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Sara was still staring in disbelief at Michiru. “I can't believe it, Ms. Kasawaki. Billy... Billy Chambers is Sakura's father? I thought he is gay?!”
Not very convincing, Michiru tried to explain, “He is. Billy is the most perfect father.”
Sara pricked up her ears. “I agree, but is he also the biological father? Please, Ms. Kasawaki, Sakura cannot grow up with such a lie.” Her eyes began to fill with tears. “The father is just as important for a kid as is the mother. I know it is hard and the situation is not easy. Please, believe me, it's the only right way. You have to put the true father on the papers or else you will regret it one day.”
Michiru sighed and looked after her baby. “The true father doesn't know that he even has a daughter,” she said quietly.
“But you know it and Billy does too, doesn't he? Do you really want that the first thing your daughter gets from you is such a tremendous lie about her origin?”
Tears were now running down Michiru's cheeks. “No, of course not. But he hurt me so bad and betrayed me. I can't ever forgive him for that!” Then she wiped the tears away and declared, “Alright, I will put the right name on the papers for Sakura, but I won't inform the father.”
“But Ms. Kasawaki, the father has a right to...”
Their discussion was interrupted when Taylor returned from the bathroom. “Okay, Sara, I think we had better go. By now, the others are probably waiting for us with dinner.”
Sara looked urgently at Michiru, but the Asian woman stubbornly kept her silence.
At the door they said goodbye and Michiru turned to Taylor. “The US championships will be in the beginning of summer. You will have to make it among the top 10 to get a ticket for the Olympic Games. So, starting tomorrow, we will have more training every day, understood?”
Taylor sighed. “Yes, Ma'am.”
“Billy and I can do babysitting while you are busy,” Sara offered. “I don't have anything else to do anyway.”
Liz and Sam sat together on the couch and enjoyed their closeness.
Chris was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable and out of place in a nearby armchair.
The door bell rang.
The three of them jerked and had a few worst case scenarios running through their heads.
Liz was the first that hurried to the entrance door, muttering, “I hope Taylor and Sara didn't have an accident... I always tell her to drive carefully...”
Chris chimed in, “Maybe Taylor should have gone into car racing instead of figure skating.”
Her eyes flashed at him dangerously. “That isn't funny.” Then she tore the door open and found a broadly grinning Karen outside.
Beaming happily, Chris pulled his wife into the house and wrapped her up in a bear hug. He lifted her and whirled her around. “My love, I have missed you so horribly.”
“Hey, hey, let me down,” Karen laughed, “before I grow dizzy.”
Chris set her down and covered her face in kisses, while she was trying to free herself to say something. “I have news... better to say, I have wonderful news and they'll concern especially you, my lovely husband.”
“Okay, tell me,” he said, impatiently. “What is it? Did we win something?”
“Uh... kinda,” Karen replied, still grinning. Then she took his hands into hers, took a deep breath and blurted, “Chris, I'm pregnant.”
His legs began to wobble and Liz had to support him.
Now Sam also had to help supporting him so that he wouldn't just fall over.
“Is this... is this a dream?” he gasped.
“No, it's the whole truth,” Karen answered.
“We will be parents... wow... twins...” Chris cupped his wife's face and kissed her. “That's great. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Liz and Samantha congratulated as Taylor and Sara entered. Immediately, they were hugged too and pulled into the happy mood that was floating through the house.
Chris was beside himself with happiness. “Twins! We will have twins!”
Sara freed herself roughly from the group hug and snapped, “Is the whole damn world pregnant nowadays?” Seeing the shocked eyes that were turned on her, she added, “Sorry... I didn't mean it like that... I need some fresh air... I'll be in the garden.”
The others nodded and gazed with great interest at the ultrasound picture that Karen had brought. She was just telling them what Dr. Lewis had explained to her earlier as a loud scream rang out.
Taylor's eyes widened. “That was Sara!” She was the first that discovered why Sara had screamed. “Oh no!” Taylor exclaimed shocked. “Mom's beautiful roses!”
The others joined them and also saw the horrible destruction. “My... M-my fav-favorite roses... all of them... dug out...” Liz stammered.
“Tasilo... you little shit!” Chris yelled.
Wagging his tail, the German shepherd stood in front of his work.
“Don't you see?” Sam asked and pointed at the hole in the ground. “There is a huge bone!”
