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Patiently standing beside the luggage claim, Jack waited for his suitcases.
Somebody stepped up behind him, went up on the tips of their toes and covered his eyes with their hands.
For a second he thought it would be Sara. Taking the hands off his eyes, he whirled around and found himself face to face with a beaming Danielle.
She hugged him tightly. “Welcome back home!” she exclaimed happily.
“Thank you.” His voice was barely more than a whisper.
Looking at him in concern, she asked, “Hey. What's wrong with you? Why are you so sad? What's up? Some problems at the meetings with that technology guy?”
“No. Everything was fine.”
“Then why are you unhappy?”
He ran a hand through his hair and averted his eyes, gazing at his polished shoes. “It's a complicated matter,” Jack admitted.
“A matter of the heart?”
He nodded. The lump that had suddenly grown in his throat made it too hard to speak.
“Okay... uh... if you want to talk about it...”
Shaking his head, he replied, “Thanks Dani. Not right now.”
“Whatever you want. Elias is waiting outside with the car.”
“I'm still waiting for my luggage. Oh, there it is.” He grabbed his suitcases and followed Danielle to the exit.
A non-stop flight to Paris was announced over the speakers and Jack felt as if a dagger had been plunged into his heart, breaking it all over again. ‘That was the greatest time of my life, no matter how short it was,‘ he thought to himself. ‘I guess it just wasn't meant to be. Goodbye Sara. I hope that one day you will find happiness. Even though you couldn't have that with me.'
Karen was watching cartoons with Sam.
Elizabeth was trying her hardest to stay awake, her eyelids drooping more and more with each passing second. Whenever her eyes closed completely, she jerked and forced them open again immediately.
Karen noticed what she was doing from the corner of her eyes. “Liz, don't fight it,” she said softly. “Your body needs rest.”
Rubbing her face, the blonde replied, “I don't want to sleep. Taylor still has not called.”
“Listen, I promise you that as soon as she calls, I will wake you up so that you can talk with her.”
“Really?” Liz asked in a small voice, barely able to keep from whining.
“Yes. Now, please, go to sleep.”
Obeying to her friend's wish, Liz closed her eyes and it didn't take long until she was sound asleep.
“Bring her upstairs, Sam,” Karen whispered to the brunette. “She will be more comfortable in her bed. If Taylor calls, I will wake her.”
Sam nodded, carefully picked up Liz and slowly carried her up the stairs.
In that moment, Christopher entered the house, followed by Tasilo. “LIZ? SAM? ARE YOU HERE?” he yelled, closing the door and dropping his car keys on the small table in the entrance hall.
Karen came out of the living room, glaring at him. “Shhh! Stop your hollering! Liz just fell asleep.”
Chris was completely taken aback. He had not expected to meet Karen here. “K-Karen... hi...” he stuttered in greeting. “What a nice surprise.”
“Hello Christopher,” she responded in a cold voice.
For a couple of seconds, they just stood there, looking at each other and not knowing what to say.
“What's wrong with Liz? I was at the hospital but there they told me that she had been released and sent back home.”
“She had a breakdown,” Karen explained. “Fortunately it's nothing serious. She should rest for a few days and stay in bed. Also, she should keep away from any kind of stress.”
“Okay... uh... how are you doing?” This question came straight from his heart. He needed to know that she was okay.
“I'm doing wonderful,” she snapped. For some reason, he was irritating her and so she added, ”Thanks to Richard.”
Chris felt his insides churning once more with jealousy. “Karen... I...”
She made a show of looking at her watch. “Oh my goodness... it's late. I have to go home.” She needed to get away from him as soon as possible.
“Alright, Liz is sleeping in her room and Sam is watching her. If Taylor calls, please, wake Liz. I promised that to her.”
“Karen... I...” He tried again to make her stop babbling, wanting to really talk with her.
“There is half a pizza in the refrigerator. I really have to go!” That said, she practically flew out of the house, hurrying to her car and driving off with squealing tires.
Chris leaned his head against the door, fighting the tears that burnt harshly in his sad eyes as he watched her go. “I love you, Karen,” he sobbed, tightly holding on to his upper body for fear he might break apart from the pain he felt in that moment.
After he got his composure back, he turned around and noticed that Tasilo had fished the empty pizza box from the trash can and was about to rip it to shreds. “Don't you dare, buddy,” Chris warned, pointing a finger at the big dog.
Tasilo drew his ears back and let go of the box. His tail hanging down, he slowly marched to the living room, jumped up on the couch and curled up with the fluffy blanket.
Christopher pulled out the pizza and joined him on the couch. “Actually, I wanted to talk with Liz about Norman. But, now that I know about her condition, I think it's better to leave her alone with that.”
