A/N: I only discovered Caroline in the City a couple of years ago on dvd, and only saw the series finale last year, but the moment I realised I was stuck with a non-ending, I knew I had to write my own! Now, after re-watching the final episode, I feel I want t share my ending, so here is the beginning, with a middle and end to follow soon. Probably of no interest to anyone, but then I mostly wrote it for my own piece of mind anyway ;-)
Disclaimer: Caroline in the City and all its characters belongs Fred Barron, Dottie Dartland, and Marco Pennette - no infringement intended.
Part 1 of 3
Caroline wasn't sure what had been happening when she came into the living room and found the contents of the dresser spread all over the floor and part of the couch. She'd only been out front fixing the hanging baskets, couldn't have been more than a half hour talking with their neighbour whilst she completed her task, and yet her once organised living space now looked like a bomb had gone off on one side.
"Um, did something explode whilst I was out?" she said, putting a hand to her forehead as she came further into the room.
"I'm tidying, honestly" the girl by the dresser told her, gathering up a few papers and such and shoving them into the first available drawer.
"Uh-huh" Caroline nodded once at her daughter, "Um, Parker, sweetie, you do understand what 'tidying' means, right?" she checked, half way between stunned at the mess and amused by the teen's words.
"Yes, Mom" Parker rolled her eyes, "I just got distracted is all" she admitted, getting up off her knees and handing a photograph album to her mother.
Caroline opened it up and smiled at the sight that met her eyes.
"Wow" she gasped as she sat down on the available area of the couch, and her daughter came to join her, "it's been a while since I saw these" she said, marvelling at each and every picture in the album from many years ago now.
"You look so beautiful in your wedding dress" Parker told her with a grin as she pointed to one photo in particular that showed off the flowing white garment to perfection.
"Thank you, sweetheart" Caroline smiled right back at her little girl, "It was a heck of a day, but I guess it's true what they say - third time's the charm" she sighed, the words slipping out of her mouth without her brain really engaging.
Of course, Parker was neither deaf nor stupid and immediately reacted to what her mother had accidentally said.
"Third time?" she echoed in astonishment, having no idea up to this point that her mother had been through no less than three weddings en route to marrying her father.
The fact was, none of the kids knew about it and to a point it was deliberate. Caroline didn't want her children to know too much about the fiasco that had been her love life prior to her marrying their Dad. Most of the time, she didn't even like to think about the rockier parts of the journey that led to this point, the happy family set up they had now, back in her home town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Married to the man of her dreams and raising their kids in the same house where she'd grown up, it was all Caroline had ever wanted, and now she had it. Those days of being 'Caroline in the City', the real-life version of her supposedly fictional comic strip, were long gone, and though great things had come out of them, they were behind her now.
"So let's tidy!" she told her daughter, closing the photo album and bouncing as if to get to her feet.
She realised in a second that she was not going to get out of this so easily. The look on the girl's face was familiar to Caroline as one she'd seen on her husband's face before, and there was just no arguing with such an expression.
"I guess we named you right" she sighed in defeat, "Nosey Parker!" she joked, tapping the girl's nose with her index finger as she said it.
"Come on, Mom!" Parker complained, as Caroline put the photo album down on the coffee table and surveyed the mess throughout the living room, "You never tell me any of the good stories from before you and Dad got married, and since I barely remember living in the city, you should share more!" she said indignantly.
Caroline would have liked to continue pretending not to hear her daughter, but it wasn't possible, especially when she knew the poor girl was right.
"I guess that's because you already heard all the good stories" she shrugged, "if good means suitable for young ears" she amended when she thought about it and Parker continued to whine.
"Mom, I'm almost in High School" she complained, forgetting as kids were wont to do that no matter how old they get, they will still always be babies to their parents, "Come on, I just want to know how come you had three weddings" she practically begged and Caroline sighed as she realised she really couldn't wriggle out of this.
Beside, it wasn't as bad as it sounded. She hadn't actually had three weddings as such, not even three marriages, just three attempts at getting down the aisle and only one that stuck. Maybe there really wasn't a reason to keep the story from her daughter, she considered, taking a deep breath before she began her tale.
"Okay" she said, "Well, the first man I was going to marry, that was a big mistake" she waved her hand in a random gesture of dismissal, "It wasn't that we didn't love each other, but with me and Del, it was..."
"Del?!" Parker gaped as she echoed the name that was so familiar to her, "You almost married Uncle Del?!" she squeaked, her voice so high that Caroline was convinced only dogs could hear her by the end of the sentence.
"Yes" she admitted, knowing before she began that part would get a reaction, but hoping to gloss over it without too much delay, "but it was a long time ago, way before he and your Aunt Annie realised they had feelings for each other" she explained, thinking maybe sometime she should really get to telling the tale of the unconventional way that those two found themselves in love.
Still, it ought to wait until Parker was much older, especially if Annie was ever allowed to recount the tale herself, in her own unique and graphic style!
"So that was before you met Dad?" Parker checked, her question bringing Caroline out of her thoughts, and refocusing her on the story at hand.
