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Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Several months later 

Bo Brady drove to  Carly’s place, reminding himself he was merely going to see her to give her a housewarming present. Since her sudden return, his mind had been all in a twizzle and for a while forgot his personal problems. Carly Manning, the woman he’d so nearly married was back in Salem. And now a widow. He and several other people had read of Lawrence Alamain’s death in the papers, apparently a political assassination. And judging from how thin and pale Carly looked the night he saw her; his death had hit her hard. Bo had shed no tears for Larry but felt very sorry for Carly; commiserating with her on her loss. The past didn’t matter; he’d let her go in the first place out of love for her even though it had broken his heart to see her go. Why should he feel resentful of the past, especially after so many things happened long after she left with Larry and Nicky. Fate had given them different paths but it didn’t mean he couldn’t be her friend and be there for her. Right now, Hope was sulking somewhere, furious he never told her about his “significant ex”, believing the whole time the only woman in his life during her absence had been Billie. After a long battle with Billie’s schemes and plots, she thought all was over. Now, Carly Manning.  To Bo’s fury, everyone except for a few who remembered her, seemed to think she came back for devious intentions. Justin especially was outspoken about it and Bo had to resist the temptation to punch him in the face. As if sticking his nose in his problems with Hope wasn’t bad enough, he dared to speak badly of the woman he once loved. Bo darkly vowed to deal with his cousin later.
 Brady, surprised but pleased to finally meet the woman he’d seen with Isabella in some old photos, insisted on leasing his loft to Carly. ‘I was going to sublet it anyway; I hardly use that old place anymore.’
While Brady had his faults, he was protective and thoughtful to people he liked or cared about. Once Bo introduced Carly as his late mother’s best friend- who also happened to be his godmother, Brady had taken to her much to Bo’s relief, considering the way most people were acting towards her. Other people were kind though. Maggie, though she still had some reservations. Mrs. Horton who was very happy Carly was back. Dr. Daniel Jonas, who’d known her in medical school,  to Bo’s surprise. And Adrienne, Justin’s estranged wife who returned to Salem recently.
The past doesn’t matter, thought Bo again. It was perfectly natural for Carly to mourn her husband yet he couldn’t deny the twinge of jealousy and resentment towards Lawrence Alamain. He and Carly loved each very much and were very happy until Lawrence and Vivian had ruined everything. The reason he’d refused to think about Carly all those years, besides concentrating on Hope and their children, was being unable to bear the thought of her deliriously happy with the man who had  taken her away from him, a man he hated and despised. He’d been very happy with Hope, despite the problems that came with every marriage, all these years. Despite their current estrangement he still loved her, always would.  He had no right to be jealous Carly was still sad over Lawrence. The best he could do was be her friend and console her however he could.
Carly Manning jerked awake, face clammy with sweat. Another nightmare. Breathing hard, she glanced round, as though to reassure herself she wasn’t back in Alamainia. Until she dozed off on the couch she’d been unpacking some boxes; a few remained still full. The loft she once shared with Isabella was a warm, familiar haven and in a strange way could feel her late friend’s presence; even with the change in décor. Brady told her she could redecorate if she wanted to after insisting she leased it. She was still trying to get used to an adult Brady; having left Salem when he was a few months old. He seemed like a very nice young man though it saddened her to hear from Bo he and John had a rather complicated relationship. It wasn’t what Isabella would’ve wanted at all. But then again years ago, despite the challenges in front of them, Carly and Isabella thought they would win through and grow old with the men they loved and raise their children. Fate had decided otherwise. Isabella had not lived to see thirty, while she... a lot of things she never envisioned had happened to her.
Frankie and Nicholas had urged her to reconsider moving back to Salem. While it held happy memories, it held sad ones too and a lot have changed. She was no fool; she was aware of that. All the same, Salem beckoned to her and after years living a nightmare at the Alamain estate, she didn’t resist the pull.
Getting up from the couch, she went into the bathroom and washed her face. It  was just a dream, she reminded herself. He’s dead… he can never come back to hurt you. And while a lot of things may have changed, it won’t stop her from making a fresh start. The nightmares will eventually stop. But what about the scars; both emotional… and physical?  Carly felt the tears well up again. One of the things her therapist told her during their sessions it would take time for her to heal. The beatings, rapes and near starvation whenever Lawrence left her in the cellars after one of his “torture tantrums”. But none of them, terrible though they were, were close to what he did to her that night. Until the day she departed from the world, she could never forget. Time may be as kind as it wants but could never heal that particular scar….ever. If the people who were suspicious and unkind to her only knew the sheer pain in her heart. But of course there was no way she‘ll ever tell them what Lawrence did to her; telling them would also mean Bo finding out she was the one who killed him.