With great care, Samantha lowered Liz to the bed and took off the blonde's paint-sprayed clothes. She dressed her into a clean T-shirt and covered her naked legs with the blanket. Taking the soiled clothes, she carried them to the bathroom where she dropped them into a big woven basket. Then she walked back and sat down on the edge of Liz' bed, stroking a pale cheek. “Good night, sweet Angel,” she whispered to an unhearing ear. “From now on, I will take even greater care of you.”
Liz murmured something in her sleep but Sam was unable to understand her. Finally, the blonde's searching hand found the one of the other woman, grabbed it, guided it to her face and snuggled her cheek against it. Liz breathed, “Sam,” and smiled softly, content.
“Yes, I am here. I will always be here with you.”
There was a hesitant knocking at the door and Christopher entered. “Hey,” he whispered. “I just wanted to see how she's doing. Do you need anything?”
Sam shook her head.
“Okay. If something happens, I'll be downstairs. When Taylor calls, I'll be back to wake her.”
The brunette nodded.
“Alright. Till later.” Slowly the door closed again and Sam's sole attention turned back to the slumbering woman.
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Grinning from one ear to the other, Victoria entered her father's office. “Daddy? Have you seen him yet?” she asked, very excited.
She put her hands on her hips. “Jack, of course! He is supposed to be working again today, as I have heard.”
“Oh Sweetheart. I'm sorry to say no, I have not seen him yet.” He looked at his watch. “But it is just 8:30 and I'm sure you know that Jack doesn't start before 9:00.”
Vicky looked crestfallen. “Oh, I completely forgot about that.”
Jonathan waved her over to him and lowered his voice. “Tell me, is there something going on between the two of you?” He smirked as his daughter's cheeks flushed.
“Yes,” she admitted. “If Jack feels just a tiny little bit like I do, then this is going to be the greatest love of all time.”
“You really have such tremendous feelings for that man?”
She folded her hands and pressed her cheek against them. With a dreamy-eyed expression, she confessed, “Oh Daddy. He is so wonderful! How could one not love him with all their heart?”
Jonathan rubbed his neck. “Be that as it may. What are you going to do, if he doesn't have the same feelings for you?”
She grinned victoriously. “I know that he has feelings for me. Before he left, he promised that he would go out with me, as soon as he would be back from Paris.”
He nodded. She did have a point there. Still, he didn't want her to get her hopes up only to be disappointed in the end. “What if he only wants to be your friend?”
Vicky chuckled. “Oh yes, he will be my friend. My boyfriend!”
“I meant something like a buddy, do you understand? Just a normal friend.”
“Daddy, I really don't know what you are trying to tell me,” she told him, wrinkling her forehead.
“Vicky, Sweetheart, you are my daughter. Your happiness is what I care about. I just want you to be careful and to not give your heart away lightly,” Jonathan explained softly.
“I know what I'm doing, Daddy. Besides, there is a lot that can develop from just a friendship.” She stalked to the door. “Until later, Daddy.”
Slightly shaking his head, he watched her leave.
Danielle was still sleeping, while Jack and Elias were sitting in the kitchen, having breakfast.
“You are very quiet, Jack,” Elias mentioned. “Did you not rest well last night? Or is it the after effects of the jet lag?”
The computer specialist nodded. “You could say that. I've been tossing and turning all night.”
Jack sighed and nodded again in resignation.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No. I have to work this out by myself. Tell me, what did you do while I was gone?” he asked, successfully steering the conversation into a completely different direction.
Eli swallowed hard. “I failed,” he admitted, dejected.
“What?” The answer came as a surprise to Jack.
“With Danielle. I failed horribly as a therapist. She had a relapse.”
Jack's eyes widened in shock. “How?”
“I should have noticed the signs far sooner.”
“Elias, what in the world are you talking about?”
The psychologist sighed. “She's been taking drugs again and I noticed it when it was already too late.”
“Who gave her that crap?” Jack asked, he was getting a bit irritated.
“Some guy named Greg.”
Jack went through his memories, but he couldn't recall somebody called Greg. Then he remembered that Danielle had asked him, if he knew a man with that name. “Have you seen him? Could you describe him to me?”
Eli scratched his beard. “He was here once, but wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. Then, I followed Danielle during one of her nightly trips but it was too dark to recognize anything.”
“That bastard!” Furious, Jack slapped his flat hand hard against the table. “When I find out who it is, I'm going to make him pay. Another more important question though is, is Dani addicted again?”
Shaking his head, Elias replied, “No. I don't think so. We had a long and intense talk, and I'm still her therapist. But, I fear it won't be enough. Danielle needs more people around than just you and me. Maybe that thing with Greg was like a scream for human closeness.”
