The grand opening celebration of Noah’s dealership was only a few weeks away. Both Darion and Noah had completed Harley’s training program and were looking forward to the opening. Noah’s motorcycle had just been towed to the shop at the dealership, and Darion was planning to repair it and restore it as a surprise for Noah. He knew how important Noah’s chopper was to him, and it would be the first vehicle repaired there.
Darion frowned as he examined the brake lines. It appeared to him that they had been cut. They weren’t frayed. It was a clean slice. Someone had intentionally caused Noah’s accident. He called the police. An investigator came out and looked at the brake lines. He agreed with Darion’s assessment.
The detectives who investigated Noah’s disappearance re-examined the video footage at the technical school from the day Noah had disappeared. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary and no one could be seen tampering with his cycle. Noah and Sharlee had been asked if they knew of anyone who would want to hurt Noah, and they didn’t have any idea who could have done it. There was not enough evidence pointing to any suspect. So there was nothing further that the police department could do in investigating the case. However, they cautioned him to be very careful.
Noah hadn’t said it, but it did cross his mind that Kristian may have had something to do with it. He didn’t tell the police because he had no proof and really didn’t think that Kristian would go that far to get rid of him. So Noah became even more vigilant about checking out his and Sharlee’s vehicles.
He heard the disappointment in her voice. She looked at him and saw his disappointment too.
Sharlee had an irritated expression on her face knowing that he was thinking of what his doctor had said to her when she’d gone with him to his last physical. Noah had finished all of his physical therapy for his wrist and his ankle, and the doctor was giving him a final checkup. He was healed and strong again. They had mentioned to him on a previous visit about wanting to get pregnant.
The doctor had told Sharlee that she could quit worrying about Noah now and get busy on making those babies. He’d said that Sharlee had wide hips and in the caveman days that would have made her highly sought after for mating. Women with wide hips were seen as very fertile and made the best child-bearers. Noah had burst out laughing, and Sharlee had gone red with embarrassment. Noah’s doctor had been a friend of Dale’s, and he had known Sharlee ever since she was a teenager. So he treated them like family and spoke freely.
“You want to quit trying?”
“Yes. I mean I want to just go back to making love because we love each other without doing it just to get pregnant. I don’t want to keep taking pregnancy tests and keeping track of when I’m ovulating. I want making love to just be fun again!”
“You know what I mean!”
“Yeah, I do.”
As soon as they had felt that Sky was old enough, Noah and Sharlee had started teaching Sky how to swim. They had a pool, and most of their family and friends in Santa Fe had a pool too. So they wanted to make sure that if Sky fell into or jumped into a pool, she wouldn’t drown. Now she loved swimming, and they had made sure that she understood that she was never to get into a pool without supervision or permission.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m making it. I…, I’m pregnant.”
“You and my Mother are the only ones I’ve told. I found out after we left Santa Fe.”
“Are you happy about it? I mean I thought that you and Darion didn’t want any more children.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Before you fall in love with a guy, before you have children, you think you know what you’ll do in a circumstance like this. If he cheats, that’s it. You’ll throw him out and move on. What you don’t consider is that despite the anger and the pain from his betrayal, his utter disrespect, his selfishness, you still love him.
“You don’t think about the fear and sadness in the eyes of your children because their family is falling apart. That their security and happiness has been shaken. No matter how hard you try to keep them out of it, they blame themselves. I think that hurts even more than what Darion did to me. It’s the damage he’s caused to our children to our family that makes me hate him for that.”
Sharlee looked at Rene with empathy in her eyes, but she didn’t say anything.
Tears came into her eyes, and she wiped them away.
“I thought that I had finally cried as much as I possibly could over this, but then more tears come. My mother had a talk with me before I came back here. She said that I was the only one who could make this decision and that getting back together with Darion just for the children’s sake would be a mistake. I wouldn’t be happy. I’d make him miserable and if we are unhappy, then it would effect the children too.
“She said to only let Darion return if I could truly forgive him. She said of course that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever think about it or that the pain will miraculously disappear. She said that it would take time for me to trust him again. He’d have to work hard to restore my trust. But truly forgiving him means that I won’t continuously bring it up every time we have a problem in our marriage. That I won’t allow his mistake to wear me down or prevent me from rebuilding my relationship with him.”
“Yes, she does. I asked her how she knew all of that and she said…,” Rene paused. “She said it was from personal experience. She cheated on my father when I was a little girl. She said it was the most horrible mistake that she had ever made. It crushed her to see the pain that her selfishness caused my father. She said that my brother and sister and I were confused and sad during the separation.
