Reunion story

 

We, as probably many fans, were sad by the end of the fantastic story of love our dear Cruz and Eden. So one very nice writer Kaci wrote this story of their reunion and shared it with the fans many years ago. We tried to find her to tell THANKS to her one more time for it, but without success. If anyone knows about whom we are talking here and has her contact, please, let us know.  We hope she will not be against that we took her great story from our archive and post it here for the fans, as she did it many years ago.

 

REUNION STORY 

written by Kaci

CHAPTER ONE

CRUZ

It was rainy when he awoke. The sound of thunder roaring outside his window caused his heart to beat rapidly. He sat up abruptly in his bed…alone. Looking next to him at the empty pillow beside him, he longed for something he could no longer have. Hidden in the depths of his heart, the inner being of his soul, covered by his day to day actions, was a hurt so deep he could never recover. It wasn’t a time he longed for, nor a place. No certain event, no moment he wished he could freeze in time. No, it was more than that…It was her.

4:00 am. The clock shone through the dark and he wanted to destroy it. A shoe hurdled across the room, anything to make the shining of that clock to go away. He closed his eyes tightly, more than ever before, and lay back in his bed. The covers over his head, he dreamed of a day when things were better.

Where to begin? My darling, Eden, my dear one and only true love. When I was a younger man I was scared to death of the idea of getting married. I want to thank you for changing my mind about it. Not only will I love, honor and cherish you, I promise to treat you as my equal……respect your vision of your own life, allow you to choose your own path, pursue your own goals. I will remember always that you are an individual first and a part of me second. But I will never take this marriage lightly. I will always be faithful to you. I’’m going to take real good care of that flame that brought us together, keep a wide open space for that passion so that it may burn through all the time that we travel together. I will respect your need for privacy. I will forgive and forget when the time arises. Keeping the past in the past, greeting each new day with thankfulness, hopeful and purposeful, that we may be worthy of a long and happy life together. And most urgently of all I promise to do my very best to bring us the blessing of children. These things and what ever else you may need that I can, in good faith provide, will be yours. This is my promise.

He had meant those words that day, so many years ago, but today they held a new meaning. The feelings he had that day, the feelings he felt back from her, were like none other he had experienced in this lifetime.

Cruz ,you are the love of my life. My knight in shining armor. I will love, honor and cherish you as long as we live. I will always try to be the woman you have loved so earnestly. I will respect you until the end of time, and I will give you the freedom to be yourself. When we have problems we’ll solve the problems together. I know the importance of communication and compromise, and I will always endeavor to solve all problems head on. We will be our own best friends and our own best council. I will share with you my fears and my hopes and dreams. I will keep nothing from you and expect the same. I will always appreciate you and I will always love you with all my heart. I will respect your decisions and support your feelings. My goal will always be to understand you, never to change you. When we are blessed with children, I will love them as much as you, but never more. This is my promise.

Her promise. Her vow. Looking into her eyes, her beautiful eyes, he could hardly stand the veil that stood between them. She was as beautiful that day as he had ever remembered her. His love.

“Daddy?”

Awakened again by the reality of his life, Cruz pulled the covers off of his head.

“Are you okay?”

Adrianna was the spitting image of him. She had his eyes, his features…but she was her mother. It was something about her smile, something about the way her eyes sparkled, but it was there. He could barely look at her without seeing Eden. She had Eden’s spunk, that spunk that once drove him so crazy…Adrianna had it. That fiesty, independent girl he had once found to be such a challenge, was now staring at him through his daughter’s eyes.

“Dad.”

“I’m fine.”

“It’s seven-thirty.”

“Is it?”

“Chip and I are getting ready to leave for school.”

His children. The only thing left in his life that he cared about. He would stay in bed all day….he would run away, far away, if not for them.

He smiled. “Have a good day.”

Adrianna knew him, he supposed she had her mother’s intuition as well. She sat next to him on the bed, hesitating to speak. “Are you going to be okay today? I could stay home. Chip could too. We could go to the beach….or drive up the coast.”

“Why? You have school today.”

“Don’t you know what today is?”

He thought for a moment. He didn’t. “Wednesday?”

“Dad….You don’t know?”

“Adrianna, I’m really tired, okay? You should just go to school and we’ll talk when you get home.”

She kissed him lightly on the cheek. She always did that and he never tired of it. He watched as she walked away…his daughter…their daughter.

What was today? He was certain that it was Wednesday, because he had taken the kids to Taco Tuesday last night at the beach bar, but the date?…He had given up on keeping track of dates years ago.

Making his way down the spiral stairs, he was just in time to see his children off to school. Chip had grown into such a man. Last year he had received his drivers license and the fatherly duties had become minimal. It saddened Cruz to think of the days Eden had missed in his life, in all of their lives.

“Did you eat?” Cruz called to them, as he reached the last step.

“We ate.” Chip made his way to the door more quickly than Adrianna.

“Well, wait a second. Do you need any money for…lunch or—“

”Dad. We’re going to be late for school. We have to go now.”

Cruz watched as his children left the house, closing the door behind him. The day would soon come when they would leave for college, then embark on lives of their own…..He would be alone.

No, he wouldn’t think of that now. He had plenty of time for thinking. There was a calendar sitting on the desk, so he made his way to it. April 1st…… April 1st……April 1st.

Somehow without warning, Cruz found himself lying on the couch. He had no idea how he made it there, the steps he took, the thoughts in his mind. But he was there, calendar in hand, staring at the date. April 1st. Saying it aloud over and over again, like a broken record.. “April First, April First, April First, April First.”

There was explanation for his loneliness today, which made him happy in some respects. He had a reason to sink himself in his own sorrows today, lock himself away from the rest of the world. He could take the phone off the hook and lock the doors. Everyone would understand today of all days. April 1st.

Having considered alone and together this marriage I now ask you,

Eden, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?

I do.

I ask you Cruz,

do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?

I do.

Then Eden, as you place this ring on Cruz’s finger, repeat after me.

With this ring I thee wed and join my life to yours.

With this ring I thee wed, and join my life to yours.

Now Cruz, as you place this ring on Eden’s finger, repeat after me.

With this ring, I thee wed and join my life to yours.

With this ring I thee wed, and join my life to yours.

May these rings stand as a sign to you of your desire to live, to love, to create, and to build in your lives and in the lives of those who you touch that ideal perfection which is humanity. In the presence of God, and by the virtue of the authority vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife.

You may kiss the bride.

Thank you.

He envisioned that kiss. So perfect, so right. The end of the turmoil and hardships, the beginning of their lives as one union. A couple, husband and wife. His wife. It took no time for him to get used to using that word. “This is my wife, Eden.” “My wife, Eden Castillo.” He smiled, even now, saying those words aloud.

April 1st. It had taken so many ups and downs, stupid decisions, and twists and turns to get to this day. It was their time, their day. April 1st. They were invincible that day, or so they thought. Problems would come and go, but they would always been united, connected in a way that no man could take away from them. She was his wife, he her husband. A sacred bond that could not be broken…..Not in death…or divorce.

If you had asked him that day, he would have never believed the words divorce would come out of his mouth, in regards to Eden. It wasn’t possible. He knew that nothing would ever change his love for her, or her him. He never believed in divorce and he certainly wasn’t going to start believing in it now. She was his, he was hers…forever.

Forever. He laughed at the word now. He was right, she would be with him forever. Wherever he went, whomever he went with, Eden was in his mind forever. He couldn’t shake it, no matter how hard he tried. Knowing in his heart that she was out there, somewhere, hidden away from him, beyond his reach. She would be with him forever.

It wasn’t fair. He never asked for any of this. He wanted a wife….he wanted her to be his wife, forever. That hadn’t changed, it never would. So why must he be the one to suffer all of these years, alone.

Eden had always made the rules. It was something he hated at first. Should I say this, should I say that? Will she run away from me? Over time, it changed. She became one with his mind, his spirit, and he admired her independence. He played by her rules, not because he had to, but because he admired her for them. Not anymore.

It was her that did this to them. He wanted her. He needed her. She left him. She made the rules, she wanted the divorce, she wanted to go on about her life without him…without any of them. Who was she to make such drastic decisions for all of them?

He wanted so badly to hate her for that. He wanted to awaken in the morning and feel nothing, no love, no sorrow. He was Cruz Castillo, macho man. The greatest inspector on the force, solving cases few others could solve, making the streets safer for his children to walk upon. Inspector Castillo, everyone’s last hope. Yet, for himself, in his own life, he could do nothing. His hands were tied in a way they had never been tied before and it wasn’t fair.

“I think that people like Hayley and Ted…well, they should have the best. And that’s what you are.”

“Do you really believe that, Eden?”

“Yes.”

“It makes me feel good to hear you say that.”

It did. He had never considered himself to be the best until he saw himself through her eyes. She was his inspiration, his reason to be the best. He drove himself, pushed himself day after day to be the best at his work. Long hours in the office, on the streets, arresting the bad guys and putting them away for a long time. He was the best. Yet, it didn’t matter now. Without her, he was nothing, certainly not the best. Nothing.

 

 

EDEN

“Mrs. Capwell, your ten o’clock appointment is here.”

She was startled at first, by the sound of her secretary’s voice. She wasn’t herself today. With a nod and smile, acknowledging the secretary’s announcement, she stood and gathered her materials. Something wasn’t right today. Something felt off.

This meeting was an important one. She had been working on it for weeks and put in what she believed was her best work. This was a client her company had been trying to lure over for years now, and she had finally been given a chance. It was her work, her dedication that had brought them to this point. How many nights of sleep had she lost? How many hours of studying and digging up information? How many dinners, how many parties had she hosted? Too many to lose her mind now.

Her life was good. Not perfect, perhaps, but good. She worked hard and was convinced she would play hard if ever given the chance. There were so many places she wanted to visit, so many beaches she envisioned herself lying upon with a nice frozen drink in her hand. Cabana boys and bell hops would meet her every desire….well, almost every desire.

She giggled to herself at the thought of seducing some young cabana boy. She was a little old for that….or maybe not. Poor kid wouldn’t know what he had coming!

As she entered the conference room, she was thankful that no one could read her mind. What would the old suits from Barker Enterprises think of her impure thoughts of cabana boys in tight shirts? Their faces said it all. These men meant business. No socializing, no coffee, no donuts. Business.

“Good morning gentlemen,” she laid on her charm. “I think you’re going to be pleased.” She tapped her briefcase and gave them each a wink. “Very, very pleased.”

She had prepared many presentations, given many old men more ideas that their futile minds could sustain. This was nothing new to her. This was her life, a life she loved. She would fly to Paris or Milan whenever she felt the desire. The world was her oyster….whatever that meant. This was the good life.

Everything she wanted was at her fingertips. Designers were begging her to wear their clothes, restaurants knocking at her door to have her feast upon their menu’s. She was a hot item in this town. Men wanted to date her, women wanted to be her. It was a fantasy life really. Any one would be happy to live her life. She should be proud of her accomplishments.

Down in the pit of her stomach, late at night, in her cold, lonely penthouse, she desired for something more. There had to be more to life than fancy cars and luxurious lifestyles. There had to be something greater, something deeper and more meaningful than the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

There were certain perks to her life, she knew. She was thankful for them. But something was missing. It was as if in all of her good fortune, her mountain of wealth and success, she had somehow failed to reach the summit. She longed for the day when she could embark on that journey, place her flag upon the top of Mount Eden and for once feel fulfilled.

No one understood. Her secretary dared her to complain about the life she led. “You have everything anyone could ever ask for. You want meaningful? Come to my house and try to make dinner for three picky kids and make sure all of the bills get paid. That’s meaningful. Everyone should be so lucky to have a meaningless life as yours, Eden Capwell.”

It wasn’t the money, or the power. She liked those things, of course. It wasn’t the perks, the trips, the servants who jumped at her every whim. That was all nice and she was appreciative, but it wasn’t enough. There was an empty spot.

An empty spot she was reminded of every time she lay upon her bed, alone. No one lying next to her to share her dreams with. No one there when she awoke in the morning, or if she had a bad dream. There was a space in her life that was empty. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how many different things she added on in her life, nothing would fill that space.

It was cold there. Wide open, no one ahead or behind her, pushing or pulling her in any direction. Of course, that’s what she wanted. Eden Capwell was independent. She didn’t need a man to make her feel whole. She needed the approval of no one, the support of only herself to make it in the world.

Alone, she had created this business, built it from the ground up…….

“I built this relationship from the ground up.”

She stopped for a moment, looking around. There it was again. That voice. It came and went without warning. At first she thought she was dreaming, but it felt too real to be a dream. There would be weeks when she wouldn’t hear it at all. It drove her crazy. Then out of the blue, the voice would return, saying something she could not place, but understood none the less.

“I built this relationship from the ground up.”

“I’m not going to do this singlehandedly anymore….So you think about it, because I might just have to decide that what I’m doing here is not good.”

Who was that? That voice….a man….Stern, but caring, as always. She imagined what he may look like, but it was never enough. She wanted to see his face…she needed to see his face. But, alas, it was all in her mind. A dream or perhaps a nightmare that she could not explain, could not escape….always there.

“Ms. Capwell….Are you all right?”

She looked down at the men sitting at the tables, staring up at her. Eden Capwell had a job to do and dreaming of some mystery man she would never know was not on the top of her list.

When the meeting was over, she locked herself in the office she had designed on her own. There was a big, soft couch that she sunk herself into at least once a day. Her shoes kicked off on the floor, like a kid in his bedroom, she flung her feet off the side of the couch. It was her tiny reward to herself for success.

A glass of wine in her hand, the radio playing soft music, she lay on that couch basking in her success. The addition of these clients would bring in millions of dollars to her agency, meaning a big chunk of change into her own pocket. Perhaps she would reward herself with some time off. A trip to Bermuda maybe…or Sri Lanka.

“What Tahiti’s not enough for you? How about Sri Lanka or…would that be enough for you?”

Again, the voice. Always talking to her. If she weren’t so together, she might have thought she was going crazy. Often times she would find herself talking back to the voice, saying things Eden Capwell would never really say. She imagined in her loneliness she had created this man in her mind…a knight in shining armor of sorts, who would speak to her in times of weakness and despair. If only he were real.

There had never been a man in her life. She wasn’t good at relationships. There were many men who she could chose from. Friends of clients, friends of friends, friends of her secretary…those were the worst. She often tried to feel something for them, but it wasn’t there. To her, a relationship was something Eden Capwell was not meant to have. Fun was what she needed and fun was what she had. No commitments, no strings. Fun, plain and simple.

“Oh forget about commitment, that’s such a terrible word.”

“Yes it is,” she said aloud. She often talked back to the voice in the privacy of her office or her home. At first she felt a bit strange, but that feeling passed.

There were times when she wondered if something better was out there. Perhaps had she made different choices, chosen different paths, something better would have met her along the way. Maybe it was this man, this voice in her head. Maybe not. It was something she often wondered about, but could never change.

It was a fact of life that we could not erase our path. There was no way to go back, choose different options. We would never again stand at the same fork in the road, wondering which way to go. It wasn’t possible. She knew that, of course, but it never stopped her from dreaming.

Many of her friends were mothers now. It had been a tough realization the day she realized her chances at motherhood were quickly passing her by. Late thirties was possible, but forties…..She had missed her chance and she could live with that. It wasn’t in her nature to be motherly.

Eden didn’t have those instincts that her friends had. She didn’t rush to the rescue when a child skinned his knee or offer her shoulder when a teary eyed child came to her for comfort. When babies were placed in her arms, she felt awkward and uncomfortable, unable to master the talents of balancing a baby and a bottle at one time. When they cried, she would quickly pass them off to the nearest person and make her way out of the room. She wasn’t motherly.

It was her belief that she had never been mothered. How can anyone feel motherly instincts if they’ve never experienced them? It was obvious that there was no stand out mother in her life, or she would remember her. She had no memory of a mother bandaging her wounds, rocking her to sleep. No memory of lullaby’s or warm hugs. How could that be? Certainly it was impossible for one to be born into life without a mother, but that never guaranteed they’d be raised with one.

She was troubled with the thoughts of loneliness she must have felt as a child. No mother, no father…What a sad, sad life. It is that reason, she assumed that the memories had been blocked out of her mind. Not one memory of her childhood existed inside of her now. There was a reason for that, no doubt.

“Ms. Capwell?”

The door opened and the heavy set secretary entered. She was a mother. You didn’t have to know anything about her to know that. It was written all over her body. Her hips were large, her body showed mere signs of what it must have once been. When she came in every morning she was wiping chocolate handprints from her sweaters and freshening up the lipstick she had smeared when kissing the little one’s good bye. She was a tender woman, very together, organized and precise….and she never stayed one second past five o’clock.

“I’m heading out now. These are the signed contracts from Mr. Baker,” she laid the files on Eden’s desk, before turning to look at her boss lying childlike on the sofa. “Are you okay?”

“What is today, Mary?”

“Wednesday.”

“I know it’s Wednesday. I mean the date.”

“Oh…Well, it’s April 1st, Ms. Capwell.”

“Is it your birthday?’

The woman laughed that nasal laugh she always did. “No, ma’am and if it was I wouldn’t tell you anyways.”

“Hm.” Eden sat up on her couch. “April 1st. It’s someone’s birthday. Is it Joe’s?”

“No, he’s in October. Russ is in May….And you are…”

“I know when I am.” Giving up her quest to find out the importance of the day, Eden threw herself back onto the sofa. “Oh well. It must not be that important.”

“Yes, ma’am. Well, I will see you in the morning.”

Five o’clock on the dot. That’s what mothers do. They do their job and then they go home and start all over with their family. There is dinner to be cooked, homework to be checked, books to be read, baths to be drawn. Eden imagined it was a boring, monotonous life, one that she would never lead.

The office was quiet now. Russ was a father, who rushed out early to his son’s baseball game. Joe was a father who had to be home by five so his wife could get to her evening classes at the local university. Mary of course, was a mother of three, who had many things to do each night. Eden was the only with no one waiting for her at home. Perhaps that’s what made the business work. She was able to put in long hours, when the others could not.

Many nights she would sleep in her office. She kept clothes in a small closet, just in case she was working late and didn’t make it home. There was nothing to go home to, so she never rushed to be there. Tonight was no different.

Eden walked out into the office, glancing around the dark hallways. For a moment, she contemplated going home, but the moment passed as it often did. She walked back to her office and emptied the last of her bottle of merlot into her wine glass. Another night alone.

Her mini fridge was pretty bare. A half eaten tuna sandwich and a bottle of water were not appealing to her at the moment. Giving up, she raided the vending machine at the end of the hall, filling her hands with as much chocolate as she could manage. As she passed Joe’s office, she swiped his last bottle of Merlot from his “client perks” cabinet, and made her way back to her own office.

“The change in me is you now. The change in me is you somehow.”

She turned up the volume on her stereo. A familiar song, she thought….but no. Eden wasn’t one to hold onto moments in time. No favorite color, no favorite food, no favorite song. But this song stopped her.

Her eyes closed tightly, she could almost see his face….the man in her dreams. Dark hair and eyes that seemed to see right through her. She could feel his hand in hers, holding her close to him, kissing her softly. She dared herself never to open her eyes again. She pled with herself to remain in this dream for a lifetime. But it was only that…a dream.

Quickly, she changed the station on the radio. Sappy songs were not her style. She needed something more upbeat to stuff her face to. As the music blared, she opened her chocolate wonders and guzzled her wine, hoping to erase the dreams…the ideals. She just wanted to be alone.

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

CRUZ

“Come on, Dad, catch up!” Since he was a baby, Cruz and Chip had enjoyed this beach together. They spent many mornings building sand castles and splashing in the waves. The sound of the ocean had calmed them both during times when nothing else would work. As he grew, building sand castles turned into running races and then to meaningful jogs. It was during this time they were man to man, father and son, alone with their thoughts.

Cruz looked down the beach at his son, barely recognizing the person he had become. So handsome, so strong. Many said he was his father. Cruz was certain he was much more than that. He would never wish his son the pain he had been through in his life. He would never want him to go through the turmoil.

“Dad!” Chip waved to him to hurry on. Cruz smiled. The kids had that affect on him. They were his reasons for smiling.

As he reached his son, he bent down to catch his breath. “I think every day that we run, you get a little faster and I get a little slower.”

“That’s not true, Dad.”

“No?” Cruz laughed. “Don’t feel bad. That’s the way it should be. I’m an old man.”

“You’re hardly an old man…you just act like one.”

“We should head back soon. Your sister….God love her, can get herself into too much trouble if we’re gone too long.”

Chip sat down upon the sand, pretending to stretch, but Cruz saw right through him. There was something on his mind, that was for sure. Sitting next to his son was a spiritual moment for Cruz. Their talks, their shared moments, had become so special to him.

“I need to talk to you about something.” That line always made his heart skip a beat. It never mattered who said it, when the words were mouthed, his heart would stop. It was typically not the beginning of something good. He hoped this time would be different.

“It’s Adrianna.”

“What about Adrianna? Is she in trouble?”

There were 2 things in Cruz’s life he could not tolerate. One was anyone messing with his family, and the other was anyone messing with his baby girl. That was something Cruz Castillo would not tolerate. His daughter would see no more evil in her life, if he had his way.

“No….No she’s not in trouble. Not yet.”

“Spill it, Chip.”

“She’s been spending a lot of time on the computer—“

”Has she met someone online? What kind of sick pervert would try to lure a little girl….Is someone trying to lure her? That internet is such a —“

”Dad, wait. No. No,” Chip laughed. “It’s not that.”

Cruz clutched his chest and breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank God for that….because I’d kill anyone that—-So what’s going on with her on the internet?”

“She’s looking for mom.”

He knew the day would come. They missed her as much as he did. A day barely went by when at least one of them wouldn’t utter their mother’s name, share a story they remembered. Cruz felt badly for them both, but especially Adrianna. She was so young…the memories of her mother were vague. Often times he would find her desperately trying to remember details of her mother, staring at pictures of them together. Her bedroom was covered with photos of Eden.

So was his. He hid them well, or so he thought, beneath his bed. He would spend hours going through them, remembering the times they shared, wishing for more. Chip had caught him looking at them, on more than one occasion.

Chip was a luckier than Adrianna. He was able to remember more about Eden. She wasn’t his biological mother, of course, but she was the only mother he knew. He loved her and she loved him. It was a relationship that wasn’t forced, wasn’t even planned. It was natural. The way they were together was something magical and everyone knew it.

It was time, he knew, that he had the talk with Adrianna. The truth must be told, painful as it may be. He had shared it with Chip when he was old enough to understand…old enough to try to search for Eden. Cruz had caught him on the phone, interviewing people, questioning them, trying to find any lead possible that would direct him to his mother. He felt some pride in his young son’s detective abilities, but the pain in Chip’s face when he told him the truth was too much for him to handle.

Chip broke down, as did Cruz, and he swore that when the day come, it would be different with Adrianna. He would handle the situation more delicately, more tenderly with his daughter. He had learned from his mistakes with Chip and he felt badly for them. He was certain that Chip had been changed that day. A part of him, the optimistic part, was erased from the young boy’s life and it was unfair of Cruz to take that from him.

Adrianna was different. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, much like her mother, and Cruz knew that. He knew it wouldn’t matter what he told her, she would continue on her quest until she found the resolution she needed. It scared him to think of what his young daughter might do, so innocent and pure, but more intelligent than he. She would fight him, that was for sure. She would yell and scream, rant and rave. She would ban him from her room, proclaim Chip a traitor for spilling the beans. But, eventually, the truth would hit her and he would have to be there to pick up the pieces.

“Knock, knock.” Cruz opened the door to his daughter’s bedroom, only slightly.

“It usually helps if you actually knock before coming in, Dad.” Adrianna jumped off of her desk chair and onto her bed. “Is it time for dinner?”

“Almost….What were you working on there? Homework?”

“Um…Yeah. Math.”

“Oh…Well, I’m afraid I can’t help you out much with that.”

“I don’t need help.”

He joined his daughter on her bed, staring at her eyes, stroking her long brown hair. She was thirteen now, a young lady. He knew this was a time in her life when she needed her mother. Her puberty years. No young lady wished to talk to her father about these things. No father knew much about these thing to tell.

“I think it’s time we had a talk.”

“Why? What did I do?”

“Nothing. I just want to talk with you.”

Adrianna stared up at him. He remembered the day she was born, how he held her in his arms. He remembered the train ride, the snow storm, and most of all the cave. He remembered the joy in Eden’s eyes as she held her daughter for the first time. He remembered how her pregnancy was tainted by evil and insecurities and how much he would regret the moments they lost to the doubts and fears. He felt like such a failure then, letting down his wife…the woman he swore to protect. He felt like a failure now, letting down the daughter he swore to protect. He could never protect her from the pain he would cause her this day.

“I want to talk to you about your mom.”

“What about mom? Have you heard from her? Do you know where she is?”

“No…No, darlin’, I don’t.”

“See…I’ve been thinking, with all of your contacts in the department, we could probably find her pretty easily if we want to. I mean, it shouldn’t to hard. You have friends who can find things out, right?”

“I do.”

“Then, Dad, what are we waiting for? Don’t you want to find her?”

“It’s not that simple.”

“But you said you loved her. You said that nothing would change how much you loved her. Didn’t you say that?”

He grabbed his little girl’s hand. She was turning into a lady before his eyes and he wasn’t prepared. “I do love her….More than you will ever know.”

Her eyes sparkled back at him as the huge smile spread across her face. “Then let’s do it. All of us. School will be letting out for the summer soon and Chip and I will have lots of time to travel…You have some vacation time coming, right?”

“Adrianna, honey, it’s not that easy.”

“Why not? I’m sure grandpa C.C. would give anything to find Mom. We’d have all of his resources and your contacts. We could find her and bring her home. Dad, ….. I love you. You’re the best….But I want my mom home. I want to be a family.”

“So do I….I have to tell you something, Adrianna, and it isn’t going to be easy for you to hear. Mom doesn’t want to be found.”

“Yeah, because she doesn’t remember us. Mama said that she had some problem…in her mind and she lost all of her memories of us. Well, let’s go find her and help her remember.”

“Adrianna…Baby…”

“I’m not a baby. That’s the problem. You treat me like I’m some little kid that will break if you don’t hold me real tight. Dad, I’m thirteen and even though she may not remember me, I want to see my mother.”

“Your mother doesn’t want to see you.”

They were words he never thought he would speak again. He imagined stabbing a knife through his daughter’s heart would do as much damage as this. It was not something he wanted to dump on a thirteen year old.

“When she left, she left us all….She sent papers, divorce papers. She knew about me…she knew about you. She signed away her parental rights and ….”

“No.”

“ and she wished you well. Baby…She changed. When something inside her went wrong…she changed. She didn’t want this life anymore.”

“I don’t believe you. You’re just mad that she left you. I’ll find her on my own, Dad.”

“Adrianna, listen to me. She doesn’t want you in her life. She doesn’t want to see you. Legally….she isn’t even your mother anymore.”

“Legally? Legally….Is that what matters to you? The law? I know you’re a cop, Dad, but she is my mother. I don’t care what stupid piece of paper she signed.”

 

EDEN

 

She had taken a few days off. It was her right. She had been in that office every day, six or seven days a week since the first day they opened. A vacation was overdue, but a few days locked in her penthouse would have to do. There was no time for fancy trips at overpriced hotels.

Her penthouse in New York cost more than she cared to admit. It was one of those perks she loved so dearly…along with her fire red jaguar. It was her dream car and buying it gave her great satisfaction. It was unfortunate that driving it made her so nervous. She would rather it stay parked in the safety of the parking garage than drive it on the crazy streets of New York. On a few rare occasions, she would take it out of town, drive to Connecticut where she could let it loose on the highways. It was her time.

The phone off the hook, the doors locked, the blinds lowered. She vowed not to leave her room, except to take hot bubble baths, and to leave her pajamas on for the entire duration. On her way home from the office, she had stopped by the video store, picking up as many chick flicks as her hands could hold. This was to be her weekend.

The refrigerator was stocked with food she would never normally eat. Fast food, junk food, mmmmmm food. Whatever she didn’t eat would be thrown out Monday morning, so she intended to make the best of it.

With her red wine beside her and “Dirty Dancing” in the dvd player, she curled up on her bed, ready to stuff her face. She had ordered lobster from a restaurant down the street and covered it in butter sauce, leaving it dripping from her face. Eden laughed at herself. What a mess she looked, like a child with an ice cream cone. The butter was all over her, dripping from her chin, from her fingers, even on her bedspread.

“Oh,” she said to herself, “I feel like I’m covered in butter.”

“That’s because you are.” The man returned, she had hoped he would. “You want me to do something about that?”

“Why don’t you?” It was like deja vu. She knew what to say, because it had been said before in a time unknown to her. It was a dream she had dreamed before and she never wanted to wake up.

There were times throughout her day when in the middle of whatever she was doing, she would stop and wonder. Sometimes it felt like a memory, perhaps of her childhood. She could picture herself living in a big house, almost a castle, running down the miles of stairs and jumping into the arms of her father. He would swing her around in circles until she could stand it no more, then smother her in kisses. It made her happy to think of those days, if only they were true.

She was alone in this world, that was a fact. Of course there was Joe and Russ, but they were her business partners. They shared no common interests outside of the office and certainly didn’t care to associate at family dinners. There was Mary, her secretary, who was probably her closest friend, yet Eden could name none of her three children, or her husband for that matter.

Work was work. What happened at work stayed there. She never called Joe or Russ at home, nor did they call her. She never asked Mary to go out for drinks on a Friday night, nor did Mary invite her to dance recitals and little league games. There was no deep connection between any of them.

Eden was good at that. She kept her distance from everyone she encountered. It was her nature. Meet and move on, a motto of sorts. It was not her intention to become accountable to anyone or have them be accountable to her. When she dated, she never gave out her phone number and she never called a man who gave her his. If she liked him, they would speak when they would run into each other at events, if she didn’t like him, she would make lame excuses. Men knew this. They knew the rules of Eden Capwell.

Calling her was a death wish. You call Eden, you are writing your own ticket out of the social circle. You will no longer be invited to the best parties and the best dinners. You will no longer be asked to attend charity auctions and participate in public events. Eden made her own rules. She didn’t make people abide by them, it was just easier on them if they did.

She wasn’t like most women. She didn’t long for the fantasy wedding with the beautiful white dress. She didn’t care for having a house in the country with a white picket fence and a swing set in the backyard. Children with dirty faces never crossed her mind. She didn’t even own a dog. The imperfection of an animal was more than she could stand.

It wasn’t Eden’s dream to be a wife and a mother. It wasn’t her dream to stay at home while her husband went off to work each day. She had no visions of packing lunches and being the PTA president.

No attachments. It made life so simple.

It occurred to her at that moment how empty the penthouse was. There was no purpose for a single woman to live in a place this large. Empty bedrooms, that Eden would never attempt to decorate, lined the hallway. She never opened the doors, she never stepped foot inside them. There was no need. She never had visitors. No one came into town and asked to stay with her. She didn’t invite people and people didn’t ask to be invited.

The status of the home was what she loved the most. People looked at her differently when they learned where she lived. She could stare out of her window and see the entire city. A sense of power overwhelmed her as she stared down onto the tiny people shuffling through the city. The beauty, the ultimate design of the universe, never awed her like it did most people. Eden wasn’t easily blown away.

There were two reason she loved the place. One was the view and the other was the bathroom. She had a phobia of bathrooms, public ones mainly. Never, not once, ever did she step foot into a public restroom. The visions of germs swarming every inch of the place disgusted her beyond belief. When designing her office, she made sure to add on her own private bathroom that no other would step foot in. It was her way.

But the bathroom in this house was….awe inspiring. The floor was tiled with large black and white squares. Everything was white. The walls were white, the counters were white…and the tub was white. The tub was her favorite thing. A jacuzzi that was large enough to host parties in, that she would sink down into at the end of a long day.

“Or in the middle of an easy day.”

“Or in the middle of the night.”

“…Especially in the middle of the night.”

The mystery man had spoken to her that day, as the real estate broker went on and on about the white marble counter tops. She couldn’t take her eyes off of that tub. She would buy it. It shocked the broker, but she bought it on the spot and never doubted her decision since.

This was her sacred room. The room she shared with her mystery man who had convinced her to buy the place, for the tub alone. Eden was certain if she ever met this man, she would thank him for his advice.

Tonight, alone in that tub, for the first time, she wished she wasn’t alone. If only he could be there with her, the mystery man. She imagined him, smiling at her, touching her. Running her fingertips along his face, memorizing the curves, the definition. Brushing against him, feeling his body next to hers.

Thinking of him only made her want more. Another time, another place, another world. It wasn’t meant to be for Eden, in this lifetime, and that was a reality she was willing to accept. She had made a commitment to herself the day she started her business. Nothing would come in the way, nothing would change her focus. This was her life.

But the loneliness wouldn’t go away. She could deny it for only so long. Deep inside of her was a hurt that couldn’t be replaced by money, wealth, or power. Everyone needed love, even Eden Capwell, but not everyone got it. There was no rule of the universe that guaranteed everyone would find that one person who made their heart skip a beat. Cupid wasn’t real, of course. There was no one walking around trying to shoot the arrow of love in Eden’s direction, that was for sure.

. Eden had never uttered the words, “I love you” to anyone, at least that she could recall. She had no family, no friends. There was no time for her to make friends. When she showed up in New York, people looked at her with respect, even before she earned it.

That was something should never understood. Eden never had to start at the bottom of the ladder. When she spoke, people listened, but she wasn’t certain why. Her name had power, yet it was just a name. It confused her, but she liked it. Somehow, the rest of the world knew something about her that she was unaware of and it never occurred to her to ask.

“Ms. Capwell?” A voice…a real voice, in her home meant only one thing. The only human contact Eden carried on in her private life was with her maid, Lucia Santos. “I’m heading out for the weekend. Can I get you anything before I go?”

Turning off the noise from the jacuzzi, Eden sat up in the tub. “No, Lucy. Thank you. Do you need me to call you a cab?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Lucy.”

“Yes.”

“…Did I have any calls?”

“No.”

“Lucy.”

“Yes, Ms. Capwell.”

“Do you have plans for the weekend? Anything exciting?”

“No. Not really. Family dinner on Sunday.”

“Oh that sounds nice.”

“Yes, ma’am. May I go now?”

“Of course. Have a nice weekend.”

“You too, Ms. Capwell.”

It was the longest conversation the two had ever managed. Lucy spoke excellent English, but Eden would never know it. The only time she heard Lucy talk was on the phone and she always spoke Spanish on the private phone calls. The two had little verbal contact, with the exception of “hello”, “goodbye” and “Here’s your check.”

Eden realized that her lack of contact with the outside world was slowly driving her crazy. It wouldn’t be long before they would have to wheel her in to the nearest psychiatric ward.

“I need to get a life.” She said aloud, realizing she spent most of her time talking to herself. “Quickly.”

There was a bar down the street from her house. It was nothing fancy, quite the opposite actually. Some would call it a hole in the wall, others would call it a hang out. Eden called it a little trip to hell.

“An apple martini, please.”

“Can I see i.d.?”

Eden laughed louder than she could ever remember herself laughing before. The bartender smiled, dimples and all. She figured he must be about twelve years old by the looks of him and he was flirting with her. It wasn’t something she picked up on easily, but this guy was obvious.

“Here you go.” She slid her i.d. onto the bar. He picked it up, glanced at it, then to her, and smiled again.

“Are you sure this is you?”

“I’m fairly sure.”

There was a strange mix of people in the bar. There were groups of young adults, laughing and carrying on. She imagined herself among them, flipping her hair along with the other girls, puffing a cigarette in the coolest of ways. It would never work, she would never fit in with girls like that.

“You in town on business or pleasure?” The bartender handed her the apple martini and she sipped it as he spoke.

“Neither. I live here.”

“Oh…I’ve never seen you around here before.”

“Does everyone in the entire city come into this bar?”

He smiled. “No. But this isn’t exactly Tavern on the Green. We usually get the same crowd.”

“Really? Then, I guess it’s a good thing I came in.”

“It is.”

She had charm. Flirting was never a problem. Leading a man to believe something that wasn’t the exact truth was one of her greatest qualities. Eden Capwell could make any man want her. She just didn’t want them back.

“But you can make him want you and you will,…If you think it will drive me crazy….And it will.”

Sometimes she just wished he would go away.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

CRUZ

His office was the same as it had always been. Work was once his passion, but not anymore. He could vaguely remember the days when losing a case was the worst thing that could happen to him. Gone were the times when fighting crime was more than a job. He didn’t love it anymore. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time he did.

“Cruz,” the opening door startled him. “I’ve got the files on the Marcus case. If you’d take a look at them, I could—- Cruz.”

He glanced up. “Sure, Julia. I’ll take a look at them.”

“Thanks.” She handed him the files, he couldn’t recall what she had said they were, and he nodded in acceptance. “Everything okay?”

“Everything is great, Julia. Just absolutely fabulous.” He slammed the files down on his desk, sending paper flying through the air. Julia bent down to gather them, while he watched, unmoved.

“Okay then,” she said as she placed the papers back on top of his desk. “Let me know when you’re finished.”

It wasn’t like him to be unkind. He hated that he had become this negative, sarcastic person, but it was something he couldn’t change. “Julia….Sorry. I’m having a bad day.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. What I want is for everyone to leave me the hell alone.” Standing, he pushed his chair back, smashing into the wall behind him. Julia was uncomfortable, but he couldn’t fix that now.

His entire life had been about making things better for other people. Those days were done. For years now, people had told him to find closure and move on. He had tried and failed more times than he cared to mention. Cruz had come to the conclusion that moving on without Eden took more than he had in him.

It wasn’t as easy as finding someone new. He tried that. It sickened him to recall the women he had tried to move on with, but it hurt him to realize that no woman would ever be to him what Eden was. Starting relationships were no problem. Staying in them was an impossibility, because no matter how hard he tried, he was never really there.

Dating Kelly was rock bottom for Cruz. He used her in a way that was unfair and hurtful. She was his sister. That was it. She had been a part of his life for so long. They were friends at first, but as he and Eden grew closer, his feelings for Kelly deepened as well. It was so much more than friendship. But when he crossed the line with her, it made his stomach turn.

Kelly was not a lover to him. She never would be. They were family, plain and simple. Anything more was a lie and they both knew it. Cruz clung to the traits in Kelly that reminded him of Eden. He wanted to find Eden somewhere inside of Kelly and the harder he tried, the more he hurt her.

When he left that day, running from the law, he hit a point in his life that he had never been before. He wondered who he had become and how he let it happen. There was nothing he had run from in his life up until that point and it shamed him to think of the image he had created for his children.

Their mother left them and now, he was no better. They cried as he ran away from them, yet he kept running. Each night, they cried on the phone, begging him to bring their mommy home. He cried along with them, knowing that he could never make their dream come true, but not for lack of trying.

While on the run, he found Eden. She was sitting at a table in an outdoor cafй when he saw her across the way. He knew she would be in Paris. She loved it there and so did he. Part of him hoped that the two of them in Paris would bring back the memories she had buried deep down inside of her. He watched her for awhile, sipping her espresso, reading a French love story in a paperback book

She was elegant as always. Her dress hung loosely off of her shoulders and she fidgeted to keep the strap up. She would brush her hair out of her eyes and he remembered when he would do that for her. So beautiful, so passionate. Even sitting there, she was a amazing.

He thought about approaching her, but he was afraid. Would she run? The day he received those divorce papers he knew she was no longer the woman he had loved. She had changed and he would never have the chance to bring her back.

When she glanced his direction, his heart stopped. He wanted to speak, but couldn’t. He wanted to wave, to run to her, but he was frozen. More than anything, he wanted to grab a hold of her and never let her leave him again. She stared at him, their eyes burning into each other, then got up and walked away.

It was the moment he had regretted his entire life. Who was she to decide that things were over?

He tried to work on the files Julia had left on his desk, regretting the way he had treated her. Julia had been a good friend to him through all of this. She had stepped in to take care of Chip and Adrianna while he was away, she had convinced him to come back home and take control of his life. It was because of Julia that he was a free man, raising his children. She had given them an opportunity to be a family again and he owed her more than he could ever repay.

Julia would understand that his actions were not his own. This wasn’t a good time in his life. He was getting older and so were his kids. Chip was looking at colleges on the east coast and Adrianna was determined to leave the minute she could. Soon he would be alone and the thought terrified him.

“Julia,” Cruz opened her office door, to find her talking on the phone. He quietly laid the files on her desk, smiled and walked towards the door.

“Thanks,” she said, as she hung up the phone.

“No problem.”

Julia stood, trying to think of something to say, not knowing the right words. “Um, Cruz..Samantha told me that Chip is going to the prom.”

“Yeah,” he smiled. “We’ve got his tux rented and the corsage bought.”

“Samantha is going with Daniel Boswell.”

“Oh…Well that’s good. He’s a good kid.”

“Yes. Well….Thanks again for checking this out.”

Cruz opened the door, then turned back to her. “Julia…I’m sorry. I had no right to treat you the way I did.”

She smiled and he attempted to leave.

“Cruz, wait.” He looked at her and knew what she wanted to say. “I know you hear this all of the time, but….It is time to move on.”

“Julia, don’t–“

”I know, I know, it sounds so easy and it isn’t. But, dammit Cruz, how much of the rest of your life are you willing to lose to her? How many more anniversaries are you going to lock yourself inside your house?”

“You have no idea how hard I have tried to move on.”

“Maybe not, but I do know what you have given up to hold onto this pain that you have.”

He left her office in the middle of her sentence. It wasn’t the first time he had heard that speech and it certainly wouldn’t be the last, there was no need to listen to her grand finale.

When he got home that night, the house was unusually quiet. The living room was dark, lit only by the single lamp on the desk. He glanced around, no backpacks thrown in their usual spot on the couch, no shoes kicked off. The thought crossed his mind that he was glancing into his future. The day would soon come when walking into an empty home was normal. It scared him.

“Adrianna! Chip!” He pushed the button on the answering machine.

“Hi, Cruz, it’s Sophia. The kids are here and they’re going to stay for dinner. Why don’t you join us? Give me a call. Bye.”

Glancing around the house, the emptiness hit him hard. He had no desire to sit at the dinner table, pretending they were all one big happy family. They had treated him with such compassion, such dignity, when Eden had left. He was always included as part of the family, not an ex or an outcast. That made him happy. But tonight, it wasn’t about family and joy. He didn’t want to be a part of any family tonight.

Family. They were a family once, the four of them. People envied them in a way that made him proud. A loving husband, a loving wife, a son, and a daughter. The only thing missing was a dog, but Eden never like dogs much. The perfect blended American family. Who would have ever thought that this Latino boy from the streets could marry a woman so powerful as she?

Her power never impressed him. The money, the wealth, the business deals. He was proud of her goals and accomplishments. He appreciated her independence, her work ethic. But those qualities did not make up the woman he loved. He fell in love with the real Eden. The Eden she only revealed to him, in the privacy of their home, wherever that was. It was the sensitive side of her, the child like side, that he adored. The side that needed him as much as he needed her, the side that asked for his protection and accepted his comfort.

When they were together, no one else existed. She was as much a part of him as he was of her. Their lives, their souls intertwined in a way normal people could not understand. He knew what she was thinking, before she ever uttered a word and she could ease his mind with the word, “hello.” It was her shear presence in his life that gave it meaning. Now, that was gone.

No more, “I love you’s”, no more “I need you’s”. His heart hurt when he thought of living a life with no love. Yes, he had his children, and his love for them could not be matched. But, Eden was different. The love he felt for her was that kick in the gut, knock you out cold kind of love and it was over.

Julia was right. Everyone was right. He needed to move on. He tried so many times, half heartedly, to accept the reality of things. It never worked for more than a while. There was a part of him that was broken. It sounded cliche to have a broken heart, but he understood the saying. Something inside him physically hurt to think of what he had experienced in his life and lost. Doctor’s couldn’t find anything wrong, psychiatrists tried to “fix” him, but there was no medication that would change the way Cruz felt.

 

EDEN

Her attic was the smallest thing about her home. She hated going in there, but sometimes it couldn’t be avoided. Mary’s daughter was a Girl Scout and each year they had a rummage sale to pay for their camp costs. If Eden had her way, she’d just write them a big old check, but Mary insisted she donate some of her old things. It was tax writeoff, so she felt she couldn’t say no.

There were boxes upon boxes of Eden’s things. Books and clothes, Christmas presents she’d be given and never opened. This was the time of year when she could give away the things she didn’t need and it made her feel good to give them to Mary. Although, Mary would sigh with disgust at the things Eden considered rummage. She was certain that Mary went through the things and kept some for herself, but it didn’t matter.

She had spent the last three evenings going through the boxes. Each year she was surprised at the amount she still had left to give. Already, she had two large boxes full of clothes and shoes, and a box of picture frames and unburned candles she’d been given as gifts. People never really knew what to buy Eden, yet they always insisted on buying something anyways. She hated that tradition. You get me a gift, so I have to run out and get you one too. You buy me something I don’t like and I’ll go buy you something you don’t like. Merry Christmas.

“Anything for me to carry down, Ms. Capwell?” Lucy stood on the ladder peering into the attic. Eden appreciated such an efficient helper.

“Hey, Lucy, what’s in that box over there?” Eden pointed to a small box in the corner, wrapped in butcher paper. “Is it yours?”

“No, ma’am. I don’t store my things here.”

“I don’t recall seeing it before.”

Eden walked over to the box and shook it, as if it were something that might explode. Lucy climbed in and stood next to her. The two of them, scared of such a tiny box, huddled together like the bomb squad.

“What do you think is in it?” Eden asked, hearing a rustling sound as she shook the box lightly. Lucy watched wide eyed in anticipation.

“Maybe you should open it.”

“Maybe I should.”

The women sat together on the floor, almost ceremoniously. Eden placed the box in the middle of them and hesitated a moment before opening it. Something about this box worried her, but she didn’t know why. It seemed so out of place in her attic. Everything was in large plastic tubs, labeled with black marker on white labels, except for the small shoe box she had in front of her. Had it always been there?

