Chapter 1: The Aftermath
“Male, late 20s, fell and hit his head on a glass table. GCS has been normal. He was unconscious when we arrived on scene but came round pretty quickly. Main concern is the laceration on the back of his head which will need stitching.” the Ambulance worker announced as they wheeled the trolley into the empty bay. Following the trolley were 2 police officers, a nurse and a very shaken Paul and Terese. Karl came rushing round the corner. He stopped to look at the patient before turning his attention to Paul and Terese.
“Is he with you” he asked them.
Neither reacted. Their focus fixated on the young man in the bed in front of them. Paul’s face was one of worry and anger, a look Karl often saw on his face when he was here with a loved one. Terese’s was more concerned.
“Paul” Karl addressed, once again, looking for an answer
Before Karl had a chance to question him a nurse came looking for him.
“Dr Kennedy” she called as he made his way into the room to examine the patient.
Terese looked at Paul “Don’t worry darling, he’ll be ok”
“He has to be. He does not get to make me the bad guy. Not this time”
Karl emerged from the room with both police officers in tow. They walked toward the waiting area where Paul and Terese had decided stay and wait on any news. As they approached, Paul got to his feet.
“So, what’s the verdict?”
“Is he an employ of yours?” Karl questioned
“He was” Paul answered
“Well, he’s suffered a nasty cut to his head and mild concussion but he is awake and talking, which is good”
“Right” Paul said as he began walking towards the room. Suddenly there was an arm raised against his chest.
“I’m sorry Mr Robinson but you can’t talk to him”
“He’s requested formal action against you for the assault”
Paul scoffed in disbelief
“Are you serious”
“Paul, leave it” Terese said calmly. Paul turned to look at her before turning back to the officer.
“You are aware why you were there in the first place aren’t you?”
“Yes, and we'll be looking into that but right now we need you to stay away from Mr Richards, do you understand?”
“Oh, I understand. I understand perfectly.” he answered nodding his head “It’s because of who I am isn’t it. Yeah, you recognize the name and decide that every time my wrongs are much more pressing than any other.” he carried on waving his arms in exaggeration above his head.
“Paul, lets take a walk mate.” Karl said placing his hand on his arm, trying to usher him away.
“No” he reacted as he shook him off “Our lives were turned to hell because of him and you don’t even care.” He said looking at the officer before looking around the ED “None of you do.”
“Calm down” the officer interrupted him
“Calm down. Calm down. Believe you me, you haven’t seen anything yet. “
“Paul” Terese said as she remained seated behind him “Don’t make it worse”
He turned to look at her.
“No Terese, they don’t get to just ignore this”
“Mr Robinson, believe me, that will never happen. But you need to trust us, give us time. Now I will need a statement from both of you. Are you willing to do that now?”
Paul didn’t answer but instead shut his eyes tightly, placed his fingers between them and took a couple of steps back. Karl and Terese looked at each other and then back at him. He opened his eyes, the room was spinning, he took another step back.
“Darling are you ok?”
“Yeah, I just feel a bit...” before he had a chance to finish his sentence, he lost his balance but managed to hold onto the seat as he fell.
“Paul” Terese panicked
“Quick get me a chair” Karl asked a Nurse
“I’m fine I just need some fresh...” he said as he attempted to stand up. Terse pulled him back down. He looked at her and smiled.
“It’s all going to be ok, you’ll see” he reassured her.
“Right come on” Karl said helping him into the chair before wheeling him into the empty room.
“If this is a stunt to avoid us please tell him we will be waiting” the officer said as Terese walked pass him
She stopped, looked at him, and shook her head in disbelief.
“Paul was right about you” she said before following Karl.
Paul laid on the bed as Terese sat next to him. Their fingers interlocked as their hands rested on the bed. Paul rolled his eyes as he watched Karl pace around the bed.
“Is this really necessary? I just felt a bit dizzy, probably all the rushing around”
“Still, I’d like to cover everything.”
“Let him do his job Paul” Terese said with a worried look on her face.
“Right. Well, I’m not too concerned.”
“Well, that’s good” Terese concluded
“All the symptoms point to lack of food and sleep.”
“Is that all?” Paul questioned rolling his eyes
“It’s pretty serious Paul. When was the last time you had a proper meal?”
“I had some toast for breakfast.”
“And last night?”
“Didn’t really fancy anything.”
“Right and what about sleep? Is it...? “Before Karl had the chance to finish Paul interrupted
“Actually, I’m a bit hungry now Karl.”
“Oh right, maybe Terese could get you a sandwich or something while I finish up here.”
“No!” Paul said in a panicked tone before seeing the look of surprise on both their faces “Well can’t you go. I’d much prefer Terese by my side.”
“Fine, but don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone”
“Spoil’s sport” Paul said with a smile on his face
As Karl left Paul looked at Terese and smiled. He raised his hand, leaned over and moved her hair from her face.
“There it is.” he said as she smiled at him
The room fell silent as they sat looking at each other. She shook her head.
“What have you done?” she said with a worried smile on her face
“Nothing I can’t fix” he answered as he lifted their hands to his lips and kissed hers. “Now that everything is alright “
Terese looked at him, her eyes filled up.
“I did try you know, everyday”
“Hey, hey. If we know one thing its neither of us are short of fight or determination. Our Love has always been faced with walls and we’ve broken them down, all of them, yeah. No one has a relationship like ours, and if anything got me through this week, no matter what anyone said, I knew I wasn’t fighting on my own.
“I love you so much Paul” she replied as she stood up, leaned over and gave him a kiss.
“Oh, I’ve missed hearing that” he replied as he placed his hand on her cheek.
As Karl retuned the room was quiet. At the other side of the bed Terese sat watching Paul sleep. In her own little world, she didn’t notice him standing there as she ran her finger through Pauls' hair. She lifted her head and had a little shock as she saw Karl standing there. He placed the sandwich on the table and smiled at Terese.
“Sorry, there was an emergency” Karl told her before looking at Paul “Out for the count”
“Yeah, he was exhausted”
“And you, you don’t look too fresh yourself”
“Just tired, it’s been a long day”
“I’m not surprised, and with jet lag. When did you land? This morning?
“Land?” Terese said with a confused look on her face
“Yeah, from the conference? In New York?”
“I wasn’t... Who told you that?” Terese questioned
“Paul. Let me tell you, your return will be welcomed by many. His moodiness has reached new heights this week.” He stopped and turned to look at Paul. “This is new though. Never seen this unwillingness to look after himself before. Maybe it’s a way to keep you from leaving again.” Karl said having a giggle at his own words.
“So, he fought all this on his own? Terese questioned
“Well, he came round to ours for dinner one night but no one could’ve done anything more. All he had to do was wait till you came home, right?” Karl asked not sure where the conversation was going. He saw that Terese had turned her attention back to Paul.
“Too proud for your own good.” She whispered as she looked at him.
“Terese, did something happen this week? Karl asked “Where have you really been?”
Chapter 2: 15 Days Before The Aftermath
The conference couldn’t have come soon enough Terese thought as she sat back in the car looking at the whole world passing her by. The distraction of a bird or a drifting cloud didn’t take her mind off Ramsay Street for too long and she found herself getting worked up. Why did she marry such a frustrating individual? She paused her thoughts. She didn’t need the answer to that one, she knew deep down why. And his little schemes were a small part of that. There was something quite exciting about the unknown when it came to Paul, she just wished that he would take her on the ride sometimes instead of letting her find out when it all blew up. This time however, the fight or even the disagreement wasn’t about them. It was nothing he had done intentionally, but it still didn’t excuse the matter. She loved her family, the one she and Paul had built. Their little patchwork family was everything she could’ve hoped for and she wouldn’t change them for the world. But yesterday was just too much. And for Paul to just dismiss the incident as one of those things and move on annoyed her more than the incident itself. Was it that much of an ask for him to side with her? When it came to the three of them, he was quite happy to work himself up about the cheese in the fridge being finished or the lack of respect towards his chessboard on the coffee table. But this time, nothing. Why couldn’t he see that she was hurt. Why couldn’t he understand her reasoning for being upset. She sighed. Then again maybe she had been too harsh on him, after all he didn’t know the story behind it.
She continued to look out the window.
I hope he understands why I felt the way I did she thought. He has such a caring and understanding heart when he knows someone needs him and this was one of the reasons, she married him. Even though he rarely likes to share that side of himself with anyone. She smiled to herself. She was pretty lucky. Despite everyone thinking they know Paul it was only her that knew the real him. And yes, it was hard at times to sit around listening to everyone judge and complain about him when she knows there is so much, they don’t see. But that was also the best part. He kept some things only for her, their special moments.
She looked at her watch. Having slept in the hotel because of the early start she hadn’t seen him this morning. Hadn’t kissed him good morning as she promised to do every morning since the wedding. He would’ve been up by now, suit on and having a heated debate with one of the youngsters over breakfast. She smiled. I wonder what the topic would be today. Seeing as yesterdays was “Is there such a thing as Orange Jam or is it just Marmalade?”, it could be pretty much anything.
They passed the airport sign. She was going to miss her little family, and to make it worse she was leaving on a sour note. She hated that. Despite all the disagreement and heated debates there was nothing better than those mornings when they sat down together. Everyone discussing what they had planned for the day, knowing it would turn out completely different. All of them ganging up on Paul, teasing him over the smallest thing, until he’d lose his cool and then that final rush when they all lost track of time and realised that they were late. She smiled as she thought about the next seven days. She always found it amusing when she went away, the thought of Paul alone with the kids. They had so much respect for him as did he for them but that didn’t stop the tension or the bickering. At times it was like sharing a house with four young adults. Paul never one to back out of a fight, she would more often than not be the one to broker peace. They had a real talent of turning the smallest thing into a big deal and for that to ruin his mood for, at times, an entire day. It was all good natured and deep down he knew it. And this is what amused her. Any time she went away she expected to come home to a war. Paul, stating his case in the car on the way home and the kids all waiting in the wings to tell her their side of the story as she opened the door. Despite having daily phone calls, she always thought Paul was hiding the truth from her on how everything was, trying not to worry her. He was thoughtful like that. But anytime she went away she would return to a normal, or as normal as it could be, home. No fighting, no battle lines drawn, no sides being picked. She would often try to fish for any information she could from Paul on the ride home, but there was nothing. It was as if once she left, they called a truce and everything carried on. Three weeks she left last year, and in all of three weeks the worst she’d got from the kids was that Paul was “annoying” and “a bit too much in their business”. Not that she complained, but it did make her wonder why. Was it because of her, did they deliberately pick on him when she was there so that they knew he couldn’t bite back too much? Or did they do it because they knew when she was there, he had someone in his corner? Because when it came down to it, and as much as she enjoyed the teasing, she would always be in his corner. Always.
She sighed. Ever since that day she arrived their relationship had been intense, if it wasn’t professional, it was personal. If it wasn’t about them, it was about other people in their lives. She had never known anyone that took so long to find each other on the same path. Theirs kept crossing in places that wasn’t quite right or ready. She stopped and looked at the ring on her finger. Was it theirs though? Looking back, Paul’s path had been going the same straight line for years. The only curve he had was with Jane, and that was partly down to her. She quite often wondered why didn’t he stray more often, why didn’t he move on. Time and time again she would fall for him, only to move on with someone else and then revisit the same circle time and time again. But not Paul. He’d tell her he loved her when they were together and that seemed to be it until the next time. Even his attempt to make her jealous with Courtney turned out to be nothing but an agreement that went a tad too far. Ever since their first kiss he’d been there waiting for her, and at times she believed before that. Every moment in her life where she needed a friend or a shoulder to cry on, he was there. Any time she wanted someone to shout at or place blame, he was there. No one challenged her like he did, and no one had ever made her feel like he did. But all these things happening just so they could arrive where they were today was what made their relationship so special. It was what made them, them.
She opened her bag, took out her phone and double tapped the screen. There he was. The reason she was so annoyed this morning, the reason she stayed at the hotel last night, the reason she felt so lost this morning. She smiled at the phone thinking about that day. The day the picture was taken. It was the day she returned from visiting the kids last year. A lot had gone on when she returned but according to Roxy the toughest thing was seeing, as she put it, Paul’s left home alone puppy act. She was determined to take the photo to make sure no one forgot the smile he had on his face that day. It was a lovely photo, taken outside in the garden, the sun slowly setting in the background. Roxy made sure he had a copy on his phone too. Terese smiled as she thought about the time, she picked up his phone, accidently pushed the power button and saw the picture staring back at her.
She lifted her head and looked out the window before looking back at her phone. She scrolled her contact list and started typing. As she sent the message, she leaned forward in the car.
“Excuse me, can you do me a favor.”
“Sure, Ms Willis” the driver answered.
“Can you take me back home” she told him as she sat back “I have a promise I need to honor”
Chapter 3: 7 Days Before The Aftermath
Any minute now Paul thought as he put the finishing touches to the table. He took a step back for the final check. Two placemats, two forks, two knives, two spoons, two glasses, two candles and a bunch of flowers. Was that it? He counted everything one more time before turning his attention to the timer that was going off on the island. He turned around, walked towards the cooker and opened the door to a wonderful aroma of a Sunday roast. Just the way Terese liked it. He closed the door and turned the heat down. Just another five he muttered to himself before resetting the timer on the counter. He looked at his watch. Six of clock, she should be landing any time now, she should be calling any time now.
Paul looked around as he made his way towards the living room. He had to make sure everything was perfect, that everything was as she left it. Things hadn’t been good when she left and although they’d been talking on the phone, something was still not right. She was quiet, distant. Her voice, broken and her I love yous, cold. He grabbed the throw cushion on the chair and ruffled it as he placed it back down his vision caught the picture of her and Ned on the shelf. He lifted the picture up and smiled. Her smile was infectious, a smile that could light up any room. But when she left a week ago that smile had disappeared. All he remembered was the sad look in her eyes and the angriness. The angriness towards the kids for what they’d done and the sad look towards him for not standing up for her. Paul sighed. It wasn’t often that he did side with the kids but this instance he had no reason not to, or so he thought. He should’ve stood up for her, support her and then find out the reasoning. He always stood by her side, but this seemed trivial, her reaction a bit over the top. One call from Piper and they understood. He regretted his actions that night, as did they. They were determined to make it up to her though and Ned had fixed the damage. Paul couldn’t wait to show her, although the kids had made him promise not to show until they were home. Paul smiled as he placed the photo back on the shelf. Their own little family. This was never part of the dream.