Christopher pulled the bone from the hole.
“Oh my God, please don't tell me it's a...” Liz didn't dare to voice the rest of the horrible thought that was running through her mind.
He examined it and then calmed down the others. “It is not a human bone.”
Karen held a hand to her mouth. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. I have studied art and had to take a couple classes in anatomy. This is definitely not from a human.”
“What's it then?” Taylor asked curiously. “It's pretty big.”
“I'll go and call the police anyway,” Elizabeth said. “They should be able to tell us where this is from.”
Slowly, they all had recovered from the first shock and Samantha began to plant the roses in another place of the garden.
Chris looked at the hole and the crevice that ran through the back area of the garden. “Mhh. I guess the earthquake somehow brought the bone from deep down to the surface.”
Sara wiped her face. “And here I thought...”
“What?” Taylor interrupted her. “That we have buried a corpse under the rose bushes?”
Sara shrugged her shoulders and grinned. “Hey, I don't know all the weird customs that you Americans have.”
Taylor snorted and shook her head.
***** A FEW DAYS LATER *****
Elizabeth lay with her head on Samantha's lap and was reading a thriller of her favorite author, while the brunette dreamily ran her fingers through the soft, short blonde hair.
Sara came downstairs and the doorbell rang. Seeing the peacefully cuddling pair on the couch, she said, “Stay where you are, I'll open the door.” She rolled her eyes when she didn't get an answer and opened the door, a bit irritated.
A young man in blue jeans and a checkered, short-sleeved shirt stood in front of it. “Hello,” he greeted bashfully and nervously ran a hand through his short dark hair. “My name is Dorian Turunen.”
Sara nodded. “Hi, I'm Sara Jones. How can I help you?”
“I'm here for the dig.”
Sara couldn't help but smile about his shy conduct. “Oh yeah, the museum said they would send somebody to look at what we found in the garden. Please, come in. Who would have thought that there is a dinosaur in the garden.”
“Well, to tell you the truth it's nothing special for California... it's just that this type is unusual and extra-ordinary for this latitude.”
Sara showed him the way to the garden.
During that, they had to pass by Samantha and Elizabeth and Dorian was astonished.
“Just ignore them,” Sara told him. “They are on cloud nine, but I'll make sure to introduce you later. There are only nice people living here.”
They had reached the garden and Sara inquired curiously, “What will you be doing now?”
Dorian scanned his surroundings and then answered with sparkling eyes, “First, I will stake out the area and then I will dig out the parts and categorize them.”
“Oh. What is the name for your usual job?”
Dorian set up his dig equipment. “Actually, I'm still a student for archeology. I'm going to write about this dig. It will be my final project as student.”
“Well, good luck then. I gotta go to my job as godmother. If you need something... uh... go inside and dare to disturb the two lovebirds.”
Dorian smiled. “Thanks.”
Sara returned the smile. ‘What a nice guy.'
Juan took the keys from his landlord's hands and entered his new apartment for the first time. “Alright, I'm back in L.A. and in my own 4 walls. Oh Billy, I so can understand why you were so angry on the phone. My feelings for you are burning me up from inside and I need to tell you. I'm so attracted to you, my strong and emotional man. You raise thoughts and feelings in me that I never had for anybody else. Then, this one brave kiss turned my whole life upside down. I had the feeling that I had made the right choice, but I didn't want to admit it... But, not even the tour could distract me. I really don't care what my record label or anybody else will think about my coming out. Too bad that the movie project ‘Lords of the Darkness' is put on hold. I hope they will soon find a movie company that can continue with the film. A lot has changed since the main part of the Parker Studios has been destroyed due to the earthquake... Anyway, I will win Billy's heart. I will prove to him that I am not as bad as I acted. I think it's best if I go to him right away.”
Richard stood in the middle of the riding hall and gave instructions to his student. “Press a little bit more with your thighs... don't use the crop too much... that's not going to make the horse understand you better... concentrate...”
Victoria stopped her horse right in front of Richard and slid from its back. “It's of no use,” she nagged. “I just can't concentrate on the riding lesson.”
Richard stroked the muzzle of the nervous horse. “I have noticed that you have problems with that for some time now. Whatever the problem is, you have to solve it because your distracted behavior is confusing the horse.”
Vicky took off her riding cap and told him her sorrow. “It's because of the baby.”
