As she stood outside Victor’s office studying him from the doorway, Nikki couldn’t help but notice how withdrawn and depressed he looked, and how right Victoria was. ‘He’s definitely not eating, and who knows how much sleep he’s really getting. Who knows what else he’s hiding from me?’
Feeling her eyes resting on him, Victor slowly turned around and asked, a little more harshly than he’d meant to, “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at home relaxing?”
Nikki couldn’t help but wince both at the scathing, bitter tone of his voice and the extreme effects the situation with his health were having on him. “Nice to see you too. Actually, I’m here to talk, or is that completely out of the question now that you’ve all but decided to turn your back on me, on everything we’ve worked so hard for?” Nikki replied pointedly.
“Frankly, I don’t know what else there is to say. We can’t go back, not now. Too much has happened.”
“That’s it? You’re just going to give up? You’re just going to forget about everything that we’ve worked so hard to accomplish, everything we’ve shared; everything we still share? All of a sudden none of that matters, is that it?” Nikki shot back pointedly, unable to stem the hurt and rage boiling within her, completely drowning out all reason, all other emotion.
“I’m sorry, more than you’ll ever know.”
“That makes two of us.” Nikki’s voice was barely a whisper as she turned on her heels and walked out of his office softly closing the door behind her. As warm, bitter, heartbroken tears washed over her cheeks, Nikki whispered, “Why are you doing this? Why are you doing this to us?”
As she entered the main house, Nikki couldn’t help but let out angry, hurt tears as she considered all her relationship with Victor had become in the past few weeks. Slowly making her way over to the couch, she sat down aimlessly flipping through Victor’s photo album.
“Mom! Mom!” Vicki called as she entered the living room.
“In here,” Nikki answered quietly not even glancing up from the photo album Victor had given her on their wedding day as she flipped through it.
It was clear from the circles and bags under her eyes, the way the light in them seemed to have vanished that she was far more upset by her husband’s lack of communication than she would ever let on.
“Mom?” Vicki whispered as she touched Nikkis shoulder as she approached her.
Turning to face her, Nikki wiped away tears and tried to smile.
“Oh Mom,” Vicki whispered as she wrapped her arms around her and said nothing, letting her cry.
Leading her back to the couch, Vicki considered her words carefully. “Dad doesn’t want to hurt you. I know that’s the last thing he wants!”
“Then why hasn’t he called! I need him here and he’s nowhere to be found! I haven’t heard from him in two weeks! All I got was that damn cryptic message he left on the answering machine! Why isn’t he here?! He wouldn’t even talk to me when I payed him a visit at his office earlier.” Nikki exclaimed as fire blazed in her eyes.
“Dad isn’t having the easiest time with this either. I’m not making excuses for him.” Vicki treaded lightly, not wanting to make things worse for her mother.
“Oh really? You could’ve fooled me!” Nikki shot back angrily.
“Mom, listen to me. Please?” Vicki begged.
“Dad’s miserable. Every time I’ve gone to his office, I’ve caught him looking out his window or sitting at his desk looking at a picture of you.”
“And?” Nikki asked bitterly.
“Mom, he doesn’t want this any more than you do! It’s true, he’s miserable! All he wants is to just come home, but he doesn’t think he can.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Nikki exclaimed, not even a little willing to entertain the idea.
Vicki wisely, remarkably calmly countered, “Is it? Look, I don’t know what happened, I don’t know any details. All I know is this; Dad’s doing the best he can, just like you are. But, more than that, he’s trying to protect you. From what, I don’t know. But, that’s what he’s doing. He’s bound and determined to make sure you don’t get hurt.”
“And what exactly does he think this is doing to me? What does he think he’s doing to me? Does he think this is easy for me? Does he?! All I want, all I’ve ever wanted is a life with him and he’s so stubborn that he’s robbing both of us of that! He’s the only man I’ve ever loved, really loved, the only man who makes me happy, who never made me feel like just another pretty face, like just another dumb blonde. He’s always made me feel like I was somebody, like I mattered. And I thought I did the same for him, I guess I was wrong! I guess I was wrong about that and so many other things! If your father loved me, if he really loved me, he wouldn’t be shutting me out like this! All I want to do is help him! Why can’t he see that? That’s all I want to do!” Nikki exclaimed barely resisting the urge to throw something against the wall. “Why won’t he talk to me, why won’t he let me in? I know I’m not perfect, but damn it, all I want to do is help him! Is that so awful?”Nikki asked; her voice small and desperately seeking assurance.
