Chapters 9 & 10

Chapter 9

David hit the gym again the next day.  Somewhere in the back of his mind he was hoping to bump into Claire again, but she didn’t turn up.  Feeling slightly disappointed, he went to shower, his mind planning the day’s activity as he went about getting dressed.  Max, his agent, had set up a viewing of the apartment and he had to be back after lunch to let them in.

Lounging casually in the café he drank his coffee and read a magazine, killing time before meeting the agent and the potential buyer.

“David?” a familiar voice called out uncertainly.

He lowered the magazine and looked up.  Smiling, he said, “Hi, Lucy.  Long time no see.”   He stood up and kissed the woman on both cheeks.

“Yeah, long time indeed.  Where have you been hiding,” Lucy gracefully lowered herself into the empty chair opposite him.

“Here, there, everywhere,” came the laughing reply.

“So how’s it going?” she asked, her eyes never leaving his.

“Good.  How are you doing?”

“I’m doing fine.  Just finished a series of shows and I’m now on a break.  Are you guys planning a comeback?” she asked casually.  As a big fan of Il Divo, she was concerned that the guys might break up for good ever since she learnt of what had happened to David, her long-time friend and ex-colleague.

“What do you mean a comeback?  We’ve never broken up, just taking breaks to concentrate on our personal lives.  We’re planning an album release soon and maybe a short tour.  But nothing is concrete yet,” David knew he could discuss such details with Lucy Laren, the stunning redhead sitting across from him.  They were both opera singers before he ventured into the unknown word of pop-opera with the other three Divo guys.

“That’s good.  Hey, I’m free this evening.  What to have dinner with me?”

“Sure.”  And so they made plans to meet up later for dinner.

Funny how it seemed that time passed by so quickly when you have a plan, David thought.  The viewing of his apartment went smoothly, though the couple viewing it needed time to consider as they had viewed a few other apartments prior to his.  When the agent and the couple had left, David logged on to his email to check for news from his circle of family and friends before he got ready for dinner.  One particular email caught his eye.  It was from Carlos.

“Hi guys!  Just to let you know I’m now back in the apartment with Joanne.  We’re going to my parents’ and I should be able to get back to work in about a week or so.”

David grinned; so Mama had worked her magic and now her son was back home.  But did that mean Carlos and Joanne had resolved their problems?  He decided to wait and see.

————————————————————————————————-

David arrived at the restaurant ten minutes early.  He sat at the bar and had a drink while waiting for Lucy to appear.  A few patrons recognized him and came up to shake his hand and had a short chat with him.  It didn’t bother him as they were respectful and it helped pass the time.

As he took another sip of his drink he saw her gliding towards where he was sitting, looking stunning in a red figure-hugging dress; simple yet elegant.  They greeted each other with a peck on the cheek and followed the waiter to their table.   They promptly placed their orders and settled into a conversation, as if they had been meeting each other all the time.

“I can’t believe it had been almost three years since we last met.  You’re really busy with Il Divo aren’t you?”

“Not really.  The past year I spent doing nothing in particular, after the death of my wife, Sandra.” David amazed himself by being so frank with her and speaking of Sandra so easily, and he was getting used to calling her his wife.

“I’m sorry, David.  It must have been a tough time for you,” she said in a quiet and sincere tone.

“It was tough but I’m doing ok now with the help and support of family and friends, especially the other Divos and their families,” he smiled.

Food was served and the conversation switched to what Lucy had been doing since David left the opera scene.  She had married and divorced after two years into her marriage.  She had been single since then and was concentrating on her career.  They had a good laugh talking about their years working together for the same opera production company.

“Did you know you had the honour of being named the Resident Stud by the girls?”

David almost choked on his steak.  When he felt safe enough to comment, he said incredulously, “Resident Stud?  You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Nope.  You have the overall package: good-looks, great body, beautiful voice and an easy smile that lights up even the darkest room.  Oh, and a wicked sense of humour to boot, too!  The other guys just couldn’t compare with you.  We were all dreaming of what it would be like to date you.  So imagine the number of hearts you broke when you fell in love with Sandra.  Mine included,” she admitted with a bittersweet smile.

David didn’t know how to respond to that admission and decided to just laugh it off, saying, “Ah, but you were the Belle of the company.”