“Oh, I understand. If you are not feeling well we can stop with the lessons till after the baby was born.”
“Now you are sounding as solicitous as Jack.” She ruffled her hair. “Constantly he asks me how I'm feeling and wants to go with me to the doctor. Can you imagine that, Richard? He already set up a bank account for the child trust fund.”
“So? I think that's great of him.”
“He also wants to go to pregnancy gymnastics with me!”
Richard still didn't know what exactly it was she wanted to tell him. “He is looking forward to the birth and it seems he is very happy about the baby.”
“He is driving me crazy! I want him to be like he was before. So passionate.” Victoria held a hand to her forehead. “I am far too young to be a mother. I'm asking you, how will that look in my resume? And what about my beautiful figure? Just about now I wanted to start my career!”
Richard's face didn't betray any emotion, even though she was really getting on his nerves. “You should have thought of all this before you made a baby.”
She glared at him. “That's it exactly.”
“What?” Now he was greatly confused.
“I AM NOT PREGNANT!” she yelled, desperately.
Richard was shocked. “What did you just say?”
Victoria rubbed her forehead with four fingers. “Sara forced me into this situation. I had to come up with something at the Costume Ball to keep Jack and the only thing I could think of was...”
“To lie about a baby?”
“Yes. And now I'm trying every day to get pregnant. I do a test every day too but... nothing. Time is beginning to run out and Jack might get suspicious.”
Richard held his head. “You tear them apart and then you think a pregnancy is going to rescue your relationship with Jack?”
“Of course,” she declared confidently. “I know that Jack loves me more. Sara was just a little adventure and the child of our love will prove that.”
Richard had no words, he was too shocked.
Victoria looked at her watch. “It's late. I have to go because I'm going to meet my love.” She was about to leave the hall but turned back to Richard once more. “What I just told you will not leave this room or you are going to regret it.”
Michiru strapped her sleeping daughter into her baby seat and said, “Have a great day, my sweet. Mommy's needs to go working.”
“Yeah, and poor Taylor will get chased around by your Mommy,” Taylor added.
Billy laughed. “Go finally you two. Sara and I will take care of the little one. Nothing will happen to her and you'll see her again soon.”
Sara grinned and shook her head. “They do that every day.”
They all made their way downstairs to the entrance door of the apartment building. After having said goodbye for three more times, Sara and Billy were alone with Sakura.
“Hmmm. Where could we go today?” Billy asked.
“I've been thinking about the stables, where Richard works.”
“Good. I'll go and get the car.” But before he could do that, he suddenly found himself face to face with Juan, who had appeared in front of him out of nowhere. “Billy,” he greeted him quietly.
The other man was surprised. “You actually dare to show up here?”
“I think, I'll leave you two alone. You need to talk,” Sara whispered into Billy's ear.
“There is no need for that.” Billy argued.
“You need to talk with each other and get everything that is bothering you out of the way. I'll take a cab. See you later, bye.”
Billy was still flabbergasted and could only stare at Juan.
“I couldn't get our kiss out of my mind... I couldn't get you out of my mind,” the singer confessed in a small voice.
“This realization comes a bit late.”
“I know and I have no excuse for my horrible behavior towards you.”
Billy nodded. “That's right.”
“Please, Billy, let me try and explain. After that you can judge me.”
Billy didn't answer.
“Can we please go somewhere where we can talk it out?” Juan asked, but it sounded more like a plea.
One look into his deer-brown eyes was enough and Billy relented. “There is a small café at the corner of the street,” he said and pointed in the direction. “We can talk there.”
Juan nodded. “Thank you, Billy. That really means a lot to me.”
It was later that day.
Michiru went to the boards to observe Taylor, who was warming up on the ice. The hall was almost empty. There was just one onlooker.
Aggravated, Taylor slid over to Michiru. “This constant flashing is driving me crazy. How many more pictures does this guy want to take?”
“Calm down, Taylor. He is sitting far away in the last row, in the last dark corner. He probably is just a very shy fan, who takes some pictures for a photo book.”
“I really wish this hall wouldn't be a public one,” the teenager grumbled.
Michiru smiled. “Come on. If you are already bothered by one person, what's going to happen during the championship and the Olympic Games where there will be hundreds of them?”
Taylor rolled her eyes and sighed but went back on the ice and decided to just ignore the onlooker.