Paul made his way back to the kitchen. Turned the cooker off just as the egg timer started ringing. He grabbed himself a glass, poured his favourite drink and made his way back to the couch. He placed his glass next to the chess board and sat back. He looked at the game. All the pieces had been exactly the same for a couple of days now. It started out as his and Ned’s game. Now it was more of a house effort. He laughed as he thought back to the day he saw Roxy move the knight and Harlow telling her off for moving the wrong piece. Funny thing was, Roxy’s move would’ve been much more challenging for him. But that was just Harlow, and him quite often, they never really treat Roxy with the appreciation she deserved. She was frustrating, loud and by far the most annoying of the three. He smiled as he thought of her. She most definitely wasn’t that wild child that landed in their lives a couple of years ago though. The words “bickering” and “pair of kids” came up often when he and Roxy were together, especially from Terese. But Roxy always gave as good as she got and the only respect he could show to that was to give it back. Despite being a little harsh at times he always saw her, like all the others, as family. Ned was an idiot most of the time, but he had proven himself this past year, and he respected that. He just wished that Roxy would escape from the shadows of others and become who she wanted to be. If she gave half the effort to that as she did to tease or get one up on him then she’d have no problem. Paul sighed as he lifted his glass and took a sip of his drink. He glanced to the sofa where he saw Harlow’s bag. He closed his eyes and shook his head. She’d been through a lot since coming to live with him and at times he thought, would her life have been better if she’d just stayed away, if she didn’t know him and Robert. Her London life wasn’t perfect but it was a world away from snake bites, car crashes and kidnappings. But then they wouldn’t have this. This chess games. This little family that he and Terese had inherited but loved as their own. As harshly as he treated them, as angry as they made him, as frustrated as he got with them, when they needed him or when he needed them, they were there for each other.
Paul smiled as he got up, walked back towards the kitchen, grabbed his phone off the table and checked for any messages he might’ve missed. There was one. His smiled widened as he got excited at the thought of Terese finally coming home. It had been a shorter trip this time, but every time she left time seemed to go slower, every day longer, every week feeling a month. As he checked, his face dropped. It was only Roxy. What does she want now he thought as he opened the message. “Is she home? Remember your promise” was all that was written. Remember your promise he muttered as he placed his phone back on the table. He had half a mind to text her back and tell her she was paying for her own trip this week. But they played this game perfectly. He wanted the house just for him and Terese when she returned, a little time alone, something that didn’t happen as often as he would like. Roxy knew that perfectly and so offered him a perfect solution. Usually, they would sneak off to the Penthouse if they wanted some alone time, calling it a meeting so no one would interrupt. Paul smiled. How often did they order room service, planning a romantic night only for them to sit on the sofa, talk about the kids and fall asleep? Waking up only to realise that it was morning. But those were the perfect nights. Terese by his side, talking about their family and their future. Her head resting on his chest as he wrapped his arms around her and she placed her hand on his chest. Him kissing her forehead as her eyes closed slowly. He would often sit there, watching her sleep. She was a beautiful soul. Not perfect, but perfect to him. Her life filled with tragedy and heartbreak. A life lived quite often battling with daemons. But that’s what made her perfect in his eyes. For someone like Terese to choose to share the rest of her life with someone like him was nothing short of a dream. For years he had loved her wishing she would one day see him as he saw her, but there was something or someone always in their way. But that day, that day when she chose him, it felt like a dream he never wanted to wake up from. He smiled as he remembered that night. Valentines. It had to be didn’t it. They always joked that it was like something out a movie, a modern Disney classic. The story that came before that night was a rollercoaster, and when any of the kids asked about it, you could see in their eyes that they didn’t believe most of the stories. Harlow once questioned how did all this work with all the history. Terese had looked at him with a smile, before answering… the ending is always worth the journey no matter how long it takes. He sighed. This journey had definitely been worth it.
He was getting impatient by now. The minutes kept on ticking by. He looked at his watch again. The night edging closer. He double tapped the screen on his phone, still nothing. He smiled. That picture. That picture from the last time she returned home from a trip. A picture taken by Roxy, a reminder, according to her, of how happy he was when Terese returned home. But he didn’t need a reminder, the feeling in his heart that day was one he could never forget. It was a lovely photo though. He smiled as he remembered the day, he caught her smiling when she saw the photo on his phone. A smile that could melt any heart. A loud ring interrupted his thought. His heart skipped as he saw the caller ID.
“Hey Darling” he answered. He listened for a while. His smile slowly disappearing as the conversation carried on.
“So, I’ll see you soon? Ok darling. Love you.” He concluded as he hung up the phone. He sighed as he made his way out of the kitchen and back to the couch. He grabbed his drink and took a sip. He placed the glass and his phone on the coffee table and leaned back. What’s another two nights he thought as he closed his eyes. Just two more nights.
Chapter 4: 4 Days Before The Aftermath
Paul sat behind the desk as the sun shone through the window behind him. His laptop was open and his phone placed by the side. These past two days had felt longer than any other. The excitement of waiting for her to return on Tuesday had carried him through the week, and although it was only two nights, it felt a lot longer. He checked his phone before turning his attention to the laptop, continuing with his typing. He lifted his head as he heard a knock on the door.
“Yes” he answered.
The door opened slowly as Jane popped her head round.
“You busy?” she asked as she made her way in to the office.
“Is that for me?” he said looking at the coffees in her hand.
“Just a small thank you for the other night. It was very kind of you.”
“I’m glad someone got to enjoy it” he said as he got up and made his way around the desk. He took one coffee from Jane and sat on the couch. “It was just going to waste at ours”
Jane stood for a minute before joining him.
“Well Nicolette and I ate like queens. You should’ve stayed. Joined us”
Paul looked at her wide eyed.
“Maybe not.” She concurred as she took a sip of her coffee.
“But I suppose anything would’ve been better than the night I had.” He turned to look at Jane “You know I used to like my own space. When I lived in the penthouse, it was me, just me and that was all I wanted. But that house, the silence is so loud there.”
“You’re just used to it being full, all the coming and goings at yours, it’s no wonder you would feel a bit lonely.”
Paul looked at Jane. Not contesting her comment or reacting, they sat there looking at each other for a bit. He lifted his cup and took a sip of the coffee.
“But she’s coming home, today, isn’t she? Terese?” Jane said breaking the silence
“Yeah. I haven’t heard anything yet. I assume she’s on her way.”
“And the kids?”
“Longer they stay away the better”
“Don’t do that Paul”
Paul looked at her confused.
“Don’t pretend you haven’t missed them. That house being quiet is more about them than Terese and you know it. You look at me and tell me you would want it any other way?”
Paul scoffed. Looked at Jane and then sighed.
“Come on Jane” He said before pausing for a bit “Do you know how loud those three can be together, emptying the fridge, leaving clutter around? That house is chaotic at times.”
“Fine, you’re right. I can’t imagine our home being anything different.”
“It’s funny, isn’t it?” Jane said smiling
“You and me, finally back living on the same street, happily with our families and ready to share a beautiful grandchild together.”
“Funny is one word for it” Paul said “Where is the delightful Nicolette today anyway? Working?”
“She’s gone shopping actually. You know, I wish you two could get along. Could you please try and make a bit more of an effort?”
Paul scoffed “Why should I have to make the first move? Have you asked her?” he answered as he stood up.
“I don’t think it needs to come from her, does it? Jane questioned
“You know what Jane, if that’s what you think, then I guess this will be something we will never agree on”
“Well, that’s a pity”
“It might be, but she’s no angel and as long as you only see that then this conversation will never get resolved.”
An awkward silence filled the room as Paul made his way back to the desk. Jane sat there drinking her coffee as Paul picked up his phone, checking for any missed messages. His expression changed to one of disappointment. Jane got to her feet.
“I’m gonna leave you to it.” Jane said as she stood in front of his desk.
“We’re ok yeah?” Paul asked “I didn’t mean to make things awkward between us.”
“When have I ever let your opinion of anything really come between us?
“Christmas?” Paul answered cheekily
“Yes, well, seeing as I can’t change this opinion of yours anytime soon, I’ll just have to ignore it won’t I.”
“Well, you’re doing a wonderful job so far” he said with a smile on his face.
Jane smiled, shook her head and headed towards the door. As she grabbed the handle and opened it, she turned around.
“You do know a watched phone never rings don’t you”
Paul smiled as she walked out and closed the door behind her.
Jane was right. He placed the phone in his jacket pocket and turned his attention back to the laptop. He started typing. He stopped. Closed the laptop and looked out at the office in front of him. This place. It was like a second home to both of them. He smiled as he thought about all the fights, all the disagreements, all the late night and early mornings. Those days waking up wondering what challenge would be waiting for him that day. And that’s what they were, challenges. The games of navigating a decent debate that would eventually turn into a disagreement. The challenge of making sure he won every fight knowing how tough his opponent was. And the toughest one of all, the challenge of hiding his true feelings when things got heated. That had been a difficult task at times he thought as glanced towards the couch. Working alongside Terese had been one the best things that happened to him, but it was also the most tiring and torturing at times. All that time standing beside her without being able to hold her hand. All that time celebrating a deal with just a quick hug in case questions were raised. He sighed. Time had been their enemy and yet he wouldn’t change a single moment. Yes, it had been a long time but that journey they had been on brought them to exactly where they needed to be. To this spot to be exact. Right here, in this office. He smiled as he remembered the day. It was Valentines. Of course, it was. Those stars had aligned perfectly even if the timing wasn’t. He only went back to report on the night. Nothing but work on his mind. Work and Leo. He knew the break-up had been hard on Terese also but couldn’t bringing it up. One simple conversation, that turned his life around. Those words she spoke took him to a place where he never thought possible again. He sighed as he remembered the feeling when she placed her hand on his neck. That second every wish was coming true, but he couldn’t let them. All these thoughts rushing around his head as he walked out. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to or because of what happened to Leo. It was because he was slightly scared. Scared of what was coming. Scared of letting himself get caught in the moment in case she was only here because of the night. Was she lonely, looking for something on Valentine’s Day or was this what she really wanted? This was all he’d ever wanted but was she really ready to cross that barrier. He smiled as he remembered reaching the end of the corridor. Stopping himself from going any further and asking himself, what on earth was he doing? Here she was, the woman he was in love with finally giving him what he’d dreamt of and he was pushing her away. Was she ready to go the distance with him, was she looking for anything but comfort that night? Did it even matter? His heart was pulling in one direction and his head the other. When it came to Terese he always followed his heart, this time was no different. The one eighty he did that night was one of the most important in his life, and one he would never live to regret. He closed his eyes as he thought about the look on her face when he walked back in the office, her warm body as he held her in his arms and the taste of her lips as they touched his. That kiss, becoming the foundation of the life they’ve now built.
His train of thought was interrupted by a phone ringing. Paul looked slightly disappointed as he got pulled away from his day dream. He reached into his jacket pocket and grabbed his phone.
“Hey darling, how was the flight?” he answered with a smile on his face. The smile quickly disappeared. “Lucy is doing what?”
There was a long pause.
“Fine, I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Bye.”
He hung up the phone, closed the cover and slammed it on the desk. Another night without her and now didn’t even have a return date for him. What was Lucy thinking, was this conference even that important to extend time and time again? This was taking advantage of family. A move he’d probably pulled a thousand times over in the past but that didn’t matter today. All he wanted was Terese back home. He picked up his phone, opened the case, pressed the green phone and scrolled down to Lucy. He pressed her name and put the phone on loud speaker. He placed It back on the desk.
“Do you have any idea what time it is” Lucy answered on the other side.
“Time you sent my wife home?”
“What are you on about?” she said with a confused tone.
“You, extending this conference of yours. Last time I checked it wasn’t that important”
“Paul the conference finished four days ago. Is this some kind of joke?”
“And you can tell Terese, which I assume is there with you, that the board were less than impressed with her cancelling her seat last minute. But I guess if there’s a big smile on your face, I can’t really be that angry with her”
Before he had a chance to further his sentence Lucy cut him off.
“Is there anything else?
“No, I don’t think there was”
“So, can I hang up now. Mark is looking at me wondering what the hell is going on.”
“I better let you go then.”
There was a pause for a while.
“Are you sure you’re, ok?” Lucy asked in a more understanding voice.
“Yeah. You know me. Nothing can be wrong if I’ve got Terese by my side”
“Okay, well I’m going to hang up now so you can go back to enjoying your time together. Bye Paul.” She quickly finished the conversation and hung up the phone.
“Bye Lucy.” He muttered. Just as his head tried to get around the information from his sister the door opened.”
“Don’t you know how to knock” he shouted as he saw Chloe walk in.
“What do you want?” he asked her abruptly
“Your signature on these.” She said as she handed a handful of papers to him “They are for the musicals night at the Waterhole.”
“Right” he answered grabbing the papers and placing them on the desk.
A silence filled the air as he signed them one after the other
“So, will Terese be joining us?” she asked, trying to ease the tension
“I don’t know” he replied, his head still ruffling through the papers.
“Well, I will be strutting my best Sandy on that stage.” Chloe carried on the conversation. “How about you? Some Disney maybe? I Just Can’t Wait to be King would be perfect for you.”
He lifted his head and looked at her. The unimpressed expression was all that was needed for her to realise that this was not the best time.
“Or maybe not.” She muttered as he handed the papers back to her. As she walked towards the door she turned to glance in his direction. Let hope Terese will be back soon she thought.
As she closed the door Paul looked around the quiet empty room. It felt bigger, it felt lonely. The conversation with Lucy still going around in his head. He got too his feet, walked around the desk and started pacing the floor. How could this be possible. Terese had been gone a week, she had been calling him every day. But now all that was a lie. How could he have not realised that something wasn’t right. His own wife, and he didn’t realise. Where was she, and why was she so determined not to come home? Or was it more the fact that she couldn’t. He grabbed his phone off the desk and started dialing. He pressed the phone against his ear.
“John. Yeah. Yeah. Can I ask you a favour?”
