Chapter 24

Christmas Eve night, Caroline's mother came to baby sit.

Since the two of them had had their words, she had said and done very little to which Caroline could give hint to her past or to the affair. Caroline felt as if she had got through to her which was a good feeling she had to say.

She could move on with her life.

When the kids had all been a little bit younger, she and Shawn had taken them to midnight mass but they were beginning to be of an age when they were not going to sleep through it and the result was they found less enjoyment in Christmas day. And as a result so did their parents.

Therefore, when Shawn's parents had said they were going to go in the morning and they had volunteered to take their grandchildren with them to worship, they had taken them up on the offer. The young married couple could go to the mass of their choice, without worrying that it was going to upset the balance of the family when the next day come.

The only child which they took with them was baby Bo.

Just as his elder siblings had before him, he slept through the mass for his parents and it was nice to have one of their little ones with them, Caroline thought.

She sat in the pew with her husband at her side and her son in her arms and there was a sense of peace which she had all about her…

It was Christmas… and she intended it to be a good one.

X x x

And it was. The children had as many presents as they had been able to afford for them each, which was not many but when their grandparents and uncle and aunt arrived, Roman, Kimberly and Kayla showed them off as if they had been given the crown jewels for Christmas and they played with them all day long.

The dinner was cooked between Caroline, her mother and her mother in law, 'to perfection' in Shawn's words and enjoyed by all.

There was going to be some cold meat in the market for days to come but not much of anything else. The potatoes went first.

After dinner the entire family settled down to some card games, Kim and Kayla sitting on a grand mothers lap each and Roman playing with Shawn while Caroline sat out and enjoyed the peace. Just watching the family play together was always going to be a joy to her she thought.

Always.

x x x

With the New Year approaching, Caroline found herself down in the shop for just a moment.

She had just been down to talk to Shawn who was working the counter that night when she saw two young girls walk in.

"And he says we are going to go to dinner and go dancing – I can't wait."

"But Minnie what are your mother and father going to say about it all?" her friend asked earnestly.

"Well not very much I do not think – it is not as if they are going to know."

The thought of Kayla or Kimberly talking of her thusly haunted Caroline – she could not imagine Molly talking of Ma and Pa Brady that way and she knew she had not.

She wondered what made a girl like that. but then she had heard a little rebelling was healthy in the young.

She wasn't so sure.

"In my opinion. I do not know if it is ever wise to go out with a boy you cannot tell your parents about." Part of her knew she should keep her mouth shut but this was her shop and so to an extent she had every right to speak as she did. This was her market.

And they were young girls.

She did not want them in above their heads.

"Of but he is so lovely Mrs Brady – and if I don't go then I think I am going to miss my chance all together with him," and it was clear Minnie, young and pretty as she was did not want to do that.

"All the same –"

"He is not going to be in town for long and I am young, free and single. If a handsome business man from across the shores wants to spoil me for a moment then I am sure I can let him do that."

At first what the girls had said had made Caroline feel numb and she was not sure if she was ever going to feel again… but as time went on she knew she was feeling again. She knew the two of them were talking to her but she felt as if she had gone into a trance for she did not need to know anymore.

She knew.

x x x

There were so many emotions in her when she heard Victor was back. She had heard it as a whisper at first but then confirmation came.

Anxiety, excitement, terror but more than anything just an overwhelming need to hide Bo from him.

He must never hurt her boy.

x x x

She had no doubt when she had heard he was back in town that she was going to get a visit.

She was right.

X x x

This was not the end to the Christmas season which Caroline had wanted, she thought as she saw Victor outside her shop and it was the last end to the year she wanted.

It had seemed to her as if she was putting everything that had happened with Victor behind her. And as such, she just wanted to carry on doing so.

But now the two of them were standing facing each other, her having seen him through the window of the market and there she had stood in silence, not stopping him coming in even when she knew she should, if only to plead for his silence.

"I do not know what you want me to say to you." Caroline said as she stood in the market. She could recall a time not so long ago when she had longed to see him here.

