Even though they had both remarried since their last divorce, rarely a day went by when Blair didn't see or talk to Todd.
If she wasn't yelling at him for something outrageous he'd done, he was coming around to yell at her for something she'd done, even if it were only outrageous by his own twisted logic. And if it was neither of those, there were the kids to discuss, or business, or some other odd thing.
Just that evening, he'd shown up on her porch to sulk about his latest shouting match with Tea. After informing Blair about how unreasonable his new wife was, he'd planted himself on La Boulaie's main staircase, sulking not unlike his sons did on a regular basis until Blair had agreed to talk to Tea for him.
Blair had talked to Tea and her brother, Tomas. Then she'd returned home, reminded Todd how, yes, it really was all his fault, and had sent him home to the other Mrs. Manning, shaking her head as she pushed him out the door and closed it behind him.
It was strangely quiet throughout the Cramer household; the kids were asleep, while both Kelly and Dorian were out for the evening. When she'd been younger, she'd often hated the rattling stillness of Dorian's mansion but now it was soothing to wear the silence like a blanket as she retired to her room.
Like always, the verbal gymnastics it took to have conversations with both Tea and Todd had left her keyed up, so Blair didn't head to bed. She thought about a late snack or even a bottle of wine, before she dismissed those thoughts in favor of a book. But instead of the novel she'd started reading on her flight back from Paris, Blair's hands found the wedding album Todd had recently returned at the insistence of his new wife.
She flipped through entire album, but her attention lingered on the first few pages, over the photos from their beautiful first wedding. Every time she looked into her decades-younger face, so transcendent at that moment, whether in a photo or in the painting Tomas Delgado had painted from one, Blair remembered how happy she'd been then, drunk on a cocktail of hope and faith that she'd never tasted before.
Everything had been so perfect - truths revealed, lies forgiven, promises made for the future. Todd - her lovely, scarred, guilty, angry, wonderful Todd - had even seem safe from his demons for those few hours, hours long enough to shower her with gold balloons and dance with her under a glittering chandelier. His grand romantic gestures had always surprised Blair, but they really shouldn't have; she knew, probably better than anyone, how deeply he felt and how those feelings drove his actions, for good or ill.
One thing that had always been true of Todd - he didn't do anything by small measures.
There were photos from a few of their remarriages too, like the surprise wedding they'd had after Mexico. That night had been more memorable for another reason - it had been the night she'd held Jack for the first time, not realizing he was the baby she thought she'd lost. It was a hurt that still hadn't quite healed, even with Jack in high school. It would probably always sting, a bruise in her heart that never would fade, right next to the wounds inflicted by her two miscarriages and Brendan's loss. Having seen her through them, she wondered how Todd had ever expected her to forgive him for making her think Jack had died, too.
Of course, she had forgiven him in the end, so maybe Todd had known her better than she still knew herself.
Those other weddings had been meaningful, each in their own way, but none of them held a candle to that first one. She'd meant what she'd told Todd the day she'd returned from Paris - what she'd felt then had been special and she wanted to feel it again. She and Todd had managed to capture it in flashes during some of their on-and-off years, but never again had it reached those heights, especially not since the day Todd had come back to her wearing Walker's face.
In some ways, her conversation with Tomas had been painful, but in other ways, it had been an illumination. After Eli, Blair had started to wonder if she could ever be truly happy, but that painting he'd had left her had lead to that old, tattered photo that had come back to her via a Parisian flea market and, for the first time in a long time, she'd felt that old hope blossom where doubts had plagued so long.
If she'd been that happy once, maybe she could be again.
Looking down at that photo of her and Todd smiling surrounded by golden balloons, Blair traced its ragged edges with one finger before she reached for it, tugging it from where she'd tucked it in among pages. She laid aside the album but kept the photo with her as she kicked off her shoes and settled back against the mountain of pillows on her bed. As she let her eyes settled on the worn picture, she couldn't help the smile it brought to her lips. It was such a candid shot, so unguarded, a true rarity when it came to both her and Todd. They'd been so young and already endured so much - if only they'd known it would come to end before the ink was dry on their marriage license.
Blair didn't know how long she stared at the photo, lost in those old memories, but her eyes were sliding close when the sound of her cell phone chirping startled her into complete alertness. She grabbed from phone from where she'd left it on the chest of drawers. It was a text from Todd, bearing one simple word - "fixed."
It made her laugh a little as she consigned the cell to her bedside table, her eyes still drawn to the photo where she'd dropped it on the sheets. With another amused shake of her head, she quickly dressed for bed and doused all the lights except for one softly glowing lamp. She climbed under the covers, and reached for the photo again, taking one last long moment to memorize the faces looking back at her.
Strange, she thought, that a piece of paper, still smelling faintly of paint and turpentine, could give her comfort where so much had failed in the last several months. But it had a strange sense of peace and purpose, Tomas's words from that night in Paris still in her ears - she was on a journey. And maybe - just maybe - there would be an end that led her to a similarly happy destination.
Blair drifted off to sleep easily that night, the memory of golden balloons sparking still behind her eyelids.