Jack rubbed his chin. “Hmm. I'm sure you are right.”
“She needs to find her place in society and for that she needs relations with other people. To get to the point of this... Friends. What Danielle needs are friends.”
“Before this whole mess with Alexander and the coma, she was very close friends with Liz. I can talk with her. I'm sure she will gladly help us,” Jack stated.
“Good,” Elias nodded. “Now we just have to make sure that she keeps away from Greg and his nasty drugs.”
Danielle chose that moment to enter the kitchen, yawning and stretching her tired limbs. “I wish you a wonderful good morning. Man, I have not slept so well in a long time like I did the past night.”
Jack looked at his watch. “Damn, I will be late!” he exclaimed. “That never happened before.” He quickly finished his coffee and hurried to his motorcycle.
Danielle sat down on the newly free chair and gazed at Elias. “You were right.”
“I was? About what?” he inquired, quite surprised.
“Greg is not good for me and I have decided that I'm not going to see him again,” she declared firmly.
The psychologist studied her intently. “Do you want that for yourself or because I said so?” He had to ensure that she made this decision for the right reason.
She patted her chest. “I do it for me. I want my life back and I do NOT need drugs.”
Elias smiled and placed one hand on her own that was still resting on the table. “That is the right attitude and with that you will accomplish everything you set out to do.”
Liz lay on the couch and Sam, wearing her beloved Superman T-shirt that Taylor had given her, sat in front of the couch on the carpet. On MTV they were showing Shakira's musicvideo ‘Whenever, Wherever' and the brunette stared awestruck at the screen.
Holding on to a brown paper back, Karen entered through the patio door, after she stepped over Tasilo, who was lazily bathing in the sunlight that warmed his fur.
“Good morning!” she called out happily.
Liz looked up. “Karen. Now this is a nice surprise, what are you doing here?”
Waving the brown paper bag, Karen responded, “I wanted to see how you were doing and I brought breakfast.”
“That's great,” the blonde said, smiling. “Hey Sam. Are you hungry?”
Samantha thought about it for a moment and then nodded.
Karen went to the kitchen and came back with 3 plates. She transferred the food from the bag to the plates, giving one to Sam and one to Liz. “So? How is my most favorite boss doing today?” she wanted to know.
“A bit better,” Liz answered.
“Yes, you are looking much better,” Karen nodded. “Your face has a bit color to it and is not so pale anymore. I also think the circles under your eyes shrank a bit.”
“Well, what can I say. I have one super bodyguard, who is taking great care of me,” Liz said, gently patting Sam on the head, who grinned and bit into her bagel. “I'm not allowed to walk anywhere, I get carried around.”
Karen raised her eyebrows in astonishment. “Don't tell me you are complaining. I wish somebody would treat me like that.”
Liz chuckled. A thought came to her a second later and she blurted, “Why don't you ask Chris. I'm sure he wouldn't say no.”
Part of Karen's bagel nearly went down the wrong pipe when she heard that. “Ha hah, real good joke. I'm not having that discussion with you again. Change the subject!”
“You are so stubborn!”
Karen did not retort anything, even though a smart remark lay on the tip of her tongue. Instead, she steered their conversation to a different topic. “How is our little ice princess in Beijing doing?”
Liz shrugged her shoulders. “She has not called yet and when I call her cell phone I only get the voicemail. I left her a couple of messages already.”
“She is probably very busy.”
“Probably,” Liz repeated, sadness clearly audible in her voice. Her gaze turned back to the TV. “Oh no, another commercial break,” she groaned and reached for the remote control.
“Don't switch to another channel,” Karen interrupted her quickly, “it might mess up breakfast.”
Liz wrinkled her forehead in confusion. “Why?”
“Because it's nearly 9 o'clock and they will show the news.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“I'm sure they are going to show pictures of that cruel murder again and I don't like seeing that while I'm eating,” Karen explained passionately.
Not listening to her, Liz switched over to ‘The Morning Show'.
“The police is still asking for your help in the murder case of Norman Kent,” the show's host announced. “Here is a picture of the victim before his cruel death.”
The picture appeared and Liz' eyes widened in shock. “Oh my God,” she breathed, horrified.
Karen paled. “Oh goodness. I didn't know it was your Norman they were talking about.”
“But why... what... how...”
Christopher entered. “Hey, I'm back.”
“That will be my cue to leave,” Karen blurted.
“No Karen, please wait...” the artist started, but she just walked past him and left the house.
Still wide-eyed, Liz turned to her brother. “Norman is dead.”