Michiru played the music for the girl's free program and Taylor skated a few parts of it, while her coach scrutinized her technique and expression.
The stranger kept sitting in the last row, never taking his eyes off the skating girl. He raised the camera once more and whispered in a slightly trembling voice, “Finally... there is my little one... my sweet little ice princess... oh yes, I will always be close to you, my sweetheart... nothing can keep me away...”
Sara got out of the cab, took the baby seat with the still sleeping Sakura and went to the stables, searching for Richard. She finally found him in one of the horse boxes. Smiling, she greeted him, “Hello Ray.”
He turned around and set the pitchfork aside. “Hello right back...” His gaze fell on the sleeping baby. “I didn't know that you are a mother now. When did that happen?”
She sat down on a hay ball and remarked, “Fun cracker. This is my goddaughter Sakura.”
Richard sat down beside her. “Are you here to show me the baby?”
Sara hesitated a bit until she admitted, “Not only. In fact, I wanted to apologize for being so rude on that evening... after the Costume Ball.”
“You were confused,” he stated and thought about the talk he had with Victoria.
“I was... I am more than confused, but you are my best friend and I wasn't exactly nice to you.”
“Ah, don't think about it anymore. I already forgot about it. I wanna talk with you about something else. You liked him a lot... this Jack guy, I mean.”
Sara leaned forward and looked deeply into Richard's eyes. “I love this Jack guy.”
Richard couldn't help but roll his eyes. “This guy does not deserve you at all. You saw how he raced back to Vicky. I wouldn't say that shows his big love for you.”
“It's complicated,” she responded. “He shows responsibility for his unborn child. He wants it to grow up in a family where everything is right.”
Richard shook his head. “Still, you deserve someone better. A man, who is there for you, no matter what.”
“Oh, and whom do I deserve, Ray?” she asked, roguishly.
He blushed a bright red as he looked into her green eyes. ‘Shall I tell her the truth? But then she'll be running back to this guy and be unapproachable for me once more...'
Sara pulled him back from his thoughts as she grabbed his shoulders and shook him gently. “Hey, Ray. Are you dreaming with open eyes?”
“What have you been thinking about?”
He ran a hand through her hair. “I know what would be good for you.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, starting to feel a bit uncomfortable.
“You don't have to stutter. We are best friends and we know everything about the other. So talk with me. You know that you can tell me anything that burdens you.”
“Friends... yes... we are friends,” Richard said.
Sara nodded. “That's right.”
“It wasn't anything important,” he answered, a bit dejected. “Do you think we can go out sometime... just for fun?”
“Sure,” she replied. “I gotta go now before Ms. Kasawaki thinks I kidnapped Sakura. Could you please call me a cab?”
“Nonsense. I'll drive you back. I'm done with work for today anyway.”
Sara smiled happily. “Thanks.”
Richard went to get the car. Meanwhile his mind was whirling. ‘I can not reveal my feelings to her. She will never feel the same for me and I don't want to mess up our friendship.'
Exhausted, Taylor closed the door behind her and threw her bag into the next corner. She stretched and had a look around. “Hmm. Looks like I'm all alone. I need a break and something to drink, my throat is so dry.” On the way to the fridge, she muttered some more to herself. “Oww, damn it, I can feel every muscle in my body.” She opened the fridge's door and looked for her sports drink. After she had found what she had been looking for, she took a big swallow. Then she closed the door and jumped in fright, spraying the contents of her mouth on the shirt of the person opposite her. “Who are you?” she demanded and wiped her chin where some drops of the drink had fallen. “How did you get in here?”
“So-so-sorry,” Dorian stammered, just as surprised to find someone else in the house. “Sara let me in this morning. I am Dorian Turunen. I'm here for the dinosaur bones you have in the garden.”
“Ooops... uh... I'm real sorry about your shirt, but you scared me with your unexpected appearance. I'm Taylor Stuart.”
“Nice to meet you. I just came to the kitchen to clean some of my tools. For right now so I need a dry shirt.” Not thinking about it, he just pulled the messy shirt over his head and stood there with a bare upper body in front of the girl.
She was greatly uncomfortable and turned around, stuttering, “I... I th-think th-there are so-some shirts from my bro-brother so-somewhere...”
“That's okay. I got some spare clothes with me. Your sister, Liz, allowed me to set up my tent in the back of the garden. I'll live there until my work here is done.”
