Their father made good progress, better than most anticipated, but then he was a determined man. And Alexis decided to stay for long enough to be assured he was well. She had commitments back in Rio, but also knew that ultimately she wanted to return home, and start working properly. So she started to enquire tentatively to some of the hospitals about work in the future. If nothing else her time away and this rather stressful return to the fold, told her in no uncertain terms that she was an integral part of the family, and that they all needed her. All her life she’d felt put upon, taken for granted, but now she could see that she was a linchpin, holding everything together. With that came pressure, but on the flipside, she now felt she had a role, that she had value, and until then she didn’t realise that it was that she’d craved when growing up, value by her family.
She spent a lot of time at the hospital, talking to her father, though neither of them mentioned anything more intense than the weather. She didn’t want to stress him out, and there was so much that would instantly lead them to their feud, and now was not the time for that. He craved more news, about work, constantly asked for the FT, but she refused, and encouraged her mother to not give in.
“But it’s just a newspaper; he’s so desperate for it!”
Lex had taken her mother’s hands in hers, “it was that desperation for anything but listening to his body that led to him being here. Mother, you have GOT to be strong. Stronger than you ever have. Ok?”
When it was spelt out in terms of her father’s life, her mother would do anything she was told,
Henrietta was far less demanding. She was just keen to see him improve every day. The sisters spent a lot of time together, talking, shopping, playing with Oscar; their mother also joined them a lot, loving to care for her grandson whilst her daughters visited the pub. For the sisters it was like the years before Henrietta got married, they were best friends, and shared everything. Though now there was still a Peter Marlow size elephant in the room.
“So are we ever going to discuss him?” Henrietta knew that it was growing close to the time when Alexis would leave. And as much as she hated the thought of an argument with her sister, they had to have this discussion.
Alexis predictably shook her head, “let it go Hen, I’m over it, over him.”
“So Luiz, he’s the man for you is he?”
Henrietta refused to back down, and Alexis sighed, “I don’t know. I don’t know at all. But I know that he’s the person I’m with. Peter had his chance, I went to him, told him how I feel. And what did I get? Rejection. He’s too late.”
“He came to you, heart on his sleeve and what did he get? Rejection! That’s no different!”
“Why does this matter to you? Why are you so involved?”
Henrietta reached out across the pub table and held her sister’s hand, “because I for one believe he’s your soul mate, and I believe that you belong together. I knew it about Daniel, and I know it about Peter.”
Alexis laughed, “You are the craziest woman I know. Think those pregnancy hormones are still surging around. Darling, Peter and I...it’s over. I’ve moved on. You have to get used to that.” As they parted later, Alexis back to her mother, Henrietta back to Daniel, Alexis kept rehashing the earlier conversation. She did want to make it work with Luiz; she knew that, though her sister’s comments about Peter had rekindled her feelings about him.
A week after his surgery, her father was coming home from hospital, and he looked so much better than he had, it pleased Alexis and made leaving much easier. She’d already investigated her return flights, and was looking to go back soon. So she visited her father in hospital knowing that she’d be going soon.
She smiled as she walked onto the ward and saw him sat in his chair smiling at her, "Hey Dad! You look good!"
He laughed, “well it’s not due to the food here!” He made a ‘disgusting’ gesture then smiled, “your mother is looking forward to helping me get my strength back!”
Alexis nodded, “she’s bought all these low fat cook books and has literally filled the fridge and freezer. Hope you can cope!”
He chuckled, “it’s her way of showing she cares. We’re all different, hey?”
When she nodded he smiled, He nodded, "come and sit by me!" He patted the bed beside his chair.
She perched on the bed and looked at him.
"You’re leaving, aren’t you?"
Alexis sighed, "I have to go back, they need me. I committed..."
He held a hand to silence, “I know that, and I would never want to change that. It’s made you mature, being away like that. You are so worldly now. And you’re caring for the less fortunate, the complete opposite of me hey, feeding the rich, helping them get richer! How did I ever get such a thoughtful daughter? Do you still hate me?"
She hugged him, "I don’t hate you Dad, I could never hate you. I just hate the way you keep trying to control me! I’m my own person, and I may make mistakes, but that’s part of life isn’t it?"
“Mistakes? You admit that?” He raised his eyes to the ceiling. "I’ve only ever wanted what’s best for you! I suppose there is a fine line between wanting the best and dictating the outcome."
She nodded, “I’ll admit you were right about Steve. I didn’t hear a word from him after he left for Mexico until I happened to bump him in a couple of weeks ago. So I’ll give you credit for that."
"You went to Stockholm, a beautiful place...and you got chance to catch up with Peter Marlow?"
Alexis tried to appear nonchalant, tried desperately to hide the fact that her heart had started to race. Did he know? Could he guess what happened there? "Well it had been a while."
