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After Catherine had had a long talk with Alexander's doctor, she had managed that her son would be released right that day.
Alex was just buttoning up his shirt when a knock came at the door of his hospital room. He closed his eyes to prepare himself and took a deep breath, before he called in a soft voice, "Enter."
Beaming in happiness and holding a huge bouquet of flowers in her hand, Sara Jones stepped into the room. "Hellooooo! I am here to bring you home."
Alexander was visibly relieved. He exhaled sharply and said, "Thank God, it's you. Wheeewww. What a nice surprise, but how did you know..."
Sara smiled. "Aunt Cathy called me and said you would be released soon. So, I volunteered to come and pick you up."
"Finally, Mom had a good idea. Come on, let's get out of here real quick."
The photographer raised her hands in a calming gesture. "Hang on just a second. I need to get something off my chest. You won't believe it but..." She wasn't able to finish her sentence, because Ireen Jenkins chose this moment to enter the room.
"Oooooh, Mr. Parker. You really are going to leave us so soon?" the nurse asked with tears in her eyes. "But you are still soooo helpless. Who is going to take such good care of you? I'm sure you will be in need of a nurse to come to your home. I could do that. I mean, after all, we know each other so well. I would be there for you every step you take to make sure that you have the best recovery."
Sara just stood there, trying very hard to keep a smirk off her face, while Alex quickly declined the sincere offer. "No, no, " he replied, fighting hard to keep the disgust from showing on his features. "That wouldn't be fair of me to ask that. After everything you already did..."
"It would be no trouble at all," Ireen confirmed, still hoping he would somehow change his mind.
Alexander thought of a way to get out of this situation and then his eyes fell on the flowers Sara was still holding in her hands. He took them and shoved them roughly into the arms of the nurse. "Here. These are for you as goodbye present. Thanks for taking such good care of me." Later he would wonder how he ever managed to get these words out because he was nearly choking on them.
Ireen Jenkins was overwhelmed and her eyes were shining. "Ohhhh, Mr. Parker... thank you so much," she said huskily.
Sara though was a bit annoyed about Alex' behavior and wanted to protest that he had taken away the flowers. "Hey..."
He interrupted her and announced to Ireen, "By the way, this is my new live-in-nurse."
The nurse sized the other woman up. "Well, she doesn't look very competent to me."
Sara was about to reply.
Once more, Alexander cut her off and explained, "My mother hired her and I have to follow my mother's wishes. I'm really sorry, but there is nothing I can do about it." Determined, he took Sara's hand and dragged her with him out of the room and in direction of the elevators.
"Alex, what the hell is going on?"
"I'll explain later, Sara. Let's just get out of here."
Even as the two of them were standing in the elevator and the doors were slowly closing, Ireen Jenkins was still there, waving wildly goodbye. "What a nice man," she whispered and hugged the flowers to her chest.
Taylor was pleading with Karen to not open the door. "I really don't want to talk with him."
The blonde placed her hands on the teenager's shoulders. "Please, calm down. We have to talk it out or else it will always burden us unnecessarily."
Taylor was still unhappy about it, but relented. She sat down in an armchair and crossed her arms, scowling. "Alright, if you think so."
Karen nodded and opened the door to let Christopher in.
"Hello Karen," he greeted her and smiled.
She didn't return it.
"Where is Taylor?"
"In the living room," came the short reply.
The artist went into the room, his eyes immediately connecting with the red-rimmed one's of his little sister. "Karen, could you please leave us alone for a minute?"
Karen looked at Taylor, who nodded. "Okay, I will be next door."
After she had left, Christopher sat down on the low table, right in front of Taylor. "I had no idea that you would take my words so hard and I really am sorry. The past weeks have not been easy on me either, you have to believe me. I prayed every night that Liz would come back to us. But, I have to be realistic. A company doesn't exist on its own and we can't afford to lose it. It's the only thing we have left of our parents."
Taylor looked at him with sad eyes. "Why do you want to destroy my last hope that Liz will be back?"
Christopher gently stroked her cheek. "I don't want to destroy anything that you hold dear. As your big brother, I simply cannot allow it that with each passing day you retreat more and more into a fantasy world."
The girl looked at him, uncomprehending.