“What’s the point when the Stud didn’t even pay the Belle much attention?” she said ruefully.

He could feel the atmosphere thickened and the conversation was straying into an uncomfortable topic, one which he wasn’t sure he wanted to indulge in.  All he had wanted was a quiet dinner and chat with an old friend.  He wasn’t prepared to let it lead to anything more than that.  He was quiet for a moment as he sorted his feelings out.

“Hey, am I making you uncomfortable?  If so, I’m sorry, but I’m only trying to be frank.  I guess all those years of waiting for you to notice me have gotten into my head but that’s really how I feel about you.”  She reached out to touch his hand.

“I’m sorry, Lucy.  I have no idea you feel that way about me, but I’m not ready to jump into another relationship just yet.  I hope you understand.”  Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew it wasn’t entirely true; he was just waiting for the right person to appear.

“But you need to move on, David.  And I can help.  We’ll never know if we don’t give it a try.  We could take it slowly; give each other time to get to know each other better.  I promise you I won’t hold you back in any way at all,’ she pleaded with him.

He considered her proposal for a moment and very resolutely but gently replied, “I can’t, Lucy.  I’ve always treated you as a very good friend and I don’t think that will ever change.  I enjoyed what we have, but to take it a step further is not something I’d want for us.  I’m sorry, but could we remain as just friends?”

He could see her eyes glistening with unshed tears and felt gutted to have broken her heart again after all those years, but he was not one to go into a relationship knowing that it wouldn’t work out.  She just wasn’t what his heart was searching for.  The rest of the evening went by in awkward silence.  He tried to revive their earlier innocent chat but couldn’t draw her into a hearty conversation.

But before they said their goodbyes at the entrance of the restaurant, she turned to him and smiled, “Thank you for being so open and frank with me, David.  You could have taken advantage of my proposal knowing that it wouldn’t work out, but you didn’t.  I have to be grateful for that for it meant I wouldn’t have to suffer another heartbreak.”

“You mean your heart isn’t already broken right now?” David feigned hurt, then grin his goofy grin.  She laughed and shook her head.

“That’s what I love about you, David; that irresistible smile and the funny side of you.”

“That’s all?  I’m really hurt” he jested and they shared a hearty laugh.  The valet came by with her car and she kissed him full on the lips before saying goodbye.  David watched as she got into the car and drove off, his finger touching his lips.  If only she were her, he thought.

————————————————————————————————–

Carlos and Joanne arrived at his parents’ house as promised.  They walked through the door holding hands, their baggage in Carlos’ free hand.  Mama observed her son and daughter-in-law for a moment and wasn’t totally convinced all was well.

“Papa, I hope you are feeling better,” Carlos hugged and kissed his father’s cheek reverently before doing the same to his mother.

“No worries, son.  Doctor said I’m fine, strong enough to live to see my grandchild being born,” Papa Marin said as he embraced his daughter-in-law and winked at her.  Mama Marin had apparently briefed him about their son’s marriage woe.

“Yes, talking about grandchild, is there any news yet?” Mama wanted to know.

“Not yet, Mama,” Joanne replied shyly.

“But you’ve been married for two years now,” Mama protested.

“Mama, you can’t just order a baby like you order a drink.  Anyway, it’s work in progress,” Carlos replied as he looked at his wife.  She blushed.

Mama and Papa laughed and told them to settle down for dinner.   As Joanne went to the kitchen to help bring out the food, Mama touched her arm and asked, “So, everything’s fine, yes?”

“I don’t really know, Mama,” Joanne replied looking confused.

“What is that supposed to mean?  Have you not fulfilled your duty as a wife when he came back?” Mama asked as tactfully as she could.

Blushing profusely, Joanne nodded before saying, “But he isn’t talking very much.  I think he is still angry with me.”

“That’s natural.  He thought you cheated on him so he’s angry, understandable.  You need to convince him it was all a mistake,” Mama advised.

“But Mama, he started it all first.  He and Anna were in a hotel room together…”

“Ah, but do you think he slept with her?”

“No, but he shouldn’t have gone to her hotel room in the first place,” Joanne said defensively, her fiery trait coming to the fore.

