To help her keep to the painful resolution, Carly focused on work more than ever; spending her weekends off at the lake house. She hoped to accumulate a sizeable amount of vacation time so she could spend more time there; keeping out of everyone’s way except for Alice whom she visited and occasionally joined Adrienne for drinks at The Cheating Heart. Frankie and Nicholas called her on the phone often to check on her, Carly amusing them with stories of her cooking struggles at the lake house; including the failed attempt to make raisin bread. However after meticulously following the cookbooks’ instructions, Carly slowly made headway. But the nightmares didn’t stop. Most nights Carly would wake up screaming and trembling all over; longing for Bo’s comforting arms and his soothing words. But he kept away from her like she asked, not even a text message came from him. As the weeks passed, Carly kept reminding herself she did the right thing, her love for him notwithstanding. But all the same, she missed him agonizingly.
One evening after work, Carly was at the supermarket shopping for groceries; reaching out for a box of cereal when a hand reached for it at the same time. Carly blinked at who the hand belonged to. ‘Roman…’ she said, facing Bo’s brother. They’d seen very little of each other since she came back and his attitude towards her had been more cagey than cold. ‘Hi.’
‘Hi, Carly.’ Roman replied quietly, withdrawing his hand.
Carly placed the box of cereal in her trolley, looking at Roman squarely. She was innocent of what they all thought of her, so she had no reason to be uncomfortable around him. ‘How have you been?’ she asked.
‘He’s in California.’
‘Is he working on a case?’ Carly asked, knowing her ex fiancé enough to guess he missed being on the field. As the Commissioner of Police, Bo spent more time behind a desk.
‘Oh no, nothing like that,’ Roman replied. ‘Kimberly has leukemia and her best chance is a bone marrow transplant.’
So Bo went over to donate some of his; like the loving brother he is, Carly thought. ‘Poor Kim. I really hope it helps her.’
‘We’re keeping our fingers crossed.’
Carly nodded. ‘Okay then. See you later, Roman.’
‘Wait a bit,’ Roman stopped her, his hand on her arm. Carly swallowed, bracing herself for more unpleasantness. She was yet to forgive Justin for what he said to her at the wake and she wasn’t going to allow Roman bash her as well.
‘Did you and Bo have a fight?’ was Roman’s surprising question.
‘Why would you ask me that?’ Carly demanded, yanking her arm away. ‘What did I do this time?’
Roman blinked, taken aback. ‘Take it easy, I’m not accusing you of anything.’
‘Then why are you asking me a question like that?’ Carly snapped, not backing down. ‘I had to tell Bo to stay away just to make Hope and both families happy. I’ve done all I could to stay out of their way. And you expect me not to think you’re about to accuse me of something? Why don’t you just say what you really feel, Roman; you’re not happy I came back here at all. I’m aware I picked the wrong time to return to Salem. But I came back to for my own reasons and none of them has to do with getting Bo back. You know me enough to realize I don’t deserve all this Rom, I don’t. Is it because what Billie did? You’re all likening me to her?’ Frankie had told her all about the Billie/Bo and Hope saga, which had appalled and disgusted her; bitterly sure Billie would have done the same if she and Bo had stayed together.
‘It’s not that either.’ Roman said roughly.
‘Then what? Hope’s bent on believing I’m out to ruin her life, when all she has to do is put her own house in order and not let her jealousy get the better of her. I will not apologize for my past with Bo and that’s what it is, the past. I can imagine the Hortons seeing me as a threat but not your family, Roman. Not yours!’
Roman took her arm again and this time pulled her into his arms, hugging her tightly. Momentarily stunned, Carly awkwardly hugged him back.
Roman pulled back a bit, staring down at her solemnly. ‘You’re right. And I’m sorry, Carly; I really am. To be honest, I never thought you came back for that.’
Carly sighed, lowering her eyes. ‘I just want some peace in my life, Roman. Is it too much to ask, for the family to give me some benefit of the doubt?’
Roman couldn’t tell Carly the unfair general hostility was more than she thought it was; it would just hurt her feelings further. It wasn’t only about being on Hope’s side, despite the fact she was behaving like a fool. With the trouble going on between Hope and Bo right now, Bo might fall in love with Carly all over again. Without Lawrence and Vivian’s interference, they would’ve been married ages ago and Roman personally doubted Bo would’ve abandoned Carly for Hope. No man in his right mind would give up a woman like Carly Manning. The love she and Bo shared so long ago was what made her a bigger threat than Billie, not anything they felt she would do. Billie had truly loved Bo but then turned against him. It was unthinkable Carly would do the same, but just by being herself Hope was already threatened and Bo was stuck in the middle. Caroline especially wanted things to remain the same, not the eruption of an explosive love triangle and Ciara a victim of a broken home.