"I know you don't remember much of it, but after..." Chris stopped because he had to swallow hard before he could continue, "after Dad died you retreated into yourself and lived in your own dream world. Every morning you would come into Liz' and my room... you woke us... and your face was shining with so much happiness when you announced, 'Daddy will come home today, I heard his car, Daddy is back from his journey...' " Tears were now running down freely Christopher's cheeks. "Every morning you did that, Taylor...and then one day you just stopped talking, because Dad didn't come back... I will not let that happen again."
"I didn't know that... I forgot..." the teenager sobbed.
"It's not your fault, sweetie. I'm just so scared that something like that will happen again if Liz doesn't come back. It's reminding me so much of what happened after Dad died."
Staring in disbelief at the screen of her laptop, Liz could only shake her head.
"Liz? What's wrong?" Sam asked.
A small laugh escaped the business woman. "Nothing is wrong... I just... I think I'm dreaming... I just got an email from my little sister..."
Quietly, Sam retreated back into the corner she had been sitting while the blonde read Taylor's letter again and again. The jungle woman jerked as Liz suddenly shouted, "I have to answer her. Right now!" Sam cocked her head. She didn't understand anything about this magic device that could carry letters without human help and that's why she decided to stay in the background. She turned back to her stitching work.
Full of verve, Liz opened another window in her email program. "Let's see... what do I write her... oooh, I'm so excited..." She typed for only a few minutes since she had no idea when the batteries of the notebook would give up. "Okay, one more click... and now I have to wait till the program tells me that the mail has been sent." Unable to sit still, she rose and started to pace nervously inside the tree house.
It was still raining outside.
Suddenly her laptop made a weird sound and the screen was flashing. Exactly what Liz had feared was about to happen. She ran to it and could see the warning that power would go off any second if the batteries wouldn't be charged. "No, no, no! Not yet... not yet..." she pleaded but it was too late. A final short flash and then the screen went black. The business woman fell to her knees in front of the laptop. Once more technology had left her hanging. "It was in vain. Everything was in vain," Liz sobbed. "Now my family will never know that I'm still alive." Angered, she reached for the laptop and flung it roughly out of the tree house's window, where it disappeared in the depths of the jungle. She stared out of the window until she felt Sam's hand that gently came to rest on her shoulder.
"In their hearts, they will be able to feel that you are still alive," the brunette told her softly.
Gratefully, Liz turned around and hugged Sam. Even if she really would never see her family again, she at least wasn't all alone.
In the car Alex had enough time to tell Sara everything about Ireen Jenkins. The young photographer was visibly amused about the man's suffering at the hands of the nurse. "Awww, you poor, poor boy," she muttered.
Alex was offended. "Thank you very much. You aren't taking this serious at all, are you? At least you could console me a little bit and cheer me up."
"Yeah, right. You just want me to feel sorry for you, but I won't."
Frowning, the man looked at her. "What's up with that huge grin on your face that won't disappear? You're starting to scare me with that."
Sara showed him her hand. "You'll be the first to know."
Alexander didn't understand anything. "Huh? What do you mean?"
Impatiently, she rolled her eyes and explained, "The ring, idiot... it's an engagement ring."
He stared at her open-mouthed. "So, you finally got your wish then..."
"Hey, you're sounding a bit negative. You should be happy for me, you know?"
"You didn't say 'yes', did you?"
"Of course I did!"
"Alright, alright, there's no need to shout. Congratulations." It didn't sound too convincing though.
Sara's happiness was still firmly in place. "Wanna know what I did... I bought all his paintings."
Alex wrinkled his forehead. "Explain that better. What did our sensitive artist say?"
"He doesn't know it was me and that's how I want it to be. I don't want to hurt his pride. That's why I called one of my father's friends from London and asked him to buy all his paintings. He is an art dealer and will take Chris' works into his gallery... until I decide what's going to happen with them."
Alex whistled. "You got it all thought through, don't you?"
"Don't start preaching now," Sara warned him.
"So, what has your fiancé said?"
"Well, earlier he didn't mention anything so I guess he doesn't know yet that somebody bought his paintings. I'll see him this evening, maybe then I'll know."
They had reached the house of the Parkers.
Alex left the car and waited for Sara to join him, but she didn't. "You know Alex, I'm so happy like never before in my life."
"And that's the best thing, right?"
"Don't you want to come in with me?" He was astonished that she was still sitting in the car, with the motor running.