Terese looked around the room as he sat on the bed. A room she had called her home for the past week. It was a basic room, a few floors up going by the views she had through the window. It was a Lassiters room, she knew that but which one was anyone’s guess. She remembered very little about arriving there. She remembered being in the car on the way to the airport, she remembered calling Lucy to tell her that he wasn’t going to make the flight and she remembered asking the driver to take her home. After that nothing was clear until the morning when she woke up in the room with nothing but her suitcase and a trolley of room service. Someone had gone to the trouble of kidnapping her, but only to look after her. Nothing about it made sense. He would eat with her, sit and talk to her, but that was it. At night he would leave to stay somewhere else, as she requested. A request he offered and he followed. A kidnapper following demands from the kidnapped, it just didn’t add up. There was something about him that she couldn’t shake but at the moment couldn’t pin point either. All she knew was she had seen him around the hotel. He was part of her staff.
She got up on her feet and walked towards the window. She was too high up for anyone to see or hear her. She could see the people going by their business, everyone free and happy. Everyone in their own world. She turned to look at the door. There had been times when he’d felt her fury this week. The only escape route seemed to be a solid door that didn’t want to budge. God forbid anyone that would dare to question the quality of Lassiters doors after this. Breaking out had soon become futile though and she realised that, considering how he was treating her, the long game would be the better option. She sighed. She heard a door close in the background as footsteps approached her door. The handle turned. The door opened.
“Enjoying the view” he said as he spotted her by the window.
Terese shot a smile in his direction.
“I’ve ordered lunch for us. It won’t be too long. I’m nipping downstairs to Harold’s; do you want anything while I’m out?” he asked as he stood in the door way.
“I could do with some chocolate.” she said with a smile on her face
“Dark with a soft centre” she said still smiling.
“Okay, I won’t be long” he said smiling back. He closed the door. His footsteps were heard walking away.
He won’t be bringing the right one back she thought. He could never bring the right one back. She sighed as she thought about him. How he must be coping. Every night she heard his voice. She was allowed to call him, but there was not much of a conversation. For weeks she had been telling him that she would be home soon. She could hear the tone of his voice changing, a bit more excited every phone call that was closer to the day she was coming home. His reaction to her not coming home was upsetting. The disappointment in his voice was clear and today she had to do it all over again. How was she meant to tell him, once again, that she wasn’t coming home? She knew what his reaction was going to be and it would be the kids and everyone else around him that would bear the brunt of all of this. The impression he gave everyone was different to what she knew. She knew, when they saw only anger there was something else hiding underneath. Something he would never let anyone see. Anyone but her.
She smiled as she looked around the room and remembered back to their honeymoon. His face when she told him Brad was at reception was priceless and all the time, they spent together in their hotel room was pretty special. Yes, the physical moments were wonderful but it was every other moment that she also loved. Them, sitting in bed, eating breakfast and discussing the day ahead. Them disagreeing over which attraction they visited next, and him always giving in because, as he put it,” loved to see her smile”. Those times where he would sit at the end of the bed, his mind drifting. Her joining him by his side, placing a hand over his shoulder and asking if he was ok, and Paul, after a little while, opening up. She remembered back to a couple of days after Amy had told them that Leo had left. He was quiet that day. It was the day they visited the National History Museum. She remembered that as her attempt at jokes regarding Paul and the dinosaurs went down like a lead balloon, even though she thought they were some of her best work. Even her “it’s a museum not a library” joke got no response. He would usually enjoy a bit of banter, it was a big part of them, but this day was different. She could tell his mind was somewhere else. That night after they got back to the hotel, he sat at the end of the bed, and she joined him after a while. She’d have guessed it was about Leo, but for him to blame himself for this was unfair. He’d felt so guilty about everything that happened that year. Paul would often take the blame when it came to Leo, and although they were both equally to blame for how everything came out it was Paul who usually took the hit for the both of them. That was one of the things she loved about him, the way he would often stand between her and any negativity that headed her way. But this was something both of them should’ve worn together. Paul often wished that everything had been different but he’d also tell her that it was one wish he didn’t want coming true as, despite all the hardship and bad blood something wonderful had become and he wouldn’t change that for the world. She felt very privileged to be let in to his world in this way. The way he’d easily let his guard down around her, let her into his thoughts and the way he’d often let his emotions get the better of him when she comforted him. She remembered him breaking down when he talked about letting Leo down, how it affected their relationship and how angry he was when he found out he was involved in the plan to derail his wedding despite knowing deep down it was his fault he’d been pushed to it. She remembered talking his hand and reassuring him that none of this was his fault and that Leo was old enough to make his own decisions. And she remembered telling him that if this was what Leo wanted then letting him go was the best thing he could do for him. She smiled as she remembered the little smile he gave her before he leaned forward and whispered thank you in her ear. She closed her eyes and visioned herself back in that moment. Him embracing her, his arms wrapped around her, his body pressing tightly against her. And her eventually wrapping her arms around him. She smiled. Oh, how she longed to be there now. In his arms, telling him that everything was ok. Just the two of them. Their own little world.
Suddenly her daydream was broken by the sound of a door closing. I wonder, she thought as he walked towards the door, I wonder what it would be today. From what she could figure out it was a Thursday which meant the specials were seafood of some kind.
The door opened.
“Lunch is here” he said as he wheeled the room service trolley into the room. He stopped by the make shift table he’d set up, placed both trays on the table, lifted the lids off and gestured Terese to come sit. He sat the other side of the table. “Smells delightful”
“Billy always does a good haddock dish” Terese answered as she looked at the plate.
“He sure does.” He agreed “Good man Billy. Fair”
“You close with Billy, then, are you?
“Yeah, you could say that. We hang out a bit. Like I said he’s a good bloke.” He looked at Terese “Water”
“Yeah” she replied quickly “so do you spend much time with the staff outside of work”
“We occasionally hang out”
“Anywhere interesting?” she questioned
“Why do you want to know”
“Research. Have to be across where the competition is.” She said lightly
“Oh, don’t worry. Once we’re out of here you won’t have to worry about any competition.”
“Why is that? Where exactly is this grand plan taking us?”
“All in good time.” He said looking to change the conversation. “Do you do anything outside of work?” he chuckled “To be fair I’ve never seen you away from the hotel. Always too busy keeping this ship ticking over”
“The hotel is important to me, yes, but so is my family”
"Right the family. Crazy Roxy, Simple Ned and Nerdy Harlow”
“Don’t call them that.” She said as calmly as she could
“Sorry, force of habit” he said with a sly grin on his face
“The kids and Paul are my life. I’d be lost without them.” She said
“What have I said about talking about him. That name” he placed the knife and fork down on the plate and pushed it forward towards Terese.
“I’m sorry. I guess we both have habits we need to control.” She answered
“No, I’m sorry. He’s still your husband. You have a right to mention him from time to time. Can’t be easy knowing he’s out there somewhere.”
“It’s ok. We have to look at the big picture. All that happiness in front of us, right?”
He lifted his head and looked at her.
“Exactly. I’m glad were finally on the same page.” he said as he got to his feet “I’ll go get you the phone”
He turned around, walked towards the door where his coat was hanging, reached into his pocket and pulled out a mobile. He came walking back to the table. He opened the phone, placed the sim card in the back. After a while he handed the phone to Terese.
“Oh, I wish I could see his reaction to these calls. I bet they are be priceless.” he said with a smug look on his face. Terese shot him a look as she pressed the phone against her ear. He stood there listening as the phone was answered
“Hi darling. Before I forget can you call Billy about the kitchen staff, he called me last night saying they haven’t got enough cover, I told him to come find you. As for the flight, don’t get mad but it didn’t happen. Lucy decided to extend the conference. We’ve been on a good run so she decided to extend it for a couple of days. Last time I promise.”
There was an awkward silence on the phone.
“I have to go darling; I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Love you.”
As she hung up her heart was breaking, hearing the disappointment in his voice. She handed the phone back to him; he carefully took the sim card out and placed the phone in his pocket.
“Well lunch was a bit of a disaster wasn’t it!” he said lightly. “Never mind I’m sure dinner will be better”
He grabbed the trolley and headed towards the door.
“I need sort some business out, I’ll be back for dinner. Any preferences?”
“Anything but fish.” She answered with a false smile on her face
He gave a little laugh as he headed out the door. Turning back to smile at her before closing the door behind him.
Terese sighed. I hope Paul will be ok, she thought. At least the house wasn’t empty, he had the kids there to keep him company. She couldn’t bear the thought of him all on his own in the house. No 22 had always been a full house, crowded at times but always full of life. When everyone left the emptiness quickly turned into loneliness. Terese had been through it herself, she would hate for Paul to go through it too. She smiled. Even though he’d probably argue that was just the way he liked it.
Her train of thought was interrupted by the door opening,
“Sorry I forgot to give you this” he said placing the chocolate bar on the table by the door.
“Thanks” Terese answered as he closed the door. She got to her feet and walked towards the table. She picked the bar up and sighed. No chocolate bar could ever compare to the one she really craved.
Chapter 5: 2 Days Before The Aftermath
Paul opened the door to the hustle and bustle of a packed Waterhole. He stood in the door for a while before attempting to fight his way through the crowds. He reached the bar where he placed his files, took a breather and looked around. Why was it so hectic here tonight? As he scanned the room, he noticed the banner placed directly above the stage. It was the Musicals night. Of course, it was. Terese had agreed to this one a while back, something to bring the people in. He looked around. Once again, she was right. He smiled as he thought how she would be tonight. In charge of everything going on, enjoying herself with the music and from time to time, whenever she’d sit down, trying to get him to do a duet with her. Behind closed doors was fine. At home while cooking. At home while watching a movie. At home while working. At home while relaxing in bed. The important bit was “At home”. It wasn’t because he was embarrassed or didn’t want to make a show of himself. He simply just didn’t want the world to see everything. Somethings were theirs and he preferred to keep it that way.
“You going to grab the mic, bags?” a voice said behind him.
He turned around to see Sheila and Susan standing there.
“What?” he answered
“Never mind.” Sheila said as she looked around the room “No Terese again tonight”
“No, she’s still in New York.”
Sheila turned to look at Susan, raised her eyebrows and looked back at Paul.
“The conference. Still? Isn’t it going on two weeks now? People will begin to wonder?”
“Wonder what?” he asked
“You know how they can be around here Paul. One whiff of a difference and the gossip vultures are out before you can blink.” Susan joined in
“Yes, and with Terese been gone a while now it will only be a matter of time before they start. I mean last time she was with her kids. A conference can mean anything can’t it.” Sheila stirred
“You be ready with your gossip Sheila, be my guest. Let’s see how long that will help you once you’re not standing behind my bar.” He answered angrily as he swiped his files off the bar.
“Terese take your sense of humor with her did she” Sheila shouted after him as he walked into the office. She turned to look at Susan.
“Maybe we did take it too far” Susan questioned
“Or the truth hurts. Let’s face it, whatever she is, we all know Terese is too good for him. Who knows, maybe she finally found someone better for herself. I mean it can’t be hard can it”
“No, I disagree. Those two are a perfect match.” Susan concluded as Chloe approached.
“Who’s perfect?” she asked
“Paul and Terese.”
“Of course, they are. The ultimate Power Couple of Lassiters. I wish she would return from her trip though; his mood has been worse than usual this week.” Chloe agreed
“This conference must be pretty important for her to extend her stay.” Susan asked
“Its work isn’t it. It what they do. Which makes his worse mood slightly more worrying. Anyway, lets forgets about Mr Grumpy, and just enjoy this awesome night she organised?” Chloe said before walking into the crowd.
As the Lassiters staff took to the stage with their rendition of Seasons of Love Paul sat in the office. His laptop was open, papers spread over the table, his phone placed neatly on the side. Terese had already called today. A quick phone call, as had been over the past couple of days. He wanted to ask her so many questions but whenever he asked all he received back were one-word answers and a sentence that had been planned before he even answered. She kept talking about work. Work. Like it all mattered. Still going on about talking to Billy about the rotas and about the cards at the front desk. These petty day to day stuff didn’t even come close to his list at the moment. He wished she’d just give him something to go on, not useless hotel chatter. He looked at the laptop. Waiting for the inbox to turn from zero to one was like watching time. He smiled as he remembered Terese telling him once that no matter how hard he looked at the screen, his stares were no match for the power of technology. That was a fun afternoon. They finished early, headed home and spent the entire afternoon sitting in the sun putting the world in its place. He loved days like that. Simple days. Spontaneous days. Days where everything was planned to the last minute but just one moment would change the course of the day and it would end very differently. Of course, he’d always pretend that any interruptions to his day would annoy him. But when it came to spending the day in back-to-back meetings with Terese or an intimate afternoon. There was no question.
He looked at the screen again. Still nothing. He looked at his phone. Still nothing. He’d never known John not to contact after the first twenty-four hours. He was usually on time. Maybe he couldn’t find anything. Maybe he didn’t have any leads and was dreading his reaction should he tell him. Paul looked around the room. Soon as he turned his head his phone rang. He quickly turned back and answered.
As Paul listed carefully to the conversation his face slowly turned from optimistic to disappointment.
“Yeah, yeah I understand. Yeah, yeah, it’s fine. Your family comes first. Speak soon mate. Ok, bye.”
He slammed the phone back on the table. Another stumble. The only man that could help him, on the one time he desperately needed his help, he had a family crisis of his own. The police had been useless. Apparently Terese wasn’t a priority for them because she’d been contacting home. John had other priorities, which was only right. That left just him.
He got up and walked towards the door, he stood there watching everyone enjoying the music. Karl, Susan and Jane were sitting right at the back. He smiled as he watched Karl being warned by Susan not to even think about getting on the stage. They never changed. Maybe he could tell them what was going on. But he didn’t want to put Susan under that pressure, not after the year she’d had. Same went for Karl. And as for Jane, well he’d put her through enough already, she didn’t need any more of his drama. He looked around the room. There was no one else.
Suddenly the whole room erupted in applause. He looked at the stage. As he saw who walked on, he turned back to look at the Kennedys. Those proud smiles. As she took the mic Paul's mind wondered back to his own family. If only one of them were home, any single one of them. Just anyone to share this with, anyone to bounce ideas with or even just to fuss over. Someone he could comfort; just tell them it was all going to be ok. And for that someone to tell him the same back. That all he wanted.