“You let a man into the apartment, Joanne, when your husband wasn’t around.  And he was not wearing a shirt.  Whose story is more credible?  Remember, he saw you with another man but you didn’t see him with another woman, you just heard about it.”

“But he admitted it,” Joanne thought that she had left all that behind when she was ready to have him back, but clearly she was not ready to forget how he got them into this predicament.

“Did he admit to sleeping with her?”  When she shook her head, Mama continued, “There you have it.  He told you he didn’t sleep with her, still you’re angry with him.  So how do you think he could just believe you when he really did catch you with a man?”

Joanne remained quiet for a moment before finally sighing, “You’re right, Mama.  He has the right to be angry with me as much as I have the right to be angry with him.  Now he doesn’t trust me anymore, what should I do?”

“I’m sure he will trust you again if you show him how much you really love him.”

Joanne nodded miserably.

“What do you plan to do about your marriage now?”

“I’m going to spend more time with him, if he allows me to.  I’ve quit my job so I can travel with him when Il Divo tours again.”

“Ah, that’s a good idea.  He’s happy about that, no?”

“I haven’t told him yet.  I don’t know how to bring it up,” Joanne replied helplessly.

“Don’t worry, leave it to Mama,” and Mama hugged her comfortingly.

At the dining table, Mama asked, “So, what’s the plan for both of you?”

Carlos looked at Joanne who busied herself with the food on the table and replied, “Il Divo is going to record a new album and do another tour, a small one.”

“What about you, Joanne?” Mama probed.

Stealing a look at her husband, Joanne started to reply, only to be cut off by Carlos, “She’ll be busy shooting a documentary all over Asia.”

“No, I would  like to travel with you if you don’t mind,” Joanne said meekly.  Carlos stared at her, his fork half way to his mouth.

“You mean you’re not doing the documentary, Joanne?” Papa asked, and she nodded.

“What happened?  Did he do something to you that made you decide to leave the job?” Carlos lowered the fork and waited, looking like he was ready to stab someone with it.

“No, it isn’t like this.  I just decided that we should spend more time together, and since Mama and Papa wanted grandchildren…”

“So, because my parents want to have grandchildren you’re willing to give up the job, but when I asked to have children of our own, you’re too busy?” Carlos couldn’t believe what he had just heard.

“No, Carlos, it’s not like this.  I mean…”

“Then what do you mean, woman?” he was losing it but he just couldn’t help it.  All the months of worrying about their marriage had cumulated to this feeling of not knowing what to expect of it anymore and he could feel the frustration welling up inside him.

“Hush, Carlos, let your wife speak,” Papa admonished.  Carlos looked at his father, then his mother, his eyes shining with unspoken anger.

Turning to her husband, Joanne tried her best to remain calm, “Carlos, can we talk about this in private?”

Carlos looked like he was going to give a sharp retort but Mama beat him to it, “Yes, go speak in private about your plans.  I don’t know what you two are doing, not knowing each other’s life at all.  Don’t you two ever talk to each other?”

Dinner continued with the younger couple not looking at each other and the older one trying their best to steer clear of sensitive issues.

———————————————————————————————–

As soon as dinner was over, Mama asked Carlos to help her move a trunk in her room to another room.  “Your Papa is too old to do this kind of work now,” she told him.  Carlos readily agreed to help and volunteered to do more if she had other tasks that she needed help with.

When they got into his parents’ room, Mama closed the door.  Carlos turned to her questioningly and she begun by saying, “What’s happening between you two, Carlos?”

“What do you mean, Mama?”

“Don’t think I don’t know anything.  You’re my son.  When you did not call for weeks I know something must have happened.  Are you going to tell me or do you want me to tell Papa I suspect something is wrong with his son and daughter-in-law?”

“Mama, please don’t get Papa worried.  There really is nothing wrong with us.  We just had a little tiff, that’s all.”

“A little tiff?” Mama sounded doubtful, her hands going to her hips in automatic response.

Knowing that there was no running away from Mama, Carlos sat down on the bed and sighed, “We were separated for two months.”

“Tell me about it,” Mama said in her no-nonsense tone, and so Carlos told her why Joanne threw him out of the house and how he came back to find another man in their apartment.

“What were you doing in Anna’s hotel room?”

