Richard and how it happened.
Sometimes things are too good to be true.
Richard studied the shades and colours, losing himself in the shapes that formed on the canvas; the painting was shaping up to be another masterpiece and he was happy. He seemed to be painting better than ever and he knew it was because of Caroline. Since they had began a relationship Richard had felt that the gaping hole in his life had been filled. Her love and willingness to try to understand his life, his work enthused him with new strengths.
Life just doesn't get much better than this. He though contentedly. After years of yearning and hoping Caroline was finally going to be his wife. Right this very minute she's dragging Annie around looking for a bridal dress. He smiled; his heart was filled with awe and extreme happiness. Now I really know what sincere amour is - Caroline. Every time he thought of her feelings of happiness and wonder would almost overwhelm his being, he couldn't believe that things were finally going his way.
The telephone rang interrupting his thoughts.
"Hello? This is Richard speaking."
"Reechard? Ah Amour! How are you?"
"Julia? Er, hi, is everything okay?" Richard could not contain the shock, since he had split with Julia, he hadn't heard from her.
"Oh I am fine but I do have something important to tell you."
Richard was puzzled, with the divorce finalised several months ago and his and Julia's things returned, he didn't think they had anything left to talk about. "You do? What?"
"Just this: Congratulations Reechard! You have a son!"
"WHAT?" Richard screamed down the line.
"Ow! Reechard! You hurt my ear!"
Richard winced as Julia shouted in anger. "I'm sorry but that was the last thing I expected you to say."
"I know, but you do have a son, his name is Stefano. A good name, yes?"
He gripped the telephone tightly as shock swept through his body making him tremble. I have a son - Stefano. "A son?" He managed to gasp aloud.
"Yes he was born a couple of days ago but was only released from hospital today. He had a slight cold but he is better now, so I thought you would like to come and see him, he is gorgeous."
"I have a son? You mean all this time you have been pregnant and you didn't tell me. Why?" Richard bit out angrily.
"You left me for Caroline, I did not think you would want anything to do with me. But now that I can hold OUR baby I think you should come to Rome. Stefano has a right to know his father doesn't he?"
"Yes of course he does." Richard thought about his own parents and the rift he had with them. "We'll come as soon as we can arrange it."
"We - Ah, you mean to bring Caroline too?"
"Yes, is that a problem?" He knew Julia despised Caroline but he would need her with him if he was going to do this.
"No of course not."
"Good, so where are you?"
"At the family estate, you remember where it is don't you?" She asked mockingly.
Richard closed his eyes for a moment lost in his memories, "Yes I remember."
"Come on Caroline! How many more are you going to try on? I have to be at the theatre in a couple of hours." Annie sat on the chair fidgeting.
"Annie! I'm trying to find the perfect dress. I want to look stunning but at the same time classy. I really want this wedding to go smoothly." Caroline looked at herself in the mirror, twirling slightly to make the bridal gown flare out.
"So this is it? No second thoughts?" Annie asked.
"Nope, not one. I'm kinda pleased with this dress."
Annie laughed delightfully. "I was asking about the wedding not the dress. So, you're not having second thoughts about marrying Mr Doom and Gloom?"
Caroline turned to look at Annie, a soft smile appearing as she thought of Richard. "I love Richard. I can't wait to marry him and become Mrs Karinsky. How does that sound? Oh wait, that reminds me a bit too much of Julia. Hmm, how does Mrs Duffy-Karinsky sound? Or what about Mrs Karinsky-Duffy?"
"Caroline?" Annie interrupted before Caroline worked herself into a state, "Instead of concentrating on what your married name will be, why don't you choose a dress so we can get out of here? I'm hungry."
Caroline playfully scowled at Annie. "Oh, stop moaning and unzip me."
Annie stood up and moved behind Caroline. "Okay fine, I see what's happening. As long as you look good, it doesn't matter if I starve to death." Annie said sarcastically, trying not to laugh out loud.
"Ah-h! Richard!" Caroline shouted as Richard stepped into the outer changing room. She jumped behind a mannequin, trying to prevent him from seeing her dress. "What are you doing here?"
Annie stood in between Caroline and Richard, trying to block his view. "O-oh! You know Richie, it's unlucky for the groom to see the dress before the wedding."
"Yes I know but I have to talk to Caroline, it's important. Why don't you run along and we'll see you later?"
"Yes! Escape at last!" Annie lunged for the exit before anyone could stop her.
Caroline smiled as she saw Annie run past the boutique window. She turned to Richard and upon seeing his face, stopped smiling. "Richard what is it? You look pale. Are you okay? What happened? Here sit down." Caroline guided Richard to a chair and held is hand. "Richard you're trembling, what's happened?"
"I got a phone call from Julia."
"And?" Caroline asked unable to shake off the sense of foreboding.
"She told me she's given birth to my son."
"I have a son, he's called Stefano." Richard murmured, looking at the floor.
Caroline back slumped in shocked and knew, somehow, that she wouldn't need a wedding dress anymore. Trust Julia to do something like this. She though despondently. "Why didn't she tell you she was pregnant? Why wait until your son's birth?" She asked managing to speak pass the lump in her throat.
"She thought because I was with you, I wouldn't want to be with her while she was pregnant."
Caroline suddenly felt very cold and let go of Richards' hand. "So, what do we do now?"
"Well I have to go to Rome to see my son and I was hoping you'd come too."