He turned his attention back to the stage as Bea finished introducing her song. The floor had changed to couples only as the first notes of” She used to be mine” were played. As Bea started singing Paul watched as all the couples embraced. He smiled. He and Terese had many memories here, in their second office as some called it. Why did they always come here to work had been Shelia’s question once. Why leave a perfectly good, quiet office for a loud pub. Terese joked that she needed the witnesses, just in case. He liked to think that when she chooses the Waterhole it was because of the memories. Like the day they played pool and she beat him. Never had he been more than happy to lose. That banter between them, those gloating looks on her face. There was also the day they renewed their vows and spent the afternoon talking about everything and nothing while planning a very special surprise. As he watched the couples dance, he remembered one moment that will always stay with him. Brad and Laurens wedding. After the year they had, to end up in each other’s arms, dancing while getting up to their usual scheming felt like a dream. He smiled. That day was so hard for Terese. She put on a brave face, all for someone who, in his eyes, really didn’t deserve it. He will never forget that morning, when she stopped to talk with him at Harold and in a blink of an eye, he was suddenly her plus one to the wedding. He remembered looking at her during the ceremony, he could hardly believe that he was there, next to her. And then dancing together. Slow dancing. Her arms wrapped around him, her head pressing against his chest. The smell of her perfume lingering as they swayed slowly across the floor. He smiled as he remembered looking around the room and thinking how lucky he was. Of course, it was nothing romantic at the time, well not for Terese. For him, it gave him the chance to be close to her again. A chance to hold her close. A chance to be the person she could rely on, no matter the time or reason.
He closed his eyes as he listened to Bea sing. She used to be mine were often the words he would think in the past when it came to Terese. Too often he had let her slip through his fingers. Too often he’d broken her heart and pushed her into someone else’s arms. Yeah, the Waterhole was filled with wonderful memories, but it was also the place where his nightmare almost came true. Seeing Terese lying on the floor after being shot. Feeling so helpless as he watched them take her away in the Ambulance. That sick feeling in his stomach when he realised that it was all because of him. Never again did he want to get that close to losing her. That day he made a promise that he would never let her come to any harm again. Never did he want to see her so helpless. Together or apart, he never wanted to see her suffer. He would protect her to the end. It was a promise he’d managed to keep until now. He sighed. At least he was able to hear her voice, no one had taken that away from her. They had taken everything else though, and he wasn’t going to stop till he had her back in his arms. Till he could hold her tight and tell her that everything was going to be ok.
His eyes filled up as he listened to the song. As he held back the tears, the room erupted in applause. Paul put his head down as he contemplated his next move. As he lifted his head a tall figure stood in front of him. He stepped back.
“Can I help you, Karl?” he asked
Karl looked at him
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, what do you want?” Paul abruptly asked
“What are you doing tomorrow night? Susan. Well, Susan and I would like you to come to dinner”
“Why?” he questioned
“Well...” Karl answered before pausing to think. He shook his head. “You know what, I don’t know. She sent me over here with an invite for dinner, I just did what she asked. Saves a lot of time”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to come. Of course, it would be nice. And if you do decide to come, maybe you could bring that nice bottle of red you bought to the Christmas party with you?”
“Right, so Susan’s invite is for me. Your invite is for the wine” Paul teased
“No, I didn’t mean….” Karl panicked
“I’m joking Karl. Just tell Susan thank you, but I’m busy.”
He looked at Karl who was still standing there. Karl looked around him and into the office.
“Busy with what, mate? Work and a meal for one” Karl asked “Stuck in that house on your own. Why not spend time with your friends eh?”
Paul smiled as he heard the word “friends”. It didn’t often come up in conversation whenever Terese wasn’t around. Hearing it today was nice.
“Fine. I’ll be there, and don’t worry I’ll bring the wine.”
“Good. Remember the red one” Karl pointed as he turned and headed back to Susan.
Paul looked at them before turning and heading back to the office. He sat down. Turned his phone on. A message popped up.
“Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of her. She will always be my world. Always has been and always will be.”
Her phone call was done, the usual short chat she was allowed with her husband. Paul kept asking questions today, questions she could never answer with such an audience. She’d tried to reassure him, make him know she wasn’t in any immediate danger, but she could tell with every minute that passed he wasn’t listening. His voice changed. It was like he came to the realisation that this was going to be it for another day and he wasn’t ready to say goodbye. He was never good at goodbyes. For someone who had his fair share, goodbye should be something of a normality for him. But that was also the reason they weren’t. Paul had always wanted Family close to him. She remembered how proud he was when Amy, David, Leo and Jimmy all moved in with him at the Penthouse. Like a kid at Christmas, there was no hiding his happiness that day. No one really understood how much that day meant to him and whenever anyone questioned his mood, her explanation was always met with a disbelieving look. Family meant the world to him. When it came to his kids or grandkids, he always walked a very fine line. He wanted the best for them, as would any parent, but the way he went about it most of the time was pushing the boundaries to say the least. It always came from a good place, a place of love and care. Whenever she would pull him up on it, he would always say it was because he was looking out for them. And that was something that kept her going. She knew he would never give up on her, no matter how hard, he would always keep fighting. He’d done it before. This time she was family and that meant there was nothing on earth that would stop him.
Terese got up off the bed and walked towards the mini bar. She opened the door. Water. Just water. How did he know, how did he know that the mini bar needed no alcohol? Keeping her here, on her own, he had taken every precaution to keep her safe. Why? She had tried to ask him the reasoning behind all this. The reasoning for keeping her locked in this room. The reasoning for keeping her from her family, her friends. The only information she’d managed to get from him was his name and the talk of this “grand plan” he had in place for them. Grand plan Terese scoffed as she wondered around the room. She was determined to learn more tonight. Sammy, as he called himself, was very big on spending time with her and strangely enough he knew most things about her. She didn’t remember talking to him much in the past, she wasn’t even the one that gave him the job. According to him he arrived and just walked into his job. That she could believe. The way he talked and defused situations. She wasn’t fooled, but anyone else might be. Apart from the job he was very reluctant to tell her anything about his life. Tonight though, tonight she was going to get as much information as she could. She tried to pass as much clues and information she could to Paul. How much did he take in or take notice of was another question?
Terese walked towards the window. She opened it to the sound of happiness. People chatting, people laughing, people singing. She couldn’t believe she was missing the musicals night, and worse of all he’d gone down there. Planning this night with Chloe had been fun. Paul didn’t have any interest, according to him he could think of nothing worse than listening to individuals making a fool of themselves. But he’d okayed the night because Chole promised that singing meant drinking and drinking meant money. Terese knew this was all a front though. How many times had she caught him singing? At home, in the car, while cooking. Even humming while working. How many times had they broken into song while cooking together? He was no stranger to the odd sing along, but true to himself he put on his usual front with Chloe. The man that couldn’t care less about the fun, only about the money. It was a pity that he didn’t share the other side of himself with more people. Let them see the Paul that she sees, the side of him that they all often questioned he had. It wasn’t just his sense of fun and humor they questioned. It was also his heart. Too often someone would question did he have one? Must be stone inside that chest? Where did you leave it today? Playing Tinman again, are you? Terese sighed. These comments hurt, but she didn’t always stand up and correct them. Why should she. The people asking were people that he’d previously helped. People he’d look out for or had been there for during their tough times. They, better than anyone, knew he could be as caring as anyone when they needed him. He wasn’t perfect but he deserved more respect from these people that called him Neighbour. Whenever he was around, Paul never really reacted to these comments, he just gave them a sarcastic smile and carried on. But she could see, in his eyes how deep they cut. How much they hurt. They came home once and the kids were all chatting outside. Their topic somehow veered towards him and it was Yashvi that bought the question up. She could see the disappointment in his eyes when not a single one of them stood up for him. He carried on as usual, pretending he hadn’t heard them, but she could see it.
Terese turned from the window and looked at the bed. Paul’s heart had always been there for her when she needed him. Whenever she had something on her mind or was struggling with anything he was there, right by her side. Looking at the bed took her back to the time he popped round to her room and stayed chatting for hours. Brad and her were going through a tough time, things had been said and Paul, as usual, had turned up at exactly the right time. Within seconds the wine was flowing and they were chatting like old friends. Paul had a way of getting her to open up like no one she’d met before. He had a way of making her feel comfortable and relaxed. What they spoke about didn’t mean much at the time, but looking back there was something quite intimate about the conversation. It all circled around equals and how Brad wasn’t the right match for her. For her and Paul to end up where they were today after that conversation all those years ago was nothing short of a coincident. Or was it? Was Paul on his selected path back then, was he just talking about himself when he said she needed an equal? That was one question she never really asked him. She never asked when. There were times when they would chat about the past, about the time she arrived or their first kiss. The times they teamed up or fought against each other. But for some reason she never asked when did he know she was the one for him. Was she scared of the answer, was that the reason? This moment between them had been a couple of years before their first kiss, had he really been waiting that long? Terese smiled. He certainly knew how to play the long game. No wonder he saw them as equals.
As she walked back towards the bed, she heard a door closing outside. He’s back she thought just as the handle on the bedroom door moved. He walked in with a smile on his face.
“You organised a great night Terese. Can’t believe how full the Waterhole was.”
“I’m glad it was a success. Did the staff enjoy themselves?”
“Our rendition of Seasons of Love went down a treat. Most of them were shocked to see me there, but I couldn’t miss that for the world. Especially not with the way I’m feeling at the moment.”
Terese shot him a smile with just a hint of disgust thrown in for good measure. As he sat on the bed, she sat beside him. She sat there for a while before risking a question, she knew he wouldn’t like.
“Was Chloe around tonight? What about Paul?”
“Chloe was there, she was having the time of her life”
“Yes, he was there. He talked to a couple of people at the bar before disappearing for the rest of the night. Not much of social butterfly, is he?”
“No, he’s not.” She said with a smile “He prefers to keep it all for only the important days.”
“And that’s why you deserve a lot more Terese.” He reached out and placed his hand on hers.
Terese quickly pulled away.
“Is that what you’re offering is it. A lot more?”
“I want to give you the world Terese. I don’t want you to want for nothing.”
“Tell me why? Why do you think you could be better for me than what I already have? Better than my family, better than this life, better than Paul.”
“Because I know you Terese. I’ve watched you; I’ve seen you. I know what you deserve. Ever since that first shift in Perth, I knew you were someone special and that you deserved it all”
“Your first shift?”
“Yeah. I was never the brightest at school, always fell short of the other kids. I guess you could say academics and me never really gelled. I thought it would’ve taken me a while to get a job, have anyone believe in me. But then Lassiters came along. You didn’t care about my background or what I was capable of. You saw me and the potential and within a couple of hours I was an employee. I was so happy. First day, you came to greet me and one other by the door, showed us around and then set us to work. You gave us your time that day like no one I’d ever met before. Checking up on us through the day, making sure we were getting on as we should. You were a busy lady, but it was us that were your priority”
“That was my job. To welcome you to our working bubble. I usually don’t have time to show new recruits around. You must’ve been a lucky pair.”
“I’d say. The many times I spoke to the staff, and they claimed you were too busy to give them your time of day. But don’t worry I always stood up for you, even if it did mean spending some time alone”
“I’m sorry. I would never expect that from any of my staff. But it’s nice to hear that someone has my back in the staff room.”
“Yeah, well it didn’t last too long.” He sighed “Staff rotate, people move. You left. You decided you needed a new challenge and left us. I didn’t blame you at the time. But seeing what you left for made me question why?”
“What do you mean?”
“You left Perth with a nice husband, two lovely kids and a job you loved. And for what?”
“Like you said, a new challenge”
“But it all changed didn’t it.”
“Wait” Terese said as she got to her feet “When did you move down here?”
“When I saw you were being dragged down by that smug git. Pinning a scandal on you, right after you got married. How could he be so heartless?”
“Wait. The camera scandals?”
“Yes. I knew you needed someone to fight your corner so I put a request for a transfer. Chloe was in charge when I came down, she was easy enough to convince when I told her I needed a job closer to my girlfriend. Also, she was more than happy to employ someone previously employed by you.”
Terese sighed and shook her head.
“So, you’re a porter, right?”
“Actually, I work in the kitchens but I do a bit of everything; it allows me to keep track of what’s going on. It allows me to keep a track on Paul. How could you fall for someone like him? He is nothing but chaos and lies.”
“I love him” Terese said with no hesitation
“I don’t think so. I think you like the idea of him.”
“Don’t you dare tell me what I think. You don’t know what we’ve been through, what I’ve been through.”
“And that’s why I was so happy when you came back to work here. I could now look after you, take care of you.” He answered as his phone beeped in his pocket. He took his phone out opened the message and smiled.
“Remember that bigger picture I was telling you about? It all coming into place.”
Chapter 6: 1 Day Before The Aftermath
The sun reflected beautifully off the greenhouse as Paul sat in the garden of No 28. The birds were singing. He could hear people chatting in the street and the sound of cars coming and going. It was a wonderful night, a peaceful night. He looked around. He didn’t really want to be here. His mind was anywhere but here and his heart, well she was lost. It had been a long twenty-four hours. Sleep was the last thing on his mind. As he closed his eyes, every night, he thought about the what ifs. That message he’d received the night before was playing on his mind. Someone was keeping her somewhere. Keeping her safe. But was she? Who was this person? They obviously cared about her but not enough to let her be with her family. Was this to punish him? When something often happened in their family it was usually because of him. But that message. It was all about Terese. Why? He smiled. The why was pretty simple. But why now, after all this time, why now.
He turned his attention back to the garden. Karl had a lot of stuff going on here. Pizza oven, Barbeque, Dining area. But for some reason they were eating inside tonight. On such a wonderful night, they were dining behind closed doors. Paul shook his head. The topsy turvy reasoning of the Kennedys.
Paul had decided to sit out here while they finished setting up though. The night was perfect for it. As he glanced to his side, he saw a guitar lying on the seat next to him. He looked at it for a minute before leaning over and picking it up. As he ran his fingers over the strings a voice came from behind the greenhouse.
“Hey, I thought we said no music tonight Karl.”
As Paul lifted his head, he saw Bea coming round the corner. Expecting someone different she stopped in her tracks and smiled.
“Sorry I thought you were...” she said
“Karl?” Paul answered
Bea smiled. There was a sudden awkward silence between the pair as neither had a direction for the conversation. Bea decided to break the silence.
“I didn’t know you played?” she said pointing towards the guitar
“I don’t. Not really. My Nephew, Daniel.” Paul smiled “He promised me he’d let me teach him some chess moves if I would let him teach me a few chords.”