“Like I said, Mama, she said she would be moving to another country for good, I thought I should just pay her a visit before she left.  I didn’t know she wanted us to get back together again.”

“Did you do anything with her?”  Mama looked at him sternly.

“No.  Well, maybe I did,” his voice turned softer at the last sentence.

“Hmmp!”

“Mama, it was just a kiss.  After a couple of drinks, I got muddle-headed and when she kissed me, I didn’t resist.  But that was all, I swear!” he raised his right hand as he looked at Mama fearfully.

“And do you think your wife is right to be angry with you?”

“Yes.”

“And do you trust her?”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“I…”

“You saw a man in your apartment and you wanted a divorce.”

Surprised that Mama knew about the divorce, he spurted out, “How did you know that?”

“When you didn’t call for so long, I called Joanne and demanded to know what was going on between you two.  She was crying so much, I had no doubt that she really loves you.”

When Carlos remained quiet for a while, Mama continued, sitting down beside him and holding his hands in hers, “Son, it’s not easy to come upon a soul-mate.  Some people searched their whole life and still couldn’t find one.  You’ve found one, are you going to throw it away just because of what your eyes saw, or are you going to trust your heart?”

Carlos turned to look at his mother, words stuck in his throat.  The word ‘soul-mate’ struck a chord deep inside him; Joanne had always been the one for him.  They shared so much in common and that was not limited to just hobbies and passion.

“You need to learn to talk things out, not shout or yell at each other.  And certainly not walk away from each other.  Do you understand what I’m saying, son?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Good.  Now, go and have a nice chat with your wife.  Remember, trust is very important in a relationship.  Love cannot survive without trust.”

“So there is no trunk for me to move?” Carlos smiled.

“What do you think?” Mama winked.  Both mother and son shared a hug before leaving the room.

Downstairs, Papa and Joanne had a somewhat similar conversation but by the time Carlos and Mama came down from the bedroom, they were laughing at some of the jokes that Papa was telling Joanne.  When Mama and Carlos joined them, Joanne looked up to see her husband smiling at her as he sat down, causing her heart to skip a beat.  Did Mama say something to him, she wondered.  After supper, Mama shooed the young couple off to bed.

The moment the door closed, Joanne turned to Carlos and said, “Carlos, I turned down the job because I didn’t want to do it anymore.  I want to concentrate on us.”

“He didn’t do anything to you, did he?  I mean, he didn’t attack you or made a pass at you?” he quickly clarified, sounding more concerned than angry.  The little talk with Mama was clearly taking effect.

“No, but when he told me how he felt about me, I thought it best that we stopped working with each other.”  Taking his hands in hers, she spoke softly but clearly, her eyes never wavered from his, “I want to be with you, Carlos.  Sure, I love my job, but I love you more.  Being apart from you all this time has made me realize how much I love you and appreciate your presence.  You make me feel safe and loved; no other men could ever do that.”

Carlos felt as if she had spoken right into his heart; all the doubts he had about her finally faded in the distance with those words of hers.  “Joanne, do you realize what these words mean to me?  All this time I thought we could just go on and have our own careers and still remain married together, that you don’t mind the distance or the fact that I have many adoring fans, that I’m quite a flirt.  But being unable to see you or talk to you for more than two months almost drove me crazy.  It made me realize that I had taken for granted your love and become complacent.  I forgot that you are a woman who needs to be loved and respected.  I’m so sorry for all the things that had happened.”

Pulling her into his arms, he stroked her hair and kissed her forehead before continuing, “I’m sorry, Joanne.  I should never have doubted your love.  Let’s start all over again, shall we?  I promise you I’ll never flirt with another woman again.  I love you.”

“I love you too, Carlos.  I’m not sure if you can really stop flirting, but just as long as it’s all talk and no action, I don’t mind at all.  And yes, let’s start all over again, and this time, we will learn to talk to each other, not run away or scream at each other.  Deal?” she watched him with big, shiny eyes.

“Deal!”  And it was sealed with a kiss that promised so much more.  That night, they made love with all their heart and soul, tenderly, lovingly and passionately.  The only words spoken were the moans of love and pleasure.

——————————————————————————————-

The next day, Mama and Papa didn’t see them until noon.  Both of them had a big smile on their faces and the older Marins knew everything was going to be alright again.

