Picking up a stone Carly skimmed it across the water, watching as it bounced 7 times before sinking out of sight. "You know I've never told anyone what I told you, about being pregnant after Nicky died … not even Frankie. Not because I didn't want to, but I guess I was worried that people would judge because we're supposed to feel a certain way, right? it's supposed to be natural and … there without even having to try."
"I think people like to believe that, but the truth is some things are harder than they are supposed to be and sometimes life just … sucks, for lack of a better word," Beth chuckled bitterly. "But that aside I'm really honored that you felt you could trust me with that."
"You know, most people would run a mile from a family that came with as much baggage as ours," Carly laughed.
Beth put her now empty coffee cup down. "I love your brother. More than I ever felt possible and he loves you more than anything in this world so that makes you someone that is very, very important to me."
"Do you have a large family?" Carly asked, realizing that other than the fact she was a doctor and she liked to cook she didn't really know anything about Beth.
"Yes and no," Beth hummed. "My mother and father both come from very large families; my mother is 1 of 7 and my father is 1 of 6 but it's just me and 2 sisters; both Broadway actresses, like my parents, I guess you could say I'm the black sheep."
Carly couldn't help but laugh, a real, amused laugh. "I'm not sure any parents would class a cardiothoracic surgeon as a black sheep."
"Maybe black sheep is a bit of an exaggeration but let's just say they don't exactly understand my job … or me, my world is just so different to theirs," Beth sighed.
"Their loss, any mother would be proud to have you as a daughter," Carly assured her.
Beth watched as Carly skimmed another stone across the water, she had heard bits and pieces of Carly's life in Salem from various members of Frankie's adoptive family. She knew that Carly was engaged to Bo, best friends with Jennifer Horton and close to most of the Brady family, she also knew, without Frankie saying anything, that there must have been a reason she had decided to come back to Salem, when she had the means to travel anywhere in world. Somewhere new, somewhere without memories around every corner. After all she couldn't even begin to imagine how hard it must be for her, being back, seeing how everybody's lives had moved on.
"If I'm overstepping, I'm sorry," Beth began. "But you said that Edie wasn't your husband's daughter, that you were pregnant before … now I have heard bits and pieces … people like to talk in this town … and I was wondering, you and Bo were …"
"Bo is her father, yes," Carly admitted.
Picking up a stone Beth ran her fingers over the smooth edge before skimming it across the water. "Does he know?"
"No," Carly croaked. "I didn't know, not when I left anyway … and by the time I found out everything was already such a horrible mess that … I wanted to tell him, every single day. The longer it went on the harder it became, I tried to contact him once. I wanted him to take Edie, to keep her safe, if she couldn't be with me then she should be with him but Lawrence found out and he threatened to have him killed so," her shoulders started to shake with quiet, gentle sobs as she rested her head in her hands.
The women sat in silence as the sun started set over the lake turning the sky a beautiful shade of orange that reflected off the water, giving an almost magical quality to the peace of the moment.
"Hey," Frankie greeted quietly, not wanting to startle his sister having seen how on edge she had been.
Wiping at her eyes Carly looked up at her brother. "Hey," she echoed.
"You got a minute?" he asked, motioning towards Beth.
Beth glanced over towards Carly. "You going to be ok?"
"Yeah," Carly nodded. "I think I might just sit out here for a little bit, enjoy the change of scenery."
Getting up Beth followed Frankie into the house. "I should start on dinner, you ok to chop and talk at the same time?"
"Everything ok?" Frankie asked, referencing his sisters obvious tear-stained face and somber mood.
"We were getting to know each other," Beth explained, starting to unload vegetables from the fridge. "Carly was filling in a few gaps for me. She's a pretty amazing woman your sister, I mean I knew she probably would be with the way everyone had spoken about her but … I don't think I have ever met a single person who has faced so much, lost so much, suffered so much yet still believed in the goodness of people."
Walking over to the sink Frankie started to wash some potatoes. "I just wish I could have protected her more. I knew something wasn't right, Carly never would have cut me off like that, not by choice and the information I could get was, unsettling, but I … I should have fought harder."
"You're here now," Beth pointed out. "And together, as a family we will help her get through this, help her take control of her life again."