She lifted the lid off, carefully, only slightly at first. Peeking inside, becoming confident there was no bomb awaiting her, she lifted the lid off and sat it to the side.

“What is it?” Lucy thumbed through some of the things, pictures mostly, newspaper clippings as well.

“Looks like a bunch of junk to me.”

“It’s not junk, there are photos and clippings.”

“Junk, Lucy.”

Lucy picked up one photo and glanced over it. The man was Latino, like her, she noticed that immediately. He was handsome too. “Do you know this man?”

Eden held up the picture of a man, dressed in a gray suit coat with a white shirt. His smile touched her for reasons she couldn’t explain. Compassionate eyes, strong features. “No….I…I don’t think so.”

She thumbed through the clippings, reading stories of car chases and gun fights, citations and awards. Cruz Castillo.

“Hm,” Eden read over the name again. “Cruz Castillo. Have you heard of him?”

“I have heard of Castillo, but Cruz….no, I don’t believe so.”

“How do you suppose this got here?”

“Maybe when you moved, it got mixed up with your things.”

“Maybe so….I should probably send it back to him, don’t you think? This…Cruz Castillo might be looking for these things.”

She flipped through the photos and found a picture of two small children. They were beautiful, perfect really. Big brown eyes and bright happy smiles. They were this Cruz Castillo’s children, no doubt. They looked remarkably like him. Turning the photo over she saw “Chipper and Adrianna, Christmas 1991″ scribbled on the back.

“Chipper? What kind of person names their child Chipper?”

“Maybe it’s a nickname,” Lucy imagined. “Let me see that.” She stared at the picture, smiling at the sight of the young children. “Oh, they are beautiful, aren’t they?”

“They certainly are,” Eden snatched the picture out of Lucy’s fingers and took it into her own. “The girl is so…dainty, isn’t she? And the boy…Oh, what a heart breaker.”

“Absolutely precious.”

She tried to put the photo down, but could not take her eyes off of it. Lucy continued to look through the box, but Eden couldn’t move past the photo of these perfect children.

Never in her life had she enjoyed looking at other people’s children as much as she enjoyed this Chipper and Adrianna. Weird names, maybe, but extremely attractive children. She touched their little faces with her fingertips.

“This box is obviously important to someone,” Lucy announced. “It is filled with so many wonderful memories.”

“Is there an address?”

“I don’t see one.”

The women searched through the box, but found nothing but more photos of the children and the man, more clippings. It was certain to Eden that however this box ended up in her possession, she was meant to send it back. Someone, somewhere was missing these things and it wasn’t in her to hold onto them.

She sat at her computer that night, the box on the edge of her desk, staring at the photo of the children in her hand. It was important to her to send the box back, but she thought of keeping this picture. It certainly wouldn’t be missed amongst the other items inside. She went to the box of donations Lucy had packed up and found a picture frame. Chipper and Adrianna were now sitting on her desk, framed and beautiful. They were the first and only picture to ever grace her desk.

The internet was such a mysterious thing to Eden, but Lucy’s son Julio had taught her a thing or two about it. She knew if she typed a name into the search engine, information was bound to pop up. From the looks of the articles that filled this box, Cruz Castillo would have his name somewhere on the internet. He was a hero. Hero’s were surely published somewhere.

It was two in the morning when she first took her eyes off of that computer screen. Cruz Castillo was a popular guy, a truly amazing man. She had learned so much about him in those eight hours, that she almost believed she knew him. He was an inspector, a spy once upon a time. It sounded so mysterious to Eden, not to mention slightly exotic. She imagined him jumping out of airplanes and snatching up bad guys.

“My name is Bond. Cruz Bond.”

He became a fictional character in Eden’s mind, someone too good to be true. In the hundreds of articles she found about this Cruz Castillo, there was good and bad. His life had been a roller coaster and she had read every word. He married and divorced and raised children on his own….Chipper and Adrianna.

Eden could picture them running into his arms. She envisioned him swinging them around, sending giggles and shouts around the room. He would kiss them and they would smile, he would hold them and they would feel safe. Such lucky children.

Santa Barbara. He was a member of the Santa Barbara Police Department.

She closed her eyes tightly and tried to imagine herself living in Santa Barbara. Could she ever get used to the warm weather? Would she tire of the beaches and bathing suits? It just wasn’t her style. Certainly this Cruz Castillo liked it there, so perhaps she could, as well.

One story she read actually brought Eden to tears. Cruz Castillo, hero inspector, was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. It was a murder and he had been set up. Many lonely nights he spent in a prison cell, contemplating his own death. The newspaper quoted him as saying, “I would have killed myself the first day in that cell if it wasn’t for a certain woman. She got me through this, and in the end, she saved my life.”

Eden cried as she read the words. She couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to love someone so much. This woman was a lucky one…..Yet, they were divorced. The last article she found was one that mentioned his divorce. It was proof to Eden that even things meant to be, never lasted.

There were no fairy tales. No love was so strong it could survive anything. She knew that and it’s why she never bothered falling in love. Prince Charming was a fictional character, made up by people who had very active imaginations. It was nothing more than that.

But these children, Chipper and Adrianna, they had suffered too and she thought it so unfair. He raised these children alone. Their mother left them, much like she imagined her own mother leaving her. They were so beautiful, so innocent, and that woman walked away from them. It was a truly evil thing to do, Eden thought, to abandon your children. If you’d gone through the trials of birthing them, the least you could do was raise them.

The boy had eyes like his father, large and brown. She was mesmerized by him and found it hard to look away from those eyes. They seemed to be looking back at her. It frightened Eden a little to imagine someone depending on her the way that handsome boy depended on his mother.         The girl was nothing short of a true princess. She had eyes much like her brother, but they revealed more pain than his. She was a young girl, this Adrianna, a baby. Yet, she looked as if she had more of a story to tell than most adults Eden knew. Her smile wasn’t forced, it wasn’t fake. It was a genuine smile, filled with joy and delight, but she was pained in some way.

Eden felt a connection to these children, which was strange in some ways. She never normally felt much of anything for children. But this Chipper and Adrianna were different and she didn’t know why.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR

ADRIANNA

For years now, everyone had told her how much she reminded them of her mother. Adrianna held on to those stories, she listened to them with such delight, asking for them to be told over and over again. As a young girl, she would go to bed at night listening as her Daddy told stories of their lives together.

He told Adrianna how hard they fought for her. He told her how her mother was the only one who never lost hope. It was her mother who knew where to find her, no matter how many times people tried to get her to move on. She searched tirelessly to find Adrianna, never letting go of the hopes and dreams she had for them all.

There were stories of days at the beach and nights watching movies with the family. They were good days. The days when everyone was happy. The days when her daddy smiled and her brother laughed. When her grandparents would come over bearing huge packages filled with gifts for her and her mother would tell them it was too much.

Everyone thought she was too young to remember, but they were wrong. She remembered every little detail about her mother. Often times, she wondered if she had imagined her memories, made them up. After all, she had hundreds of photographs to stare at each night. But the things Adrianna remembered weren’t the big things in photo’s.

The way her mother sang too her, shy, yet sincere. The way her mother’s hair would fall into Adrianna’s face when she bent over to pick her up. Remembering those times, she could almost feel it all over again. Most of all, she remembered the way her mother smelled. There were times when she would be somewhere and a smell would overcome her. Those were the times she missed her mother the most.

Other girls at her school were always complaining about their mothers. They were embarrassed of the way they walked, the way the talked, the way they dressed. Adrianna envied them for having something to be embarrassed of. She had nothing to add to those conversations. No complaints, no stories. The girls had no idea how much those stories hurt Adrianna. To them, it was all a joke, but it was like a knife in Adrianna’s heart.

She knew her father would freak out when she decided to look for her mother. Chip had warned her, so she was prepared. It didn’t upset her when he tried to convince her she was fighting a losing battle. She knew the lines he would use before they ever came out of his mouth. They were, of course, the same lines he had used on Chip. The same lines Chip pretended to believe, as had she. In her heart, Adrianna knew the truth. Her mother was out there, waiting to be found.

The difference between Adrianna and her brother was that Chip was a people pleaser. He loved their mother as much as she, that was undeniable. He longed for her and dreamed of having her walk through their front door the same as she had. But Chip was afraid of hurting their father. The love he had for their dad was pulling him harder than the desire he had to find their mother. It wasn’t anything for him to be ashamed of, it’s just the way he was. He liked making people happy, especially their Dad.

Adrianna had not been born with the people pleasing gene. Yes, it was nice to make her father happy. It was great to bring home A’s on her report card and score the winning run in the softball games. It was enjoyable to see his face when she gave him a gift that she bought with her own money. Those things made her happy. But the risk of hurting her father would never come close to stopping her from tracking down her mother. It was her right and she intended to uphold it.

In her heart, she knew that in the end, her daddy would understand. He’d be angry at first, but when she opened that door with her mother at her side, all would be forgiven. Adrianna knew her daddy better than anyone did. He talked a good show, tough and unforgiving, but he had a soft spot when it came to her mother.

No matter what stupid trick her mother pulled or how many times her mother pushed him away, he always pulled back. This time would be no different. Love was something that could not easily be forgotten and Adrianna was certain that the love story of her parents was far from over. “The End” wasn’t even close.

As soon as she learned to write, Adrianna kept a journal. There were several of them stacked up in her closet now, filled on every page. There were words and drawings, pictures and clippings. Adrianna had carefully documented every day of her life. She used scotch tape to attach her first lost tooth to the page. She scooped up a lock of her own hair from the beauty shop floor after embarking in her first real haircut. There were photos of her each year of her life, photos of her friends and her hobbies. She cut out newspaper clippings of her softball games, her theater debut. Everything about Adrianna was in these journals.

One day, she would present them to her mother. It would be a moment neither one of them would forget. They would sit together on her bed, reading the words, laughing at the funny moments, crying at the sad. Her mother would hug her so tightly she would barely be able to breathe, but it wouldn’t matter. They would be together, sharing their lives, mother and daughter.

Adrianna Sophia Castillo was on a mission. She had logged countless hours on her laptop running searches on Eden Castillo, when Chip reminded her that she might go by Capwell. It wouldn’t be long before something would come up and she would have a city or a phone number or something. Chip wasn’t so certain, but Adrianna would never let go of her hope. Her efforts would pay off, that she was sure of.

 

Sitting in her fourth period class, she stared at the clock on the wall. Two more minutes before lunch time. She could hack 7th grade Biology for two more minutes, then she would be free. Adrianna was a pro at sneaking out of the school building at lunch time. The cafeteria at her school was so large, the teachers couldn’t possibly keep track of where every student was. She would walk towards the cafeteria with the rest of the class, then sneak out the side door as the rounded the corner. It was simple. She had done it every day for most of the school year.

Her friends often wondered where she sneaked off to. They thought she had some secret boyfriend that she would rendezvous with. Adrianna let them believe the silly stories, but it wasn’t true. The only thing she would rendezvous with was a computer in the city library. She spent hours searching for her mother on those computers.

It was easier to use the library computers than her own, because her father was very clever about checking up on her internet usage at home. He claimed to be a technological idiot, but that was a lie. She had caught him on more than one occassion going through the files on her laptop. Adrianna was too smart for her father and he knew it.

There was a people finder sight she paid her membership to. Giving them the information she knew on her mother, they would search for her on their own. Each month they asked for more money and Adrianna knew it was too much, but she paid for it anyway. Never could she live with herself if her mother was only $39.95 away and she was too cheap to go for it.

 

 

CHIP

Chip was a lucky kid. He was popular, he was smart, he was the best first baseman on the school’s baseball team. He had a life that was good and simple. Good fortune blessed him with a nice house and no need to work, but his father had other plans.

When he turned 15, he got a job at the Orient Express bussing tables. It didn’t pay much, but it was a steady job and he was desperate to save up enough money for a car. Every day after school, or practice, depending on the season, he headed to the Orient Express. He worked as many hours as they would allow him to work and on the weekends he would try to pull double shifts. People admired his work ethic, calling him his father’s son, but they didn’t know the truth.

The job was just a job. It wasn’t that great and it wasn’t that bad. Bussing tables wasn’t exactly his dream job, nor was it to be his life’s ambition. Waiting on the wealthy socialites was far from exotic and cleaning up their messes wasn’t too dreamy. But Chip didn’t take this job for the duties. He loved this job for one reason only.

This was his mother’s restaurant. She had designed it on her own, spent countless hours running it. He felt close to her here. When he looked at the artwork, he could imagine her picking it out and hanging it. Sometimes, when he glanced at the hostess station, he almost thought he saw his mother standing there. She’d be looking over the books, checking the reservation list, greeting people as they strolled in.

His parents were almost married in this restaurant. He had heard the story so many times he felt like he’d been there, fighting to get out of the burning building with the rest of them. He imagined that his mother was the most beautiful bride Santa Barbara had ever seen and his father the proudest groom.

His dad often called the Orient Express a gift his mother had left to him. He said it wasn’t the job or the money, but the love she put into it that made it his. Each booth, each sconce was designed with care and it was the care she put in that would live on in every inch of the place. When he was younger, his father would bring him here for lunch. They would sit together in a booth, while Adrianna gazed out the window, and he would watch his father close his eyes for a moment. He knew what his father was saying and who he was saying it to.

To Chip, this was far more than a way to earn money. This job was his life, the same way it was once his mothers life. Adrianna never understood. She wasn’t much on work. Being tied down to a job was not her style. She wouldn’t even accept long term baby-sitting jobs. But he was happy here.

He remembered clearly the day he began searching for his mother. Probably because it was the same day he stopped. His father had caught him asking too many questions and put an end to his quest almost immediately. He claimed it was for Chip’s own good, but Chip knew it was for his fathers own sanity.

His dad was a strong man, the strongest man Chip knew. But losing his mother was hard on him and Chip had no intention of making life any harder. He swore he would stop looking that day and he never attempted again. Many times, he regretted that decision, but he decided not to look back.

When Adrianna decided to begin her own search, Chip worried. She asked for his help, but he declined. He pled with her to understand what it would do to their father. He told her the stories of how their dad would lay awake crying, when he thought they were both in bed. It didn’t stop Adrianna. If anything, it pushed her more and that made Chip happy. He knew that it wasn’t in him to break a promise to his dad, but if Adrianna did it would be another story.

Would he help her? Of course not. Would he try to stop her? No. She was on her own on this mission, but he wouldn’t stand in her way. Adrianna wasn’t the only one with dreams of finding their mother and she wouldn’t be the only one to embrace her if she did.

He would never admit it to his father. It would feel like he was being a traitor. His father had taken care of them both, alone, for so long now and Chip was grateful. He appreciated his father as much as he loved him. But there was something inside of him that just needed more. His dad was great. He was affectionate, understanding, and supportive. But he wasn’t a mom and in the darkness of the night, in the simplicity of his dreams, Chip needed his mom.

There were times in a guy’s life when a mother’s touch was needed. Prom, for instance, was coming up and his father was very little help. Yes, he could guide him to the nearest tuxedo rental shop, but picking out a corsage was a nightmare. As sensitive of a man his father was, there were things that only a woman can know…should know. He missed that.

He remembered her, though, so vividly in his mind. He recalled the way she would scoop him into her arms and dance around the room. He remembered the way she would cut his bananas in the special way his father could never imitate. Her storytelling voice, her quiet whisper voice, always telling him, “I love you.”

As a child, a small boy, he would watch his parents together. They would smile and laugh, kiss and hug. He would see his father with his mother and a sense of security overwhelmed him. They couldn’t be in a room without touching, looking at each other with eyes that spoke to each other. Chip witnessed that almost every day. He wondered if he would ever find that in his own life.

He had girlfriends, but no one special. Part of him didn’t want to believe in “love”. It was such a girly word. Adrianna would scribble through one boys name to write a new one under I LOVE on her school folders. It was such a silly thing for a barely teenage girl to believe she was in love. Yet according to Adrianna, she could switch loves once a week and still be “in love.” It never made sense to him.

Chip never felt passionately enough about a girl to write the word love on his school folders. He didn’t care to utter words he didn’t mean. He never wrote silly little notes and pass them in class. Calling girls was out of the picture and receiving their calls was a challenge.. He never knew what to say or how to act. It had been so long since he had seen love, he was starting to forget what it looked like.

 

CHAPTER FIVE

CRUZ
St. Peter’s was a beautiful church. The large steeple stood so high, it practically reached inside the clouds. Cruz stood in awe on the front steps. It had been a long time since he had graced these steps, too long. He wasn’t even sure it would look the same inside or that he would know anyone he saw.
In his life, Cruz was seldom alone. If the kids were at school, he was at work, surrounded by medaling people. If he was at home and the kids were out, someone was always coming over to check on him and nose themself into his lack of a social life. He longed for a privacy that his family and friends wouldn’t allow him.
So, he found himself at St. Peter’s, searching for a quiet place to think. He had no intentions of baring his soul to a priest, or crying out his confessions. He only wanted to sit in silence, alone with no thoughts but his own. He would not speak aloud, but in his mind he would talk to God in a way he hadn’t done before.
The door was heavy as he pulled it open and it made a loud banging sound as it slammed shut. He wished he had been more careful when closing it. Standing in the back of the church, he looked at the amazing stained glass that embraced the walls. The sunlight shone through it, sending a rainbow of colors bouncing off the sparkling tiled floors. He stepped inside, dipped his finger in the holy water and made the sign of the cross on his body.
As he walked towards the sanctuary, his heart was pounding. There, before him, was the ultimate sign of unselfishness, the crucifix. Cruz stared for a moment, taking note of the thorns upon the head of Jesus. He studied that crucifix carefully, feeling an overwhelming sense of grief for the man that hung up on that cross.
Kneeling at altar, he broke down. Cruz was never a man to hide his emotions, but it had been years since he had cried. It felt strange to him, almost embarrassing. He had become so comfortable with feeling nothing, that this outpour of emotion took him by surprise.
Slowly, he took his hand and wiped away his tears. He bowed his head, silently, hoping he would somehow find the words he wished he could say. His mind was racing, his heart was pounding. If only he could breathe. Just a slow, steady, breath to calm his nerves. But, he could not. He tried, he concentrated, and he found it harder and harder to slow down the thoughts racing through his mind.
There was Eden. She stood before him, not far away. He smiled at her, she smiled back. Her hair was blowing slightly in the breeze and he wanted so badly to be near her. Her eyes were sparkling, her arms reaching out to him. He tried to walk, but could not. She was so close, within his reach, but he couldn’t extend his arms. He tried to scream, yet no words came out. Then, she was gone.
There was Adrianna. She was on the swing set he had worked so tirelessly to build for them. Swinging higher and higher, as he watched from afar. She would call at to him, waving her hand and he’d beg her to hold on. Right before his eyes, she swung higher and higher and before long, she was out of his sight.
There was Chip. He was just a boy, building sand castles on the beach. Cruz watched him as he laughed and giggled, shoveling sand into the bucket. When he turned around, Chip was older, jogging down the beach, tossing a baseball into the air, calling “Come play catch, Dad!” But he ran so far, he could not be seen.
There was his job. Files sat upon his desk piled halfway to the ceiling. The phone was ringing off the hook and Ethan Asher was pounding on the door. Cruz sat under his desk, hiding from everything surrounding him, trying desperately to escape the noise.
There was his mother. Hounding him, begging him, pleading with him to move on. Encouraging him to make a better life for himself and his children, before it was too late. She was cleaning up the house, cooking dinner, looking after the children. All the while, Cruz sat in silence on the sofa, dazed, unaware of his surroundings.
There was the Capwell family. Buying the children gifts, sending all of them on vacations, barging into his home. They were surrounding him, watching him, careful to judge if he made a mistake. They would tell him to move on, then criticize him for doing so. He stood in the middle as they each took turns pulling on his arms.
There was Eden….again, always Eden. She stood before him, close enough to touch, in her wedding gown. She was as beautiful as he remembered her. He reached his hand to touch her face and she didn’t run away. He kissed her, softly, and she kissed him back. He told her he loved her…..She began to fade away. He begged her to stay, calling, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you…” But each time he said the words, she faded more and more. She was gone. His love had caused her to go away.

Tears rolled down his cheeks, but he dared not wipe them away. He was in the presence of God, a man who had shed so many tears for Cruz. It felt wrong to hide his own tears now, in his own time of sorrow and despair. Who was he to hide anything from this God?
Later, when he found the strength inside himself to sit, he found a spot in one of the pews and opened up a bible. He read a few passages, finding it so hard to understand the words written before him. They weren’t written in a foreign language or some kind of code. These beautiful, powerful words were written in English, yet he found it so incredibly hard to understand.
He had once been a spiritual man, but somewhere along the battles in his life, he had lost that part of his soul. He found it hard to believe and trust in a God that would allow his family so much pain. It was hard to “keep the faith” when your faith was constantly tested time and time again.
It was only recently that his longing for a spiritual self had returned. His children were much more spiritual than he, as they were dragged to church on a daily basis with Mama Castillo. He was not so lucky. As an adult, she had no right to drag him anywhere and he made sure she knew that each Sunday when it was time for mass. But now, he found within himself a desire to return to the church. More than that, he wanted to find the connection he once had with God.
Cruz felt it wrong to pray. He didn’t feel worthy. There were times in his life he had prayed for a miracle, one that he received, yet he had never done anything in return. He saw no purpose in his life, no reason for God to answer his prayers. There was a part of him that was missing…..well, two parts maybe. In his heart, he had an enormous amount of space for Chip and Adrianna. He had another amount of space for his family, Capwell and Castillo. He had another amount of space for his true friends, who had stuck by him during the hard times he had faced. But there was a huge gap in his heart that had remained empty since the day he signed the divorce papers.
For so long, Eden had taken up the biggest part of his heart. With her out of his life, he had a space that was so enormous and remained unfilled. That hadn’t changed. As hard as he had tried to fill that space, it never happened. No one could ever mean to him what she did.
He realized that it was his faith that had failed to get him through this. His faith had been lost somewhere along the way. He had always suspected it was when he signed the papers. That was a low point in his life, right next to actually receiving the papers in the first place. He had blamed that on his loss of faith, but now, sitting alone in this church, he knew he was wrong.
There are certain moments in a person’s life that are forever etched in their mind. Cruz would never forget the day he allowed his wife to slip away from him on those cliffs. The feeling of her fingers slipping through his, the sound of her crying out to him for help, the feeling of urgency he felt, trying to find her that day. He would never forgive himself for that moment. He had failed her. She needed him…desperately needed him, and he had failed. That was the day his faith was gone. Yes, he blamed Eden originally.
It was her fault. She left him. SHE left HIM. Not the other way around. SHE sent the divorce papers, SHE wanted the divorce. Not him. She was the reason he had lost his faith in love, in life. It was so much easier to blame her for that.
Truth be told, he only blamed her to cover up the extreme guilt he felt inside himself. He hadn’t lost Eden when the divorce papers came. He lost her the day she slipped through his fingers on that cliff. Had he been able to hold onto her then, he would have her now. He lost his faith that day, the day he lost his one and only true love.
It was only now, eleven years later, that he could say those words aloud. “I lost my faith when I let her slip away from me.” For years, he thought that if he could only see her again, talk to her, tell her how sorry he was, he could fix what was broken inside himself. He put it all on her, as usual. It was her fault and only she can fix it.
That wasn’t true. He knew that now. What was broken inside of Cruz had been shattered that day on the cliffs, when he failed his wife and only he could fix that.

He had a new mission in his life, a new rebirth of sorts. When he walked into his house the next morning it had a different feeling. The sadness and sorrow was gone. There would be no more feeling sorry for himself, no more blaming Eden for what he knew was not her fault. There was a warmth surrounding the house that hadn’t been there in a long, long time.
“There you are,” Adrianna rushed to him, throwing her arms around his neck. “Mama said you would be home in the morning, but…Where were you?”
He held his daughter with a new energy, unburdened and hopeful. “Where I’ve been isn’t important….It’s where we’re going that matters now.”
Adrianna stared up at him with the same nervous eyes he had seen so many times. He regretted how worrisome her young life had been. Always taking care of him and Chip, always careful to say the right things. She was a mothering child and it pained him to think that she had lost a bit of her own childhood that could not be regained.
“Where’s your brother?” He walked to the stairs and looked up. “Chip! Come down here, please.”
“Daddy, what’s going on?” Adrianna was thinking too much, but he comforted her with a genuine smile. There would be no more forced smiles on Cruz Castillo’s face.
Chip walked down the stairs, half dressed. His eyes were wide, as Cruz remembered them when he was just a child. He looked to Cruz for a sense of stability and today he would receive that.
“We’re going on a trip.” Cruz sat with his children on the couch, his arm wrapped around each of them, like he did when they were babies. “It’s time we took control of our lives again, don’t you think?”
“I don’t understand,” Chip said.
“I want to apologize to you both. You have spent your entire lives living in sadness.”
“That’s not true, Daddy,” Adrianna leaned her head on his shoulder. “We’ve had a lot of happy times.”
“Yes,” Cruz smiled, “but it’s time we had more.”
“So what does this mean?” Chip was hesitant. “You said something about a trip?”
“Are we going to Hawaii? Or Mexico?” Adrianna was delighted at the idea of vacation. It had been so long since they had taken one together.
“No, it’s not going to be that kind of a trip. In fact, I suppose trip isn’t exactly the right word. We’re going on a journey. The three of us. It’s time.”
“Time for what?” His children looked at him anxiously.
Cruz chose his words carefully. He had planned this speech the entire drive home. “Time for us to move on.”
He stood, holding their hands in his. “We need to move forward in our lives. We need to find peace within ourselves and redeem our spirit. Now, I won’t force you to join me in this journey, but I do think we should do it together as a family. We’ve spent way to many years clinging to a past that we can’t have back. We’ve held grudges and blame that has been a heavy burden on our hearts. So I’d like it if we could go on this journey together.”

It was decided that Cruz would leave first. He had some thinking to do on his own before he could be prepared to help his children through this emotional journey and they had two weeks of school to finish before their summer break. He would leave in the morning for Paris, as good as place as any to start. Chip and Adrianna would join him in Paris the day they let out of school and they would move forward on their journey.
Paris was a place where he wanted some time alone. He and Eden had shared so many good times there, romantic times. It was important to him to embrace those times alone, in his own emotions, free to express himself however he see fit. But it was an equally important place for Chip and Adrianna, as his daughter had spent the first several months of her life living in Paris. It was where they were reunited as a family, where Adrianna’s journey had begun.
He was excited and proud to be sharing such a spiritual time in his life with his children. It would be a bonding moment they had never experienced before. He could share with them his own memories and they could develop some of their own.

Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. He didn’t want to answer the phone. He was packing, happily, for this journey he was about to embark upon. Work, family, friends, could wait. It was time he put everyone else in his life aside. This was his time. Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring.

“Aw, dammit,” He walked to the phone and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

EDEN
It had been five days since she has last step foot in her office. Eden couldn’t remember the last time she has been away as long. As she walked through the doors, she didn’t feel the same excitement and passion that she felt only a week ago. Phones were ringing, clients were coming and going, yet Eden found herself sneaking past them all. She wasn’t here to work.
Physically she was here, but mentally, she was somewhere else. She had an important meeting today. It was a meeting she had been looking forward to since the first phone call she placed. Dean Travis, Private Investigator, would be joining her shortly and he claimed to have exactly what she was looking for.
“Ms. Capwell, thank God you’re back,” Mary followed Eden into her office, closing the door behind her. “I have a mountain of messages, some that are extremely urgent. Russ is threatening to take a 2 week vacation because left us in the lurch. Where have you been?”
“I’m sorry, Mary,” Eden opened the door. “But I’m not here….I mean, I’m here, but I’m not. So you go back out there and you keep taking messages and you tell Russ if he feels he is due for a vacation, he should certainly take one.”
Mary stared at Eden in disbelief, as she stood holding the door open. “What are you talking about? We’ve got things to do, you have people to call….”
“No, I don’t.”
Mary held up the stack of messages. “Yes, you do.”
“Mary, we’re not understanding each other.”
“You can say that again.”
“I am not working today. I’m taking some time off.”
“Time off? You’ve had time off. We need you back here.”
“Well, I think I have more than a few days coming to me, don’t you? Have you ever remembered me taking any time off, Mary? No, because I have not. So you can tell all of these people that Eden Capwell is temporarily out of the country.”
Mary stared at her, shocked. “Have you lost your mind.”
“Yes I have. In fact, I think I lost it a long time ago, really. Now you go on. I’m waiting for a Mr. Dean Travis. Please send him in as soon as he gets here.”
Closing the door, Eden laughed at what must be running through Mary’s mind. She had never spoken to Mary in such a manner. Eden was known for being business as usual no matter what time of day it was. But things were different now. She had a new mission in her life, at least for the time being.
She could barely wait for Dean Travis to get there. Like a child on Christmas morning, she paced the room, peeking out the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of him coming in. The meeting was to be held at 9:30. Eden tried to make it earlier, but Dean Travis was obviously not a morning person. She normally hated people who refused to meet in the early morning hours. Those were, of course, the most productive hours of the day. But she didn’t mind that Dean Travis wouldn’t meet earlier. She would have met him anywhere, any time.
Lying in her bed Friday night, going through the box of Cruz Castillo’s thing, a commercial came on late night television. Dean Travis was announcing his “amazing detective abilities”. “You name them, I’ll find them.” That was his promise. Eden was certain it was a sign from God. She was sitting there, looking at Cruz Castillo’s things, wondering how she would ever find him and bam, this commercial was blaring in her ear. It was fate.
Knock, knock, knock. She jumped almost out of her skin, before opening the door.
“Where the hell have you been?” Russ pushed his way past her. “I have been swamped trying to make up for all of your clients on top of my own clients. Joe has been putting in overtime, I have been putting in overtime….Hell, even poor Mary has put in overtime.”
“Good. It’s high time the rest of you clocked in some extra hours.”
“Excuse me?”
“How many nights have I spent here, working on projects and presentations for ALL of our clients? Hmmm? You don’t know because it’s too many to count.”
“Eden, the least you could do was call. We didn’t know if you were dead or alive.”
“Well, Russ, put your mind at ease. I can assure you that I am very much alive. Now if you will excuse me, I am waiting for someone.”
“Is that right? I have a pile of your files on my desk waiting to be looked at, people who need to be called.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it very much. You’d better get going, though, so you can get out of here at a decent time tonight.”
She gave Russ a slight push before closing the door behind him. This freedom from her work was quite liberating. She understood why people hated working extra hours and vowed never to spend another sleepless night in this office.
“Ms. Capwell?”
The door opened and an interesting man appeared in her doorway. He was a large man, with a belly that hung over his pants farther than she had ever seen. His hair was thinning, which he attempted to hide by an embarrassing come over. Beads of sweat were dripping from his forehead and Eden thought about being disgusted.
“Mr. Travis.”
“Yes’m. Call me Dean.”
He made his sweaty self at home in her leather chair. She made a mental note to ask housekeeping to clean it after he left. His heavy breathing frightened her slightly, but he appeared to be okay.
“Well, Ms. Capwell–“
”Eden.”
“Yes, Eden. I think I have what you are looking for.”
He reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a folded up piece of notebook paper. Eden watched as he carefully unfolded it, as if it were one of the great treasures of the world. She wanted to grab the paper from his hand and open it herself, but she didn’t.
“A phone number.”
“Really? A phone number?”
“Yes’m. We could call it right now if you’d like. It was really very simple to find.”
“Call now?” This wasn’t the picture Eden had in her mind of what it would be like to call Cruz Castillo. In her office, this smelly man sweating all over her new leather chair, did not fit in with her dream. “I think I’d rather wait.”
“Yes, well, here it is. I won’t make you pay me until you’ve called it and made sure it is the guy you are looking for.”
“Nonsense.” She walked to her desk, almost desperate to get this man out of her office, and wrote him a check. “Thank you for your hard work.”
“But what if it’s not the guy.”
“No matter. I will call you if I need more help.”
She walked to her door and opened it up. “Mr. Travis, you have no idea how much I appreciate this.”
It seemed to take him an eternity to get out of that chair. He gasped and moaned like he was lifting an enormous amount of weight…Eden supposed he was. She stood patiently, smiling, at the door until he finally reached her, then closed the door behind him.
Staring at the phone number, pacing the room, wondering. Should she call now? Should she wait? It was the middle of the day. Chances are he would be at work. Would he have an answering machine? Would she leave a message? There were so many questions running through her mind.
Sneaking out of her office building, Eden hurried down the staircase. She avoided the elevator, as not to be caught sneaking out by Joe or Russ. They would not understand the urgency of her quest, nor did she care to share it with them. It was time they took a little more responsibility at work and Eden was happy to give them the chance.
The taxi drove slower than imaginable. Eden was almost certain she could have walked home faster. She hardly waited for the driver to stop in front of her house, before she threw her money at him and jumped out of the car. She had never been this excited to go home.
Ten-thirty a.m. That would make it….seven-thirty a.m. in Santa Barbara. She could possibly catch him before he left for work. Sitting at her desk, staring at the framed photo of Chipper and Adrianna that sat upon her desk, she held the phone tightly in her hand. She dialed, then hung up. Dialed, then hung up. Dialed, then hung up. What was she going to say? It was important to have her dialogue prepared.
Grabbing her steno pad and pen, she began to map out the things she would say.
I am Eden Capwell. No, that sounded too ambiguous. Hi, I’m calling for Mr. Cruz Castillo. Yes, that sounded like a nice opener.
She dialed, then hung up. What was stopping her? This was all she had been obsessing about since the day she found the box, yet she was frozen. It made her laugh to think of the affect this Cruz Castillo had on her. She didn’t even know him. He could have been the biggest loser in the world, yet she was sweating bullets trying to get up the nerve to call him.
“Okay, I’m just going to do it.”
With a deep breath, she sunk down into her chair an dialed the phone. Ring ring, ring ring, ring ring, ring ring. The waiting was making her insane. She had never heard a phone ring this many times. Did he not have an answering machine? What kind of person didn’t have an answering machine? Ring ring, ring, ring, ring ring.
Obviously he wasn’t home. It was silly to sit there and torture herself with the constant ringing. She would have to hang up and try again later. Of course, there was always the possibility that this wasn’t the right number. Dean Travis had warned her it may be the wrong guy. What if he was right? What if she had gotten her hopes up so incredibly high, only to find out that this was the wrong number.
Eden felt a pit in her stomach. She touched the picture of Chipper and Adrianna. Was it possible that she would never find them?
Ring ring, ring ring. The ringing was making her crazy. He wasn’t there. She would try again later, but still, there were no guarantees that she had the right number.
“Hello.”

 

CHAPTER SIX

“Hello?” He stood holding the phone in one hand and a folded up shirt in another hand. “Hello?”
Eden listened to his voice and found herself in a trance. She tried to speak, but couldn’t. His voice was so warm, so inviting….Just as she had expected it to be. Was this really him?
“Hello?” Cruz grew impatient. He had better things to do than stand shouting into an empty phone. “Hello? Is anyone there?”
She was there and she wanted desperately to shout back “Yes”, but her mouth formed no words. He would hang up soon and that would have been her chance. How stupid would she seemed if she called back again?
“Hello?” He gave it one more try, just to humor himself. “Good bye.”
Click. The sound of the dial tone rang through her ears. She couldn’t stand it, so she slammed down the phone. Angry at herself for her incompetence, she threw the phone smashing to the wall. Her chance and she blew it.
“Dammit!” She slammed her fist on her desk. “Dammit, dammit, dammit. How could I be such an idiot!”
Her phone lie on the floor, the battery pack hanging out of the back. She went to it, trying to piece it back together, but it was too far gone. Running to the kitchen, she searched for the next available phone. It hung peacefully on the wall, no battery hanging out, and she picked it up.
She stared at the phone number for a moment before dialing.

“Dad, we’re leaving.” Chip stood in his father’s doorway, Adrianna behind him.
“Okay,” Cruz put down his things and went to them. “My flight leaves at one-thirty. I’m going to stop by the school and see you before I go. Mama will be here when you get home and as always, the same rules apply. Curfew is still the same. Got it?”
The kids nodded. They had never been much on breaking the rules, with the exception of Adrianna. Of course, Cruz assumed she got her cleverness honestly; therefore, he could not complain.
“Drive carefully, Chip, and wear your seatbelts.” He kissed Adrianna on the cheek and gave Chip a quick hug before they headed out the door.
Ring, ring. Ring, ring. Ring, ring.
“I’ll get it!” Adrianna yelled from downstairs.
Cruz paid no attention to the phone. He was quickly packing his suitcase. There was plenty of work for him to wrap up at the station and they certainly would not be too thrilled with him taking time off right now. That was not his problem
Downstairs, Adrianna ran to grab the phone as Chip headed on out the door. “Hello?”
Eden was shocked. A different voice, the voice of a girl. Was this the Adrianna from the picture? If she was only a baby in 1991, she must have been….thirteen or fourteen. Eden’s heart pounded at the idea she may be talking to the girl in the pictures.
“Yes,” Eden muttered. “Hello….”
“Can I help you?” Adrianna had a cheerful voice, youthful, yet sophisticated.
“I…I’m looking for Cruz Castillo.”
“Oh, hold on a sec,” Adrianna covered the receiver with the palm of her hand. “DAD!!!! IT’S FOR YOU!!!!”
She stood listening on the phone until she heard her father pick up.
“Hello?” Cruz had picked up the phone upstairs.
“You got it, Dad? We’re leaving.”
“Bye, sweetie,” Cruz said into the phone. Adrianna hung up. “Hello?”
“Mr. Castillo?” Eden was quiet, but at least words came out this time.
Something about the voice sent a chill up Cruz’s spine. He held the phone tightly in his hand. “Yes.”
“Cruz?”
It was Eden. He didn’t have to think about it, or doubt himself. It was her. The way she said his name was something he would never forget. He began to feel slightly faint as he sat down on the bed. His heart pounded with confusion and desperation. Eden always had nice timing, but this was crazy.
“Cruz Castillo?”
“……Eden?”
Eden was taken aback. How did he know her name? Had she told him? Perhaps this Cruz Castillo was psychic. The thoughts racing through her mind frightened her.
“Eden….Is that you?”
She couldn’t answer. He seemed to know her in a way that she couldn’t understand and it frightened her. “Cruz?”
A smile spontaneously erupted on his face. It was her. His wife, his Eden. He hadn’t heard her voice in so many years, but it was her on the other end of this phone and he was certain of it. “Eden. Where are you? Are you all right?”
“I…I don’t know ….” She wasn’t all right. Her stomach churned, her head felt a pain she had never felt before. Without warning, tears rolled from her eyes for no apparent reason. She was certain she would pass out.
“Tell me where you are, baby, and I’ll come to you.”
What was happening? This was not what she expected when she dialed this number. This man, this stranger, was talking to her and she didn’t understand why.
“Eden…Don’t hang up. Please, baby, don’t hang up.”
She didn’t. Words wouldn’t form, the room spun wildly around her, but she couldn’t hang up.
“Just say my name….One more time, so I know it’s really you.”
“Cruz.” The only word her mouth would speak.
Tears formed in Cruz’s eyes. He could hear her crying on the other end of the phone and he wished he could be there to wipe them away. All of the pain, all of the hurt, erased for this moment in time.
“Why are you calling me, Eden? Are you in trouble?.”
There was no answer, but he could hear her breathing, so he knew she was there. He knew that this call was for a reason. She needed him. But was he willing or able to give her what she may need?
“No..” Still quiet, Eden tried to make sense of what was happening. This man, this stranger knew her? Perhaps it was a mistake. Perhaps there was another Eden that he was familiar with and she was leading him on by pretending to be this woman. But she was moved by his voice, so filled with compassion, that she dared not end this conversation.
“Eden, I can’t do this.”
“Do what?”
“This. Sit here, wishing you’d say something you probably have no intention of saying. Why did you call?”
She hesitated. “Do you know me?”
“I thought I did….once.”
Her voice quivered. “How?”
“How? Am I supposed to believe you’ve forgotten? Now you know me better than that.”
“Do I?”
Cruz became frustrated. This game wasn’t enjoyable to him. It wasn’t a game to him. This was his life, his heart, that had been torn apart the day she left him and now, years later he was finally able to prepare to let go and move on. How dare she call him and mess things up again? Just who did she think she was.
“I’m not going to do this any more. I’m moving on, Eden. I’m leaving town for a while and I don’t want you to call here again.”
Eden’s heart hurt as he spoke so harshly to her. She didn’t even know him, but he judged her in someway that shamed her. “Who answered the phone?”
“Don’t do this.”
“Who was it?”
“You know who it was.”
“Adrianna?”
“You know it was.”
“What does she look like?”
“No. You don’t deserve to know. I’m hanging up now.”
“Wait.” She stopped him, not knowing what her next words would be, but knowing she couldn’t end it this way. “Please….What does she look like?”
Cruz was quiet. She prayed that he would describe this Adrianna to her. She stared at the photo she held in her hands of the beautiful baby girl and closed her eyes tightly trying to imagine her grown. “She’s beautiful.”
“Does she look like you?”
“Some.”
Tears rolled down Eden’s face. It amazed her to feel such a connection to this little girl she didn’t know. It was unlike her to have deep feelings for anyone, especially a child. “And the boy?”
“The boy? You mean C hip?”
“Yes…Yes, Chipper.”
“He’s all grown up. He has my eyes and his own everything else.”
She sighed, grasping tightly the picture in her hand. Why did she feel so closely to these children? “Where are you going?”
“What?” Cruz was quiet now. His emotions had been such a roller coaster for so many years, it was if he was reaching the end of the ride.
“You said you were leaving town.”
“I am.”
“What about the children?”
“They’ll join me later. I take very good care of the children, if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“I wasn’t.”
“Eden…..”
“Cruz….”
His voice was shakey as he spoke. “I have to go.”
“Why?”
“Good bye.”
As he hung up the phone, tears rolled down his face. He wanted to call her back, hit star 69 and have her back on his line. He wanted to beg her to come home. Mostly he wanted to hold her again. Maybe if she had called him a couple of days ago, or even hours ago. Maybe if she had said something to make him believe she had changed..

She stood in the kitchen with the phone in her hand, hypnotized by the sound of the dial tone in her ear. Frozen, she was confused by the conversation. He knew her, but how? Did she know him? She must. But, why……..why couldn’t she remember?
Eden banged her head against the refrigerator door, slowly first, then harder, pleading with herself to remember this man. Who was Cruz Castillo? Why did he know her so well?

 

  CHAPTER SEVEN

EDEN

She was paralyzed. Her doors locked, phone off the hook, Eden sat on her bed. The box of his things rested on the bed in front of her and she hadn’t taken her eyes off of it. She held in her hands the picture of his children, staring at it, touching it.
He was a good father. She knew that by the way he spoke about his children. His voice was compassionate and sincere. It was obvious in his tone, in his manner that he adored them. She was happy about that. These beautiful children were well taken care off, that was something she found great comfort in.
The details that frightened her had nothing to do with the children. He knew her. This man, this Cruz Castillo, hero cop from Santa Barbara knew her somehow. He wasn’t surprised to hear her voice. He called her by name and spoke to her in a very matter of fact manner. It shocked her a little when he spoke her name. It was clear that he knew her and for some reason, he didn’t like her.
Instantly, he recognized her voice and instantly she knew he didn’t like her. His voice was cold and harsh, so unlike the way he sounded when speaking of his children. He was harsh and bitter towards her and the worst part of all is that she didn’t know why. She felt that she could handle the fact that this man disliked her, if only she knew why.
She wished now that she had never picked up the phone. It would have been much easier to find the address of this man and mail him the box, never to think of him or these children again. She knew better than to get involved, but she had some sort of desperate need to hear this stranger’s voice. She needed to know him, to understand why she felt some sort of connection to his children. But, she should have left it alone.
No answers were given in that phone call. It was a stupid, spontaneous move that she desperately wished she could take back. It was so unlike Eden to be so reckless. She was a precise, goal oriented woman. She made her own rules and she lived by them, methodically. She was not the type to drink too much, eat too much, or over indulge in any way. She didn’t spend excessive amounts of money or go on lavish vacations. She was normal, in her own eyes. She was not too dramatic, seldom emotionally driven.
This man, a stranger, only a name, pushed buttons inside of her that she never knew existed and she didn’t like it. Eden was happy with her normal, methodic life. She liked having a schedule and sticking to it every day. She liked waking up at the same time, eating the same breakfast, wearing her hair the same way. It was comfortable and Eden liked comfort.
Suddenly, she was thrown into a whirlwind. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep. She hadn’t phoned the office or picked up her mail. She hadn’t watched the news or checked her stocks. Files sat on the same desk they had sat on since the moment she put them down and she still had no intention of working on them. Her cellphone lay on the bedroom floor, battery dead, unused in days.
She wandered what the men in her office thought. Were they concerned that she had been harmed? Were they wondering where she was? Had they even noticed she was gone? And what about sweet Mary? Was she beside herself with worry?
It was something Eden had never really cared about until now. She had no real friendships in her life, no real connections. She didn’t have pals that she would call up on the phone or friends to watch sappy, old movies with. No one called her to gossip or tell funny stories. No one needed her and she didn’t need anyone either.
Thinking back, Eden couldn’t recall one deep friendship in her life. She couldn’t recall much of her life at all. Fuzzy details would pop in every now and again, but nothing too substantial. She assumed she must have faced some sort of trauma in her childhood. Perhaps abuse, perhaps abandonment. Something that would cause her to erase the memories of her life from her mind. She was smart enough to know that it wasn’t normal to have no memories, but she was too stubborn to try to uncover those memories.
It seemed to her that it would serve no purpose to burden herself with bad childhood memories at this stage in her life. She could do nothing about it now. She couldn’t go back and change things, or make them better in anyway. So why should she rehash it now? Why put herself through any unnecessary agony? Therapists tried to get her to dig into her childhood and she would quit going. It was a place she obviously wanted to forget, so why bother bringing it up?
It was all unknown territory and that never frightened her until now. The tone in Cruz Castillo’s voice forced her to feel things that she hadn’t felt before. She couldn’t stop thinking about the unknown now. Mostly, she couldn’t stop thinking about him. He was someone who knew her and disliked her. That troubled her.
“Can I help you?”
Eden found herself standing in the aisle of a small church, frozen staring up at the altar. She couldn’t remember how she got there or why she had come, but she was there. “I don’t know.”
The priest was a short man, bald on the top of his head. He wore wire rimmed glasses that continuously slipped to the end of his nose. His voice was soft and calm, reassuring and polite. “Would you like to talk?”
“I’m not Catholic.”
The man smiled and held out his hand. “I’m not prejudice.”
He led her to a pew where they both sat down. She watched as he knelt down, folding his hands in front of him, bowing his head. He said nothing aloud, but she could tell he was praying. She watched him carefully, studying his movements and actions.
“What are you doing?” Eden asked, regretting it the minute it left her mouth.
He didn’t answer right away. She watched him as he made the sign of the cross in front of him with his hand, then carefully sat back down. “I was praying.”
“Just like that?”
“What do you expect?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. Something more…ceremonious, I guess.”
He nodded and she wished she had never spoken. She felt ignorant now, childlike, asking silly questions that had no answer. A feeling of inadequacy overcame her and she wanted to disappear. “Miss…If there is something standing between you and God, all you have to do is pray.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Oh, but it is. Just close your eyes and talk to God. He always listens.”
“God probably doesn’t even know who I am.”
The priest smiled and stood, stopping for a moment in the aisle. “God is like a parent. He never forgets his children, no matter how far away they may wander.”
As the man walked away, the image of the children popped into her mind. She had never had more vivid an image than she had at that very moment of Chip and Adrianna. “God is like a parent. He never forgets his children.” Her mind ran wildly with thoughts of the children. They were so beautiful. This Cruz Castillo must have been married to a beautiful woman. A lucky woman. Why couldn’t she get them out of her mind? Why were their little faces so sharp in her mind.
She could see the little girl’s eyes staring at her, begging for something that Eden couldn’t give to her. The little boy was reaching for her in a way that scared her and she began to cry. She fell to the floor, upon her knees and folded her hands in front of her as she had seen the priest do only moments ago. She didn’t know what to say, how to begin. Hundreds of questions raced through her mind as the tears poured down her face. She tried to speak, but no words would come out.
“Just close your eyes and talk to God.”
“Just close your eyes and talk to God.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Just close your eyes and talk to God.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Just close your eyes and talk to God.”
Eden was certain that she had never cried this much in her life. Her eyes were draining so many tears that it actually hurt. Why she was overcome with emotion was something she just couldn’t understand. She just wanted answers. She just wanted her life back. She wanted to go to bed, wake up and forget that Cruz Castillo existed. She wanted to pretend that the phone call didn’t happen, throw out the picture of those children and never think of them again.
Mostly, she wanted to pray. She wanted to find words, so eloquently as the priest had done, but her lips would form none. “Why?”
When the word came from her mouth, it seemed to echo throughout the church. She said it again, over and over, just to make sure God could hear her. “Why? ….. Why?…..Why?”
She knelt there, waiting for an answer. Perhaps a bolt of lightening to strike her dead. Anything would be better than the silence and the emptiness that she felt. She just wanted an answer, a reason for the insanity. “Why?”