“I know,” he nodded. “I have to tell you something... concerning Norman.”
Sara opened the door to her apartment and was immediately greeted by the meowing Tugger. She took him into her arms and stroked his head, between his pointy ears. “It's alright, my sweet. It took a bit longer than I thought it would.” She kicked the door shut with her foot and sat down on the couch. “I'm telling you, my Tugger-Baby, Nicolette Valmy is one pompous bitch. Imagine that, she really intended to tell me how to take her pictures, even though I'm the specialist.”
Sara was still stewing because of the unfortunate meeting with the figure skater, as someone clattered past her apartment door. The racket was followed by the voice of a woman, who called out, ”Taylor! Wait for me!”
Her heart skipped a beat after she heard the name and she also found that the voice sounded kind of familiar. “Taylor? Could it be? Could it really be that Taylor is here?” Sara jumped off the couch, hurried to the door and ripped it open. Unfortunately, all she could see was an empty staircase. Hanging her head, she closed the door again. “Well, I guess that was wishful thinking. Besides, why would Taylor be in Beijing of all places.”
She sat back down on the couch, poking out her lower lip. “What will I do with the rest of my day? Maybe I could go and do some sightseeing.” Sara pondered that idea. “Yep. That's exactly what I will do.” Her eyes fell on her tomcat. “As for you my sweet, I think that nice Chinese lady downstairs will like to look after you and spoil you rotten.” She also grabbed her camera on the way out. “Maybe I can take some pretty pictures.”
“Would you please wait for me?” Michiru called out once more, hurrying after Taylor. “Why are you in such a hurry? The sights won't run away.”
“I just wanted to be gone as quickly as possible before this stupid Nicolette wants to chat with me again,” the teenager grumbled darkly. “Just the way she says my name in that horrible French accent she has, makes my toe nails roll back.”
“I know. She seems to be quite confident about herself, and she is good.”
Taylor scowled. “Be that as it may, but that's no reason to brag and show off every chance she gets. I mean, I am not running around trumpeting about: Hooray, I can jump the triple touloup.”
Michiru's eyebrows rose in astonishment. “Can you do that?”
Embarrassed, Taylor rubbed the nape of her neck. “That was just an example”
“Did you ever try it?”
“And? Did it work?”
“One failure, one success.”
Michiru smirked. “Well, I guess now I know what we will practice tomorrow.”
Taylor rolled her eyes and mumbled, “If only I wouldn't have said anything. I'm going to make a fool out of myself.”
The other woman's smirk turned into a big grin. Deciding to let the girl off the hook, she asked, “Say, have you called your family yet?”
Taylor hit herself on the forehead. “I totally forgot about that. I will do that right away as soon as we are back from sightseeing.”
Elizabeth was still looking at her brother, waiting. “What do you have to tell me about Norman?”
He sat down next to her on the couch. “I think he was involved in some criminal stuff and that's why he was murdered.”
“Involved in what?”
Chris shrugged his shoulders. “I don't have a clue. The more I think about it, the clearer it becomes but it makes no sense.”
Liz frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Remember, I told you about the cut up newspapers and magazines I found in the pool house.”
“Maybe he was creating letters with those to threaten somebody. Besides that, I caught bits and pieces of one weird phone conversation. And he was the one, who stole Samantha's medallion.”
As the brunette heard that, she turned around, regarding Chris expectantly.
“Anyway,” the blonde artist continued, “When I wanted to confront him about it, he kicked me aside and ran away.”
Liz held her temples. All that new information made her head ache. “Where is Sam's medallion now?” She hoped that they would at least be able to solve that matter and give the piece of jewelry back to her, because she knew how important it was to Sam.
“He took it with him,” Chris replied. Looking at Sam's crestfallen expression, he apologized, “I really am sorry, Sam.”
She lowered her head as the tears welled up in her blue eyes.
Tenderly, Liz stroked her long, dark hair that fell in gentle waves over her back. “We will get it back somehow, Sam. I promise.”
“I was at the police station,” Christopher said. “They told me that he didn't have anything with him.”
Sam broke down into harsh sobs.
Liz lowered herself to the carpet next to her to pull her into her arms and console the distraught woman. “Shhh, Sam. Everything is going to be alright.”
“NO,” she sobbed, wiping at the relentlessly flowing tears that rolled down her cheeks. “I will never get my medallion back... I lost it forever.”
Alexander lay on the bed in his room, studying the necklace he had taken off Norman's body. He held the necklace up in front of him and regarded the pendant, scrutinizing it. “What is so special about this thing that Mom wanted to have it so badly?”