"Sorry, but I've got to go. I need to buy myself something pretty to wear for tonight. Bye."
Back in Karen's living room, Taylor wiped at her tears and then admitted, "I never meant to hurt you, Chris. And I regret what I said earlier, because it's not the truth. I don't hate you. I'm sorry I said that."
"It's okay, little one," he said and drew her into his arms for a hug. "Everything will be fine. Things are going to get better now, I promise you."
Taylor let go of him. "What are you planning?"
"I will marry," he announced, smiling widely.
In that moment, Karen entered the living room. Looking from the blonde woman to his sister, Chris explained, "Sara and I are going to marry. Earlier, when you called me, Karen, I asked for her hand and she said yes."
Thunder-struck, Karen sank into the closest chair. "Well, congratulations then," she mumbled, betraying no emotion.
Taylor was completely speechless and her feelings were in a whirl. Frightened, she looked to Karen, who sat there with an expressionless face.
Chris cleared his throat. "Taylor, do you think you can go home on your own now? I have to get back to the gallery. Some customer bought all my paintings."
"Yeah, of course, that's great," the teenager replied, absent-minded. "I guess I will go driving a bit around in the city, since I still have some time to pass until my next training session with Ms. Kasawaki. Bye you two." With these words the girl left them.
Karen rose to accompany Chris out of the door. Tense and helpless they stood there, unable to look at each other. " I wish you all the best in your new relationship. I hope it will work better than between us," Karen said, trying to keep the trembling out of her voice and the tears inside. She would not cry in front him.
"Karen, I truly am sorry that I didn't tell you sooner." He reached for her hands, but she took a step back.
"Well, it's too late now," she said disparagingly.
She cut him off with a quick hand motion. "Stop trying to explain, Christopher." She opened the door and he knew she really wanted him out of her apartment. "I'm sure we will see each other in the company. That reminds me... what are you going to do concerning Catherine Parker's offer?"
"I will decline, of course... Karen... please..."
"Save your breath, Chris, I so don't want to hear it... concerning Catherine it will be your decision."
He tried one last time to say something to her, but she closed the door right in front of his face. "I'm sorry Karen, I never meant to hurt you," he mumbled, knowing she wouldn't be able to hear him.
"MOM!? I'm home!" Alex shouted, once he had entered the villa. "I've got some news that might be of great interest to you!"
The butler came running down the stairs and bowed in front of him. "It is good to have you back, Mr. Parker," Isaac said, submissive. "Your mother is in her office in the city and nobody else of your family is present."
Alex was annoyed. "Great, I finally come back from the hospital, but nobody seems to care. It wouldn't hurt them to once in a while pay me a little attention too, would it?" he grumbled.
Isaac ignored it and continued dutifully, "Mr. Jonathan Parker asked me to tell you that you are supposed to come working at the company, because Mr. Carpenter took some time off."
Alexander's mood dropped even more after that. He rolled his eyes. "Oh no, I'm so not in the mood for that." About to leave, he turned back to the butler and asked, "Is there any news from the search troop concerning my fiancée?"
"Well, Mr. Parker, we get a report from them every day. I am really sorry to tell you that, but until now there are no changes. Neither your fiancée Ms. Stuart nor the plane has been found."
Alex sighed. "To tell you the truth, Isaac, I don't believe that this particular story will have a happy ending. And I guess I'll have to be the one to make my mother finally see that. Okay, I will drive to the company now."
"I will call the chauffeur," Isaac announced and went to the phone. "Your mother has ordered that you are not to drive a car on your own."
"Great," Alexander scowled, "as if I'm a baby. Alright, hurry and call him, because I don't have all day."
Isaac bowed again. "As you wish, Mr. Parker."
Totally confused, Taylor was driving through the city. She had no place she actually wanted to go, she was just driving around, trying to get some order into the chaos that was whirling in her mind. She parked her car at the outskirts of a park and lay down in the grass, thinking about everything that had happened in these past few hours. To top it all, suddenly, Victoria appeared next to her. "Hi Taylor, "the blonde model greeted her overly friendly. "You are right, it is a wonderful day to be sun-bathing."
Taylor rolled her eyes. "I'm not here to relish the weather. There is some stuff and feelings I need to work out."