CRUZ

He sat on the airplane, only moments after kissing his children good-bye, thoughts racing through his mind. He had barely been able to breathe since he’d hung up on Eden, let alone maintain a clear thought. His mind was racing, his heart was pounding. If he hadn’t known better, he’d think he was having a heart attack.
He knew better. It was often that thinking of Eden had caused him to react this way. When they were first dating, before they ever started dating even, the mere smell of her perfume would make him hyperventilate. She had that power over him, even now.
Cruz regretted the way he had treated her on the phone. He hadn’t heard from her in so many years. How many nights had he dreamed of this phone call? How many mornings had he awaked, wishing somehow that he could just hate her?
It was much easier to love Eden than it was to hate her. He figured that out quickly. Cruz was convinced that it wasn’t possible to hate Eden. There were so many emotions, so many feelings he had for her. They had memories, good memories, that he cherished. He chose to cling to those good times. They were times he wouldn’t trade for anything in the world and he wasn’t going to give them away now.
Hearing her voice did something to him. He felt like a boy, trembling, forcing himself to maintain his composure. It was all he could do to stand up without falling over. He spoke to her in a direct and forceful manner, no friendly chit chat. He loved her, yes, but he had just begun to love himself again too.
It had taken Cruz many years to love himself again. When Eden left, a part of him left with her. The humor, the charisma, the charm. They all walked out the door the day she did. He wasn’t whole without her. It was his children who began to bring those things back into his life. Chip and Adrianna were the only reason he continued to be. Being their father was the one aspect of his life that still had meaning. For them, he awoke each morning. For them, he worked to create some type of normalcy. He lived life for them only.
This trip was important for all of them. Cruz had spent several years pretending to be happy, pretending to move on, for the children. His children were smarter than he gave them credit, they knew better. It was all a show that he put on, day after day, for the sake of appearances. This trip would give them all a chance to relax, share memories, let their guard down.
Paris. He hadn’t been to Paris in a long, long time and part of him was not looking forward to going now. However, it was as good a place as any to put the past to rest and take a new step forward. He would share the memories with his children, of the good times that he and Eden had spent there.
He would take them to the Eiffel Tower and tell them of the magical times he spent with Eden, dancing, laughing. They would go to the same cafй’s, walk the same paths. He would tell them funny stories, tell them the happy times. They would attend a service in the same church where Adrianna had been baptized. He would express to her the joy he and Eden felt when she was given back to them.
He would have two weeks until Chip and Adrianna would join them. They would be in school for two more weeks, then fly out to join him. He was a little apprehensive about them flying alone, but they were growing up. It was so hard for him to accept at times, but it was time for him to loosen the reigns a little when it came to his children.
It was hard watching them grow up. When Chip got his drivers license, Cruz had hidden in the back seat to ride along with him. Chip soon discovered him, so Cruz would follow him in his jeep, flashing the police light if Chip started going to fast. When Adrianna came home from school with her first broken heart, it had broken Cruz’s even more. He could never have been prepared for the agony he would face trying to mend the broken heart of a little girl. It was something no parenting book could prepare you for. The look in Adrianna’s eyes that day was enough to make him want to kill the little 8 year old boy that broke her heart. But, he restrained himself.
Watching them grow was like a double edged sword for Cruz. On one end, he was happy and proud of the people that they were becoming. He was filled with pride as he sat at Adrianna’s first dance recital. He worked feverishly to hem her pink tutu in time for the big day. When Chip hit his first home run Cruz jumped higher off the bleachers than anyone had ever jumped. Now, their accomplishments were so much bigger, so much more important. On the other end, it saddened him to think of all of the wonderful memories Eden had missed out on.
The Eden he loved would never have missed out on these memories. The Eden he loved would have rather died than miss their spelling bee’s and bake sales at school. The Eden he loved dreamed of braiding her daughter’s hair and tying it with pretty pink bows. The Eden he loved would lie in bed at night reading their son a story, making up different endings until he fell asleep.
This trip would be an ending and a beginning for them. It would be an ending to the past, to the memories that they all cherished, but a beginning to a new life for them. They would open up a new chapter, a fresh one, with new adventures and new accomplishments. It would be a new day for the Castillo family.
The Castillo family. He hadn’t felt like a family since the day Eden had left. It pained him to think of them as a family without her. She was the glue that held them all together, the love, the passion that made their lives exciting. She loved all of them in a way, even Cruz couldn’t explain.
It was a fact that Cruz could not dismiss. No matter how many good thoughts he had of Eden, no matter how much he tried to defend her, he always came back to the same conclusion. She didn’t just leave him, she left them. Yes, it was unlike her. No, he couldn’t imagine that she could have been in her right mind. But yes, she did leave. He couldn’t forget that.
Still, something in her voice triggered strange feelings in him. It was confusing, but he felt like she needed him. He wondered if he was making too much of it, trying to create something that wasn’t there. Holding on to a glimmer of hope that didn’t exist. Her voice sounded strange, hollow almost, and distant..
Of course, she was distant. It was only natural for her to sound strange. How would he know if she sounded strange anyway? He didn’t even know her anymore. Perhaps what he thought was strange was just the new Eden. Perhaps this was the Eden that he no longer knew. Perhaps she wasn’t acting strange at all.
As hard as he tried, he couldn’t forget about their conversation. He replayed every word over and over again in his mind. He hadn’t told anyone about the phone call. He debated calling CC and Sophia, but he felt like it was something that wouldn’t benefit anyone.
The children would certainly be filled with a false sense of hope and he swore he’d never allow them to hurt that way again. The Capwell’s would probably send out search parties and the fact of the matter was, if Eden wanted to be found, she would come out of hiding. It wasn’t Cruz’s place to make that decision for Eden. He had never made decisions for her and he wasn’t going to start now. She would reveal herself when she was ready.
Even now, he felt a deep need to protect her. As much pain as Eden had caused in their lives, Cruz only wanted her to be happy. Her happiness was more important to him than his own. He’d always hated that saying, “If you love someone, let them go.” He thought it was a bunch of crap. What they really meant was, “If you love someone, handcuff them and hold on tight.” That’s what he wished he had done.
Cruz swore that as long as he lived he would never allow himself to forget the look in Eden’s eyes as she slipped away from him on that cliff. She was begging him to save her, her eyes pleading with him not to let her go and he just couldn’t hold on. No one could understand the feelings that rushed through him as he watched her disappear into that ocean. No one. She was terrified. Her life was in his hands and he let her go.
If for that reason alone, he couldn’t forget the phone call. He let her down that day when she needed him. She reached out to him again and he knew that in some way, it was possible that she needed him again. He wasn’t going to let her down this time.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking. Welcome to New York and enjoy your stay.”

CHIP AND ADRIANNA

“So the way I look at it,” Adrianna bounced with excitement as she paced through her brother’s bedroom, “we have two weeks.”
Chip continued working on his term paper. “What are you talking about?”
“I called uncle Cain today and he said—-“
”You did what?” Chip stood up, angrily, spinning Adrianna towards him.
“He was more than willing to help us out, Chip.”
“Adrianna, I swear, you are so stupid sometimes.”
“Stupid? Excuse me, but would someone so stupid be able to get this much information?” She held in her hands a file, filled with documents.
Chip sighed and sat back down at his desk. He had tired of his sister’s big ideas and dreamy thinking. “Anyone with the internet and a good search engine could find at least that much information.”
“You are such a negative person. I hate that.” Adrianna fell backwards onto Chip’s bed and let out a loud, dramatic sigh. “Well, uncle Cain said…”
“Uncle Cain.” He laughed. “Do you think Cain is going to give us any information without clearing it with Dad first?”
“He said…”
“He said whatever he needed to say to shut you up, Adrianna. Then he probably hung up the phone and called Dad to tell him what you’re up to.”
He had gotten her this time. Her bubble was burst and he knew it. She was so fiesty, so adventurous, but it drove Chip crazy how quickly she would get excited. She never thought things out like he did.
“I just want to find our mom, Chip. I don’t know why you won’t help me.”
Chip felt badly for his sister. She was so young when their mother had left, she barely even remembered her. He knew it scared Adrianna to think that someday she may have no memory of her mother. He also knew that as good as their Dad was, he wasn’t a mom. Girls needed a mom. Their grandmother’s were nice, but they weren’t a mom. He felt badly that Adrianna would miss out on that.
“Let me see what you’ve got, sis.”

Two weeks. Their father would be out of town, which meant they would have free access to the computer and whatever information they could find in their father’s files. Cain had promised to help out as much as he could, keeping it under the radar. He was going to make a few calls and follow up on a few leads they had let go when they gave up the search.
The only obstacle in their way would be their grandma Castillo. She was a wonderful woman, but when their father was away, she turned into the warden of the house. She was always asking questions and peeking in on them. It drove Chip crazy. He was so close to being an adult and his grandmother was still left here to spy on him every time his father had to leave town.
“Adrianna, what do you have there?” Carmen followed Adrianna to the stairs.
“Homework.”
“Good, good. Dinner will be ready soon.”
Adrianna reached the top of the stairs, quickly hurrying out of her grandmother’s ear shot. “I’m not hungry.” She raced to Chip’s room, shutting the door behind her. “Okay, what do you have?”
Chip was talking on the telephone and motioned for her to be quiet. He quickly scribbled down something on his pad of paper and she tried to read it, but his writing proved to be much to messy to transcribe. Adrianna waited patiently, pacing around getting the occasional mean glance from Chip. She wanted to tear that phone right out of his hand and force him to fill her in on the details, but she restrained herself.
Finally, Chip hung up the phone and sat it on the desk. He sat his notepad down and sighed loudly. Adrianna stared at him. “Well????”
“Well,” Chip said, softly, “pack your bags, Adrianna. We’re going to New York.”

 

CHAPTER EIGHT
CHIP AND ADRIANNA

“I wish this plane would just take off!” Adrianna had been acting this way since they lied to their grandmother this morning.
Neither of them was much of a liar. Chip always joked that Adrianna had “lying eyes.” The bigger the lie she told, the bigger her eyes would get. He had given her specific instructions to let him do the talking. Of course, he wasn’t the best liar either. Chip tended to go on and on and on and on when he wasn’t telling the truth. It was as if physically he couldn’t shut his mouth.
He had planned this lie out carefully. It took him hours the night before to write it out word for word. He strategically planned each word that he would say to his grandmother, so there would be no surprises. He read the words aloud, over and over again, practicing his speed and intonation, watching his facial expressions in the mirror. Adrianna tried to provide critique, but even that caused her eyes to grow larger, so he sent her away.
As they sat at the breakfast table that morning, he ate slowly, rehearsing his lines in his mind. Adrianna barely took a breath between bites of her eggs. They were both acting incredibly strangely and they weren’t foolish enough to think that their grandmother didn’t notice.
Carmen studied each of them. She watched in amazement as Adrianna crammed bite after bite into her petite mouth. She studied Chip’s slow progression of his fork from the plate to his mouth. He would smile at her and she would slap a fake smile across her own face. He knew she was suspicious and it was time to make his move.
“Grandma,” he began, clearing his throat. A quick glance to Adrianna didn’t reassure him much, as she was staring a hole through her toast. “We won’t be home right after school today. There is a get together at the beach and I’m going to go. I’ve offered to let Adrianna come along and we talked to Dad last night and he said it was okay. Don’t worry, I’ll keep a close eye on her, so there is nothing to worry about.”
He took a deep breath, afraid to look into his grandmother’s face. He waited for her to say something, to question him, but there was nothing. She was silent, looking to Adrianna who refused to look up from her toast. It was obvious that she was onto them.
“All right,” She stood up from the table, gathering her breakfast dishes. “I’ll expect you to put your breakfast dishes in the sink when you are finished.”
That was it. Had they really fooled the warden? It seemed unbelievable, but the wasted no time rushing out of the house as quickly as they could. Their bags awaited them in the car, along with their plane tickets. Soon enough, they would be on their way.
When they arrived at the airport, they almost expected someone to be there waiting for them. It always seemed like their father had spies every where watching after them. Chip had given Adrianna directions to move quickly and stay by his side. He knew that if they could just get on the plane, they would be home free. Once they were in their seats, he would breathe a sigh of relief.
Exhaustion overcame them as they sunk into their plane seats. It was amazing to them how tiring it was to lie. Chip slipped his headphones on his ears and closed his eyes. If he could just fall asleep, when he awoke they would be in New York. Adrianna thumbed through a magazine, pretending to read articles about people she pretended to care about. But, her mind was racing with thoughts of her grandfather Capwell running aboard the plane to yank them off or her uncle Cain taking back his promise to keep their secret. She willed that plane to move.
“Just relax, sis,” Chip said softly.
“I’ll relax when we are in the air.”
“I doubt grandma even knows we’re not where we are supposed to be yet. The school doesn’t make it’s calls until third period and that’s not for 2 more hours.”
“I don’t think she was buying your party at the beach story, Chip.”
“No?”
Adrianna laughed. “You sounded like a robot.”
“Well, you weren’t exactly helpful, you know?”
Chip stared out the window and Adrianna closed her eyes. The were bickering with each other because they were afraid. Neither one of them wanted to admit it, but they were terrified. The reality of the situation was only magnified when the plane began to race down the runway. This was a move that was bound to get them in a world of trouble, but the rewards could prove to be worth it.
Neither of them wanted to discuss their feelings. Of course, they never needed to express their feelings to each other about their mother. If there was anything between Chip and Adrianna, it was an unspoken bond they shared. He knew the pain she felt each night when she went to bed with no mother to kiss her good night. She knew the sorrow he felt when he looked in the stands at his baseball games and no mother was there. It was a bond they shared with no one else in their lives.
Chip had a memory of his mother that he never shared with anyone. It wasn’t anything big, no major time in their life, but it was a memory he treasured. He was young, probably three or four and he woke up crying from a bad dream. His mother came rushing into his room, scooped him up in her arms and sang to him until he fell back asleep. Her hair had brushed his face that night, tickling him slightly and he felt so safe and protected. When he awoke in the morning, she was lying by his side. He would never forget that moment. She hadn’t left him when he fell asleep, she had stayed.
He wanted his mother back in his life as much as Adrianna did. The difference was that Adrianna had an almost naive sense of hope and Chip was more realistic. Adrianna expected that their mother would return one day. Chip did not. He knew how much their mother loved them, and he knew that if she could walk away from something she loved so much, she would never be back.
Adrianna felt a longing to be in the presence of her mother. What few memories she had were quickly starting to fade and it saddened her. It scared her to imagine a day when she no longer had a clear memory of her mother. Stories and photographs weren’t the same. She needed more. She needed her own memories, things no one else knew but her and they were few and far between.
Often times, Adrianna would stare at pictures of their family and plead with God to just give her a memory. She would spend hours begging him to give her that. If he couldn’t give back her mother, then the least he could do was give her a memory to hold onto. It never happened and Adrianna was growing more desperate by the hour.
In the top of her closet was a small shoebox, packed full of things that reminded Adrianna of her mom. There was a half full bottle of her mother’s perfume that her father had thrown out years ago. She sneaked into the garbage and grabbed it out when he wasn’t looking. She dared not spray it, because she didn’t want to waste what little was left, but she smelled it almost every day. There was a necklace that she had stolen from the jewelry box in her parents room. She had clutched it tightly and put it under her pillow. She slept with it there for over a year before she placed it in her treasure box. There was also a picture of the four of them. Adrianna was just a baby, but it was a picture that she treasured.
Her mother was beautiful It was no surprise that her father had fallen so madly in love with her. He said that her beauty took his breath away on more than one occasion. He said that he would look at her and wonder how he had been so lucky, what had he done in his life to deserve such a woman. Adrianna loved to hear his stories. It made her feel close to her mother.
The stories calmed her. They reminded her that in the end, her parents were just two normal people. Two people who loved each other more than anything in the world. Two people who fought to stay together and raise a family. Two people with goals and ambitions, wishes and dreams. Her parents were normal.
“So what do we do when we get there?” She asked, turning towards her brother.
As Chip looked at her, she immediately noticed the tears forming in his eyes. “I just want to find her. AS soon as we get there, I just want to see her.”
Adrianna reached over and grabbed her brother’s hand. “Me too, Chip.”

EDEN

Eden was not, by nature, a religious person. She was never one to attend church services on a regular basis, nor did she shout Amen’s frequently. The whole idea of organized religion disturbed her. She never felt the need to slap a religious label on the end of her name or wear, lie a badge her religious title. She wasn’t Catholic or Baptist, Presbyterian or Lutheran. She didn’t understand most religions. She hung out with a lot of Methodists, but she wasn’t one. Eden wasn’t bound to any religious organization.
She was, however, a spiritual person. She believed in God and all that was good. She concurred that there must be a heaven, otherwise there would be little reason to live a moral life. Eden believed she was a moral person. Office gossip never amused her. She didn’t participate in ridicule and there wasn’t a jealous bone in her body. Hate was an emotion she was certain she had never felt and love was just the same. She never recalled hating a single person in her life, yet she had never loved one either.
Many years now, Eden had a hidden desire inside of her to explore her life. Her business had afforded her a good life. A nice home, a nice vehicle, a shopping spree when she pleased all came with the territory. Bu buried inside the depths of her soul was a longing for something more.
People always told her, “you can’t fix the world, you can only fix yourself.” Eden never truly believed she needed to be “fixed”. She was a good, hardworking, honest woman. She caused no physical or emotional harm to anyone. She feared no the day she met her maker, because she had no deep, dark secrets to bear. It wasn’t fear that pushed her to want more, it was the desire to understand.
All of her life had played a role in the person she had now become, yet she couldn’t remember the majority of her life. It was as if she had taken a mental eraser to certain parts of her life. She knew she had a family, parents. Everyone has parents, right? Perhaps she had siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
She often tried to visualize family dinners and reunions. In her dreams, though, she never interacted with anyone. She stood alone in the corner watching the others laugh and talk, eat and dance.
Buried in her mind were the memories. Part of her was afraid to unlock that door for fear of what she might find. I twas that fear that kept her from searching before. Now, sitting in this little church, alone, tears pouring consistently from her eyes, she came to one realization.
The fear of spending the rest of her life alone and ignorant to her past was far worse than the fear of finding the answers to her questions.
“Tell me what you are looking for,” The priest had invited her into his office, a tiny room about the size of a closet. He sat in the chair behind his desk and motioned for her to sit across from him. He spoke so softly that Eden found herself leaning forward just to hear him.
“I’m looking for answers.”
“To what?”
“To everything. My life, my history, my past. Why I am the way I am.”
“How are you?”
Eden thought for a moment at what a profound question this really was. She wasn’t even sure she could answer it correctly. “Distant….Reliable, yet unreachable. Dependable, yet uncomfortable. There is an entire period of my life that I can’t remember.”
“Hm” He walked across the office to the row of shelves that lined the walls. He slowly ran his fingers across the books, searching for one it seemed. “You have lost part of yourself?”
“Yes.”
He pulled a book from the shelf and walked towards her. Reaching out, he placed the book into her hands. “I think you’ll find what you are looking for in here.”
Eden looked down at the book. “The Holy Bible?”
He smiled and patted her on the back. “In this world, we complicate matters that are really quite simple. This is the word of God. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.”
Walking to the doorway, he stopped and opened the door. She looked back at him, confused. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Go in peace. You have in your hand the answers to any question you may ever have.”
It angered Eden the way he was treating her now. She was embarrassed to have let her guard down the way she had done. She was ashamed of the way she had depended on this man for answers that he obviously couldn’t give. The whole process was really starting to wear on her.
As she climbed into her car, she tossed the bible into the passenger seat. Part of her wished she could rewind her life to days before she ever found the box belonging to Cruz Castillo. Her life was so simple. Wake, work, home. It was easy. Now things were so complicated and this sudden desire for spirituality had caused more pain than it healead.
Glancing over, she noticed that the bible had fallen open on the seat, words high lighted. She picked the bible up, reading over the words. “He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down with no walls.”
She read it again, then again, laughing aloud. That was Eden. A city that is broken down with no walls. She had no rule over anything in her life, much less her spirit. What a wonderful verse at a wonderful time.
A change began inside her. It was beyond her control, but with her permission. A light grew inside of her as it had never grown before. Tears flowed freely down her face and she dared not wipe them away. The were of course, tears of joy. She had joy in knowing she was freeing herself of the burdens that had controlled her life thus far.
Burdens, pains, unnecessary grief had forever held Eden back in life. Without knowing it, she had single handedly cast away everything good in her life. Friendships, companionships, tossed away for the pure sake of ignorance.
Ignorance is bliss, is it not? Not knowing was so much more comfortable for Eden. She had created a life for herself that she was proud of. She didn’t need anyone to share in her pride. In reality, she was too afraid to let anyone in. She was afraid they would uncover the turths that led inside her.
“He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down with no walls.”
She was a broken down woman no more. It was time for Eden to reach into her soul and pull out the woman she had buried so many years ago. She longed for the glories that God promised her, glories that money couldn’t buy.

CRUZ
His INID connections never failed to amaze Cruz. A simple phone call could flood Cruz with details that he may or may not be prepared to handle. This time was no different. One phone call was all it took to put a drastic change in his life. An hour later, Cruz had every bit of information he ever needed about Eden.
He thought of how foolish he had been to wait so long to ask for help. All of these years, he had the resources to find her at his fingertips, but he was too afraid to go for it. He was afraid that she didn’t want to be found, afraid of what he might find. It suited him to leave it alone.
Wallowing in his own self pity became habitual. “Poor Cruz,” was a phrase he was all too comfortable hearing. He was the victim here, not Eden. What the world didn’t know was that poor Cruz could have found Eden at any time he wanted, but he refused to do it. He considered the affect this had on his children and he felt guilty for allowing it to go on so long.
This was a new day for Cruz. There would be no more running, no more hiding. He held in his hands the answers. He stood outside of the building where those answers awaited him, unaware that he was ready to claim them. With the touch of a button he could be standing in her office, looking into her eyes. The 37th floor.
He stared at the elevator button. Was it possible that his entire life would come to blows on the 37th floor of this building? The thought sent chills up his spine. He felt like a young man again. Loving a woman who ran away from him when things got too close. Would she run away now? Would he let her?
The ringing of his cell phone almost knocked him to the floor. “Hello?”
“Cruz? Is that you?” Mama’s voice sounded shakey and unnerved.
“Yes, mama. What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure. I’m worried about the kids. They were acting very strangely this morning and….”
“Strangely? Mama, they are teenagers, it’s their right to act strangely. Cut them some slack.”
“I don’t know, Cruz, I’m worried.”
“You worry too much. Listen, I can’t talk now, mama. I’m in the middle of something. I will call them later and check in with them myself.”
“But Cruz,……”
“Bye, mama.”
He hung up his phone and turned the power off. He certainly didn’t need any more distractions. Mama like to analyze everyone in the family. Someone would always act strangely if you asked her.
37. It was time. He walked into the elevator and pushed the button, holding his fingers on it longer than he needed. For a moment, he pictured Eden touching that same button every day and he felt so close to her. Had she stood in this same elevator? He imagined her, cell phone in her hand talking business to someone on the other end, while working out the numbers on her legal pad. He imagined she was a constant workaholic. He loved her ambition, he always had.
Ding. The elevator opens on the 37th floor. It was much quieter than he had imagined it to be. Stepping out, he wondered if he had received incorrect information. This place didn’t look like something Eden would design. He didn’t feel her here.
“Can I help you sir?” A woman standing at the receptionist desk glared at him. She looked frazzled, a stack of files in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.
“Yes, I hope. I’m looking for Eden Castillo.”
“Castillo? You mean Capwell? Eden Capwell?”
He laughed at his own mistake. “Yes, Eden Capwell.”
“Oh, well, sorry, but she’s not in.”
“Do you know when she might be in?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, sir.”
“Excuse me?”
The woman sighed a deep, annoyed sigh and Cruz immediately disliked her. She wasn’t much of a receptionist, if that was indeed her job. “She hasn’t been in this week and we haven’t heard from her.”
Panic shot through Cruz like a bolt of lightening. His heart raced and it took everything he had to keep from strangling this woman in front of him. “And you’re not concerned?”
“Why should I be? It’s her company. She can come and go as she pleases.”
“Is it normal practice for Ms. Capwell to just disappear for long periods of times?”
“No…I don’t know. Do you mind? We’re really swamped right now.”
Cruz began to pace the floor. “I’d really like to leave her a note. Could I just slip inside her office and…”
“Oh, no sir. I can’t let you in her office.”
“Ma’am, I really need to leave her a note and ….you’re obviously very busy. I’ll be in and out of there in two minutes.”
The woman nodded and Cruz wanted to storm past her. She was a terrible receptionist. The unibomber could have walked right past her and she’d have let him go if it was too big of an inconvenience to her. Something about this place really bothered Cruz.
As he opened her office door, the smell of her perfume surrounded him. He walked slowly through the office, studying each piece of furniture and the artwork on the walls. This was definitely more like Eden. He could see her in here, shoes off ranting and raving about the latest problem in her life.
A sweater hung loosely on the back of her chair and he picked it up. He held it against his face, feeling the warmth of it, picturing Eden wearing it. As he slid into her chair, he felt so close to her. This had been where she was all of these years. How could he have let her stay hidden so long? She was right here, a plane ride away.
Opening her desk drawers, he found nothing unusual. It disappointed him slightly to find no memento of their life together. He had imagined finding a photograph or something, anything that let him know she still thought of them as much as they thought of her. There was nothing. It upset it more than he thought it would. It was foolish of him to hope for such a thing anyways.
“Excuse me, sir….” The woman appeared in the doorway and Cruz figured she had come to kick him out.
“Look, I’m almost done…”
“Yes, sir, but…”
“Five minutes….no two minutes. Just give me two more minutes.”
“That’s fine sir, but…”
“Look, lady, I came a long way, okay? You were stupid enough to let me in here, so the least you can do is let me finish. If I was going to bomb the place I would have done it already, so why don’t you give me to freaking minutes and quit breathing down my neck!”
The sound of his angry voice startled even him. He felt badly as he stared at the whimpering woman before him. She didn’t deserve this and he was so afraid she was going to start to cry. He willed her to be strong and keep her tears to herself. He wasn’t typically a mean person, he was just frustrated. Couldn’t she understand?
Her chin quivered and she turned around.
“I’m sorry,” he called after her.
“I was just going to tell you that Ms. Capwell phoned in. I told her you were here and …she’s waiting on line two.”
Cruz stared down at the blinking red light on the telephone. It was Eden. That red light driving him so crazy was Eden. She was there, on the phone waiting for him. His stomach turned nervously and he suddenly found himself vomitting into the trash can next to Eden’s desk. This was so unlike him. He was terrified.
The light continued to blink and Cruz knew that if he didn’t pick it up soon, she would hang up. Eden wasn’t known for her patience. He placed his hand on the receiver and put the phone to his ear. His finger rested on the red light for a few moments before finally pushing it.
“Hello?”

 

CHAPTER NINE
CRUZ

“Hello?…..Hello?…..Eden, are you there?”
She was gone. He’d waited too long, like a fool, and he’d missed her. His junior high throw up in the trash can move had cost him his chance to talk to her. Cruz slammed down the receiver in frustration and rested his face in his hands. His stomach hurt, his head ached, and tension rested in his shoulders. How many times had he been so close and missed out on the opportunity? Too many to count, too many to admit.
He had remembered vividly why he had originally given up on finding Eden. The stress surrounding the search was enough to drive him crazy and he couldn’t afford to lose it. He had children to raise. It was a constant game of cat and mouse that never seemed to end. Cruz was a cop. He was accustomed to working on a case, solving it and moving on. This was a case in which there was no moving on.
This close call didn’t surprise him. He was used to it. That wasn’t to say, however, that he wasn’t extremely heart sick at the thought of being only seconds away from hearing her voice and missing it. He had a major desire to hear her voice again. Her voice would be the motivation he needed to keep going and he needed some motivation right now.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” The receptionist jumped at the sound of his voice. He felt badly that this woman was scared of him. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
The woman composed herself and went back to work on the file she was working on. “I assume you’ll be leaving now?”
“Yes,” Cruz lied. “But—“
”Look, sir, we’re real busy around here. I’m sorry if I don’t have time to cater to your every need, but this is a business and…..”
“Oh, no, no. You’ve been very helpful. I was just going to thank you….And apologize for the way I snapped at your before.”
The woman barely acknowledged his apology. “You’ll have to forgive me. I’m just a little flustered today.”
“Understandably so. You know, you should really take a break. Go to the ladies room and splash some cold water on your face.”
“I can’t leave my area.”
Cruz turned on the charm. “Miss…”
“Mary.”
“Mary, you are obviously a very valuable employee here and you are working your tail off to keep this business going while Ms. Capwell runs around doing whatever she pleases. I think this company owes you a lot more than a five minute break, don’t you?”
“Well…”
Cruz grabbed Mary’s arm and pulled her from her chair. He guided her down the hall towards the ladies room. “I think a little break would do you some good. We all need some time to just relax. It’s very good for our work performance, you know?”
“I suppose I could use a little break.”
“You sure could.”
He opened the door to the ladies room and she hesitated. “You were a very big help to me today, Mary. You are a wonderful woman.”
“I was just doing my job.”
“Yes and you are extremely good at it.”
Mary walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Cruz waited a minute to make sure she wasn’t going to come running back out, then he hurried over to her desk. Quickly, he scanned the top of the desk searching for anything that would lead him to Eden. There were files and books, stacks upon stacks of papers, but nothing about Eden. He did find a few notes Eden had written and Cruz recognized her handwriting immediately.
He knew he was running out of time, so he quickly searched through the desk drawers. The bottom drawer wasn’t helpful, nor was the middle one. As he opened the top drawer his heart raced at the sight of a black address book. He thought it a little unprofessional to keep the names of such high dollar clients in such a low dollar address book, but nothing Mary did would surprise him at this point.
With a silent “please be there” he flipped to the C’s and quickly found “Eden Capwell” on the first line. There was no scrap paper to be found on Mary’s desk, so he grabbed a pen and scribbled the information on the palm of his hand, then slipped the address book back in the drawer. He promised himself that he would talk to Eden about increasing the security in her building, then he rushed down the hallway to the elevators.
He waited for the elevator to appear, but realized that it would take too long and opted for the stairs instead. He didn’t look back until he was safely out of the building, on the sidewalk outside. Thankfully, the information he needed was written safely on his hand.
At a newspaper stand down the road, he got directions to Eden’s apartment. He decided that he would go to the hotel and clean up before heading to Eden’s place. It had been a long day, topped off with a long plane ride and he didn’t want to see Eden for the first time in ten years looking the way he looked now.
Back at the hotel, he turned on a hot shower and climbed inside. Immediately, the hot water released the tension in his shoulders. He felt more relaxed than he had all day. The steam felt good against his body and he closed his eyes. The reality of this moment was exciting to Cruz. Eden was a taxi ride away. He had waited ten years for this moment and now it was here, whenever he was ready to reach out for it. All of the hostility, the anger, the resentment had faded away. He just wanted to see her.
He wondered what she looked like. Would she look the same or had she changed her appearance in some drastic way? It would be like Eden to shave her head bald and start fresh. He hoped she hadn’t done that. Of course, this was Eden. She had beauty that couldn’t be defined by mirrors or photographs. Blond hair, pink hair, no hair at all, she was the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on and he was desperate to lay his eyes on her again.
Staring in the mirror, he studied his own face. It occurred to Cruz that he hadn’t looked at himself in years. He had seen pictures, glanced in the mirror while he was shaving, but he hadn’t really looked at himself in a long, long time. The years showed in his face. His eyes revealed the pain he had been through, but mostly he was the same. He prayed that Eden would recognize him. He didn’t want to disappoint her after all of these years.
As he dressed that evening, he paid close attention to his attire. He ironed his shirt three times before finally putting it on. His jeans, his boots were the same ones he always wore. He wanted to see her being himself, not an image of something that he wasn’t. He saw no need to dress up in clothes he would never normally wear. When he saw Eden again, he wanted her to remember the man she fell in love with. The man who loved her more than she would ever know.
His stomach was still queesy and beads of sweat had started to form on his brow. He felt like a kid again, anticipating the first date with the prettiest girl in school. He could really relate to Chip right now, understanding the torture he went through on Friday nights as he got ready for his dates. Dating was agonizing. Flirting was fun, but dating was a night mare.
Cruz stopped himself and sat upon the bed. This wasn’t going to be a date and pretending that it was would serve no good purpose. He was going over there just to feel things out a bit. The odds of seeing Eden were slim and even if he did see her, bringing himself to speak would be challenge. What, afterall, would there be to say? He should look at this as more of a stakeout than a date. A job. Find Eden. It was just a job.
When he arrived at the building where Eden lived, he stared up into the sky. It didn’t surprise him that Eden would live in the tallest building in the city. Only the best. It was certainly a nice place. A quick peek through the doors revealed a doorman, sitting at the entrance. It wouldn’t be easy to get past him and next to impossible to get any information out of him. Those men were sworn to secrecy, weren’t they?
Cruz decided to wait outside for a while…stake things out a bit. He would study the comings and goings of people, watch the doorman’s moves. There was a bench across the street where he made himself comfortable, munching on a hotdog he’d bought from a vendor. Looking up at the windows in her building, he tried to imagine which one was hers. Was she looking out her window now?
He watched for an hour and figured out quickly that this place was the best of the best. The people coming out were greeted by limousines and the people going in were carrying tons of bags from their latest shopping adventures. Eden had done well for herself, which was no surprise to him. She was a talented, ambitious woman. He found comfort in knowing she lived in such a secure place.
The doorman rarely left his post and when he did, he was never out of the eye sight of the door. There was no way to get past him.
When the sun began to set, lights turned on in the buildings. He could see more easily into the building now, which helped, but people were starting to look at him funny. A man sitting on a bench staring into a building for hours was obviously not something that seemed normal in this neighborhood. Cruz decided it was time to move on and find a new place for his stake out.
He crossed the street, heading towards the building. A few times, he walked past it, pretending to be lost, and suddenly found himself venturing inside. Like any good cop, he glanced around, making notes of the things he saw. There weren’t many people in the lobby, but a few waited by the elevators. The doorman was on the telephone, with his back to Cruz. He decided to utilize this opportunity to check things out.
The elevators were in the center of the building. There were two entrances to stairs on either side of the elevators, but both had to be unlocked with a key. Getting to the stairs unnoticed would be difficult, but buying enough time to pick the lock would be impossible. The stairs were out. The elevators obviously ran fairly slow, as the people were still waiting to get on them. He would never be able to wait there for them, but it was possible that he could hide out until they opened up, then sneak aboard.
“Can I help you, sir?” The doorman was apparently off the phone now an standing at his post.
Cruz approached him in a very non-threatening manner. “Yes…Um…I’m lost. I’m not from here and—“
”No kidding.”
“Anyways, I don’t know how I ended up here, but–“
”Good night, Jimmy.”
Cruz heard her voice and looked up. It was Eden. She had changed, but it was definitely her. Cruz turned his back so she wouldn’t see him. He didn’t want her to think he was stalking her.
“Goodnight, Ms. Capwell. Should I flag a taxi for you?”
“No, thanks. I’m going to walk.”
Cruz watched as she left the building, then quickly followed after her. He maintained his distance as she walked down the sidewalk. There were a lot of people out and sidewalk was crowded. Cruz found it difficult to keep up with her as she weaved in and out of people. He wished she would just slow down.
Her beauty still amazed him. There were differences, yes, subtle differences. Her hair was shorter, but he liked it. It was classy and sophisticated. She still took his breath away and he was certain that she was more beautiful than he remembered.
He watched as she stared into one window. From his angle, he couldn’t tell what she was looking at, but he recognized the look on her face. Her eyes were bouncing from one thing to the next, her fingers touching the window at one point. When he finally caught the view of what she was looking at, he was taken back. Baby clothes.
This was the first sign he had that she was thinking of them. Perhaps the baby clothes triggered emotions in Eden.
She disappeared into a building and Cruz was slightly surprised to see that it was s church. He found it hard to imagine Eden there. He waited a moment before sneaking inside to find her kneeling in a pew, head bowed in front of her. It was a sight that brought tears to his eyes. He had never seen her in such a peaceful setting and it overwhelmed him.
He slid inside a pew in the back, watching her, seeing her in an entirely different light. A priest came from the side, pausing at the altar until Eden rose from her prayers. Seh seemed happy to see him, smiling widely as he embraced her. Cruz watche the two of them interact, wishing he was close enough to hear their conversation.

EDEN

She waited for what seemed like an eternity for whomever was waiting for her to pick up the phone. Eventually she gave up. Yes, missing an appointment could prove costly, but a free dinner would probably smooth things over as it always did. People loved free dinners, especially if you included drinks and dessert.
There were more important things on Eden’s mind now. She was genuinely taking time for herself. It was something she hadn’t done in a long time. Since the day she opened her business, her life hadn’t been her own. She was faced now with people who depended on her to feed their families. It was a burden she always carried around and it was exhausting.
Today was a new beginning for her. The employees in her firm were taken care of. Everyone had their own clients, everyone had good insurance. She could walk away form the business for a while and it certainly wouldn’t crumble. She had worked hard. Long hours, sleepless nights. She deserved a break.
All of these years Eden thought she was happy. She thought the success of her business was enough, but she realized now that she was wrong. Something was missing in her life. There was an empty place inside of her that she had ignored. No matter what she did, what accomplishments she achieved, nothing filled the emptiness inside of her. Money, power, fame. That’s what everyone wanted form life and she had it. She was ashamed to want more.
Father O’Leary had encouraged her to write out her feelings, so she had bought a leather bound journal on her way home. The first entry was hard for her. She spent hours staring at the blank page trying to find a starting point. Nothing came to her mind, so she put it away.
The next was different. Before opening the journal, she thought about what she would write. When she finally started writing words poured form her with ease. She had spent the entire night writing filling up more than half of the new journal. When she finally put it away, a sense of release rushed over her.
She had called Father O’Leary to find out if there was a bible study group she could join. He gave her a few numbers and suggested she stop by the church to talk sometimes. He was a caring man and she found him so easy to unburden herself with. He held no expectations over he head, which gave her great comfort.
She began spending less time in her fancy car and more time walking. The sidewalks were an interesting place. Eden began to study people. She watched their actions, their mannerisms. It was easy to understand why she had become so self absorbed. The world was a self centered place.
Most of the people on the sidewalk looked straight ahead as the walked. Many talked loudly into cell phones, as Eden had done hundreds of times before. It wasn’t until now that she realized how irritating cell phone talkers were. She turned hers off instantly and vowed to never use it in public again.
At one point, she found herself standing outside of a nursery school. She watched the children playing together and wondered if she’d ever played as freely as they did. No cares, no worries, just a giant sand box and a shovel with a bucket. They spent an eternity building sand castles, only to take great pride in tearing them down. They would laugh wildly as sand flew through the air. She longed to live such a free life.
Early that morning, Eden sat in a coffee shop not far from her house. The smell of fresh baked muffins filled the room. She was alone with the exception of the morning employees who went about their business. She even tried a cappuccino, something she had sworn to never do. It absolutely didn’t kill her and she was happy to admit she would try one again.
Sitting there, Eden was a normal person. She didn’t stand out, she didn’t matter to anyone. She was simply a customer, enjoying a morning coffee, wishing for a muffin, but knowing that the carbs would land right on her hopes. It was peaceful there. It was a place she had walked by hundreds of times and never realized what she’d been missing.
“Can I get you anything, miss?” The young boy carrying a tray of muffins stopped at her table.
“Yes, I’ll buy the whole tray.” Eden laughed at herself as the boy walked away. He didn’t think her joke was so funny. “Hey…How old are you?”
The boy began to place the muffins in the glass case. “Sixteen.”
“Sixteen? Shouldn’t you be in school?”
“It’s five o’clock in the morning. I should be in bed.” The boy laughed and Eden joined in. “My parents own this place. I work the morning shift before school, because I have baseball practice after school.”
Eden admired his work ethic. He was obviously a good kid. Working before school, practice after school. His parents must have been so proud of him. Eden wondered if she would raise such responsible children.
When she got home that morning, she watched the sun come up from the window in her bedroom. It was the first time she had ever appreciated the beauty of nature. There were so many miracles in life, around every corner, just waiting to be noticed. Eden wondered how many miracles she had missed out on because she never took the time to look.
The photograph of the children caught her eye. Chip and Adrianna. Two miracles. She could tell by looking at them they were miracles in their parents lives. She didn’t even know them, but she felt an amazing bond to them. They were her miracles. They encouraged her to seek out this Cruz Castillo, who then encouraged her to take some time for herself. The Castillo’s were her miracles even if they didn’t know it.
She often found herself dreaming of the children. She adored them without even knowing them. One night, she actually dreamed of giving birth. It was a bizzarre dream, not taking place in a hospital or clinic, but some sort of cave. The whole thing was too magical to believe, yet when she awoke that next morning, it was all could think of.
Eden was certain that she wouldn’t share that information with Father O’Leary. He would think her such a crazy person to be dreaming of children she didn’t even know. He would probably have her committed on the spot. Just the same, the children were special to her in ways that she couldn’t understand.
Standing in the elevator that night, she thought of those children. Their picture was tucked safely in her purse, just in case she got up the nerve to tell the priest about them. Sh would make that decision when she got there.
“Good night, Jimmy.”
“Good night, Ms. Capwell. Should I call you a taxi?”
“No, thanks. I’m going to walk.”
As she walked down the sidewalk, she had a feeling like she was being followed. She stopped every now and again to make sure she wasn’t, but there was no one there. Perhaps she was starting to hallucinate. Why not? First dreaming of children who she didn’t know, now hallucinating.
She had discovered the art of window shopping in her new found spirit. One window particularly mesmorized her. Inside the window was a display of baby clothes. Pretty pink dresses and cute little sailor suits. She was drawn to them unlike she had ever been before. She touched the window, wishing she could feel the cloth that created those clothes. It was unlike her to feel such a connection to baby things, but she couldn’t pull herself away.
It was time. As much as she wished she could stay staring at the clothes, Eden knew she would be late for her appointment with Father O’Leary, so she walked on. The feeling of being followed was still with her, but she attempted to put it out of her mind. The sight of the church eased her and she walked inside.
Father O’Leary was no where around, so she moved inside a pew and knelt down in prayer. She prayed that God would grant her the strength to continue her soul searching and the will to discover the feelings she was beginning to uncover. She prayed for those children, Chip and Adrianna. She prayed that they were safe and that they were living happy lives. She prayed for their father, that he would find a reason to stop hating her, no matter what she might have done.
When she saw Father O’Leary walking towards her, Eden stood. She embraced him, which was unlike her, and he made her feel extremely comfortable.
“It’s good to see you,” Father O’Leary sat next to Eden in the pew. “How have you been?”
“I have been……amazing.”
“Really? Care to elaborate?”
“Well, I called the office today and I told them I wouldn’t be coming in for awhile. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a really big step for me. I’m writing like crazy in my journal. I love it. Seriously, it’s best thing I’ve ever done.”
“Good, good. I knew you would find it beneficial.”
Eden hesitated, clutching the picture of the children in her purse. “There’s just one thing that I’m still carrying some burden over…….”
Father sat waiting for her to finish her sentence. Eden loved the fact that he never pushed her to say things she wasn’t ready to say. He just sat there quietly, waiting for her to decide. She slipped her hand into her purse and grabbed the picture of the children. Father O’Leary sat waiting for her to make a decision, not pushing.
Finally, she pulled the picture of the children out and held it up to him. He looked at the picture closely and grabbed it from her. “They are beautiful.”
“Yes, they are. Gorgeous.”
“Are they yours?’
“No….I don’t know who they are really….This is crazy.”
“What?”
Eden was unsure of her decision. She didn’t want the priest to think she was losing her mind, even if she was. “I found this picture in the attic of my apartment. I don’t know who they are, but I feel this….amazing bond towards them and I don’t know why. I need your help.”