"Me?" Caroline was surprised at the suggestion. "I don't think that's a good idea. I'm not exactly Julia's favourite person, am I?"
"Please Caroline, I want you with me. I don't think I can do this alone."
Caroline saw his fear and nodded, "Okay, I'll go but what about the wedding?" She knew what his answer was going to be but was unwilling to voice it.
"I'm sorry, we'll have to postpone it but as soon as we get back we'll marry. I promise." Richard squeezed Caroline's hand and smiled reassuringly.
Caroline ignored the fact that his smile seemed forced and smiled in return, "Okay, I'll phone around and cancel everything."
He nodded, "Well I'm going home to pack, I want to leave tonight, is that okay?"
"Sure." Caroline said having no choice but to agree.
"Great, I'll come by and pick you up at 7pm." Richard kissed Caroline quickly and left.
Caroline watched Richard leave and hugged herself against the chill she felt, not knowing if the cause was because the room temperature had changed or because of the feeling in her heart, that she would never marry Richard. She walked over to the mirror and looked at her reflection. The dress she had picked, that had represented her new life as a married woman, suddenly looked dull and felt heavy. She stared at herself and only then noticed the tears that ran down her face.
Caroline sat in the back seat of the taxi looking out of the window oblivious to the streets they passed. Bitch! Bitch! Bitch! Why the hell can't Julia stop messing up my life? I thought once the divorce was finalised I wouldn't have to see her again but now she'll always be a part of my life if I stay with Richard. Caroline was shocked that she could think about leaving Richard but the selfish part of her didn't want to share Richard with Julia. But I'll have no choice now, she'll always be there in the background no doubt trying to make my life unbearable. There is no way she'll be genuinely happy for me and Richard and I know she will hate me being close to her son - her and Richard's son. Caroline had been having unsettling thoughts ever since finding out about Stefano her mind refused to allow her any peace.
What if she wants Richard to move to Rome permanently? Am I willing to give everything up to go with him? And if I do - will Julia try to split us up? I don't think I can live without Richard and I definitely couldn't handle her and Richard being together again. Caroline sank lower into the seat feeling tired and desperate.
"Huh?" Caroline jumped slightly as Richard touched her arm. "I'm sorry Honey. What did you say?"
"Are you all right? You're quiet?" Richard looked at Caroline and noticed the strain around her eyes her silences were beginning to worry him.
"Yeah I'm fine." Caroline smiled brightly at him, too brightly. "I'm just a bit tired that's all." Caroline didn't want him to ask her what she'd been thinking.
"I'm really sorry about all this Caroline. I really didn't want to cancel our wedding. How did your parents handle the news?"
Caroline swallowed nervously. "Well they were disappointed but considering the circumstances they were fine about it." She smiled again hoping he wouldn't notice how alien her smiles felt to her. She didn't want to tell him the truth and talk about her day. Her parents hadn't reacted well at the postponed - correction - cancelled wedding and had called Richard a few choice names. Then she had had the added humiliation of phoning all her guests and telling them the wedding was off until further notice. No, she though sadly, it had definitely not been a good day.
"Well this time tomorrow I'll be holding my son." Richard tried to calm himself but the prospect of meeting his son, of his impending fatherhood was terrifying him.
"Yeah, you must be excited." Caroline said feeling anything but.
"Terrified more like." Richard admitted shakily.
Caroline took Richard's arm and squeezed it comfortingly. "Honey, you'll do fine, Stefano's lucky to have you as his father."
"Yeah right. I'm an unsuccessful artist who also happens to be broke. Yeah he's real lucky."
"Richard having money doesn't make a difference; Stefano will love you because you're his father. All he needs is your love and your time the rest you'll learn soon enough." Caroline moved closer to Richard and hugged him. "You're gonna be an excellent father, trust me."
Richard kissed Caroline's hair and relaxed slightly. "Thanks Caroline, I needed that."
"It'll be okay Honey. Give it a few months and you'll be an expert, you'll wonder what all the fuss and worry was about."
"Well at least I'll never have to go through it again."
Caroline pulled away from Richard and asked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"Well I never wanted a child in the first place and now that I have one I'm definitely not having another." Richard turned from Caroline and looked out the window. Stefano's going to be so disappointed that I'm his father. I've done nothing meaningful with my life - hell -I'm not even successful. I just know I'm gonna fail being a father. Richard grew more depressed and anxious with every second, losing himself in his self-loathing.
Caroline moved back to her side of the cab and leaned her head against the window. She felt like someone had punched her in the stomach. He doesn't want another child! How can he not want another child? I want a child in fact I want more than one. This is not happening! Please let this be some nightmare - let me wake up now. Caroline bit down on her bottom lip, trying to prevent the tears that were threatening to fall. She thought about her life and knew it wouldn't be complete without children.
Richard sat uneasily in the airport lounge and reread the sentence again trying to concentrate but all he could think about was his son. I can't do this. I can't be a father I don't know anything about fatherhood. Ever since Julia's call he had felt unnerved and scared to death. He had never pictured himself as a father, mainly because of his view of the world and because of his relationship with his own parents. He was angry with Julia for having his son, not that abortion was an option but for the way she had neglected to tell him. If she'd told me she was pregnant I could have read those books on parenthood and prepared myself. Damn her!