Alex pressed on the tiny button that sat on the top rim. The lid opened instantly, a melody sounded and the ornate inscription was revealed. “Hmm. ‘For My Beautiful Angel Kayla. In Love, J.' Hmm. Kayla... Kayla... I think I have heard that name before. But where? And who is ‘J'? Maybe I should do some investigations myself to get to the bottom of this.”
Jack had invited Victoria to have lunch with him. The two of them were sitting in a small, cozy restaurant, and of course, she didn't miss a chance to flirt with him, shamelessly.
While they were waiting for their ordered food, he was staring off into space. He jerked in surprise as he suddenly felt the soft touch of her hand on his own, bringing him out of his musings.
“Jack? What's wrong with you?” she inquired gently. “I am under the impression that you are far far away and not at all here with me.”
He felt bad. She didn't deserve to be treated like that because all she had done was being very nice to him. “I... I really am sorry about that,” he apologized. “Maybe we should have postponed our lunch to another time. I think I'm not good company right now.”
“I'm happy that you invited me,” Vicky responded, sipping from her wine glass.
“Really?” He found that hard to believe.
“Yes,” she insisted. “Do you know why?”
Jack shook his head. He couldn't come up with one thing that would make anybody enjoy being with him right now.
“Because it gives me the chance to cheer you up,” she explained and a happy smile curled around the corner of her lips.
For the first time that day, he really looked at her and it occurred to him just how beautiful she was. It was a shame that she was not modeling anymore. “I really don't know why you would want to do that,” he muttered.
Sighing, Victoria set down her glass and looked deeply into his eyes, thinking how much she would like to get lost in them. ”Jack, I am your friend. If you are feeling bad then I want to help you.” She sounded very sincere. “Right now, I can see how down you are. So, please, tell me. What's going on?”
Jack hesitated until he admitted, “I don't think I want to talk about it.”
She nodded, knowingly. “Ahh... it is about a woman then.” She smiled as she saw the perplexed expression on his face.
“If a man is so deeply lost in thought then most of the time the reason for that state is a woman,” Vicky pointed out, confident that she had it all figured out. “And now you can tell me the rest,” she added, matter-of-factly. “I promise I won't tell a soul.”
Jack ran a hand through his dark blonde hair and sighed. Fixing his blue eyes on her, he gave in. “Alright. Probably, you are right and I will feel better once I unburdened my heart.”
Vicky reached over and patted his other hand that was still resting on the table. “Trust me, Jack. All I want is to be there for you.”
“Okay,” he began. “I had thought that I had finally found the love of my life. Everything was just perfect and I asked her to marry me. But she... she...” His voice broke as a wave of sadness swept through his body and he needed a moment to get his composure back. Then he continued, “She declined. Obviously, she didn't feel the same for me as I did for her.”
“Oh Jack. I really am sorry to hear that.” She squeezed his hand tenderly.
“Yes, I am too,” he responded, fighting to keep his emotions from showing. He didn't want to break down in front of her. “For me it was true love. I already felt that the first time I lay my eyes upon her. In the beginning it was as if we would never find together... but then it happened... in Paris. Everything was so wonderful. I felt so close to her. I never thought I would feel so strongly for another person.” He sighed again, heavily. “But it wasn't meant to be... the eternal curse of my life, or so it seems to me. All my relationships are doomed and slowly I'm getting the impression that it is all my fault. I must be doing something wrong.”
Vicky shook her head. “Oh no, Jack. Don't even think that. I believe you just have not met the right woman yet.”
“Yeah, that could be it,” he agreed. Then he mentioned with a small grin, ”I wonder where the right woman is hiding? I'm closer to forty than to thirty so it's about time she comes out of hiding.”
Victoria leaned forward. Staring deeply into his eyes, she breathed. “Maybe you already saw her, but you just didn't notice that she was right in front of you the whole time.”
Taylor stood in front of a huge glass box and studied the golden statue of a Buddha. She turned to Michiru. “You know, he looks as if he smoked some happy herbs and he seems to be a lot overweight and people really say that he founded a world religion?”
“That's right,” her coach confirmed. “Come on. There is even more to see over there and I believe you will like that much better.” Michiru snatched the sleeve of Taylor's T-shirt and dragged the girl with her.
Sara entered the museum and almost immediately she pulled out her camera, shooting one picture after another. Searching for a new motive her camera found... Taylor. Sara froze for a moment. “No, that can't be,” she whispered to herself. Lowering the camera she used her own eyes to look at the place where she thought she had seen the girl. But there was nobody in front of the glass box that contained a Buddha statue. Sara shook her head. “Now I have hallucinations to join my nightmares. Great. I think I'm slowly going crazy.”