Dumping the washed potatoes into a pot, Frankie moved over to the large island in the center of the kitchen, pulling out a stool he sat down, took his phone out of his pocket and placed it on the table. "On that note; I had a very interesting phone conversation today."
"But you er … you might know me as Edie … Eden Alamain."
As the word's seemed to hang in the air Frankie's mind raced a thousand miles a minute, unable to quite believe what he was hearing and wondering if perhaps this was all some sick joke. It had been just a matter of hours since he had sent the e-mail to Louise Green, the financial advisor he had been put in touch with and now here he was, receiving a phone call from some young girl claiming to be his long-lost niece. Surely it wasn't that easy.
"Hello?" Charlie stammered, when she received no response.
"I'm here," Frankie reassured her. "Just … one minute, I need to go somewhere a little more private," he explained, aware that he was currently surrounded by multiple sets of prying ears.
Charlie nodded, even though he couldn't see her as she leaned back in the oversized coffee shop chair, her phone in one hand and a mocha in the other.
Meanwhile in Salem Frankie looked around, spotting an empty bench he made his way over to it, sitting down he took a series of deep breaths before speaking, after all the conversation he was about to have could be one of the most important moments of his life.
"Sorry about that," he apologized.
"That's ok," Charlie breathed.
"How did you get this number?" Frankie wondered, realizing as soon as the words were out of his mouth how rude they might come across. "Sorry I didn't mean it to come out like that it's just I wasn't expecting this, at least not so soon," he admitted.
As she thought back on the short series of events that had led her to this moment Charlie felt her eyes start to glaze over, she could understand his hesitation, after all she hadn't expected it to be this easy either, not now that she was remembering more and more about her life before, her life as Edie. "It was my 16th birthday a few weeks ago," she began. "And something about that milestone, about turning 16 … it … I needed to know … more, about where I came from, who I was before. My memories were gone, almost like they had been wiped away, but I knew that someone loved me, that I was loved and protected and that she … Mama was … everything to me. But names, faces, places all of the solid details were just gone."
Frankie remained silent, letting the young girl gather her thoughts and explain things at her own pace, just like he had with Carly on the beach in Kenya.
"My parents, foster parents; Judy and John they are good people, really, really good people who love me just as much as they do their own children. So, when I told them they told me everything they knew, which wasn't much really. I was a bit of a mystery; a foster child who spoke 3 different languages, had a 30 million pound trust fund yet was abandoned in the system with no name and never legally free for adoption," she laughed tiredly, everything starting to make more sense as her memories became clearer.
"The only really solid link they had was Louise," Charlie continued. "So I went to see her, earlier today and she told me pretty much exactly what my parents had except … you, she had your number and she said you might be my uncle. Are you?" she asked, not sure if she could take the disappointment if he was answered negatively. "Are you my uncle?"
As he listened to her voice break, despite the underlying hope in her question Frankie couldn't help but believe too. Her story made sense, that she would want to know more, that Louise would be the only clue she would have to her real identity and that she would lead them to each other.
"I don't know," Frankie admitted. "I hope I am … what you are saying … it's very possible that I am but …"
"I googled you," Charlie admitted, cutting him off. "I mean, I wanted to know as much as I could before I opened myself up to … possible disappointment. You have a sister; Katerina … Carly. Mama, her name was Carly but Papa he called her Katerina, she didn't like it, I remember that now which is strange because I didn't remember anything for ages but it's like … the door to those memories has been unlocked, I know that may seem strange but … he's dead right? Google told me that too," she whispered.
Frankie changed his phone over to the other hand. "Yes."
"I know I should be sad about that because if this is who I am, and this story is mine, my past then he was my Papa but … I didn't feel sad when I read it, I felt relieved because … he wasn't a good man, was he?" Charlie remembered, her voice breaking as she was reminded of the fear and uncertainty that life with him became.
"No," Frankie agreed. "He wasn't a good man."
Charlie looked down at her hands and she could almost picture her mother; bright green eyes, soft skin and arms so strong and welcoming that when she was being held by them, she could believe that everything would be ok. "Her hurt her didn't he? Mama … he … I … … that night …"
He could hear her breath start to speed up as short, sharp gasps echoed down the phone. "Edie … she's ok, I promise you … he's gone and she's safe."
In that moment, Frankie knew without a shadow of doubt that the terrified voice on the other end was his niece, that the quiet, polite tone belonged to the daughter Carly had spent the last 7 years seeing only in her dreams.