Caroline returned to her seat beside Richard, she could almost feel his despair but was too preoccupied by her thoughts to offer comfort. If he doesn't want children how can I stay with him? There's no kind of compromise in a situation like this I can't force him to give me a child or to be a father. And even if I got pregnant by accident he'd only think I did it on purpose and hate me. Deep in her heart she knew what she had to do, her decision was already made but her love for Richard was making it hard for her to speak. Well I can't sit here and pretend everything is fine can I? If I leave it any longer I'll be in Rome seeing the smug expression on Julia's face. She imagined that Julia was very pleased with her self having had Richard's son. She will no doubt want to make me feel like a loser and the tragic thing is - she's right, I have lost. Caroline tried to compose her thoughts, trying to find the best way to do what had to be done. Knowing that her next words would change her life forever, she swallowed hard her throat suddenly dry. "Richard can I talk to you?"
"Sure Caroline." Richard noticed the seriousness on Caroline's face. "What is it? You can tell me."
Caroline bit her lip and clasped her hands together for courage. "Richard when you said you didn't want another child did you really mean it?" Say no. PLEASE, say no! Tell me I misunderstood. Caroline pleaded silently.
Caroline closed her eyes willing the tears not to fall yet. "Richard I want to have children and if you don't then I don't think you and I should continue this relationship."
"What!" Richard almost shouted, praying he hadn't heard Caroline correctly.
Caroline looked into Richard's eyes seeing the shock and despair there. She hated being the one who caused it and being unable to think of any thing else to say, repeated her words. "Richard I want to have children and if you don't, then there's no way we can continue this relationship."
"But I love you Caroline please don't do this." Richard pleaded but he could see the determined set of Caroline's face and knew she'd made up her mind.
"I love you too but I can't be with a man who doesn't want to have children. I'm sorry."
Richard began to feel an emptiness in his soul, he had lost the one person who he could ever envision sharing his life with. "So you're saying this is it? That we're finished?"
"Yes." Caroline got up shakily and grabbed her bags. "I'm sorry Richard but this is for the best. Take care of yourself and your son." She turned away from Richard and walked towards the exit; every step taking her from the one person she loved more than life. Don't turn around. Don't look back just keep walking - the pain will go away eventually.
Richard sat in the back of the cab that threaded its way through the twisting country roads of Rome. The artist in him noticed the movement of the long grass and the vibrant colours of summer. It's like a postcard picture it's so beautiful, Caroline would love this... The thought of Caroline stopped him cold, his heart feeling numb. God No! He shouted silently, still a part of him refused to acknowledge it was over. It was hard for him to believe that only yesterday he had been blissfully happy in the knowledge that he and Caroline were going to be married. And now I've lost her it really is over. Oh God no! Richard tried but failed to keep the tears from falling. The tears blinded him but he didn't care, all he could see was Caroline's face. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd gone through the scene at the airport, replaying it over and over.
"Senor? We are here."
Richard wiped his eyes and looked out of the window to see an impressive mansion. He got out and paid the fare then grabbed his stuff. He turned as he noticed the front door open and saw Julia's parents come out to meet him. Well here goes. He took a deep breath, "Hello Mr Mazzone. Mrs Mazzone, how are you?"
Mrs Mazzone answered first her pleasant smile greeting him. He had only met her a couple of times but had been surprised by her wholesome and down to earth manner, so unlike Julia. "Hello Richard. It is good of you to come. Leave your things; one of the servants will take your things to your room. You must be tired."
Richard smiled gratefully, "I am, thank you."
Mrs Mazzone smiled and grabbed Richard's arms pulling him inside but stopped and peered at the taxi. "Julia mentioned you had a girlfriend didn't she come with you?"
Richard flinched, the pain momentarily stabbing his heart. "No, we broke up."
Mrs Mazzone stared at him for a moment before squeezing his hand gently. "I'm sorry to hear that."
Mr Mazzone stepped forward and surprised Richard by shaking his hand. "So am I. I liked Caroline, I thought she was a very caring and good-natured woman."
Richard blinked passed the pain and made a half-hearted attempt at a smile. "Yes she is, thank you."
Richard followed Julia's parents into a large room obviously one of the family rooms. It had a lived in feel to it and Richard found it welcoming. Richard also noticed the room was unoccupied. "Where is Julia? How is she? And Stefano?" He noticed the look Mr and Mrs Mazzone shared but was unable to interpret it.
Mr Mazzone sat down heavily in an armchair next to Mrs Mazzone and indicated for Richard to sit on the sofa. Mr Mazzone looked down at his entwined hands for a moment like he was gathering his thoughts. "Julia's gone."
"What? Where did she go? Where's Stefano?" Richard was suddenly angry, he's come all this way lost so much and Julia and his son were gone.
"Richard! Please calm down Stefano is upstairs with his nanny and Julia is - " Mr Mazzone looked back down at his hands his whole being projecting sadness.
Mrs Mazzone reached over and placed her hand on her husbands and spoke. "Richard, Julia has left Stefano she doesn't want to be a mother."
"She doesn't want to be a mother! How could she do this? I don't understand." Richard ran a hand through his hair in frustration realising it was unfair to take his anger out on Julia's parents.
Mrs Mazzone leaned forward and Richard noticed the exhaustion on her face. "Do not get us wrong Richard we love our daughter but we do not necessarily like her. She is selfish and demanding and only looks out for her self she has always been so. Perhaps it was our fault she is our only daughter and we gave her everything, we spoiled her."