“And how did that go?”
“Let’s just say he has a patience of a saint.”
“But he did teach you?”
“He caught me trying again later that week. I wanted to prove that it wasn’t as hard as he made out. Of course, he filmed it. The noise, it was heart-breaking. He did finally get me playing some sort of a tune.” Paul sighed as he looked down at the guitar “But we never did finish that song”
Bea looked at Paul before taking the seat opposite him at the table. He looked at her.
“Did you meet Daniel?” he asked
“No. He’s the one married to Ned’s sister, right?”
“Yeah.” He paused for a bit. He smiled. “You know, he had this way of making any situation look brighter”
“Sounds like a wonderful man. You must miss him.”
“Yeah, especially at times like these” he answered
“You missing Terese?” Bea asked
“An empty house is not as fun as some might think.” He answered
“Tell me about it. When Elly left, Karl and Auntie Suze were on their holidays. This house felt like a mansion. Every room feeling bigger than you could imagine. It was tough, but I was lucky. Living here meant when I walk out the door there was always going to be someone there for me. You must feel the same, right?”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you?” Paul said with a crooked smile on his face. “So, how’s Elly and little Aster, you must miss them?”
“Everyday. But they’re happy so I can’t be too selfish.” She said while reaching into her pocket. She pulled out her phone and opened the gallery. She selected her “Aster” folder and handed the phone over to Paul. He smiled.
“She’s grown so much.”
“Can you believe that she’s one and a half now.”
“It just feels like yesterday we had the little ceremony for her with the boys. That was a lovely day.” Paul sighed “Everything’s changed since then.”
“Everything keeps moving forward, even if we like it or not” Bea answered
“Don’t you wish you could pick one day just to pause, so that nothing changes.”
“Sometimes, but change tests us all doesn’t it. Gives us that challenge we never knew we wanted.” Bea answered. “But I guess nothing’s a challenge for you?”
“You’d be surprised. When Terese arrived…”
He was interrupted as the phone started vibrating in his hand. He looked down at the screen before handing it back to Bea.
“It’s Auntie Suze wondering where I am” she told him “I’d better check in with her. You coming?”
“I think I’ll stay out here. Oh, but do me a favour. Don’t tell Karl about the guitar. No one wants an excuse for him to try and reform his noodles band.”
“His what?” Bea questioned
Bea shook her head as she turned around and headed towards the house. Paul placed the guitar back on the chair next to him and smiled. He looked around once more. It wasn’t often he spent time in the Kennedy back yard, or house for that matter. Being the business bee, as Roxy called him, he didn’t have much time for picnics or meals with the neighbours. Terese innocently told him once that he didn’t do social gatherings because the invites stopped coming. It shouldn’t really have bothered him, but for some reason hearing the words out loud did. Before it had been his choice to say he didn’t want to go or he didn’t feel like it, but for someone to point out that the choice wasn’t his, it hurt. That happened to be the same day he last had a meal here. He smiled. That day was pretty special. Spending the morning with Terese, just the two of them at the penthouse, just as he liked it. They’d just finished breakfast and were in the middle of planning their day. He had work on his mind and managed to fit in some emails before Terese had the phone call he’d been dreading. He sighed. Spending an entire afternoon with people who thought he wasn’t good enough for her was not what he wanted. Not at the time anyway. He wanted to enjoy their time together, live in their bubble for just a little while longer. There, snuggled up on the couch, talking about their next work project or where he would take her for dinner. Just the two of them. It was just the way it was and just the way he liked it. He smiled. Of course, he gave in to her in the end. With that smile, how could he not. The words she spoke always captured his attention but never could he resist that smile of hers.
He looked around. Arriving had been his first hurdle of the day. Those awkward welcomes everyone did at parties whenever someone new entered. He remembered Terese had given him a rundown of what not to do when they arrived. He laughed. Top was not to wind Karl up, second, don’t talk about work and thirdly, try and look like you are having a good time. Why did he feel so nervous? These were people he’d known for years. People who he’d call Neighbours, people he’d call friends. And that was the problem. They knew him. They knew what type of person he was and the type of person he could be. They also knew Terese. They knew what she’d been through and that she didn’t need his kind of presence in her life. He knew who he was, the good, the bad and the ugly sides of himself. It didn’t usually matter what anyone else thought, but this time it was different. This time it mattered. This was all he’d ever wanted, although he knew Terese loved him people’s opinions carry weight, more than anything, her friends’ opinions carried weight. But as soon as they stepped in the garden, these feelings disappeared. He looked to his left. Standing there, in that spot. She'd turned around to look at him, placing her hand slowly on his cheek as she lifted the other and placed it on his back while moving her arm up and down in a calming motion. All the worries had disappeared and he felt happy. He smiled. Maybe not comfortable though, as he did nothing but follow her around all day. Like a lost little puppy, wherever she was, he was there. Her shadow on a rainy day. Looking back, he should’ve been more supportive towards her that day. They were there for Sonya and it shouldn’t have been her place to worry about him." he sighed "Ahh Sonya. She was the one that made him realise that he had nothing to be nervous about. Just one chat and he knew he was exactly where he was meant to be.
As he took one final look around, he heard the door opening
“Paul, dinners ready.” Susan called
As Karl placed his knife and fork on his plate, he puffed out his cheeks and sighed
“Had enough there Karl.” Bea joked as she turned to look at him.
“That was delicious darling” he answered looking at Susan
Susan smiled at him before turning to look at Paul.
“Not hungry?” she asked as she looked at his plate. His food barely touched.
“What? Oh, I’m sorry. The meal looks great, I’m just not that hungry.”
“A late business lunch, was it?” Karl asked with a smile on his face
“Yeah, something like that.” He answered “Do you mind if I take it with me, I would hate for it to go to waste.”
“Yeah. Can’t have you missing out can we” Susan answered as she leaned over grabbed the plate and headed to the kitchen.
Paul got up from the table, grabbed the empty plates and joined her.
“You want help with these” he asked pointing towards the dirty dishes in the sink.
“No, it’s fine, just leave them on the side there. Karl can sort them later.”
“Well, I won’t argue with that” Paul said with a smile on his face.
Susan looked at him. He’d been quiet all night. He didn’t seem like he was with them and the smile on his face, it wasn’t happy”
“Listen Paul, I’m sorry about last night. Me and Shelia, we took things too far.”
“Don’t worry about it. You were only saying what you really thought.”
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong.”
“I know everyone thinks Terese is too good for me. You don’t have to pretend.” Paul sighed “I know how lucky I am and I also know that I’m always one mistake away from losing her.”
“Yeah, you are lucky to have her in your life. But she’s also very lucky to have you. I know how long you waited for her and I also know that you would do anything for her. The things you’ve been through are what most couples go through in a lifetime. What you have is special, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else think. She loves you, and you love her. That’s all you need.” Susan smiled “As for being one mistake away, maybe you should swap war stories with Karl”
As he’d been listening to her words his eyes had filled up, as he chuckled a single tear rolled down his cheek.
“Hey” she said placing her hand on his arm, moving it up and down in comforting motion. “She’ll be home soon.” She paused for a bit “Has she given you any idea as to when it might happen?”
“She’s taking it day by day” he answered rubbing his eyes “Although the calls are all the same these days. Sorry she’s not coming home, do this at work, do that at work and then a little I love you before hanging up.”
“Is there anything else going on.” Susan questioned as his answer somehow didn’t feel right.
Paul looked down. He started playing with the ring on his pinkie finger, took a deep breath and sighed.
“Oh, Susan I don’t….” Just before he could finish his sentence a phone started ringing. Still sitting at the table Bea looked towards the kitchen.
“It’s your phone Paul.”
Paul dashed towards the table, opened the case and smiled
“It’s Terese, do you mind if I..” he told Susan as he pointed towards the backdoor.
Susan raised her hand to gesture as he made his way towards the door. As he closed it behind him, Susan walked towards the table.
“You ok darling” Karl asked as he watched Susan stare at the backdoor.
“What, yeah I’m fine.” She turned to look at Bea “You talked a bit with Paul earlier, didn’t you? Did he seem ok to you?
“We only talked about family. He seemed a bit down though, but I assume that’s because he misses Terese”
“Yeah, I don’t know. He was quiet over dinner, wasn’t he? I think there is something going on, something he’s not telling us.” She turned to Karl “Maybe you should have a chat with him?”
“I don’t think so darling, you know how he can be”
“But if he’s struggling?”
“Then me forcing it out of him won’t make anyone feel any better. You know how he gets. If I push, he’ll get defensive and push us further away.” He sighed “I know you’re worried darling but we have to leave this one. Like Bea said he’s probably just missing Terese”
“It’s more than that Karl. Something doesn’t feel right.”
Karl looked at Susan. He could tell this was weighing on her mind.
“Ok. I’ll give it a couple of days. If she isn’t back by then I’ll reach out.”
“Thank you.” Susan answered as she looked at him with a worried smile.
“Hi darling. Yes, I’m fine, just tired... Yeah, yeah, Lucy working us too hard as always. She certainly has learned that from you…No nothing new to report. Have you talked to Billy yet about the staffing?... Paul you need to sort it out with him. Please can you do that tomorrow?... So how are the kids today?... Is Roxy behaving herself… Yeah, and Harlow and Ned are they ok?... No, Lucy wants us to stay for another couple of days. She’s keen to finish this little project she’s got going… I know darling I miss you too but we need to finish on this trip, saves me travelling again… The project? Well, it the one they started with Harlow, on the sustainability. We’ve got some great ideas that we are looking to implement across all the Lassiters, especially ours and Perth’s… Yeah, I think this will help us find that missing star. So how did Musical’s night go? Was it a success?... See I told you it was exactly what we needed to bring the crowds in. And did you get up and sing?... she smiled. Next time I will be there to drag you onto that stage. You and me, showing everyone else how it’s done… Yeah, we make a great team. And the best team can win any battle together or apart…Yes, I remember that. She giggled as she thought back. Poor Sonya she didn’t know what to say. Those vows really left their mark on her, mixed with being pregnant she didn’t stand a chance… No, she didn’t and then we were blamed for stealing that Wombat. Did we ever find out who was the real culprit?... We have come a long way since that, our whole family has…
Across the room Sammy looked at Terese. As she lifted her head to look at him, he pointed towards his watch.
“Hey darling, listen I have to go. A couple of the managers are getting together this morning to discuss some ideas. I’ll try and get home as soon as I can. And please talk to Billy. If I get one more message from him, God help you when I get home…. Behave yourself… Listen, I won’t be calling tomorrow; we’ve got a full-on day. But we’ll talk soon. Love you always… Bye Bye darling.
As she hung up the phone a single tear rolled down her cheek. Saying goodbye to him was getting harder with every night that passed. His voice was desperate on the phone, he was asking all the right questions but with Sammy in the room there was no way for her to answer. She sighed as she handed the phone back to him.
“Why do you keep going on about Billy.” Sammy asked
“I have to keep the conversation real. Hotel business Is something that will always come up in conversations between us.” She answered
“But in true Paul Robinson style he doesn’t listen does he, he just ignores you and does what he likes”
“Because his wife is missing and he’s having to juggle 3 young adults at home, run a hotel and look after other business.”
“I’m sorry, didn’t I tell you? There’s no one at home. He sent the kids on a little holiday. I guess he was planning a romantic night with you. Isn’t that nice?
“He’s all alone.” Terese whispered under her breath as he walked towards the door.
“I’m just going down stairs to finalise some things before our trip tomorrow. I won’t be long; would you like me to check on him.”
“You stay away from him.” Terese answered angrily.
“Listen, I know how he’s feeling. Losing you leaves a hole nothing can replace. But he needs to understand that you were never his, and the sooner he moves on the better. I feel for the bloke, sure, but he should’ve seen this coming. Come on, why would someone like you throw their love away on someone like him” Sammy said
“Because he’s my best friend. A damaged soul that let me see him for who he is, the good and the bad, without expecting anything in return. He’s my soul mate. And whatever happens we will always find our way back to each other.”
“That might be the case, but it’s been days Terese. It’s time for you both to move on and our trip is the perfect opportunity.’ He said as he opened the door ‘Want anything?’
Terese shook her head.
‘I’ll see you in a bit then.”
As he closed the door Terese felt her anger boiling up inside. Since getting the message about his grand plan Sammy’s attitude had changed, he was surer of himself and every conversation ended with him sure about where this nightmare ended. None of what he was saying was true, none of it. She knew Paul was out there fighting for her as much as she was fighting for him. Maybe the kids weren’t with him but he had their friends. Jane, Susan, Karl, Toadie, he had plenty of support around him. If there was one thing she hated it was the thought of him being alone.
She looked towards the window. As she fought back the tears, she couldn’t help but cast her mind back to the last time she was this upset in a hotel room. The night before their wedding. The one night she should’ve been happy. Too excited to sleep. They had decided not to do the whole not see the bride before the big day nonsense. Too much had gone on and following a silly superstition seemed like the last thing they should be doing. They wanted to wake up next to each other on their wedding day, the same as they would do every morning after. Their room was perfect, the day had been perfect. Waking up beside him, just the two of them, away from the hustle and bustle of Erinsborough. Breakfast for two under the sun and then, playing chess, walking along the beach and chilling in the pool. It had been the perfect day. Then for the first time, they were separated, apart for a split second and everything changed. He was spiraling and there was nothing she could’ve done to stop him. For the first time, in a long time, he was feeling like he wasn’t good enough for her. The fear of hurting her, of letting her down was hanging heavy on his head and so he did the one thing he thought would keep her safe. There was irony in his actions. While trying to keep her safe he hurt her more than he ever could. A tear rolled down her cheek as she thought back to that day. She was so angry with him. Angry that he’d let such silly mind games get to him. Angry that he chose to walk away from everything because he thought he knew what was best. They always worked as a team, so why did he decide to make this important decision all on his own. She closed her eyes. She could see Paul, but it wasn’t her Paul. It looked like him, sounded like him, but the words weren’t his. In his eyes, there was nothing but heartbreak. A beaten man sat at the end of her bed. An exhausted man, a man who was lost on the most important night of his life. This wasn’t the man that had fought through everything to get to this exact moment yet he looked exactly the same.