In the kitchen, mother and daughter-in-law had another heart-to-heart talk.

“Good.  I hope you learn to talk to each other,” Mama gently reproached.

“Yes, Mama.  Thank you so much for helping us,” Joanne hugged the older woman and shed a few tears of gratefulness.

“Stop crying or he will think I bullied you.  Let’s eat.”

Mama Marin was all smiles as she sat at the dining table with her husband, son and daughter-in-law.  All was well again, she could feel it in her old bones.

Chapter 10

I really should stop acting like a love-sick schoolboy, David thought as he pulled himself up from the side of the pool to climb out.  He had one leg up on the concrete floor and the other was on the way up when he felt it being pulled back.  Splash!  He was back in the pool.  He went underwater for a few seconds before getting back up again, gasping for breath as he tried to understand what had just happened.  Then he heard it; the familiar laughter.  His heart skipped a beat as he turned around in the pool and there she was, her long dark hair in a ponytail, her beautifully tanned body bobbing in the water.

Recovering from the initial shock and pleasant surprise, he started to splash water at her with both hands and a water battle soon began.  They splashed water at each other and laughed until she was breathless from the exertion of the battle and having to keep herself afloat in the water.  David had the upper hand as he was so tall that his feet could touch the bottom of the pool.

“Ok, ok, I lost. Stop it!” Claire screamed as David continued splashing water at her.  “I’m about to drown here, can’t you see?” she sputtered and coughed when some of the water got into her lungs.  He immediately stopped and went over to support her and pat her back until she stopped coughing.

Concerned, he asked, “Are you alright, Claire?  I’m so sorry.”

Breathing in heavily she replied that she was fine.  He gently guided her to the side of the pool and helped her out.

“If you had drowned in there it would’ve been big news: Woman drowned in kiddy pool,” he joked.

She stared at him incredulously, “That’s hardly a kiddy pool, you oaf!” and she smacked his arm.

He laughed then looked around and asked, “Where’s Amelia?”

“She’s with my parents.  They’re taking her to the zoo today.”

“And why are you here?” he raised an eyebrow.

To see you, Claire thought.  “I just came from the hearing.  Everything’s sorted.  I’m officially a divorcee and Amelia is officially under my sole custody.  Her father wants nothing to do with her as he starts his new life as a single man.  I’m changing her name to mine.”

“So, should I say I’m sorry?” he smiled.

“Just say well done, like my parents did,” she smiled back.

“Well done, then.  Though it’s the first time I’ve ever congratulated someone for getting divorced,” he said skeptically.

“You don’t know what I’ve been through, married to a man who couldn’t remain committed to a relationship.  At first I thought he would change when the baby came along, but it only drove him further away from me.  I gave up when I caught him messing with my best friend; Amelia was barely a year old then.”

“I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.  I guess you’re doing this as much for yourself as for your daughter.”  Then changing the tone of their conversation, he asked, “So, what would Miss Giggler be doing later today?”

“Well, she’s waiting to see if Mr Sunshine would take her out for dinner,” she gave him a devilish grin that made him laugh.

“Alright, dinner at seven-thirty.  Shall I pick you up?”

She looked at him for a moment and smiled appreciatively, “Thank you, David, but maybe not tonight.  My parents are flying back to New York and I have to look after Amelia.”

“Well, bring her along then.  She needs to eat too.”

Claire was impressed that he didn’t hesitate at all but she had to be sure, “She could be a handful.”

“I’ve single-handedly brought three young kids to the supermarket for grocery shopping and back and survived to tell about it.”

Her eyes big with surprise, she exclaimed, “I didn’t know you have three kids!”

His eyebrows rose as he asked, “Is that so surprising?”

“Umm, no, not at all.  It’s just that you never mentioned anything about having kids and then all of a sudden I learn that you have three,” she replied, still somewhat bewildered.  “Are you bringing them along, or are they here with you at all?”

Looking very serious, David replied, “No, they’re in the UK.”  Then suddenly his face lit up with a devilish grin of his own, “With their parents.”

The last sentence almost didn’t register in Claire’s mind as she was still having a hard time imagining him with three little kids, but when it did, she pummeled his chest and shrieked, “David Miller!  How dare you lead me on like this?”