Mr Mazzone stood up and paced seeming to do so out of frustration. "We tried to talk to her, to tell her that she would get all the help she wanted but it was no use. She called you and when she was certain you would come, she left."
"But how could she abandon her baby? I mean our baby?" Richard was struggling to understand the situation and was growing more and more furious with his ex-wife.
Mr Mazzone continued. "Julia has always been irresponsible, it was the reason I withheld her trust fund. I hoped it would encourage her to grow up, to get a job and to be self-sufficient."
"But why did you oppose our marriage and before that our relationship? She left me all those years ago because you made her choose between me and her trust fund."
"Julia does what she wants and doesn't care for the consequences or responsibility. I wanted her to stay in Europe so I could keep an eye on her and also because I thought you were after her money." Mr Mazzone looked down ashamed.
"I loved Julia, I wasn't interested in her bank account."
"I know that now but at the time Julia was too wild and unpredictable, I had to protect her. I was angry when I discovered you two had married, I'll admit I didn't like you so I with held her trust fund again. But then I met you and I realised you did really love Julia and saw that she had changed. I mean she had a job, I thought maybe she had finally grown up. I was wrong and this latest act of selfishness has proven it."
"I can't believe that Julia could walk out like that? So what happens now?" Richard asked concerned with his sons' well being.
"Julia is gone but at least Stefano will know he has one parent who loves him. You will stay won't you?" Mrs Mazzone asked anxiously.
"Yes, of course I will but you have to understand I've not had much contact with babies and children. I don't know what to do."
Mrs Mazzone smiled relieved at Richard's willingness to stay. "Don't worry about that, Fabriana, the nanny, will help you. She'll teach you everything you need to know and as there is no time like the present - why don't we introduce you to your son?"
Richard followed Mr and Mrs Mazzone upstairs. I don't know if I can do this! I'm not exactly the obvious choice for a father. What if I'm like my father? What if I screw up my son's life? Richard was loosing himself in his negativity when a voice from his inner self spoke to him. You'll be fine Richard, stop worrying. You'll be an excellent father, trust me. Richard blanched as he heard Caroline's voice in his mind recalling her earlier words. She's not even here and yet she's giving me encouragement. Suddenly Richard felt less nervous. I can do this - I will do this. I'll be the best father I possibly can be - I'll make Caroline proud of me. He knew he was fooling himself that he would even see her again but the possibility gave him the determination to prove himself.
"Here we are. Richard, this is Fabriana." Mrs Mazzone spoke quickly in Italian. Richard looked at the woman middle-aged her face was cracked and wrinkled with age but her eyes held a twinkle of someone with a cheerier disposition. "I am pleased to meet you Mr Karinsky and I will be at your disposal if you should need my help." She smiled her eyes shining with compassion.
"Thank you and thank you for taking care of my son."
"He is a very good baby, no trouble at all. Your son is asleep at the moment but at least you can see him. Please follow me."
Richard walked into a large brightly decorated room and spotted the cot immediately, slowly approached it. He gazed down at his son. Stefano lay on his back his hand curled up in tiny fists, his skin seeming tanned against the pale blue sheets and pure white sleeper he was wearing. "He's so small."
"He's fine and he'll grow. In fact he'll grow quicker than you can imagine." Mrs Mazzone grinned encouragingly.
Richard reached out tentatively needing to touch Stefano to prove he was real. He touched a fist and watched as Stefano stirred but not wake. My son! He watched his son's chest rise slowly with each breath, fascinated, Richard smiled and felt the love hit him like a lightening bolt. My son. He thought with satisfaction. He leaned over the crib, and using his forefinger and thumb, gently held Stefano's tiny hand and whispered softly. "Hello Stefano. My name is Richard Karinsky. I'm your father and I'm very pleased to meet you."
Richard turned over and stretched his arm out, searching. "Caroline?" He muttered in his sleep. When his hand felt only blankets he woke up and realised he was alone. Is this how I'm going to feel every time I wake up - lost. He showered and changed then went to Stefano's room. I may as well start learning how to be a parent, it's not like I can put it off, unlike a certain selfish woman I could mention. He walked into Stefano's room and saw that Fabriana was already there.
"Ah, Senor Karinsky, good Morning. I was just about to give Stefano a bath. Would you like to help?"
Richard looked down at his son and smiled, "Sure, I'd love to."
Richard spent his days with Stefano, learning more about his son and himself. As the days passed he grew more confident of his abilities and the bond between father and son brought him a sense of family and love he had never experienced. Julia still hadn't been in touch, which tore at Richard's heart. On one hand he believed that Stefano should know his mother but on the other hand, he was glad Julia wasn't around. He was sure Julia would have little interest in her son if she were.
Richard would paint for a couple of hours during the day, while Stefano slept and all the while tried to ignore the part of him that missed Caroline. It seemed everything he did his thoughts would somehow return to her. How she would react to circumstances. How she would bolster his confidence and offer him encouragement during his darkest times. It was worse at night his dreams of her came frequently, teasing him. The dreams were often explicit and seemed so real, he would wake expecting to see her beside him. He'd soon realised cold showers and brisk walks didn't help.
It had been months since he had seen her and yet in many ways it only seemed like yesterday. He could clearly remember her smile, her scent and her touch. She plagued him continuously and made him yearn for her company. He had picked up a phone and dialled her number so many times but had slammed the receiver down before a connection could be made. He had convinced himself that she hated him that after all this time she had moved on. It always seemed that life would throw him a curve whenever things seemed to be going his way as he discovered a few weeks later.