Bo. Part of her wished he wasn’t so nice to her. Every time she saw him, painful regrets of what might have been would rush in, adding to the pain she was already nursing. A lot memories; pledging their love on top of El Castillo in Chichén Itza. Their long talks about the future. Their emotional reunion at Vivian’s charity ball after the agonizing two month separation and the wedding that got interrupted. Carly felt more tears roll down her cheeks. Maybe it was a mistake to return to Salem after all. Not only because of the memories and regrets but also the timing. But how was she to know Bo’s marriage was in trouble? Even Frankie- who had been the one to tell her about Hope’s miraculous return from the dead- had no idea, or would have mentioned it. From what Bo told her, it sounded like a huge misconstruction on Hope’s part. Why on earth would she feel Bo- of all people- would gamble with the lives of any of his children? Ciara’s kidnap had simply upset her and after she cooled down, she and Bo would get on with their lives again. And maybe then people would stop thinking what they were presently thinking of her.
Wiping her eyes, Carly made her way to the kitchenette, contemplated the cans of soup in the cabinet before changing her mind. A pizza maybe, or some Chinese, she decided. As she picked up the phone, the doorbell buzzed.
Bo smiled when he saw Carly was peering at him through the spyhole on the steel door, which then slid open. ‘Hi,’ she said.
‘Hi,’ Feeling a little self-conscious, Bo entered when she gave him room to pass, handing her the small gift basket. ‘I thought I’d drop by with a housewarming present.’
‘Oh…’ Carly took it. ‘You didn’t have to but thanks. Thanks Bo.’ Aware he was staring hard at her, she made an effort to appear at ease. ‘Do you have time to share a pizza with me?’ She asked, immediately regretting the question. She didn’t want to appear eager for his company. His wife was hostile and suspicious enough.
‘No, thanks. I can’t stay long.’
‘A beer then?’ she asked, not wanting to sound inhospitable either.
‘Sure, that would be great.’ 
Taking off his jacket, Bo sat down on the couch, still watching her. Carly was as beautiful as he remembered, something he was very well aware of; her once chestnut hair now a tinted honey-blonde. But there was something different about her. Her eyes were still the vivid green he remembered but there was a certain hardness on her face the smile didn’t conceal and a rather resigned droop on her shoulders. The Carly Manning he remembered always held herself up so proudly, just like the Lady she was. He didn’t like seeing her this way but it was to be expected from a widow still feeling the pain of losing her husband. And she was much too thin.
‘Here you go,’ she said, handing him the ice cold bottle. As she sat down on an arm chair he saw the wedding band on her finger, pave-set diamonds mounted in white-gold; probably from Cartier.  Trust Larry to go overboard with a posh specimen like that, he thought. Pushing back the uncharitable thought, he gave her a warm smile. With an effort, she smiled back faintly, feeling her hands tremble. More than a decade, leading separate lives- his far happier than hers- and she was acutely aware of his presence, susceptible to the warm piercing brown eyes. She vividly remembered the night of her return. Longing for a warm bed but a hot cup of coffee first, she’d dismissed the cab and entered a coffee place called The Java. While placing her order, she heard a familiar voice call her name and turned round to see Bo at a table, staring at her incredulously. Older but still handsome and she’d immediately felt what she was feeling just sitting near him. But how else would she feel when Bo and all the happy memories with him was all she had all those years of suffering in Alamainia? All the years she called herself a fool for falling for an illusion, again? Victim of circumstances or not, she made the wrong choice and paid for it dearly. But even if things had turned out differently, Hope still came back. What would have become of me then?
Her awakening feelings for Bo,  everyone’s hostility and suspicions and what she was hiding from them were the reasons why she still had her hated wedding ring on. A woman in her position would throw it into the river or sell it and give the money to charity or something. But in the meantime, it has to stay on her finger. In the eyes of the world, she was a grieving widow; no one must know her  what really happened. Especially Bo. Frankie and Nicholas had Vivian firmly under their thumb; she wasn’t going to reveal her secret anytime soon.
‘Have you applied at the hospital like you said you would?’ Bo asked her, attempting to make conversation as Carly seemed tongue-tied and ill at ease.