Vicky sat down next to her. "Lovesickness, huh? You poor dear... I'm sure I can help you."
"Rubbish, I'm not lovesick," the girl retorted strongly. "It's about my brother, Christopher."
That name made Victoria prick up her ears. "You can talk with me, Taylor. I know we never had much to do with each other, but I'm a real good listener."
Taylor was a bit skeptical. Much later she would regret to ever have trusted Vicky, but at the moment she was glad to have someone to talk to, who was not caught up in that mess. "You know, Vicky, Chris is going to get married soon. I always thought if that would happen then he would take Karen, but no, he's going to marry Sara."
Stunned, the model pressed a hand tightly against her chest. The words she had just heard had made her heart stop. "Ch-Chris... Chris is g-going... to g-get... ma-ma-married?" she stuttered in complete shock. "S-Sara? Sara Jones?" She stared at the teenager in disbelief.
Taylor nodded. "I guess you are just as surprised as I am. I couldn't believe it myself."
Victoria's thoughts were trapped and she repeated, "Chris is getting married? Chris and Sara?"
"Yes, that's what I said. He asked her today."
"My Christopher?" Vicky whined.
"You're taking this quite hard, don't you?" Taylor asked, growing a little suspicious.
The model cleared her throat and forced a fake smile to her face. "Oh no, no, I'm just thinking about you. It must be hard for you... and so suddenly..."
"That's true. I thought Sara was my friend but she never said anything... and now she is engaged to my big brother... just like that... and Karen..."
Vicky wrapped an arm around Taylor's small shoulders. "Poor darling. Believe me, I so understand what you are going through. It is bitter to get so betrayed by someone of whom you thought was a friend. I've known Sara much longer than you. One thing I can tell you about her, the bitch takes everything she wants. She never once considers the feelings of others."
"Really? Maybe they just fell in love with each other..."
Vicky shook her head in denial. "No, no, sweetheart. Sara is ice-cold and she planned all this. She just used you to get to Chris, I'm sure you can see that."
Taylor was undecided. Part of her wanted to believe Vicky while another part screamed at her that Sara would never do anything like that. "Are you sure?"
"Perfectly," the model confirmed. "Do you know what she's done to me? I could tell you stories about her... but I don't want those to hurt you even more than you already are."
"So, what would you do in my case?" Taylor asked in a unsure, small voice.
"First of all you need a real friend. Someone like me, who is always there for you."
The teenager smiled in thanks. It seemed to her that Victoria wasn't such a bad person after all.
The model's intentions though weren't as pure. She hid an evil smirk as she thought, 'Soon Chris, I'll be much closer to you and you won't be able to resist me.'
A bit lost, Jonathan stood in the big pet store, looking for a sales clerk to help him.
A friendly, middle-aged woman came to him and greeted him with a smile. "Hello sir, my name is Elaine Webster and I'm the owner of this store. How may I help you?"
Jonathan was visibly relieved. "I need advice... concerning an animal."
Elaine laughed, "Well, I was hoping this would be concerning an animal."
He laughed too. "Right, why else would I come into a pet store. Actually, I'm looking for a pet for my girlfriend. She lives alone and I'm so busy because of work that I can't spend as much time with her as I would like. I have to go on business trips quite often."
The woman nodded. "I understand. So, you are looking for a friend that will help your girlfriend with loneliness? Have you been thinking already about what kind of animal you want?"
"No, actually I don't know much about animals... maybe a Poodle or a Pekinese?" He shrugged his shoulders. "I really don't know."
"Would you like to hear my opinion?" Elaine asked.
"Yes. I would be forever grateful."
"I think that a cat would be the right choice."
Jonathan thought about it for a moment. "A cat? Hhhmm... do you have some here you could show me?"
"Of course," she replied. "Come with me. I have an apartment above the store and there in the conservatory are the cats. I'm no friend of keeping animals in tiny cages." Elaine let him upstairs. Once they had reached the conservatory, Jonathan could see about a dozen different cats. "Take your time with the choice. If you need me I'll be downstairs." She left him and returned to her store.
