Story-line: More often than not, life doesn't go as planned. Fate throws several twists and turns your way and the path you choose will determine your future. Serena finds this out when her baby niece is tragically orphaned. On top of that, the baby's fraternal uncle also wants custody of her and is determined to go to any length to get what he wants. Even marriage.



Chapter 13

Sahara Lilium


Her mind grasped hungrily at the thought. Darien? Gave her his love? She hadn't noticed that- but maybe that was because it wasn't true?

Serena roused herself from the well of dark thoughts she had fallen into. "That's where you're wrong Luna." She didn't want to examine too closely the sharp feeling of disappointment she felt.

"Darien doesn't love me anymore than I love him. As for his support, he just gave me that for appearance's sake. And as for his so called loyalty to me- and your so called loyalty to me-" here Serena paused to stare at Luna, "- get that thought out of your head. He's no more loyal to me than- than Casanova probably was to one of his lovers."

She paused and saw the way Luna was looking at her. Throwing her hands up in exasperation, she said, "You haven't even asked me why I want a divorce yet and you're already going on about it. I do believe in the 'sanctimonious' act of marriage, contrary to your belief. I wouldn't just ask for a divorce because the reason why I got married is no longer alive. No. I believe that if you get married, it should be for life. Except in special cases."

Luna rolled her eyes. "Special cases. Of course! And I suppose your case is a special one?"

Serena smiled with false sincerity. "How right you are Luna. The only right thing you've said since I've been here. You know that I can't abide cheaters. And Darien... is one."

"Darien's a cheater?"

"Yes." Serena heaved a high sigh. "Yes Luna. Darien's a cheater."

Luna shook her disbelievingly. "Darien's cheated on you."

Serena let out a little laugh. "Uh-huh. I do think the word cheater implies that he's cheated on me."

"And who has he cheated on you with?" Luna got a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach as she asked the question. She knew the answer, she knew whose name Serena was going to say. She just knew-

"Lita. Lita Larina." Serena's mouth twisted bitterly as she spat out the name.

Luna didn't know what to say. She had guessed that Serena would come to that conclusion after the way the other woman had trailed after Darien. It was the most logical conclusion to come to. But Luna just had the feeling that there was more to it than that. Something wasn't right in this picture Serena had painted.

"Do you have any proof?"

Serena shrugged one of her shoulders. "Lots of things. He comes home late every night. He hasn't touched me at all lately."

Except that morning. But then, that little display wasn't because Darien was overcome with passion and couldn't control himself. It happened because he was making a point to Serena. So...

"He hasn't touched me!" Serena repeated with more force.

Luna held up her hands at Serena's vehement tone of voice. "Take it easy, ok? I believe you. So, what else makes you think that he's having an affair with that woman?"

Serena rubbed her forehead as exhaustion threatened to overtake her. "Well, there was that phone call that I received from Lita at midnight. She asked me where Darien was and whether he'd started out to meet her like he'd done for the past nights. Also, I phoned Darien's office at midnight last night and both of them were there."

Luna wrinkled her nose. "Midnight huh? Well... maybe there's a simple explanation for all this."

"Yeah right. They were both just having a cosy little chat there were they? We both know the truth Luna, and I just can't bear it. I can't share my husband with somebody else. I mean, how would you feel if Artemis had another woman on the side? You wouldn't like it all would you?"

Luna's eyes narrowed at the thought. "I'd kill him."

Serena nodded. "Exactly. Well, now you know what I feel."

"But Serena," Luna paused and blushed. "I love Artemis."

She looked wryly at her friend. "Well, at least you're finally admitting it. Have you told him yet?"

"Well, I was going to but then he-" Luna stopped and shook her head. "We're not taking about me, we're talking about you. Do you, or do you not love Darien?"

Serena was silent. Did she or did she not, that was the question. She had always believed that real love grew slowly and steadily. You couldn't ever really meet a person and declare that you'd fallen instantaneously in love with that person. It wasn't possible. You had to know the character and the personality of the person involved before you could make claims of love.

She had known Darien only for a few weeks. That wasn't a long enough time for her to be in love with him was it? Of course not. She couldn't be in love with a person who was that insensitive, that callous that he'd cheat on his wife just after the honeymoon. Was she?

"No!" Serena shook her head and her hair flew around her face. "No. I'm not in love with that man. Never." Luna watched Serena's reaction in silence. Serena huffed out a breath and still shaking her head, threw up her hands. "I'm not!"

"Okay, okay," Luna interceded. "You're not in love with him."