 

CHAPTER TEN
CHIP AND ADRIANNA

“Did you really think I was going to send you two out to the streets of New York alone?” Cain stood in the airport waiting for them as they walked out of the terminal. “Your father would never forgive me if something happened to you.”
“This isn’t about you, uncle Cain,” Chip was less than pleased with Cain’s presence. He knew that if Cain were here, his father could be next.
“Take it or leave, kid. If you don’t want my help, that’s fine. We’ll just call your pop up now and let him know where you are.”
He drove a hard bargain and it annoyed Chip. Adrianna was happy, relieved, to have him on their side. As excited as she had been about the entire adventure, her nerves were starting to set in when they finally landed in New York. She only wished Chip would loosed up a bit.
When they arrived back at the hotel that Cain had reserved for them, they were amazed by the amount of information he had already collected. Immediately, they began to look through pictures that had been taken of their mother. Recent pictures. Adrianna was fond of one in particular of her mother in park. She was sitting on a bench, the cell phone in her hand, and she looked so beautiful. Adrianna noticed similarities between she and her mother. She was certain that she had her mother’s smile, her mother’s nose. She slipped the picture into her pocket, un-noticed, and continued to sift through the information.
Chip was falling for a picture of his own. It was a close up of his mother. He couldn’t tell where she was or what she was doing, but the expression on her face seemed one of sorrow. He remembered her eyes the most. They always looked at him with such compassion. Those eyes were staring at something different now, but they were still the same eyes he remembered.
Cain had every bit of information they could ever want. He had addresses of her place of employment, her home, even her bank. He had phone numbers of every person she had ever talked to. The information seemed endless.
“I don’t understand,” Chip said. “If you could get all of this stuff on my mother, why haven’t we done it before?”
It was a question that Cain expected to hear, but he wasn’t prepared to answer. “Because…It was your father’s choice and I honored it.”
“That doesn’t make sense. My father loves her. Why wouldn’t he want to have this information?”
Cain thought for a moment, then sat next to Chip on the bed. “Your father knew he could find her, Chip, but he wanted her to find him.”
“Why?”
“He loves her, but he always figured if she didn’t love him, if she didn’t want to be with him, then finding her would do no good.”
Love was something Chip certainly didn’t understand. He had no real loves in his life, besides his family, and from what little he knew of it, he was in no hurry to find one. Adrianna was much more starry eyed than he. She was constantly watching girly love movies on TV and writing some boys name all over her notebook at school. There was always some boy in her life, even though she had to hide it from their father.
Their father had given Adrianna strict rules that she would not be allowed to date until she was thirty. He said it jokingly, but there was a hint of seriousness that scared her enough not to bring boys to the house. Those were the times she missed her mother most. There were certain things in a girls life that she didn’t feel entirely comfortable bringing up to her father. There were things that fathers didn’t understand about girls…a lot of things. Those were the times she needed her mother.
“So where do we go first?” Chip had said on the plane that he wanted to find their mother as quickly as possible and he wasn’t kidding. He saw no reason to delay. They had her address, her phone number, and everything else they could ask for.
“It’s up to you,” Cain stood. “I’m here only to make sure you stay safe. I’m not going to get in your way. This is your investigation. You decide what you want to do, how far you want to go with this.”
Chip liked the sound of that. He didn’t want to feel pushed or rushed into anything. He sat on the bed, looking through the information. Adrianna was looking to him for some sort of guidance. She was unsure of what they should do. She counted on Chip to make the right decisions and he took that very seriously. Yes, he wanted to find their mother, but not at the cost of allowing his sister to be hurt any more than she had already been. This was something he had to be very careful about.
He looked at it two ways. They could go directly to their mother and reveal themselves. She could either embrace them or reject them. Or, they could check things out a little bit. Find out what her life was like, before they barged in. Either way, the ending was the same. She could either embrace them or reject them. The thought of being rejected scared Chip, but not because he didnt’ think he could handle it. He was worried more for his sister’s sake. He knew that when they found their mother, it would be extremely hard for Adrianna to restrain herself. He imagined her breaking into an all out crying attack. He couldn’t stand that. He had to protect her feelings.
Part of him wished he could go out alone, but he knew Adrianna would never allow it. It was her mother, too, and it would be unfair of him to exclude her from the search. But, it would be so much easier to check things out first and then bring her in when he knew it was safe.
“I think we should lay low for a while,” Chip decided. “I want to check things out first, before we go charging in there. It’s been a long time. We don’t even know what she’s like anymore.”
“But you said….” Adrianna was running out of patience.
“I think that’s a good idea, Chip,” Cain jumped in. “We have some time.”
“I don’t know about that,” Chip added. “I’d say any minute now grandma Castillo will have my dad on a plane home looking for us.”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Cain smiled a sheepish grin. “I took care of that. I called your grandma and told her I was in town and I wanted to spend some time with you two. I told her I’d have you home by Monday. So, the way I see it, we’ve got about three days.”
Adrianna jumped into Cain’s arms, hugging him wildly. Chip was impressed with this move on Cain’s part. It was very planned out.
“So, partner,” Cain said, “Where do we begin?”

They found themselves standing in front of their mothers apartment. It was a terribly large building and was like nothing they had seen before. Adrianna tried to picture her mother living in such a place. She pictured her being a jet setting business woman who drove a fancy car and wore expensive suits. She wondered if there would be room in such a busy life for children. Would her mother have time for them in her life or would she just send them away? It was something that worried her terribly, but she kept it to herself.
Adrianna worried that Chip wouldn’t be able to handle rejection from their mother. He pretended to be strong on the outside, but she knew inside he was hurting as much as she was. Chip had always been the one to stay strong for the both of them. He was the one that comforted her when she missed her mother the most, but Adrianna knew that inside he carried a pain that even she couldn’t understand.
Chip looked up at the building in awe. He had always been amazed by archeticture and this building didn’t let him down. He was amazed by the amount of detail in the building. It made him happy to know that his mother lived in such a nice place. He found some sort of pride in knowing that she had done so well for herself.
Although Cain had accompanied them in the taxi ride over, he waited for them in a cafй across the street. He allowed Chip and Adrianna to check things out for themselves, but made them promise not to venture away from that area. He was confident that the kids would do what they needed to do, but that didn’t stop him from getting a table near the window where he could keep an eye on them.
“So what do we do?” Adrianna had a smile on her face like Chip had never seen. She was giddy with anticipation.
“Just take it easy, sis,” Chip remained calm. “We can’t just go in there and say, ‘Hey, mom, here we are.’ We have to check things out first.”
As they entered the building, the doorman eyed them immediately. Chip wasn’t expecting a doorman. The sight of the man staring at them caught him a little off guard. Quickly, he tried to prepare a story in his mind that would give them a reason to be in the building. The man walked towards them and Chip began talking.
“Hi…We’re supposed to be meeting someone here.”
“Who?” The doorman stood before them. He seemed a lot larger than he did when he was sitting in the chair.
“Our aunt….Eden Capwell.”
“Is Ms. Capwell expecting you?”
“No…Well, it’s a surprise.”
“Well, you should have phoned first.”
“Then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
Adrianna laughed at Chip’s humor. He was never an outwardly funny person. The doorman seemed less than impressed with his comedy.
“Well, unfortunately, Ms. Capwell is out for the evening. She left about an hour ago.”
Their next move was unknown. Chip’s mind raced trying to come up with a proper ending to the conversation with the doorman that wouldn’t leave him asking too many questions. He knew for certain that he did not want to leave a message and he didn’t want the doorman telling her that 2 kids had shown up here looking for her. “Well, we’ll just stop by later.”
Quickly grabbing Adrianna by her arm, he pulled her out of the building. The doorman didn’t seem interested in what they were doing, as he moved back in his chair to the computer screen in front of him. Once outside, they both breathed sighs of relief.
“I don’t know what we were going to do if he called her up and told her we were there.” Chip started to laugh. His plan had obviously not been too well thought out.
“I know,” Adrianna smiled. “I my heart was pounding so hard I thought he was going to be able to hear it through my chest.”
For the first time, they began to understand the adrenaline rush their father referred to when working on a case. They could never figure out how investigating could be so exciting, until now. Chip thought for a moment of following in his father’s footsteps one day to become an inspector. The excitement of that lifestyle would be something Chip knew he would enjoy. Sitting at a desk at Capwell Enterprises didn’t sound too appealing anymore.
“So what do we do next?” His sister looked to him for guidance.
“I think we should go join Cain and just wait it out. Maybe we’ll get lucky and catch her coming home.”
They had never eaten so much in their lives. The food in the cafй wasn’t that great, but the excitement of their new adventure was enough to starve them. They stuffed their faces with fried foods and soda, knowing that their father would deeply disapprove. Cruz was big on healthful eating habits and enjoying “extras” in moderation. Tonight, though, moderation was out the window.
Cain was impressed by their ability to remain rational. He had imagined they would want to go straight to Eden and stopping them would be a challenge. But as they sat across from him in the cafй booth, he recognized the great sense of patience their father had instilled in them. Adrianna was a little jumpy, but she was young. Chip, though, was a real professional. Sometimes Cain would glance at him and just for a moment, think he was talking to Cruz. He was a boy that mature beyond his years.
Adrianna could barely breathe when she finished her last bite of her cheeseburger. She leaned back in her seat, sighing. If she wasn’t on such an important mission, she thought for sure she could crawl right into her bed at the hotel and fall asleep. She realized now why her father was so against eating excessive amounts. It really didn’t make her feel too well, but she dare not show signs of her discomfort. Adrianna knew that Chip was just looking for a reason to send her back to the hotel. Yes, he had graciously let her tag along with him into the lobby of their mother’s apartment building, but she could tell he was hesitant. It was important to her to keep up appearances.
Chip crammed the last bite of his chicken fried steak into his mouth, but never took his eyes off the building across the street. He secretly wondered if he would accidentally miss his mother, because he wouldn’t recognize her. More importantly, he wondered if she would recognize him. It had been a long time, but he didn’t think he’d changed that much. Looking back at pictures of himself, he had pretty much the same face on a grown up body. He wondered if she would look into his eyes and know it would him. It worried Chip to imagine how he would react if she didn’t.
This adventure was one that had the possibility of ending in drastic results. As hopeful as Chip tried to remain, the reality of the fact that she could at any time turn to them and tell them to go back to Santa Barbara was lingering in his mind. It had been a long time and it was possible that their mother was content with living her life, without them. He thought of that often and worried that Adrianna would be crushed. In his own heart, he knew that Adrianna wasn’t the only one who would be crushed. He wasn’t sure he could handle the rejection either.
He was a grown boy now and he knew that when their mother left, she wasn’t in her right mind. That didn’t make it any easier than she had left. She had rejected their father’s pleas to help her and bring her home, in turn rejecting he and his sister as well. He never forgot that. But the fact that she wasn’t in her right mind gave Chip hope that the day would come when her mind would be right again and she would come home. With all of the resentment that he held inside him, he held a larger spot for forgiveness and he knew that the years of agony would vanish if she would just hug him again.
Adrianna began thinking of her mother, wondering if this life she was leading was one she would ever be willing to walk away from. It was obviously a good life, filled with a lot of riches, but she could have those riches in Santa Barbara as well. She wondered if her mother would want them to move in with her. It would be hard, she imagined, to leave her friends and her life in Santa Barbara, but Adrianna, but she was willing if it meant having a mother in her life.
She had been blessed with an amazing father, who had more compassion and sensitivity than most men ever dreamed of. She had a wonderful family that loved her and supported her and friends who she couldn’t imagine living without. But inside of her was an empty hole that could only be filled by mother’s love. Everyone in her life tried to pretend that they could understand. They often told her that they “knew” how hard it must be for her. Adrianna knew, however, that no one could understand what it was like.
A girl needed her mother. She needed to be around her mother, she needed to be guided by her mother. She missed having a mother to talk to about “girl” things. Her father tried, which often made Adrianna laugh, but he wasn’t a female. Hearing the words “menstrual cycle” come out of his mouth was enough to send her over the edge. When he moved on to hormones and ovulation, she thought she might throw up. He was a good father. He tried so hard to fill both roles and from the big words he used in the puberty talk, he had obviously studied up. Adrianna appreciate that, but she still longed for more.
“Oh my……” Chip was staring out the window, his face plastered to the glass. “I think that’s her.”
Adrianna leaned over him. “Where? Where, Chip? I can’t see her.”
“There. In the black coat.” Chip pointed, Cain confirmed, and Adrianna gasped.
“That’s my mom.”

He kept his distance as she walked down the busy sidewalk. Her conversation with the priest had been brief, but eventful. Although he didn’t know what they were discussing, he could see that it excited her. There was a recognizable sparkle in his eyes and he found it very welcoming. It was the look he longed for, the look he loved to see. He knew that regardless of what had happened during their long separation, she was still the same passionate woman he had loved.
As Eden made her way down the sidewalk, the feeling of being followed began to comfort her. It was something that she couldn’t explain, but she had a sense of security. It was so unlike her to be so naive to any type of danger and someone following her could certainly mean danger. But, she didn’t feel afraid. Right now, all she could think about was the throbbing pain in her stomach.
A quick glance at her watch revealed that it was way past dinner time and she hadn’t eaten all day. It was soon to be the peak hour and twenty something’s would be crowding the local places trying their hand at finding love. She had no interest to join the ranks of the single scene. It was something that never interested her. Eden could barely make time for herself, let alone a love in her life. She was content with her work up until this point.
As she reached her apartment building, she glanced around at the nearby restaurants. She stood for a moment weighing her options, before darting into to a local Pizzaria. Waiting in line, Eden eyed the menu in front of her. She’d never been to this particular place before, but she was sure it was a place regulars would to refer to as a “joint”. Eden was, of course, more of a sit down kind of girl. She couldn’t very well take clients to pizza joints or fast food establishments. But, tonight she felt a new sense of freedom that she had never felt before.
Grease seemed to drip from the plates of the people who walked past her. She was certain that nothing on the menu would qualify as low fat or low carb. There were veggie pizza’s and cheese pizza’s, but they all came atop thick greasy crust that looked so good she almost snatched it from a man passing by. Her new sense of freedom would allow her a large slice of meat lovers and a soda…not diet.
“A slice of meat supreme and a pepsi please.”
When he heard the words escape her petite mouth, Cruz laughed aloud. Eden spun around immediately to find the source of the laughter, but he ducked behind a large potted plant and remained un-seen. He smiled, appreciating that moment.
He’d always admired her independence, her confidence. She was the most amazingly beautiful woman he had ever known, yet she was such a simple woman. She adored the finer things in life, but was just as satisfied with greasy pizza and a can of soda. He recalled nights eating hotdogs in front of the fireplace, together. Those carefree, simple moments were some of the best.
She had eaten nearly every bite of her pizza before she got up to her apartment. When she got inside, she kicked off her shoes and fell onto the living room sofa. The fullness in her stomach exhausted her as much as the excitement of the day. There had been enormous progress today and she felt at peace. Father O’Leary had agreed to make some phone calls and do some research on the children. Eden was confident in his abilities and for the first time since this all began, she could relax. A good movie, a bottle of wine, and a warm blanket later, she slept.
Cruz found an ease knowing that Eden was safely inside her home. Seeing her would make him happier, but this would do for now. He made himself at home on the bench across the street. It was a warm night, for which he was thankful, and although he was tired, he took on the role of the unknown body guard. Taking care of Eden came natural to Cruz. Perhaps that’s why he’d felt so lost of the past several years. Of course, he had the children to take care of, but that need inside him to protect Eden was always there.
Eden awoke later that night, feeling overwhelmingly rested. The clock on the wall read a little after two in the morning, but she felt like she had slept for days. As she walked towards the kitchen to place her wine glass in the dishwasher, she stopped at the window. She tried to recall a time when she had appreciated the view as much as she did now, but she couldn’t. New York was such a beautiful city at night.
Cruz glanced at his watch, the same one Eden had given him years before, and saw that it was shortly after two. He knew that Eden wouldn’t be leaving now and it would be safe for him to leave. Yet, he stayed. He was afraid to leave. He was in fear that if he left, he may never see her again and he had come too far to let that happen. Staring up at the building, he imagined he could actually see Eden staring back at him, but he knew it was only his mind playing tricks on him.
As she looked down into the city, it surprised Eden to find how many people were still awake at this time, going about their business. She’d spent many all nighters at work, but she’d never taken time to observe the numerous other people who were pulling all nighters for their own reasons. Typically, singles and young adults were out late at dance clubs, but this wasn’t a dance club type of neighborhood and she wondered what types of jobs these people had that kept them out so late.
After much debate in her mind, Eden decided it would be the perfect night to find out the answers to her questions. She slipped on a pair of blue jeans and her favorite white t-shirt. It was typical “going out” attire for Eden, but this wasn’t the typical night of going out. Before leaving, she slipped a can of mace into her purse for protection. She may have been curious, but she was not naive.
Cruz did a double take when he saw her walk out of the building. He wanted to go over and pull her right back into the building. She should know better than to go out alone this time of night. But, this was Eden, of course, and Eden never played by the normal rules. He watched her as she walked around in front of the building, looking around and wondered what she was hoping to find.
When she took off down the sidewalk, he followed her. His heart raced, wishing she would do them both a favor and go back home. Of course, she didn’t and he didn’t let her out of his sight. When she stopped to peek into a window, he stopped a distance behind her. When she crossed the street, he crossed as well. When someone suspicious approached her, he made his way a little closer until they were out of sight. The entire process drove him crazy. She seemed determine to lose him, even though she didn’t even know he was there.
Eden found herself lost in the night life. There were young people, older people, even a woman with a baby rushing into a cab. So many people led practically normal lives during the middle of the night. When she saw the baby crying, it saddened Eden to think of what the mother must go through trying to make a living for her child. She pulled out her date book and jotted a note down to call a local women’s shelter in the morning. Eden was always good about donating her money, but now, she wondered if she could donate her time. It would make her feel good to do something to help women like the one she saw carrying the baby.
It also made her think of the children again. Chip and Adrianna. She considered going to the church to find Father O’Leary, but she knew pestering him wouldn’t make things happen any faster. Eden thought of them now, not babies anymore, grown. She wondered what they were like. Would she recognize them if she saw them now? Of course, why would she? She didn’t even know them. She’d only seen pictures and suddenly she had implanted herself into their lives and them into hers.
Reaching inside her purse, she found reassurance in knowing that the picture was so close by. It had become something she “needed” to have near her at all times. She felt safe and secure as long as she had the picture in her possession. Father O’Leary had tried to get her to let him keep the picture for his research. Instead, she had scanned him a copy on her computer. There was no way she would let that picture out of her sights now. For reasons unknown to her, she felt connected to those children and that connection gave her life meaning now.
The picture again. It amazed Cruz how many times he saw her staring at that picture. He wanted to see what it was so badly, he risked being caught. Twice he had gotten close enough to her that he could almost touch her, but she had turned towards him and he had to quickly duck away. Something inside of him knew that this picture was something that would pull them all together again. If he could only see it to reassure himself, he would be happy.
He noticed that when she looked at it, she spontaneously smiled. Every time. She’d pull out the picture, smile, then touch it with her fingertips. Every time. Then, she would hold it close to her face, before slipping it back into her purse. It was obviously something special to her and he hoped it would be special to him too.
To her amazement, Eden found an all night diner. She stood outside for a while, watching the tired waitresses as the served the drunk and obnoxious young people inside. At the bar sat a couple of older men who were engaged in deep conversation. Eden decided to go inside and sit for a while and observe the people inside. As she sat down, she was slightly surprised to see a man and two teenage children sitting near the back. She thought it a little odd that a man would be out with his teenage children so late, but supposed it was none of her business.
As much as they interested Eden, the man and the teenagers seemed interested in her. Although they never turned around, she could tell that the man was looking at her. Several times, he would quickly look away when she made eye contact. He didn’t seem to be the normal annoying male stalking out some pretty girl. He seemed genuinely interested in her, almost as if he knew her. After studying him, Eden was certain that she didn’t know the man.
Cruz slipped inside the diner and found a spot at the bar. He ordered a cup of coffee and kept an eye on Eden from the reflection of the window next to him. She seemed to be studying the people in the place, so he made certain not to allow her to see his face. That didn’t stop him from trying to find a chance to sneak inside her purse to see that picture. He waited for her to get up from the table, but it didn’t happen. She sat it so close to her that there was literally no way to get it without climbing right on top of her.
Since there was no way of climbing over Eden without her noticing him, Cruz opted for a different route. He slipped the tired looking waitress a hundred dollar bill and promised her more if she could deliver him the picture. She agonized over it until he promised to return the photo as soon as he could get a look at it. The entire situation created a lot of questions for the waitress. To answer them, Cruz slipped her another fifty to perform the task no questions asked.
Eden didn’t even notice when the waitress pulled the picture from her purse. It worried Cruz to think that she was so careless, but it made him extremely over joyed to know the picture would soon be in his hands. When the waitress returned to him, she held onto the picture until the rest of the promised money was put into her hands. One glance at the photo and Cruz decided that it was worth the 250.00 it took to get it.
Chip and Adrianna. Babies. He couldn’t believe it. The picture that he had watched bring so much joy to Eden’s face, the pictures she seemed to be grasping onto every second of the day was of their children. Nothing could have made him happier. Nothing. He smiled looking at the picture and remembered the day it was taken. They were so beautiful then. Now, they were growing up, still the same beautiful faces, but tainted by the pain of being raised without their mother. This was the hope that Cruz needed to keep him going on his mission.
The fact that Eden was carrying around this picture meant that her heart still had a place for their children and that was the important thing. Secretly, he prayed that her heart still had a place for him too, but he would never overshadow the joy he had for his children. They would be so happy to know that she loved them. He almost wanted to call them, but it was late and they would be sleeping. He would keep this news to himself until he had more to tell them.
After giving the waitress the photo and watching her slip it back, un-noticed, into Eden’s purse, Cruz felt relieved. He looked at her now with a new founds sense of hope and happiness. He loved her. There was no denying that now.
Cruz glanced around the diner, trying to find a way to get himself out without being noticed. Coming in was easy, because Eden had been facing the opposite direction. But to get out, he would have to walk right past her and that was not an option at this point. He looked around finding a hallway that seemed to lead to the restrooms. Perhaps, he wondered, it could lead to a back door. Every restaurant had a back exit, didn’t it?
Carefully, he made his way, head down, towards the back hallway. When he finally got back there, he was disappointed to find only two doors, one labeled WOMEN and one labeled MEN. He decided to check for a window in the men’s room that he could slip out of. He’d seen it done in movies, so he figured why not?
As he entered the men’s room, he ran smack into someone who was exiting at the same time. The collision knocked both of them to the floor and Cruz was immediately embarrassed. He jumped to his feet, offering his hand to the victim he had smashed into.
“Oh my goodness.” Cruz stared into the face of his fallen victim, who seemed less happy to see Cruz than Cruz was to see him. “Chip what the hell are you doing here?”

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

They spent the better half of the early morning hours arguing in Cruz’s hotel room. He wasn’t sure who he was more angry with: the kids, for making such a foolish decision, or Cain, for agreeing to help them. Either way, he was mad. It wasn’t a typical mad. The kids made mistakes and often times Cruz would get mad, but this was much different. It was a fearful angry. He wasn’t so much mad at them for coming to New York, but he was mad at the frightening thoughts of what could have happened. Terrorizing images ran through his imagination and no amount of explaining could make them go away.
In fact, it wasn’t until Adrianna finally spoke up that Cruz began to see things in a different light. For hours Chip and Cain had plead their cases and Cruz hadn’t budged. He had gone as far as calling the airline to find a flight to send them home on. It wasn’t that he didn’t sympathize with Chip’s feelings. He did. But Cruz relied on his son to look out for Adrianna when he wasn’t around and Chip had seriously dropped the ball this time. It angered Cruz, not because Chip had let him down, but because Chip was normally so responsible when it came to his little sister. But, Adrianna saw things differently.
“Daddy, you are being ridiculous,” her quiet voice stopped them all in the midst of their argument. She’d been so quiet throughout the yelling, that they had almost forgotten that Adrianna was there. “It isn’t Chip’s fault, and it certainly isn’t Cain’s fault….Heck, Daddy, it’s not even my fault.”
“No?” Cruz turned and faced his daughter, anger still pumping through his veins.
“No. You’re blaming the wrong people here.”
“Who do you think I should blame?”
Adrianna thought for a moment, carefully choosing the words she would say, knowing they could be her only plea. “You should blame yourself. I mean, you knew where our mother was and you didn’t even tell us. You lied to us. We thought you were in Paris and you were here…looking for our mother. You lied to us, Daddy, so technically, you’re no better than we are.”
His first instinct was to get mad at her. But as he looked into her big eyes, it was as if he could see through them. All of the pain, the hurt, the fear inside of her eyes reached out to him. She was right. He had lied and it was unfair. As much as he loved and needed Eden, and he loved her more than he could even describe, he knew that they loved and needed her more.
He had told himself he was trying to protect their feelings, when in truth he was protecting his own. He wanted to find Eden on his own, because he was afraid how he would react. He didn’t think he could bear the pain of being rejected by her again and he didn’t want his children to witness his demise. It was pure selfishness that kept him from calling his children when he first found their mother. He knew they would insist on coming and he knew that when he finally got up the courage to go to Eden, he would want her all to himself.
His children were the most important things in his life, but Eden was…….Eden. She was the one thing that had the ability to make him whole and he wanted some time with her, alone. Unfair to the children, maybe, but it was the way he felt. Seeing them made him realize that this wasn’t a mission for him, it was a mission for them. They had started out as a family and if he had his way, when his life ended, they would be a family again.
In the morning, they took a cab to the airport and sent Cain back home. Cruz privately thanked him for his efforts in helping the kids. He was incredibly grateful to Cain for making sure they were safe and he was grateful to him for helping them. As angry as he had been, he appreciated Cain’s efforts and the fact that Cain had seen the desire in Chip and Adrianna that Cruz had failed to recognize. Of course he knew that they wanted to find their mother, but he never knew until now how desperate they had become. He thanked Cain for showing him the necessity.
When they returned to the hotel room that afternoon, Chip and Adrianna were exhausted. Within minutes of returning, they were both sound asleep in their beds. Cruz watched them from the table across the room. He recalled nights when they were babies, staring at them as they slept, making sure they were breathing. It was always so calming for him to spend time watching them sleep. Even now he found peace in the image. Knowing that his children were sleeping safe and sound gave him that same calm feeling he had once felt.
Cruz was thankful for some quiet time to himself to plan out their next move. Things would be different now that the kids were here. He couldn’t afford to be careless anymore and his original plan, if he had one, would be thrown out the window. Now, he would have to figure out a way to handle things more delicately, making sure to protect the feelings and emotions of the children. It wouldn’t be easy, he knew, but he would have to make every effort.
After much debate, he decided that it was time to confront Eden. He would reveal himself to her. It was a risk. He had no idea what, if anything, she felt for him now, but there was no time to delay now that the children were here. It was something he would have to do on his own, first. Bombarding Eden with him and the children could prove to be too much for all of them and he knew it. He would like to test her out first on his own. If he could see how she reacted to him, then he could better gauge how she may react to the kids……And, of course, he wanted some time with her alone.
“Dad? What are you working on?” Chip sat down at the table across from Cruz. He was a handsome boy and his maturity often took Cruz by surprise.
“Our next move.”
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
Chip was quiet, staring out of the window. Cruz watched him, wondering what thoughts were racing through his mind. He walked to the balcony and opened the sliding door. For a moment, he stood still staring outside, in silence. When he walked out, Cruz followed him. The two stood looking down on the streets of New York, listening to the noises below.
“Is something bothering you, Chipper?”
“I was just thinking.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“…..I think Mom will recognize Adrianna, don’t you?”
Cruz was unsure of the direction of this conversation. “I hope so.”
“She will,” Chip answered, not waiting for Cruz to finish his sentence.                                          “Adrianna is her daughter. Mother’s don’t forget their daughters. I think she’ll recognize her.”
“You’re probably right.”
Chip was quiet again and Cruz did his best not to push him to finish the conversation. “The thing is….Well…. I think I’d be really stupid if I didn’t realize that it may not be the same for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“Adrianna is her daughter….her biological daughter. Mother’s don’t forget their biological children….Especially with everything mom went through to bring Adrianna into the world, not to mention to get her back….”
“Chip, what are you getting at here?”
“I’m just saying, you don’t have to pretend with me. I know that the chances of her remembering me are pretty slim. I mean, I’m not even her real son and there were a lot of bad feelings about the way I was brought into the world. It would be pretty understandable if she had erased those memories from her mind, you know?”
Cruz grabbed Chips arms and turned him around so that they were facing each other. He reached up his hand and touched his son’s face, while patting his arm with the other hand. Words would come from his lips no matter how hard he tried, so he just shook his head. He could see the tears in Chip’s eyes and he realized that they had never discussed Chip’s feelings until this very minute.
“Let me tell you something,” Cruz’s voice cracked when he spoke. “When you first came to live with us, it was Eden who found it so natural to have you there. When she looked at you, she saw nothing but love and joy. You were as much her son as Adrianna was her daughter and don’t you ever for one second doubt that again.”
“I’m just being realistic, Dad.”
“No….No. I’ll tell you what is real. Your mama loved you then and I can guarantee you she loves you now. Biology or not. You may have not been her biological son, but you were her son. Got it?”
“Got it.”
Cruz wrapped his arms around Chip and hugged him harder than he had hugged him in a long time. He had never given a thought to how Chip may have been rationalizing Eden’s feelings for him. To Cruz, it was simple. They were a family. Eden loved Chip and Cruz witnessed that every day, but those memories had begun to fade for Chip. As he grew and learned more about life, he began to doubt the bonds of non-biological love. Cruz didn’t.
Bringing Chip into their family was difficult at first. But once they were a family, that was it. There was never a line between biological and non-biological. They were all one happy family, each one loved as much as the other. Cruz didn’t doubt that Eden’s feelings for Chip would be any different than her feelings for Adrianna. He knew Eden and had faith in her.
After his conversation with Chip, Cruz was even more convinced that it was time to make his move on Eden. It would do no one any good to delay this any longer. Now that the kids were involved, it was more important than ever to be abrupt. He would give Eden the choice to be a part of their lives or not. She would make the choice and then they would all have to deal with it. Either way, they had to know.
It was unknown to Cruz why Eden had stayed away for so long. He didn’t know her reasons or excuses and at this point he didn’t even care. What he knew was that the kids needed the opportunity to know her. It was up to him to give them that opportunity and only she could take it away. The possibility scared him. The kids would certainly get their feelings hurt if things didn’t work out, but at least then they would know that they had tried.
Soon, Chip would be graduating and leaving home. Adrianna would follow shortly after If they were to move on with their lives and become successful, productive members of society, they would need this closure in their life. They would need to know in their hearts one way or another. He wanted them to have the ability to say that at the very least, they had tried. Of course, he would keep his fingers crossed that things would work out for the best.
When the kids leave home, Cruz will be alone. The thought of that ran through his mind almost daily. As much as he wanted his children to have their answers, he wanted to have Eden. They had planned to grow old together, retire early. They would spend their later years buying gifts for their grand children and traveling the world. Thinking of spending those years alone left a big pit in Cruz’s stomach. He would have never made it this long without the kids. Being alone was not something Cruz particularly liked.
He had spent many years after Eden left making poor choices and trying desperately to find what he had with Eden in someone else. When he finally realized the impossibility of that, he settled for being a very active father and a dedicated inspector. If he wasn’t with his kids, he was working. He became the best father by devoting that time and care to his kids. People admired him, but there was something people didn’t know.
Of course Cruz loved his kids. He wanted to spend as much time as possible with them, just because he loved them. But he was “wonder dad” because he was so fearful of being alone. It was much easier for Cruz to throw himself into his children and his work than to sit and actually contemplate the thought of spending the rest of his life alone. This opportunity was one for him, as well. He needed to know one way or another if he would spend his eternity alone.
“So what do we do first?” Adrianna’s face was smiling. Not just her mouth, her entire face was smiling. It made Cruz so happy to see her full of such joy….but, it scared him as well.
“I want to go to her alone first,” Cruz began.
“No way, Dad.” Adrianna spoke in her fiery voice. “You said we could all do this together and—“
”Adrianna,” Cruz placed his hand over her mouth. “Just listen. I want to go see her first….just so I can feel her out a little. It’s been a very long time and seeing me is probably going to be overwhelming to her. If we were all there….”
“We don’t want her to run off or something,” Chip added. “We have to be careful not to scare her, you know?”
Adrianna sighed. “Fine. But you have to promise that you won’t keep us from seeing her. No matter what she says or what she does, you won’t change your mind. Promise?”
Cruz thought about it for a moment. He wanted to say “no way”, but he didn’t. “I promise.”
He would go find Eden on his own. The timing may not have been perfect, but it was the only time he was going to have. This was the moment he had waited for all of these years and as he walked down the sidewalk that evening, butterflies swarmed in his stomach. There was a good chance this could turn out to be the worst day of his life…..However, there was an equal chance that it could turn out to be the best. That’s what kept him walking.

EDEN

When she awoke the next day it was almost noon. Eden smiled at the thought of sleeping in so late. It had been a while since she had allowed herself the freedom to do such a thing. The late night walking and the incredibly too strong coffee at the diner had caused her to spend most of the night awake. When she finally got home that morning, she was so wired from the coffee that she had spent hours on the internet reading about Cruz Castillo. She’d even called that number again, four or five times, listening to his voice on the answering machine.
The whole thing made her feel a bit like a school girl. It was like the teenage girl who would call a boy and hang up when he answered. Only Eden wouldn’t hang up until the answering machine went beep, so it somehow made her more….mature. She really liked listening to his voice. It was so strong and passionate. The thought of using her own tape recorder to tape his voice had come across her mind. But, her batteries were dead and she had no tape, so that would have to wait for another sleepless night.
As she walked through her house, it seemed strangely quiet. Silence often disturbed her, until now. Instead of turning on the radio, she took time to appreciate the silence. It amazed her how many noises there were in the house when it was quiet. When the phone rang, she almost jumped out of her skin, then laughed at herself for being so silly.
“Hello,” she was giddy this morning, chipper.
“Ms. Capwell,” the voice said quietly, “this is Father O’Leary.”
“Yes, Father,…hello. Do you have news for me? Already?”
“I do.”
“Is it good news? Or bad? Oh my goodness, is it bad news?”
“No, no…Nothing like that really. I called Father Johannsen at St. Mary’s in Santa Barbara. He didn’t really know them, but he knew the family. He said that their mother was the daughter of a wealthy businessmen and their father, Cruz Castillo, was a well respected police officer.”
“I’ve never really heard anything about their mother. Did he say anything else about her?”
“Well…There wasn’t much to say….She disappeared several years ago…She had been experiencing some sort of mental trauma and she just left town….Eventually, they received divorce papers and that was that.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“He wasn’t really familiar with all of the details, but he said that was pretty much the gist of it.”
“Hmmmm. So their mother just ran off.”
“I don’t know if she just ran off. Sounds to me like she was ….sick.”
“I can’t imagine any one sane leaving such beautiful children.” Eden suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of sorrow inside of her. She had always felt something for the children in the picture, but now for an unknown reason, she felt sorrow for their mother.
“Ms. Capwell,” Father O’Leary interrupted. “There’s something else.”
“What?” Eden sat down in the chair next to her, resting her face on her hand.
“The mother….her last name…Well…she was the daughter of a wealthy—“
”Businessman, yes, I heard you the first time, Father.”
“Right….Well, her last name was….I’m not really sure how to tell you this, ma’am, but her last name was Capwell.”
The words replayed themselves in Eden’s mind a million times. Capwell. All of these years Eden has wondered about her real family and now, the answers were starting to fill in. It was no wonder she felt a connection to the children in the picture. It was obvious now that she was related to them. They were Capwell’s. Perhaps her niece and nephew. Was it Eden’s sister that had been their mother? Was it her sister who had ran off and left those poor children?
Eden felt disgraceful at the thought of being related to someone who could so easily abandon her children. She wished now that she had never learned the truth. It was a burden she would now have to carry with her. In some way, she felt obligated to make it up to the children. Maybe she could send them some money or gifts or something. Of course, if Father O’Leary was right about their grandfather, it was doubtful that the children lacked for monetary things. They were heirs to the wealthy businessman and certainly he had done his part in taking care of them. It became clear to Eden now why she had erased her past from her mind.
It was more than likely that she was shameful. Whomever this woman was that had abandoned those children, Eden had probably felt shameful for her actions. It had obviously caused so much trauma in her mind that she had escaped that life never to think of it again. Although it wasn’t clear to her how she could walk away from her niece and nephew, Eden was certain that it was out of shame and sorrow. Those poor children.
Eden was scared to find out much more information about her family. She knew that the answers weren’t far away now, but she was nervous about digging in. From what she had already learned, this family had some serious issues. Was it possible that there were even more problems, more disgraceful events that Eden would really rather not know? She had made it this far in her life, would it be crazy of her to go back and uncover the hidden truths? Did she even want to know?
It was obvious that the answers to Eden’s path were in Santa Barbara. That was now the easy part. Knowing was the hard part. She knew that it would take little more than a plane ride to discover the answers to all of her questions, but the thought of it was something she wasn’t sure she could handle. But, this new information was a handful for Eden. It would by lying for her to say that the thought of knowing her family, discovering the past she had somehow forgotten, was slightly exciting to her.
She had pretended for a long time now that finding out her past wasn’t important to her. In her world, she had built a wall around herself, needing no one in her life. She worked as much as possible to avoid the thoughts of loneliness that she felt in the quiet of the night. For years, it was a life Eden had been happy with.
Eden began to wonder what her life was like. Did she have parents that loved her? Siblings? She was obviously a wealthy heir. Had that meant anything to her? What type of “businessman” was her father? Her father. She really hadn’t thought about her father in years. Did he love her? Were they close? What about her mother? Every girl needed a mother in her life and even now, Eden would admit, that she too could use the warmth and compassion of a mother. Did she look like her mother?
The internet was a powerful tool. The Capwell family was definitely a well known family. Their business ventures had netted them more money than Eden cared to think about. Of course, they didn’t come without their share of controversy. Eden chose not to read the bad things she saw. Not today. There would be plenty of time for that, but today, she would only learn about her family. She would research them, study them, hope to recall something, anything about her past. She would try to find out about her sibling that left the beautiful Castillo children. That would be her first priority.
She would find out all of the information she could about this person and then, if needed, she would go to her. No child deserved to live their life without a mother and if these children were indeed related to Eden, she would look out for their interests. The thought of it was terrifying to Eden. Perhaps there had been some sort of family problem which caused Eden to split away from them, putting them out of her mind. It was a fear she was willing to face, if it meant she could help the Castillo children get their mother back. Those beautiful children deserved no less.
C.C. Capwell. That was her father. Sophia Capwell. Her mother. Sophia. It was funny, Eden thought, she’d always loved the name Sophia. When a client of hers had a baby recently, Eden delighted when she named her Sophia. She wondered if their relationship had been a close one. Mothers and daughters shared a special bond, from what Eden knew. She hoped that they were close.
The information was almost too much for Eden to handle all at once. She had read every bit of information that she could find on CC and Sophia Capwell. From what she could tell, her parents weren’t married any longer. It was hard to tell, because there were many articles and it was a halfway split. Half of them listed the Capwell’s as husband and wife, half of them listed them as exes. Eden wondered if that was part of the reason she had left. Had their divorce caused some sort of emotional problems for Eden?
She decided that she’d had enough for now. Her mind needed a break from all of this and she desperately needed to get away. So, she hopped in her car, armed with a few of her favorite c.d.’s and took off. The weather was absolutely perfect for a road trip. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing just slightly, and Eden’s mind was free to roam. She felt good. Sometimes getting out of the city was exactly what she needed.
Her home in the Hamptons was somewhat of a refuge for Eden. Often times, she would barricade herself inside with mounds of work. She’d remain locked up there until her work was complete, then she would emerge recharged and armed with her best work. Rarely, had she come to the Hamptons to lay back and enjoy herself, but today was different. Today, she would allow herself time to relax.
Her favorite bottle of wine in hand, she laid out on the deck of her house. She lathered on the sun tan lotion, because her skin had always been relatively fair, and laid on her lawn chair basking in the sun. The warmth on her body seemed to ease every bit of tension she may have felt. It was exactly what she needed, but she found herself bored after only a few minutes.
Inside the house was a shelf filled with books. Eden had found herself to be a book collector. She’d buy books at antique stores, yard sales, anywhere she could find. It didn’t matter what the book was, Eden had an obsession with them. Today, she scoured over the books, looking for something to peek her interest. It occurred to her that she had never actually read any of the books she collected. Some would find that strange, she imagined, but to her it was just her way.
Settling in with To Kill A Mockingbird, Eden made herself comfortable again on the deck. This was, in her mind, the perfect day. No responsibilities, no cares, no worries. Simply a good book, a good glass of wine, and a beautiful day……until the ringing of her phone practically knocked her out of her seat. No one even knew she was here. How was it possible that someone could ruin her perfect day by calling?
“Hello?” Her voice was annoyed more than friendly.
“Ms. Capwell? This is Margaret Jones…I live next door.”
Eden wouldn’t call herself a social person and she was quite certain that she had never made friends with the Hampton neighbors. “Yes?”
“Well, I hate to bother you, but…..”the woman’s voice quivered and shook. Eden hoped she wasn’t about to unburden herself right there on the phone. It was something she was never comfortable with….consoling people, especially strangers. “Oh, I’m so sorry….” And then it happened. Eden could hear the woman on the other end of the phone, the stranger, sobbing.
Without any thought, Eden was suddenly inviting this stranger over. She had no idea what had caused her to do such a thing. It was unlike her, to say the least, and the entire situation made her very uncomfortable. But suddenly, there they sat, two women….strangers, on Eden’s deck drinking too much wine and talking way too loudly. Eden listened carefully as Margaret Jones poured out her heart. She spoke of her wealthy husband who late nights in the “office” and took “business” trips often. She spoke of infidelity and humiliation. It was such a sad story. They had children, two. Alex and Allison. They were young and their father wasn’t. Eden didn’t ask many questions, but through Margaret’s conversation, she learned many things.
Margaret was a young woman, in her mid thirties. She had met her husband, Thomas, ten years ago when she was only in her twenties and finishing her senior year of college. Thomas was an older man….much older. When they were married, Thomas had just celebrated his 55th birthday. Margaret was 23. Her family turned their backs on her and now, she was alone. Thomas had left her, with promises of taking “financial” care of her and the children. But for a woman who had every material possession she could ever ask for, the reality of being alone was terrifying.
It was the first time Eden had ever bonded with another woman. Normally, she had kept her distance from such relationships, but this felt good. Relating to another human being, instead of a computer screen or a telephone felt good. Eden was sure she could get comfortable with this type of thing if she would just allow herself the freedom to do so.
Later that day, Eden began pouring her own heart out to Margaret. She explained about her past being something she had locked away. She told her of the picture of the children she had found and how it had led her to discover things about her own family. Margaret seemed thoroughly intrigued by the mystery surrounding it all and began to realize that perhaps her own problems weren’t so bad after all. Eden had lost her past. That was something Margaret couldn’t even imagine.
“I just don’t understand how you could have completely blocked it all out,” Margaret poured her fourth glass of wine. “I mean, your life….your memories. I can’t imagine.”
“I don’t understand it either,”Eden felt good sharing a part of herself. “I assume there must have been something that caused it….Some problem or something.”
“It had to be more than just some problem. It’s your life we’re talking about here. It would take something pretty big to make you erase your entire life from your memory. Maybe you had a car accident or something.”
Eden had never thought about the “how” of it before. Maybe Margaret was right. Maybe there had been some type of accident and Eden was the victim. “I suppose it’s possible….Heck, anything is possible, right?”
“Well, whatever the reason, I think you owe it to yourself to find out the answers….Don’t you? You may have a whole life in California that you are missing out on for no good reason.” Margaret held up the picture of Chip and Adrianna and practically stared a hole through it. Eden watched her before grabbing the picture out of Margaret’s hands and staring at it herself.
“I’m not sure I want to know. There may just be a very good reason that I blocked all of that out and it’s quite possible that it would suit me best just to leave it blocked out.”
Margaret laughed aloud. “That’s a cop out.”
“Excuse me?” Eden was beginning to doubt the greatness of her new found friendship.
“Oh come on, Eden,” Margaret sat down her wine glass. “The only reason you aren’t already in Santa Barbara finding out the answers is that you are afraid. You are a big chicken!”
Margaret began laughing hysterically, falling onto her knees in laughter. Eden realized that she had given her way too much to drink and it was coming back to haunt her. Arm in arm, she practically carried Margaret back to the spare bedroom and laid her down. The poor woman was passed out on the bed before Eden could pull up the covers. She had been through such a traumatic day. Eden wouldn’t hold her harsh words against her.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

When Eden returned to the city, she called and invited her new found friend Margaret to come in for dinner. She had found it pleasing to have made a “friend” and the “new” Eden was determined to make the most of the friendship. Margaret was all too pleased to be given the opportunity to get away from her crazy life for a while. Her unfaithful husband had swooped in that next morning to take the children for a few days and being alone was driving poor Margaret crazy. Eden was going a little crazy herself.
She was still unsure how to handle the new information she had received and the back and forth debate in her mind was about to drive her to insanity. A nice dinner with a friend would do them both some good.

