Three years later
Carl had thought Juliet looked radiant when he married her. When they first made love. When she won her first Grammy.
But nothing could compare to the way she looked lying in the hospital bed, her hair damp and tousled, her eyes shining despite her exhaustion.
A tiny pink face nestled in the crook of each arm. Carl looked from one to the other.
“I can’t tell which is is which,” he said. The nurses had wrapped them both in white.
Juliet smiled. She had never looked more beautiful to Carl.
“We have Elizabeth Carla Spencer on my right, and Gabriel Julian Spencer on my left. Your daughter has your nose, so it should be obvious,” she told him.
It wasn’t at all obvious to Carl how this tiny delicate flower in any way had his nose, but he took her mother’s word for it. Lily and Gabe, his children. They were named after Juliet’s parents, a tribute he had been delighted to make.
The room was filled with flowers, cards and gifts from well-wishers. Juliet had distributed as much as she could to the hospital staff but it still looked like a florist’s.
“So how are you all today?” he asked. Juliet had had to stay in hospital for a few days, getting the twins’ feeding established, and Carl was looking forward to taking them home.
He had thought Juliet might say “tired” but instead she said: “Happy. Very, very happy.” His heart swelled with love for her.
Most days Carl couldn’t believe how lucky he was. They had enjoyed an idyllic three years of marriage so far. His decision to return to Europe to work and study had worked perfectly as her band toured and built up its reputation and fanbase. Moving into academia had made it even easier, as he could work from wherever he needed to.
He had thought their initial desire for one another would ease over time, but he felt as passionate about her now as on their honeymoon night, if not even more so. Making love to one another, nearly every night since they had been wed, had been a revelation to both of them.
Carl wanted her right now though he suspected it would be some time before they could resume the physical side. It would be more than worth the wait, regardless.
“The woman from the magazine rang,” he said. “I put her off for a couple more days, they understood.” A celebrity magazine was donating a huge sum to a children’s charity in return for the first baby pictures when Juliet was out of hospital.
“Did you tell them it was twins?” Juliet. “Have people found out?”
“No and no. I figured you could reveal that surprise in your own time.”
Juliet’s pregnancy had come at a good time: Dover Six were burned out from touring and Jax wanted to take a few months to write more material. He was determined that their second album should eclipse the first. Which, given their debut album had gone triple platinum, was no small task. Juliet had been deluged with offers ranging from adverts to movie roles, so even when they weren’t performing she was still constantly working.
The break from touring had given Juliet some privacy, though news of her pregnancy still made the celebrity press. So far no one knew it was twins. It was the one little thing that she and Carl had been able to keep private - their secret alone - and she treasured it.
She looked at Carl, her face momentarily anxious. “Do you want me to give all this up?” she asked him.
“These two?” He stroked Lily’s tiny cheek with his finger.
“You know what I mean. The band. Touring. The next album and all the promotion.” Once it all happened it was going to be long hours, seven day weeks, endless different time zones. Juliet wasn’t sure if she could manage that and a family.
“Not unless you want to. I’ll be with you, and we can always get a nanny. You’re earning such crazy money and I know you love it. It’s an investment in their future too,” he said, indicating the twins.
Juliet loved that Carl didn’t mind being the one who moved around with her. He was secure enough in himself that he didn’t need to be the main breadwinner: though if she wanted that, and to stay at home with the twins, he would have done so immediately. She still might, she thought. She really wasn’t sure how she was going to feel.
“I’m so lucky,” she said. “Having you. I couldn’t do any of this without your support.” All the times she was exhausted from jet lag, the times she was terrified ahead of a major show, when she had been sick, when she had just wanted to get away and shut the world out for a while. He was always there for her.
Carl leant over and kissed her. “I think it’s the other way around. I have a beautiful, famous wife whose work enables me to travel, who has just given me the two most amazing children.”
Juliet was quiet for a while.“Do you ever mind how it all happened?” she asked.
“Do I mind how what happened?”
“All the torment I put you through. I didn’t exactly make it easy on you, did I?” She still blushed when she remembered that Hallowe’en years ago, turning up at his practically flinging herself at him. She occasionally still had a moment of insecurity that she had pushed him into it all.
“Sometimes I wonder if it was all part of a plan for us. If you hadn’t acted how you did, we might never have reached where we are now. When I look at you, and at these two, I know that it was meant to be,” Carl said.
Juliet thought of everything that had happened over the past three years. She thought of her friends: Margot doing amazingly well at Harvard and dating a hot new guy every six months. Fhemie, who had joined them as a dancer on their last tour, one of the biggest upcoming stars at Juilliard.
Aunt Mary was well, Jenny and Dan - god parents to the twins - had had a second child of their own, a little boy.
It hadn’t been such plain sailing for everyone. Pastor Brown had been forced to resign and Rebecca had also left the Baptist church after it was discovered they were having an illicit affair. It made little difference to Juliet and Carl as they now attended the Unitarian Universalist church together.
Carl had wanted to support Juliet in prosecuting her former foster father. But it turned out he was dead, with his wife serving twenty years in jail for his murder. Justice had caught up with them both: Juliet could finally close the book on that sad and traumatic part of her past.
There had been some surprises at St Gillian’s. Ann Mead and Miss Villiers had caused an even bigger scandal by falling in love and moving to teach at a non-religious school elsewhere in the state. Sister Stephanie - the most pious girl at St Gillian’s - had ditched her planned novitiate and stripped to fund her way through college.
Perhaps the biggest shock of all was Cynthia. She had discovered a vocation and was now a novice at a convent in Massachusetts. Margot had made a couple of sarcastic remarks about witches but so far Cynthia was proving them all wrong.
Juliet bore no enmity or ill-will towards her former tormentor. She recognised that Cynthia must have been deeply unhappy and insecure at school to be such a spiteful bully, and if becoming a bride of Christ brought her the inner peace she sought, so be it.
But the happiest of all and the most blessed was Juliet. Somewhere in her youth or childhood, perhaps she had done something good.
For she had the perfect career and the perfect family. The perfect man who, even if he was no longer officially her teacher, still taught her every day about life and what it was to be loved: completely and eternally.
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