"Why would I be? I mean, what has he done that would cause me, or any other woman to fall in love with him? I'll tell you what. He made my sister's life hell by not accepting her when she married Andrew and by making his own brother an outcast-"

Luna interrupted Serena. "You don't know what the actual reason was Serena-"

Serena shook her head. "No-one from his family bothered to meet Mina even once. Andrew was thrown out of their house when he announced that he was going to marry her. What else am I supposed to think?"

Luna stayed silent.

Serena sighed wearily. "Darien then forced me to marry him just because his pride demanded that Diana not be brought up by someone outside the family. After that, he just used me because I was convenient and his mistress wasn't there with him. Notice how now that she's available he's taking full advantage of the fact?" Serene fell silent and stared at the floor, her throat tight with painful emotion.

Luna shook her head slightly and let out a sigh. "Okay Serena. You're not in love with him, and I'll admit you've had a raw deal. I suppose you've got a right to be angry right now. But all I'm saying is that please please-" here Luna gripped Serena's hands in her own "- think before you do anything. Talk to Darien. Any marriage is worth holding on to no matter how it originated. And Darien..." She made a vague gesture. "You could have done worse."

"Yeah I could have done worse." Serena stood up and grabbed her bag from the table. "I could have married a normal man. Someone not rich. Someone not arrogant. Someone who knew what the word respect meant." She paused with her hand on the front door. "Someone like Seiya." she whispered, letting herself out of the house and closing the door behind her, leaving a stunned Luna behind her.

She drove. To Seiya. She knew she shouldn't, it wasn't fair to burden him with her problems. But she needed- she wasn't being trite- she needed a strong shoulder to cry on. Luna was her friend, her best friend who, rather than taking her side, was telling her to stay with her oh-so-faithful husband. Seiya, she knew, wouldn't do that. In fact, Seiya would be glad that she wanted to leave Darien. He didn't like her husband, she was aware of that. Well, now she knew why. Seiya had seen what Darien was capable of and how much he could hurt her. Oh, if only Seiya had spoken up and if only she would have listened to his warnings and not married Darien. If only... however hindsight was no good at all.

She got out of her car and quickly locking it, hurried to Seiya's front door. Keeping her finger pressed on the doorbell, she shifted impatiently on her feet.

He had to be home, please let him be home, please let-


"Serena! What are you doing here?" Seiya asked while stepping aside to let her in.

She did and grabbing his hand and led the way into the living room.

"Serena, what is it? You look strange and-"

"I want a divorce." She burst straight out a watched as Seiya froze. "I want a divorce." She repeated as if to make sure that Seiya had really heard since he wasn't showing any reaction.

Seiya opened his mouth and then closed it again without saying he word. He looked at Serena's tear brightened eyes and sighed. "Serena."

She shook her head and placed her head on her hands. Oh God, her life was in such a mess right now. What was she going to do?

"Aren't you rushing the divorce a little?" Seiya asked gently.

Her head shot up and she frowned at him. "What?" She snapped.

He held up his hands and gave her a little smile. "All I meant was that you aren't even married to me yet and you already want a divorce? This doesn't bode well for our future Serena."

She stared at him for a while and then let out a bitter little laugh. "This isn't funny Seiya. Don't make jokes about it. I want a divorce from Darien and he won't give it to me."

He took her hand in his hand and patted it. Staring down at they joined hands, he took a deep breath. "What do you want me to say Serena? If you think that I should support you in what you want to do I will. But that doesn't mean I think it's the right thing to do."

Serena's jaw dropped. "What's happened to you? Since when have you started to take Darien's side?"

Seiya shook his head. "I'm not taking his side. I just think that you shouldn't be so hasty. You have this one chance to be happy so don't throw it away."

Serena looked away from him and swallowed past the ball in her throat. "You think that I can be happy with Darien?"

She continued on before Seiya could say a word. "You think that a man who doesn't know the true meaning of the word love can keep me a happy? You believe that a man who sleeps around with other women behind my back, and give him just a few more weeks, right in front of me, will be capable of showing me respect? Do you really think-"

Seiya held up a hand and stopped her in mid-sentence. "What are you talking about Serena? Darien is not cheating on you."

Serena nodded a little hysterically. "Of course not Seiya. It's all my imagination right? I'm going crazy aren't I? That's why I'm just making things up right?"

Seiya tugged at her hand and shook his head. "No of course you're not. But there is no way that Darien is cheating on you." He continued even as Serena opened her mouth. "The reason I can say that with absolute certainty is because of the look on his face every time he looks at you." He stopped and pulled a rueful face. "And the look on his face every time he looks at me, especially when I'm with you."

Serena gazed at him with an uncomprehending expression on her face. "What look?"

Seiya let out a heavy sigh. "The look that say she's mine."

Serena let out a disgusted huff. "And I'm supposed to stay with him because he's manically possessive?"