Cruz had come to a dead end of sorts. Although he had spent the entire evening staking out Eden’s apartment, she had not revealed herself. It worried him a little to think of what she could be doing inside, but it worried him more to think she may have left while he was hashing things out with the kids. He chose not to let the kids sense his fears. They had come this far and it was obvious that their hearts were already on the line. He would wait it out before taking the time to worry them.
Adrianna began begging the minute he got home that night. She wanted a night out on the town and “No sleezey diner!” So, they all got dressed up and headed out on the town. Chip had taken the liberty of making reservations at a nice Italian place that he had seen on TV. He claimed some reality series was being filmed there and only the best of the best could get a reservation. Cruz wasn’t completely sure how Chip managed to get a reservation, but he asked no questions.
“This place is kind of…Are you sure this is the right place?” Cruz looked around and wasn’t too impressed with the ambiance.
“This is it,” Chip checked out the waitresses as they rushed by. “See these waitresses? They’re way too hot to be regular waitresses. They’re definitely reality tv waitresses.”
“They aren’t that hot, are they daddy?” Adrianna often found herself comparing other girls to herself. She felt she was a pretty attractive girl.
“I haven’t noticed,” Cruz hadn’t. He wasn’t one to go scouting out women, reality tv or not. The only woman on his mind was Eden. It had been that way as long as he could remember and he assumed it was an addiction that he would always have in his life. As much as he wanted to relax and enjoy a nice dinner out in New York with his children, his mind was wandering to her. He wished he knew where she was.

“So where are we going?” When Margaret arrived at Eden’s apartment, it was obvious she had already hit the wine cabinet. Fortunately for the citizens of New York, she had arrived via limo.
“Oh, you won’t believe it,” Eden stood in the bathroom, applying her make up. “I got us reservations at Rocco’s.”
“The Rocco’s?”
“Indeed.”
“So will we be on TV? Oh, I’ve always wanted to be on TV. That would really show—-“
”I don’t know about that, Margaret, but we will definitely have a good time.”
This was the first time Eden had been excited about going out for as long as she could remember. Typical dinners were with clients, which meant a lot of brown nosing and ass kissing. The entire sucking up process was one Eden found herself tired by. But this was different. This was a night planned only for fun, for pure enjoyment. She was almost giddy with excitement. Margaret was drunk with excitement….literally.
Whatever her past held, whatever the connection she felt to the Castillo family, whatever lied in Santa Barbara, it didn’t matter now. Her life had changed drastically since she found that picture of Cruz Castillo. In ways she didn’t understand, Eden had been affected by these people. It amazed her that even without knowing them, they influenced her moods and her habits. Work was suddenly no longer a priority. She didn’t even seem to care about it anymore, though it had once been such a strong part of her life. It pained her to phone in and let them know that she wouldn’t be in for the day. She cared nothing about it anymore.
Something inside of her changed the day she saw the picture of the Castillo family. Her life changed without her control and although she feared it at first, she now felt an enormous freedom. The burdens of her life were washed away and she felt alive.

Cruz and his children sat in a small, cramped booth in the obnoxiously crowded restaurant. Chip was amazed by his surroundings, taking in every thing. He gazed at the pretty women, eyed the celebrities, and dreamed of days of being on reality TV. Adrianna spent most of her time staring into her compact mirror. She fidgeted with her hair, applied lip gloss, and did it all again. Cruz was less enthusiastic.
Crowded places weren’t exactly his style. He was a romantic at heart. An empty restaurant, a candle lit dinner, soft music, and the woman he loved was all he needed. He couldn’t get her off of his mind. Had he only been able to catch a glimpse of her, just to make sure she was all right, he would have been able to relax. The not knowing was eating at him. His stomach hurt.
“Dad?” Adrianna put her compact away to check out the menu. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing,” Cruz lied.
“Yeah right. You’ve been acting weird all day.”
“I’m just tired…And hungry.” Cruz sat his menu down on the table and stood. “Will you excuse me?”
“What if the waitress comes?” Chip asked.
“I think that’s highly unlikely,……but if she comes, order me the chicken fettucine.”
Cruz made his way through the packed aisles, pushing through the mounds of people trying to get in. He hated this place already. It was over crowded, over priced, and under friendly. He wanted to leave, but the smiles on his children’s faces were enough to make him stay. His only refuge was in the mens room.

“Oh, this is great,” Margaret’s face lit up as they entered the restaurant. “Look at this. You see those cameras? We’re going to be on TV, Eden. Oh my goodness!”
“Relax, would you?” Eden wasn’t in the mood to be the next victim of reality TV.
They walked to the hostess and gave their names. The hostess smiled a fake, plastic surgery smile and gave them the “Just a second” sign. Instead of standing cramped up in the doorway with the other people, they opted to make their way to the bar for a drink.
“I’m not sure I like this place,” Eden admitted as she sipped her apple martini. “I think it’s meant for …. a younger crowd, if you know what I mean.”
“I certainly do not know what you mean, Eden Capwell,” Margaret was as close to being drunk as she could be. “We are two young, attractive women. We fit right in.”
Eden wasn’t easily convinced. Standing at the bar, beautiful young girls pushing their way by, Eden was finding herself wishing they would have stayed home. This wasn’t exactly her kind of place. Eden was perfectly content spending the night at home curled up in her sweat pants eating hot dogs. Trying to impress a bartender so he’d give her extra vodka in her martini wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed. “I’m going to go to the ladies room.”

Cruz knew he couldn’t camp out in the mens room forever, but he was actually appreciating the quiet. His girl crazy soon and primping daughter were waiting outside and he knew that they weren’t fit to be alone too long in a place such as this. So, he gave in and made his way out. He chuckled when he saw the line at the ladies room door. Poor women. The mens room was practically empty and the poor women had to wait.
Women. They weren’t women, they were girls. Girls wearing too much makeup and too little clothing. He made a mental note to be more strict with Adrianna on her wardrobe. He wasn’t paying much attention when he rounded the corner, until……he saw her. His darlin’. His Eden. He looked again to make sure he wasn’t imagining her presence, but she was there.
She stood in the long ladies room line, looking in her purse. She was beautiful. She wore a dress that absolutely took his breath away and he stopped in his tracks. He willed his feet to move, to hurry away before he was noticed, but he couldn’t. He was frozen. And then it happened. Their eyes met, for the first time in thirteen years.
Locked in a moment, they both stared into each others eyes. Eden recognized him immediately. The man in the pictures. Cruz Castillo. She didn’t look twice, she didn’t look away. It was him, like a rainbow on a cloudy day, standing in front of her. Her hatred for the restaurant was erased in a heartbeat, as were his.
“Cruz?” As the words rolled off of her lips, Eden was flooded with images of the two of them together in places she couldn’t recognize. Was it just her imagination running away with her?
Cruz couldn’t blink. It was physically impossible. He was afraid if he looked away, even for a split second, she would be gone. He had waited so long for this and now, here they stood, inches a part. He reached his hand up and touched her face. “Eden.”
She was fighting to remain calm, fighting to breathe. Images danced through her mind at lightning speeds and it began to overwhelm her. The connection she felt to the picture of Cruz Castillo was nothing like this. It was an almost magnetic draw she had to him, pulling her closer to him. When he touched her face, her heart practically stopped beating. She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand. Such strength and compassion filled his hand and it felt so good next to her.
Cruz held his hand on her face as long as he could before pulling her into him and wrapping his arms around her. It was natural. Even after all of these years, the feeling of holding her in his arms was one he was comfortable with. Her scent, her touch, were so welcoming. But alas, she pulled away.
He watched her closely as she started to step backwards, away from him. “Eden, don’t do this. Don’t run away from me again.”
“Again?” She was confused. It was clear that there was something between them, but the details were still a mystery and it scared her. The room began to spin around her and she just wanted to run as far away as she could.
“Eden? Eden? Baby? Are you all right?” When she collapsed, he caught her in his arms. People were staring at them and he knew if he didn’t act soon, someone would come and take her away. He scooped her up into his arms and made his way out of the restaurant. When he got outside, he sat with her on a bench, holding her, before he called Chip on his cell phone. He politely excused himself from the evening, telling the kids to enjoy their night and go straight back to the hotel after dinner where he would meet them later. They seemed suspicious, but it didn’t matter now. Cruz had to take care of Eden.
When they reached her apartment by taxi, Eden was still fairly groggy. Cruz held her up by her arms until she was seated safely on her living room couch. He covered her with a blanket and watched as she effortlessly fell asleep. Something was wrong. He didn’t know what, but something was wrong with her. It worried him and he knew that leaving now was not an option. He wished more than ever that he had sent the kids home when he had the chance.
A woman called frantically searching for Eden. She claimed to have been with her at the restaurant and was worried when she had disappeared. Cruz reassured her that all was well, but the woman wasn’t convinced. When she stopped by the apartment later, Eden was sleeping soundly. Cruz made a reference to Santa Barbara and the woman seemed to know what he was referring to. She believed he was no threat to Eden, but refused to leave.
As the women both slept, Cruz took the opportunity to do some snooping around Eden’s home. It was nothing like their home in Santa Barbara. He found it odd that her taste, her style would change so drastically. When he found himself standing in her bedroom, he hesitated at snooping through her personal belongings. He decided he wouldn’t resort to peeking in her drawers, but only scour the tops of dressers and perhaps inside the closet.
As he looked on the night stand by her bed, he was taken aback. There, laying so perfectly, was a picture of him. It wasn’t in a frame, but it was there. He felt at ease knowing that she had at least thought of him…at the very least.
Back in the living room, he stared at her as she slept. This was what he missed the most, having her there next to him. He missed feeling her body next to his, hearing her breathe. Watching her now, he thanked God for giving him the chance to be near her again. He had prayed for it so many times before and now it was like a dream come true. Inches away from him, she lay, sleeping so soundly, and for the first time in thirteen years, Cruz was at peace.
He called Chip again later that night to make sure they had made it back safely. Knowing that he couldn’t lie to them at this point, he told them the semi-truth. He explained that he had seen Eden and followed her and he would spend the night staking out in hopes of meeting with her in the morning. The kids seemed pleased with that, so he wished them good night and hung up the phone. When he returned to the living room, Eden was awake.
She sat on the couch, staring into the fireplace, watching the flames dance. The image of another fire dancing raced through her mind. She was somewhere…with Cruz, but she couldn’t make out the surroundings.
“You’re awake,” Cruz sat down on the chair next to her.
“So are you,” she didn’t know what to say. “Cruz.”
“Yes?”
“That’s your name. Cruz Castillo.”
“You know it is.”
“Do I?”
“Okay, Eden, let’s cut to the chase here. I think we are beyond playing games, don’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t you?”
Eden thought about it for a moment. Cruz obviously knew more about her than she knew about im at this point. “What I know is that up until a couple of weeks ago, I had a pretty normal life. And then I found this box….Full of pictures of you and your children and…”
“Excuse me…my children?”
“–and they are so incredibly beautiful….I just couldn’t stop thinking about them…and you…I don’t understand any of this. I know that we’re connected in some way.”
“Connected in some way? Are you kidding me?”
“A couple of days ago, I found out about my family….The Capwell’s. I also learned that you had a wife…the children’s mother, and she left you. I can only assume that somehow, I am related to this woman, which is why I feel such a strong bond with the children in the picture…..”
Cruz began to pace the room. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Was it possible that Eden had lost her memory? Or was this just a game she was playing to make herself out to be the victim? The Eden he knew would never do such a thing, especially when it came to the children, but this was not the Eden he knew. His blood began to boil, his breathing became heavy. He wasn’t sure if he should be angry or sad.
“The thing is,” Eden continued, “Whatever happened between you and your wife…I’m real sorry about it. But, I don’t think there’s anything I could have done to stop it from happening. I think when things like this happen—“
”Things like this?” Cruz laughed aloud. “Do you hear yourself? Are you listening to what you are saying? You think you might be related to the children somehow? You think you and I are connected somehow?” He laughed again, only this time louder.
“Well,…I don’t recall the exact details, but I know that I have very strong feelings…”
Margaret appeared in the doorway. “Is everything okay?”
Eden nodded and Margaret went back to her room. Cruz continued to pace around, while Eden sat on the couch. “I can tell you are angry with me.”
“Angry?” Cruz thought for a moment. He took a couple of deep breaths before sitting next to her. Slowly, he reached his hand up, touching her hair, then ran his fingers along her face. “Look at me. Look in my eyes and tell me you think we’re connected.”
Eden did look into his eyes, right before she began to cry. She had no idea where the tears were coming from, but she supposed it was somewhere deep inside her. Perhaps the tears flowed from the same place where she had buried all of her memories. She looked away from him, ashamed at herself for breaking down in front of him, saddened by the look of disappointment in his eyes.
Cruz sat next to her again and gently wiped away her tears. This was no act. Eden was many things, but she wasn’t a liar. As he wiped her tears away, it created more tears to pour out, and he thought he should stop.
“I’m scared,” Eden cried.
“Of me?” Cruz sat back quickly. He had never meant to scare her. He knew better than to push her when she was in this sort of state. The last time he pushed her to uncover memories….he lost her. Only a fool would take that risk again.
“No, not of you…Of all of this.” Eden stood and walked out of the room. She didn’t tell him, but there were things she was starting to remember. Feeling safe and warm with him most of all.
Cruz waited for her. He knew that no matter how long it took, he would wait. He had already waited for thirteen years. A few more days…weeks wouldn’t be anything to him, so long as he knew she was nearby. She had obviously lost her memory for whatever reason and eventually, being surrounded by friends and family, she would certainly begin to regain it. If he could get her home, Cruz knew that eventually everything would be okay. Getting her home would be the problem.
He waited several hours, but she never came out of the bedroom where she and Margaret had baricaded themselves. He had no intention of rushing her or pushing her. However, there was a slight fear that if he left, she would run. That’s what she’d been doing all these years, afterall, and Cruz knew he couldn’t stand it if he let her get away again.
His children were waiting in the hotel for him and he was certain that if he didn’t go to them soon, they would come looking for him. Adrianna had her mother’s sense of persistence and even Chip wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to find them. Cruz knew he had to go to them and let them know what was happening. He figure it was his best chance at getting them to go on home so he could have some time with Eden before she saw them. As painful as it was for him to have the woman he loved look into his eyes and not recognize him, he knew it would be more painful for the kids. He had to go to them.
“Darlin’,” Cruz quietly knocked on the bedroom door. “Um..May I come …”
The door opened and Margaret made her way past him. As she walked by, she patted his arm gently. Cruz stepped inside the room where he saw Eden lying on her bed, covers pulled up to her chin practically.
“Are you all right?”
She nodded.
“Good…Good.” He sat on the edge of the bed and brushed her hair with his hand. “I know this is all overwhelming for you…To tell you the truth, it’s a little overwhelming for me too…And I would never normally leave you, but..”
“You’re leaving?”
“I need to. I don’t want to, but…the kids are at the hotel waiting for me and I’m afraid they’ll panic if I don’t check in soon. Adrianna has a bit of an adventurous side to her and—“
”The kids are here? In New York?”
“Yes..I didn’t want them here, but….Well, it’s a long story. Anyways, I have to go for a while and be with them. Do you understand?”
“You need to be with your children.”
“I need to be with our children.”
Instantly, tears flowed once again from her beautiful eyes. Cruz leaned in to hug her, but she turned away. “Our children? Chip and Adrianna. They’re not just your children.”
“No. They’re ours.”
“So I’m the one.”
“What do you mean?”
Cruz looked at Eden as the tears flowed from her eyes. He desperately wanted to hold her close to him, but he knew she would again pull away, so he kept his distance.
“I’ve been going on and on about what an awful woman their mother must have been. I couldn’t understand how anyone could walk away from their children and now I find out that—“
”Eden, no. Don’t do that.”
“I’m the one. I’m the awful woman that walked away from her children.”
Cruz tried again to hold her, but again she turned away. “Please go, Cruz. Be with them. They need you.”
Cruz walked to the door, but stopped and turned around. “Eden.”
She looked at him through tear filled eyes. How could this man even want to talk to her after what she had done to him?
“Eden, darlin’, they need you too….Almost as much as I need you.”

 

 CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Eden was a mother. She had children. All of these years that she had resolved herself to the fact that she would never have children of her own seemed to disappear in an instant. “They need you” It was true, she knew. They did need her. In fact, they had always needed her, yet she wasn’t there. She was a mother who abandoned her children. It was the kind of story she had heard in movies or perhaps even the nightly news. She had walked away from them, without a word, never to return.
Staring at herself in the mirror, Eden realized that although she couldn’t see it, there must be evil inside of her. Only an evil person could cause so much pain to such innocent victims. She had often thought herself to be a decent person. She was friendly and charitable, reliable and stable. But the reality of her life was that she was the kind of woman who could walk away from her family and physically erase them from her mind.
What kind of mother forgets her children exist? Thirteen years. They were just babies when she left and now, as teenagers, they would old enough to understand that their mother had abandoned them. She wondered if they hated her. She envisioned them huddling together, crying at nights for their mother only to find that their mother wasn’t coming back. How did they handle it?
Were they good people? Well adjusted? Or did they have behavior problems? Were they the kind of children you would read about in the newspaper. The children who lost their way, because they had no one there to guide them. No. They had Cruz. Just looking at him, Eden knew he was a great father. He was a great man, it was obvious. She imagined he knew just the right way to handle his children. He had most definitely developed a special relationship with them. A relationship that she could never intrude upon.
She wished so badly that she could see them. If she saw them, maybe the memories would come back. Yet, what if they did? Then what? Would she just leave her life in New York and go back with them? Would they allow her back into their lives? Would they even care? Eden knew that this was going to be a long, hard journey for all of them. She didn’t even know what she was feeling, but she knew now that she had to see them.
“What kind of monster am I? What kind of monster am I?” Eden screamed at her reflection in the mirror, slamming her fist against it. By the time Margaret rushed into the bathroom, Eden’s hand was dripping with blood. She slid down onto the floor, sobbing, as Margaret rushed to put a towel on her wound. “What kind of woman abandons her children?”
“I don’t believe you abandoned them, Eden.” Margaret held the towel on the bleeding wound and sat next to Eden on the floor.
“Well, believe it, Margaret, because that’s what I did. I abandoned them and then, I erased them from my mind.” She sobbed even harder as the words rolled off her tongue. Saying them made it even more real.
“No.” Margaret wrapped her arm around Eden’s shoulder. “The first day I met you, you showed me a picture of these two babies. You didn’t know who they were or why you had the picture, but you told me yourself that you felt a strong connection for them. Well, this is why.”
“It’s been thirteen years. I erased them from my mind for thirteen years.”
“Maybe. But, your love for them was always there. Don’t you see that? All it took was a picture of them and you were instantly in love. Something went wrong in your mind, Eden, but your heart never changed. Your love for them never changed.”

When Cruz arrived back to the hotel, it was nearing morning. Chip and Adrianna were sleeping in their beds. Cruz smiled at the sight of them. He’d been smiling since he left Eden’s house and he couldn’t make himself stop if he tried. Eden. He’d seen her, he’d talked to her and it rekindled a hope inside of him that had been buried a long time ago. Today, for the first time in years, he felt like there was a chance again. A chance for them to be a family. A chance for him to be a husband. He missed that the most.
Cruz was never the type that liked being single. He didn’t need a woman in his life, but he needed Eden. A part of him stopped existing when she left and that feeling of being married, being loved had gone with it. His goals had changed from being a good husband to being a good father and he put all of his work into making that happen.
Raising their children alone was always a challenge. It was tiring, yes, but mostly it was lonely. He wanted to share their lives with Eden. He wanted to hold her hand as they sat at dance recitals, he wanted to remind her to loosen up when she was critical of the girls Chip brought home. He needed them to be together, to be a family. It gave him peace. So, alone, he was always doubting himself, always wondering if he was doing a good enough job with the kids.
He had made it his goal to raise them with their mother, even if she wasn’t there. Each of them had pictures of Eden in their rooms. They spoke of her often, Cruz would share memories. He always made them comfortable to bring up her name, no matter how much pain it secretly caused inside of them. He wanted them to know how much she loved them. He wanted them to know and love her the way he did. But, as they grew older, it became harder and harder to convince them of her love. It didn’t take them long to realize that if she loved them, she would be there. He never knew how to explain it.
Today, standing in the shower, he could only smile. There was a long road ahead of them, but there was hope. There was always hope when there was Eden. Just being in her presence reminded him of that. No matter what they were going through, what dark times they faced, as long as she was there, Cruz had hope. He felt the same now. She was there, within his reach and he was filled with a sense of hope that could not be tarnished by worry and fear.
“Dad? Are you okay?” Adrianna peeked her head into the bathroom.
Cruz leaned his head out from behind the shower curtain. “I’m great. Go back to sleep.” He leaned back in, sensing that Adrianna hadn’t left.
“Wait a minute. Let me see your face.”
“What?” He leaned out again, soap dripping down from his hair and nearing his eye. “Adrianna, dear, if you don’t mind, I’d like to finish this shower in private.”
“Oh my goodness….You saw her.”
Shock fell over Cruz’s face and he leaned back inside the shower. Adrianna was so much like her mother it was frightening. “What makes you think that?”
“What makes me think that? Your face makes me think that. You’ve got a big huge smile on your face…..And, well, I love you Dad, but you never have a big huge smile on your face unless….You are talking about mom. So spill it.”
Chip walked up behind Adrianna. “What’s going on?”
“Oh my,” Cruz leaned his head back out. “Do you two mind? I’m taking a shower, not having a party.”
“He saw her Chip.”
“You did? You saw her?”
“Yes, he did. Look at his face. He’s all smiley and ….happy.”
“Adrianna Sophia Castillo, I resent that. I’m a very happy man.”
“Well, no, Dad, you’re not. I mean, you do a good job pretending to be a happy man, but we can all tell that you’re really just a miserable—-“
”All right, all right,” Cruz leaned back into the shower. “Enough. Let me finish this shower, then I’ll come out and fill you in on what happened tonight.”

Margaret had bandaged up Eden’s hand, although, she really felt it might need stitches. Eden was too stubborn to go the hospital, so Margaret did the best she could to patch it up. After much argument, Eden sent Margaret on her way back home. She appreciated having her friend around, but she desperately needed some time to herself.
In one night out, her life had come crashing down on her and it was extremely overwhelming. There were so many things running through her mind, so much tension, she just needed some quiet time to think things out a bit. So, she grabbed a bottle of wine and sunk down into a hot, bubble bath, with some of her favorite scented candles surrounding her. The hot water was exactly what her tense body needed, as she seemed to relax almost instantly.
She was a mother. It was something she told herself over an over again. She was a mother. Maybe Margaret was right, maybe she wasn’t as evil as she had made herself out to be. The picture of the children certainly did stir up emotions inside of her that she never knew existed. Maybe it was simply her mental state that kept her away for all of these years. But, if she could admit to that, she would have to admit to the fact that maybe she wasn’t even fit to know her children.
Mental problems were no joke. If her mind had allowed her to erase the memory of her life, then she really had no business jumping back into it. This was a such a confusing time for her. She’d never thought of herself as a crazy person, but maybe that’s exactly what she was. She was a crazy person. A person who was obviously not in her right mind How did she ever create this new life for herself? Had she forged diplomas and certificates? Was she really that manipulative?
Eden didn’t like this new vision of herself. She had never pained a picture of perfection in her life, but she had carried herself to be a good person. Thinking of the new ways she may have lied or manipulated situations was something that deeply disturbed her. It was something she didn’t want to think about. Part of her wished this would all go away. She could move away and start over again in a new place where Cruz Castillo couldn’t find her. She could start from the bottom again.
“Eden,” she jumped, startled from the voice.
“I’m sorry…..I’m sorry,” Cruz stared at her as she lay in the tub. His eyes moved up and down her body in an all too obvious manner, before he finally looked away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you. Margaret was leaving as I was coming in and….I’m sorry.”
Eden was slightly uncomfortable with the thought of him being so close to her as she lay there. She was thankful for the bubbles, which seemed to cover up all the right places, and for the candle light which seemed to make everything look better. He was a handsome man, she couldn’t deny that. She loved looking at him. He was much better than his picture portrayed, and she had been infatuated with his picture.
Cruz noticed the bandage on Eden’s hand and knelt down next to her, grabbing it. “What happened? Are you all right?”
Eden pulled her hand away. “I’m fine. It’s nothing.”
They gazed into each others eyes for a moment, before Eden finally turned away. “Did you see the children?”
Cruz sat on the bench next to the tub, pretending not to look at her. Eden knew that he was pretending. “I did. They’re fine. They’re….well, they’re very excited.”
“I’m sure they hate me.”
“No….No, they don’t.”
Cruz couldn’t help but look at her body. He was sure that it was perfection. Tension mounted in the air and they both felt it, but denied it. It was so quiet. The only noise was the sound of the water as it splashed against the tub when Eden moved and the noise sent chills up Cruz’s spine. He wanted to touch her, but he was afraid.
“I guess…well…I should probably…wait out in the living room.”
“Oh,” Eden sat up a little taller, covering her breasts with her arms. “I was going to be getting out soon anyway.”
Without warning and without any explanation in her own mind, Eden stood. She had never done something like that before. It wasn’t her style. She wasn’t the type of person who felt comfortable in her own skin, but Cruz brought out a different side to her that she couldn’t explain.
Cruz stared at her as she stood in the bath tub. He couldn’t speak, he could only look. His heart raced wildly with a passion that he thought had died inside of him. She was beautiful and he was honored to be in her presence.
“Could you hand me a towel?”
He stumbled around the bathroom, fumbling for a towel and finally grabbed one. He almost threw it to her, but something inside of him told him to take it to her. Slowly, he walked towards her, towel in hand, eyeing every inch of her body. She stood still, confident, waiting for him to approach. He stopped in front of her, their bodies only inches away, and gave her body one last good, slow look. Finally, his eyes stopped in her eyes and they stared at each other. His hand ran up her arm, reaching her face, touching her lips. He leaned in and wrapped the towel around her body, then kissed her cheek slowly, holding it just to feel her skin on his skin, then pulled away.
“I’ll wait in the living room.”

Cruz could barely catch his breath while he paced the living room floor. He had restrained himself just then and it was not easy. What he wanted to do was jump right into that tub with her and kiss every inch of her body, but he knew better. He knew that rushing things would not make them any easier for anyone and he had to keep his cool. Although, it was so damn hard around Eden. She had this ability to draw him into her, like a magnet, and pulling himself away wasn’t an easy task.
Eden smiled as she dried off. He wanted her then and it felt so good. Although she hated to admit it, she’d wanted him too. He was such a hypnotizing man. It was hard not to feel under his spell when she was around him. He was obviously a good man, too. The opportunity to take advantage of her had been inches away from him, yet he had walked away. Not every man could show such extrene restraint. She admired that in him.
“Can I get you anything? Coffee? Juice?”
She was wearing a robe and it drove Cruz crazy. Eden knew it would.
“To tell you the truth, I am a little hungry.”
Eden laughed. “So am I. Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
She scoured the cabinets and the fridge. Unfortunately, she wasn’t much on grocery shopping, so the cupboards were practically bare. “I have bagels and….bagels.”
“Bagels are fine,” Cruz smiled.
He sat at the table with her, that overlooked the city. She seemed uninterested in the amazing view, but he enjoyed it. Being together was nice. Just the two of them, eating breakfast together. It reminded him of the old days.
“So the kids are okay?” Eden was deeply concerned for them. As hard as all of this was on her, she knew it was nothing compared to what the children would be feeling.
“They’re….yeah, they’re okay.” He took a bite of his bagel, taking a cue from her. “I would have brought them, but….I just didn’t think that now was…the time, you know?”
“Oh, yes, yes I understand.” Eden sipped her juice. “I’m not sure I could handle it just yet.”
They sat quietly. It wasn’t an awkward silence, but a natural one. Cruz couldn’t really believe he was sitting there with her now. It was like a dream that he wished he wouldn’t wake up from.
“Would you tell me about them? The kids. What are they like?”
Cruz thought about it for a moment. “ Well, first there’s Chip. He’s sixteen now. He drives. It kills me every time he leaves the house, but he drives. He’s on the varsity baseball team and he’s an honor student. He kind of dates a girl, but I don’t think it’s anything too serious.”
Eden smiled, listening about Chip. She instantly recalled herself being with him at the beach. They were building sand castles and digging for crabs. He was laughing and she was laughing.
“Then there’s Adrianna….Well, she’s…something. She’s a lot like you. Kind of fiesty and unpredictable. She’s the whole reason they’re here right now. She had it in her mind that they could find you before I got back from my trip….Anyways, she’s a wonderful girl…And she’s beautiful.”
Eden visioned herself giving birth to Adrianna. She wondered if she was making it up, though, because she seemed to be in a cave. “Was she born in a cave?”
Cruz laughed aloud. “Yes. Yes she was. A lot of strange things happened in our lives.”
It pleased him that she remembered. Another sign of hope.
Eden spent the morning listening to Cruz’s stories about their children. She delighted in hearing about their accomplishments and acheivements, but she mostly appreciated the stories about the times he spent with the children. The trips they went on, the days at the beach. Eden loved hearing those stories. Most of all, she loved looking into his yes when he told the stories. He was so in love with them and it made her feel good. They may have been motherless, but they had a father who adored them. It was so obvious. His eyes sparkled when he talked about them. It was such a good feeling.
By noon, Cruz had told about every injury either of the children had, every broken heart and every lost tooth. He told stories of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, Halloween’s and jr. high dances. She wished she was tape recording the stories so she’d never risk forgetting them. The children had led such happy lives, filled with fun and love and family.
“I don’t know what you want to do next,” Cruz said. “Do you want some time alone to process all of this or…do you want to try to figure out a way to get your memory back? I mean, I don’t know. This is a lot for you to handle, right?”
Eden didn’t know what she wanted. She was as confused as he was. Standing, she walked to the window and stared out. The world was such a big place and she had somehow managed to keep herself locked inside this life, with no regard to the outside. “I don’t know what to do….I don’t know how any of this happened or why it happened. I don’t know how I could erase so many things from my mind. It’s almost unbelievable to me, you know? I mean, I listen to you talk and I think, how is it possible?”
Cruz stood next to her, staring out the window. “I know.”
“But when I look at their picture, I know that it is possible. I know that no matter how strange this is or how confusing this is, …..When I look at their picture, I know that somewhere inside of me….I love them.”
Hope. He felt it more than ever now.
Eden turned to him, looking him directly in the eye. “Last night you told me that they needed me….and I have to tell you, it scared the hell out of me. I kept thinking, how can they need me? What good could I be to them?”
“Eden—“
”–And then you said you needed me too and….”
“I didn’t mean to scare you or anything, I just–“
”Cruz…..I don’t remember. I mean, I get bits and pieces of things every now and then, but I don’t remember.”
“That’s okay…It’s going to take time. I’m not going to push you, Eden. You don’t have to feel things for me, just because I want you to. I just want our children to have the chance to know you. That’s all I want.”
“I wasn’t finished.” Eden smiled.
“I’m sorry.” Cruz smiled in return.
“I don’t remember….But when I look at you, when I look into your eyes, I beg God to give me something. ….Anything. When I look at you Cruz, I want to remember.” Again, tears rolled down her face, although she thought she could cry no more. “Please help me remember. Don’t give up on me.”
Cruz wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly in his arms. “It’s not in my power to give up on you Eden. I haven’t been able to give up in thirteen years. It’s not in my power.”

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Eden stared at the clock waiting for Cruz to return. She’d never been a clock watcher until now, but knowing that he would be visiting her today gave her something to look forward to. It was hard on him, she knew, because she couldn’t remember. All night long she had tried. She had filled herself with every bit of information Cruz had given her, but something inside of her wouldn’t allow the memories to be unlocked. It was a maddening experience for both of them.
Cruz couldn’t understand why it was so hard for her. She had feelings, this was true, but memories were a different story. It was obvious to Eden that she had loved Cruz. He was a very easy man to fall in love with, she imagined. Yet, the details were unclear to her and until they opened up in her mind, none of this would make sense.
When she awoke in the morning, she spent extra time getting dressed. She carefully chose the perfect outfit and used her curling iron for the first time in weeks. She laughed at herself for acting so crazy. It was as if she was going on a date. Funny or not, Cruz would be there soon and she intended to look her best.
He was joining her for breakfast, which is a meal she didn’t often find time for. At the supermarket, she had to ask a young boy working behind the cash register what would be a good menu for a breakfast with a friend. The boy looked at her like she was crazy and pointed her to the cereal aisle. Cocoa puffs and fruit loops were not exactly what she had in mind, so she made her way to the bakery department. Croissants, muffins, bagels. She filled her cart with a variety of each, along with jams and jellies, cream cheeses and butters. A fruit salad seemed to be appropriate, so she bagged up a variety of fruits as well.
It was four in the morning when she looked at her alarm clock and by the time she got to the kitchen, it was nearing six. She had to cut the fruits and arrange the breads in just the perfect manner. Breaking out her finest china, Eden set the table to perfection. First, she positioned the table directly next to the window. The scenic view of New York would be a nice conversation piece in case things got awkward. Next, she pulled out her nicest candle sticks and lit the candles. The setting was perfect, all she needed now was the man.
The sound of knocking on the door almost stopped her beating heart. Eden took a couple of deep breaths, glanced one last time at her reflection in the mirror, and made her way to the door. When she opened it, a smile instantly spread across her face. There in the doorway was the most beautiful flower arrangement she had ever seen, held up by only an arm. Cruz was hidden behind the doorway, until Eden reached out and pulled him in.
“Are these for me?”She smiled. Eden was obviously not the only one who had spent time on their appearance this morning. As she looked at Cruz, it was certain that he was perfect.
“No, actually,” Cruz joked, “I ran into a woman in the lobby and she gave them to me. I was hoping you could loan me a vase.”
Cruz walked inside the apartment, closing the door behind him. Her beauty never ceased to amaze him. He took a moment to catch his breath without her noticing, while she placed the flowers in some water. “Aw, Eden, this looks great.”
He stared at the table in amazement. With the view outside and the candles lit, it was the most perfect setting.
“Thank you.” Eden placed the flowers in the center of the table. They made the perfect centerpiece. It was almost as if Cruz knew exactly what type of flowers to buy. “What type of flowers are these?”
Cruz looked at her, a little disappointed that she didn’t know. “Cockscombs.”
Eden could tell that she had let him down. These flowers were special to them in a way that she couldn’t recall and he had attempted to stir up memories inside of her. She hated herself at that moment. “I’m sorry.”
He smiled, politely, and held out the chair for her. Once she was seated, he walked to his own seat and sat down. For a moment, he glanced out the window, and Eden wondered if this breakfast was going to be more uncomfortable than she had imagined. Perhaps it was a bad idea. Her stomach began to flip flop inside.
“We met in Paris,” Cruz began talking as he stared out the window. “And then later on the Orient Express, where we….got to know each other better, if you know what I mean.”
She smiled. “I do.”
“In our compartment, there were cockscombs,” he stared into her eyes now. “Since then, every time I see cockscombs….Well, they were special to us, but that was a long time ago.”
“It sounds like a wonderful time.”
“More like magical. It was pure magic. You were beautiful and I was a bumbling idiot just trying to get a look at you. We had several special times on the Orient Express after that, but that first time was……Magic.”
When Cruz spoke, his voice was calm and sincere, in an almost hypnotizing manner. Eden wanted so desperately to recall the times he spoke of. She couldn’t even imagine herself living such a dream. With Cruz, everything must have been like a dream. He was such a romantic. Eden pictured him being a real knight in shining armor. He was like the prince charming that every little girl dreamed of marrying one day. With him, Eden really felt like she could be Cinderella.
Eden listened as Cruz shared stories about their life. Sometimes she would find herself laughing so hard she would practically fall out of her chair. Other times, she would have tears in her eyes. Every word from his mouth was spoken with passion. He told of good times and bad, hiding nothing from her. She listened, finding it hard to believe that the stories were true. Some of them seemed like something you would read in a book or watch on television, yet they were her life.
“Are you all right?” Cruz noticed that Eden’s emotions were getting the best of her as he told her about their separation and reunion in Pebble Creek. He wondered now if he should have shielded her from the bad things, but knew that at this point, it was best to be totally honest.
“This is so strange, hearing these stories and…..knowing that they happened to me, but I don’t even remember them….I’m sorry, I don’t mean to….I appreciate hearing these stories. It’s just so confusing.”
“I’m sorry. I guess I just want you to remember so badly, that I…..Do you have a stereo?”
Eden was a little shocked at his request, but lead him to the stereo in her office. She waited out in the living room as he fooled around with it and wondered what he was up to. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take.
When Cruz returned, he stopped next to her and waited. “The change in me, is you now.” When the music began to play, he stared into her eyes, willing her to remember something. Eden stared back at him, listening to the lyrics, feeling slightly overcome by the music. She wasn’t sure what was going on inside of her, but something was pulling at her emotions.
He reached out his hand, slowly and she took a hold of it. Pulling her into him close, they danced in the living room. Holding her in his arms again was something he had dreamed of for years and now, here they were. Her soft skin touching his, her face brushing up against him, all the while her eyes remained closed. Cruz wished he could look inside her mind to know what she was thinking, what she was maybe recalling. He had hoped the cockscombs would trigger something and the music was his last “trick”. If this didn’t do it, he would be out of options for the day.
Eden closed her eyes as they danced. She leaned her face against Cruz’s face, breathing in and out more methodically than she had ever done before. Her mind was calm and peaceful, no fast pace images flooding inside, but there was something there. It was as if she were looking through a peep hole, struggling to see, but something was there. In the distance, were a man and a woman, dancing. They appeared to be in some sort of restaurant, but they were the only ones there. A man near them played the guitar and sang aloud as the people danced. Slowly, they moved closer to Eden. She could see them more clearly now and realized that she was looking at herself.
“In a restaurant….”
“We danced in a lot of restaurants, Eden.”
“But we’re the only ones there. I’m wearing a …black dress. You’re wearing a dark suit.”
“What else can you see?”
“A man playing guitar. He’s singing this song with some sort of accent.”
Cruz laughed. Finally, something to go on. Finally a memory, something that would give him hope that there may be an end to this journey. “French. We were in Paris. I had flown to meet you there and you surprised me by taking me to this little cafй where we first met. The place was completely empty, except for us.”
Eden nodded, recalling the same events Cruz was speaking of. As always, Cruz wiped away the tears that came from her eyes. This was hard on her and he was weary of giving her too much to handle. He knew that she could only take a little at a time and he was very patient about that. More than anything, he just needed to know that the memories were somewhere inside of her. He had hope knowing that no matter how far they may be buried, at least they were there.
When the song finished, they continued dancing until Eden finally pulled away. He touched her face, wanting badly to kiss her, but again she pulled away. “I’m sorry…..I just need a break from this, okay?”
“Do you want me to leave?” Cruz hoped he could stay, but was willing to do whatever she needed him to do.
“No….I just need some time.”
Cruz watched as Eden disappeared up the stairs. He heard a door close and assumed she had gone to her room. He took the opportunity to call and check in with the kids, who were waiting anxiously back at the hotel. It was becoming obvious to him that springing them on her was not going to happen any time soon. They were angry and broken hearted when he asked them to go home. Adrianna was fighting mad, telling him that it wasn’t fair, but finally he convinced them both that it was for the best. He would get plane tickets out as soon as possible and they were not to tell anyone back home what was going on.
Chip was more level headed about it, but Cruz assumed it was out of fear. As much as he tried to be a tough guy, like Cruz, Chip was a boy with a soft heart. This was a frightening situation for all of them and Chip was starting to feel the pressure. Adrianna finally gave in to the fact that pushing Eden now may just push her farther away and that was a reality that scared her. She wanted to see her mother so badly, but it wasn’t worth losing her all over again. Part of her, however, felt jealous of her father. He would be the one to spend time with their mother and he would be the one to decide when they could see her. It didn’t seem fair.
Cruz spent the morning on the phone with the airline purchasing tickets for the kids. He got them seats on a flight that evening and knew he’d have to leave Eden to take them to the airport. The thought made him nervous, however. He was afraid that he had pushed her too hard that morning and she may feel the need to run. “Darlin’?”
He waited for a moment outside of her bedroom door, before she opened it. Her face was tear stained and her eyes were puffy. It hurt Cruz to think that she’d been locked up in the room for hours, crying alone. “Are you okay?”
Eden turned away and walked back to her bed, where she sat down and covered herself with the comforter. Cruz walked closer to her, slowly, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Eden, I don’t want to do this to you. I don’t want to make you cry. If this is too much….or if you don’t want to go through it, then I’ll leave.”
She shook her head. “Why are you so …. perfect?”
“What do you mean?”
“You always know the right things to say, the right things to do….It makes me feel like such a fool, because I’m sitting here unable to form a complete sentence half the time. I don’t know how you do it.”
“Well,” Cruz brushed the hair out of her face, “it’s easy….I just love you.”
I love you. Coming out of his mouth, those words were like poetry. The finest gift she’d ever received, the fanciest dress she’d ever owned, the biggest deal she had made at work, meant nothing next to those three words. I love you. No one had ever said them to her before and when Cruz said them, she believed him. She could feel his love for her in everything he sais and everything he did. Every move he made, every breath he took, every look he gave to her. She could feel his love.
“I have to leave…”
“Why?” Eden became frantic. She had worried that this was all a dream and soon she would awaken and now it was coming true. He was going to leave her.
“Just for a while. I have some errands to run.”
“Can I come with you?”
Oh, the thought of bringing her to his children was one that gave him much joy. But, he knew that today was not the day to do that to her. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Why?”
“I’m going to pick up Chip and Adrianna. They’re catching a late flight.”
“Where are they going?”
“Home.”
Home. Santa Barbara. It was where her life had been, the life she couldn’t remember now and her children were going back. “Home?”
“I thought it would be best if they…waited to meet you.”
“Meet me?” The words caused Eden to break down right there in Cruz’s arms. She cried harder than she had ever cried in her life. Her children wanted to meet her. Meet. What a terrible thing for children to have to make an appointment to meet their mother. The feelings of horror rushed over Eden at the thought of her children asking if they could meet her. They were her children for God’s sake. She was their mother and soon they would meet for the first time in thirteen years. How could she possibly face them?
“Baby, please don’t cry.”
“They must hate me. They have every right to.”
“They don’t hate you. No one hates you, Eden.”
“How could they not?”
“Simple. You’re their mama. They love you because they were born to love you. Time doesn’t change that.”
She was their mama. It explained the amazing feelings she felt for them just at the sight of their picture. It explained the late nights she spent awake, dreaming of them, wondering about them. If they still loved her, she knew she was undeserving. But it was obvious that she loved them. They were all she could think about and the fact that they were leaving tonight saddened her.
When Cruz left that evening, she had given him things for the children. To Adrianna, she gave a bracelet that was the first piece of jewelry she had bought in New York. It was something that Eden treasured and she hoped that Adrianna would find some joy in it. To Chip, she gave a baseball signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers team. She had bought it in a charity auction and at the time had no idea why she would have wanted such a thing. Now, she knew. With the items, she wrote them each a letter. It was nothing dramatic or explanatory. She simply wrote:
“All of my life I have dreamed about you, without never knowing you
were there. Please accept these gifts as tokens of a love that conquered
amnesia and a love that will forever remain.”

When Cruz gave the children their gifts from Eden, he watched the emotions in their eyes. Chip found a big connection between the baseball and Eden’s feelings for him. He realized that subconsciously, he had always been in her heart. Adrianna put the bracelet on as soon as she got it. Wearing it made her feel close to her mother and she vowed to never take it off. They were both unhappy with their father’s insistence that they leave, but they had no choice.
As they waited at the airport, their hearts hurting, they each held on tightly to the their new gifts. Cruz held onto both of them as they waited for their flight. No one spoke words, but they knew what each was thinking. Occasional tears would escape from Adrianna’s eyes and Cruz would casually wipe them away. She was his baby and he knew that this was a challenge for her, but the rewards could be so great, he was willing to continue with it.
“Flight 109 to Los Angles now boarding at Gate 14a.”
They stood, hugged their father, and walked to the gate. Cruz hated letting them go while they were so upset, but he knew it was for the best.
“Wait.” They heard the voice that would forever be in their minds and turned slowly around. Eden stood a ways back, staring at her children for the first time in thirteen years. For a moment, she was frozen, unable to speak. She looked them both over carefully, studying their features, seeing the same little faces that she saw in the picture. “One year for Halloween, Chip, you were a zebra. You helped me pass out candy after you ate half of the bowl. And you….Adrianna….you were a ballerina. You had a pink tutu and a little tiara. You were my princess.”

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Cruz had to practically pry his kids away from their mother in the airport. They begged him to let them stay, but Cruz knew that the emotions running through all of them could be very dangerous to Eden’s mental state. He vividly recalled those fateful moments on the cliff, horrified as her fingers slipped through his own and he was determined to never allow it to happen again. As much as he had longed to see their children in Eden’s arms again, the risk of losing her was too high.
Eden held onto to Chip and Adrianna as long as she could. They were crying on her shoulders and the pain she had caused them flooded her entire body. Adrianna was hysterical when Cruz attempted to pull her away. Eden plead with him to let them stay, as Adrianna attached herself to Eden’s arm. But, she knew it wasn’t her decision to make. Cruz had raised their children alone for thirteen years. It wasnot her place to interfere in his decisions. Like it or not, she had to assume that he knew what was best for them.
She took a minute to hug each of them one last time, promising them that this was only the beginning for them. She promised them that their relationship was just beginning, that even though they were leaving now, it wouldn’t be for long. Chip was understanding, yet not entirely sold on the idea of going back to Santa Barbara now. He tried to remain calm, remain reasonable. He had listented when their father told them about the mental anguish their mother may go through. He had no intention of causing any more problems in her life.
“I love you, Mom.” Chip looked directly into Eden’s eyes when he said those words.
“I love you.” She hugged him again, feeling his lips brush her cheek with the soft kiss that only a son could give his mother. She touched his face, admiring his adorable dimples, the same ones she had fallen in love with in the picture.
Adrianna couldn’t look up at her mother. She wanted to, but was afraid she would lose it. “I love you, mama.”
With those words, Eden held onto her daughter tightly, wiping away the tears from her eyes. “I love you, Adrianna. I love you so much.”
It pained Eden to watch her children sobbing as they walked onto the plane. Cruz went with them as far as he was allowed, but she stayed behind. She should have stayed away. Cruz had told her it wouldn’t be a good idea for her to come and she didn’t listen. She couldn’t stay away. No matter how much she wanted to please Cruz, it was impossible for her to stay away when her children were so close by. Now, she regretted her decision.
When Cruz returned, he put his arm around Eden’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Cruz.”
“For what?”
“For coming here. You told me not to come and….”
“Eden….I’m glad you came. You remember them? How much do you remember?”
It was true, she did remember them. The love she felt for her children was one she couldn’t deny. She recalled details of their childhood, moments that they had spent together. But with all she remembered, there was so much that was still buried inside of her.