Taylor was still not looking at him. “Cool.”
“Okay, I'll go back outside. It was really nice meeting you.”
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
The elevator doors opened and as Karen looked up to enter the cabin, she had to grin. “Are you trying to get into the Guiness Book of Records for the longest kissing session?” she asked roguishly and winked.
Very reluctantly, Elizabeth parted with Samantha's velvety lips and adjusted her business suit jacket. “Good morning, Karen. I'm sorry. We shouldn't do this here, because we are at the office and not at home.”
“I didn't mean it like that,” Karen replied.
The three of them went to Elizabeth's office.
“Still, I should concentrate more on work.”
“Liz, enjoy your happiness while you can. You two really deserve it and do not worry about the job. I am still here too.”
Elizabeth shook her head wildly. “Oh no, dear soon-to-be-mommy. I want you to work less. I don't want you to stress and strain yourself.”
“Liz is right, “ Samantha chimed in. “You have to think about your unborn babies."
“Besides,” Samantha continued. “I can help you two. I would really like to do something to support you.”
“That's sweet of you, Sam,“ Elizabeth answered, smiling. “Thank you.”
“This way I can always be with you, just in case another catastrophe happens.”
That comment made all of them think about the earthquake and Karen remembered something. “Have you heard that the Parkers' movie company is ruined?”
“No,” Liz said, wide-eyed.
“Yes. They took ‘Lords of the Darkness' away from them because they can't keep the deadline since their whole production area fell victim to the earthquake.”
“That can't be,” Liz stammered disbelievingly. “Catherine must be devastated. So, did the owners of ‘Lord of the Darkness' already ask another movie company to finish the project?”
Karen shook her head. “No and that's just it. Everybody is waiting for them to make a decision and every movie company is hoping that they will get it.”
“Well, I don't think we need to wait for a call,” Elizabeth sighed.
Karen was just about to say something when the phone on the blonde's desk rang. All three women froze.
“Oh my God...” Karen whispered.
“A sign of fate,” Samantha muttered.
“Pick up, Liz,” Karen urged, greatly excited.
Liz cleared her throat and picked up with trembling fingers. “'Stuart Films', Elizabeth Stuart speaking. How may I help you?”
Samantha and Karen were standing next to her, trying to hear what was being said on the other end of the line.
“Yes... I understand... I'll be looking forward to the meeting... yes, we are ready... of course... until this afternoon. Thank you, Sir. Bye.” Elizabeth hung up and stared off into space.
“What? What, what, what, what?” Karen was dying to know what had happened.
“Please, Liz, say something.” Samantha begged.
Elizabeth looked at them. “We did it.”
A small smile began to form. “We really are out of the worst.”
By now Liz' smile had turned into a fully grown grin. “They asked us, if we wanted to do ‘Lords of the Darkness'.”
“Really?” Karen still couldn't believe it.
“YES!” Elizabeth exclaimed and did a little happy dance behind her desk.
They hugged and then Liz sat down to write a little mail to every employee in the company. “Now, that calls for a party,” Liz added.
“That's right,” Karen grinned. “We can combine that with the party for your upcoming birthday.”
Elizabeth groaned. “Don't you dare. You know that I don't want a party for my birthday.”
Karen and Samantha looked at each other and the blonde grew suspicious. “What are you up to?”
Catherine was beside herself with fury and slammed the receiver down on the cradle. “JUST WHAT IS WRONG WITH THOSE IDIOTS!” she yelled, outraged. “This just can't be true. First they take away ‘Lords of the Darkness' from us and then they give this project... to the Stuarts! Unbelievable!”
Then she looked at Jonathan, who appeared to be indifferent and just gazed out of the window.
“Are you listening to me, Jonathan? Our company is going down but you don't seem interested in it at all. Nothing seems to interest you lately.”
Jonathan was lost in thought. ‘You don't understand anything, Catherine. Right now I can only think about Michiru. My lovely Michiru... if only I knew... she wasn't with somebody else... no way... not my Michiru... but how... I thought she was infertile. That's why we were never careful when we made love. When I saw her that last time she was visibly pregnant... I wonder if the kid is already born... is it a boy or a girl... and most of all, is it mine? My child... created with all the love between Michiru and me?' His thoughts drifted to Kayla and her baby. ‘How could all of this happen?'