"No. You're supposed to stay with him because he loves you. Honestly Serena, you have no idea how much he loves you do you?" He said fiercely. "Every time he looks at what you're going through, there's this pain in his eyes for you. Every time you talk to me and shut him out, there's this-" Seiya shook his head. "Well, the man ain't happy, Serena."

Serena was silent. Maybe, maybe...

Seiya continued. "He... trust me this isn't an easy thing for me to say but he's so into you right now that he wouldn't even think of another woman."

Serena looked at him steadily. "Well since you seem to be able to understand Darien's feelings so well, why don't you work your magic and come up with a suitable explanation as to why he spends nights at his office with-" She stopped and was unable to continue.


"With Lita Larina." She finished and closed her eyes as a pang went through her.

Seiya suddenly stood up. "Lita? Impossible. Unless she's mastered the skill of being in two places at once, she can't have been with him any night since you've come back from your honeymoon. Or even while you were away."

"Why not?" Serena frowned and stared at him, puzzled.

"Because she's been with me every night."

She drove. To Darien's office. She knew she shouldn't, she'd probably end up making a scene in front of all his staff. But it was way past time to confront Darien. It was time for the truth, whether he was ready for it or not. She needed to know his reasons for marrying her and even if they went no deeper than Diana; she wanted to know why exactly he insisted on staying married to her. What were his motives? She just had know...

... whether she was ready for it or not.

Darien drove. Home. For a confrontation with his wife. He knew it should have happened a long time ago, before things got so out of hand that the word divorce had made an appearance. He was more worried on the Seiya front than he had been, say, two days ago. He had been so shocked when he had found out about Seiya and Lita last night. Seiya. And Lita. Seiya just hadn't seemed like Lita's type. But then, neither had...

Darien shook his head. No. He wouldn't go there. What was done was done. What had happened had happened. What now mattered was the future. His and Serena's future. And if God was kind, then perhaps Lita and Seiya's future. If Seiya behaved. And if he didn't, well, he, Darien had a ready weapon at his disposal. If that didn't keep Seiya under control... he didn't want to go there either.

She strode towards Darien's office and nearly snarled when she was waylaid by a woman. "Excuse me, ma'am but you can not just go in there."

Serena bestowed upon the woman her haughtiest look and drawled. "R eally? So you're telling me whether or not I can see my husband?"

The woman took a step back and an expression of uncertainty stole across her face. "You are Mrs Refatalki?"

Serena smiled tightly. "Isn't that what I just said?"

"Ah... Mr Refatalki is not here. He left about ten minutes ago."

Serena shifted impatiently on her feet. "Any idea where he went?"

The woman nodded. "He said he was going home."

"Thanks." Serena made an effort and nodded at the woman politely. Turning on her heel she made her way out of the building.

She strode into their bedroom and stopped. He heard her and turned around, his hands working on the buttons of the shirt he was putting on. They both stood there and stared at each, both not saying a word, both wondering who would be the first to break the ice and get the confrontation started.


"We need-"

Apparently, it was to be both of them.

Serena sighed and threw her purse on the bed. "You go first-"

"I'll go first." Darien stated at the same time.

Serena raised an eyebrow. "Yes. I do insist."

Darien walked over to where she warily stood and gripping her elbow, pulled her along behind him and sat them both on the bed.

"I've been thinking-"

"Really? Congratualtions-"

He ignored her. "I won't give you a divorce and your stubbornness says that you don't want to stay married to me right?"

"Wrong. It's my common sense which says-"

He ignored her again. "Perhaps it's time for us to be honest with each other."

Serena stared at him and then sighed. "I know." "I realised after our... talk this morning that you had some serious misunderstandings about this relationship of ours."

Serena stayed silent at this and Darien raised his eyebrows as if in surprise when she didn't interrupt. "Nothing to say Serena? Keep it that way for a while will you? I'll talk and you'll listen. Understand?

Serena sighed again and looked away from his intense gaze. "I don't think this is going to accomplish anything Darien. You're you and I'm... me."

"That's the way it usually is-"

"No. No it isn't." Serena shook her head and getting up from the bed, took a few steps away and leaned against the wall. "A marriage can only work if the two people involved have at least something in common. One of the things is perhaps wanting to make the marriage succeed. When they don't even have that, then I don't think there's much use in carrying things on and making them even more complicated, is there Darien? You don't love me and I don't love you. Hell, you don't even like me so how can you even think about staying chained to me for the rest of your life?"

"Who gave you the impression that I don't like you?" He swept his arms back on the bed and leaned on his hands.