“No, of course not!” Vicki replied firmly as she wrapped her arms around her mom and held her tight for a moment. Pulling back and drying her tears as her heart broke for her mother, Vicki whispered, “Listen, Dad’s handling this the worst way possible, there’s no doubt about that. It may not seem like it, but I understand what you’re going through. You’re angry, worried and scared. You don’t know what’s going on with Dad and he’s shutting you out so you can’t find out. I know all this is driving you crazy, you wouldn’t be human if it weren’t. I understand it, maybe better than anybody. All I’m saying is don’t give up. Please? Don’t give up on what you and Dad share. That’s the worst mistake you could make right now. You’ve worked so hard to get where you are now. You’ve worked so hard to find your way back to each other, don’t throw that away.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t. No matter how tempted I may be right now, I am not giving up on your father!”
“Thanks,” Vicki replied as she hugged her mom once more.
“For what?” Nikki asked confused but smiling a little for the first time since Victor had moved out.
“For letting me in. I know how hard it is sometimes, how hard I make it.” Without giving her mom a chance to respond, Vicki headed upstairs.
She was half way up the stairs when she walked back down and into the living room.
Thankful to find her exactly where she’d left her, sitting on the couch looking at the photo album, only this time a little happier, a little more relieved, Vicki said, “Mom?”
Nikki looked up from the album questioningly.
“Dad’s lucky to have you, and deep down, he knows it, even though he doesn’t always show it.” With that, she disappeared upstairs to her room.
Instead of lying down on her bed or reading a book, she sat at her desk and began to write. “Dad’s just being stubborn. He may not want to talk to me, but that’s too bad. He’ll listen, I’ll make him listen!”
When she was finished, Vicki read over what she had written and happily put it neatly in the envelope.
Just as she was about to leave to mail it, Abby walked in. “What’s up, Vicki?” she asked spotting the letter she’d written Victor.
“I’m just going to mail this letter to Dad,” Vicki replied, never considering her sister would want to get involved.
“Wait a minute; I want to write one too.”
“Okay,” Vicki replied, surprised by her little sister=s eagerness to get involved in what she had considered largely an adult issue.
Satisfied, Abby climbed up on the chair and began to write. Less than five minutes later, she was done.
“That was quick.”
“Yeah,” Abby agreed handing her the letter.
“Mind if I read it?” Vicki asked carefully.
When she shook her head, Vicki read what her little sister had written. The writing was a little messy and not quite straight, but the message couldn’t have been clearer.
“Where are you going?” Nikki asked as she saw Victoria put on her coat and gloves.
“Don’t worry, Mom, I’ll take care of everything,” Vicki replied confidently, cryptically as she left to drop off the letters at Victor’s apartment.
The next day, after a long day of work, Victor was going through the mail and was surprised to find a letter from Victoria and one more from Abby.
Although the penmanship wasn’t the best, there was no mistaking the message. Daddy, I miss you. Come home. Abby
‘Short, sweet and to the point,’ Victor thought to himself with a smile as he turned his attention to Vicki’s letter.
I don’t understand why you moved out or what;s going on. All I know is this has to stop. This whole thing is ridiculous! You need Mom and she needs you, so why aren’t you here? What is so important, so overwhelming that you can’t just pick up the phone and call Mom? She’s miserable and I can tell you are too. So, I don’t get why you are being so stubborn! You and Mom have worked so hard to be together and now you’re both miserable. Why are you doing this? Why are you doing it, Dad?
I’m not trying to hurt you, I just don’t understand this. I know how much you love Mom, so I don’t understand why you’re doing this. Why are you shutting us out like this? Why are you shutting Mom out when all she wants is to help you? I know you don’t want to hurt her, that’s the last thing you want. So, why are you doing this? It’s only hurting you and Mom..Is all this secrecy and everything else really worth it? Is it, Dad? Is all this really worth what you’re going through? Would it be so wrong, would it hurt so much if you just let Mom in, let her help you?
Just think about it, please? I’ll come by for a visit in the next couple of days.
His eyes filling with tears and his heart breaking, Victor put the letter down on the table and let the tears fall silently down his cheeks.
He was startled by a knock at the door. “Who could that be?” he wondered aloud as he walked to the door drying his tears. ”
“Hi, are we alone?” Vicki asked as she walked in.
“Yeah, why?” Victor replied as he closed the door behind him and followed her into the penthouse.
“I don’t want any interruptions.”
“What’s this about?” Victor asked confused as he sat beside her on the couch.
