Starr?’ Melanie smiled down at the tongue tied girl who could only nod.
‘She came to visit Carly too, didn’t you munchkin?’ Shawn Douglas gently pushed Ciara towards the woman lying on the bed. The child turned to look at her brother as though she needed more reassurance before moving nearer to Carly.
‘Hi Carly,’ she said at last, her voice trembling a bit. ‘I’m sorry you’re sick. And I want to say, I’m really sorry for the way I acted to you. When you get better, I… I really want us to be friends. I’m really sorry.’ She began to cry softly.
‘Hey… hey…’ Melanie got to Ciara before Shawn D did, putting her arms round her. ‘Come on, there’s nothing to cry about, honey. Oh, don’t… it’s going to be okay.’ She shushed her, stroking her hair, while Shawn Douglas walked up to hug Ciara from behind. Melanie looked at him over Ciara’s head inquiringly, mouthing what’s going on?
‘Ciara wanted to get some things off her chest, she’s afraid Carly won’t let her be around Starr due to … shall we say… past events?’ Shawn Douglas quietly explained.
‘Oh honey… of course she’ll let you be with Starr as much as you want, don’t you think that way.’ Melanie wiped Ciara’s cheeks with a Kleenex she fished out of her pocket. ‘Whatever you did or said… that’s all in the past now; Mum will tell you that. And you’re sorry about it too and that’s good. That’s nothing to cry about, okay?’ She kissed her on the forehead, hugging her.
‘You got that, Ciara?’ Shawn Douglas asked, rubbing her shoulder.
Ciara nodded, feeling better from Melanie’s well-meaning words. ‘Do you think Carly heard me?’ she asked.
‘I’m pretty sure she did, honey.’ Melanie assured her. ‘And she’ll more than willing to always have you over to play with Starr.’
Smiling at Melanie faintly, Ciara walked back to Carly’s bedside, laying her small hand on hers. ‘Get better soon, Carly, okay?’ she said before leaning down to kiss Carly’s cheek.
Maggie and Victor had a fight over the incident at the hospital. While he concurred that he lost his temper, Victor felt Melanie should apologise to him, not the other way round and to Maggie’s horror, completely disapproved of Melanie’s relationship with Brady, who had wasted no time informing them about it.
‘So now Carly’s bastard’s got her claws on my grandson now. What’s next… that sanctimonious son of hers making a play on Ciara when she’s older?’ he raged.
‘You’re out of control!’ cried Maggie. ‘What is the matter with you, don’t you think it’s time you let go of the past? Carly’s given you a new grandchild for god sake; do you honestly think you’re going to have any sort of relationship with Starr if you’re going to keep hating her mother?’
Victor glared at his wife, his mouth stubbornly set in a thin line. ‘Carly’s done nothing but ruin my son’s life the same way she ruined mine, almost destroying his marriage for good because it amused her...’
‘No, no… you’re not to do that again!’ Maggie swiftly interrupted. ‘Nobody’s going to put that on Carly ever again Victor, enough. The whole time we buried our heads in the sand when we knew what really happened and who was really to blame.’
‘I know very well who’s to blame Maggie and I still hold her responsible!’ Victor spat.
Maggie stared back at him steadily, her hand just itching to slap Victor across the face. ‘Look Shawn Douglas in the eye and tell him that then,’ she replied, her voice calm even though she felt like screaming at him. ‘You tell your grandson, who never forgot who Carly was or what meant to him, everything you just said. And maybe in turn, he’ll remind you what you tried to do to his father all those years ago, just because Carly found out what you did to get her to marry you in the first place. Also tell him you’ll continue hating Carly until the day you die because years ago, she ended a marriage that was never a marriage to begin with, a marriage based on lies and manipulation. Victor, if you can’t let go of your indefensible hate, like Bo and the rest of the family somehow managed to overlook aspects of your past; then I can’t continue with this marriage.’
‘So now you’re threatening me with a divorce?’ Victor taunted. ‘I would’ve thought you were above…’
‘It’s not a threat.’ Maggie snapped, infuriated now. ‘And don’t you dare talk to me like that; I won’t be mocked by you, Victor.’ She glared at him so fiercely that Victor was completely taken aback; seeing a different side of his usually gentle wife.
‘Maggie…’ he began, walking towards her, hands outstretched.
‘Don’t touch me,’ was Maggie’s cold reply. ‘I’ll move my things in the guestroom in the meantime.’ Her heels angrily clicked on the floor as she left the study, her heart clenching at the idea of leaving Victor but determined and ready to if he forced her hand. She’d said what needed to be said, now it was up to him to ponder hard over it.
A few days later, Carly took a turn for the worse. Dr. Long had a serious talk with Carly’s family, Daniel and Jennifer. ‘Her temperature and blood pressure’s increasing even further. We’re doing all we can to keep it at bay but…’
‘But what?’ Frankie demanded.
‘Carly might have another cardiac arrest and well… this time it could be fatal. I’m sorry.’
Melanie and Nicholas exchanged looks of despair. Molly bit her lip willing not to cry while Frankie scowled, refusing to believe his sister won’t make it. Jennifer however couldn’t keep the tears back and Daniel put his arms round her in consolation as she sobbed against his shoulder. On arriving after being summoned, Shawn Douglas, Brady and Abby consoled Melanie and Nicholas and offering kind words to Frankie.