Richard sat outside sipping coffee, his son safe and secure in the pram beside him.
It was such a lovely day that Richard had decided to go out for a walk. He loved to stroll around town. The people and culture familiar after all these months but some how he still felt like he'd stepped into some kind of movie. The buildings were painted in rich vibrant colours soaking up and reflecting the sun. The smells of spices filled the air mixing with the flowery blooms that seemed to adorn every window ledge.
A movement down the street caught his attention.
He saw someone weaving in and out between the throng of people. No one here seemed to rush, everything would be done in it's own time. People chatted and hugged each other with enthusiasm when they met a friend. It was so different from New York, were people hurried with their heads down too busy to enjoy their surroundings. It was because of this leisurely pace that Richard's attention returned to the figure weaving fast in between the crowds.
It must be some emergency. Richard though and turned away to check on his son. Stefano was playing with his rattle and every so often someone would stop to wave at him or pull a face. Stefano loved the attention; he was a contented child. He never seemed to get upset and his ever- present smile enchanted those who saw him. Stefano waved his rattle wildly before throwing it on to the pavement. Richard smiled and playfully told him off.
"What the -? Ah!"
Richard looked up in time to see someone fall over Stefano's rattle. He got up and rushed to help the person up. "I'm so sorry. Are you alright?"
"Yeah man I'm fine."
Richard started at the familiar voice. "Charlie?"
Charlie stood up and smiled broadly, "Richard? Wow Richard." He grabbed the rattle. "Aren't you a little old to be playing with these things?"
Richard grabbed chair and led him to his table. "It's not mine it's Stefano's."
"Who's Stefano? You got a dog?"
"No Charlie. Stefano's my son." He turned and indicated the pram.
"Oh cool, you've got a kid." He skated over and looked inside. "Hey there Stef, I'm Charlie."
"I must say I'm surprised to see you I though you were in Scandinavia." Asked Richard curiously.
Charlie smiled and rubbed his stomach. "I was but I got a hankering for pizza, so here I am."
"Well how long are you here for? I'd love to show you around."
"Oh man I'd love to but I've got a schedule to meet. I'm heading to Paris on Thursday to catch a flight back to the States."
"Oh." Richard said disappointedly.
Charlie noticed his sadness and quickly qualified, "Look, I'd stay if I could but if I miss the wedding they'll kill me."
"Who's gonna kill you? Who's getting married? Dell?"
"Dell? A-ha! No, never in a million years but by then he'd be dead. Well, not unless he freezes his body. They do that now you know."
"Sounds good to me." Richard muttered impatiently. "Charlie if Dell isn't getting married who is?"
"Caroline of course."
"Caroline? Caroline's getting married? To whom?"
"She's marrying Randy."
"Randy. You're telling me Caroline's marrying Randy?"
"Yeah, didn't you know? I thought you'd been invited."
Richard shook his head and looked at his hands, his fingertips were white from gripping the cup too tightly. He had known that Caroline would have moved on by now and that it was his own selfishness that had ended their relationship but the reality that she had found someone else hurt him more deeply than he thought possible.
After putting Stefano to bed, Richard sat in the rocking chair on the patio and watched the sun set. He wasn't sure how he got back, his mind in turmoil. Caroline's getting married. He kept thinking. He knew in his heart that after their break up Caroline would move on but he was surprised at how soon. It was barely six months ago that she was to be his bride. How did it all happen so fast?
It wasn't too long ago that she breathed his name when they made love, it was her body that lay against his at night. How many times had she spoken of her love for him? How many times had he seen her eyes clouded with tears of happiness when he spoke of his love?
It had only been six months ago.
How had Randy managed to capture Caroline's heart in such a short time? Of course he had known about Caroline's attraction to Randy but Caroline had assured him that was all it was. Had she lied? Had Caroline fallen in love with Randy then? Is that how she was able to marry him now - so soon?
There were so many questions and only Caroline held the answers. But Richard knew one thing for certain he still loved Caroline.
Richard rushed through the Arrivals lounge, his grip on his son and luggage making him unsteady and flagged down a taxi. I hope the traffic isn't bad - I can't be late.
He wasn't sure exactly what he was going to do but he knew one thing for certain he had to see Caroline. Even if she doesn't want to know, I need to see her get married. I'll need that closure if I'm ever going to get over her. He smiled at the thought knowing it would take him years, if ever, to fall out of love with Caroline.
He could barely make out what was being said but was afraid to get any closer he made his way to the balcony. Richard stood on the balcony and looked down at the wedding party. So this is it, she really did get over me after all. I guess it's my own fault, telling her I didn't want another child - I was so wrong. I was so wrong about a lot of things. He looked down at his son who woke he smiled then gurgled loudly.
"Shh. Stefano." He bounced his son and smiled when he settled down. He turned back to watch the service and saw that he and Stefano were the focus of attention.
Richard watched as Caroline turned and looked at him and felt an ease of tension as he saw her smile. My god she looks beautiful - like an angel or goddess. Richard smiled back, uncertain how he should proceed. He watched as Caroline said something to Randy then made her way up the aisle towards him. Richard turned and went downstairs.
Caroline could not believe that Richard would appear at her wedding and with his son, no less. Even though he had hurt her deeply she still wanted to talk to him to find out what he wanted. As she approached she grabbed his arm and ushered them outside. She marched Richard down the steps and a little way down the church driveway, for privacy.