Michiru tapped Taylor on the shoulder. “Do you think you could let go of your camcorder for a little while so that I can show you something?” the Asian woman asked.
“No. I have to tape everything for my family.”
Michiru chuckled. “Are you planning to make this a documentation movie?”
“Just one more moment,” Taylor said, highly concentrating on what she was doing.
“I really wanted to show you some nice ancient armor,” Michiru sing-songed, hoping that the teenager would finally come with her.
“Yes, one more second,” came the reply and Taylor panned the camcorder once more through the whole room. Suddenly there was... Sara. The girl panned back but she couldn't find her anymore.
“Taylor, come on.” Michiru said.
“Okay.” Then she thought to herself. ‘I guess that was just an imagination. What would Sara do in Beijing of all places anyway?' Shaking her head, she followed her coach and soon forgot all about Sara as she saw the neat armor.
Greatly frustrated, Alexander lay on the bed in his room. He had tried to gather information about the medallion and now had reached the end of his possibilities without any trace of success. “Fucking shit!” he cussed and hit the cover with his fist. “Can it be really that hard to find out where this thing is from? What is its connection between Mom and Norman Kent? All this brooding is driving me crazy. I think I need a little distraction.” A nasty smile appeared on his features as a thought came to him. “I think I should give Dani a call.” Chuckling, he took the phone and dialed the number.
At Jack's beach house the phone rang.
Elias picked up. “Hello?... hang on a second, please.” He gave the receiver to Danielle. “It's for you.”
“Hello?” she asked hesitatingly.
“Hey Babe! It's me, Greg!”
“Uh... hi Greg.” She glanced at Elias and could see how his expression darkened. “What's up?”
“Well, I thought we could get together this evening to make up for the time we missed. I so long for you... for your soft body... for your tender lips... and your hot kisses...”
“No Greg, I can't,” she interrupted him firmly.
At the other end of the line Alex's eyes widened in astonishment. How dare she turn him down? Trying to keep his voice even and free from anger about the rejection he felt, he responded, “You already have other plans? That's okay. How about tomorrow?”
Grasping for straws, Alex tried one more time. “Okay... uh... what about sometime next week?”
“NO!” she nearly shouted. “Never again! I don't ever want to see you again!” She hung up and had to take a couple of deep breaths to calm herself. Danielle was shaking.
Elias placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled at her. “That was the right decision. I am so proud of you.”
She felt very proud of herself too and returned the smile. For the first time, she had finally done something right.
Disbelieving, Alexander stared at the phone in his hands. “Just what is wrong with these damn women lately? First Liz and now Dani too. Is there something wrong with me?” Not bothering to ponder his own thought, he rose and went to his wardrobe, looking for something he could wear tonight when he would go ‘club browsing'. “So what. They don't want me... their loss. I don't care. I'll go out and find me a sexy babe for the night.”
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Taylor and Michiru were standing in the ice hall, watching Nicolette Valmy, who skated on the ice. They were waiting that the French girl would be done with her training session and clear the space for Taylor.
The teenager was quaking with barely restrained anger. Every move Nicolette made, was followed by a challenging gaze in Taylor's direction.
“Stop grinding your teeth or else you won't have any,” Michiru remarked.
“That bimbo is so getting on my nerves!” Taylor growled in answer and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
Michiru drew an arm around the girl's small shoulders. “What did I tell you about uncontrolled emotions?”
Rolling her eyes, Taylor repeated the words her coach had taught her, “Take deep breaths and keep your inner calm.”
Finally, Nicolette's coach waved her protégée off the ice.
“Now you can show what you are capable of,” Michiru encouraged Taylor. She pulled out a CD and put it in the stereo. “You make the show and I make sure that you have the right music.”
Taylor stepped on the ice and took her stance.
Michiru pressed the play button and walked a few steps closer to the ice so that she could see her student better.
The first sounds of ‘Sound Of The Underground' by ‘Girls Aloud' rang out and Taylor looked at her coach. She was very surprised that she had picked such a fast-paced song for her. It was also a song that she loved.
Michiru just grinned and waggled her eyebrows.
An answering grin spread across the teenager's features and soon she lost herself in a whirl of movements on the ice.
Nicolette's jaw nearly hit the floor and her coach's eyes bulged as they saw how Taylor went through a complicated fourfold-triple jump combination without problems and slid across the ice with so much energy.
Michiru's eyes were sparkling with happiness. “I knew it. You can do everything, Taylor. You just need the right motivation and the right music.”
Taylor got ready for another jump and landed safely.
Sara entered the hall. “Wow, sounds as if one big party is going on here.” Her eyes fell on the figure that whirled over the ice. “Hmm. I wonder who that is.” She took a few steps closer.