“Dad, come on, you really don’t know why I’m here?” Vicki asked disbelievingly.
“I’m assuming this has to do with your mother and me.”
“Absolutely! Dad, why are you doing this? Why are you being so stubborn? Mom loves you! She loves you more than anything in the world! So, why are you doing this? Why are you shutting her out like this?”
“Victoria, this is complicated, alright.”
“So is everything else in this family!”
“Victoria, if I went back to the ranch, if I went back home now, I’d only end up hurting your mother, and I can’t do that! I’ve hurt her enough. It’s time I let her go. That’s the best thing, the only thing I can do for her now.”
“What, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Victoria, if I stayed, your mother would be throwing her life away. I know that’s what would end up happening. She’d wake up one day and realize her life had passed her by and I can’t do that to her, I won’t!”
Not even the stern gaze Victor sent her would stop her from saying what she’d come to say. “Look, I don’t know what’s going on, all I know is this. Mom loves you more than anything in the world, you two belong together! Dad, just do me a favour and listen to something, okay?”
“What’s that?” Victor asked as she pulled out a tape recorder.
When the tape had finally finished playing, Vicki said, “Dad, you and Mom have the kind of life, the kind of love that only comes along once in a lifetime. Do you really want to throw it all away? Are you really willing to risk losing Mom for good when you really don’t have to? Talk to her; tell her what’s going on, she may surprise you. Even more, you may surprise yourself.” Without another word, Vicki turned around and walked towards the door.
She turned around, her gaze questioning as she wondered what was left for him to say.
Walking towards the door, where Victoria stood waiting for him, Victor finally understood what she’d come there to tell him. “Thank you,” he whispered as he kissed her forehead and watched her walk out the door and into the elevator.
“I’ve done all I can, it’s up to Dad now,” Vicki whispered a little fearfully as she waited for the elevator to take her to the ground floor.
Victor had spent the past few hours pacing the apartment, trying to decide what to do. Torn between his obligation to give his family, especially his wife the time they needed to forget about him and go on with their lives and going back to the ranch, back home where he belonged, he could do little else.
After considering it a little more, he grabbed his coat and headed out the door.
Nikki sat on the couch watching tv when he knocked on her door. “Who could that be?” she wondered aloud as she walked into the entrance, never expecting to find him standing there.
“Victor!” Nikki exclaimed happily as she smiled brightly at him.
“Hi, is this a bad time?” Victor asked as he stood there wondering if he had made a mistake.
“Of course not! Come in,” Nikki replied as she stepped back to let him in.
Having heard the front door open, Abby walked downstairs to find out what was going on.
“Daddy!” she screamed running up to him and throwing her arms around him.
“Hello my sweetheart,” Victor said as he hugged her close and tight.
“Did you decide to come home? Are you home for good?” Abby asked excited.
“No, my sweetheart, I’m not. I just came home to talk to Mommy and see how you, Nicholas and Victoria are doing.”
“Oh.” Abby couldn’t hide the disappointment that crept into her voice. “Why not? Why won’t you come home?” Abby asked hurt, as her eyes welled up with tears.
“I can’t, not yet, my sweetheart.” He offered no further explanation.
“You’re here,” Victoria said with a smile as she walked into the living room.
Picking up on the tension between her parents, she turned her attention to Abby. “Come on, let’s go get a snack.”
“Noooo,” Abby whined as she clung to Victor.
“Yes, come on. Dad’s not going anywhere,” Vicki tried to gently coax her along.
“Go on, Abby, I need to talk to Mommy for a minute. I promise I won’t go without saying goodbye, alright.”
Far from satisfied, Abby very reluctantly left the room.
“She seems to be doing alright,” Victor said somewhat relieved as he and Nikki sat on the couch.
“She’s doing as well as can be expected, she misses you. She’s not the only one,” Nikki said pointedly.
“How about Victoria and Nicholas? How are they doing with all this?” Victor asked, trying his best to ignore the hidden message, a message meant only for him.
“They’re doing fine, of course, we’d all be doing a lot better if we knew what was going on with you; if we knew why you moved out the way you did.”
“Nikki.” Victor’s voice held a note of warning.
“Okay, fine, I won’t push. I’m just glad you’re here. This is where you belong.”
Victor couldn’t help but agree with her as he sat back on the couch and enjoyed the feeling of being home.
“How are you doing, really?” Victor asked, eyeing her intently and noticing the puffy, red eyes, and the dark circles under them.
“Oh, I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” Nikki replied dismissively.