He covered his chest with both hands to ward off the blows as he laughed, “Stop!  Ok, I’m sorry!”

She stopped and stared at him, hands on hips, “So you don’t have any kids?”

“No.  I helped my best friend to babysit his kids for a few days when his wife went away for a holiday.  So you see, I have experience with kids.  Amelia should be no problem at all,” he said confidently.

—————————————————————————————————-

True enough, dinner progressed without a hitch.  Amelia was easy to handle, just like the Buhler kids.  Claire was amazed at how easily David connected with her daughter and told him so.  She also told him how her ex-husband hardly ever spent time with their daughter.

“He doesn’t know what he’s missing out on.  Kids are the best thing to happen in a couple’s life.”

At that moment, Claire could hear her mother’s words in her head, “He’s such a fine young man.”  Indeed, he was.  As the evening wore on, the adults divided their attention among themselves and the little girl.  Soon, Amelia began to feel sleepy.

“Looks like it’s time for bed for little Amie,” David smiled indulgently at the little girl who was about to doze off in her high chair.  He called for the bill, paid for it, and carried Amelia off the chair as they headed out the restaurant in easy silence.

They were waiting for the valet to bring David’s car around when two women walking by recognized the tall Divo.  They stopped to chat with him.  They asked who the little girl was and gesturing to Claire, he told them she was her daughter.  They smiled at Claire before saying goodbye to the couple.

“Are they your friends?” Claire enquired.

David smiled and replied, “Not really.  I just met them.”

“But you chatted like old friends,” Claire was puzzled.  David smiled but didn’t reply as his car had appeared.  There wasn’t much conversation on the ride back; both of them lost in their own thoughts as Amelia slept through the journey on her mother’s lap.

Back in the apartment that now belonged to Claire as part of the divorce settlement, David helped carried the little girl to her bed.  He gently put the girl down on her bed and waited in the living room while Claire got the girl into her pyjamas and tucked her in.  He walked to the balcony and looked out, breathing in the cool evening air as he tried to sort through his feelings.  It all seemed so right and natural with Claire and Amelia, but was he ready to take the next step?  Time to move on, Urs had said.  But what about Claire?  Is she ready to move on?  He turned around when he felt her hand on his arm.

“A penny for your thoughts.”

He smiled at those words, “Angel once said that to me.”

“Is she your wife?”

“No, she’s a precocious four-year-old.  One of the three kids I mentioned earlier on.”

Claire liked how easily he talked about children, just as she liked everything that she saw in him so far.  With her hands grabbing each side of his shirt collar, she pulled his head down and kissed his lips.  It was a fleeting kiss, yet it reached deep into his soul, stirring a feeling that he thought he would never be able to feel again.  She pulled back to look into his eyes as her heart pounded in her ears, waiting for some reaction from him.

He responded by slipping his hands around her waist and hugging her closer.  The kiss was tender and undemanding.  She responded without hesitation, her sweet scent assaulted his senses and caused him to tighten his arms around her.  She moaned and slipped her hands behind his neck, running her fingers through his hair as she sought to be even closer to him.  They ended the kiss reluctantly, both still acutely aware of their own unique situations and silently agreed to keep things simple.  Yet they were amazed at how right it felt to be holding each other.

Finally, with a sense of regret, David loosened his hold on her, “I guess I better get going or we might freeze to death out here.”

Losing his embrace suddenly made Claire feel the chill of the evening air.  She smiled.  “Yes, either that or we end up doing something stupid.”

“Stupid?  Like what?”  He searched her eyes for the truth.

“Like waking up in each other’s arms.”

“Why is that stupid?”

“Because it’s too soon.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.”

“You’re right.  Neither am I.”

Claire wasn’t sure what to make of that admission and looked up at David, confused.

“No, don’t get me wrong, Claire.  I love being with you and Amelia, but like you, I’ve just gone through a terrible period in my life and I’m just slowly picking myself up again.  If it’s alright with you, I’d like us to get to know each other better before we decide to take it to the next level,” David searched her eyes for approval.

She nodded understandingly and smiled, “That’s exactly what I would like for us, David.  Thank you for being such a gentleman.”  Then a thought came to her mind and she said it out, “Come to think of it, we don’t even know what each of us does for a living.”