Nicolette and her coach could do nothing else but stare in the face of Taylor's daring moves.
Sara had reached the boards and leaned over them. Now she recognized that it was Taylor. “Oh my God. So, I didn't have hallucinations after all. She is here. Taylor is indeed in Beijing,” she muttered under her breath, a mixture of emotions coursing through her body.
The teenager did another fourfold jump and Nicolette stomped red-faced out of the hall, followed closely by her coach.
Sara smirked as she saw that. “Yes, Nicolette. I think you can pack your things and leave. You don't stand a chance. But, what am I supposed to do now? Should I go over and talk with Taylor or should I better go and pretend that I didn't see her?”
Taylor finished her show with a phenomenal pirouette.
Michiru applauded, completely enraptured and Taylor stalked broadly grinning off the ice.
Sara was still contemplating about what to do. “I want us to be friends again and from the phone call I know that Taylor wants it too. I guess now it is on me to take the first step.” She took a deep breath and made her decision. “Alright then. This is it. No turning back or running away.”
Soft music for relaxation sounded in the background, while Liz was sleeping on the couch. Even though she was feeling better, she still needed plenty of rest to recover all her strength.
Sam sat in an nearby armchair, holding a drawing pad on her knees and a pencil in her hand. From time to time she glanced at the slumbering blonde before she turned back, concentrating on her drawings.
Christopher sat in the other armchair, the floor around him covered with crumpled sheets of paper. Once more he ripped a sheet off his pad, crumpled it up and let it drop. Sighing, he placed his drawing tools on the table and rose, stretching his cramped back muscles. “I need a break. Who would have thought that it would be so damn difficult to find 2 characters for an animated movie about an unusual friendship? I have one character and now I need a fitting opposite. But, nothing will come to me. I just don't have any idea. If only Taylor would finally call. I could ask her.” He rubbed his eyes and then ran a hand through his long blonde hair in frustration. “Hey Sam. Would you like a Pepsi too?”
Samantha looked up from her work and nodded.
Chris went into the kitchen.
The tall brunette rose from her seat, sat down in Christopher's place, took his pad and started drawing.
When he returned, the artist was a bit surprised to see Sam in his chair and with his drawing pad, but he didn't say anything. He wanted to see what she was doing.
Grabbing Samantha's pad, Chris leaned back and studied her drawings. ‘Wow. She is great,' he praised her skills and went over the different sheets. There were some that showed beautiful vegetation of the jungle... several animals... Shakira, her panther... a tree house... the skyline of Los Angeles, viewed from a landing plane... Taylor engrossed in a Playstation game... Tasilo with his favorite ball... an Asian woman doing meditations and at last a picture of Liz, who was sleeping on the couch. Sam had drawn every little detail and the play of light and shades on the blonde's face made it seem as if the drawing would come alive. Below the picture she had written, ‘My Sweet Angel'.
‘Awww, that is so cute,' the artist thought to himself. He was interrupted as Sam came walking shyly towards him to give him back his drawing pad.
Next to the fox that Chris had drawn, Samantha had added a huge black panther that had placed its paw around the smaller animal. She pointed at the drawing and said, “Friends.” Then she looked at him, full of expectation.
Joyfully, Michiru pulled Taylor into a hug and pressed a little kiss on her forehead. “That was absolutely breathtaking!” she exclaimed, still amazed about the girl's abilities. “I knew you could do it.”
Taylor grinned. “You liked it?”
“It was fantastic,” the coach confirmed once more. “And now it is time for you to finally call your family. I bet by now they are sick with worry about you.”
“Yes. I'll sure be in for one big preaching session from my sister.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Taylor uttered, rolling her eyes. “Always the small persons get beaten up.”
Michiru smiled at the teenager's antics. As she looked up, she saw someone coming towards them. Squinting her eyes, she thought the person looked vaguely familiar. “Oh, I think there is a fan of yours coming towards us. Probably to congratulate you to your fantastic show.”
Expectantly, the girl whipped around and froze. “S-S-Sara?” she stuttered in disbelief.
The young photographer smiled. She really had missed her. “Hi Taylor.”
“What... what... what are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same.”
“I'm here for my special training.”
Sara nodded. By now she had thought as much. “I'm here to take pictures.”
Taylor nodded as well.
An uncomfortable silence fell and so Michiru chimed in, “It looks like you two have a lot to talk about.” The Asian woman left while the girls sat down on an empty bench.
Gathering all her courage, Sara just started to talk about everything that would come to her mind. Soon, they were wrapped up in a conversation and everything was as if they had not been apart at all. “Yesterday I thought I was suffering hallucinations and now today, here you are...“ Sara shook her head and laughed. “You were just fantastic on the ice. So much better than that bitch Nicolette.”