Catherine shook him roughly and glared at him darkly. “What are you thinking about?” she demanded.
“Nothing that would be of interest to you.”
“To get back to our company...”
Jonathan grabbed her shoulders. “The Parkers will make it through this rough time like always. Our destroyed movie company can be rebuilt. Let's be glad that nobody got seriously hurt during that earthquake.”
“Of course, but...”
He interrupted her again. “Our insurance will take care of all the financial things. We will not lose anything.”
“That's not what I am talking about,” she snapped.
“Then what is it?”
“Prestige! The prestige of the Parker Studios! This movie is the greatest project in Hollywood right now and we lose it to our arch nemesis... the Stuarts! It makes me so mad, I could just scream the whole time!”
Jonathan wiped his face tiredly. “I'll get you your blood pressure pills.”
Michiru and Taylor returned from their latest training session. They met Sara, who had been babysitting Sakura, at the Stuarts' house.
Michiru dressed her baby and collected the toys that were spread throughout the whole living room.
Sara looked around. “Where is Taylor? Does she not want to say goodbye to her goddaughter?”
“She went to the garden to give Dorian a letter from the museum,” Michiru answered.
“Oh, now he already has his mail delivered to this address.”
Michiru winked. “You have too, don't you?”
“That's something different. I am a constant guest here... until I know what I want to do and where I want to go,” Sara explained.
“You don't like making decisions, huh?”
“Well, the truth is that I don't want to live alone. Besides, all of them are great people and I like living with them. Okay, let me get Taylor before you leave with Sakura.”
Taylor was looking at the constantly growing dig site while Dorian explained to her with sparkling eyes how he thought the dinosaur was lying. “Isn't it great,” he gushed. “It seems to be a complete skeleton... nothing is missing.”
“If you say so, I believe you,” the teenager told him.
“It would be the first finding of a complete skeleton here in California.”
“That's awesome,” Sara, who had just entered the garden, chimed in.
Taylor jumped in surprise and slipped on the sandy hill. In the next moment, she found herself next to Dorian in one of the dig holes. She scowled at Sara. “Don't creep up on me like that.”
Sara grinned. “Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt your togetherness.”
“Ha hah, you are so funny.” Taylor climbed up the ladder and Dorian followed her. She brushed some dirt crumbs off her clothes and Dorian wanted to brush off her back but she stepped away from him. “I can do this on my own, Dorian.”
“Wow, he is a real gentleman,” Sara continued. “If you'd rather be continuing undisturbed...”
“There is nothing to be continued undisturbed, because we didn't do anything!” Taylor exclaimed, getting aggravated due to her friend's behavior.
“Of course not...”
“Sara! Stop your silly comments, alright?!”
The photographer though continued to pick on the teenager. “You don't need to keep it a secret from me. I've noticed the glances you two throw at each other.”
“What? That's not true! Dorian, tell her.”
Greatly embarrassed, the archeology student blushed and stared at Taylor.
Sara was still grinning. “Michiru wants to go home with Sakura, so if you...”
“I'm coming.” She was about to leave, as she noticed that the rim of her T-shirt had gotten caught at Dorian's belt buckle.
Sara saw this and said, “I think you two need some more time. Looks like you can't let go of each other. I'll tell Michiru that you are busy.”
“Don't you dare!”
Smirking, Sara turned her back towards them. “Let it happen, Taylor. Don't fight it.”
“Stop it, damn it! Tell Michiru, I'm there in a minute and then you and I will have a talk!”
‘Well, I guess I gotta help them along a little bit and play matchmaker,' Sara thought to herself.
Billy and Juan were sitting on a bench, enjoying the warm sunshine. “I really am happy that you wanted to meet me again,” Juan said.
“I'm happy about that too,” Billy responded, looking at him.
“What I told you yesterday... I really mean it. From now on, I'm going to be honest and open about my feelings towards you. I promise.”
Billy melted as he heard these words, combined with the sexy Spanish accent. “I believe you.”
Their faces drew closer to each other and Juan breathed, “Billy...”
The other man gently placed a hand on the singer's chin and pulled him forward.
Both closed their eyes and opened their lips slightly, embracing in a deep, gentle kiss.
They were interrupted as an old lady walked up to them and pushed them with her cane.
Billy and Juan let go of each other and looked confused at the woman. “May I help you?” Billy asked politely.