"Well, no" she admitted, "but, y'see, your father and I didn't have the smoothest courtship" she tried to explain, not wanting to get too far away from the original point about the weddings, by veering off into the entire history of her relationship with Richard.
Not only would it take hours upon hours to recount every detail, much of it was unsuitable for her thirteen year old daughters ears, as far as Caroline was cornered. Besides, so much of it paled into insignificance against other factors.
"Courtship?" Parker scoffed, "Please, Mom, did we fall back into the 1900s?" she complained with typical teenage eye-roll.
"You don't sass your mother or I won't tell you the rest of this story" Caroline said in what was supposed to be a firm way as she pointed a supposedly angry finger at the girl.
Her features softened in a moment and it was as if she'd never been mad. Parker knew from years of experience just what she could and couldn't get away with where both her mother and father were concerned. Mom was easier to wind up on most things, but she rarely if ever lost her temper in a big way.
"Anyway" Caroline continued her story, getting Parker's rapt attention in a second, "the second time I walked down the aisle, well, that was supposed to be for the long haul" she explained, staring at a blank space in the air as she watched the scene she spoke of unfold in her minds eye, "Randy was... he was perfect" she smiled as she remembered, "He wanted everything I wanted and he loved me..."
"But you didn't love him?" Parker cut in, assuming that to be the only reason why her Mom would not have committed to this supposedly 'perfect' man.
"No, I did" Caroline shook her head as she looked at the young girl beside her, "I just didn't love him enough" she explained, "not in the right way, it wasn't..." Caroline gestured with one arm, fighting with her own mind to find the phrase she was looking for to properly make her daughter see what she meant, "it wasn't.. sincero amore" she said at last, getting the puzzled look she ought to have expected from Parker.
"Wasn't what?" she asked, and though Caroline opened her mouth to answer, the words were spoken by a voice from the doorway.
"A love you don't have to question" he said, as the two on the couch turned and stared at him.
"Hey, Dad" Parker greeted her father with a grin, loving his entrance at just the right moment - he had a habit of doing that, she'd noticed.
"Richard" Caroline smiled at the sight of him, "We were just..."
"Mom was telling me a story" her daughter filled in when he mother seemed to stumble on her words.
"A story?" Richard looked unimpressed as he came into the living room, removing his coat as he came, and taking a seat in the armchair next to them, "Aren't you a little old for the three bears, Parker?" he said, putting his coat over the back of the chair.
"Try the three weddings" she told him with a grin, as her parents shared a look.
It wasn't that Richard minded his daughter knowing how the two of them had come to be married, but he wondered at Caroline wanting to tell it. She still found a little shame in the way they came to be married, he was certain, though he didn't really understand why she should feel so bad. At least he knew she felt no regret in their actually being married, she loved him as deeply as he loved her, that was always obvious enough to him.
"Who had three weddings?" said a little voice from behind the couch, as a head popped up behind Caroline and Parker.
"Marissa Karinsky you frightened the life out of me!" her mother declared a hand on her chest as she tried to get her breath back.
"Sorry, Mom" the little girl said, looking suitably shame-faced about her trick as she walked around the couch and looked forlornly at her father til he took pity on her and let her share his chair.
"Sorry, Mom" came an echo from Marissa's little brother, Joey, as he too appeared from behind the couch, his apology a little pointless since he hadn't even been a part of Caroline's shock.
"Okay, no harm done" Richard told the pair, as Marissa squeezed into the chair with him and Caroline pulled Joey up into her lap, "How about we all get comfortable and your Mom can tell the rest of the story?" he grinned almost evilly at his wife, knowing having to recount the tale would probably make her squirm just enough to be amusing.
He loved her, just as she loved him, but it was still fun to tease each other sometimes, it made life interesting. She knew what he was doing and shot him a look somewhere between amused and annoyed just as a sound like a herd of elephants clattered down the stairs.
"Oh, Stevie, honey, you're just in time" Caroline called out into the hall, just as the boy's hand reached the front door knob.
"For what?" he asked as he turned back to look in through the living room door, only to be greeted by his entire family staring at him.
"To hear the story of how your father and I got married" Caroline smiled at him, though he looked less than impressed at the prospect of sitting down with his parents to hear an old romantic tale of theirs.
"Do I have to?" he asked, looking more at his father than at Caroline.
"Stefano..." Richard said in a warning tone as he shot him a look that wasn't quite angry enough to mean anything.
"Okay, Dad, okay" the teen put his hands in mock-surrender as his father made him feel more like a naughty seven year old than the seventeen he really was, "Tell us the great story, Mom" he said with a half-forced smile as he plopped down into the couch in the space she'd made, and wrapped her arm around Parker on the other side.
The grin on her face was as genuine as it had ever been as she looked to the boy she saw as her eldest son. She never tired of hearing him call her 'Mom', despite the fact that biologically she never could be his mother. She'd raised him alongside Richard, when Julia had all too easily given up on the idea of motherhood, and loved him as much as any of her other children.
"Well, now" she said, looking to Parker, and then around the room at her whole perfect little family, "Where was I?"
- End of Part 1 -