She opened her eyes. As tears rolled down her face she walked towards the window. Despite all her anger, all her disappointment, it hadn’t stop her being worried about him. None of his actions came from a cruel or easy place and while he broke her heart, she couldn’t help but worry. That night was hard. She didn’t care where he slept but she couldn’t sleep either as she was worried about him. What was going through his head? He gave up on her that day because everyone kept telling him that he was going to hurt her and let her down. Since day one, everyone had been telling her that he wasn’t good enough for her. But time and time again he would prove that there was more to him than what everyone saw. Paul had loved her for a while and when they finally got together, she knew that this was where her heart belonged. She wiped away the tears and smiled as she remembered the smile on his face when she agreed, for the second time, to marry him. If only he was here now with that hug he gave her. Holding her tight in case she walked away. She sighed. Despite all that happened that night and the following morning, their wedding day was perfect. Just like everything else in their life, every obstacle they faced, they came through the other side stronger and closer. Their wedding was just another one of those days that reminded them, that as long as they fight together then nothing will stand in their way.
Terese turned towards the door. Any minute now Paul will be coming through that door. His face will light up as would hers and they would meet in the middle of the room in a tight embrace. One thing she knew, she would make that hug last for a lifetime. Being in his arms again was all she dreamt about. His arms wrapped around her body, her head resting on his chest. Him kissing her head and telling her, as he often did, that everything was going to be ok. But this was just wishful thinking. Every day that door knob turned her dream shattered, as the one person she was tired of seeing kept coming back. He kept coming back with the same vague information, same stupid grin on his face, same conversation. Every time she tried to get something out of him, some idea of what he was planning he would tell her remember the big picture, this big picture that was coming true on their trip. Their trip, that was happening tomorrow. She sighed. Billy was the only clue she’d manage to get to Paul. Sammy had mentioned him once, and after a couple of nights of suggesting he’d talk to him, she was hoping Paul had taken the bait and was one step closer to finding her.
She started walking towards the bed. The long game had been her friend this week, playing along everyday, but that was running it course. She had no real info on where she was going, no clue what he was planning or a single phone call left. She picked up a glass off the bed. If only she could see which room she was in she could plan an escape. She had no doubt that Paul was fighting on the outside, making every possible move to find her. Calling John, their friends, the police in to help. But the time had come for her to make her own move. Meet him half way. She looked at the glass in her hand. Now, it was all about timing.
Chapter 7: 1.5 Hours Before The Aftermath
Paul walked into the Lassiters staffroom. There was always an odd stench in here that no amount of cleaning seemed to get rid of. He scrunched his nose as he looked around. No sign. Just as he was about to walk out two members of staff came in, deep in conversation. Neither realised he was standing there as they burst out laughing. One a tall, young man the other short with a few years under his belt. Billy, the older of the two, turned his head long enough to see Paul standing there with a very unamused look on his face.
“You ok Paul?” Billy asked
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you” Paul asked with a slight anger in his voice
“Calm down lad, I was on a break.” he answered in a strong Scottish accent “What do you want?”
“Terese has asked me to check the staffing with you.
“Oh, is the wee lassie back from her trip.”
“No, she’s still there, and frankly I’ve got better things to do with my time than sort your problems out. But she’s adamant, so?”
“What problems?” Billy asked looking confused
“The kitchen staff you’ve been short of the past couple of weeks”
“Couple of weeks. Try months. Terese knows my concerns about this. We were supposed to have a budget meeting when she came back?
“Wait, she said this week. She specifically said that you were short staffed this past week.”
“No more than usual. I got one dessert chef on leave but that’s it.
Paul stood there for a while. His mind muddled. Terese was missing. She needed his help, but she chose to send him on this unwanted goose chase instead. He looked at Billy.
“Who’s on leave?
“That kid from Perth. Sammy.”
Paul looked at him and shook his head
“You know, that kid that transferred here Christmas before last.”
“Oh right.” Paul answered with little to no clue who he was talking about.
“Yeah, he started out in the kitchen but now he sorts of hovers around the place, helping wherever he can.” he paused for a bit “Yeah, he’s a good kid, a little on the people pleasing side, but when has that been a bad thing, right”
“People pleasing is one way to call it.” Alex said as he joined in.
Paul looked at him
“And what would you call it” he asked
Alex looked at Billy and then back at Paul.
“I didn’t mean anything by it, Mr Robinson.” Under pressure from Pauls gaze he carried on “but some might say he only has eyes at pleasing one member of the team”
“Yes?” Paul answered
“He’s quite loyal to Ms Willis” Alex carried on
“Ok, in what way?”
“It’s nothing sinister. He’s just a hard worker.” Billy added
“Is that it?” Paul asked looking at Alex.
“I don’t know. I guess he did show a lot of interest in her. More so than anyone else. But just usual things you know. Her likes, dislikes, personal situation. He even offered to drive her to the airport the other week, so that I could have a morning with my boy”
“Like I said Paul, the kids just a hard worker trying to impress in his job.”
“Right, you come with me” Paul said pointing at Alex before walking towards the door. “I need a word with this Sammy”
“Paul, come on, the kid hasn’t done anything wrong. Think about it, I can’t afford to be down another pair of hands” Billy said as Paul stopped to listen before heading out the door with Alex in tow.
“Hey Mr Robinson, are you ok?” he asked as he followed him.
“What, yeah, I’m fine” he answered abruptly as they reached the reception desk. “Right, what’s his full name?”
“Sammy Richards, but he’s not in today, remember he’s on leave. He’ll back next week.”
“I’ll call him then”
“Oh, you won’t get a number for him. He’s a bit of an odd fish like that. No phone, no social media, no house.”
“No house? So where does he live?”
“Here. He lives at the hotel. Room 213.”
“And who organised this.” Paul asked
“Mr Greyson” Alex answered.
“Should’ve known.” Paul said shaking his head.
“Yeah, I know right. We all pay the bills and try to keep a steady ship at home and he gets all the perks here without any of the hassle. And then he won that staff raffle to stay in your Penthouse for two weeks. Some people get all the luck. I mean, do you know how many tickets I bought for that raffle? My little boy would’ve loved to stay there. At the Avengers tower as he calls it.”
“Wait a minute, what did you say?”
“Avengers Tower” Alex repeated “You know, Iron Man, Spiderman, Captain America”
“What, no. Who the hell made my Penthouse a prize?”
“Ms Willis. She organised it before she left for LA.”
“Right” Paul said angrily. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a bunch of keys and opened a drawer right underneath the desk. Alex watched in bemusement. He holy drawer was finally being opened. No one knew what was in there, many had guessed but no one really knew. Was he going to be the first? As he watched eagerly, Paul pulled out a cash box and a key. He opened the box, and there it was, the most boring secret ever known to man. It was a key card. Just a key card.
“Is that it” he said as he shook his head.
“Is that what?” Paul asked
“Your secret drawer. It was all for a key card. That is a let-down let me tell you”
“But necessary apparently after this week’s events.”
“Yeah, but like I told you, Ms Willis authorised it.”
“Ugh, you just don’t get it do you.” Paul said as he squeezed passed Alex and walked towards the lifts. He pressed the call button. Alex followed him around the corner and stood next to him.
“Look, I know something’s going on with Ms Willis, and I know you’ve been unhappy about something this week. We haven’t seen you around here for one, and that never happens “
“You couldn’t possibly know what we’ve been through” Paul answered as the lift arrived. The door opened and he stepped in. He scanned his card and selected the Penthouse. “What makes you think you know anything about us.” he said as the door started closing.
Just before they closed Alex took a step forward and joined Paul. His face turned to dismay. Before Paul could say anything, the doors closed.
“Because I see that look every morning when I wake up.” Alex answered
Paul looked at him. A silence filled the lift. Paul looked at the floor and then back at Alex. The young man looked at Paul and smiled.
“Sorry, my in-laws say I can talk for Wales.”
“Yeah Small, beautiful country in the UK.”
“I know where Wales is”
“Right, sorry. But yeah, my wife was from Wales.”
“Was?” Paul questioned before a realising who he was. He sighed. “You’re Neds mate aren’t you. “I’m sorry.”
“Please don’t do that. Don’t be nice because you feel sorry for me. Maggie hated that.” he paused for a bit “So what happened to Ms Willis.”
Paul looked at him, raising his eyebrows.
“Listen Mr Robinson. I lost my Maggie over a year and a half ago, and every morning I look in the mirror and see the same lost look on my face. For those few first seconds I can’t believe that she’s not around making me breakfast and taking our kid to school. And that look, I’ve seen it this week, on your face. When you’re walking in the complex. That musicals night, it was supposed to be fun but you looked anything but. And today, you’re acting like my boss but that mask can’t hide your pain”
“I can see what your in-laws mean” Paul mocked
“You know what, Billy said I shouldn’t bother with you, now I see why”
The lift fell silent.
Suddenly there was a jerk. The light flickered and the lift stopped.
“You have got to be kidding me” Paul said as he hit the side of the lift in anger. He looked at his phone. “Great no signal either”
“You still haven’t fixed this?” Alex asked as he looked at his watch “And it’s almost time to pick Llew up.” Alex sighed and looked at Paul “You know if you hadn’t been so stubborn none of this would’ve happened.”
“I’m glad this amuses you.” Alex said with a confused look on his face
“Not at all” Paul smiled again “You just reminded me of Terese. Telling me off when things get messy. She really does train her staff to share her vision doesn’t she.”
“She sure does” Alex said as he slid his back down the lift and sat on the floor. He looked up at Paul.
“Might as well. The way Lassiters maintenance move we will be here for a while.”
“Have you got a phone?” Paul asked
“Nope, it’s in my locker”
Paul sighed as he started pacing.
“Today of all days. Why did it have to break today?”
“At least we’re stuck together” Alex said
“Is that a joke.” Paul answered as he was stopped in his tracks. “Besides what about, what was it, Llew? Shouldn’t you be more desperate than me to get out ”
“They usually call Mum and Dad. They know how undependable my shift patterns can be.” Alex said with a hint of sadness.
Sensing his sadness Paul looked down at him.
“I’m sure you make up for it though.”
“Being the mum and dad is never easy, but I try and give him what I can, you know. A kiss every morning, a hug when I pick him up, a kiss before bedtime. As long as he knows I’ll always be there for him then the rest will just slot into place.”
“The love between a father and son, there’s nothing like it.” Paul said “You’re lucky. Having the chance to watch him grow up. I’ve got five boys and I wasn’t there for any of them” Paul sighed “Can’t really blame them for seeing me as a disappointment “
“Hey, if they’re disappointed or angry then they care. People don’t waste feelings on someone they don’t love and respect. You should know that. And not being there doesn’t mean you didn’t care. Like I tell Llew, just because Maggie isn’t around it doesn’t mean she isn’t there with him in some way.”
The lift fell silent again. Alex sat for a bit before deciding to try his luck again. Before he could mutter a word, Paul beat him to it.
“Terese was disappointed in me the morning she left. I sided with the wrong people and ended up paying like I’ve never done before.”
“Have you heard anything from her since she left?”
“A phone call every day. She kept talking about staffing. You know, I should’ve picked it. Now this Penthouse stuff is the best lead I’ve got. If I ever get there.” he said hitting the side of the lift.
“And the Police?”
“She calls, so she’s not a priority. And my PI had an emergency, so.”
“Of course, you have a PI.” Alex said while laughing “What about your family, friends. Have they had any luck?”
Paul dropped his head and looked at the floor.
“Don’t tell me you....”
“I haven’t told them”
Paul looked at Alex.
“This feels like my fault. My problem to fix”
“But they’d want to know. If not for you but for her”
“Yeah maybe” Paul agreed “I just want her home.”
Paul lifted his head up and looked at the sealing.
“She’ll be back before you know it, you’ll see. Besides don’t you enjoy the freedom of a quiet, empty house.”
“Ha. Believe me, that’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”
“I can imagine. Especially in your house”
Paul turned his head towards Alex with a confused look.
“Ned, Roxy and Harlow, all under one roof. That only spells one thing.” Alex said
“Yeah, a whole lot of noise, fights ...”
“Fun, Love, laughter?” Alex carried on
“And Terese brings us all together.” he sighed. “What are we without her?”
“A family” Alex answered. He paused for a bit before carrying on. “Listen, Ned told me what you did for him last year.”
“Ah right.” Paul said
“He knows how lucky he was to have you in his corner.”
“It wasn’t luck. He’s family. He should expect nothing less.” He paused “I bet his reports aren’t always as glowing, are they”
“I couldn’t possibly comment. But you come up in conversation a lot more than his dad. That tells me all I need to know.”
“He puts up with me because of Terese, you know. All three of them do.”
“That’s not the vibe I get. They like what they have, this life they share with you. Yeah, they complain and moan sometimes But I’ve also heard stories about the fun and the caring moment you guys share.”
Alex sat in silent and looked at Paul for a bit.
“You know that no one will blame you for this don’t you? You’ve done all you could to find Ms Willis this week.”
“All is not always enough, is it” Paul answered
“You keep doing that. Make everything seem less. Why?”
“Because when it comes to Terese, perfection is all that you can be”
Alex chuckled. Paul looked at him.
“I’m sorry, but you’re nowhere near perfect. And I doubt Ms Willis married you because she thought that was the case”
“This is different”
“Why, because you think it’s your fault?”
“Listen, she was going to that conference, disagreement or not. Nothing about this is your fault and Ms Willis will tell you the same. So will anyone else you care to listen to.”
“I made a promise to myself that she would always be safe with me”
Suddenly the light came on in the lift. There was a sudden jerk and then they started moving. Paul looked up to the sky as Alex got up on his feet. He looked at Paul.
“And now you’ll be able to honour that.”
Paul looked at Alex. As the young man smiled, he smiled back and nodded
The doors to the penthouse opened. Paul and Alex made their way in. Two suitcases lied on the couch in front of them. Both open, both half full. Alex and Paul looked at one another.
“Are they yours?” Alex asked
Paul looked at him with a disgusted look on his face.
“I guess not” he concluded as they made their way across the room.
“Call the police.” Paul said handing Alex his phone “Call the police and tell them to come to the Penthouse”
As he dialed, they heard footsteps coming towards them. As they turned their attention to the room by the lift, a panicked Sammy ran out. Paul rushed toward him and grabbed his collar.
“Where the hell is my wife?”