“How can two adult men do something like that in public?” she croaked. “You should be ashamed.”
“I don't think it's any of your business,” Billy told her. A bit frightened he looked at Juan, waiting for his reaction.
Juan thought it would be best to let action speak. He wrapped Billy up in a strong embrace and kissed him passionately, lowering him to the bench. After a moment, he let him go, rose with him and hand in hand they walked off, leaving the shocked, old lady behind.
“That was the greatest proof of your love that you could have made me,“ Billy said.
“I have to admit, it took some guts. The thing that scares me the most is that people won't accept me as I am.”
“No Billy, I have to thank you, because you showed me the way.”
The stylist leaned closer to the other man and whispered into his ear, “I can show you many other things.”
Evening had fallen at the Stuart house. Karen, Christopher, Sara and Taylor had gathered in the living room to talk about the plans for Liz' birthday.
Karen turned to Chris and Taylor. “Are you two already done with rehearsing your number?”
Taylor grinned. “Of course. It's going to be awesome. Liz is going to laugh herself silly.”
“Talking about her,” Christopher chimed in, “where...”
“Liz and Sam are still at the office, working late,” Karen explained. “She also has a surprise for you, but I had to promise not to say anything.”
“Too bad,” Taylor said.
Sara elbowed her into the side. “Come on, show a little patience.”
Taylor glared at her and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “I'm still not talking with you!” she growled
Christopher raised his eyebrows in astonishment. “What happened between you two?”
Since Taylor kept her silence, Sara took it upon herself to answer and blurted, “Taylor is in love!”
“Really?” Christopher asked and looked at his little sister.
“I am not!” the teenager insisted.
Sara continued, “She just doesn't want to admit it, because she is so shy.”
Taylor shook her head when Karen looked at her questioningly.
“I think, it's very sweet. Who is the lucky one?”
“Dorian,” Sara responded
“Yeah, that really is one sweet boy.”
“I think so, too. He is very nice.”
Taylor rolled her eyes while Sara and Karen were going on and on about how nice and sweet Dorian was.
“Hang on a second,” Christopher said. “You say this is sweet? My little sister is far too young to think about men.”
Karen looked at him. “Oh, come on, Chris. Taylor is not a little child anymore.”
“Yes, I totally agree with Karen,” Sara replied. “And Dorian is great.”
Karen nodded in confirmation. “Let Taylor have some butterflies in her stomach. Figure skating shouldn't be all in her life. Otherwise, she'll be very lonely one day. She needs to have some fun and meet a nice man.”
“If you think so Karen,” Chris responded, unsure. “You probably are right. I'm still looking at Taylor with the eyes of a big brother, who wants to protect her. During that, I forget that she is growing up to be a fine, young, attractive lady. Still, I'm going outside to have a look at this Dorian guy.”
Karen chuckled. “Do what you want, but you can count on our judgment.
Taylor waved her hands. “HEEELLOOOHOOO... could you please stop talking as if I am not here?! You really are unbelievable!” She rose and declared, “I'll go to my room and enjoy my LONELY life!”
Karen and Sara sighed. “Sometimes love does strange things.”
The only thing illuminating the tiny one-room apartment was an intense red light. The face of the man, who had been present in the ice hall, was cast in darkness.
With a pair of tweezers, he pulled a photo paper from its chemical bath. Slowly, a close-up of Taylor's face appeared on the paper. Carefully, he hung it to the other pictures, on a line that went through the whole room.
He regarded his pictures and wetted his dry lips. “Finally, I am in Los Angeles, very close to you, Taylor. After all these years, I had saved enough money to move from Chicago to you.” His heart was pounding as he opened a drawer on his desk. A lot more pictures and newspaper articles concerning Taylor and her figure skating career were revealed. He pulled out a blank sheet of paper, took a pen and sat down to write.
“Dear Taylor. Today I am writing you a letter, like I do every day, since I found you again. Soon we will be reunited and I will never leave you alone again. This I promise to you, my precious girl. How you have grown...”
He stopped writing for a moment and stared at the pictures. “Today, for the first time, I am writing you openly and honestly. I will see the house where they are holding you, to keep you away from me. I wish though that you would answer my letters. I never ever got an answer from you, just some impersonal signed autographs...”