It was all different now.

"I could suggest hello," he said to her but he knew he was not going to get that. And the pleasantries were not that important.

No, there was only one thing that he really wanted.

"I want you to say Bo is my son," it was clear by the way he said it if it as up to him the baby would not have that name. But it was not up to him, it was up to Shawn.

"How do you know about my son?"

"Does it matter now?" he asked. He knew and that was the bottom line.

"I guess not." she did not pause before declaring confidently, "You know as well as I do the boy is a Brady. That was the whole story."

That was all of it.

"But it is not, is it? I have 'the whole story' and I have done the maths."

"Shawn is my husband."

"And you barely saw him then." The two of them had seen a lot of each other.

The truth was she knew as well as he did whose blood was in the boys veins. But it did not only matter that Victor's was there, it also mattered more than she was able to say that he shared blood with his two big sisters and his big brother as well.

"But I see him now. And I can see him so much better than I ever have before…"

She hoped she did not have to say she loved him more for it.

Victor on the other hand just felt more and more frustrated. Not so long ago she was malleable to him. But now she was not.

"You know all it is going to take from me is one word and your family us going to be blown apart."

He could do it he thought to himself - it would not even be hard. Shawn was such a proud man; he was never going to stand for a wife who was unfaithful.

Then she was going to be cast out with her baby and she was going to have to come to him and accept his help. Then they could be a family and it would be like it was meant to be.

He could do it.

It seemed for a moment as if he had been able to see it all but now he was back in the room. And the woman he loved was before him. She looked as if she was stealing herself.

She knew there was nothing not do or say.

"I know that to be the truth. And I ask you not too, if only for the sake of my children." She said as she shook a little, "but I am not going to beg."

She did not know if she was being a fool to put her pride before her family but she would not grovel.

Not too him.

And he knew even then he was not going to do it…

He couldn't do it to her.

He swallowed.

That was when he could hear a cry from a baby above. That was his baby.

But it could never be.

They would never be.

And if he could hold his son he would but he could not.

For a moment he considered what he was going to say and he considered how much his pride was worth.

"I do love you – more than you love me, I think."

Whatever she had thought he was going to say, she had not thought he was going to speak of the love which was between them…

"I do love you as well. So very much. But I love my family more."

And there was her bottom line. It was always going to be her family above him. It was time to accept that. And he thought he did, he could tell himself. That it was her kids she loved more than him.

Not Shawn.

Shawn was the one he could not accept.

There was all of it.

Even though he knew it was a lie.

"So that is it, is it?" he asked.

She did not have to think twice before nodding.

"That is all of it."

He nodded in understanding. "Then I will go – I swear I will. But first you must do something."

"What is that?"

"Nod – just nod your head if what I think to be true is."

He could go if he had to. But if he went he did so want to carry the truth with him – he would not do anything with it, even when he could. He just wanted the truth.

But she did not move and he felt hate rise within him for the very first time.

He had thought she was a lot of things but he never would have called Caroline Brady a coward.

Victor Kiriakis turned and headed for the door.

"Victor."

She had spoken just as he had put his hand on the door handle and he turned to the sound of her utterly broken voice.

Very, very slowly her head went up and down – just twice but it was enough.

He felt an enormous relief, a weight lifted off of him. He had lost her that terrible night but something good had come of their love and it was going to withstand the test of time.

He had a son. He had a son.

He beamed back at her, even as she seemed ready to sink to her knees and cry with the weight of what had happened.

There was nothing more to say… he walked over to her and looked her straight in the eye. And then he pushed back her hair and kissed her forehead. For what he knew would be the last time in a long time.

And then he walked out of the Brady fish market, out into the rain, and down the street and he did not look back.

Fin.

The past is the past. Things are the way they are. And tomorrow is a brand new day – Shawn Brady

I have found if you sort of try to listen to yourself, if you go deep inside and try to find out what your heart is telling you… you seldom make a mistake – Caroline Brady