“Their separation didn’t last long. They went through marriage counseling, and my father forgave her. He was completely open with her about all of his feelings during their counseling and when they were alone together. She was honest and transparent with him about her feelings and activities. She believes that open, honest communication saved their relationship. She said she worked hard to regain his trust. It took an even longer time before she forgave herself. I do remember when they were separated, but I hadn’t known the reason for it. It was so long ago that I had forgotten about it. So, I know that if I do decide to work on my marriage, it isn’t too late to heal the damage to the children. A divorce would hurt them, but they are young enough to recover even after that. However, this limbo that we’re in now isn’t good for them or for me. Still, I don’t know what I’m going to do, Sharlee.”
Sharlee hugged her. “Why don’t you speak with a counselor alone first. Someone who can help you dig into your true feelings and come to a decision that’s right for you. I’ll give you the number for the therapist that I’ve used. She’s wonderful.”
Rene agreed and hoped she’d start to feel less lost. She had two children to raise and another on the way. She’d have to make some sound decisions very soon. She would also have to tell Darion about the baby.
After Rene and the children left, Sharlee went outside to join Noah and Skylar. Noah was sitting on a lounge chair holding a drowsy Sky. He held out his hand to Sharlee, and she climbed into the lounger with them.
A couple of days later, Darion had Rene meet him in town. Rene went into the building and Darion met her in the lobby. She hated the way that her heart still beat faster whenever she was near him. She could see the relief in his eyes when he saw her.
Darion explained. “This is the office of one of the state’s best private polygraphers. He used to work for the FBI, and he’s certified with the latest polygraphy procedures. He’s going to administer a test to me today answering any questions that you have for me. I want you to trust me again, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes, Rene. This is the beginning.”
Darion answered all of Rene’s questions. Twice when he’d said that he had to go out of town for training with Harley, he had lied. He had gone to be with Gina. However, he’d told the truth when he’d said that he hadn’t yet slept with Gina, but he admitted that his relationship with Gina had been headed that way. If Noah hadn’t been there that evening and interrupted, he’d have done it that night.
He was telling the truth about feeling deep shame and disgust with himself because of the pain that he had caused Rene and the damage to his family. He was telling the truth when he said that he was still in love with Rene and wanted to be with her again. He was telling the truth when he said that he was not and never had been in love with Gina. He was telling the truth when he’d said that this was the only time that he had cheated on Rene and that he would never do it again. He was telling the truth when he said that he was committed to her and making their marriage work, and that he alone bore the responsibility for his actions.
Rene told him that she appreciated him taking the test, but she still had a lot of thinking to do. She was going to talk with the therapist that Sharlee had suggested. She didn’t know if she was ready to forgive him. Darion was sad, but he respected her wishes. He still had hope though because she hadn’t said that this was the end for them.
“I will always love your mother, Boy. She’s the mother of my children.”
“No, it’s due to your mothers actions and reactions that we are separated. You’re dipping in an area that you do not belong, Alex. My relationship with your mother is our business, and I’m not discussing it with you.”
Alex had his answer. His father was content with the situation the way it is. Robert saw Valerie when their children and grandchildren came to town and maybe occasionally in between. It was time to make a change and maybe shake his father out of his complacency.
Alex asked his mother to come to Anne Arbor and help him find a house to buy. He wanted her to move in with him. It would make Alissa feel secure in allowing Joy and the other children to visit him regularly, and Valerie would be there at the house if Alex was called away for work during a visit. She agreed happily. She’d made her peace with the fact that Alex was content to remain a bachelor, and moving in with him seemed like a good idea for him and for her. She sold the things that she didn’t want to keep and moved into Alex’s apartment with him.
She was enjoying the search for the new house. She felt needed again, and it made her happy. It wasn’t long before their realtor helped her to find the right house for them. It was a four bedroom with a large yard and a pool.
After the sale went through, she jumped right in with decorating it. She tried to balance Alex’s tastes with her own and found that she had knack for it. She even got advice from Alissa on the bedroom that she was preparing for Joy. Joy gave her input as well. Knowing that her grandmother would be living there, made her look forward to coming for a visit.
Every once in a while, Joy still had nightmares of Roger’s shooting, but Joy’s therapist had said that it was to be expected. On the whole, Joy had handled the experience very well; and she was the same happy little girl that she’d been before her abduction. Children are very resilient, and with all the love surrounding her, Joy was thriving. The family was very proud of the brave way that both Joy and Skylar had handled the situation with Roger.
Valerie made sure that Joy’s bedroom was close to hers just in case Joy awakened from a bad dream while visiting. She was looking forward to all of her grandchildren’s future visits and regaining her close relationship with Alex. She joined some charity organizations and volunteered several days of the week. She loved Robert, but now her life felt satisfying and full again.
“Nobody cooks like you do, Mom!”
They smiled at each other, and Alex knew that she had forgiven him for the pain that he’d caused her.
The next chapter will be a big family vacation. After that, we’ll see what has been happening with Crystal! 🙂