Very glad he told the initiative, Carly replied, ‘Yes. And Daniel promised to put in a good word for me when he talks to the board.’ As she spoke, Carly doubted Victor would be enthusiastic about her being hired. The few times she’d seen him since her return, he always looked at her as though she had a bad smell and wasted no time reminding her Bo had gotten over her long ago and Hope was a lot prettier than she was. ‘I’m going by to see him tomorrow actually. He invited me to have lunch with him and Chloe.’
‘Small world, huh? The same guy who saved my life turned out to be an old school chum of yours in med school.’
 ‘Small world is right. After graduation,  we lost touch. Which is sad because we were pretty close friends back then; both determined to be dedicated doctors and do all we can to save the planet.’
Bo grimaced, remembering the environmental protests she and their mutual friend Marcus Hunter  found time to participate in years ago; often likening them to sixties  hippies.  ‘Some things just don’t change,’ he said, his dry tone making Carly laugh loudly. He looked at her, surprised but pleased. ‘Finally, she laughs.’
‘Oh…’ Carly clamped a hand to her mouth as she realized what she just did.
‘Hey…’ leaning forward, Bo took hold of her wrist and lowered her hand. ‘It’s about time you did anyway. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re hiding.’
What I’m hiding? ‘Hiding?’ she asked, warily.
‘The pain of your loss. I was never a fan of Larry’s but I’ve  lived through the pain of losing a loved one; you know that. The pain eats you alive but somehow you have to pull yourself up.’
‘You had Shawn Douglas to think of. He got you going during that time.’  
‘A lots  changed Carly but I’ve still got a great memory. I also had you.’ His voice was quiet.
Carly somehow managed not to lose control of herself and burst into tears. ‘Yes, well… like you just said, it was a long time ago.’ She said briskly. ‘And look how things worked out. I went back to Lawrence and you… you had Billie, then Hope turned out not to be dead. But I guess you’re really talking about your poor little boy, Zack. I can’t begin to imagine  what you and Hope and the family went through.’
He nodded, his eyes still on her face, the hardness back in place. There was such  stark pain and sadness in those green eyes that he suddenly felt an urge to put his arms round her.
‘It was hard, yeah…’ he replied, forcing the impulse back. ‘And it still is. The pain never really goes away completely, when you lose a kid. Losing a spouse too, that’s hard. But eventually, you’ll just have to move on with your life.’
‘I know that,’ Carly replied, bitterly thinking, If only you knew. ‘That’s  why I hope to get a response from the hospital soon. Good hard work to keep me busy is what I really need. That is, if your father doesn’t convince the rest of the board to vote against me. He would  love to run me out of town  any way he can.’
‘He tries a thing like that, he’s going to answer to me.’ Bo promised, a hint of anger in his voice. ‘I’m not about to let him harass you by denying you a job just because his wounded ego won’t let him let go of  the past.’
Carly shrugged. ‘He was the one who did wrong, not me; and he knows it. If Victor wants to keep pretending he was the victim, that’s his problem as long as he doesn’t try to interfere with me. I’m here for a fresh start, not to stir up trouble.’
‘You do deserve that fresh start, and you’ll get it.’ Bo reached out again to squeeze her hand and she found herself squeezing his in return. ‘It’s going to be okay. In time, people are going to remember Carly Manning and Hope’s going to see she’s  wrong about you.’
Carly felt there was more to Hope’s jealousy than Bo thought but refused to pursue the touchy subject further. Instead she gently withdrew her hand from his touch. ‘I hope so. Thanks.’  
‘Anytime.’ His bottle now empty, Bo set it down and reluctantly got up to take his leave. For the first time since Hope moved out with Ciara, he felt a bit of the bitterness and anger leaving him. He found himself wanting to talk with Carly a bit longer instead of poring over case files at the station. He looked down at the familiar beautiful face, the sad eyes haunting him. Impulsively, he stroked her hair. ‘It’s going to be okay,’ he repeated. ‘And remember… I’m here for you.’
Carly nodded. ‘Thanks for stopping by.’
Bo waved at her as he stepped into the elevator. Carly waved back, watching as it took him to the ground floor. Back in the privacy of her bedroom, Carly stood in front of the mirror. With trembling hands, she pulled off the black sweater, slowly turning herself round.  Ugly scars on her back and shoulders, left by Lawrence’s whip. She ran her hands over her stomach, tears falling down her cheeks. Lawrence Alamain was dead. And so was Carly Manning. She was less of a woman now. Lawrence had seen to that.

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