"Richard! What are you doing here?" Caroline never expected to see Richard again and was too shocked to be angry.
Richard gazed at Caroline and decided to speak his mind for once. "I know it's your wedding day but I needed to tell you that I still love you. Please don't marry Randy."
"Oh Richard you certainly picked the most inappropriate time to tell me. I've got relatives from all over, here." Caroline moaned as she gestured towards the church.
"I know, I'm sorry but I can't let you go, these pass months I've been miserable without you. I know it was my fault we broke up but you've got to believe me, I never wanted to hurt you."
"But you did, besides you said you didn't want children and I still do. And I know Randy does." Caroline shrugged her meaning clear.
"No!" The image of Caroline pregnant with Randys' child, made Richard intensely jealous. "I mean, I was an idiot. I love being a father and I'd like to have more children."
"Really? Do you really mean it?" Caroline desperately wanted to believe him but had to be sure.
"Yes I really mean it. Having a child, children, with you would complete my life, and I'm sure Stefano would love a little brother or sister to play with." Richard stepped closer and raised his hand beseechingly. "Give me another chance Caroline, please?" Richard was nervous he could see Caroline's indecisiveness and hoped she would realise his sincerity.
"Caroline? Say something."
"Caroline! What are you doing? In case you've forgotten, were in the middle of the service." Randy stood there looking extremely agitated. He turned to Richard. "Well hello Richard. What are you doing here? Besides interrupting our wedding?"
Richard suddenly felt bad, he didn't want to hurt any more people but he had to tell Caroline his feelings before it was too late. "I know, look Randy I'm really sorry but I still love Caroline and I want to marry her."
Randys' face flushed red with anger. "You've got a nerve turning up here, trying to ruin our wedding day. Why I ought to - "
Caroline was afraid for a moment that Randy was going to hit Richard but instead Randy put his arm around Caroline. "Caroline, honey, if he truly loved you he wouldn't have let you leave. He didn't even contact you, he can't have missed you that much, could he?"
Caroline was surprised that Randy seemed to be voicing her thoughts. It's true, he never called me once, I didn't even get a letter.
"That's not true." Richard turned to Caroline. "I never called because I didn't think you ever wanted to hear from me but don't doubt that I never missed you or that I love you."
Caroline looked at Richard, he was telling the truth but she realised that there was more to the situation. How would Julia feel about her relationship with Richard and Stefano? It was these thoughts that made her doubt that she could get back together with him.
"Richard I think you should leave - you're not wanted here." Randy grabbed Caroline's arm and gently pulled at her to follow him inside.
Richard blocked his path determined not to let Randy bully Caroline into a decision. "I'll go but only if Caroline tells me to."
Caroline stood shocked she had never seen Richard like this before, he stood confidently ready to take on the world. Stefano gurgled happily in his arms, unaware of the ugliness of the situation. She looked at Randy and knew that he loved her that he would treat her well. His own views on life and family were like her own and he actually wanted to have children.
Her life with him would be stable and secure. But something had always been missing from their relationship. Am I that certain that I love Randy? She admitted to her self, Because I don't feel in love with him. It doesn't feel as powerful as it was with Richard.
"Caroline?" Randy asked her worriedly.
Caroline looked at the floor, not wanting him to see her turmoil.
Then there was Richard, he had hurt more deeply than anyone had and she didn't want to go through that again. Her relationship with him had been difficult. Their different out looks on life mostly clashed often resulting in arguments. But they had always managed to work things out and become closer in the process. But those arguments had always worried Caroline, making her think that their relationship would crumble at any time. Maybe we are too different, is it worth going through all that again?
Caroline opened her mouth but remained silent. What should I say? I don't know what to do! She turned and noticed that most of her family and friends stood outside too, waiting for her answer. Oh great! Why do my weddings always end badly? She spotted Annie and looked at her beseechingly. Annie will know what to do - she'll help me. She saw Annie pass her bouquet to Dell and walk towards her. Caroline moved to the bottom step to meet her.
Annie placed her hands reassuringly on Caroline's shoulders. "Well Caroline, it looks like you've got a decision to make - Randy or Richard?"
"I know but I can't make that decision now - can I? I don't want to hurt anyone - I just want to be happy." Caroline felt the tears run down her face but didn't wipe them away.
Annie seeing that she needed to be strong for Caroline, took charge. "Okay honey we'll leave. We'll go back to your place, that ought to give you time to decide. Come on, we'll take your limousine - there's no point wasting it, it's paid for." Annie put her arm around Caroline and guided her to the white limousine that was waiting. Here I was thinking 3rd time lucky - poor Caroline. Why does she always have to end up being hurt, she's the most generous and giving person I know - it just doesn't seem fair. Annie got in besides Caroline and held her hand, "Everything's gonna be fine Caroline."
She leaned forward and gave the driver her address then sat in silence holding Caroline, her quiet sobs making her tremble.
"Caroline," Annie shouted up stairs, "I've made you a sandwich."
"Thanks Annie, I'm coming."
Caroline thought a shower would make her feel better - it didn't. Well that's another wedding that never was - I wonder if I'm ever going to say 'I do'. Caroline was grateful that Annie had taken her away from the church, but the humiliation remained. How am I gonna face everyone again? This is gonna be the third time I've told everyone the wedding is off. Next time no one will bother coming, they'll just send R.S.V.Ps' instead. What am I talking about? Next time! Ha! There's not going to BE a next time. I'm not going through this again, that's for sure. Caroline towelled dried her hair roughly and went down stairs.