Cruz took her home that night and she was more tired than she ever imagined. She was suffering a mental exhaustion that she had never before experienced and it was overwhelming. Cruz was patient with her, not pushing her to remember things. They sat in silence on the way to Eden’s apartment. She closed her eyes, allowing what memories she had to encompass her. There was so much rushing through her mind that she felt dizzy.
When they returned home, Eden went straight upstairs to take a hot shower. Cruz fumbled around through her kitchen trying to find something to throw together for dinner. Eden was obviously not much of a chef. Her cupboards were practically bare and the refrigerator held only leftovers from their breakfast. If he wanted to fix something, he would have to go to the store.
“Eden?” Cruz stood outside the bathroom door. “I was thinking about dinner…I could go to the store or…we could go out?”
“Out?”
“Some place quiet, if you’d like. Or, I can go pick up something.”
“Pizza.”
“Pizza?”
“We can have it delivered. There’s a place just down the street.”
Cruz ordered the pizza, then started a fire in the fireplace. This reminded him of the old days when they’d have picnics in front of the fire late at night, just the two of them. It was their special time alone, away from work and family, with their kids sleeping upstairs. Those were the moments he missed, the moments he treasured. With any luck, he would get those moments back soon and that is what motivated him to continue on. It’s the hope that gave him the strength to put his children on that airplane, as painful as it had been.
He found a bottle of wine in her wine cabinet. It was the only stocked cabinet in the house. Cruz found it slightly funny that Eden would have no food, but a cabinet full of wine. He loved that about her. She had a taste for the finer things in life, but only a taste. Fine wines, with ballpark hotdogs was the perfect meal for them. But, tonight would be pizza…veggie sumpreme.
The pizza arrived before Eden did, so Cruz decided to recreate some of the old magic they had once shared. He lay a blanket on the floor in front of the fireplace and surrounded it with pillows. He lit 2 candles and brought out the fine china plates, which would soon hold the pizza. When Eden came down, she practically glowed in the firelight. She was amazed at the sight that Cruz had created for them
“All this for pizza?” Eden laughed.
“No,” Cruz smiled, holding out his hand to her, “All this for you.”
She walked over to the blanket and sat down. Cruz poured them both a glass of wine and placed a piece of pizza on each plate. He held up his glass to give a toast, which took Eden by surprise. She hesitated, then held up her own. “Our lives have been a series of uphill battles, challenges and moments when there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Through all we’ve been through and all we’ve yet to overcome, hope has been the one thing that kept my heart beating. To hope…”
“To hope.”
Eden was amazed at Cruz’s ability to always say the right things. It was as if he could read her mind and although it frightened her a little, she was amazed by it. Every word that came out of his mouth was poetry, yet he didn’t spend hours planning what to say. Kindness and compassion was so natural to him, which was something many men did not possess. Eden was taken by him. She wished so badly that she could remember falling in love with him, remembering the feelings that they had shared.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Cruz, can you do me a favor?”
“Anything.”
“Can we just please not talk about any of this tonight? This has been such an overwhelming day and…Can we just enjoy being here…together?”
“I think I can handle that.”
“Good.” Eden smiled, taking a bite of her pizza. Suddenly, she stood up, pizza and wine in hand. Cruz worried she was running away. “Let’s go to my bedroom.”
Cruz raised his eyebrows and practically jumped to his feet. “Anything you say.”
They made themselves comfortable atop Eden’s bed, pizza between them. It was the only room in Eden’s house with a TV and she felt the mood was right for a night of movie watching. After searching through the channels, they settled on an old classic, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. It was a moment that neither of them could describe in words. For that moment, they weren’t searching for anything or pushing for memories to return, they were just two people spending time together. They laughed, they joked, they enjoyed each other’s company for what it was.
Cruz realized later that night that he had completely forgot about the gap that stood between them. He was so happy to be with her again, like the old days, that the pain and challenges that they faced were erased for that moment in time. She was Eden again. Laughing and smiling, telling him stories about funny experiences she had during the years of building up her business. She told him of her many embarrassing moments with clients and the accomplishment she felt when she finally made a name for herself in New York.
Eden listened as Cruz talked about his favorite things. He loved to jog on the beach and spent many mornings racing Chip and Adrianna along the shoreline. He coached Chip’s baseball team and was a room parent in Adrianna’s elementary classes. He told of attempting to bake cupcakes for a party and then running by the bakery on his way to the school to buy them instead. He talked about Chip’s prom and Adrianna’s dance recitals. Eden listened without interrupting every story he told. His descriptions were so vivid that when she closed her eyes she almost believed she was there.
It was the perfect night, better than any night either of them had spent in a long time. When the pizza was finished and the wine had been emptied, they lay next to each other, barely watching the movie. Cruz couldn’t take his eyes off of Eden, and she could barely blink. At one point, it became quiet for the first time of the evening. Cruz wondered if he should politely excuse himself, as a gentleman should do, but he couldn’t force himself to say the words. Eden just stared at him, fighting the exhaustion that was coming over her, fighting to keep her eyes open. Cruz could tell what she was doing, he could tell she was tired and he began to think it was time to make his exit.
“Maybe I should go—“
“Please don’t.”
He didn’t ask why, she didn’t give a reason. He leaned over slowly and kissed her cheek. To his surprise, she kissed him back. He started to rol l over to make himself comfortable, but Eden’s hand grabbed his, stopping him. “What is it?”
Eden reached her hand up and touched his face. She ran her fingers along it, studying each curve. “Just be close to me.”
Cruz put his arm around her waist and she quickly fell asleep. He watched her for a while, finding great relaxation in the rhythm of her breathing. It had been a long time since he had been this close to her, slept so near to her. He had missed feeling her near him at night and now he was here.

Eden awoke early the next morning. Cruz lie next to her, sound asleep. She smiled at the sight of him there. She walked to the window and stared out at the early morning sky. It was an overcast day, the type of day that normally depressed Eden. Not this day. This was a new day, one that rain clouds could not destroy. Again, she glanced to her bed, watching Cruz as he slept. This was a new day.
Downstairs, Eden started a pot of coffee and pulled out the leftovers from their last breakfast. She placed everything accordingly on a tray and carried it up the stairs. When she entered the room, Cruz was still sleeping, so she sat the tray next to him on the bed. Quickly, she wrote a note on a piece of stationary that said, “Breakfast in bed.” She left it there and went to the shower.
The sound of running water awakened Cruz. He rolled over to find the tray Eden had prepared for him and smiled when he read the note. He sipped his coffee and poured a cup for her, then walked to the bathroom. Knocking first, he peeked his head into the door. “Are you going to join me for this breakfast in bed?”
Eden leaned her head out of the shower. “Possibly.”
“Then I’ll wait for you.”
“I won’t be long.”
“Baby, I’ve waited thirteen years for you, a few more minutes won’t hurt.”
Smiling, Cruz shut the door and walked back to the bed. Catching a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror, he realized that he could use a shower himself. His clothes were wrinkled, his face needed a good shave. He didn’t want Eden to see him in such a manner. Quickly, he wrote a note to her, placing it on the tray, and hurried back to his own hotel room.
When Eden got out of the shower, she was disappointed that Cruz was gone. She wondered if she had done something to upset him. Eventually, she found the note that he had left and read it aloud.
“You are worth the wait. Am I?”
She held the note close to her and smiled. He was such a clever man. Still, she wished he was here with her now. She used the time to get dressed and fix herself up for “her man”. It was funny, she thought, of how badly she wanted to impress him. Yet, it was Cruz that was constantly impressing her. The fact that he was still speaking to her, after all of these years, was something that astounded Eden. Cruz was a forgiving man, but the level of forgiveness amazed her.
When Cruz got back to his hotel, he decided to take a big risk. After a shower and shave, he packed up his bags and checked out of the hotel. He didn’t expect Eden to ask him to stay with her, but the thought had crossed his mind. He figured he would find a new hotel if necessary, but if it was up to him, he would never leave her side again. Leaving her now, for only an hour or so, was hard on him.

She was walking down the stairs, begging to wonder if he had left for good, when the doorbell rang. Eden rushed to the door, finding Cruz standing in the doorway. His luggage sat next to him on the floor. “Where are you going?’
“Hm?”
“You have your bags….Are you leaving?’ Eden grew concerned. She wasn’t ready to go back to Santa Barbara, but she wasn’t ready to leave him either.
“No, no. I checked out of my hotel. I figured I’d find one nearby…or something.”
“Or something?”
Eden smiled and Cruz followed her inside. “It’s a little late for breakfast.”
“We could have brunch,” Cruz suggested.
“Yes we could, but not here. Let’s go out.”
“Out?”
“Out. I know a great place downtown. The atmosphere is incredible and the food is outstanding. I take a lot of my clients there.”
“Are you asking me out on a date?”
Eden smiled, walking towards the door. “I’m simply going out for brunch and inviting you to come a long. If you’d rather not, then…”
“Lead the way.”

When they reached the restaurant, Cruz was impressed by her choice. It was a quaint little place off the pier and it was perfect. Soft music played in the background and the small crowd inside spoke softly. Candles were lit on the tables and orange juice was served in crystal glasses. Cruz held out the chair for Eden and she sat. Sitting across from her, he looked around enjoying the beauty of the moment.
Eden had lied. She never brought clients to this place. It wasn’t a business meeting type of place, but more of a date place. The atmosphere was known for it’s romantic appeal and Eden had never seen reason to enjoy it until now. She had once been invited by a man she’d been set up with, but knowing the history of the place, she declined. This wasn’t the type of place you’d share with just anyone.
After ordering, they both found themselves gazing out the large windows at the ocean outside. It was still cloudy and overcast, but the fog on the water made a beautiful backdrop. It was an awe insipiring view. Cruz excused himself for a moment and Eden spent the time appreciating her positing on. Weeks ago, she would have never imagined herself sitting here with a man like Cruz. So many things had changed in such a short time that it was hard to believe it was truly her life. She felt like she was living a dream.
When Cruz returned he held out a single red rose. Eden took it and thanked him, as he held out his hand to her. “What?”
“May I have this dance?” Cruz asked.
Eden glanced around, seeing that there was no dance floor, nor was anyone else dancing. “I don’t really think they dance here.”
Cruz looked around, then his eyes met hers. “That never stopped us before.”
Giving in, she took his hand and he lead her to an empty aisle in the room. If there was music playing, she couldn’t hear it anymore. All she could do was stare into his eyes, following his lead. She had never danced as much as she had danced these last few days. It wasn’t her thing. She would go to charity functions and gala’s, but never did she dance. Now, with Cruz, it felt so natural.
When they finished dancing, people clapped. It embarrassed Eden, but Cruz smiled, thanking them and lead her back to the table. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Eden asked.
“For being you…and being here…with me.”
They enjoyed their brunch, then a long walk along the pier. Without hesitation, Eden grabbed his arm as they walked. He wasn’t surprised or shocked and that made her happy. At one point, when Cruz saw something he wanted to get a closer look at, he grabbed her hand and pulled her in the right direction. It felt so natural to him be with Eden. Suddenly, it was as if the years had vanished. But, the underlying fear that she may never remember the love they had shared was something that secretly bothered him. Being with her was great, but it was hard knowing that she didn’t remember their history.
“Look out there,” Cruz pointed out to the ocean. “What do you see?”
“Water.”
“Look harder.”
Eden studied the horizon for a moment. “Eternity.”
He kissed her lips gently, careful not to scare her away, but as he pulled away, Eden pulled him back to her. “That’s how long I’d wait for you.”

 

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

“Will you go out with me?”
They had just returned home from their brunch on the pier and Eden was sitting with her legs kicked back on the sofa. Cruz had insisted that they walk around and her entire body was exhausted. She looked up at him as he asked the question and laughed. “We just got back.”
“I mean on a date.”
“We just had a date.”
Cruz smiled. “I mean a date that I plan. Will you?”
“I let you know.”
Cruz tackled Eden to the ground, both laughing hysterically. He pinned her arms down to the side. “Will you go out with me?”
“Do I have a choice?”
“No.” He smiled.
“Then I guess my answer is yes.”
“Good.” He stood up, offering his hand to pull Eden to her feet. “Now, I’ve got to go.”
“Where?”
“To plan our date.”
“But….”
He walked to the doorway, Eden following at his heels, then turned around to face her. “Darlin’, I’ll be back before you know it.”
“What am I supposed to do while you’re gone?”
“Get ready for our date.”
He opened the door and Eden grabbed his arm. “What should I wear?”
“Hmm,” Cruz thought for a moment. “Something nice….And pack a bag.”
“Pack a bag?”
“No questions.”

Cruz knew exactly what he wanted to do. He’d been planning this since he first saw her on the street and now he was going to make it happen. A lot of work needed to be done and there was a lot for him to handle, so he had to leave. Being near Eden, he couldn’t get anything done. When he was in her presence, he couldn’t focus. His mind raced, his heart pounded and he couldn’t maintain a clear thought. There was no way he could get his work done with her peeking over his shoulders.
Eden had a slight nervous feeling as she prepared for the unknown date. Cruz was always pulling something sweet and romantic. She had never known a man as perfect as Cruz. But, the pack a bag line had her confused. Although she had grown quite fond of Cruz, an overnight trip was something she wasn’t exactly prepared for. Eden hadn’t “been with” a man in a while and the pressure of it was starting to worry her. She didn’t want to disappoint Cruz. He had done so much for her already, given her so much patience and kindness, that she felt she owed him something. But she wasn’t sure she could give him what he wanted.
She climbed into a hot bathtub and decided to relax. Everything about her life was getting better and she didn’t want a little tension to ruin it. The sound of the ringing phone jolted her a little, before she reached over to grab it. “Hello?”
“What are you doing right now?”
“Taking a bath.”
“Oh….Wait a minute, let me get a visual.” Cruz paused on the other end of the line. “Were you thinking about me?”
“No. Were you thinking about me?”
“No. That’s why I called you. I figured I’d better remind myself what I was doing out here.”
“What are you doing out there?”
“No questions, remember?”
“I remember.”
“Well, I won’t disturb you during your….soak. I just wanted to let you k now that I’ll be there soon, so…”
“How soon?” Eden sat up in the tub, nervously.
“Don’t panic. Not that soon.”
“I hate waiting.”
“Good to know some things don’t change.” He started to hang up, then quickly spoke into the phone, hoping to catch Eden before she hung up. “Darlin’?”
“Yes?”
“It’ll be worth the wait.”

Cruz was pleasantly surprised with the friendliness of the New York citizens. Everyone was willing to help in any way they could and it made Cruz’s job much easier. Anything for the cause of true love. It was something people would bend over backwards to help you with. True love. Cruz loved Eden more than he had ever loved her and this night was make it or break it for them. He was pulling out all stops to make this happen and if it didn’t work…..No, he wouldn’t think that way. It would work. It had no choice but to work.
Every second of their evening had been planned with complete detail. There were more people working on this date than worked on the police force with him in Santa Barbara. As wonderful as the night should be, there was a lot at stake. Cruz had taken a step that could open the doors to Eden’s memory. He hoped the doors would be opened, but he worried about what it might cause for her to be rushed with all of the emotions. He wondered if he should have taken her to a psychiatrist to get professional help, but he knew that if anyone could help Eden, it was him. Her last experience with a therapist was not a good one and he wasn’t about to go through that again.
Eden finished her bath and stood in her closet for an eternity. She had many beautiful, expensive gowns, but none seemed just right for a night with Cruz. She was on her fifth try when the doorbell rang. Slipping on her robe, she hurried down the stairs and opened the door.
“Oh, Cruz.”
In the doorway stood Cruz, dressed in a tuxedo, holding a large wrapped box.
“You look great.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not planning on going out in my robe.”
“Baby, you could go out in your underwear for all I care.”
Eden smiled shyly and turned away.
“But if you’d rather wear something….”Cruz held out the box and Eden grabbed it.
“I love presents.”
“I know.”
She opened the present and found the most beautiful, black dress she had ever seen. It was the perfect outfit she had been searching for. “Thank you…Oh, my goodness…Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Now go get dressed.”
Cruz waited downstairs while Eden finished getting ready. His nerves were starting to get the best of him, but there was no turning back now. Soon, they would be on their way to a date that could change both of their lives and the excitement was overwhelming. Silently, he said a prayer that everything would work out the way he hoped it would. He knew that this wasn’t about what he wanted, it was about what Eden needed and she needed to remember her life.
The dress was amazing. Eden stared at it lying out on her bed. Was it possible that this perfect man could pick out the perfect dress? As she slipped it on, she was astounded at how perfectly it fit. Cruz was an amazing man. It was something she said over and over again, but it was true. There was no word that described him better than “amazing”. She’d never known anyone like him before.
When he heard her footsteps on the stairs, Cruz spun around to catch a glimpse of her. He held his hand to his chest and too a deep breath. Eden saw him and stopped, hoping he wasn’t disappointed in his choice of dress. “Do I look all right?”
Taking another deep breath and moving towards her, he couldn’t speak.
“Cruz? Is there something wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” he finally said as he reached out and grabbed her hand. “I had to catch my breath. You look really beautiful, baby.” He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek and she smiled. “Wow…Really beautiful.”
“Are you ready to go?”
“I’m more than ready. Are you?” Cruz walked towards the door, reaching down to grab the suitcase that Eden had placed by the door. “Let me take your bag.” He opened the door and held it for her. “Your chariot awaits.”

When they got outside, Eden was surprised to see a long, black limo waiting at the curb. The driver held open the door for them and they slipped inside. Two champagne flutes awaited them inside, along with a plate of chocolate covered strawberries.
“I can’t believe you did all of this,” Eden was thoroughly by all of this.
“This ain’t nothing baby.” Cruz smiled and handed her some champagne.
They drove for a while, Eden peering out the window trying to figure out where they may be going. Cruz was no help. If she asked a question, he dodged it. He wouldn’t give her a hint as to what their evening would involve, but he told her it was just the beginning.
“All right, darlin’,” Cruz reached behind him and pulled out a blindfold. “As much as I hate to cover up those pretty eyes, I’d like this next stop to be a bit of surprise.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“You wish.” Cruz tied the blindfold on Eden’s eyes as she sat smiling. When the car stopped, she was completely lost, having no idea where she might be. Cruz lead her out of the car and down a long stretch of what seemed to be a road. “Now we’ve got some steps here, baby, so take it easy.’ He helped her up the steps carefully. “Now, duck your head.”
After a few minutes, Cruz seated her in a soft, cushioned seat. She heard a bang, like a shutting door, and a click. Finally, Cruz removed the blindfold from her eyes.
“We’re on an airplane.” Eden said, as she quickly looked around her. “We’re flying somewhere?”
“Good deduction.” Cruz sat across from her. “Now, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.”
Cruz was pleased with the twinkle of excitement in Eden’s eyes. He could tell she was nervous, but excitement overwhelmed her. He hoped she couldn’t see the nervousness inside of him. It was hard for him to remain calm when everything inside of him was shaking ferociously. They sat quietly as the plane took off, waiting to be in the air to start the first of the evenings events.
Once they were safely in the air, Cruz unbuckled his belt and excused himself to the back of the plane. Eden waited, peering out the window at the dark sky below them. Cruz returned and sat back down. He was followed by a man carrying a large tray. Eden watched as the man began to set the table between them, with candles and china. “You are amazing.’
“You are worth it.” Cruz answered.
Their dinner was served in silver platters and they enjoyed every bit of it. When dessert came, it was one neither of them could turn down, so they allowed themselves to indulge a little. After dinner, the man returned to clear the table of everything except the candles. “Don’t tell me we’re going to dance.”
Cruz laughed. “Maybe….Not yet.” He disappeared into the back again and returned carrying a guitar. Eden was impressed.
“Don’t tell me…Not only are you the perfect man…you’re also a musician?”
“I try.” Cruz sat down and began to strum his guitar to a song he had written days after he’d received the divorce papers. He didn’t tell Eden why he had written the song, but she knew it was about her. His voice was filled with passion as he sang the words to her and his eyes never left hers.
When the song was finished, Eden wiped a tear from her eye, stood up and walked over to him. Kneeling down, she leaned in and kissed him on the lips. “Thank you.” She hugged him around his waist and he held onto her tightly. As if on cue, music began to play throughout the plane, so they stood and danced together. They were certain it was the first time either of them had danced on an airplane.
Hours seemed to pass in minutes and before they knew it, the plane was preparing to land. Eden wondered if they were home and secretly was saddened at the thought of the night ending. However, when they walked off the plane, Eden noticed immediately that they weren’t in New York. “I hate to do this to you again, darlin’, but…” Cruz pulled out the blindfold when they were seated in the limo. Reluctantly, Eden agreed, sitting back and appreciating the work Cruz had put into their night.
He held her hand as they drove, both of them staying quiet. Cruz’s nerves were starting to get the best of him. The entire night had lead up to this moment and fear was running through his veins. There was no turning back now. They had come this far together and good or bad, they would continue together. As long as he had Eden, nothing else mattered.
When the car stopped, Eden’s heart pounded. “Darlin’, I think you should slip off your shoes.”
Cruz grabbed her shoes and carried them, as he lead a blindfolded Eden to their destination. “Sand?”
“Aren’t you glad I had you take your shoes off?” Cruz stopped when they reached the area where a blanket had been laid out for them. A small fire had been started and a picnic basket sat next to their blanket. “All right.” He slipped the blindfold off and watched Eden’s expression as she looked around.
“This is beautiful,” Eden stared out at the ocean, then looked down at the blanket. “Where are we?”
“We’re at a place called Harbor Cove.”
Harbor Cove. The words raced through Eden’s mind and she had to sit down. Cruz watched as she closed her eyes and appeared to remember something. Harbor Cove had held some good memories for the two of them and Cruz desperately hoped being here would trigger something.
“We’re in California?”
“Yes…But I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do, Eden. We don’t have to go to Santa Barbara, we don’t have to see anyone….I just wanted to bring you here. We’ve had a lot of really good memories here and I hoped…”
“Cruz,” Eden turned and looked at him. “Stop talking.”
She kissed him on the lips and he kissed her. They fell onto the blanket and lay together. The fear, the nervousness, was gone for now. Together, their fears were released. Nothing else mattered in the universe at this moment. Kissing each other, they were transported back in time when everything was right in their world. No distance between them, no space holding them back. It was as if time froze just for them.
Eden kissed him one last time, then lay her head on his chest. “Tell me about this place.”
“Harbor Cove? What do you remember?’ Cruz asked, as he stroked her hair.
She thought for a moment. “I remember being here with you. I remember riding on a horse.” She laughed out loud. Never did she think of herself as one to hop atop a horse.
Cruz laughed. “You remember the horse. Well, that’s good. You don’t remember making love all night, but you remember the horse.” They laughed together at the thought, then Eden suddenly got quiet. She looked into his eyes and touched his face with her fingertips.
“Help me remember.”
“I’m trying, baby.”
“Try harder.”
She leaned in and kissed him more passionately than before. Cruz slowly ran his hands up Eden’s arms to the straps of her dress. Hesitating for a moment, he watched her reaction as he slid the dress from her shoulders. Without warning, Eden began to unbutton his shirt, and he kissed her again.
“Cruz,” Eden stopped as she pulled the shirt off of his chest. “Make love to me.”

 

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

(remember, it wouldn’t be a soap without some drama…)        The morning breeze awoke them as they lie wrapped in a blanket, clothes tossed to the side. Cruz awoke first, taking time just to stare at Eden as she slept. He was certain that there was nothing more beautiful than the sight of her lying in his arms. What came next was unknown, but spending the night with her was enough to keep him going for now. If Eden wanted to go back to New York, he would support her decision. Only she could decide when the time was right to go home. Picturing her walking through their front door brought a smile to his face. Their house would be a home again.
Eden awoke a few moments later, confused at first, then smiling widely when she realized where they were. Cruz greeted her with a kiss and held on to her tightly. They didn’t speak, they didn’t have to. Being together again, it was as if they were one. There were no fears between them. Lying on the blanket, staring out into the horizon, they were at peace.
“The sun will be up soon,” Cruz kissed her forehead. “We should probably get out of here.”
“I just want to stay here forever.”
“I’m sure that could be arranged,” Cruz smiled. “Of course, we’d have to make room for the kids.”
The kids. Eden had forgotten that not only was this where she had lived, it was where her children lived and seeing them would make this moment more perfect than she could imagine. However, the thought of being bombarded with questions and people swarming her was not a pleasant one. She actually considered trying to convince Cruz that they should take the kids and move far away. Then there would be no questions, no explanations, just life.
Alas, she knew Cruz wouldn’t allow her to run away again. She had come this far in her progress and surely it wouldn’t take much more work to fully open her mind again. Cruz had been patient with her, never pushing, but she knew he wanted more from her. He would not rest until she had regained every last detail of their lives together.
They had spoken about it last night. He loved her and was happy with what she had regained, but there was the fear of not knowing what happened that scared him. Cruz convinced her that they had to unlock the memories so that they could find out why this happened in the first place, or else they were risking it happening again. He explained that fixing only part of the problem would never make the whole problem go away. No matter how long their lives went smoothly, there would always be the risk that it could happen again and Cruz wasn’t willing to take that chance. Neither was Eden.
“Where are the kids?” Eden asked.
“Home.”
“Where is home?”
Cruz sat up, pulling his shirt on. “It’s not far. Is that where you want to go?”
Eden slipped her dress back on, thinking quietly. “I don’t know…I don’t know if I’m ready.”
“Okay.”
“I don’t want to disappoint you, Cruz.”
Cruz grabbed her arms and pulled her towards him. “You couldn’t if you tried.” He kissed her lips. “I want you to do what feels right for you. I told you last night that I wasn’t going to push you into doing something you weren’t ready for.”
“I want to see my kids,” Eden admitted. “but I don’t know about everyone else.”
“Understood.”

When they pulled into the driveway of their house, Eden just sat staring. As she closed her eyes visions exploded in her mind. She saw herself walking through a bare house, following Cruz as he gave her the grand tour. She saw them kissing in a hot tub and unpacking boxes. This was home. The warm feelings embraced her already.
“Are you ready, pal?” Cruz asked, as he held out his hand to her.
Eden grabbed a hold of his hand and he led her towards the house. When Cruz had planned this evening, he had left no stone unturned. He phoned Chip and Adrianna to let them know that there was a possibility they would be coming. He asked them to arrange the photos that had once lined the shelves and replace Eden’s things in the master bedroom. They were sworn to complete secrecy, which wasn’t easy to do with mama Castillo roaming the house.
Cruz knew that she would be gone for the day, visiting her friends in San Diego. Chip and Adrianna were supposed to be leaving for Paris, but Cruz cancelled the tickets ahead of time so they would all share in the moment when Eden walked into the door. Inside the house, the kids peeked out of their bedroom window, waiting for the second that their mother arrived.
Eden stopped at the doorway, remembering being carried over the threshold on more than one occasion. She took a deep breath, as her hands shook with nerves. Cruz noticed when she grabbed his hand more tightly, but he didn’t mention it. He could tell that she was nervous, though, so he took things slow. “Shall we?”
She nodded and Cruz unlocked the door. It was just the way he had requested it to be. Eden followed him inside, looking around. He stood back as she explored the house, looking at each picture, each memory. She walked to the terrace and found the hot tub right where she recalled it being. This was her home. Many times they had spent together in this very hot tub, nights she had completely erased from her mind. Although remembering now was great, the sorrow of the years she had lost was overwhelming. Tears began to fall down her cheeks as she thought of all the years wasted for no good reason.
“Mom…are you okay?”
Eden turned to find Chip standing in the doorway. He was so much like his father, full of kindness and compassion. Without words, she walked to him and held him in her arms, squeezing as hard as he would allow.
“Do you want to go inside?”
Eyes full of tears, Eden followed her son inside the house, where Adrianna was waiting with Cruz. Eden stopped on the small stairway, looking at the two of them standing side by side and vividly recalled the first moment she saw Cruz holding Adrianna. She lost herself in the memory for a moment, seeing Cruz dance around the hospital room with his little girl. Now, there they stood, Adrianna a teenager, still with the same love they shared that first moment in the hospital.
“Adrianna….” Tears poured from her eyes when she said her daughter’s name and Adrianna raced to her arms. They hugged for what seemed an eternity, both crying, while Cruz watched.

Later that morning, they had enjoyed their first breakfast as a family. Eden listened to Chip talk about his summer plans, his friends, and his car. She listened to Adrianna talk about boys and the latest fashion trends. She had been blessed in her new life to visit many exotic places and live high life, but nothing amounted more than this moment, sharing her life with her children. They told Eden about the past, broken bones and bruises, leaving nothing out that they could remember.
Cruz went upstairs, leaving them alone, and appreciated the moment for himself. In their bedroom, he imagined what it would be like to have her there again, lying next to him. He wondered if he would ever sleep or if he would spend every night staring at her to make sure she didn’t go away. He knew they had many mountains to climb, but the hope he felt was so much stronger than any obstacle they could face.
As he sat on the bed, he noticed Eden’s things sitting on the dresser and he smiled. He never realized how comforting it was just seeing her things lying around, knowing that she was there. What few of her clothes were left in the attic had been replaced in the closet, moving his own things to the side. He loved sharing a closet with Eden. He had never complained about her taking up too much room. He loved to be surrounded by her things.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” Adrianna said as she lay her head on Eden’s lap.
Eden stroked her hair softly with one hand and used her other hand to put around Chip’s arm. “I’m glad to be home.”
As Cruz walked down the stairs that afternoon, he was taken aback by the sight his eyes gazed upon. Lying on the couch was Eden, sound asleep, with Chip and Adrianna lying near her, practically on top of her. They were all sleeping so soundly, ….together. Quickly, he rushed around to find a camera. He searched the desk drawer, in the kitchen, up stairs in his bedroom…Adrianna’s room. He knew Adrianna always had a camera. She was constantly snapping pictures of everyone she knew and plastering them on her walls.
He peeked around her room, trying not to snoop too much, and found a camera in her desk drawer. Rushing back downstairs, nearly slipping on his way, he snapped as many pictures as he had film. He would take those to be developed as soon as possible and plaster them over his own walls. Everything he loved or cared about in the world was lying on that couch.
Sitting on the chair across from them, Cruz made himself comfortable watching them sleep. He adored watching them together. Nothing could make him happier than seeing the happiness on his children’s faces. Shear joy lit up their faces, even while they were sleeping. It made him warm inside. The house that had felt so empty and so cold for thirteen years had turned into a blanket of warmth the instant Eden graced their doorstep.
Eden opened her eyes and saw Cruz sitting across from them. She smiled, carefully sitting up, so she wouldn’t wake the kids. “Why didn’t you wake me?’
“I was enjoying the view.” Cruz stood and motioned her to follow him out onto the terrace. She followed him and they sat down near the hot tub. “They haven’t been this happy in a long time.”
Eden shook her head. “I will never forgive myself for putting them through so much pain.”

They never left the house that day. When the kids woke up later in the afternoon, they spent hours going through photo albums and watching family videos. Eden cried tears of sorrow and joy as she took a glimpse of the lives of her children without her. In their eyes, she saw so much pain. It was Christmas and although they were happy and opening their gifts, there was sorrow in their eyes. Cruz was hollow, practically. His face was numb to the excitement. A fake smile would come across his face now and again, but for the most part he was blank.
All of them had gone through so much pain and it was her fault. She had walked away from them, abandoning them, and their lives thereafter were captured in these photo’s. Carmen had spent hours helping Adrianna organize them every summer. If it wasn’t for her, the photos would have been stashed in boxes in the attic. Cruz wasn’t much on organizing things. He was blessed with Adrianna to help him out in that area. Now, Eden had a visual record of their lives without her.
As they watched the videos, Eden was frozen during one particular scene. It was a birthday party or something and there were many people around. The camera moved from person to person and she caught a glimpse of Cruz….his arms wrapped around the waist of a woman. It was a woman she thought looked familiar, but her mind wouldn’t grasp just who she was. Seeing Cruz with another woman sent a wave of jealousy through her.
“Chip, let’s turn this one off,” Cruz jumped up quickly. “Let’s put in one of your baseball games.’
“No,” Eden said, scooting closer to the television. “Don’t touch it.”
Cruz was uncomfortable and he knew Eden would be upset if she discovered that the woman he was with on the video was her own sister. He desperately wished she would let it go without discussion, but knowing Eden, he was prepared for the worst. “Chip, why don’t you take your sister upstairs for a while.”
They kissed their mother and hurried nervously up the stairs. Chip yelled at Adrianna for making such a stupid mistake. He thought she should know better than to do something so irresponsible.
Downstairs, Eden watched the video closely. A pain went through her when she saw the woman kissing him, he kissing her. Her ease turned to sickness and slight rage when she watched them dance in the background, while Chip and Adrianna ran around them. “Who is she?”
“Eden,” Cruz was heartsick. He never wanted her to know about the mistakes he had made and now she was watching them dance across the screen. “I…Please, can we just put this away for now. We have all the time in the world to talk about it.”
“No,” Eden turned off the television. She could watch it no more. “I want to know. You can’t expect me to jump back into my old life with a bunch of secrets being kept all around me.
“Darlin’, I just don’t think this is the right time,” Cruz had tears in his eyes now. He was faced with losing everything he had only recently gained. He looked at Eden who was visibly shaken. She was pacing the floor, rubbing at her temples, and it frightened him.
“Tell me,” she said softly. “You brought me back here. You did this. Dammit, Cruz, you tell me the truth.”

He convinced her to take a walk with him to the beach. She was hurting and so was he. They didn’t walk hand in hand this time, nor did they walk side by side. As slow as Cruz walked, she walked slower, following him. He was searching his mind for the right words to say, praying for a miracle to make this better. Eden would feel betrayed, especially now when things were so new. She would feel that he let her down and violated her in the most hurtful way. Family was everything to Eden and once she learned about the horrid details of his affair with Kelly, hope for them would diminish.
When they reached the spot where they had shared so many picnics, so many nights of meaningful conversation, Cruz stopped. He stared out to the ocean, as Eden sat on the rocks behind him. Words escaped him. There was no excuse, there was no good way to tell her what had happened. There was no easy way to put it. What he had done was a complete violation of the sacred love they had shared. True, he was hurt and trying to lash out, but that wasn’t the way he should have handled it. He had been an idiot and had punished himself time and time again for it, but this was the ultimate punishment.
“Baby, when I got those divorce papers in the mail, I was….Hell, Eden, it destroyed me. I had loved you for so long, I couldn’t even imagine a day that would go by when I wouldn’t love you. I’d wake up in the morning and pray it had all been a bad, bad dream. But then, I’d walk downstairs and I’d realize that it was my life and you were no longer in it.” Cruz had tears in his eyes now. He didn’t think as he spoke, he just spoke from his heart.
“It was worse than death, I think, because knowing that you were out there somewhere and not only could I not touch you, or be near you, but you didn’t want me It absolutely killed me.”
Eden listened as he spoke. It was true, she had caused all of these problems. She had left him, not the other way around. She had no right to cast any form of judgement on him. Still, the jealousy flowed through her veins and she couldn’t stop it.
“I tried anything to get you out of my mind. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t work. I was no good to anyone without you in my life, so I started to create a new Cruz. It was like I was trying to fool people into thinking I had moved on, but I hadn’t…..No matter what I did, no matter what I said, my heart was always with you. There was never anyone else who could even come close to filling that void in my life, Eden.”
“Cruz, I’m not being unreasonable,” Eden said. “It’s been thirteen years. That’s a long time. I didn’t expect that you’d been celibate. But, there’s something about that woman….something familiar. I have to know who she is, Cruz.”
He wiped away a tear from the corner of his eye and paced again. Saying the words aloud would cause her more pain than she ever deserved and he didn’t think he could bring himself to do it. Yet, one visit to her father’s house and Eden would find out the answers for herself. He didn’t want it to happen that way. If they were to start a new life, everything had to be laid out on the table. No secrets, no matter how painful they may be, should stand between them. Secrets are what destroyed them in the first place and with a second chance, he would not make the same mistake.
Cruz turned around and knelt before her. He took her hands in his and kissed her lips. “Eden…Baby…I love you. I love you so dearly. I’ve loved you for over 20 years now and I will love you the day I die.”
“I know you do. I truly believe that. I see it in your actions and I see it in your eyes. But, Cruz, you have got to be honest with me if we are ever going to have a chance at a new life.”
He nodded, kissing her once again, then stood. When he said the painful words, he knew he could not face her. He could not stand to see the pain he was sure to cause. Mostly, he was ashamed of what he had to tell her. He was ashamed when it happened all of those years ago and he carried the shame like a badge even now. It was his lowest moment in time.
“Cruz,” Eden stood and faced him directly. She grabbed his face with her hands and stared into his eyes. “Nothing that you could tell me will make me feel any differently.”
“How do you feel? I mean….I need to hear it, Eden. I need to know.”
“I love you. I think inside of my soul, I’ve always loved you, it just took some digging to discover it again, but I do, Cruz. I love you.”
He embraced her, wishing he could hold her forever, but she pulled away. Staring at him, she wiped the tear that had escaped his eye and grabbed his hand. Eden was prepared to hear something awful. She could see the look in his eyes and only something terrible could make him look this way. Privately, she wondered if it was something that could change the way she felt right now, but she hoped it wouldn’t.
“Cruz….Tell me who she was.”
He tried to look away, but her hands pulled his face back to hers. Staring into her eyes made the reality of the situation even more painful. With a deep breath, he shook his head and let it out. “Kelly.”
“Kelly?” Eden thought for a moment. The name sent off some sort of trigger in her mind but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She searched her mind for the memories, staring into Cruz’s eyes for the answers. Cruz waited for her to respond. He wondered if she would remember on her own or if he would have to break it to her. Neither option was a good one at this point.
“Eden? Are you all right?”
Suddenly, her eyes met with his. There was a different look inside them now, one that he knew was hurt. Tears fell from her own eyes and he tried to wipe them away. She stopped his hand from touching her face and held onto it for a moment. “My sister?”

 

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

She hadn’t spoken to him since their conversation on the beach. When her memory came back and she realized that Cruz had betrayed her with Kelly, her own sister, Eden didn’t know how to handle her feelings. She raced back to the house and locked herself in the master bedroom. The visions of Cruz and Kelly lying in that very bed made Eden so sick she had to vomit in the bathroom. Obviously she had expected he had been with women in thirteen years, but not her little sister.
Chip and Adrianna made attempts to reach out, but she couldn’t allow them to see her this way. They had just gotten their mother back and she didn’t want them to be scared at the sight of her now. Her mind was racing so quickly that she had to lie down. She chose the floor instead of the bed, because the thought of lying on that bed was one she couldn’t imagine.
Cruz left her alone. He knew there were no words that would make things better. If there were, he would have made himself feel better years ago. Eden would need time to deal with this on her own and he would have to wait and hope for the best. He had to believe that somehow they would find a way through the pain and the hurt. He had to believe it.
Later that night, when everyone was sleeping, Eden sneaked downstairs. She found Cruz lying asleep on the couch. For a moment she watched him, before covering him with a blanket. She searched his pockets, finding the keys to the car and slipped out the front door. Upstairs, she had looked up the exact address of her parents house. Her memory was coming back now, slowly, piece by piece, but she wasn’t confident enough to take off without directions.
As she drove in the dark, places began to remind her of times she had spent with Cruz. She passed the beach house…The first house they lived in together. The house he bought for her so many years ago. She passed the police station where Cruz worked and she visited often. So many memories were coming back to her now, she wondered if she should quit while she was ahead. This whole thing with Cruz and Kelly had caused her to doubt her desire to learn about her past. A big part of Eden wanted to go back to New York and forget any of this had happened. But, she loved her children and knew she couldn’t cause them more pain. And then, there was Cruz.
Pulling into the long driveway, Eden was taken back to her childhood. The house she had grown up in and spent many days in. She saw herself playing in the yard with her brothers, laughing and carrying on as only children can do. She stopped in front of the house to take it all in. It had been so long since she had seen her family.