"We were supposed to go to Mexico," Charlie recalled. "She said it was where happiness began but he hurt her really, really bad. Omer; Mama's friend he came, and she couldn't stand, her breathing … she begged me to go, she said that it would be ok, that she would be ok and one day she would find me. She didn't find me, but I found her, right? You know where she is?"
"I do," Frankie assured her.
Charlie was silent for a few minutes before she finally found the courage to as the question, she had been dreading most of all. "Is she looking for me too?"
"With every breath she takes," Frankie reassured the young girl. "You are the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up and the last thing on her mind when she goes to sleep."
"So, what happens now?" Charlie wondered.
Frankie could hear the uncertainty in her voice. "I don't know. I need to talk to Carly, your mom and then …"
"When you tell her, can you tell her that I kept my promise and I never forgot that I was loved."
Beth stood by the island in a stunned silence, unable to believe that after 7 years of torment they were so close to helping Carly reunite with her daughter. However a small voice, the cynical side of her couldn't help but fear that it was all too easy, after all just days ago the New York Post had published an article about how Carly was now the richest woman in the world and now here they were being contacted by her long-lost daughter. "Do you believe her?" she had to ask.
"At first I was skeptical," Frankie admitted. "After all the timing is a bit suspect, I mean there was the article just a few days ago and now this," he sighed, as if reading Beth's mind. "But then I realized; aside from us no one knows that Carly sent Edie away, as far as they all know mother and daughter are together. And Beth, oh God if you had heard the pain in her voice when talking about her memories … this girl, the one I spoke too … she lived through it all, I can feel it in my heart and soul that she was … it's her, it's Edie."
"Edie? Her … it's … what about her?" Carly gasped, stopping mid-step as she caught the last part of their conversation.
Frankie spun around on the chair, lifting his gaze up to face his sister as their eyes locked and he tried to decipher the maelstrom of emotions he could see swirling in the familiar green orbs. "Carly … I … it's not 100% but I think I know where she is, I think I have found Edie … well the other way around really, I think she found me."
"What? How?" Carly stammered unable to believe what she was hearing.
"Like I said, I don't know for sure and I wasn't going to say anything until I did as I don't want to get your hopes up but Edie, she's been looking for you and that search led her to me," Frankie explained.
Carly shook her head, unable to truly believe that after all these years of loss she might finally get her heart's greatest desire. "I don't understand, she found you? But how? Edie she doesn't know anything about you … we didn't talk about my life before because I didn't want her to think that her family, my family, didn't want to be a part of our lives so I just … didn't tell her, so how can she find something she didn't know existed?" Carly cried, her breath starting to come in short sharp gasps.
Gently, Frankie led Carly onto the sofa. "Cliff notes version? When you told me about Omer and how you arranged for him to take Edie to safety, I started doing some research. I found some colleagues of his that might have … questionable connections and contacted them. One of them; a lawyer in Jordan got back to me and said Omer had asked him to set up a trust, it was to for the upkeep of a child entering the foster care system and would then become hers when she came of age, the trust was-"
"30 million pounds," Carly finished for him.
"Yes," Frankie smiled, as he watched his sister's eyes starting to fill with hope. "Hamza; the lawyer he had a friend oversee the trust here in the US, a lady called Louise. So I e-mailed her on the off chance that she might know something, it turns out that when she turned 16, your daughter started to look for answers, her par … foster parents gave her Louise's details and Louise gave her my number, she called me, earlier today," he concluded.
Carly's heart started to race, and her palms were clammy as she shook her head, after years of isolation, loss and cruelty at the hands of her husband she was terrified to allow herself to believe. To believe that not only was she free to live her life as she pleased but that her daughter had been looking for her, that she had never forgotten her. "You spoke to her?"
Frankie wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close to him so her head was leaning on his shoulder as he felt her body tremble against him. "Yes. At first, I was skeptical, but she knew stuff … memories … I really do think it's her Carly … only she doesn't go by Edie anymore, she said her name is-"
"Charlotte," Carly whispered, remembering one of the last conversations she'd had with her daughter.
"Charlotte," Frankie repeated. "How did you know?"