Terese sat on the bed and looked at the clock. Time was ticking so slowly today. She was ready, ready to finish her game. She was ready to make her move, escape from Sammy and his plans and back to her haven, her safe place, her home. She had a plan in place, a good plan. But it was a one-shot plan. It needed to be executed perfectly. This is where she could really use Paul. For months he could play his games, plan them, execute them and mostly to good effect. She wasn’t a stranger to such game playing herself. Together though, together was where they really excelled. She looked back at the door. There had been a lot of movement on the other side today. A lot of shuffling. He still hadn’t revealed all his plans to her. She had asked again over breakfast but all she got was the same answer. He wanted to keep the surprise till they arrived. Like it was somehow what she wanted. It was like he thought this was miraculously becoming her dream. He kept telling her he wanted what was best for her but time and time again he was keeping her at arm’s length, keeping her in the dark.
She looked back at the clock. It was almost twelve. He’ll be back soon for lunch. Their daily twelve of clock lunch. Usually from the kitchens. A variation on a sandwich or a wrap and a conversation that seemed to always end up in the same place. Terese sighed. Her lunches with Paul were never anything special either. They usually involved a quick sandwich and a conversation about work or a rant about how someone had wronged him that morning. Terese smiled. He could be a grumpy so and so at times. For no apparent reason, he would get a bee in his bonnet about something and spend too long complaining about it. If it wasn’t the kids, it was their partners. And if it wasn’t the partners, it was the neighbours or work. And some days it was everything rolled into one. She sighed. She would do anything to hear his voice right now. To hear him complain about how the world had wronged him today. And as always, she’d be more than happy to listen.
She turned her head slightly and looked at the wall in front of her. She had been tempted to ask Sammy, more than once, to bring Pauls portrait up for her. That controversial portrait had survived everything. A crash, a tour, Scarlett. But eventually it had found it way to its rightful home. Where else would a portrait of Paul be but at Lassiters. She smiled as she remembered the moment, she unveiled it to him. That day was so important to their family, and it was nice that all four of them were together. Paul and Roxy were in one of their bantering moods that morning and hanging the portraits up with them had been fun. Pauls face when he saw his was a portrait in itself though. Ned did manage to sell it to him in the end, and in true Paul style he tried to make it look the best he could with anyone that would listen. Suddenly the smile disappeared from her face. But then it all turned sour. A family nightmare, that felt like they’d travelled back in time. But she was so proud of how they handled it. At times like these they all got to see what it really meant to be a part of Pauls family. He was never going to give up on Ned, and he was willing to do anything to clear his name. They might not always get along, but when they need him, his support will always be there for them. When it comes to family, his fight is stronger than anyone’s.
Just as her thoughts started to drift the door opened. Sammy walked in with two trays and placed them on the table.
“Lunch madam” he said with a smirk on his face
“Thanks. Have you finished your final prep?” she asked
“Yep, just about. Just need to finish packing and we’ll be ready to go.”
"Yes, sooner we hit the road the better. That useless lift has broken again so we’ll have to take the stairs”
“Wait, you want me to walk right into the reception. How will we explain that?”
“Don’t be silly, we’ll take the same route as we did to get here”
“Oh right.” he said rolling his eyes “I bought you in through service doors at the back. You can get access to them from the 5th floor. I used the lift from there.”
“You really know your way around don’t you.”
“Of course, I do, it’s my home after all”
“Yeah, how did you pull that one? We normally don’t allow staff to live on the premises.”
“That’s the difference between Pierce and Paul. Pierce knew how to run a business, knew how to keep his staff happy”
Terese shook her head
“Anyway, I’m going to leave you to it today, give me a chance to finish up.” he carried on.
“Well can I help? Help you pack maybe?”
“No, it’s all under control.”
“So, stay with me just for lunch. Our final one before everything changes.”
Sammy looked at Terese and gave her a smile.
“Before everything changes for the better. Why not”
She smiled back at him.
As he sat down and tucked into his lunch, Terese decided to seize the moment. This was it, her one and final chance. She got up.
“I just need to pop to the bathroom. Don’t finish before I get back.” she warned him
He nodded his head as she entered the bathroom and closed door behind her. She sat on the edge of the bath. She had one shot at this, one shot to get it right. She stood up and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Get this right and she’ll be home tonight, back in Pauls arms. What if he was downstairs right now? Standing behind the reception desk. She would run towards him and hold him; he would hold her back and neither would let go. She smiled. The feel of that first embrace, his warm body against hers and him kissing her head telling her everything was going to be ok. That was the end game. That was always the end game
Well, here we go she thought as she grabbed the glass off the side of the sink. She climbed into the bath. Lifted her arm up above her head and casually dropped the glass. As it shattered all over the floor she carefully stepped out of the bath.
“Sammy, can you come here please” she shouted
“What happened. What’s all this noise?” he asked as he opened the door
“The glass slipped. Can you help me get out? I haven’t got any shoes on.”
“Sure, give me your hand” he said reaching out to her.
She placed her hand in his and she made her way carefully across the floor and into the bedroom. She stood there for a bit as he turned around to look at her.
“Yes, I’m fine. Can you do me a favour though, can you pick up the broken glass.” she said pointing towards her clothing “I’m not really dressed for it” she said while chuckling.
“Sure, you go enjoy your lunch.” Sammy answered
“Oh, I will” Terese said as she grabbed the handle of the bathroom door and pulled it towards her. She closed it tight and placed a chair underneath the knob.
“Terese, what are you doing? Terese?” Sammy asked frantically turning the knob.
“You’ve had your fun Sammy. Your little happy families dream is over and the real world is calling”
“What, I don’t understand”
“Oh, wake up. This is me, heading home”
“But this is your home, with me”
“My home is at No22, on Ramsey Street, with my husband and our kids”
“I get you still think that, but you were coming around. It’s been a week. Why now?”
“I was playing the long game Sammy. I wondered, did you have enough decency to do the right thing, but time and time again you disappointed me. You said you loved me, but there was no proof of that. If you truly did you would’ve let me go days ago. Now it’s time for this to end. So, this is me, leaving. Oh, and don’t worry, I won’t keep you locked up for too long, it’s not really my style.” she said walking towards the door.
“Terese. No, wait. Please don’t leave me here.”
As he pleaded Terese stopped and looked back at the room. This had been her home for two weeks. Two weeks and she was finally leaving. She smiled and nodded, grabbed her shoes off the floor and headed out the door. As she took her first steps, she saw two more doors. The first one seemed to be another room, right next to hers. The second sat at the end of the hallway. She walked towards it. As she neared her surrounding became familiar. She stood in the doorway, not believing what she was seeing. How could he? Why here of all places? Why the Penthouse? This was their place, hers and Pauls. Their escape. Their little haven away from the world and everyone in it. Why did he use this place? She walked further along towards the couch and there they were. Two suitcases. One each for their big adventure. She looked at the coffee table. It was full of papers. Official documents. Everything laid out ready to pack up. She grabbed the top paper and started reading.
I’m sorry. I never wanted it to come to this but the time has come for someone to step up and take care of Ms Willis. You have done nothing but bring her down and let her down in the past year or so. Despite being the most wonderful woman on the planet you seem to think that they grow on trees, and therefore, very happy to take every advantage of your personal situation. We will be travelling on to a new adventure and I ask, if you truly love her like you say you do, please give her this. Give her this freedom. She’ll call for the final time in a couple of days, so worry not, you’ll get your chance to say goodbye. Thanks for your understanding.
p.s my uniform, id badge and locker key have been left in your room.”
She placed her hand on her mouth in shock. Her hand shaking, she took a deep breath. She scanned the letter again before scrunching it up and throwing it on the floor. How dare he. How dare he write that for him.
She turned around to face the cabinet by the wall. Placed neatly next to her keys and handbag was her phone. She made her way around to pick it up. She opened the case, switched the phone on and smiled. There it was. The picture reminding her that when she gets home, everything will be ok. When she sees him that smile of his will be enough to let her know she’s safe.
Suddenly she heard a shout and a rattle. She looked in the direction before turning on her heals and making her way towards the lift. She pressed the button. She waited. She pressed the button again. Nothing was coming. Suddenly she remembered what he said. She looked in the direction of the hallway where she came from one more time before she turned and headed towards the fire exit.
As she continued down multiple flights of stairs she tried and tried to call but there was no signal. She decided to leave the staircase and onto the next floor and try her luck there. As she made her way through the doors two maintenance men were standing in the corridor.
“Afternoon Ms Willis” one said
“Listen, is the lift working now.” She asked
“No idea. Was it broken?” they cluelessly asked.
All three stood around in silent. As the guys started to ease back into conversation Terese opened her phone. She tried calling Paul. There was nothing. No way of getting through. She looked at her screen, she had bars, now he must be in a signal-less area. She hung up and dialed 000. If there was one thing she could do, it was get Sammy away from the Penthouse. As she dialed there was a noise by the lift. A sudden thump. As all three looked towards the lift they saw the numbers counting upwards. Right to the very top. Terese started to panic. She pressed the button to call the other one. He must be coming down. He must be following her. The lift doors opened. She stepped in and stood there looking at the two men. When neither moved towards the lift she pressed the G button and the door closed. She started dialing 000 again.
“Yes hello. Police and Ambulance please. Yeah, to Lassiters hotel. Yeah, there’s a disturbance in the Penthouse. Please ask for Terese Willis when you arrive, and hurry”
As she hung up the lift came to a stop. She took a deep breath. The doors opened and she stepped out to the hustle and bustle of a busy reception. As she made her way past the visitors and their luggage, towards the front desk. The half-smile on her face disappeared. He wasn’t there. There was no sign of him.
“Hey Terese, you’re back” said a voice behind her. She turned around.
“Oh, hi Chloe.”
“Well how was your trip?”
Terese looked bemused at Chloe. He hadn’t told the staff that she was missing? If Chloe wasn’t aware then neither was anybody else. He must’ve kept everything between their close friends, keep it out of work. She decided to play along for the time being. What was a couple more hours compared to the week.
“Yeah, not bad. I won’t be going back in a hurry though.” Terese answered looking around “Hey tell me, do you know where Paul is?”
“Nope, sorry. I haven’t seen him all day. Does he know you’re back? “
“Not yet. I asked the driver to drop me here.”
As Chloe was about to reply, two police officer approached her.
“Excuse me, can you tell us where we might find Terese Willis?”
“That me.” Terese said
“You called regarding a disturbance”
“Yes, follow me” she answered as she led them towards the lifts.
Chapter 8: 0.5 Hours Before The Aftermath
"Tell me where Terese is" Paul shouted as he held Sammy by his collar "Have you called the police" he said turning to look at Alex.
"Not yet, maybe we should hold off until he explains himself" Alex said calmly "Maybe you should try and let him"
Paul looked back at Sammy. He stopped and stared before loosening his grip. Sammy straightened his shirt and corrected his collar before standing there looking at both men.
"Hey Alex. You ok? Actually, what are you doing here? I thought you would’ve been too busy to play detective"
“Well actually I got stuck in the lift with Mr Robinson”
“I bet that was fun” Sammy said sarcastically
“That it” Paul said through gritted teeth.
"C’mon Sammy, stop messing around. Please, do you know where Ms Willis is?"
"What if I say no. Would you believe me?"
"I would give you a chance, yeah"
"Well, I wouldn’t." Paul said interrupting the conversation.
Alex looked at him
"Why? Everyone is innocent till proven guilty, right?" Alex said " Just because he has two half packed suitcases open here on the couch and a whole lot of papers on that table, doesn’t mean a thing. Maybe it’s for him and his girlfriend. You know, the one he moved here for"
"Well, is it?" Paul asked looking at Sammy
"You could say that" Sammy said spitefully
"Don’t lie to me" Paul shouted
"You see, he will never listen" Sammy said looking at Alex
Alex looked at Paul then back at Sammy.
"You’re right. He’s just too stubborn. Thinking he can be in charge of any situation, that he’s the boss of everyone. You should’ve seen him on the way up here."
"Exactly. I’ve been trying to tell people this for a while, but no one wants to listen. I’m glad someone finally sees it"
"You’re right and I’m so sorry. I should’ve seen it sooner."
Paul looked at Alex and shook his head. He shoved Sammy to the side and walked down the narrow hall to the room where Terese had been. As he walked in, he could tell she’d been here. That lingering smell of her perfume. He smiled. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. That smell that lingered everywhere she went, a reminder that she was close. He opened his eyes and looked around. Was this where she’d been the whole time. Had she really been in his property, his penthouse, for over a week and he didn’t know. He walked towards the window. Had he walked pass this window and not think to look up to see if anyone was there? How could he have missed this? He looked around. The two lunches sat on the table exactly where they’d been set. Paul smiled.
“I bet their lunch conversations had nothing on ours.” He muttered to himself
Suddenly his eyes caught a glimpse of the bathroom. The glass was still scattered on the floor. He stood for a bit looking around. There were so many questions going around his head, so many theories. Was this Terese, did she do this? Did he do this? Was Terese hurt? He sighed. He had to find her. He turned around and headed towards the door. As he walked down the hall, he heard the boys talking. As he stopped to listen, Alex was saying his final goodbyes. At the sound of his footsteps Paul walked back into the room.
“So did you find anything?" Sammy smirked
"Just the mess. The glass on the bathroom floor? Is that hers?"
"No, it’s mine." he answered opening his hand, revealing a small cut "I fancied a glass of water and it slipped. Picking up broken glass is the worst eh."
"And the two lunches. Them for you and your girlfriend, are they?"
"Yes, they were"
"And where is she now" Paul asked "This mysterious girlfriend of yours? The one you’re apparently buying lunch for and going on holiday with."
"We had a fight. She didn’t agree with my choice of music for the trip."
"Stop lying" Paul answered raising his voice "I know she was here. Locked in that room for two weeks with only a low life like you for company. A good for nothing reprobate who thinks he deserves a woman like her"
Paul grabbed Sammy’s arm and dragged him across the room towards the coffee table. He stood next to him, leaned over and started ruffling through the papers that laid in a messy pile.
"Bank statements, travel plans, plane tickets" he said before stopping in his tracks. He lifted two A4 papers off the table. "Tell me again why you have a picture of my wife’s passport?"
"That was a work thing" Sammy said, trying to cover his tracks
"Are you serious. Just tell me where she is?" Paul shouted
"I don’t know" Sammy shouted back.