When Cruz awoke, he knew something was wrong. It was a feeling in the air and he couldn’t shake it. He rushed up to the room where Eden had been all night and saw that she was gone. Searching his pockets, he quickly realized that the car keys were gone. “Oh no.” He knew she would be going to her house. He knew Eden better than she knew herself and that is where she was headed. No one in her family even knew that he had found her yet and he knew that her showing up there was not the best way to handle it.
He found the keys to Chip’s car and chased after her. With any luck, he would catch her wandering around the city. If not, he would break in and diffuse whatever emotional situation she had created in the house. Eden was always one to shock people and this would certainly be a shock. He thought about calling, but it wasn’t exactly a conversation you should have over the phone and it was late. Cruz knew that everyone would be sleeping, which would buy him some time to get to Eden.
She stood outside the large front doors and wondered how she should make her appearance. She wanted to see Kelly first. The look on Kelly’s face would be a priceless one, she knew, and once she told Kelly what she knew, it would only get better. As memory served her, she ran her hand underneath the large potted plant near the door and found a key. What a lame place to hide a key, she thought, but it was probably easy for the kids to find.
Quietly as possible, she unlocked the door and opened it. The house was dark and she was alone in the foyer. Closing her eyes, Eden remembered many of the wonderful times she had spent in this house. Warm feelings surrounded her as they had done back at her own house. She felt good being here, even if her mission was not a postitive one. After a few moments of looking around the downstairs, she came across a picture of her and Cruz at their wedding. She now remembered every second of that day, every feeling she felt. But it was erased by the picture of Kelly sitting nearby. Eden wondered how Kelly felt seeing this picture of Eden and her husband every day, when she was busy sleeping with him.
With that thought of hatred, she sat down the photo and made her way towards the staircase.
“Eden?” The front door opened and Cruz stood in the doorway. “Don’t do this.”
“Go home, Cruz.”
“Eden, please,” Cruz moved towards her slowly. “They don’t even know you’re alive, darlin’. You can’t just go barging in there. You’ll scare them to death.”
“I’m not barging in, Cruz. This is my home.”
“No, your home is with me.”
“I’m not sure Kelly would see it that way.”
“Eden, please let me explain.”
“Hmmm” Eden hesitated for a moment. “No thanks.”
She started up the staircase and Cruz followed after her, grabbing her arm. “Let me go, Cruz.”
“No. I’m never going to let you go.”
Eden walked down to face him. She looked into his eyes, staring right through his soul. “You let go of me the day you brought my sister into our bed.”
With that, she continued up the stairs, searching through the rooms. Most were empty now, used for guests or grand children, family that came into town for a visit. Eden knew Kelly must live there still or Cruz wouldn’t have come after her. She kept looking, skipping over the room she knew belonged to her parents. Her feelings for them were enormous and she wanted to see them desperately, but now her mission was much stronger.
Finally, she came to the room that she knew Kelly was in. She opened the door slowly and found a dark, room awaiting her. No one was there. The room was completely bare, to Eden’s surprise. Disappointed, she sat upon the bed, recalling her childhood days, when her sister was not a traitor. Anyone but Kelly. She was sure she could handle it being anyone but Kelly. How could her sister do such a thing? How could Eden ever look at the two of them without thinking of it?
She lay down on the bed, weeping, remembering her childhood again. Oh how she loved her family. She was her daddy’s princess and he would swing her around the room playfully. They would dance, her feet on top of his and she felt like royalty.
“Eden, please,” Cruz entered the room closing the door behind him. “We have to talk about this.”
“Why? Why make it any more painful for me than it already is?”
“Because you have to understand.”
“And you think making me relive every gorry detail with you is going to make me understand? Cruz, the thought of you and my …sister, makes me want to throw up. If you give me any more detail,….I just don’t think I could take it.”
“Eden, I love you.”
“You don’t love me. You couldn’t possibly love me….All this talk about how you have loved me all of these years…It was all a lie.”
“No, no it wasn’t. You weren’t here. You don’t know what I went through and ….”
Eden looked at him for a moment, then stood. “How would you feel if you found out I had slept with your brother? Hmm? Me and Rick. How would you like that?”
“I don’t know…I just…I don’t know…”
“Well, lucky for you, you don’t ever have to worry about that. Because I would never stoop so low.”
She walked out of the room, leaving Cruz in great dismay. He knelt on the floor praying to God to make things right between them, but he knew it wasn’t that easy. This wasn’t something a prayer could erase. He had done this to her. Even all of those years ago when it was happening, he knew it was wrong. He knew that this would be the one thing that could keep him from getting Eden back, but he continued it out of spite and ignorance. Now, it had come back to haunt him, as he knew it would.
Eden went downstairs and sat in the study. She remembered many conversations in this room, many heated battles. She sat in the chair at the desk and looked at the photos on her father’s desk. There was one of her mother, she wondered if they were still together. There was one of Mason, Julia, and Samantha. Samantha was a teenager now. She had grown to be so beautiful. One of Ted and a woman Eden didn’t recognize and 2 small boys, her nephews, she assumed. Of course, there was one of Kelly. She was in a wedding gown standing next to a man Eden recognized immediately. Rick Castillo. If she couldn’t have Cruz, she’d go for the next best thing.
She threw the photo across the room, smashing it against the wall. Her hatred for Kelly was boiling in her veins. An hour must have passed while she sat there, staring at the broken pieces of the frame lying on the floor, plotting what she would do to Kelly when she found her. But her eyes always came back to the wedding photo of her and Cruz.
Closing her eyes, Eden fought to remember her wedding day. She fought to remember the way she felt when she saw Cruz standing below her, dressed in his tuxedo. He was smiling at her from below, then met her as she reached the bottom of the staircase. As the preacher spoke, they stared into each other’s eyes, speaking with their minds, knowing that they could hear each other somehow. She remembered his vows, even the way he looked at her as he spoke them.
“This and whatever else you may need that I can in good faith provide, will be yours. This is my promise.”
She remembered her own vows and seeing a tear run down Cruz’s face as she said them. Mostly, Eden remembered loving him more than her heart could contain. When the words, “Man and wife” were finally spoken, it was as if the years of ups and downs had all faded away. Finally, they had achieved the first step in the rest of their lives. Finally their dreams were beginning to come true.
Cruz was standing before her when she opened her eyes. He had seen her holding their wedding picture and had watched as she took the time to remember. “My love for you that day couldn’t be measured in numbers or spoken in words, Eden. And I swear to you, not for one second since you left, has that changed.”
Eden sat the photo back on the desk and held up the photo of Ted and his family. “Who is she?”
“Teddy’s wife? Her name is Ally. They met when Ted was in Paris. They live in town now, not far from here, with their boys. Channing is 5 and Mase is 2.”
Eden smiled. “That’s good….Ted deserved happiness.”
“Yes he did.”
“Mason and Julia?”
“Still together…usually. Same old thing with them. Samantha has really grown up, though. She’s in Chip’s class at school. She’s a cheerleader, I think. Mason’s worst nightmare.”
Eden laughed at the thought of Mason being the father of a cheerleader. Julia too, for that matter. Neither of them were really the booster club type, if she remembered correctly.
“And Kelly married Rick?”
“About a year ago.”
“That’s funny.” Eden smirked. “Next best thing, I guess.”
Cruz looked away for a moment, then walked closer to her. “I wish you’d let me explain.”
“I wish your explanation could make a difference, Cruz, but it won’t. You could tell me you had amnesia too and I would still have a sick feeling about it all. Did you have amnesia?” Cruz hung his head again. “No, of course you didn’t. So the way I see it, there’s nothing your explanation could do that wouldn’t make me want to vomit.”
Cruz sighed heavily. “I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe this is happening, I really can’t.”
“Why? Did you really think I’d never find out?”
“I don’t know what I thought….I just wanted to find you and bring you home. All I cared about, all I still care about is you….our family.”
“One big happy family, right? Just think, at Christmas time we can sit around the tree and you and Kelly can make guilty eyes at each other, while I get sick in the bathroom. The way I see it is that you figured you’d never see my again, so why not shack up with my sister. Keeps you in with the family and the kids get a new ready made mommy, right?”
Cruz was at a loss for words. He knew that he couldn’t say anything that would make Eden feel better, but he also knew that she would understand at least slightly if he could explain. Part of him wanted to turn around and walk right out of the room, letting her wallow in her own self pity. For crying out loud, none of this was his fault. He didn’t leave her, she left him. He didn’t abandon the kids, she did. Now, he was the one left to feel badly for moving on. It wasn’t fair.
For thirteen years now, he had woken up every morning alone, praying that God would bring back the only woman he could ever love. He would go through his miserable day trying to pretend that he had some sort of life. He would attempt to raise their children to believe that their mother left them, even though she walked away from them. Alone, he stayed up when they had fevers. Alone he sat through late night scary dreams and alone he lie in bed each night. It was he who had suffered at the hands of her, not the other way around.
Of course he hated himself for ever being with Kelly. He tried to pretend it never happened at all. He was stupid and he was wrong, but he couldn’t change it now. Everyone else had moved on from that many, many years ago, but now Eden was sure to bring it back to the surface. He wished that somehow she could find the ability to just let it go, but he knew it wasn’t possible.
“Eden, we have to talk about this,” Cruz said finally. “We have been through so much to get you back here, to get your memory back. We can’t just walk away from that progress now.”
“I never said I was walking away from the progress. I’m glad I remember, Cruz. I’m thankful for you for unlocking my past. I have children that I have missed a lot of time with and I intend to spend the rest of my life making that up. But this marriage….This love between us…I’m just not sure it still exists.”
“How can you say that?” Cruz was growing frustrated. He had worked so hard to gain her trust and love back again after all of these years and now she was willing to pretend it never happened. “Before you ever knew about….this, ….Eden, you can’t tell me that last night didn’t mean anything to you.”
“It was a lie, Cruz. You weren’t being honest with me. You led me in, unfairly, I think.”
“I would never do that to you and you know it.”
“How can you stand there and say that you love me, knowing you were keeping such a huge secret from me? How did you think this would make me feel? Or did you think of it all? You obviously weren’t thinking of me when you were with Kelly.”
Eden spun around backwards in the chair. She was facing the bookshelves that lined the study and stared at the titles of books she had read and reread hundreds of times. She thought of the times her father would sit her on his lap, as a little girl, and read the classics to her before she was off to bed. Those were the simple times, when her love for her father was the only love she needed.
Cruz stood behind her. He had no words. Inside of him, he knew that the love they felt for each other had come out last night and it was that love that would see them through this. Love always saw them through. God knows they had faced many challenges in their relationship and many dark times, but their love always seemed to pull them through. He prayed it would see them through again.
“Cruz, what the hell are you doing here?” Cruz turned around to find C.C. standing in the doorway. “It’s after midnight, son. Who are you talking to?”
“Mr. C., could you just give me the benefit of the doubt here and wait outside for a minute?” Cruz didn’t want it to be this way. He wasn’t sure C.C.’s heart could take the shock of seeing Eden sitting there.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on.”
“Mr. C., please just trust me on this. I’ll fill you in on everything, if you’ll just….”
Slowly, Eden’s chair spun around, coming face to face with Cruz and C.C. Shocked, he stared at her, unable to speak. He looked to Cruz, who stepped back, then back to Eden. She smiled when she saw her father. It was like time had stood still for them.
“Hello, Daddy.” Eden stood and walked towards her father. When she reached him, he grabbed her arms and pulled her in. Hugging her as tightly as he had done when she was a little girl, he still couldn’t speak. He leaned back and held her face in his hands, then kissed her forehead.
“Eden…Oh Eden.” He hugged her again and she melted into his arms.
“Where’s mama? I want to see her.”
C.C. smiled, hugging her one last time. “She’s in bed….I want to know what happened, where you’ve been, how you got here…”
“Later, Daddy,” Eden said. “I just want to see mama.”
Eden walked past Cruz without looking at him. C.C. noticed the tension between them and went to Cruz. “What happened? What’s going on?”
“It’s a long story, Mr. C.” Cruz began. “But it doesn’t end so well.”
“Eden is home, Cruz. What do you mean it doesn’t end so well?”
“She knows.”
“What? What does she know?”
Cruz shook his head with embarrassment and disgrace. Tears filled his eyes as C.C. patted him on the back. “About Kelly….and me.”
“Oh dear God, Cruz, how could you let that happen?”
“Let it happen? It was bound to happen. I didn’t let it happen. You think I wanted her to know? You think I wanted to go to all of the trouble of finding her just to have her pull away from me again?”
“I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry.”
“I don’t know if she’ll forgive me for this, Mr. C.”
“She has to forgive you. She’s here isn’t she?”

 

CHAPTER 19

 

Cruz went on home that night. Chip and Adrianna were fast asleep and it pained him to think about how we would explain things to them. Eden had stayed behind at the home of her parents. She was rejoicing in meeting her nephews for the first time, who Ted had dragged over in the middle of the night. Only the Capwell’s would have a family reunion at two o’clock in the morning. Julia, Mason, and Samantha had arrived just as he was leaving. Sophia had tried to convince him to stay, but he felt there was no place for him there.
Instead, he wanted Eden to have time alone with her family. There were tears, hugs, and lots of questions that Cruz wasn’t sure the answers of, so he didn’t feel he could be of much help. Eden had made it perfectly clear that she didn’t want him there, when she flat out asked him to leave. He tried to plead his case, but she politely informed him that there would be time enough for explanations. Now, she wanted to make up for lost time with her family….with the exception of Kelly.
Eden and Kelly had always been close. True, they had their moments of disagreements and fights, but all in all, they were best friends. Perhaps that’s why this betrayal hit Eden so incredibly hard. Anyone but Kelly. As she thought about it, she realized her anger was really more with Kelly than it was with Cruz. Yes, she felt hurt, but it was no secret to her now how deep her love for him had been and still remained. The fact that her own sister would move in on Eden’s family was something she couldn’t quite accept. So, when C.C. and Sophia started calling up the family members, Eden insisted Kelly not be called. She promise to deal with the situation soon, but not right now. Now, she wanted time with the rest of the family.
“I can’t believe you’re really here,” Ted couldn’t stop hugging his sister. Watching her hold his boys was something he had dreamed of.
“I can’t believe it either,” Eden hugged Channing tightly. “They look just like you, Ted.”
“So when do we get to here the story,” Mason was always the inquisitive one. He was never the type to beat around the bush. “It’s been a long time, Eden. There’s a lot we’d like to know.”
“Well, Mason,” Eden said, as she clutched Mase in her hand. “ There’s a lot I’d like to know too…But not now. Now, I just want to enjoy being here with you again. I don’t want to waste time trying to figure out my past. I just want to be here.”
“Shouldn’t we call aunt Kelly,” Samantha said, in the most innocent way. She was too young to remember anything about Cruz and Kelly.
“I think we’ll call Kelly in the morning,” Sophia interrupted.
“You know, Samantha, why don’t you and I go see if we can scare up some dessert,” Mason grabbed his daughter’s hand and pulled her out of the room.
Tension surrounded the room and no one spoke. Eden continued to play with the sleepy young boys, while everyone else pretended not to notice the tension. “Just so you know, I’m fully aware of Kelly’s relationship with Cruz.”
“Eden,” Julia sat next to her on the sofa. “That was nothing. It was so long ago, no one even thinks about it anymore. Kelly’s married now…”
“Yes, I know. To Rick. Cruz’s brother. How convenient for her.”
“Seriously, Eden,” Ted sat on the opposite side of her. “It was nothing. They were just….”
“If you don’t mind, Ted,” Eden handed Mase back to him, “I really don’t care to talk about it right now. In fact, I think I’d like to give my children a call and invite them over. They should be here for this, don’t you think?”
Eden walked out of the room and closed the door behind her. She wanted her children to be with them now. This was a family party, even if it was in the middle of the night, and she wanted her own children to be there to celebrate. She knew they would be asleep, but it was summer vacation and waking them wouldn’t cause problems in the morning. In the foyer, she picked up the phone and tried desperately to remember her phone number. It had been a long time since she had dialed it from memory, but she tried anyway.
The phone rang a few times and she began to doubt her recollection.
“Hello?” It was Cruz. His voice was quiet, but she knew it was him.
Eden hesitated on the other end, recalling the way she had treated him earlier and feeling badly. “Cruz…It’s Eden.”
“Oh…Hi darlin’. “
“Hi…Um, my whole family is here…well, almost everyone. Ted’s brought his boys over and Samantha is here. We’re having a sort of party…”
“I think that’s great.”
“Yes, yes it is. I was wondering…Well, I’d really like Chip and Adrianna to be here. It’s a celebration really, a family celebration and I want them to be here. Would you mind….”
“They’re asleep, Eden.”
“I know, but would it be all right if I woke them?”
“I think that’d be a great idea. I’m sure they will want to be there anyway. I’ll go wake them now and…well, I suppose Chip can drive them over. You should probably expect them in a half hour or so.”
“All right.” Eden paused on the other end and Cruz waited. “Cruz?”
“Yes?”
“I was thinking, um…Maybe you should drive them. It is pretty late and Chip is a new driver. I’d feel more comfortable if you’d drive them yourself.”
“Oh,” Cruz smiled on his end, trying to hide his happiness from her. “I think that’s a good idea, Eden. Chip’s not really very experienced at driving in the night.”
“Well, good then. We’ll see you soon….And Cruz?”
“What?”
“Drive safely.”
When he hung up the phone, a smile spread across his face. In her own round about way, Eden had invited him to the “family” party and that gave him a glimmer of hope. He practically raced up the stairs to wake the children up. They were startled at first, but then thrilled at the idea of a late night party at their grandparents home. It made them feel incredibly special to know that their mother had specifically called to make sure they would be there. Cruz encouraged their happiness.
Quickly, they dressed and Cruz sped them over to the Capwell home. He was certain that he’d never driven to their home as quickly as he did that night. It wasn’t setting a very good example for Chip, but he would talk to his son about that later. Now, he just wanted to get to the party and see if he still had a place in the family, not just as the ex son in law, but in Eden’s heart as well.
Eden opened the door when they knocked. She smiled immediately when she saw the children and grabbed them into a hug. “You didn’t have to knock.”
“Dad made us,” Adrianna said.
C.C. and Sophia stood watching the wonder of Eden with her children. It pleased them so much to see such a sight. They could read the happiness in their faces and the feeling created an instant warmth throughout the house.
Eden spun around, holding their hands. “Look who’s here!”
“It’s about time,” Mason joked. “Come on, you two, Samantha is hogging all of the chocolate cake and if you don’t hurry, it might be gone.”
Chip and Adrianna followed Mason into the dining room.
“Glad you’re here, Cruz,” C.C. shook Cruz’s hand. “You’d better come along, you don’t want to miss out on the dessert.”
“Thanks, Mr. C,” Cruz answered. “I’ll be right in.”
C.C. and Sophia followed the kids into the dining room, sensing that Eden and Cruz needed a moment alone. Cruz watched Eden as she picked up the pictures on the table, smiling at the one of Chip and Adrianna, then holding it close to her heart.
“We had that taken at Christmas time,” Cruz explained. “They gave it to their grandparents for a Christmas present.”
“It’s really great,” Eden answered. She sat the picture back down and turned to look at Cruz. There was a lot of pain in his eyes and she knew that she had caused it. “I’m glad you’re here, Cruz.”
“Really?”
“Look,” Eden tried to explain, “I’m sorry for the way I acted before….I know that it isn’t your fault and I don’t blame you, I really don’t. It’s just….strange for me, you know? I have all of these years missing in my mind, yet I feel like I never left…Do you understand?”
“I’m trying.”
“Physically, I’ve been gone for thirteen years, but mentally and emotionally, I feel like I never left, so when I hear something like ….like what I heard, it’s hard for me to take. But, it’s not your fault, it’s mine. I’m the one who walked away.”
“I don’t think you walked away, Eden. Obviously, you had some sort of problem…”
“Whatever it is, it isn’t your fault. I want you to know that I really believe that.”
Cruz leaned in, hugging her and tried to kiss her lips. Eden pulled away.
“That being said,” she added, “It’s still really hard for me to ….. Every time I close my eyes, I see you with my sister and…… I just need some time. Okay?”
“Mom,” Chip ran into the room, holding a plate of chocolate cake. “The chocolate cake is almost gone. Come on, I saved you a piece.”
“I’m coming, sweetie,” Eden smiled at him, then turned back to Cruz. He looked at her and smiled.
“You don’t want to miss out on the cake,” Cruz said.
She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. “I love you, Cruz Castillo.”
“I love you, Eden Castillo. Or is it Capwell? I guess it’s Capwell now.”
“Details, details,” Eden smiled. “We’ll figure all of that out later. Right now, I hear some chocolate cake calling my name. Care to join me?”
“It’d be my pleasure,” Cruz grabbed her hand and followed her into the dining room.

Everyone finally started heading home around breakfast time. Ted and his wife carried their sleeping boys out the door, right after Mason and Julia left. Samantha decided to spend the night in one of the spare bedrooms upstairs, so she could fall asleep faster. Eden didn’t want to leave. She appreciated being in her family home again. The feelings of love and warmth that surrounded her made her feel so comfortable. But, she needed to be with her children in their home. They were the most important things to her now.
When they got back to the house, Chip and Adrianna were barely awake. Eden followed them up to their rooms and tucked each of them in, like they were young children. Adrianna was asleep before Eden could even say good night, but that didn’t stop her from sitting with her for a while. She lie next to her daughter, holding her, realizing all of the nights she had missed out on. After a while, she went to Chip’s room.
He was lying in bed, but still awake when she arrived. She sat next to him on the bed and ran her fingers through his hair. “That was fun tonight, wasn’t it?”
Chip smiled. “It was the best night I’ve ever had.”
Eden kissed his forehead. “I love you, Chip.”
“I love you too.”
Eden turned to walk out the door.
“Mom?”
She stopped and turned back to Chip.
“When you were gone, Dad used to tell us to stare out at the stars and pick the one we thought you might be looking at too. I always picked cirrius, because dad told us that was your star. He said when you were first dating…”
“We were out on my father’s yacht and he told me how cirrius was really two stars circling each other. We decided that night that those would be our stars and no matter what craziness went on in our lives, we would always have those stars.”
“Yeah…I used to imagine that you were looking up at them. I always felt like you were with me when I was looking at those stars.”
Eden knelt beside Chip’s bed and kissed his forehead again. “Thank you.”
“For what?”
“For never letting me go,” Eden whispered. “I never let you go either, Chip. Never.”
“I know.”

Within minutes of her leaving his room, Chip was asleep. Eden found great comfort in watching them sleep. They were so peaceful, so innocent. She loved them so much.
When she walked downstairs, Cruz was making a bed for himself on the couch. “What are you doing?”
“I figured I’d camp out down here,” Cruz answered, “and you can sleep upstairs.”
“Oh,” Eden sat on the couch. “I’m not really tired. But, if you are, you should go sleep in the bed. You’d be more comfortable there.”
“I’m not really that tired either.” Cruz sat next to her on the couch. He watched as she flipped through a scrapbook Adrianna had left on the end table. “Are you feeling okay?”
Eden nodded. “I am. A little overwhelmed maybe…a little confused, definitely, but okay.”
“What do you want to do next? Do you want to see someone…professional?”
“Maybe,” Eden sat the scrapbook down next to her. “But for now, I just want to make up for lost time a little, you know? There’s so much of Chip and Adrianna’s lives that I’ve missed out on. I’ve got baseball games to attend and girly slumber parties to plan.”
Cruz laughed. “Yes you do.”
“I also need to figure out what to do about my life in New York.”
“Do you want to go back?”
“I think I have to go back eventually. My entire life is back there.”
She could see the worry come across his face. “Cruz…..I didn’t mean…”
“No, I understand. You can’t just pick up and move…”
“That’s exactly what I plan to do,” Eden reassured him. “I don’t want to be there anymore. There’s nothing for me there, just some loose ends I need to tie up. None of that means anything to me now. But, I do have employees and clients who deserve to be taken care of. I intend to wrap things up as best I can.”
Cruz was comforted by her explanation. “What about your life here? What do you want to do?”
“I think the question is more what do you want to do.” Eden stood and paced around the room. “The way I see it, I’m the one invading your life, Cruz. You’ve built a life here the last thirteen years and now, here I am…..I have no intention of messing up anything you have…going.”
“Going?”
“It’s perfectly understandable that you have moved on with your life and started new…relationships. I have no intention of stepping on anyone’s toes.”
“Baby, what the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m just saying that I want to spend as much time as I can with the kids, but that doesn’t mean that you have to re-route your life for me. You should continue on with your life as you wish. Don’t let me stop you.”
Cruz sighed as he stood and walked to Eden. He grabbed her arm, stopping her from pacing and held her facing him. “Continue on with my life?” He laughed at the thought of it. “Baby, let me explain something to you. A long time ago, I pledged my heart to you in front of God and everyone else that we loved. When I did that, I meant it to be forever and….I see no reason why it won’t be forever….I guess what I’m saying is….I never continued on with my life, Eden. You are my life. It was true all of those years ago and it’s still true today. The fact that I have you back near me again….It’s like a dream come true.”
Eden looked at him with disbelief. “Cruz, it’s okay. If you have something going with someone, I will have to accept it. I’m not angry. It’s not your fault.”
“Eden, listen to me.” He touched her face with his hand, then held her hands in front of him. “There is only one woman that I have ever loved….ever, in my entire life. There is only one woman that I have dreamed of, prayed for, and dreamed about. There is only one woman I have ever wanted by my side.”
“Anyone I know?”
“Baby, it’s you. It’s always been you.”
He leaned in and kissed her lips and to his delight, she kissed him back. Carefully, he bent down and scooped her up in his arms, carrying her across the room.
“Where are we going?”
“To the hot tub.”
“Cruz, what about the kids?”
“The kids have been up all night long, believe me, they aren’t waking up any time soon.”
“But what if…”
“Eden, stop talking.” He kissed her again as he stood next to the hot tub.
“Or what?”
“Or I’m going to throw you in with all of your clothes on.’
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Wouldn’t I?”
He let her loose, dropping her fully clothed and laughing into the hot tub, then jumped in after her, soaking his clothes as well. “Never underestimate the power of my libido, darlin’.”
“I won’t.” She laughed, kissing him as the hot tub began to bubble around them.

 

CHAPTER TWENTY

 

Their house seemed to be a constant flow of family and friends. When Carmen arrived back in town, she was in for the shock of her life. It wasn’t necessarily a pleasant surprise, until Cruz explained that Eden had amnesia. Carmen, being her typical self, found it hard to believe that anyone could simply forget their family, but Cruz and the kids were so happy to have her home that she saw no need to interfere. She also saw no reason to stay at the house,
“Mama,” Cruz said, “No one is asking you to move out of the house.”
“I know,” Carmen answered, as she packed her bags, “but there’s no need for me to stay here. Eden is home, she’s here to help with the children and I have my own house to go to.”
“You don’t have to leave, Carmen,” Eden added. “You’ve been a big help around here and you have more right to be here than I do.”
“Yes, I think that’s true,” Carmen said in her most spiteful voice. “But, just the same, I think I’ll move back to the beach house. It will do me good to have some time to myself.”
After much argument, Cruz moved his mother back to the beach house. It had been her place of refuge all of these years, where she would escape on weekends. She had worn herself thin trying to manage Cruz’s life and the lives of his children and now she would enjoy some time to relax. For years, she had wanted to travel and visit her friends. Now she would have time for that.
Secretly, Cruz was happy to have her gone. As much as he adored his mother, the idea of her walking in on him and Eden, or listening in the room next door, did not sound particularly appealing. Eden had a lot of lost time to make up for. She had memories to create with the children and even more memories to create with him.Cruz felt it his duty to see that she get started on those memories ASA P.
Chip and Adrianna were walking around with smiles plastered on their faces. Everyone in town could see it and everyone knew why. Their friends flooded the house to see their mother who had practically returned from the dead. They spent hours talking to Eden, telling her stories, and laughing together. Eden appreciated every moment. She would listen attentively to every story every friend had to tell. She would watch her children interact with their friends and was thankful for the wonderful young people they had turned into.
Eden began to admire Cruz even more during this time. Chip and Adrianna were completely well adjusted teenagers and it was because of Cruz. She could see Cruz in both of them. His kindness and compassion, his patience and his love, all shone through in them. Cruz had done an amazing job raising them, which didn’t surprise Eden. He had always loved children and when his own came along, he was incredibly natural with them. That was just one of the many reasons that she loved him.
“Mom,” Chip stood before her, with a young girl standing behind him. Eden looked the girl over. She was a very cute girl, much shorter than Chip, but very bubbly. Her hair was blonde and her eyes were blue, and she hid behind Chip. “I wanted you to meet someone.”
Eden stood and smiled. “I’d love to meet someone.”
“Mom, this is Ali Carter. Ali, this is my mom.”
The girl held out her hand and Eden shook it politely. “Well, it is very nice to meet you, Ali.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, Mrs…Um..Ms. ….”
“Castillo.”
“Yes,” Ali laughed, nervously. “Yes, Mrs. Castillo. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t sure what…I mean… Oh, never mind.”
“It’s quite all right,” Eden smiled. “I’m a little confused about it myself. So are you and Chip…seeing each other?”
“Yes,” Chip interrupted. “Yes, we’re seeing each other.”
“I see,” Eden nodded. “How long have you been…seeing each other?”
Chip and Ali looked at each other, giggling. “Only a few months.”
“Well, that’s very…nice,” Eden said. “Are you in the same class?”
“Actually,” Chip answered, “I’ll be a junior next year and Ali will be a sophomore.”
“Oh…So, you’re a little younger than Chip.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
Cruz walked into the room, laughing to himself at the sight of his son introducing his girlfriend to Eden. “Hello, Ali.”
“Hi, Mr. Castillo,” Ali seemed to relax slightly.
“Well,” Chip said, “I think we’d better get going, Ali. We’re going out with some friends of ours.”
“That sounds fun ,” Eden added.
“Where are you going?” Cruz asked. Eden was impressed with his concern.
“There’s a party on the beach.”
“And I don’t have to remind you that sometimes those parties get out of control…”
“Dad.” Chip pulled Ali towards the door. “I’ll be home by midnight.”
As they walked out hand in hand, Eden smiled. She walked to the window and watched as they walked to Chip’s car, where Chip opened the door for Ali. As he rounded the car to get in the drivers side, he looked back to the house and waved to Eden. She waved back and watched as he drove away. It gave her such pride to know that her son was such a gentlemen, but it saddened her to think she had missed out on him being a boy.
There were so many firsts with both of the kids that she had missed out on. They were practically grown up now. Chip was going to be leaving for college in a couple of years and the thought of being away from him was one she couldn’t stand. He was dating…oh, he was dating. One day he would marry, maybe not this Ali girl, but he would marry. He would be off on his own, raising his own family and Eden would have to give him up all over again. She had a hard time when she thought of how grown up they were.
Adrianna was going to be in the 8th grade, yet she was already planning for her high school prom. When Eden listened to her with her friends, she was amazed at the things they spoke of. Things Eden didn’t know about until she was much, much older, and now her baby was already more educated than she. Cruz had done an amazing job with her. She was bright, independent, and even a little sassy. She was a lot like Eden and that pleased her.
“Where’s Adrianna?” Eden asked, after Chip’s car had disappeared down the road.
“She’s upstairs with some of her friends,” Cruz sat down on the couch. “I heard them giggling when I walked by, so I assumed they were talking about boys.”
Eden laughed as she joined Cruz on the couch. She patted his leg. “They are wonderful people, Cruz. You’ve done an amazing job with them.”
When Eden was gone, the entire family had stepped in to help out with the kids. There were times when he was at a complete loss on what to do with them, especially Adrianna. He would worry himself sick at night when she was getting ready to go to junior high. Julia had stepped in to help out during the “puberty” times. Cruz had spent many hours reading up on the ways of being a young woman, but when it happened, Adrianna went straight to aunt Julia. Actually, she went to Samantha, who took her to Julia. Cruz was glad. He had read a million articles, but he still had no idea what to say.
They were blessed with a wonderful family. Carmen had been there to take care of all of them, when Cruz was working endless shifts. She had run the house and kept the children grounded, while they were coping with the divorce. Cruz had a hard time coping himself, so he was happy to have his mother there to pick up the pieces a little. She was also there for him, reminding him that he was their father and that they needed him more than ever. Sometimes, he needed that reminder.
Around eleven that night, Cruz had fallen asleep on the couch. He had never found it easier to sleep than he did now that Eden was home. He had many missed nights of sleep to catch up on. Eden checked on Adrianna, who was still upstairs giggling with her friends. They had made plans to spend the night. Eden noticed that Adrianna rarely left the house now. She was always inviting people over, but it was obvious that she didn’t want to be away from home. Eden loved the sound of giggling girls upstairs. It gave her great comfort and made her feel like she was home.
With Cruz sleeping on the couch, Eden felt the need to pace the floors for Chip. He wasn’t due home for another hour, but she was already worrying about him. She supposed there were a lot of years of worry for her to make up for. This was the first time Chip had gone out since she had returned home and she decided that it wasn’t something she particularly enjoyed. She wondered how Cruz had gotten over it, or if he had just simply learned to live with it by trusting Chip. Eden trusted Chip. He was a great kid. It was the other terrible drivers and evil teenagers that she didn’t trust.
She peeked out the window, but saw nothing, so she walked back towards the couch. Sitting next to Cruz, she sighed heavily a couple times, attempting to wake him. Cruz didn’t budge. After deciding that it wasn’t really fair to wake Cruz when he was sleeping so soundly, she hurried up the stairs to listen outside of Adrianna’s door again. More giggling gave Eden a certain ease, so she walked back downstairs to wait for Chip.
As she sat at the desk, she noticed a hand written note that she had overlooked before. It was written by Adrianna and it said, “Mom, Kelly called.” Kelly had called their house. It made Eden sick to think of Kelly talking to her daughter. It made Eden sick to think of Kelly at all. The instant her name was mentioned, Eden was taken back to when Kelly must have made herself quite comfortable in Eden’s home, pretending to be mommy to Eden’s babies. Her stomach turned picturing the sickening details. The nerve of Kelly to actually call the house! Eden wadded up the note and threw it in the trash, just as the door opened.
“Mom,” Chip smiled, locking the door behind him. “Were you waiting up for me?”
“Of course not,” Eden lied and Chip knew it. “Did you have a fun night?”
“Every night with Ali is fun,” Chip laughed. “What did you think of her?”
“I thought she was very nice….and cute.”
“She is pretty cute.” Chip looked at his father sleeping on the couch. “Did you kick him out of bed?”
“He wasn’t tired,” Eden laughed. “I tried to get him to go to bed, but he kept telling me he wasn’t tired. About ten minutes later he fell asleep.”
Chip loved his mother, but it was still a little strange to have her there. He wasn’t used to her being there and although he was glad she was home, it was hard. “Well…I guess I should…um…go on up to bed.”
Chip walked towards the staircase. “Chip, wait.” He turned around. “I was going to go sit on the terrace. Would you sit with me?”
The two of them sat on the terrace, staring out at the night sky. They didn’t speak much, but being together gave each of them their own private comfort. Eden put her arm around his arm, grasping it and he lay his head on her shoulder. There they sat, mother and son, as if they’d always been together. Chip was like a little boy to her. In her mind, he was the same little boy he had been the day she left and she wondered if that would ever change.
When Cruz awoke late that night, he became panicked when Eden was no where around. He peeked out the window to find Chip’s car in the driveway, then decided to head upstairs to find Eden. As he passed the terrace, he noticed that the doors were open and he glanced outside. Sitting on the bench was Eden, looking out into the ocean, with a sleeping Chip lying on her. Cruz was pleased at the sight and watched for a moment, un-noticed.
Eden caught a glimpse of Cruz out of the corner of her eye and smiled. “He’s sleeping.” She scooted over on the bench, making room for Cruz and he sat next to her.
“Maybe we should wake him up, so he can go on up to bed,” Cruz suggested.
“Not yet,” Eden answered. “Not yet.”
They sat there for a while. Cruz had gone inside to get them some coffee and they drank it as they spent the quiet time together. Chip’s head had found its way to Eden’s lap as he slept and Eden was pleased.
“Dad?” Adrianna peeked her head out the terrace door. “What are you guys doing?”
“Just sitting,” Cruz answered. “Are your friends sleeping?”
“Everyone went home around midnight. Kirsten’s dad came to pick them up.”
“Come out here, Adrianna,” Eden offered. “Sit with us a while.”
Adrianna squeezed in between her parents and Eden wrapped her arm around her. She had both of her babies in her arms again and it felt good. They spent the entire night together on that terrace, the cool breeze coming of the ocean. Cruz covered the kids with a blanket, while he and Eden kept warm with cups of coffee. He tried to get Eden to come inside many times, but she was appreciating the view…and the moment. Cruz was appreciating it too.

When morning came, the children had found their way upstairs. Cruz realized that since Eden had been home, they hadn’t slept together in bed. He wondered if that was something planned on Eden’s part. Perhaps she wasn’t comfortable sharing a bed yet and that made him slightly nervous. Of course, there was always the possibility that it wasn’t planned. He hoped there would be a night when they would lie together in their own bed, but there were still so many things to clear up between them.
Eden came downstairs after showering to find breakfast waiting on the table. Cruz came in from the kitchen carrying a pitcher of orange juice and poured them each a glass. “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Eden responded. “Did you make this?”
“Well….” Cruz smiled. “Minute Maid actually made it, but I poured it in the pitcher.”
“Good work,” Eden laughed. Cruz kissed her on the cheek and held out the chair for her to sit down. Once she was seated, he sat in the chair across from her.
“So, what’s on the agenda today?” Cruz asked. “With the exception of family parties, of course.”
“I thought I should start figuring things out…about New York.”
“Right….Do you plan on going there?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to. Not now, at least.”
Adrianna ran down the stairs, dressed in a swimsuit, covered up by a cute sun dress. She carried a towel around her neck and a beach bag full of teenage girl things. “Have you seen my flip flops? I can’t find my flip flops anywhere.”
“Check the hall closet,” Cruz answered. “Where are you going?”
Adrianna laughed as she ran towards the hall closet. “Hm, let’s see, Daddy, I think I’m going to the…hm…circus. Yes, I’m going to the circus.” Finding her flip flops, she slipped them on her feet and came giggling back towards the table. She grabbed a muffin from the basket and began picking at it. “I’m going to the beach, silly. I have a surf lesson this morning, remember?”
“Alone?” Eden asked, in her most motherly tone. “I’m not sure you should be going to the beach alone, Adrianna. And a surf lesson? I mean…”
“Mom,” Adrianna spoke between bites, “I’ve been taking surf lessons for a year now and I’ve been swimming in the ocean since I was a baby. You don’t need to worry. And anyways, I won’t be alone. Chip is going with me.”
“Chip takes a jog on the beach while she has her lessons,” Cruz explained. “I usually join them, but I’m going to take the day off.”
Organized as always. Sometimes, Eden felt left out of their lives, when things were just planned around her. She often had to remind herself that it was she who had joined their lives and not the other way around. Still, it was hard for her to accept that she really didn’t have a say in anything. They’d been doing things a certain way for years now, why should she expect they would change?
Cruz could always tell when Eden was feeling badly. He would see an expression on her face or the look in her eyes and he would know that she felt left out. It was hard for her, he knew, coming into the house now. They’d been running their own lives for so long, it was hard to adjust to having another set of opinions and worries around. “Adrianna, maybe your mom would like to go with you today.”
“Would you?” Adrianna asked.
“Well, I don’t want to interfere,” Eden answered.
“But I bet you’d like to see her surf, right?” Cruz asked. “She’s really pretty good.”
“I’d love to,” Eden said. “If you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind.”
Chip hurried down the stairs, wearing his jogging clothes. “Let’s move, Adrianna, we’re going to be late.”
“Your mama is coming along today, Chipper,” Cruz instructed.
“Oh,” Chip was surprised. “Great….great. We should get going, though. Everyone ready?”

Eden enjoyed watching Adrianna surf. Cruz was right, she was pretty good. Eden figured Adrianna continued the lessons more for the cute instructor rather than the actual teaching. She could see how giddy Adrianna was around the boy. It was sweet watching her flirt with him, as best as thirteen year old girl could flirt. She also enjoyed watching Chip jog. He reminded her of Cruz in so many ways. Watching him jog was just another one of those ways.
Chip was obviously a very popular boy. He could barely finish his jog without being stopped by numerous kids talking with him. Eden watched him interact with his peers and noticed immediately his confidence and security around them. It made her happy to see. Being here with them was one of her happiest moments thus far, just watching them be who they are.
“Eden.”
The female voice came from behind her and she knew it was familiar. A certain shock over came her as she spun around to find Kelly standing there. She looked Kelly over, then turned back around to face the ocean, watching her children, as if guarding them from Kelly in some way. Eden felt very protective of them now and she didn’t really want Kelly anywhere near them.
“Eden, we need to talk.”

 

CHAPTER 21

 

Kelly looked the same as Eden remembered her, only older. Her hair was darker than it once was, but overall she looked the same. She stood with her arms folded across her chest, staring down at Eden, who had no intention of standing up. More than anything, Eden just wished Kelly would go away. She hated wasting a perfectly beautiful morning, watching her children on the beach.
“Adrianna is really getting good at that, isn’t she?” Kelly asked.
It made Eden’s blood boil to hear Kelly speak her children’s names.
“She’s always been such a little swimmer.”
Every word from Kelly’s mouth, caused more fury to run through Eden’s veins.
“Cruz used to say she was born part amphibian.”
That did it. Eden could take no more.
“Don’t.”
“What?”
“Don’t stand here talking to me about my children and my husband.”
“Husband? Hm. When did you make that official? Last I knew, you and Cruz were divorced.”
Eden stood, angrily. “And you took full advantage of that, didn’t you?”
“Cruz told you?”
Eden turned back to the ocean, finding Adrianna and Chip going about their business. She desperately wished Kelly would just go away.
“Eden, don’t you think we should talk about this?”
“Talk? No. No, I don’t think we should talk about Cruz. You see, Kelly, the sound of your voice saying his name makes me want to puke. I don’t want to talk to you about Cruz or the kids or anything for that matter. What I want is for you to go away. Leave me alone.”
“You are so incredibly selfish, Eden. You’re playing yourself out to be the victim here and it really makes me sick. I’m sure you have Cruz thinking he was the one to blame too.”
“What goes on between me and Cruz is none of your business. Now, if you don’t mind, I am enjoying a morning with my children and I don’t wish to be interrupted.”
Eden waved out to Adrianna, who was surfing quite nicely. She looked for Chip, who was stopped down the beach talking to a group of girls.
“I really appreciated being invited to the little family party the other night,” Kelly said with a sarcastic tone. It was obvious the feelings between she and Eden were mutual.
Eden turn around, fuming with anger, and looked Kelly in the eye. “You are nothing to me, Kelly. Not family, not friend, nothing. So do us both a favor and stay the hell away from me and my family.”
“Do you really think that after thirteen years you can just blow back into town and re-claim your spot as Miss Perfect? I have news for you Eden, it’s not going to happen. I’m not the only one who sees through your little act.”
“Go to—-“
“Mom,” Chip had noticed the fighting going on between Eden and Kelly and had come to break it up. “Is everything okay?”
“Hi Chip,” Kelly interrupted.
“Hi….Um, Mom?”
“I’m fine, Chip,” Eden encouraged. She patted his arm. “You sure have a lot of admirers down there, don’t you?’
Chip’s face turned red and he smiled shyly. “They just know me from school. Listen, Adrianna’s lesson is almost over. I was thinking we could go get dad and go out for breakfast or something.”
“That sounds great, sweetie,” Eden answered. “Why don’t you go get your sister?”
Chip ran back down the beach towards Adrianna. Eden watched him with great pride.
“Well,” Kelly finally said, “I guess I’ll leave you to your children.” She turned around to leave and Eden was glad. “Oh, by the way, Eden, Chip likes blueberry pancakes. I just thought you might like to know.”
Kelly’s actions were nothing short of bitchy. Eden had to restrain herself from attacking her sister right there on the beach. She didn’t want to give Kelly the satisfaction of being the level headed one.

Eden and Cruz decided to drive up the coast that day with their kids. They wanted to get out of town and avoid the people who would be shocked to see them all together. It was important for them to have time together as a family, away from the rest of the world. They found a beautiful little restaurant right off the ocean and had a late breakfast. Eden hadn’t told Cruz about her confrontation with Kelly. She saw no reason to ruin a nice morning as a family.
“Dad, can I have some money,” Adrianna stood up next to the table, holding out her hand as only a daughter can do.
“What for?”
She pointed across the room to a juke box sitting near the far wall. Cruz smiled and handed her the money happily. They watched as Adrianna walked across the room and placed her money in the juke box. When she returned, her favorite song was playing, a song Cruz had heard blasting from her room on a daily basis for the last month or so. She pulled Chip to his feet and they danced in the center of the room. Eden laughed as she watched them perform. Chip pretended to be embarrassed, but inside he was loving every minute of it.
“My turn now,” Eden walked to the jukebox and searched the songs for something she recognized. Cruz walked up behind her and offered his help. Neither of them really knew any of the songs or the artists that sang them, until they found one single selection. It was an old song by John Lennon called “In My Life.” They placed their money in the slot and walked out onto the dance floor. As the music began to play, Eden grabbed Chip’s hand and Cruz grab Adrianna.
Chip was a good dancer, Eden noticed immediately. He had obviously received his father’s dancing genes. He was smooth and steady and Eden was filled pride as she danced with him. Watching Adrianna dance with Cruz also gave her great joy. He would swing her around the dance floor, so that her feet rarely touched the ground. This was a moment Eden would treasure.
“All right, pal,” Cruz moved towards Eden and Chip, “time to switch it up.”
He grabbed Eden and handed Adrianna’s hand to Chip. Tired of dancing, the kids went back to the table to finish their brunch and watch the show. Cruz pulled Eden in close to him as they danced, feeling each word of the lyrics. She kissed him often and he, of course, kissed her back.

It was the perfect morning. As they drove back towards Santa Barbara, Eden was almost sad. Part of her wished they could pack their bags and leave for good. They would be better on their own, that was for sure. Chip and Adrianna fell asleep in the back of the car and Eden spent most of her time staring at them.
“I saw Kelly today,” Eden finally admitted as they were driving back towards home.
Cruz was surprised, but tried not to look concerned. “You did? How was that?”
Eden smirked. “Not pleasant.”
“Understandable.”
“She did say something that I hadn’t thought about.”
“What was that?”
“I said something about my husband…”Cruz smiled at the sound of the word husband coming out of Eden’s mouth. “And she reminded me that technically, you’re not my husband anymore.”
Cruz looked at Eden, who was staring out the window. It was hard for her. Her mind had stopped all of those years ago, when they were a family, but life had moved on. She had a hard time realizing that life had moved on without her, for most people. But for Cruz, life had never moved on. He felt a lot like her. In his own mind, time stood still back then and he never accepted the fact that she was gone.
“Baby,” He reached out and grabbed her hand. “Who cares about the technicalities?”
“Everyone, apparently,” Eden answered. “I hadn’t even thought of it until Kelly brought it up.”
“But, darlin’, in my heart, we’ve always been married.”
“That’s how I feel too, but…”
“No but’s. That’s the way it is. If Kelly or anyone else for that matter can’t accept that, then…who cares? We’ve never been able to explain what there is between you and me. Why should we start trying to explain it now?”
Once they were home, Chip and Adrianna ran off to their prospective places. With teenagers, there was always something going on. Chip spent a lot of time with his girlfriend, Eden noticed. Recalling her own teenage days, she wondered if that was a good thing. Chip seemed to be a level headed boy. He seemed to be motivated and goal oriented. Eden hoped that would hold true in the times he was alone with young Ali. Adrianna was still content on staying around the house. Her friends came over and they’d spend hours up in Adrianna’s bedroom. Eden often stood outside the room listening to their giggles and screams, finding a peace in having them there.
Today was no different. No sooner had they arrived home, then Chip was in the shower and out the door. A few short minutes later, a heard of teenage girls arrived, carrying teen magazines and make up kits. Eden made them brownies and spent time upstairs with them as they talked about the teenage boys in town. Adrianna was different around her friends; although, Eden assumed most kids were. She was relaxed and silly, boy crazy too. There must have been 5 boys on her list of “hot guys at school.” The list made Eden smile. Little hearts were drawn all around the edges and names had been written, then marked off, then written again. Apparently, you were only hot depending on the day and perhaps Adrianna’s mood.
Downstairs, Cruz was working on the latest dishwasher malfunction, doing more damage than good. Eden loved observing the domestic things he would do around the house. It made her feel like they were a family again. Even though, she still hadn’t spent the night with Cruz in their room. There was something about being in the bedroom that made Eden nervous. She didn’t want to over step her boundaries and she didn’t know if Cruz even wanted her in the bed with him. So, most nights, she spent awake, watching everyone else sleep. She was partly afraid to sleep, for fear of waking up and having all of the wonder she was experiencing be gone.
While Eden was upstairs, she heard the doorbell ring. Cruz went to the door and opened it, finding Rick and Kelly standing outside. His stomach turned. He knew having them there was not a good thing. Eden wouldn’t be pleased at the sight of Kelly in their house and Cruz didn’t want to cause any unnecessary pain for her. Yet, at the same time, he didn’t want to push family away. Rick was his brother and he loved him.
“Hi,” Cruz cautiously replied, as he opened the door.
“Well,” Rick grinned, “where is she? I can’t believe you haven’t brought her by to see me, Cruz.”
“Eden’s upstairs…She made some brownies for Adrianna and her friends.”
“Oh, how domestic of her,” Kelly smirked.
“Listen, guys,” Cruz spoke carefully, “I’m not sure this is a good time.”
“Why?” Rick asked. “I just want to see Eden and say hello.”
“I know, it’s just…” Cruz’s eyes turned to Kelly.
“Me, Rick. It’s just me. The queen feels threatened when her peasant sister is around.”
“That’s not it, Kelly,” Cruz interrupted. “Eden is adjusting now and….I just don’t think it’s a good time for you to….”
“Rick?” Eden walked down the stairs, hearing the entire conversation from the top of the stairs. It never ceased to amaze her at how cold Kelly could be. “Rick!”
Rick ran to Eden and gave her a big hug. “Oh my goodness. You look great.”
“So do you, Rick.”
Kelly stood behind in the doorway, as Cruz walked towards Eden. Finding his place by her side, Cruz stood protectively next to her. He could see in Eden’s face that she was uneasy and he knew that the situation was one that could explode at any moment. Rick should have known better. It seemed as if Kelly was just looking for a fight, but Rick knew better.
“I want to hear all about everything,” Rick said, noticing the expression on Cruz’s face. “But not right now…..Right now, I just want to give you another hug.” He hugged Eden again. “It’s so good to have you home, Eden. My big brother hasn’t been much good for anything without you.”
“I’m sure I haven’t been much good without him either,” Eden added.
“Really?” Kelly snipped. “I mean, you built your own advertising business…a very successful one, at that. I’d say you did okay for yourself.”
Eden turned to her. “How did you know that?”
Kelly seemed suddenly uncomfortable. “I…um…well, Daddy told me.”
“Oh,” Eden answered. “Did he also tell you that I had amnesia? Did he tell you that I would have never, ever been away from my family if I had been mentally well? Did he tell you that to Kelly?”
Cruz grabbed Eden’s arm, holding her back from attacking her sister. He pulled her towards him and held onto her hand. Rick made his way to Kelly, shocked a little by her eratic behavior. He attempted to diffuse the situation, but Kelly seemed to insist on continuing.
“Yes, the amnesia story,” Kelly laughed. “It’s such a funny one, don’t you think? And convenient too. I mean, it releases you of any responsibility for abandoning your family. Works well for you, I suppose. The thing I don’t understand, is why Cruz is so quick to believe it.”
“All right, Kel, that’s enough,” Cruz interrupted.
“You’d think after all of these years, Cruz, you might want to do a little more digging to make sure Eden’s story is true. I mean, this could be her ultimate lie. She’s obviously proven herself to be a master manipulater.”
“Kelly,” Rick added, “maybe we should take off.”
“Oh sure,” Kelly boasted, “protect innocent Eden. None of this could possibly be her fault. This entire family has worked our butts off to raise her children while she was off building her own advertising business and now, she’s back and we all should take our places in line behind her. Well, not me. See, I’m not buying the amnesia act, Eden. Maybe I’m the only one, but I find it really hard to believe.”
Cruz was afraid that Eden was going to lose it. She didn’t speak for a moment, but breathed heavily. He could feel her pulse pounding through her hand and he knew she was on the edge. There seemed to be no easy way to handle the situation. He simply wished Rick would get Kelly out of there.
Eden slowly and casually walked to the front door. Hesitating for a moment, she opened it up and stood next to it. “Rick, it’s so good to see you. Let’s get together for dinner some time very soon.”
“Um, sure,” Rick turned towards the door. “I’d like that.”
“Me too,” Eden answered. “Good bye.”
“Good bye? You think we should just jump because you don’t want to answer our questions?” Kelly asked, in her nasty, hateful voice.
Eden paused for a moment. “I want you to leave, because I don’t owe you any answers. The only people I care about, the only people whose feelings I’m concerned with are the people who live in this house. Now, I understand, in my absence, you may have made yourself comfortable here, but let there be no doubt about it, this is my house and I want you to leave.”
“Of course,” Rick walked towards the door, stopping to kiss Eden on the cheek. “Thank God you’re home.”
“I second that,” Cruz added from across the room.
Kelly followed Rick and as she made her way past Eden, she stopped. Staring into her sister’s eyes, Eden could almost see the litter girl she had been so close to. “Thank God Cruz is willing to deal with your crap.” That little girl was gone now and there was no doubt about it.
Rick exited the house and Eden leaned in to Kelly, in a quiet voice. “Thank god Cruz loves me. You wouldn’t know what that feels like.”
Kelly walked away and Eden slammed the door, locking it behind her. She took some deep breaths, as Cruz walked up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He held onto her for a moment while she attempted to calm down from her run in with Kelly. It surprised Eden how cold Kelly was acting. She was treating Eden like she was the enemy.
“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Cruz said.
“It’s just Kelly,” Eden answered. “Strangely, I’m not too surprised.”
“Well,” Cruz spun Eden around to face him and kissed her. “Let’s not let it ruin a beautiful afternoon together.”
“What did you have in mind?”
Cruz thought for a moment. “A nice dinner….alone. I know a great place.”
“Really?” Eden smiled. “What shall I wear?”
“Something beautiful.”
“I think I can find something in my closet…You know, I’m going to need more clothes,” Eden smiled. “I appreciate that you kept my things, but….they’re sort of….old and out of style.”
“Old and out of style?” Cruz laughed. “I see. I hope I’m not old and out of style.”
“No,” Eden kissed him. “Just the clothes.”
“Then perhaps the lady needs a shopping spree?”
“Or I could go get my things in New York.”
Cruz thought about it for a moment. “I’d rather start fresh…New. New clothes, new things. Maybe I’ll get some new things too.”
Eden smiled. “I have something new for you.”
“What’s that?”
She leaned in and kissed him, taking his breath away. Cruz smiled as she finally pulled away. “I like new things.”