Slowly, Carly lifted her head off of his shoulder, turning slightly so she was facing him. "When I was making the plans to escape, when it was going to be the 2 of us, I told her she could pick a name, a new name for a new beginning, she chose Charlotte after her favorite book; Charlotte's Web."
"She asked me to tell you something, she said to tell you that she wanted you to know that she kept her promise and she never forgot she was loved," Frankie whispered, as he pushed her hair back behind her ear.
"Oh God, it's her, it's really her," Carly sobbed, bringing her hands up to her face as her body started to shake with loud, heartbreaking sobs as she tried to control her breathing.
Frankie watched as his sister broke down, her body practically convulsing as she started to sob, tears of absolute devastation for everything she had lost, all that she had been through and sacrifices she had been forced to make. Knowing that she needed this moment, that she needed to release all of the emotions and pain she had kept locked away he didn't say a word, instead he just held her, waiting until finally the cried started to quieten and the shaking became a mere tremble.
"So, what happens now?" Carly breathed; her voice barely audible over the racing of her own heart.
Gently lifting her head so that she was looking at him Frankie smiled softly at his sister. "I don't know, I told Char … Edie, that I would call back after I spoke to you, let her know what the next step is. Carly, if you want to be 100% before meeting her, she's agreed to a DNA test-"
"No," Carly panicked. "I don't need to put her through that, I just need to see her and I will know."
"Ok," Frankie agreed, understanding where his sister was coming from and knowing she was right, she had given birth to this girl, raised her, loved her, protected her and devoted everything she had to her for 9 years, he knew that it would just take one glimpse for her to know.
Carly looked ahead at the wall; her eyes focused on a simple blank spot but her mind clearly somewhere else. "It's ok, to call her Charlotte you know. She'll always be Edie Boo but Charlotte, that was a name she chose for a new life, it was one of the first bits of control she ever had over her own future so it's ok."
A gentle kind of silence settled over the room as brother and sister seemed to both be contemplating what the best, next step would be.
Frankie was debating whether or not to broach the subject of Bo with Carly, curious to know if his sister intended to tell him that he was a father before or after Edie, or Charlotte as she was known now, was back in her life.
Carly's mind was completely focused on her daughter, she wanted nothing more than to get hold of her address and fly straight to her, but at the same time she didn't want to overwhelm her. Edie had a new life now, she was Charlotte; a 16-year-old teenager who probably already had some idea of what she wanted to be when she left school, what she wanted to study, places she wanted to travel to.
The last time Carly had spoken to her daughter she had been 9 years old, obsessed with books and the stories her mother would tell her of the places they would go when they left Alamaina. She wanted to work in a library for the first half of the week, become a doctor the second half and on the weekends, she wanted to take flying lessons.
She tried to imagine what she would look like now; would she be taller than her, would her hair still be curly, would the tiny little café-au-lait birthmark behind her ear still be visible and would her eyes still wrinkle when she laughed just like her father.
"I should tell Bo," Carly announced, breaking the silence.
Untangling his arm from around her Frankie sat forward on the sofa as Carly's posture mirrored his. "Are you sure?"
"No," she hesitated. "Maybe I should wait, until I know how things work out, I mean Edie still thinks that Lawrence is her father because that's what she grew up believing, I told her once though. She was 6 and he was taunting her about Bo and how it was the Brady in her that had killed Nicky, she was distraught, asked me what a Brady was so I told her that he was a kind, loving, gentle man who would have been so proud of her. She was so little though so I'm not really sure she understood."
Resting his hand on top of hers Frankie ran his finger over the back of her hand. "This is an extreme situation Carly, there is no right way or wrong way to deal with it. Telling Bo, well that's a decision only you can make."
"I need to know first. I need to know that she wants him in her life, I mean … she might not even want me back in her life," Carly worried.
"She does, I can assure you she does," Frankie insisted. "I heard her Carly, the longing in her voice, the hope that you were looking for her, the fear that you had given up on her, believe me when I say she wants this just as much as you do."
Carly wanted to believe every word he was saying, more than anything in the world. But after nearly 2 decades of being told she wasn't good enough, of being beaten down and broken both physically and emotionally it was hard to believe that good things could still happen to her. "Can you call her? I don't want our first conversation to be over the phone … could you ask her if she … if we can meet?"
"Of course," Frankie agreed, as he left to go and make the phone call, leaving Carly alone with a million different scenarios running through her head.