"I think it's pretty clear isn't it? There's really no need to pretend to be so ignorant." When he continued to look at her with a blank expression on his face, she smiled bitterly. "I know. Everything. About you. About Lita. About burning the midnight oil. Such dedication." She mocked.

He stood up so suddenly that she nearly gasped. "What's this nonsense I keep hearing from your mouth about Lita and I? She's just my friend. Surely you know what a friend is."

Serena shook her head at him a little. "But such a close friend Darien. I don't have friends of the opposite gender to whom I'm so close to that I don't hesitate to spend hours upon hours with them." She paused before adding, "At night."

Darien didn't move a muscle. He just stood there and stared at her.

Serena took a deep unsteady breath before carrying on. He was right. This all had to be said. "I suppose you're thinking that since I don't love you and I know that you don't love me, I shouldn't have any hopes of fidelity from you should I? I suppose you're right. But see, maybe I'm just weird but I think that even if there's no love in a marriage, respect just has to be there. And it's just so plain that you don't respect me. And maybe this is even weirder of me but I just don't like the idea that people laugh at me behind my back."

"Are you done?" He spoke in a normal tone of voice and Serena nearly sighed in relief that he wasn't angry- until she looked at his eyes. His eyes... God help her.

He smiled at her tense face. "Sit down, dear wife of mine. What I have to say is going to take a while."

She didn't move.

He took one step towards her and smiled at her again. "Well?"

She moved. Fast.

"Let's start at the beginning shall we?" He didn't wait for her response. "Quite a few months ago, I looked across a crowded café and I saw a woman. A woman so beautiful that I... I thought perhaps I was imagining her. Perhaps she wasn't real. And I wanted that woman. I wanted her more than I had ever wanted anything in my life. That woman was with another woman. Another woman who was with my brother." He stopped and looked at her. "Do you understand what I'm talking about Serena? Do you remember?"

She did. Their first meeting. Oh, she did.

He sat on the recliner besides her, and placing his elbows on his spread knees, straight ahead, away from Serena. "I realised then who you were. The woman who had brought Mina and Andrew together." He took a deep breath. "The woman who was indirectly responsible for breaking Lita's heart."

She gazed at his profile. "Lita? What does Lita have to do with this?"

He still didn't look at her. "My papa and Lita's father were close friends. I'm sure you've read stories where such close friends promise each other their son and daughter. Well, this wasn't a story. It was real life. So Lita was to marry into our family. She was to marry Andrew. And why not? She was beautiful. She was connected to the family. He wanted her. She wanted him."

Serena noticed how being connected to the family came before Lita and Andrew wanting each other, but she didn't comment.

"However, when I say that Andrew wanted Lita, I don't mean to imply that it was anything serious. Far from it actually. It was just an opportunity for Andrew to flirt. To look at Lita and be smug because she wanted him. No-one else."

He was silent then, lost in his own thoughts. Serena leaned back and kept on looking at him. Lita... and Andrew. Lita... and Darien. That woman was really attracted to the Refatlaki men wasn't she?

He sighed heavily and came back to the present. "I suppose that it just wasn't meant to be. Andrew and Lita. Fate, some would call it. He met Mina and fell in love for real. They dated. Had a huge argument with each with and broke up."

Serena remembered those few weeks. The state poor Mina had been in!

Darien continued. "Anyway, it was you who sorted it all out and then they got married. Andrew was over the moon." Here Darien paused for a moment and smiled sadly. "Well the same couldn't be said for Lita. She was heartbroken. Devastated. You probably don't realise the effect that marriage had on her. Having been brought up to be told that she was to be Andrew's wife- well..." He trailed off.

Serena felt a pang of pity inside her. "I suppose she must have hated Mina."

He smiled. "Lita's not like that. She didn't hate Mina when she saw how Andrew behaved with her. How much he loved her. But as is natural, Lita became vulnerable. She didn't have any self-confidence any more. She... she became depressed all the time. She would barely eat, barely sleep. Papa was just so angry with Andrew that he refused to have anything to do with him anymore. And then..."

Serena held her breath. And then...?

Darien sighed heavily. "Something happened. Something that made every-one get up and take notice of what Lita was going through. She eloped."

Serena stared at Darien. That was the last thing she had expected.

He shook his head. "The man she married was the worst man she could have picked. He was a selfish, greedy gold-digger. She realised that soon enough and got a divorce, though she paid a heavy price for her mistake. After that, she just lost all hope. She was depressed all the time and..." Darien stared off into the distance and trailed off.

He finally faced her. "I was there for Lita as a friend. I helped her sort her priorities out for her. I made her realise that no man was worth more than her life. I made-"

Someone interrupted. "He made me fall in love again."

Serena's head spun towards the bedroom door.

Towards Lita.


Sahara Lilium