Paul looked at the floor and shook his head. Just under the table he saw another piece of paper. He leant over, picked up a little scrunched up ball and opened it carefully. As he started reading, Sammy grabbed the paper. His quick reaction saw the letter fly out of Paul’s hand and safely into his. He scrunched it tightly and placed it in his pocket.
"That’s private, you have no right reading it"
Paul looked at him
"Why was it addressed to me? Was that going to be my goodbye?" Paul questioned
"What goodbye? Why would I be writing you a goodbye letter?”
Paul’s face turned, his eyebrows frowned as he raised his hand and pointed at Sammy.
“You think you’re so clever, playing your little cat and mouse game. You think you can pull the wool over my eyes, over Alex’s. But you listen to me. Now he may have left, but I won’t. I will stay here for as long as is needed. I will stay here until I know my wife will be coming home. And then I will come for you, do you understand”
“Think I’m kidding?” he asked
“Oh no, I know you’re serious. But don’t you stop and think sometimes. Maybe Terese had enough. Maybe she just decided it wasn’t worth it? That what you have wasn’t worth all the challenges?”
“And that’s exactly why you could never be anything more than a staff member to her. Why she wouldn’t look twice in your direction. You don’t know who she really is. You don’t know what makes her tic, what makes her happy. You think she’d want to hide from the challenges, shy away from them. But that’s who she is, she thrives on them. You think you know her, but in reality, she’s more than your petty little mind could imagine”
“I couldn’t care less about what she thinks of me. For the last time. And I’ll spell it out for you. I. Don’t. Know. Where. She. Is”
Paul shook his head.
“You will tell me where she is. Sooner rather than later your smart mouth will trip you up. You’re fooling no one but yourself thinking this little game will play out in your favour”
“Have you considered that maybe you’re looking at the wrong staff member. I mean, why did Alex bring you up here? Why tag along only to leave when you wanted answers. I bet he saw me, saw his chance and went after Terese”
Paul stepped back and looked down. He lifted his head
“Let just say that makes any sense, why would he go after her? If you don’t know where she is, why would anyone need to go after her?”
“No, I just meant...” Sammy stuttered
“What? What did you mean?” Paul said angrily as he stepped forward. Sammy panicked and quickly took a couple of steps back. As he did his leg hit the side of the coffee table and he lost his footing. Paul watched as he fell to the floor. There was a loud bang as his head hit the corner of the table on the way down. Standing over him, Paul looked down. He kicked his feet, and Sammy opened his eyes. Just as he leant forward to lend him a hand the lift pinged. Paul turned around as the doors opened and two police officers walked out. As one turned towards the hallway the other came round the corner.
“What's going on here?” he asked as he looked down “What happened?”
Just as Paul was getting ready to explain he made his way around the couch and kneeled down. He saw blood on the corner of the table.
“Son, can you hear me?” he asked Sammy. There was nothing. He grabbed his radio. Just as he was ready to call the Ambulance the lift doors opened. Paul turned around as two paramedics stepped out.
“Over here guys” the police officer shouted as one made his way towards him. The other went down the hallway towards the bedrooms.
As he looked in the direction of the lift, in between the holes of the bookcase, Paul caught sight of another figure. A short figure, in a black and white dress. He stood up. The worried look on his face was replaced by a broad smile. She looked up and saw him. There he was. This was the moment she’d been waiting for. The moment that had kept her going. She smiled. She suddenly felt safe. As her fear turned to relief her smile disappeared and she broke down. He made his way around the corner and stood there for a little while. She looked so vulnerable, so fragile. He didn’t know what she’d been through, what Sammy had done to her. She lifted her head long enough for him to see her eyes. That look, that’s all he needed. He walked towards her, wrapped his arms around her tightly and kissed the top of her head. She rested her head in his chest and wrapped her arms around him. The warm feel of his body against hers felt like she remembered, like coming home. As she lifted her head to look at him, without a word, their foreheads touched and they closed their eyes.
“You’re safe now darling. Everything is going to be ok” he whispered.
“Oh, Terese I am so sorry. We had no idea.” Karl said as Terese caught him up to speed on the events of the past week.
“That’s ok.” she answered as she turned to look at Paul “I just wish he could’ve had someone by his side. With the kids away I thought he would’ve turned to you or Jane.”
“Susan saw that something wasn't right last night, after dinner, but I wanted to give him a chance before I interfered. I figured he was just missing you. I should’ve listened to Susan”
Terese turned to look at Karl
“That was last night, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.” she turned her attention back to Paul” I just wish he could see that he doesn’t have to fight every battle on his own.”
“We all know how in control he likes to be Terese. If he thought that finding you was his battle and only his, I doubt anyone could’ve changed his mind”
“Anyway, I’ll leave you to it. Make sure he eats that before he leaves, please. If I can do one thing right is make sure he’s looked after now”
“Thanks Karl” Terese answered as he turned and left.
Just as he walked out the door Paul opened his eyes.
“I thought he was never going to leave” he said cheekily
“Oi, he was worried about you”
“Well, he needn’t be because I have all I need right here.” he said placing his hand on hers.
She looked at him. She smiled.
“So, you kept it all a secret?”
“Me, not coming home. You kept it a secret?”
“I played the conference card. It wasn’t too hard convincing everyone you were staying on over there”
“Why didn’t you ask the Kennedys for help? Why not call the kids to come home? Was Karl right, was it because you thought this was on you, somehow?”
“It usually is” he muttered “Listen, I didn’t feel like sharing, because they didn’t need that. They didn’t need to be dragged away from their own lives to come and fix mine.”
“But the kids would’ve been there in a heartbeat.”
“Yes, worrying, blaming themselves for the drama they caused and suffering every time they hit a brick wall.”
“I did it so the others didn’t have to. That's just the way it was”
“Oh Paul” Terese said as she interlocked her fingers in his.
Suddenly his attention turned towards the door. Terese followed his gaze and looked as a tall figure stood in the doorway.”
“Hey Mr Robinson” a familiar voice echoed in
“Alex. What are you doing here?“ Paul answered as he lifted himself up in the bed.
“Billy said an Ambulance came to the Penthouse. I wanted to make sure you were OK.” He turned his attention to Terese “I guess he found you then?”
“Did you help him?"
“Well, unintentionally maybe. But I think we made a pretty good team.”
“Team? You left me. Left me to deal with him on my own.”
“Yeah, because of this?” Alex replied showing Paul and Terese a phone
“Wait a minute, that’s mine.” Paul said pointing towards the phone
“So, you left because of Paul’s phone?” Terse said with a confused look on her face “I think we need a bit more to go on”
“I’m sorry.” Alex said as he turned his attention to Paul “Remember, you told me to call the cops when we arrived at the penthouse.”
“Yeah, but you held off. You decided to give that waste of space a chance.”
“Exactly. No matter what you think of him, Sammy’s human. Prone to any human characteristics as anyone. It’s like what we were talking about in the lift. I can talk and I’m good at getting others to talk about their lives, their families, their futures.”
“I don’t....” Terese interrupted
“All he needed was someone to listen. All I needed were the right questions, in all the right order.” he shook the phone “and a little red button called record” he said as he smiled.
“You recorded his confession” Paul asked
“He was looking for help to find Ms Willis. Who was I to refuse such an opportunity”
“So, everything is on that.” Terese asked
“Yeah, but I haven’t listened to it again. That’s up to you two.”
Paul looked at Terese and back at Alex. He smiled.
“Thank You. Thank You so much.”
“It’s my pleasure.” Alex turned to look at Terese as he placed the phone on the bed “I really am glad you’re ok. Anyway, I better get off. Mini me is out there with Doctor Kennedy and if nothing else he can talk like me so...”
Just as he was ready to turn to leave the patter of footsteps came running towards the door. Between the door and Alex’s leg, his son stood looking into the room.
“And here he is” Alex said “You ok mate”
Llew nodded his head.
“So, your young Llew.” Paul said “Nice to meet you”
Not quite sure who the stranger was he turned to look at his dad.
“This is Mr Robinson. He lives with Uncle Ned and works with daddy at the hotel.”
“A little birdy tells me you like superheroes?” Paul asked him
“Well, your dad was just like Spiderman today. Saving all his friends.”
“Uncle Ned says you’re just like Loki”
“Well, that’s nice of him isn’t it” Paul said with a big smile on his face
Terese and Alex looked at each other and smiled.
“Well, we best be off. Gotta get this one home, we’ve got an early start tomorrow. I guess I’ll see you guys in a couple of days”
“Why? You off on leave?” Terese asked
“Nope. I just thought you two would have enough to catch up on without setting foot in the hotel. But don’t worry, me and my super spider senses will keep the place ticking over till then.” he said with a cheeky smile as he turned on his heel and headed out the door hand in hand with Llew.
As they both watched him leave Terese leant forward and picked up the phone.
“Two weeks of hell, all in one, two second, confession”
“I know it doesn’t seem much darling, but this will help the both of us.”
Terese looked at Paul. Her eyes were sad. Lost between the happiness of freedom and the angriness of the situation. She turned to look at the rush that surrounded them in the ED. The confession on the phone was everything they wanted, but how could something so small justify the time he stole from her, from them? She felt Paul’s hand hold hers just a little tighter. As she turned around a tear rolled down her cheeky. He moved his thumb up and down her hand and with a sad smile said the five words she'd been longing to hear.
“Let me take you home”
“Here we are, home sweet home” Paul said as he guided Terese through the door. “Now you sit down, relax and I’ll go put the kettle on”
Terese made her way towards the couch. Took her shoes off and placed them on the floor. She sat down and turned toward the kitchen. She watched Paul as he made his way around the kitchen. She missed this. Just watching him.
He lifted his head and caught her gaze.
“What?” he questioned as he saw her smile.
“Nothing. There’s nothing, and that ok” she said
He put the kettle on and walked towards the couch. He sat down next to her and took her hands.
“Terese, I am so sorry that you had to go through these past two weeks alone.”
“No, let me finish. I hated that we parted on a sour note that night but to think that could’ve been our final moment together scared me. But I hope you know that I would never give up on you. No matter how long it would’ve taken, I would’ve always found you”
“When did you figure out something was wrong?”
“I called Lucy.”
“I bet she wasn’t happy that I didn’t turn up?”
“You've been kidnapped and held in a hotel room for two weeks and all you can worry about is Lucy and work”
Paul shook his head
“I knew where I was, knew where you would be. I had company and three meals a day.”
“You didn’t have any of that. No clue where I was, no company. You hardly ate or slept and chose to fight this alone rather than lean on our friends.”
“Why worry them, I was handling it”
“And what if you hadn’t been so lucky today, what if today had been another dead end.”
“I would’ve kept going”
“But for how long? We spent the best part of today at the hospital because of your carelessness”
“I was worried about you. I think missing a few nights sleep and a couple of meals is understandable, don’t you?”
Paul got to his feet. Took a few steps forward and turned around.
“Why is this so important to you anyway? You're home, I’m home, everything else doesn’t matter”
“It all matters, Paul.”
“Because what would’ve been the point otherwise”
Terese got to her feet
“When I left that morning to the conference, I asked him to bring me back home. I was angry with you, but it was only here I wanted to be. For two weeks I sat there waiting for you. Waiting for you to come through that door.”
“I knew you would be fighting, pulling out all the stops. But I also hoped that you were never alone in doing so. I was lost but not alone. I hoped you would’ve been the same”
“Darling” he said taking a few steps forward and taking her hands.
“Without you, I will always be lost. But I was never alone.”
“Dinner at the Kennedys one night doesn’t count. Why didn’t you tell them what was going on? Tell anyone?”
“Like I said, I was handlining it”
Terese let go of his hands.
“The only thing that kept me going in there was the fact that you were coming. That our conversations would lead you to me. But a couple of days more and that might not have been the case”
“Terese, where’s all this coming from” Paul asked
“I was fighting for you Paul, for us. But what would’ve been the point if you weren’t on the other side waiting for me?”
“I don’t...” he answered
“Your fight lead you down a road that saw you forget about yourself. The one thing I truly needed; was the one thing you forgot. What if everything had taken that little bit longer. How long would you have managed to carry on? What would’ve been the point to all the games if I couldn’t hold you again and tell you I love you?”
“Oh Terese” he said as he stepped forward. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. They stood in silence for a while. “The point to the games was this. You stood your ground so we could have tonight. My fight was long but I would never have given up. Yes, everything caught up with me today but that was because I knew you were safe.” he let go and placed his hand on her cheek. “I will always be here waiting for you, no matter how long. Days, weeks, months even years. This is where I’ll always be”
As tears rolled down her face, he wiped them away with his thumb and smiled.
“Now how about you sit down and let me take care of you.
As she sat down, she looked at him.
“Sit with me?”
“Sure, I’ll just go make the teas first” he said pointing towards the kitchen
“Forget the teas. Just sit with me.”
Paul nodded. He sat down next to her and leaned back. She lifted her legs onto the couch and rested her head on his shoulder. As she placed her hand on his chest, he wrapped his around her shoulder. He took a deep breath and slowly rested his head on hers.
“Thank you for not giving up on me.” Terese whispered
“I’ve always fought for us and I always will. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, we have something special here and no Sammy or Sheila is going to ruin that”
“Sheila?” Terese questioned
“Doesn’t matter” he quickly answered as he turned his head slightly to look at her “The point is, it me and you. It’s always been me and you.”
She looked up and smiled.
“And that will never change” she answered.
As both sat quietly, Paul sighed.
“I’m glad you’re finally home”
“My home is wherever we are. I just wish we could stay in this bubble for just a little while longer. When did you say the kids were coming home?”
“So, the night is ours?” Terese said
“What are you thinking?” Paul asked
“That this is perfect.” She said as she looked at him
He looked at her and smiled.
“Promise you’ll stay with me all night”
“I’ll be here when the stars shine and stay till the sun rises.” Paul answered.
Finally feeling safe for the first night in a long while Terese closed her eyes. Paul leaned forward and kissed her on the head. His arm still wrapped around her he leaned back and rested his head on the couch.
“Welcome home darling.”
I would like to Thank everyone who took the time to read this fic and for all your wonderful comments along the way. I have enjoyed reading each and everyone of them.
Today is a special day for us, as Praise celebrate their second anniversary. Our power couple aren't having the best of times on the show at the moment so I hope this little story and the ending will make up for that.
Thank You :)