Annie feeling awkward asked, "Have you decided what you're going to do?"
"I can't decide. Richard hurt me and I don't think Randy would - he's reliable and we have a comfortable relationship, it's nice."
"Nice, reliable, comfortable? Are we talking about a relationship or a car, here? Cause I'm confused."
"Annie! Come on." Caroline cried indignantly.
Annie decided that Caroline needed a wake up call. "No Caroline. You talk about your relationship being comfortable but where's the passion, the excitement? Do you have that with Randy?"
Caroline put her sandwich down annoyed at Annie's inquisition. "Passion is over rated and fickle. I need something more than that."
Annie was beginning to get annoyed also. "EXCUSE ME! Caroline I know for a fact you never thought that when you were with Richard. In fact I seem to remember a time when you and Richard couldn't keep your hands off each other and you never complained."
"Yeah well that was before he decided he didn't want a child." Caroline bit out.
Annie sighed loudly, "You said he explained that. That he was scared of being a father and he wasn't thinking clearly."
"So? He didn't want to have a child with me and unlike him Randy is more than willing to be a parent."
"And so is Richard, in fact he IS a parent."
"Yeah, with Julia. You have no idea how much it hurt to find out about Stefano. To know that Julia had Richards' child - his son."
"Richard was just as shocked as you."
"Don't you understand? Julia was his first love, his first wife and now she's given Richard his first child - a son. It feels like if we got back together everything wouldn't be as special because he's done it all before. I'll just be following in Julia's footsteps - always." Caroline cried in earnest her hot tears scorching her cheeks.
Annie realised that Caroline's hurt ran more deeply than she first thought.
"Annie do you mind leaving? I kinda need to be alone."
"Sure but let me say this if you loved Randy you would have left Richard outside and right now you'd be in your honeymoon suite."
Annie stood outside angry with Caroline and Richard. I should knock their heads together, make them see sense. She loves him she's just too scared to admit it and Richard, it takes him 6 months to contact Caroline. What the hell are those two trying to do - give me a nervous breakdown?
Annie heard the phone ring and seeing that Caroline has no intention of getting it goes into the kitchen and picks up the extension. "Hello?"
"Annie it's Richard. How's Caroline?" He asked anxiously.
"She's confused and scared of being hurt again." Annie answered truthfully.
"I really screwed things up didn't I? God I'm so stupid."
"Yep, I'm glad you figured that out." She said forgetting that Richard was in pain too.
"Thanks for your words of encouragement Annie." He drawled sadly.
Annie thought, He must be in a bad way, his sarcasm sucks. "Hey I'm not the one who thought Caroline wasn't good enough to have children with."
"What? I never said that."
"Yeah well that's what she's thinking. What did you expect her to think when you told her you didn't want another child?"
"Damn! Look Annie I really need to see her, to tell her - I never got the chance - Randy butted in."
Annie rolled her eyes. "Well it was his wedding day too."
"I know, I know. Do you think Caroline would talk to me if I called round?"
"'Do what you think is best Richie but if you hurt Caroline again, I'll get Ma to put a curse on you." Annie said only half joking. He wasn't the one who had to hold Caroline as she cried. She shuddered as she remembered how heart broken Caroline had been. It had taken ages for her to smile and laugh again to see that familiar life and brightness in her eyes again.
"I bet you would too. Right then I'm going to see Caroline. Err how would you feel about looking after Stefano? I think it would be better if I didn't bring him."
"You're trusting me with your son?" Annie said surprised. "Wow Richard, I'm touched."
She heard Richard chuckle, "I'd have thought you'd be used to that by now!"
"Hey! Watch it Richie, some curses can be deadly, you know."
"Okay! Okay! Will you take Stefano though? Please?" He told her about a local cafe and decided to meet her there if she was sure.
"Yeah okay, Ma will be here soon so she can help with all that baby stuff."
"That's a relief, thank you Annie."
"Okay, jeez, there's no need to get all mushy. See you in a while."
Annie replaced the receiver and hoped that things would eventually work out between those two. Cause if it doesn't I'm gonna need some Prozac!
Caroline looked at her wedding dress and thought about the other dress hanging in her closet back in New York. Well here's another one to add to my collection. I might as well face facts; I'm never going to get married. She smiled, I wonder how many women have nearly but not quiet got married, like me? Just as she was about to attempt to work that out, someone knocked at her door. Oh god I hope it's not my parents - I thought I'd explained it all to them. Caroline looked through the frosted glass of the front door and could make out the familiar figure of Richard standing there. She closed her eyes, took a deep calming breath, then opened the door. "Hello, Richard."
"Caroline. Can I come in?" He asked smiling hesitantly.
Caroline stepped back allowing Richard to enter.
"Caroline I'm really sorry that I ruined your wedding, I didn't mean to."
"Then why did you? Why come at all?"
Richard hung his head shamefully. "I had to watch you marry. I wanted to see that you have got over me." Caroline remained quiet and wouldn't make eye contact with him. So he continued, "I love you. I know that it was my selfishness in denying you a child that caused our break up but everyday without you made me realise how deeply I love you. I've had a lot of time to think about my life and the paths I've taken - I need you Caroline."