‘You have the right to be angry,’ Roman held on to Carly’s hand. ‘I asked you if you guys fought because… well before he left town, Bo was sort of short tempered, snapping at everyone.’ Which was putting it mildly, he and Abe almost got their heads bitten off. Bo was hot tempered but his behavior really baffled them.
‘We didn’t fight. I just told him it was best we didn’t hang out and I stand by it. I got tired of being blamed by everyone.’
I’m sorry you felt you had to shun Bo, Carly. I guess he didn’t take it well.’
Carly’s heart sank at the thought of their last encounter. ‘I had no choice. And I think this time away will give him the chance to cool off and see it’s the best solution.’
‘I don’t think it’s the best solution myself, Carly. There’s no reason why you and Bo can’t be friends.’
Oh yes, there is, thought Carly. ‘There are many reasons, Roman. If I want to avoid trouble, that’s how it’s going to be and how it’s going to stay.’ She squeezed the hand still entwined with hers, before letting go. ‘I’m glad at least you don’t think I’m out to wreak Bo’s marriage.’
‘I never thought that about you, not for a second.’ Roman said vehemently, meaning it. Would it be so bad after all, if his brother did fall back in love with Carly, he suddenly thought. Carly would never take Bo’s child away from him or torment him with hints of divorce. Sentiments aside, he was angry with Hope, fed up with her behavior. But in the end, Bo will forgive her like he’s done many times.
‘Thank you,’ Carly said gruffly, hiding her real emotions. ‘I’ll see you around. Let me know how things work out for Kimberly, okay?’
‘Sure.’ Roman watched her go in silence. There was something different about Carly, yet she was the same feisty woman he met on his return from his long captivity. She could easily win back Bo but like she said, had no intention of doing so. The more Roman thought about it, the more he began to suspect Carly was avoiding Bo for more reasons than not wanting more resentment from the two families.
A few days later, Nathan’s hand slipped in the middle of a surgery; almost causing serious damage to the patient he and Carly were operating on. Carly was furious; summoning him to her office afterwards as she didn’t want to embarrass him in front of the nurses. ‘I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about being completely focused when you have a scalpel in your hand. Do you have any idea what could’ve happened?’
‘I’m sorry Dr. Manning,’ Nathan muttered, not meeting her eyes.
‘I hope you are Nathan, because it can never happen again. Whatever’s going on with you, try to keep it at the back of your mind in the O.R next time. You can go.’ Carly sat down to deal with some paperwork on her desk. Nathan paused, his hand on the doorknob. He turned. ‘Dr. Manning… I need to talk to someone. If I don’t, I’ll… I’ll just go nuts.’
Carly looked up. Nathan’s face was flushed and angry but resolute. She indicated the chair opposite her and he sat down. ‘What’s on your mind?’
Nathan sighed. ‘I do have a lot on my mind and it’s killing me. It’s… it’s Melanie.’
‘Melanie?’ Carly’s eyebrows rose up.
‘I’m sure you know like everyone else, Phillip Kiriakis’ asked her to marry him.’
Carly did. While she thought Melanie was a bit young to embark on such a serious step, the girl seemed to be head over heels in love with Phillip; spotting a large diamond engagement ring on her finger. Now that she was in Melanie’s good books, she was already invited to the wedding, which would be in a month’s time. ‘Of course.’ She replied.
Nathan bit his lower lip and Carly immediately caught on. ‘You’re in love with her.’
‘Damn it, yes.’ Nathan was glad to let out what’s been giving him heartache. ‘I didn’t know what I felt for her until she told me she and Phillip were going to get married. And it’s partly my fault; I chose to date Stephanie Johnson but it was never really serious between us. I never felt for Stephanie the way I feel for Melanie.’
‘I see.’ New generation, new love triangles; Carly thought as she looked at Nathan’s earnest face. ‘Does Stephanie know about this?’ she asked.
‘She’s always known but I guess she thought I’ll get over Mel eventually. I thought so too since it’s always been Phillip for Mel even though she and I seemed to have a connection when we first met. I know what I feel for Melanie Layton now,’ Nathan said softly. ‘I love her so much. I can’t think of anything or anyone but her. And now… she’s going to marry someone else.’
Carly rubbed her nose thoughtfully. ‘Well, this is a real tight situation; Nathan.’ She replied, feeling sorry for him.
‘It is,’ Nathan said bitterly. ‘And there’s nothing I can do about it. Phillip Kiriakis is a jackass. He’s not going to make her happy, if he’s anything like his old man.’
‘I’m not in a position to give you advice, Nathan. But if it’s eating you alive this much…’ Carly hesitated then continued, ‘maybe you should just tell Melanie how you feel. Get it off your chest once and for all and hear what she’ll say.’
‘I’m not sure I can do that,’ Nathan replied quietly, looking down at his hands.
‘It’s the only option open to you right now. Once she walks down the aisle, there’s nothing you can do.’
Nathan stood up, shrugging his shoulders. ‘I’ll think about it.’ he held out his hand and Carly shook it. ‘Thanks, Dr. Manning.’