“Any news about you or the twins?” Victor asked needing to concentrate on something pleasant for a change. ‘I’ve spent enough time feeling sorry for myself as it is, I came here to talk to Nikki, to spend some time with her.’
“No, nothing new on that front.”
“Alright, what about you? Anything exciting going on with you?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” Nikki replied apologetcially, although she didn’t sound all that apologetic.”
“Alright, well in that case, I’d better go talk to Abby and Victoria for a few minutes before I leave.”
He looked at her hesitantly, like she had just made the most preposterous request.
“Please?” she begged.
“Just dinner, no strings, no expectations, I promise. Just dinner, please?” Nikki pressed on.
“Just dinner?” Victor asked sceptically. ‘There’s no way she’ll let me leave if I stay here any longer, and we both know no matter how much she talks about there being no strings attached here, no expectations, she wants more than she’s saying.’
“Just dinner,” she reiterated as she tried to sound solemn and not too excited or hopeful, but failed miserably.
After dinner was over and Abby had been put to bed, Victor got ready to leave.
As he looked out the window at the storm that had blanketed the city in white, making it impossible to drive, Victor swore softly.
“What is it?” Nikki asked a little amused at his reaction to the bad weather.
“See for yourself,” he mumbled as he stepped back into the living room pouting.
“Oh Victor, it’s not that bad.”
“Yeah, right! How am I supposed to get back to the apartment driving through that?” he asked as he jerked his head toward the window and the winter storm beyond it.
“Maybe we should make the best of this.”
Victor raised a brow at her speculatively and began to warn her “Nikki, we agreed-“
“I know, I know, no expectations, no strings attached, I know,” Nikki replied with hear hands up in front of her in a gesture of surrender.
“Look, you can’t go anywhere, at least not until morning. So, why don’t you just stay here tonight? Why not spend the night?” Again, she acted like she’d just made the most reasonable suggestion.
“Victor, would you relax? As hard as it may be for you to believe, I am not trying to get you into bed! I just want to have one more night with you by my side. I just want to fall asleep with you beside me, with my arms wrapped around you. Is that so much to ask?” Nikki asked exasperated yet hopeful.
He couldn’t help but smile at her, she’d always known exactly what to do to get him to do what she wanted. “No, when you put it that way, how can I resist?”
“Good,” Nikki replied pleased with herself. Without another word, she lead him upstairs to their room, where they turned in for the night. With their arms wrapped tightly around each other, they fell asleep, drifting on a tapestry of wonderful memories and beautiful dreams.
It was early morning when Nikki awoke to an empty bed, but, unlike the day Victor moved out, only leaving a note, this time, she was left with no hollow, empty feeling inside of her. Instead, she had much more hope than she’d had since he left. Somehow she knew he would come back to her. ‘If there’s one thing I know, that’s it. Victor still loves me, I know it, and he’s not going to get away this time!’
Still, she couldn’t help but stay angry at all that had happened in the last little while, it seemed that she barely recognized her life, that she barely recognized their life together. “What happened to us?” she whispered to herself as she dressed and walked downstairs for breakfast.
Last night’s storm had reminded her of the nights they’d spent together just the two of them. They’d spent so many nights horseback riding or walking along the snowy paths of the ranch. Though, her favourite memories were those of romantic candle light, soft music and sumptuous dinners, of sweet, passionate and tender lovemaking and falling asleep on the bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire. She remembered so clearly waking up in his arms and feeling so safe, so secure and loved, so needed and wanted. It was memories like those that brought tears to her eyes and made her smile all at the same time.
As the wind howled and rain pounded the ground, Nikki stared half blindly out the window thinking how fitting the scene outside was. She too felt like raging against all the injustices in her life, or more accurately in Victor’s life at that moment. Despite him being with her all night, she’d spent yet another sleepless night wondering what she could do to make him see reason and come home. ‘Short of dragging him out of his apartment kicking and screaming, there isn’t much,’ she thought to herself bitterly, frustrated.
“Enough! I’ve waited long enough for him to make a move! Now it’s my turn! He’ll talk to me, hell talk to me whether he likes it or not!“ Nikki vowed as she tore out the front door.
As she drove on the winding roads of the ranch and then on the bustling city streets, Nikki‘s determination to get through to her husband increased monumentally!
The dark, ominous clouds, roaring thunder, and lightning slashing across the sky suited her mood better than anyone could have imagined at that moment.
As bitter wind whipped through the trees, she gripped the steering wheel in a death grip and barrelled toward Victor‘s apartment!