***** A FEW DAYS LATER – ELIZABETH'S BIRTHDAY *****
Grinning in satisfaction and really looking forward to their evening, Samantha, Karen, Christopher, Taylor, Sara, Michiru holding Sakura, Billy and Juan stood in front of the Karaoke bar. Elizabeth stood among them and whined, “Can somebody please take this scarf off my eyes? I can't take this anymore.”
“Yeah,” Karen said. “Let's free our impatient birthday girl from her tortures.”
“No, I think we should let her suffer a little bit more, “ Christopher demanded, winking.
This mean answer earned Taylor an elbow in the belly. “Hey! I didn't say anything.”
“Oh sorry,” Liz apologized. “I thought Chris was standing beside me. See what you are making me do? Now I hurt my poor little sister.”
Samantha laughed. “Come on guys. Let us show her the surprise before anybody else gets hit.” She loosened the knot and took the scarf off Elizabeth's eyes.
The blonde looked up and saw the glowing letters ‘LUCY CHAN'. “Awesome, my favorite Karaoke bar.”
“That's not all,“ Christopher said. “We set up something for your entertainment.”
Karen waved and bowed in front of the entrance. “Please, come inside and enjoy the show.”
Elizabeth smiled. She had a feeling that she would never forget this particular birthday. “You all are just so sweet.”
The others went inside while Sara held Taylor back. Hesitating a bit, the photographer finally blurted, “Are you still mad at me?”
“Please, don't be, Taylor. I wanted to apologize for trying to force you into a relationship with Dorian. It wasn't right to make it my business.”
Taylor nodded. “Especially, since there wasn't anything going on to make your business, but okay... I'll accept your apology. I just have one question. How did you come up with that horribly stupid idea to play matchmaker?”
“I just... I just want that everybody around me is happy... lately you always came home stressed out and exhausted...”
The teenager patted her shoulder. “Don't you worry. I always am like that in the beginning of a harder training phase. Despite that, I am still happy. It seems to me though that you are suffering. I think you need someone... what about Dorian?”
Sara lifted her hands and shook her head in denial. “NO... it is... Though Dorian is very nice and sweet, but...”
“He is not Jack,” Taylor finished the sentence for her.
“That's right.” Sara sighed. “I thought that if all my friends, everybody around me, is happy then I will automatically be happy too. Guess it didn't work.”
“You have to get over him, because he will not come back. You told me that yourself. Remember?”
“Yes, I know. But how will I get over him?”
Taylor ran a hand through her hair and sighed. “I don't know. Gee, all these problems... see? That's why I stay away from things like that.”
Sara smiled. “Maybe I should do it just like you.”
“You know, I think you need to find yourself a hobby. Now let's go in. I'm sure the others are waiting for us.”
Reluctantly, Richard entered a building at the area of the Parker movie company. After the earthquake the offices had been moved there since it was one of the few undestroyed buildings. “What the hell am I doing here,” he muttered to himself. “Sara is much better off without that pompous L.A. ass...”
He was about to turn around and leave but something was holding him back. “No, I can't go. I would have a bad conscious all of my life. Why did Victoria have to tell me of all people?” Richard sighed. “I am just too honest, but the truth has to be revealed. I am not doing it for Mr. Muscles Jack, but for Sara... who knows... maybe soon she doesn't even want to have this guy anymore.”
He was interrupted as one of the doors opened and Jack stepped out on the corridor.
“Now there is no turning back.” Richard walked over to him and introduced himself. “Hello, Mr. Carpenter. I don't know if you know me, but my name is Richard Thornton.”
Jack shook his hand. “Yes, I remember... Sara told me about you. You are her best friend.” Then he frowned. “Did something bad happen?”
“No, no,” Richard answered. “Not directly.”
“Not directly? What does that mean? And what made you come to me?”
Richard began to stammer and that angered Jack. “Listen fellow, I don't have much time and especially not enough to spend the whole evening with you.”
Richard thought it would be best to leave now and not say anything, as Jack added, “My pregnant fiancée is waiting for me at home, so if you don't have anything important to say, I'd like to go home now.” Jack turned, went to the exit and Richard just stared after him.
Then he ran after him and stopped him at his motorcycle. Richard took a deep breath. “That's what this is about.”
“I don't understand.”
“It's about Victoria's pregnancy.”
Jack was confused. “What do you know about it?”
“Victoria told me something very important that I think you should know. Most of all it concerns the baby.”
Jack frowned. “Well, talk!”
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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