Part Twenty Eight
Alexis sighed; this was what she had fought, this discussion, this crushing hand of reality. She had no idea how things would...or could work out. "Do we have to?"
Peter chuckled, tilting her chin up so she was looking at her, "we do.” It scared him, the thought of what could happen next, but there was no way he was spending another night without knowing what they were going to do.
“You have a medical degree; you didn’t do that for fun. You need to find work, you have to develop your own career, I mean I did this ten years ago, forged my way into business, but you have to graft, put your education into practice.” She nodded, then looked away, her teeth worrying at her lower lip. “Lex! Look at me,” he brought her eyes back around to meet, his, “I know you want me to ask you to move here, to live with me, and I know you’d move in tomorrow. But I can’t, you can see that can’t you? We’ve not been on a date, we’ve not lived with each other, this has all been like one long holiday with you, and we don’t live holidays twenty four seven.”
Her heart sank at his words, because in her head it was easy to just move to Geneva and love him, to be part of his world, to become part of him, but he was right, she’d never be happy with that for the rest of her days.
Looking up at him, she spoke quietly, "So what do you suggest?"
He exhaled, finding pain in her desperate expression, but knowing that he felt as sad and disappointed as her. But he couldn’t stop her growing, she’d resent him if he did that. But that didn’t mean it was going to be easy. She’d become such an integral part of his life, as essential as oxygen, and he feared everything falling apart without her.
"I think you need to find the career you want, you won’t do that if you come here, and I’ll be here waiting for you however long that takes. When the time is right, we also need to date, get to know each other properly, dinners, cinema, and picnics. All the things that normal couples do. We can’t just pretend that by sleeping together it’s everything. We need to learn about each other, become a proper couple."
Alexis hated that he was so composed, so mature, and so in control, it made her feel like a child WAY out of her depth, “Why do you have to be so practical?"
Peter cupped her cheek and smiled at her bewildered face, "because I don’t want to ruin this, I want us to be together forever. And letting you go back to London is a sacrifice, but one I know will make things better in the end."
It was less than a week after leaving Rio that she landed back in Heathrow. Dan was there to meet her, waving and smiling, and whilst she was glad to see him, loved the trip through the damp dark streets to their home, all she could think was that beside her was a Peter shaped space that nothing seemed to fill. But stories of her darling nephew Oscar, and hugs from her sister went some way to making things right.
Later when Dan was at the gym, Oscar asleep, Henrietta filled two wine glasses, and sat across the kitchen table from her sister.
“So Miss Carmichael, spill!” For a moment Lex feigned innocence, but Henrietta knew her better than anyone, “you left Rio a week ago. I have that on good authority. Which means you’ve been AWOL the last seven days...care to expand?”
Lex slugged at her wine, then leaned back in her seat, “ok, I’ve been in a log cabin in the Alps.”
“With Peter?” Her sister squealed, “I KNEW it! Tell me all!”
Lex laughed, “I will not share the details, needless to say I had an amazing time. He’s perfect.”
Henrietta grimaced, “I sense a ‘but’?”
She nodded, “we can’t just drop everything. He made me realise that. I’ve got a life, and I have to try and work out what I want from work...”
“But you love him!” She sounded so certain that it surprised Alexis, but it was like the final piece of the puzzle falling into place.
After a few seconds she nodded, “you’re right! I do!”
Peter had paced his home all day, he hadn’t eaten or drunk a thing, and he was unable to focus on TV or music. He’d let her go! He hadn’t made any effort to change the outcome, and realistically, he had the ability to do that.
He sighed, and picked up the phone, there was something he had to do, something he had to say, and once he cleared this off his chest, maybe, just maybe he could follow his heart.
Fifteen minutes he hung up the call to his mother, hating the tears that coursed down his cheeks. All his life stability, a base, a home was all he craved. His mother had moved them from one man to another throughout his life; he’d been to eight different schools by the age of sixteen, had no real friends and hated the thought of a committed relationship with a person. It was as he spoke to his mother, told her exactly how his dysfunctional childhood had made him feel that he realised that confronting his mother wasn’t the cathartic release he was looking for. He’d had that already, he’d started a relationship, wanted commitment with Alexis, SHE was the tonic, the answer to his problems, and the antidote to his self loathing.
Suddenly it all made sense!
Jumping up he headed upstairs.
“He’s not answering!” Alexis tossed her mobile phone onto the table as Henrietta re-entered the room, she’d left when the baby monitor had alerted her to Oscar’s whimpers, and it had left Lex with time to call Peter.
“Peter? You tried all his numbers?”
Lex nodded, “yup. No answer. Damn him!”
Henrietta refilled their glasses, “you’ll get hold of him tomorrow, and anyway, it leaves me time to spend with you! He’s had you for the last week!”
So the two sat, relaxed, talking, sipping at their wine, and trying to catch up on the last seven months. So much had happened, and they happily chatted ignoring the topics of Peter and their father, someone else she had to make peace with.