 

CHAPTER 22

 

Eden was troubled by her confrontation with Kelly, but she was more concerned with the cold way Kelly was treating her. She would have expected Cruz to have been more unhappy with her than Kelly. It was Cruz she left. What had she done to Kelly to make her so angry? In fact, Eden was the one who had every right to be angry with her sister. She was the one who had to envision Kelly with Cruz every time she closed her eyes. The thought of it made her sick, yet Kelly was the one who was causing such an uproar. It didn’t make sense.
Several of the things Kelly had said didn’t make sense in Eden’s mind. She was speaking so hurtfully to Eden, so angrily. It was if she was mad at Eden for coming back. She was mad at Eden for reclaiming her place in the family. Jealousy had never been a real issue for them. True, there were times when a minor incident would occur and there was a hint of jealousy, but nothing to this extent. Now, it almost seemed the Kelly was jealous of Eden. She was jealous of the attention Eden was getting and she was jealous of the way Cruz took her back into his life.
What right did Kelly have to be jealous anyway? Eden was the one who was jealous. Eden was the one who spent so many years away, while everyone else in town got to watch her children grow up. Eden was the one who lost out on so many of the magic times in her children’s lives, so many magic times in her own life with Cruz. She was the one who should be jealous.
None of it added up. Kelly’s bizarre reaction to her homecoming was something that didn’t sit well with Eden. There was something that just wasn’t right about the whole situation. She was very interested to get to the bottom of it, even though Cruz encouraged her to let it go. He insisted that Kelly was just surprised and needed time to get used to the idea of Eden being back. He thought Eden should give Kelly space, let her blow off some steam, but keep her from blowing it off around them.
Eden didn’t feel much like going out. Cruz had worked to plan an evening for just the two of them, but she wanted nothing more than a night at home in her most comfortable pajamas. She looked over the dresses in her closet and wasn’t pleased with any of them. Cruz picked up on her lack of enthusiasm about the evening’s festivities. He noticed her delaying getting dressed and groaning about being tired and wanting to relax.
“Darlin’, if you don’t want to go, we won’t,” Cruz said as he sat next to her on their bed.
“Oh, but you’ve gone to all of this trouble…”
“Well, it’s nothing that can’t be undone with a phone call. If you want to stay home tonight, I won’t be offended.”
“Really?”
“I just want to be with you. We could be on the beach, on the moon….hell, we could be in the middle of nowhere, I don’t care.”
Eden smiled. “I’m just not in a great mood for going out.”
“I can see that,” Cruz grabbed her hand and kissed it. “I really wish you wouldn’t let Kelly get to you.”
“There is just something really strange about the way she’s acting, don’t you think?”
“I don’t know, baby, it’s been a long time for you two. I mean, Kelly’s changed a little, I think.”
“Changed how?”
“Just different. She’s not that same little girl, you know?” Cruz thought about it for a moment. Kelly had changed over the years. She seemed to always be on the defensive. “I’ve just noticed over the years that she’s more….distant and kind of cold. Not just to me, to everyone.”
Eden began to wonder what had caused the change in Kelly’s personality. Had it been something that had happened to her? Had she suffered somehow?
“Now, Eden,” Cruz could see the wheels turning in Eden’s mind. “I don’t like that look.”
“What look?”
“The look like you’re planning something. Please, darlin’, let’s just give Kelly some time. She’ll come around and when she does, I’m sure you two can work things out between you.”
“Maybe I should…”
“Eden…Please, I just got you back. Forgive me if I’m not willing to share you with your little schemes right now.”
“Well, what do you have in mind?”
“First I have to go cancel our dinner plans,” Cruz smiled. “Then, I’m picturing a New York moment.”
“What do you mean?”
“One of my favorite times in New York was when we spent the night in your bed watching old movies together. I was so…honored to be so close to you. I never wanted the night to end.”
“Neither did I.”
“Good.” Cruz leaned in and kissed her. “You pick out the movies and I’ll take care of the dinner.”
While Cruz was off taking care of the plans, Eden continued to wonder what was going on with Kelly. As angry as she was with Kelly, the protective feelings of the big sister came back to her in an instant. Kelly was always so naпve. She got herself into a lot of unnecessary trouble, just because she was trying to prove a point. Eden wondered if that’s what had happened. Had Kelly been in some kind of trouble? Had she tried to cover something up and now was afraid Eden would have the smarts to unconver it? Eden knew she was obsessing, but she couldn’t get it off her mind.
There was so much she needed to know. For starters, what exactly had happened to her all of those years ago? Her last memory was being on that cliff. She remembered with vivid detail the way she tried to hold on. She remembered Cruz trying desperately to save her and she remembered slipping out of his fingers. It was like a recurring nightmare in her mind. Whenever she closed her eyes, she would see that image in her mind and it terrified her. But she could recall nothing after that moment. She couldn’t remember falling into the water or what happened to her next. The next memories she had started when she arrived in New York.
A period of three years of her life was completely missing in her mind. Cruz had filled in the details that he could, and it terrified Eden to think she had done the things she had done, without recalling them. She wondered what else she may have done during the time when Cruz didn’t hear from her. He told her about the divorce papers and as hard as she tried, she couldn’t remember herself sending them. It was frightening.
Cruz had been very helpful in filling Eden in on the what happened while she was gone. It was clear to her that he had suffered so much during that time. He told her about a daughter, B.J., that he never knew about. He explained how she had come into town and he had begun to form a relationship with her. He talked about how hard it was to think he had a child that he had missed out on. He compared it to what Eden must be feeling now. Eden was a little unhappy at the thought of Cruz having another child.
It was true that Chip wasn’t her biological son, but Eden had claimed him as her own many years ago. Yet, it was always special to her that she had given Cruz his daughter. Knowing that there was another daughter out there troubled her. But, Cruz went on to explain the hurt he went through after learning that she wasn’t his daughter after all.
He had struggled to come to terms with the fact that he had a grown daughter. He had fought hard to build a relationship with her and to welcome her into their lives. So, when he found out that it had all been a set up, he was crushed. It was several years later that they found out the truth. B.J. had fallen ill and had gone in for blood work, to find that her blood type wasn’t compatible to Cruz’s. After a lot of research and a lot of digging into things that didn’t add up, Cruz learned that he had been set up by none other than Kirk Cranston.
Kirk, not knowing of Eden’s disappearance, had put together the long lost daughter story in an effort to destroy the relationship between Cruz and Eden. He had lured B.J. into thinking Cruz was her father, as well, sending her to Santa Barbara to find him. What Kirk didn’t know was that Eden was gone. He couldn’t hurt Eden, because she wasn’t there. So, he dropped the story, but never bothered to fill anyone else in on the details. When they found out, Cruz was devastated, as was B.J. She moved away before Cruz came back. They kept in touch for a while, but had minimal contact now.
Eden felt badly for what he had gone through, but she was slightly relieved. It didn’t sit well with her to think of Cruz having another child with someone other than her. She realized it may be selfish of her, but it didn’t change the way she felt. She assumed he would feel the same if the roles were reversed, but she didn’t tell him about her relief.
It was proof again that life had gone on without her. Although she had been gone, life had moved on. Bad things continued to happen, good things continued to happen. It was strange hearing about it now, like it was a movie or something. She listened to every story every person was willing to tell and found it heard to realize that they weren’t just stories. This was the life she had missed. All of the crazy details, all of the heartbreak, had been lived by the people she loved.
Perhaps that’s why Kelly was behaving in such a negative way to Eden’s return. Maybe she was bitter about the way they all had to struggle while Eden was gone. Had Kelly struggled through something that Eden should have been there to help her with? Had she needed her sister? Whatever the case was, Eden knew that something was going on. Something underneath the surface wasn’t right and Eden had every intention of getting to the bottom of it. She had caused so many people unnecessary pain and unraveling that pain may prove to be a challenge. Yet, it was a challenge she was ready to face.
“Mom?” Adrianna knocked on the bedroom door, startling Eden. She walked inside and sat next to her mother on the bed. “Dad said you guys are staying home tonight?”
“Yes,” Eden wrapped her arm around Adrianna’s shoulder. “We’re going to stay in and watch some old movies.”
“Are you okay?’
“I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
Adrianna hesitated for a moment. “I’m really sorry about what happened with Aunt Kelly today.”
Eden was surprised that Adrianna knew about the confrontation. She hadn’t been around when Kelly and Rick had stopped by.
“I thought you were sleeping.”
“I was…but, I could hear you.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Don’t let Kelly upset you, Mom. She’s just kind of …she’s like that, you know? She’s always causing problems like that.”
“Is she?”
“Yeah. Every time we go over to grandma and grandpa’s she gets in a fight with somebody…..Usually Uncle Mason, but sometimes grandma or grandpa. Uncle Rick says she’s maybe going through her womanly thing. I’m not sure what he meant by that, but Dad agreed with him.”
Eden laughed at the thought of Cruz and Rick discussing Kelly’s “womanly thing”. She imagined the conversation had been an interesting one. “Well, I think it’s just going to take some time, Adrianna. Eventually, things will calm down. Don’t worry about it, okay?”
“Okay,” Adrianna smiled her best fake smile. “I’m going over to the beach house tonight. Grandma Carmen is in charge of the meals for the senior citizens this week and I told her I’d help deliver them. I think Chip and Ali are going to meet us there later.”
“Sounds fun.”
“More work than fun, but I don’t mind.”
Adrianna stood up to leave.
“Adrianna?”
“Yes?”
“What do you think of Ali?”
Adrianna sat back down on the bed, eager to dish about her brother’s girlfriend. “She’s nice enough, I guess. A little clingy, maybe. She’s got Chip wrapped around her little finger.”
“Do you think he’s serious about her?”
Adrianna laughed. “I think he’s serious about girls in general, Mom. Ali’s just the girl that wants him the most.” She walked to the door, smiling the whole way. “I’ll see you later.”
Eden wondered if Cruz had talked to Chip about being careful when it came to girls. She had seen the way teenage girls were dressing and the way they were hanging on young boys. It frightened her to think of Chip getting lured into so dangerous scheme with a girl, or even worse…to bed. She would definitely make plans to find some time alone with Chip. It was important that she talk to him, feel him out, to see how he was thinking. Adrianna was obviously boy crazy already. Eden knew she would need to talk with her sometime soon, as well, but she wanted to do some research first.
She assumed there were certain ways one should go about talking to their teenagers and she didn’t want to mess it up. The birds and the bee’s were a complicated matter, but love was even more complex. She would write down some things, so she would be fully prepared when the time came. She had missed enough of their lives as it was, this was something she would not miss out on.
Being back was incredibly tiring to Eden. There was so much lost time to make up for, so many questions to be answered. Eden was really unsure where to begin with it all. Mainly, she wanted to work on her family. Cruz and the kids had suffered when she left and they were her first priority. She had a lot of time and a lot of love to make up for. They were at the top of her list and often she reminded herself of just that. Her questions would all be answered in time.
“All right,” Cruz entered the room, carrying a tray of snacks. “Dinner is…well, I’d like to say it’s cooking, but I’d by lying. I did, however, order take out from that deli down the road. It should be here shortly. Until then, I threw together a few snacks to tide us over. Did you pick out the movie?”
“No…I guess I didn’t fulfill my end of the deal,” Eden smiled. “Actually, I had a nice talk with Adrianna.”
“Oh, good, she was just heading down to the beach house.”
“She’s a great kid.”
“She’s a lot like her mama. She has good intentions, but sometimes, those intentions get her into some trouble.”
“You’ve done a good job with them, Cruz. I mean, they are really great kids and it’s all because of you. Thank you.”
“For what?”
“For being such a great dad to them. For taking care of them. I love you.”
Cruz smiled and kissed her. “I love you.” He kissed her again. “And just so you know, the only reason I was any kind of a dad to them was because I felt like I owed it to you.”
They settled in that night watching movies on the lifetime channel. Cruz particularly enjoyed the movies on lifetime. He felt they were exciting and well written, not to mention the incredible acting. He was certain that the movies on lifetime contained some of the best acting he’d ever seen. Eden was fond of them, as well. She was often smitten by the leading man and on occasion she was able to really get into the part of the leading woman. Lifetime was a channel she had been watching for years and she found it so funny to know it had been one of Cruz’s favorites, as well.
It was so easy for them to be back together. To them, it was as if the years had stood still and they had just picked right up where they had left off. Although, the divorce was always in the back of Eden’s mind, Cruz had seemed to forget it ever existed. Eden couldn’t do that. She couldn’t remember herself sending the divorce papers. She couldn’t even imagine herself ever doing such a thing. Never would she want to be divorced from Cruz.
She thought of it often, but never brought it up. Cruz seemed to be perfectly content with their situation. He felt like things were back to normal, with or without a wedding certificate. But, it troubled Eden. She knew that Chip and Adrianna were aware of the divorce and she wondered if it was setting a bad example to be living as normal. Mostly, though, she just wanted to be Cruz’s wife again. There was a certain joy she felt when hearing herself referred to as “Inspector Castillo’s wife” or “Eden Castillo”. Every time Cruz called her his wife, it made her smile inside. She liked being a wife. She liked having a husband. What was she supposed to call him now anyways? My…Cruz?
“Baby, what are you thinking about over there? I can see your mind moving a million miles a minute.” Cruz shut off the TV and turned to her. “You’re not still worrying over Kelly are you?”
“Well…yes,” Eden answered.
“I wish you wouldn’t worry over her. It will all….”
“I wasn’t thinking about Kelly. I mean, I am still worried about her, but that’s not what I was thinking about.”
“So what were you thinking about? Is something bothering you?”
She thought for a moment about the question, not wanting to upset him in any way. “Yes. Something is bothering me.”
“What? Did I do something?”
“No…Oh, it’s nothing. Let’s just forget about it.”
“Eden, come on. We’ve been through too much to hide things from each other now, don’t you think?”
He was right. It was pointless to start this relationship again if she wasn’t going to be honest with him. He had never given her a reason to keep things from him.
“Okay,” she began. “I…well, I’m just thinking about…..Do you realized that we aren’t really married anymore?”
“I told you, Eden, I’ve been married to you…”
“In your heart, yes, I know. But….I just think….”
Cruz looked at her for a moment and raised his eyebrows. “Eden…are you saying what I think you’re saying?” She shrugged and turned away, but he pulled her back. “You are, aren’t you?” Again, she didn’t answer, so he walked over to his dresser. He pulled out a small box and returned, kneeling below her on one knee. Opening the box, Eden saw her ring, the ring he had held onto for all of these years. “Will you marry me, Eden?”

 

CHAPTER 23

 

“Cruz, you don’t have to do this,” Eden stood and walked towards the window. “I mean, I wasn’t saying that just so you’d whip out a ring and propose to me.”
Remaining on his knee, Cruz held up the ring. “Eden, did you look at it? The ring.”
“I don’t need to look at it, I’m sure it’s perfectly lovely, but….”
“Of course it’s perfectly lovely,” Cruz held it towards her. “It’s yours.”
Eden walked to the box and grabbed the ring from it. It was, indeed, the same engagement ring he had given her all of those years ago. It was the same ring she had pretended to flush down the toilet, the same ring he had given her so many different times. Was it actually possible that he could still have the same ring?
“This can’t be the same ring,” Eden held the ring up to the light. She studied every inch of it.
“Of course it is,” Cruz remained on his knee. “I kept it. I figured even if I never saw you again, I would want to have something to pass on to Adrianna one day. So, I put it in my drawer and every once in a while, I’d pull it out and look at it.”
“This is incredibly….amazing, Cruz, but it doesn’t mean you have to marry me. It is perfectly understandable that you wouldn’t want to take such a risk with me. I haven’t proven to have the best track record.”
“Darlin’, every time I pulled that ring out, I dreamed of the day I could put it back on your finger. Now, give me an answer.” He smiled, still on his knee, and grabbed her hand. “Will you marry me, Eden?”
Holding his hand, Eden knelt on the floor in front of him. Tears filled her eyes as she grabbed a hold of his face. “What did I ever do to deserve the love of someone like you?”
“Answer me,” he smiled. “Please. The suspense is killing me.”
Eden laughed as tears rolled from her eyes. Cruz was the perfect man, there was no doubt. He had been patient and kind with her throughout the entire process. He had loved her, without boundaries, for most of her life. He had given her the freedom to become who she wanted to become, even if it meant letting her go. He raised their children to love her, even though she hadn’t given them any reason to belive that. Cruz was perfect. He was her knight in shining armor.
“Yes, I’ll marry you,” Eden kissed him. “Oh, I love you.”
“I love you more.”
They spent the night talking about being married again. They agreed to keep it secret for the time being, even from the kids. Eden felt silly making a big deal out of wedding and Cruz wanted her to have whatever her heart desired. They both wanted something simple, something private, and something that would forever bond them in spirit and in soul. Their first wedding had been magical. Competing with it would be something neither of them could imagine doing. This wasn’t about competing, it was about re-defining their connection.
It was apparent that over the 13 years they had been apart, their bond had not been broken. When Eden finally regained her memory, the love she felt for Cruz was so clear in her mind that she felt as if they’d never been apart. Cruz had never stopped loving her. Not one second went by that he ever doubted his feelings for Eden, even though he often tried to mask those feelings. Being together now made them both realize just how strong their bond had been and would always be.
This time around, it was different. Before, they had battled for years to be together. They had gone through various ups and downs that all strengthened their love more. But, this time, there would be no battles, no struggles. They wouldn’t spend months searching for the most beautiful spot in the world, they wouldn’t spend months planning. Although, they weren’t certain of all of the details, they knew that they would have a privately ceremony and they would have it soon.
Eden wore her ring with pride and devotion. She often found herself staring at it, recalling the fond memories of wearing it as a younger woman. Cruz could have given her any old ring, but this one made their recent engagement all the more special. The fact that he had held on to the ring for so long, the fact that in all of these years he had never let her go, made the ring symbolize so much more than an engagement.
Cruz caught himself staring at the ring on Eden’s finger, as well. He had often dreamed of the day when he could slip it back on, but he never actually thought it would happen. He was glad he didn’t wait. He had wanted to give her the ring since he brought her home, but he was afraid of scaring her away. Tonight, he felt like it was now or never. He didn’t want to wait one second longer and he had no intention of waiting too long to make Eden his wife.

The next morning when Chip and Adrianna came down to breakfast, they were alarmed to find suitcases sitting near the couches. They had both secretly feared that their mother would want to return to New York. When Eden entered the room carrying another bag, Adrianna’s eyes filled with tears. How could she stop her mother from leaving them again?
“What are you doing?” Chip asked, nervously. “Where are you going?”
“Mom, please don’t leave,” Adrianna grabbed onto Eden’s waist, as tears rolled from her cheeks. “I know it’s hard with aunt Kelly right now, but please don’t go. Or…or, maybe we can all go with you.”
“Adrianna,” Eden hugged her tightly, “I’m not leaving, sweetie….Well, I am leaving, but not for the reasons you are thinking of…Well, we’re all leaving…Oh, here, sit down.”
Eden explained to Chip and Adrianna that being back was indeed very stressful. She talked to them about how important it was to her to have time with them, to learn more about them, and to regain their trust in her. She told them of all the things she had regretted missing out on and all the things she intended to never miss out on again.
“Then why are your bags packed?” Adrianna was still uneasy.
“That’s what I’ve been getting at,” Eden grabbed the hands of each of her children. “We’re going on a little trip.”
“We?” Chip asked.
“Yes, you, me, and your dad. We need some time away, as a family, don’t you think?”
The kids were thrilled at the idea of having their mother all to themselves, but they were more excited to learn that she wasn’t leaving. Eden encouraged them to go pack their bags, but refused to give away where they were going. Obediently, they went upstairs to pack, while Eden finished up her own packing.
Cruz had gone to the station to take a temporary leave of absence. Frankly, he didn’t care if he ever stepped foot in that station again, but supporting his family would one day be something he would need to get back to. Although, they weren’t thrilled with his request, after much debate, Cruz was given a leave of absence.
“Where are you going?” Julia stood in the office, curious to know why Eden would want to leave so soon after returning home. She worried that there was a problem.
“Away,” Cruz smiled.
“Which means it’s none of my business.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to put it that way, but…”
“Just tell me this. Is it a good thing….or a bad thing?”
“Julia, I’m going on a vacation with my children and their mother. How could that possibly be a bad thing?”
“Good…Good. I was just afraid this was a trip to…take Eden back to New York or something. I’m just being negative.”
“Yes you are.” Cruz patted her on the shoulder. “So put your mind at ease. When we return, I have a good feeling, things will be back to normal in our lives.”
When Cruz arrived home later that day, the bags were sitting on the living room floor, but his family was gone. He checked the desk, where he found a note from Eden. Seeing her handwriting made him smile. “Cruz, we’ve gone to say goodbye to my family. Meet us for dinner if you can. Love, Eden.”
When C.C. and Sophia learned of the sudden vacation, they were immediately worried. Although no one spoke about it, everyone secretly worried that Eden’s arrival at home was too good to be true. In the backs of their minds, everyone feared she would one day run away again. So, when they heard of this desire to leave town, it didn’t sit well with them. Eden was being very secretive about the details and that didn’t make them feel any better.
Sophia cornered Eden in the study and tried to pry more information out of her, while C.C. questioned the kids in the living room. Neither of them made much headway. The kids frankly didn’t know much more about the trip than their grandparents knew and Eden’s lips were sealed. Whatever information she had, she was not interested in revealing. It was hard for her to keep the secret from her parents. She had been away from them for so long. She wanted to share everything with them, but this was a promise between she and Cruz.
“Cruz,” Eden smiled when she saw Cruz standing in the foyer. She went straight to him and kissed his lips. “You got my note.”
“I did,” he kissed her back, putting his arm around her waist. “You look beautiful, baby.”
“Thank you.”
“I was just trying to get Cruz to give out a little more information about this little trip,” C.C. was obviously concerned about them.
“I’m sure he was no more help than I was,” Eden smiled. “Quit worrying, Daddy. You invited us to dinner, so let’s just eat, okay?”
“I think I’d like to hear a little more about this trip first,” C.C. continued.
“Well, I’m starved,” Eden answered. “So, if you’d like to stand here questioning yourself, then you go right ahead, but I’m going to join my children in the dining room.”
“I second that,” Cruz followed Eden into the dining room, leaving C.C. alone in the foyer.
As they ate dinner, the topic of the trip was completely avoided. Eden talked about her business in New York and they discussed whether or not she should sell it to one of her partners. C.C. wondered if they could assign someone from Capwell Enterprises to take over her position in the company, but Eden felt it would be more profitable to her partners if they could simply takeover her share. She didn’t care much about the money for herself. She had more than enough and she knew that the partners could use the extra money for their families. C.C. debated that it was her business, one she started and one day she may want her children to have the opportunity to run it.
“Daddy, I’ve been away from my children for a long time. The idea of sending them to New York to run that company isn’t too appealing to me,” Eden answered. “Besides, I’d really rather cut my ties with New York and just move on.”
“You should really be thinking of the future, princess,” C.C. added.
“I am.” Eden smiled. “Now the subject is closed.”
“Good,” Sophia interrupted. “Now you can quit beating around the bush and tell us what’s really behind this sudden trip you are planning.”
Cruz laughed as Eden nearly choked on her broccoli. “Mama, I’ve told you. We need to get away. This whole thing has been mentally exhausting on all of us and Cruz and I think it would be good for us to get away from it all. Now, that’s all I’m going to say about it, so stop asking.”

Later that night, they stopped by the house to pick up their luggage, before heading out on their trip. They had a long drive ahead of them, but it would be well worth the wait. Chip and Adrianna would be able to sleep on the way, which would give Eden and Cruz plenty of time to enjoy the drive. As Cruz drove, Eden leaned her head on his shoulder. It was a beautiful night and they each admired the view of stars above them, privately recalling their history together.
They spent the night in a small bed and breakfast. Chip and Adrianna shared the room adjoining Cruz and Eden’s. It was a quiet little place, peaceful and private. The kids fell asleep quickly, but Cruz and Eden spent most of the night sitting on the deck. They sipped wine and held each other, staring out into the beauty that surrounded them. This was all they had been dreaming of.
“When you were gone,” Cruz said softly, “I used to sit out on the terrace, when the kids were sleeping. I’d spend the entire night praying to God to bring you home. I didn’t know how I’d ever make it without you or how the kids would manage.”
“But you did,” Eden answered. “You all made it.”
“No, we didn’t, baby,” Cruz kissed her forehead. “We went through the motions of our lives, but we never really made any progress. Now that we have you back, Eden, I feel like our lives are just beginning.”
“I feel that way too,” she kissed him back and laid her head on his shoulder.
They fell asleep out on that deck, wrapped in a blanket, holding each other. When the kids came looking for them in the morning, they were shocked to find their parents outside. The natural teenage embarrassment overcame them both.
“Dad, wake up,” Chip shook his father’s shoulder. “I can’t believe you’re laying out here in…public like that.”
“Like what?” Cruz sat up, slowly awaking.
“Like…that.”
“Chipper, there’s nothing wrong with 2 people sleeping outside. We’re fully clothed.”
“Oh, that’s too much information, Daddy,” Adrianna hurried back inside and Chip followed quickly behind her.
Cruz laughed at their reactions. It was fun to see them being normal teenagers. He appreciated it now more than ever.

They joined Chip and Adrianna for breakfast about an hour later. The kids would barely look at them, imaging what they did out on that deck all night long. Cruz smiled to them and they shyly turned away. He thought there was nothing more wonderful than his family at that moment. Eden was unaware of the embarrassment that the children felt. She had no idea what silly things were running through their minds. Cruz was fully aware and he loved every second of torturing them.
Later that day, they set off for their final destination. It would be only a short drive, an hour or so, until they arrived, but it felt like an eternity. More than anything, they just wanted to get married and start their lives again. The excitement of it all was overwhelming. The kids would be dumbfounded when they learned the truth behind the trip. Adrianna would certainly delight in knowing that she would be her mother’s maid of honor and Chip would make the perfect best man. It was all they needed. Their children, each other, and the vows they would make would create a perfect ceremony.
As they pulled into the drive at the newly renovated Pebble Creek, the kids stared in amazement. They had seen the pictures a million times. In fact, Adrianna had kept them hidden under her mattress, so she could pull them out at night to look at. It was no secret what a special place this had been to their parents. Of course, the kids weren’t aware of all of the sacredness. Yes, it was true, their wedding had made this place dear to their hearts, but it was also the place where they reunited. After months of separation, months of misunderstandings, Pebble Creek brought them back together. It was only fitting that Pebble Creek would bring them together again.
“What are we doing here?” Adrianna asked, as she climbed out of the car.
“No questions,” Cruz answered. “At least not yet.”
Eden grabbed Adrianna’s hand. “Let’s go inside.”
As the guys brought in the luggage, Eden and Adrianna made their way inside. It was more beautiful than ever. Newly redecorated by new owners, the place still had the charm and magic that it once possessed. Eden wandered around the lobby, recalling the magic that had surrounded their wedding day. As hard as she may try, Eden knew she could never explain in words the events that surrounded that day, but her feelings were obvious.
“Mom, why are you crying?” Adrianna grabbed onto her mother’s arm.
“I’m just so happy,” Eden answered, as she hugged her daughter.
“May I help you?” The man at the front desk leaned forward as she spoke.
Eden approached him. “Yes, we have reservations for Castillo.”
The man typed something into his computer. “Ah, yes, two rooms.” He smiled, with a wink, realizing who he was dealing with. “Here are your keys. Would you like me to have someone show you to your rooms?”
“No,” Eden answered, “I think I remember the way.”
She led Adrianna to the room and opened it up. They went inside and were surprised how little things had changed. The room was nicer, of course, but the details were basically the same. Eden watched as her daughter searched around the room, taking in the beauty.
“So where’s your room?” Adrianna asked.
“This is my room.”
“Oh. Then, where’s my room?”
“It’s here. With me. You and I will be staying here together for now and the boys will share a room down the hall.”
Adrianna was excited about having some time alone with her mother, but confused at why her mother would rather stay in this room. “I don’t get it.”
“Yes, I figured you might be confused,” Eden smiled, sitting next to Adrianna on the bed. “I have something to ask you, sweetie.”
“Okay.”
“Would you be my maid of honor?”
Downstairs, Chip and Cruz were carrying in the luggage. The bellboy joined them at the door and led them up to their room. Chip dropped on the bed, from exhaustion. “So where’s my room? Another ten flights up?”
“No, no. Your room is right here.”
“With you? I mean, no offense dad, but wouldn’t you rather spend the night with mom?”
“Yes I would,” Cruz smiled. “But, the day, I will be spending with you. We have things to do.”
“What things?”
“Well, for starters, I need to know something. Will you be my best man?”

 

 

 

CHAPTER 24

 

“Are you kidding?” Adrianna stared at her mother.
“No, I’m not kidding.” Eden smiled.
“You’re getting married….to Dad?”
Eden laughed aloud. “Yes, to Dad.” She laughed again, enjoying her daughter’s innocence. “Your daddy asked me to marry him and I said yes.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“Wow.” Adrianna began to pace around the room. “I thought it would take longer than this. I mean, I’m glad, don’t get me wrong, but I really thought it would be more….complicated. I figured Chip and I would have to do some pushing to get you two to do the marriage thing.”
“Well,” Eden stood and grabbed Adrianna’s hands, “we talked about it a lot. The thing is, Adrianna, I have loved your dad for most of my life and he loves me too. We’ve been a part long enough and we see no reason to stay apart any longer.”
Adrianna smiled and hugged her mother. “I’m so happy. I used to dream about this when I was younger….I’m just so happy, Mom.”

“Wait a minute,” Chip dropped the luggage he was holding. “You and mom are…getting married?”
Cruz nodded.
“When?”
“Tonight.”
“Are you kidding me? Tonight? How’d you get her to do it so quickly?”
Cruz laughed at his son’s questioning. “Why? Did you think I’d have trouble getting the woman I love to marry me? You have no faith in your old man, Chip.”
“It’s not that,” Chip laughed. “I just can’t believe it’s going to be this simple. Nothing in our lives is this simple. Adrianna and I figured we’d be pushing you to get married.”
“Pushing us? Son, let me tell you something. I’ve been pushed into a lot of things in my life, but loving your mama was never one of them. So…will you be my best man or not?”
“Of course.” Chip hugged his father, then pulled back quickly. “What about all of the plans? The ceremony? The rings? The rings Dad. You have to have rings.”
Cruz reached into his suitcase and pulled out a box. He opened it to Chip, who picked it up. “I bought it earlier today. Do you think she’ll like it?”
“Wow,” Chip studied the ring his father had bought. It was a gold ring, embedded with tiny diamonds. His father had done a pretty good job, he had to admit. “I think she’ll love it. But what about your ring?”
“Your mama has it.”

“What are we going to wear?” Adrianna became nervous, thinking of all of the plans that she was unsure of. “I didn’t bring anything nice, Mom. I didn’t know I needed anything.”
“White. We’re all wearing white.” Eden reached inside her purse and pulled out a photograph. The picture was of a simple, elegant white wedding dress that Eden would wear. It wasn’t a fancy dress, it wasn’t a typical wedding dress. It was simply a long, white, flowing, beautiful dress. “This is my dress.” The second dress was a long, spaghetti strap, white dress. “This is yours.”
“They’re really pretty, Mom. Wow. I love that dress so much, but….we can’t wear a picture.”
“Never fear,” Eden smiled. “I have connections. They’ll be delivered soon.”
“I can’t believe this. I really can’t believe you’re getting married. Today?”
“Tonight. At sunset.”
“That’s so romantic.”
“I know.”
Eden and Adrianna smiled as they hugged each other. These were the moments Eden treasured more than any other in her life. Being with her daughter was the best thing she could hope for. This wedding was going to be perfect. Eden wanted nothing more than a simple ceremony with her children present. It would be the perfect beginning to the rest of their lives, giving them the strength that only a familial bond can give. This would reaffirm their love, their commitment, and their family.

“Well, we’ve got a lot to do today,” Cruz pulled out the list he had made. “I promised your mama we would gather some flowers for her bouquet. It’s something I did for her when we were married before and….Well, I just want to take care of that.”
“Okay. What can I do?”
“You can….Oh. I need a favor from you Chipper. A big favor.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“There’s a lot that your mom has missed out on since she’s been gone. A lot of things she doesn’t know about you….your talents, your interests….and…well, I know it’s short notice, but…”
“I hope you’re not asking what I think you’re asking.”
“Chip, this is your mother. She would be so happy if you would do this for her. It would be perfect. Please.”
“Dad, I don’t have anything prepared.”
“You have a million things in your head. Please, Chip. It’s our wedding. It’s a special day for all of us and it would be even more special if you would just do this for her. Do it for your mama. You have all day to work on it.”
Chip looked around the room. “I don’t even have my guitar. I didn’t bring it, Dad. I had no idea any of this was going on.”
“That’s okay. I’ve arranged for them to have one here for you. I’m sure if you go downstairs, you’ll be able to get it and you can practice all day. Just don’t let your mom know what you’re doing.”
“I don’t know….”
“Chip, listen. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But this could be the greatest gift you could give to your mother, so I hope you think about it real hard. Now, I’ve got things to do, so you give it some thought, okay?”

Eden and Adrianna spent the morning shopping in the nearby town. They needed shoes and jewelry to compliment their dresses. They found a quaint little beauty shop where they spent hours receiving pedicures and manicures and of course, they had their hair done. Looking at Adrianna, Eden was certain that she was the prettiest girl she had ever seen. Her long hair, although dark, reminded Eden of her own. It was so soft and beautiful. She was blessed with Cruz’s dark complexion, yet she still had several of Eden’s features. She was an amazingly beautiful girl.
When they arrived back at the lodge, their dresses were waiting in the room. Adrianna was delighted to try her dress on, modeling it in the mirror. It was beautiful and flowing. Eden thought it was the most perfect dress, more perfect than she had imagined. “Why don’t you go down and check on the guys while I get dressed?”
“You don’t need any help?” Adrianna asked.
“No,” Eden smiled. “I think I can manage.”
Adrianna made her way down the hall. She stood outside the room that belonged to her father and Chip for a moment, trying to listen in on them. Chip walked up behind her, un-noticed and leaned in. “What are you listening for?”
Adrianna spun around and hit him on the shoulder “You jerk! You scared me to death.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be so nosey.” Chip laughed. He opened the door and they entered. Cruz wasn’t anywhere to be found.
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. He’s getting ready, I guess.”
“Well, where is he? It’s almost time.”
“Would you relax. He was running some errands.”
The door opened and Cruz entered. He was dressed in a white button up shirt with a white tie and khacki pants, carrying a bouquet of white flowers. “Oh, Adrianna, look at you. You’re absolutely beautiful.”
“Where have you been, Daddy?”
Cruz held out the flowers. “I was making a bouquet for your mama. Would you like to deliver it for me?”
“They’re beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Cruz smiled. “Now, if you both don’t mind, I’d like to have a little time to myself.”
“Why? You’re not going to back out are you?” Adrianna grabbed her father’s arm.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Cruz kissed her cheek. “I need some time to work on my vows. So, please, why don’t you two run downstairs and make sure everything is ready for the ceremony.”

Cruz had spent the morning collecting the most beautiful of all the flowers he could find. He recalled the first time he had collected flowers for Eden’s bouquet. They were purple and she adored them. He had a slight mishap with his horse, he remembered, so decided he would just walk this time. Around the grounds were the most beautiful white flowers. He knew that’s what Eden would want. She wanted everything white, because it symbolized the purity of their love and the newness of their relationship.
Cruz sat in the room, now, thinking of the vows he would soon say to the woman he loved. He didn’t want it to be too planned out or written down. When he spoke, he would speak from his heart. It had always been easy to express his feelings for Eden. All he had to do was look into her eyes and suddenly his hear was opened up. Words would roll off his tongue before he ever knew what he was saying, his feelings would pour out without warning. He loved her more than he’d ever loved anyone in his life. Loving her was second nature to Cruz.
He thought again about the first time he had seen her in New York. He recalled that pit in his stomach, the desire he had to reach out and grab her from the street. He recalled the emotions that poured over him just at the sight of her after all of the years. Instantly, he was in love with her all over again. It was at that moment that Cruz knew no matter what, he could never stop loving her. He couldn’t and he wouldn’t. Eden was the woman he loved and that was the way it would always be. He knew it all of those years ago when they first met in Paris, he knew it that day in New York when he first saw her again, and he knew it more than ever now.
Eden stared at herself in the mirror. The dress was more beautiful than she had imagined. She was instantly taken back to their first wedding, recalling every detail of the fancy dress she wore. This wedding would be much less fancy, but filled with the same love and commitment as the first. She remembered the way she felt that day. A sense of relief had come over her as she made her way down the stairs towards Cruz. The years of ups and downs were erased in that moment. It had been a special day for them, one that would forever be in their hearts. Yet, today was the beginning of another chapter in their lives. Today, they would begin their lives fresh and new, with their children by their sides.
She remembered the first time Cruz told her that he loved her. It had been so many years ago, when they were incredibly young and incredibly naпve. Cruz had come to the Capwell hotel and expressed his love for her right there in the lobby. She remembered being embarrassed as people began to stare at them. When she recalled the way she responded, it shamed her. He had poured his heart out to her that day and she had shot him down cold. It wasn’t because she didn’t love him. She was just so young and stupid.
Cruz had always been the levelheaded one of the two. He had always kept his calm, no matter how much Eden had tormented him. It was Cruz who always reminded her that underneath the fears, the hurt, there was an undying love for each other that nothing could erase. It was Cruz who reminded her of who she really was on the inside and it was Cruz who finally gave her back her life. He was truly her knight in shining armor. Her prince.
Knock, knock, knock. Eden was startled by the knock at the door. When she opened it, she found the bellboy from downstairs holding up a bouquet of flowers with a note attached. “Mr. Castillo asked that I bring these to you.”
Eden smiled, as she took the flowers and brought them into her room. It was a perfect bouqet for their wedding, all white flowers. Cruz had done well, as usual. She opened the card and read:
“The change in me is you.. Love, Cruz.”
She smiled and slipped the note inside her bag. He was perfect, there was no denying it.

Outside on the cliffs, Chip and Adrianna were supervising the set up. There wasn’t much to do, since the wedding was so small and private. A trail of white rose petals led the way to the altar, where completely white flowers would shower them. A single chair sat off to the side, with a white guitar in the stand next to it. Chip had been working all afternoon on what he would play. Cruz had given him several suggestions and Chip did his best to pick something that would make the day even more special.
Cruz walked down, amazed at the beauty. The waves crashed into the cliffs below them, the sun was beginning to set and the altar had been set up beautifully. He kissed Adrianna, before sending her up to be with her mother, and motioned for Chip to start playing. Nervously, Chip sat down in the chair and began to strum Canon in D. Cruz watched him with pride, knowing that in his young age, Chip was an extremely talented musician. This was perfect.
As the music played, Adrianna appeared at the top of the hill. She glanced back down at her mother, who was unseen to Cruz and Chip. Slowly, she made her way he towards the altar, to meet her father and the pastor awaiting their arrival. Cruz kissed her again as she reached him, then prepared himself to see his bride.
Eden hesitated at bottom of the hill. She wasn’t nervous or uneasy, but she wanted to appreciate every second of the day. Cruz and the kids had welcomed her back into their lives, giving her a second chance. It was more that she felt she deserved, more than she could ever hope for. She didn’t want to forget one second of the day. As she reached the top of the hill, Eden could hear the beautiful sound of the guitar. She was taken back when she realized it was Chip playing. He was incredibly talented. It saddened her to think she was unaware of such an amazing talent.
Cruz took in a deep breath when he finally saw Eden standing at the top of the hill. She was more beautiful than he dreamed she could be. As she walked towards them, slowly, Cruz’s heart began to pound. He wanted to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He had dreamed of this day for so long, yet he never really believed it would happen. Now, here they were and it was overwhelming.
As Eden reached Cruz, he held out his hand to her. She grabbed his hand and stepped towards the pastor. “You look beautiful, baby.”
She smiled, then glanced to Chip and mouthed the word, “Perfect.” Chip smiled, happy that his mother had appreciated his gift to her, although he felt incredibly unprepared. Adrianna stood next to her mother. She could never had been more proud than to be the maid of honor at the re-marriage of her parents. Only months ago, this day was nothing but a dream she never thought would actually come true. Yet, suddenly everything was happening so quickly. She was almost afraid to blink, for fear that it would all disappear before her.
Things seemed to be going too perfect. It wasn’t like their normal lives. They were used to disappointment. Every time they awoke from a dream in which their mother was home, they experienced great disappointment. It happened so frequently, they had become accustomed to something always going wrong in their lives. It was cynical perhaps, but it was a reality Chip and Adrianna had grown up with. Never get too comfortable, never start feeling too perfect. As soon as you thought things were settling down, as soon as you thought maybe life was getting easier, something would come along and pull the rug out from under you.
But not today. Eden had felt it too, that feeling of things being too perfect. She had worried, she had prayed and now, she had let it go. It was the unpredictable nature of their relationship that Eden enjoyed most. Of course, there were few guarantees in life, but one truth always remained. The love they shared, the love they had nurtured and developed for so many years, would never fade. They had stood the ultimate test of time and they had come out victorious. This was to be the day they reaffirmed their victory.
“Cruz, Eden, it is my honor and privilege to welcome you here this evening,” The pastor spoke in soothing, quiet voice. “When we spoke on the phone yesterday and you were frantic to find someone who could perform the ceremony quickly, I asked you why the rush? It was your response that warmed my heart and caused me to agree to being here with you today. When I asked you why you were in such a hurry, Cruz, I wrote down your response.” The man pulled out a slip of paper, in which he had scribbled his words. “You said that you would love Eden until the day you died whether you were married or not, but if you could spend one more day of your life as Eden’s husband, you could die a happy man.”
The pastor put the folded paper back into his pocket and smiled at them both. “So, let’s make you a happy man. Cruz, you may begin your vow to Eden.”