“Oh yeah. She really is a nuisance,” Taylor agreed.
Both of them laughed and then looked at each other.
“I forgave you a long time ago,” Sara admitted all of a sudden.
Taylor was a bit confused. “What?”
“I meant to tell you on the phone but there were only Victoria and Christopher answering.”
The teenager's eyes widened in shock and she repeated, “What?”
“So Vicky got what she aimed for,” Sara stated in a bitter tone.
“You know, I do think there is a lot we have to talk about,” Taylor interrupted her quickly, intending to get to the bottom of what the other woman was actually speaking about.
Christopher looked at his drawing pad and the different animals, before his expressive eyes turned back to Samantha. “That's it!” he exclaimed, clearly excited.
Sam beamed at him.
“Just why didn't that come to me? That is the perfect pair.”
Bashfully, she asked, “You really like it?”
The next thing Christopher did was usually cause for fear but Sam was comfortable enough with him to let him do it. He hugged her. Then he said, “Sam, you really are the best thing that happened to this family.”
She turned bright red from all the praise. “Thank you.”
“No, no, no. There is no need to thank me. You are our gift from heaven, especially for Liz. She has needed someone like you for a long time.”
Sam looked at the still slumbering blonde on the couch. “She is the greatest human being that I ever had the honor of getting to know. And I will do anything for her, anything that's possible for me.”
Chris noticed how her eyes sparkled when she said that and he smirked roguishly. “You really like her a lot, don't you?”
Sam looked deeply into his eyes and said seriously, “I would trust my life to her because she means everything to me. I love Liz more than anything else on this world. She is my Angel.”
He was astonished that she could talk about her feelings so openly. Clasping one of her shoulders, he mentioned, “I wish there would be more people like you. When I think about how Alexander treats her, I really am glad that you are always close to Liz.”
When she heard Alexander's name, one of her hands turned into a fist and her face darkened with anger. “That man is not good for Liz.”
Christopher sat back down and sighed, “You can say that out loud.”
She wrinkled her forehead. “I thought I just did?”
He chuckled. “It's just a saying.”
“Oh... okay.” Sam returned to her armchair and went back to her favorite task, which was to guard Liz' sleep.
Taylor and Sara were still wrapped up in their conversation.
“I really am happy that your sister is back and that she also found a great friend and brought her back with her. Also, I'm glad that nothing happened to you and Christopher when the yacht exploded,” Sara said.
Taylor was still amazed that Sara had not heard of that. “You really didn't know about that?”
“No.” Shaking her head, the photographer tried to explain. “Daddy kept it a secret from me. Lately, he's been very overprotective and concerned about me. I mean, he always has been like that but when I was home it became unbearable.”
“I'm sorry that you had a fight with him because of your buddy Ray.”
“Actually, for the moment Daddy is the least of my problems. I don't understand what Vicky was doing, answering the phone at your house?”
Taylor wrinkled her forehead, thinking about it. “I also don't have any explanation. Especially because Chris made it clear to her and everybody else that he only...” She stopped, not knowing if she could say it or if it would hurt Sara.
The other woman just smiled. “Hey, I really am over your brother and I know that he belongs with Karen.”
Taylor released a relieved breath. “I'm glad to hear that. But, Karen doesn't want to have anything to do with him. She is still too hurt.”
Sara nodded. “I can absolutely understand that. Believe me though, they will find to each other again... probably sooner than you think.”
The teenager smiled about Sara's reaction. She really seemed to be over the whole mess and wasn't bearing anybody a grudge. “I have to admit that even though I don't like it but I do have to be grateful to our enemy Vicky... for saving your life.”
Sara pricked up her ears and asked, greatly confused, “I was saved by Vicky? From what?”
Taylor hesitated and stammered, “Well... uh... you know... she held you back... from committing suicide...”
“I think I'm getting sick,” Sara muttered. Furious, she jumped off the bench and clenched her hands. “That lying bitch tried to shoot me with Alexander's revolver while I was sleeping!”
Shocked, Taylor jumped off the bench too. “Is that true?”
“Yes! But I woke up, we fought for the weapon and a bullet came loose.” Sara buried her face in her palms.
Taylor's expression darkened. “Vicky told everyone, who would listen, how brave and heroic she saved you from certain death.”
Her legs unable to hold her anymore, Sara fell back down on the bench, horrified. “Now everything is so much clearer. Now I know why Daddy was acting so strange towards me. Poor Daddy.”
Taylor exhaled sharply. That turn of events had her emotions in an uproar. “I need to make an urgent phone call.”
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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