Her father nodded knowingly, "that it had! And you’d always had a soft spot for him!"
She blushed, "I had a crush Dad, a childhood crush. We’ve all had them."
"I always thought it was a bit more than that! I hoped that maybe there was still something there that you would both get along..."
Suddenly it all fell into place for Alexis, “you planned that? That was part of the reason you made me go on that conference?"
He nodded having the good grace to look a little meek, "you seemed perfect for each other, and after the harsh words I gave him all those years ago before your birthday, I knew you’d never just meet up coincidentally!"
“Harsh words? YOU sent him away? I always had my suspicions, and to be honest I was prepared to overlook that, I was young...I get that. But this! Engineering a meeting between us, interfering! Dad, when will you ever learn?”
Shaking her head she got up and walked out of the hospital.
The trip back to Rio passed in a blur. And it was almost surreal to think that she was back in her apartment within a day, yet again in despair at all that had happened the last six months. Had her father’s warnings caused Peter to back off all those years ago? In their recent discussions he’d repeatedly said they ‘shouldn’t’ be together as oppose to couldn’t or wouldn’t. Had it really been a sense of honour that kept him away? Or was that just convenient as an excuse?
She could go around in circles, but she had to move on. Her father would never influence her again, that was all she could ensure. As for life - it had to go on!
She’d only been back a few hours when Thiago called, there was a party at his friend’s house, he’d lover her to come. She was undecided. She’d not heard a word from Luiz since she’d left, and she felt as though she’d aged twenty years, SO much had happened. She was a different person! She declined, she was shattered, but she appreciated him looking out for her.
After that she called Luiz, she had to talk to him, but he didn’t answer and didn’t return her call.
She fought her jetlag, there was only a small time difference, but the travel seemed to have exhausted her, and worked the next day, and as she was heading home, she literally bumped into Luiz as she was approaching her seafront building.
"Hey!" she offered awkwardly, he seemed like a stranger to her.
As an answer, he pulled her into his arms, hugging her far too tightly. When he finally loosened her grasp, he looked down at her. "I am so, so, sorry! I don’t think I’d got over finding you with Peter, it made me jealous, and then that other man...I was wrong Lex, will you ever forgive me? I couldn’t imagine losing you and then you were going away..."
Lex couldn’t just give in to this, "That doesn’t mean you can’t trust me!"
He nodded enthusiastically, "I know that! I know I’ve been wrong, and I’ve missed you so much, I’m so glad you’re back!"
She accepted his kiss, craving the closeness his embrace brought. She wanted this to work, it had to work.
Upstairs in her apartment she organized some dinner for them, then they sat at the small table in the window overlooking Copacabana.
The conversation was stilted, and whilst Alexis was VERY aware of it, Luiz seemed oblivious as he kept his head lowered and devoured the pasta she’d made. As she washed the dishes, he came behind her; his arms linked around her waist and nuzzled her neck.
"Leave them!" he referred to the dishes. “Let’s get comfortable!”
Sex! She thought, that’s what he wants! Shaking her head she tried to brush him off, "I’m always too tired to do them in the morning! It’ll only take a few minutes."
He kept nuzzling and cuddling, and somewhere things went from affection to groping, or rather that’s how it felt. Smacking his hands away, she gave a more aggressive, "please Luiz, just give me a moment!"
He chuckled against her skin, his arms wrapping around her, hands cupping her breasts, pressing her stomach against the sink, "Please! Let me go!" She shouted when he ignored her, and pushing back against him.
"What?" he asked with an elaborate hurt expression, dropping his hands to his sides.
She turned to face him, "Luiz, two weeks ago you didn’t trust me, weren’t sure if you wanted us to be together and had no intention of visiting my home or family. And now you’re trying to talk me into bed. I went home for a christening, but you’ve not asked what happened. Shall I tell you?"
"I landed in the airport to be told my father was critically ill. He had major heart surgery the day I travelled."
He looked visibly shocked, "I’m sorry to hear that!"
She nodded, "I have no doubt about that. But all this," she gestured aimlessly around herself. "You don’t care about me! If you did, you’d have believed me in the first place, called me when I was away, and most important, you’d have asked me how I was, how things went at home, at some point this evening!"
"I do care about you Alexis!"
She shook her head, "not in the way I deserve to be loved. I’m sorry Luiz, I think you should leave!"
He protested, but Alexis was cold in her manner, and he realized that she meant what she said.
She sat alone later that evening. She wasn’t upset; she hadn’t missed him when they’d been apart. She’d barely thought of him, except as her defence shield towards Peter. And she knew ultimately she’d lied to him. That kiss with Peter was the most exciting, pleasurable and desirable sensation she’d ever experienced. And despite trying to fight it, to make things work with Luiz, the moment he’d chased her, and kissed her, Peter Marlow had staked a claim on her, and she could no longer resist him.