‘We won’t lose her,’ Melanie said bravely as the tears slid down her cheeks. ‘We’re not going to lose her.’
‘Keep believing that, sweetheart.’ Brady urged, holding her close. ‘It’s going to be fine, she’ll get through this.’
They took turns at keeping vigil at Carly’s side, ignoring all advice to go home. Frankie slipped a prayer card in his sister’s hand, pressing a kiss on her palm as he reminisced about their childhood. Nicholas read to her from her favourite book of poems, Abby taking over from him. Molly sponged Carly’s hot forehead, believing with all her heart she will recover. The night it was Shawn Douglas’ turn to sit with Carly, holding her hand the whole time; Caroline arrived with flowers, Kayla accompanying her. Ignoring his aunt, whom he was not on speaking terms with, Shawn Douglas rose from his chair. ‘Grandma.’
‘Hello dear,’ Caroline said rather absently, her eyes on the ailing woman on the bed. She’d wanted to come since Roman broke the news of Starr’s birth but shame and guilt had prevented her from doing so. And Shawn Douglas’ angry talk with her hadn’t helped matters. ‘How is she?’
‘She’s in a bad way. The doctors are doing their best; we just have to hope for a miracle. And what are you doing here?’ Shawn Douglas asked Kayla rudely.
‘Shawn D,’ Caroline admonished.
Shawn Douglas ignored her, glaring at Kayla. ‘After all that stuff you told Frankie about Carly, why bother coming in here since we all know how you feel about the woman who was once your friend. You’ve really got some nerve.’
Kayla turned away, her face red.
‘Shawn D, please… now’s not the time to do this.’ Caroline pleaded.
‘Well, maybe I feel like doing it; it’s not like she has any trouble badmouthing Carly all over the place and almost getting her fired. Yeah, I heard about that, Aunt Kayla. How you can live with yourself, I can’t begin to imagine.’
‘Grandma, don’t. Don’t apologize for her. It’s not like she’s sorry anyway.’ Shane Douglas spat, at the same time keeping his voice low. ‘Excuse me, I’m going to the bathroom.’ He left the two women alone with the patient, closing the door behind him.
‘He’s just angry honey,’ Caroline touched Kayla’s arm as her daughter turned back to her, her face expressionless. ‘And you should understand, Carly was like a mother to him, he never forgot her like we all chose to.’
Kayla sighed heavily. Shawn Douglas was wrong, she was sorry and had been since Frankie’s verbal attack on her. No one knew of her visits to Carly’s room where she left flowers and “Get Well” balloons or long minutes watching Starr and wondering how she could make it up to Carly. ‘I know, Mum,’ she said at last. ‘And when Carly wakes up, how can I ever face her? Everybody knows she left her job here because of me and I let her, not giving a damn what the staff would think. I’ve been so heartless and cruel like Daniel said.’ she moved to Carly’s side. ‘She was my friend and what I did to her… it was like another person did and said all that,’ she said, her voice trembling as Caroline put her hands on her shoulders. ‘Carly, I’m sorry. I wish you can hear me… I’m so sorry for everything.’ She took Carly’s hand and held to her cheek, pain and regret filling her heart. She’d accused Carly of breaking up her brother’s marriage, reported her to the board for the sole purpose of getting her license seized, and was very pleased when Carly was passed over to be Lexie’s successor. Like several members of the family, she had a lot of be guilty about and while it was all right to say they were sorry, starting over with the woman they wronged so much was going to be difficult.
Caroline patted her daughter’s back, looking down at Carly as well. She’d seen Starr and the sight of the beautiful baby had made her cry as she remembered during the months Carly carried her, she’d made no calls or visits to her about her health nor brought gifts for the baby… nothing. She felt the same way Kayla was feeling, how will they ever face Carly when she woke up?
Melanie jerked awake, raising her eyes sleepily when she felt a kiss on her forehead. ‘Oh hey,’ she said, stroking Brady’s cheek as when he sat next to her.
‘Have you had anything to eat?’ he asked solicitously.
‘Not since lunch.’ Melanie sat up. ‘But it’s okay, I’m not hungry.’
‘Sweetheart, I know you’re worried about Carly but you’re going to have to keep your strength up. You’ll be no good to her if you end up sick yourself.’ Brady admonished.
‘I know hun, you’re right.’ Melanie said meekly. ‘I should take something.’
‘Should I run out and get you a burger?’
‘No, no… you stay here with Mum, I’ll go raid the vending machine. Got any quarters?’
Brady fished out a handful from his jacket pocket and gave them to her. Kissing him, Melanie opened the door and stepped into the lobby, turning round the corner to where the vending machines stood. She looked up as she heard a ding and the sound of the elevator doors opening. Curious, she turned back and stopped short, unable to believe her eyes at first. ‘Oh my God,’ she whispered. ‘Oh my God!’
Unshaven, bundled in a leather jacket, a bag slung over one shoulder, stood Bo.
Rushing across the linoleum tiled floor, she flung herself into his outstretched arms, crying and hugging him tightly. ‘You’re here, you’re finally here…thank you... thank you!’ she sobbed, frantically kissing his cheek.
Bo pulled away but held her face between his hands, his handsome brown eyes wide and anxious. ‘Am I too late?’ he whispered, his voice hoarse and shaking.
‘No,’ Melanie whispered back, tears pouring down her cheeks.
‘Where is she?’Melanie took him by the hand and led him to Carly’s room.