Daniel came home around ten pm along with a huge pizza, his post gym treat. They were just attacking the greasy, cheesy treat when Alexis’ phone rang. Glancing at the screen she spotted Peter’s name and her heart skipped a beat. Lifting the handset, the rest of the world zoned out and she was only aware of his warm voice.
“Hey, I see I missed your call...already!”
He had the audacity to laugh, and it almost made her spark in anger, but she bit her tongue, “I’m not biting, not now! I wanted to speak to you, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
He laughed, and it was another welcome sound, “that sounds rather ominous.”
Alexis took a deep breath, “I can’t stop thinking about everything, all you said earlier.”
She’d wandered out into the hallway for privacy, and leaned against the wall for support, “I’ve realised that I can’t do this, I mean we’re forcing ourselves to live apart, and why?”
He sighed, “because you need some time to find yourself.”
She laughed back, “and YOU won’t budge either, but anyway, I’ve realised I can find myself WITH you, we don’t have to be apart...I...I,” she took a deep breath, “I love you Peter, more than I thought possible. I could try and get a job in Geneva, there’s an International hospital an hour away. That could work...couldn’t it? I could try and get a job there.”
There was silence for a moment, “but that would mean I’d have to invite you to live with me...in Geneva.”
“Yes.” She breathed suddenly nervous.
“But I can’t do that Alexis, I can’t invite you out to live in my home.”
She dropped on to the stairs, devastated; at no point did she presume he’d reject her, so painfully. It had taken so much strength to tell him she loved him, and it was thrown ungraciously back in her face.
At that moment the doorbell rang, but Alexis was too stunned to notice, instead she hid her eyes as Daniel passed her making for the front door.
“Are you still there Lex?”
She couldn’t muster more than a grunt.
“Ask me why!”
Shaking her head, she tried to concentrate, “why what?”
“Ask me why I can’t invite you to Geneva.”
“Why?” she breathed, fighting tears.
It was then that her phone went dead. Wanting nothing more than to disappear and hide, bury her head in the pillows of her bed and cry. Standing, she started to turn to climb the stairs, when a voice caused her to pause.
For a moment she looked at the phone in her hand, but it was definitely not connected to him, Peter. Slowly, she turned towards the sound, then froze as she saw Peter, soaked from the rain, stood in the hallway, next to Dan who was sporting a knowing look.
“I’ll just leave you two...we’re in the kitchen,” then her brother in law disappeared.
He’d come for her.
“Ask me Lex.”
Peter was smiling at her and she was too disorientated to process things, he was here, in London, at Henrietta’s. And her eyes were hungry for him after only a day apart. When he lifted an eyebrow she shook herself.
“Why can’t you ask me to Geneva?”
He laughed and walked towards her, taking her hands in his, “because I made a huge decision today, after you left.” He paused, drinking in the vision that she was, “I’ve spent years trying to control things, to avoid ties and commitment, and you challenge all that. But I suddenly realised that it changed, it all changed when I met a cute little sixteen year old. I’m leaving Geneva, there’s no reason for me to spend all my time there, I travel with work, and I can base myself anywhere. So I was wondering if you wanted to come tomorrow and help me find us a London home, somewhere we can live together?”
Alexis struggled to process his words, and when he tried to pull her into his arms, she was overwhelmed by so many more sensations that she had to fight free of him , stand back and look at him, “I don’t understand.”
He grinned, “I’ve spent the whole day staring at my empty home, and realised that without you it isn’t a home! Don’t they say home is where the heart is? Well my heart is wherever you are Alexis Carmichael. I love you too.”
Tears welled in her eyes as Lex tried to focus on him, it was everything she’d ever wanted, to hear this man say he loved her, “you never even suggested it before.”
“Moving?” He groaned, pulling her close again so that she curled against his chest, he wouldn’t let her free, “I always thought that the most important thing in my life was my independence, I had a childhood ruined by a woman who chased from one disastrous relationship to another, home to home on such a regular basis.” HE titled her chin so he could look down at her, “I called her today, told her how awful she’d made my life, but that didn’t change anything, and it was then I realised, it was YOU that cured me, made me see sense, your love, your devotion, your wit, your charm...and now I know what I want!”
It was all far too much for Lex, and the tears were trolling down her face, “I don’t know what to say.”
He laughed clearing the tears with his thumbs, “when I came to Rio last month when you thought you were pregnant, I bought something.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box. Popping the lid he showed her the beautiful ring that sat inside. “I wanted to marry you, take care of you for the rest of my life. Not because you were in a difficult situation, but because I couldn’t imagine life without you.” He smiled as her eyes finally left the box in his hand and met his own, “I still feel the same way. Will you marry me Alexis Carmichael?”
Before she had a chance to answer, they both heard a squeal from behind, as Henrietta burst out of the kitchen door, Daniel trying his best to restrain his wife.
Alexis smiled through her tears at her crazy sister, all the time taking in the fact that he'd wanted her when he thought she was carrying Luiz's baby, he loved her! Then she looked back at Peter who was patiently waiting, “of course I will. I thought you’d never ask!”
Peter’s lips were smiling as they descended on hers, and he had a moment to savour a kiss before the said crazy sister reached them and took over the celebrations.