Jonathan couldn't help it, he had the weird feeling that one of the cats was looking at him very imploring. He cast that thought aside and stroked a black and white tomcat. "You are looking like a little pirate with that big black circle around your eye." Jonathan wanted to take a look around but then he felt it once more. A pair of eyes was practically piercing him and he turned around. It was again the cat that had looked at him before. Now she was laying on a pillow and her gaze followed his every move. He went to her. "What a beauty you are," Jonathan whispered and unconsciously he had made his decision. The red-tigered one with the unusual very dark brown eyes would be the cat he would buy.
Christopher was using the time he had until the meeting with the art dealer to talk with Catherine Parker about her offer and contract. Standing in front of her office door, he took a deep breath to gather strength for the upcoming conversation.
While Catherine greeted him politely, it wasn't exactly warm and friendly. "Christopher, nice to see you again," she started.
The artist cut her off quickly, saying, "I'm not here to have small talk with you. I'm here because of this." He took the papers out of his briefcase and presented them to her.
Catherine was happily excited, thinking that finally she would get what she had been after for some years. "Oh, you wish to take my offer, yes? It's for the best, believe me."
Instead of answering, Chris held the papers up, ripped them to pieces in front of her very astonished eyes and threw what was left of it on the desk.
"What is the meaning of this?" Catherine asked, shocked.
"That's what I think about your attempt to get your greedy fingers on our company," he explained, satisfied that he had managed to catch her off guard.
Catherine stared at him open-mouthed. "Have you lost your mind? 'Stuart Films' will go down without my help!"
"That's what you think," Chris seethed.
Her eyes became little slits and she asked suspiciously, "You are planning something. What is it?"
"That, my dear Catherine, is none of your business!" He turned around to leave. "The company is my responsibility and I will take good care of it." His head held high, Christopher proudly strode from the office, leaving an angry Catherine behind.
Frustrated, her fingers drummed across her desk's surface and she was talking to herself. "What's on that boy's mind? I have to know what's going on with the Stuarts. First, I don't hear anything from them for weeks and then all of a sudden Christopher makes an appearance like that. That can only mean one thing... he must have found a money source. If only I knew what it could be... I don't think their company suddenly got an account, I would have known if that would be the case. Maybe he sold some of his works? Ah no, that's ridiculous... but what... what can it be? I can't let this happen. You just picked the wrong one to make an enemy out of, Mr. Stuart."
Jack sat beside Danielle's bed and was holding her hand. "Oh Dani. I just wish you would wake up." He sighed. With every other day that passed, he started to despair more and more and lost hope that the comatose actress would ever recover.
Dr. Gordon entered the room. "Hello, Mr. Carpenter."
"Is there any news?"
"I'm afraid to disappoint you," the doctor admitted. "I really cannot say if or when she'll wake up."
Jack nodded. "I know. But I won't give up. I'm not going to abandon Dani and if I have to wait beside her bed for 10 years!"
"Did you try once more to contact Ms. Stiehl's parents?" Dr. Gordon wanted to know.
"Why? They don't care at all anyway what's happening to her," Jack retorted, scowling.
"Are you really sure of that? Could you please try once more to get in contact with Mr. and Mrs. Stiehl?"
The computer specialist sighed. "I can try, but I'm telling you it's of no use. Her father is a strict man, who's still stuck in the Middle Ages. Believing stuff like a woman is only good for cooking and to take care of the children."
"What about her mother?"
"She is kinda okay, but the women's liberation passed her by without touching her. She is completely subjugated by her husband. She would never do anything without his permission or what he doesn't want."
The doctor shook his head. "I really can't understand why they have turned their back on their own flesh and blood."
"I don't understand it myself."
Dr. Gordon checked some machines and notes the nurse had made, before he left the room to check on some other patients.
Jack just sat there for another few hours, thinking of a way to get Danielle's family to care about their daughter. Suddenly, he was brought out of his thoughts.
A tiny, nearly inaudible groan had been forced from the actress' throat and her slender fingers were squeezing his hand.
Jack couldn't believe it. "Dani? Dani?" He called her name again and again, inwardly shaking from excitement.
Her eyelids fluttered.
He pressed the emergency button close to the bed's frame and it took only a few seconds until Nurse Cox came storming into the room, completely out of breath. "What's going on?"she gasped.
"Quick! Call Dr. Gordon. I think she's waking up!"
The nurse hurried out of the room to fetch the doctor.
Jack leaned closer to the woman so that she would be able to see his face. "Dani? Dani, can you hear me? Dani?"
Her eyes opened.
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