David grinned, “You’ll be surprised.”

“How so?”

“I’m sure if you hang out with me long enough, you’ll find out,” he gave her a cheeky grin.  “Dare I ask what you do for a living?”

“I’m not giving you the satisfaction of knowing what I did before I find out more about you,” she said smugly.

“My guess is you’ve been busy raising your daughter for the past two years plus,” he grinned at her.

“Ok, Mr Smarty Pants!  I bet you wouldn’t be able to guess what I did before that,” Claire challenged.

“No, but I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.”  He bent his head and kissed her once more, this time with more passion than before.  When he finally pulled away, she swayed slightly from the headiness of his kiss.  He held her for a while longer before leading her away from the balcony and towards the door.  He had the urge to run out of the apartment before he change his mind

“Goodnight, Claire,” he whispered against her lips.

She stole another kiss before whispering, “Goodnight, sunshine.”

————————————————————————————————-

“So everything’s ok, my friend?” Sebastien asked over the phone.

“Yes.  We’re now at my parents’ house.  I’ll be back in London in a few days and we can start working on the album and tour.”

“Urs should be back from his holiday in Switzerland by this weekend, but David isn’t back yet.  According to Urs, he’s waiting to sell off his apartment and there had been a few viewings but still no offer yet.”

“The three of us can start work first while he sorts out his stuff there,” Carlos said resolutely.   Now that his personal life had been sorted out, he couldn’t wait to get back to performing again.  He was also getting restless as the days went by at his parents’ home.  He wanted to get back to his own apartment so he and Joanne could begin a new phase of life together.  Ever since they’d apologized to each other and made up, everything had been going smoothly between them.

They became a real couple, more so than before their brief separation, talking and laughing with each other so often that they were like a couple still at the courting phase.  Mama and Papa could sense the change and were happy for them; Mama was especially proud of herself for helping to prevent a potential breakup.

Joanne was packing their belongings for the trip home when her phone rang.  Looking at the caller name displayed on the screen, she frowned.

“What is it, Felix?”

“What ever happened to ‘Hello, Felix’?  Never mind, I just called to let you know that the boss isn’t happy with your decision to quit.  In fact, he’s furious about it and swore to sue you for breach of contract.”

“Really?  And now much do you think that would be?” Joanne asked icily.  Carlos had told her about the phone conversation he had with Felix that night when he called and she wasn’t around to answer the phone.  She was furious that Felix had not informed her of the call.  The smug look on his face when she returned to the table that evening came to mind now and it became clear that he had purposely given Carlos the impression that they were both into something together.  It incensed her even more and she gritted her teeth in anger.

“Enough to render you a bankrupt,” he replied in a tone that suggested to Joanne he enjoyed bringing her the news.  It infuriated her and she wished she could swipe that smugness off his face.

“Thank you for telling me about this.  I’m sure my husband will find a way to solve the mess I’m in,” she replied with a little sweetness laced with poison.  Carlos would not let him off lightly and she almost smiled with satisfaction at the thought despite the predicament she was in.

There was a brief pause at the other end of the line before he came back with a proposal to her, “I can help you, Joanne.  Just tell me you need my help; I’ll do anything for you.”

“Thanks, Felix, but I need to solve this myself.”

“Joanne, please, can I see you again?”

“No.”

“We could have been so good together.  The way we worked together, you should know we’re compatible.”

“Are you talking about computer components, Felix?  Compatible?  Just because we work well together doesn’t mean we’re compatible.  I don’t have any sort of feelings for you, apart from those you have for a colleague.  I have to go now.  Carlos is waiting.  Goodbye.”

The moment the call ended, Carlos came through the door, “Are we ready to go?”  Seeing the frown on her face, he walked toward her and asked, “What’s wrong?  Something’s bothering you?”

Joanne hesitated a moment before deciding to tell him the truth.  When she was done telling him her conversation with Felix, he was furious.

“The next time he calls, let me answer the phone.  I won’t have him near you or talking to you, that bastard!”

“I’m sorry, Carlos.  It might be a massive amount, but I’m sure I can handle it.”