‘Anytime.’ Carly wondered if he would really take the plunge and tell Melanie the truth. The situation reminded her of what happened years ago; Bo finally chasing her and admitting his love after she married Victor. Carly wondered if she did the right thing, telling Nathan to admit his feelings to Melanie. Melanie loved Phillip as far as she knew but now that she knew Melanie better, Carly doubted Phillip Kiriakis was the right man for her. He was more like Victor than Bo; arrogant, condescending and so sure of himself. Nathan was more down to earth, albeit rather reserved. Carly could only hope that if marriage to Phillip was what she wanted, Melanie would let Nathan down gently.
‘I hope she does too.’ Daniel said when Carly confided in him. ‘At least it will give him some closure. There’s nothing worse than being in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you.’
‘I know,’ Carly replied, thinking about Bo and angrily brushing the thought aside. Her case was different because she and Bo didn’t belong together; will never belong together. ‘Which makes you more than thankful for what you and Chloe have.’ In spite of the age gap, Carly could see how much her old friend and his fiancée loved each other.
‘I’m thankful for it every day of my life,’ Daniel replied warmly. ‘I can’t imagine my life without Chloe.’
‘So when are you guys going to tie the knot? At this rate, Melanie and Phillip will get married before you do.’
‘All in good time, Manning.’ Daniel patted her shoulder. ‘Trust me, you’ll be the first to know.’ As he spoke, Chloe Lane stepped out of the elevator and hurried over to them, her beautiful face all aglow with excitement. ‘Sweetheart!’ she flung herself at Daniel, blue eyes sparkling. ‘I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a baby!’
‘Are you serious?’ Daniel exclaimed, delight all over his face as he hugged her.
‘I’m absolutely serious. It’s certain this time, I had an ultrasound. I’m so sorry I did it without you but I wanted to be sure there was a baby in there before telling you.’ She held up a photo and with a trembling hand, Daniel took it from her. ‘My God… this is our baby,’ he said softly, staring down at the image. ‘Our baby Chloe…’ he hugged her tightly, kissing her.
‘Congratulations you two,’ Carly said softly, suddenly feeling a sharp ache in her heart.
Chloe beamed at her. ‘Thanks Carly.’
Daniel kept gazing at the photograph in his hand. ‘It’s so amazing…’ he whispered. ‘Our baby, right there.’
Neither of them noticed the expression on Carly’s face; the expression of sheer pain.
‘I can’t wait to have a brother or sister; or both!’ Shawn Douglas said enthusiastically.
Bo’s eyes met hers, an amused expression on his face. ‘Two at once? Well Carly, do you hear that; looks that we’re going to have to work real fast on this one!’
Carly turned away to hide her tears. The jubilant couple didn’t know when she walked away, lost in their sheer happiness.
Bo turned on the light and closed the door behind him, dropping his bag by the door. Kimberly was on the mend and very grateful to him. He was glad he was able to help her but even gladder to be home. For the first time since Hope moved out with Ciara, he didn’t feel depressed returning to an empty house. The clock read two minutes past eleven. Carly was either at the hospital or already asleep. He had a lot to say to her. Making up his mind, he pulled picked up the receiver.
Carly was reading in bed when her phone rang. As Bo was using his landline she didn’t recognize the number. ‘Hello?’
‘Hi Carly, it’s me.’ Bo said, greatly hoping she won’t hang up on him.
‘Hi.’ Carly gripped the phone, the sound of Bo’s voice further reminding her how much she’d missed him. ‘Are you back from your trip?’
‘Yeah, how did you know about that?’ Bo asked, surprised.
‘Roman told me. How’s Kim?’
‘Thankfully on the mend. The last scan she did showed no more cancer cells.’
‘Oh … that’s wonderful news. And you, are you okay?’
‘I’m more than fine. Listen, I need to see you. Can you come over to my place tomorrow?’
‘Carly, I’ll come by the hospital or your place if I have to if that what it takes to get you to talk to me.’
‘I don’t want any more trouble with your wife, Bo.’
‘This so called arrangement’s gone long enough and Hope’s not going to be a problem, trust me. I want to see you, tomorrow.’ Bo’s tone allowed no argument.
Carly bristled at the commanding tone, inclined to tell him he wasn’t the boss of her hence didn’t have to obey him. But Bo will persist until she agreed, she knew him all too well. ‘Fine. I’ll be at your place, let’s say noon.’
‘Great. See you then.’
Bo hung up, his heart lifting. The trip to California had not only helped his sister, it had helped him as well. Far away from Salem; during the quiet times when he was alone, Bo had used those times to think. He’d felt ashamed of what he’d asked of Carly the last time they saw each other; it hadn’t been fair to her at all and he'd got off easy. He thought a lot about her, about Hope and what Roman had said. Now he finally knew what was in his heart and Carly was going to know it when she came tomorrow. What he felt for Carly was deep, rekindled love and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.