"Why? Are you finding it difficult to cope with Stefano and need my help?"
Richard flinched at the deliberate hurt Caroline wanted to inflict on him. "Caroline I know I deserve that but this had to do with you not Stefano."
"I really don't believe you Richard so you may as well go and take your lies with you."
"I'm not lying!" He shouted desperately.
"I don't care! At the airport you made your decision and I had to accept it no matter what. I let you go and here you are. You must think I'm gullible if you think that poor speech can even begin to make up for everything I've been through."
He spoke quietly but with conviction. "I know I can't take away or make up for what I've put you through but I can offer you a future."
Caroline still afraid to be hurt refused to make it so easy. "And what about Julia? What would she think of you and I back together - about me being Stefanos' step mum?"
"Julia isn't apart of his life or mine."
"What do you mean? She isn't. She's not...?" Caroline could barely bring herself to think that Julia had come to harm. She may not like Julia but to think Stefano would never know his mother -.
Richard comprehending what Caroline was hinting at rushed to reassure her. "No it's nothing like that. When I arrived at the Mazzone estate Julia had already left. Apparently she didn't like the prospect of motherhood and she wasn't ready for the responsibility. When she was sure I was coming she left - I haven't seen or heard from her since." He stepped forward and took Carolines' hands in his. "Caroline, Julia has nothing to do with whom I choose to love or spend my life with. Can't you accept that?"
"Ok so Julia's out of the picture for now but I still don't think it's a good idea that we get back together." She stated stubbornly.
Richard blew out a frustrated breath. "Why not? I - we - Stefano and I can move back to New York - we don't need to live in Italy and -."
Caroline cut him off, "Richard you can't expect us to pick up where we left off. It's just too difficult."
"You think this is easy for me too? I've got things that have bothered me. What about you and Randy?"
"What has Randy got to do with this?" Caroline asked stunned.
"Caroline for six months I've missed you every day and night. You have constantly been in my thoughts and I find out that during this time you and he - " Richard could barely bring himself to say it let alone think about them together - it hurt too much. "Six months later you're marrying the man who you were attracted too while we were going out." His face revealed his sense of betrayal. "How did you come to love Randy and marry him in barely six months? Did you fall in love with him while you and I were together?' He asked his voice catching at the difficult questions."
"No Richard, no." Caroline reached out to touch Richard's hand but she pulled it back before contact could be made feeling uncomfortable at the intimacy of the gesture. "I never cheated on you - well you knew about the kiss but that was it. Nothing major happened with Randy until after you and I had split." Caroline watched a pyramid of emotions wash over his face and quickly spoke. "Richard I didn't think I'd see you again and I needed to get on with my life and Randy was a great comfort to me when you left."
"I just bet he was." He said under his breath not liking the idea of Randy touching Caroline but he saw Caroline's eyes widen and knew that she had heard. Not willing to hurt her anymore he explained. "Caroline, the only thing keeping me together was Stefano and the thought of you. I have missed you every single hour of everyday and night and the thought that all this time you and he..." He paused and drew in a painful breath, tears stinging his eyes, "Do you love him? Are you going to marry Randy?"
"I don't know." Caroline whispered truthfully.
He felt the pain then, much worse then all those months ago for he knew that another also had captured Carolines' heart. "Caroline I meant what I said, I do love you and I want us to marry, to raise a family. My life is meaningless with out you to share it with."
A part of Caroline seemed to give and her heart rejoiced at his words but she had been through this before and was tired of being hurt. "Richard is it worth it? When we were together we fought all the time and other than the fact you're a father now, nothing's changed. Maybe we're just too different to make a relationship work."
Richard shook his head emphatically unwilling to entertain such an idea. "No Caroline the reason we fought so much was because I was insecure. I never knew until you were gone how much you meant to me. I cringe at those times we argued over bath mats and dinners. I know now that I was scared of letting you get too close, that you might find my flaws and dump me." Caroline looked at him in disbelief. "I know it sounds pathetic but I've seen the men you've dated they've been professional, successful and I was none of those. I had nothing to offer you but my love and I just kept thinking that you deserved more that's why I kept a distance."
Caroline smiled appreciating the strength it took for Richard to be so open and vulnerable. "Aren't you still the same?" She asked softly.
He smiled at the question. "Yes but I also realised you've known for along time the kind of that man that I am. There's nothing new to learn. You've seen me happy, sad, and destitute. You've seen me fail and every time you've been there, helping me and guiding me. You've never turned your back on me not once. It never occurred to me that you had seen me at my worst. I am such an idiot Caroline I'm disgusted at myself for what I've put you through."
"Richard it wasn't all your fault - don't be so hard on yourself."
Richard laughed, "See your doing it again, even after everything you won't let me wallow in self hatred." He reached out and clasped her hands again squeezing them firmly. "I love you Caroline please give me the chance to make everything up to you."
Caroline couldn't ignore the sincerity in Richard's eyes and knew that if she wanted to be truly happy she would have to take a leap of faith. "Okay Richard."
Richard blinked then smiled. "Okay? You mean it?" At Caroline's nod, he let out a relieved breath, "Oh thank god!"
"But let's take things slowly, I've got a lot of things to get used to...like your son for instance."
Richard laughed and held her close. "He'll love you just as much as I do." He touched her cheek and lifted her face upwards and placed his lips against hers, knowing how fortunate he was to have her in his life again.