Taking her face in his hands, he said, “Don’t worry about the contact.  I’ll sort it out for you.”

“How?”

“I have a friend in the field who might be able to help,” he said confidently.  She leaned forward and kissed him tenderly, intending it as a thank-you kiss but it quickly escalated to something more heated and sensual.  However, they still managed to pull away from each other before things got out of hand, but not before Papa called out to them from downstairs.

“Don’t take too long to come back again, son.  And don’t forget to call,” Mama instructed as they stood outside the house saying farewell.  Kisses and hugs were exchanged before they hopped into their car and headed home.

———————————————————————————————–

The next day at midday, Carlos left Joanne at their apartment while he went to look for his old friend at a tv station.

“So you want me to speak with the owner of the production company to allow her to go free?” asked Carmen, his friend and a high-ranking executive of a local television station.

“Yes.  She can’t work with him knowing that he has ulterior motives.  Please Carmen, she loves the job but she’s ready to give it up for the sake of our marriage.  I know you’re on good terms with Senor Miguel Santos,” Carlos gave his most charming smile but his eyes were determined and unwavering.

Carmen thought for a moment before speaking, “What do I get in return?”

“You name your price and I’ll see if it’s do-able.”

“I want Il Divo to guest star in an upcoming soap opera, as a favor from you.  I have in mind a couple of scenes where Il Divo could come into the picture and do a song, maybe act a little as well.  What say you?” Carmen asked excitedly, her eyes dancing with delight at the idea.

“Il Divo is not just Carlos Marin, my dear Carmen, but I’ll have a talk with my band mates and get back to you,” he smiled and wriggled his eyebrows at her which made her laugh.

“You never change, do you Carlito?  You’re always so charming and flirty.  I would be very afraid if I were Joanne.”

At that comment, Carlos immediately regretted flirting with his friend.  He had promised Joanne to never flirt so freely again, at least, not outside of performance.

“So you will help, yes?”

“Of course!   Miguel is easy to talk to,” she said with a little laugh.  “But seriously, it’s such a pity she’s giving up when she had done such a good job with the previous shows.  Maybe if Miguel could replace that guy Felix, she could continue to host the show?”

“Replace a producer?  That hardly seems possible.  Anyway, she has decided to come tour with me when Il Divo starts touring again, and we can also work on giving my parents little grandchildren to play with,” he raised his right eyebrow suggestively, causing Carmen to break into another fit of laughter.

“Yes, Carlos.  I can see where you’re heading.  But don’t keep me waiting too long for answers from your band mates.  I have other businesses to discuss with Miguel and will be meeting him in a couple of days.”

With that, Carlos left the building and called his buddies.

“What kind of question is that, Carlos?  Of course I’d love to do the shows and I’m sure the others would love the idea too,” Urs was the first one to get the news.  “I’m really glad everything’s turn out so well for you and Joanne.  So, how many carats did you get her?”

Carlos chuckled, “None.  With the table turned on her, I think she might have even considered getting something special for me.”

They laughed at the joke before Urs cautioned, “Don’t be too sure, Carlos.  And don’t let her hear you say that!  Remember, you were the one who started this whole problem of yours.”  Carlos solemnly agreed with him.

Just like Urs said, the other Divos, Sebastien and David, were thrilled to be getting a chance to do a tv show.  They all agreed with David when he said it would be free publicity for the group, not just for the new album but for Il Divo as a whole since they did not get very much airplay, especially since the programmes dished out by that particular TV station were very well received by the Spanish-speaking community around the world.  Being in front of the camera for such a big audience would only raise their profile and spread the name far and wide.

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2 thoughts on “Chapters 9 & 10”

  1. Two postings to comment on, don’t know how I missed 7 & 8….
    Delighted that David and Claire found each other again at the gym, and that Amelia took to him so easily. But how could he have forgotten to ask for her phone number…tsk tsk. Lucy came on just a bit too strong, and David realized there would never be a connection between them. Glad he went to the gym again and that Claire was there. Now they can start to build a relationship, they both deserve love and happiness.
    As for Carlos and Joanne…..way to go Mama Marin! Love the way you handled the whole situation, and got them back together. Cudos to Joanne for quitting her job, and telling off the cat. Now get busy and get to work on the grandchildren. 😀

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