Chapter 15

Another glass of wine. Underneath the table, Carly's fingers were clenched together as she waited for the waiter to hurry up already! A tight smile was plastered on her face as Bobbie went on about how well Lucas was doing at Princeton. She didn't give a damn about how well her 'brother' was doing. At the moment, all she wanted was the sweet burn of the alcohol as it slid down her throat and the peaceful calm it would spread throughout her body as the alcohol entered her blood stream. Hurry up already!

"And that brings you up to speed with me. Tell me how it feels to be a newlywed."

"Excuse me?" Carly asked. Her entire being had been focused on the waiter and wanting him to hurry. She'd missed Bobbie's question and pretty much everything else the older woman had said. Relief spread through her as the waiter finished his task and walked away. With a smile of glee, she reached for the glass and raised it to her lips. Ah… It went down so smoothly.

"Carly?" Bobbie leaned towards her daughter, resting her forearms on the edge of the table. She spoke in a firm whisper. "Haven't you had enough?"

Carly set her glass onto the table. Taking her time to answer, she raised her napkin to her lips and pressed it against her mouth. Once her thoughts were together and the anger she had felt at being questioned had lessened, she opened her mouth to speak. "Enough? It's just a glass of white wine. It compliments the meal, Bobbie."

Bobbie released a derisive snort. "No meal needs to be complimented that much. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'm not an alcoholic!" Carly snapped. "It's just wine. Besides, it's not like I'm drunk. I am not drunk!"

"I never said that you were, and you'd better watch how you speak to me. Lower your voice!" Bobbie said. Her eyes flashed at her daughter in anger and disappointment. "Maybe this was a mistake."

"What are you talking about?" Carly asked, keeping her tone even and neutral.

"This brunch," Bobbie responded with a wave of her hands. "Your husband made it seem as if you were looking forward to it. I thought that maybe finally we could…work through the past and… Maybe this was just a waste of time. Maybe it's already too late."

"That's good, Bobbie," Carly said as Bobbie moved to rise from the table. "Just get up and walk away. I should have expected that you would do that."

Bobbie paused. Shaking her head, she responded to Carly's accusations. "Get over it! I've explained to you what my life was like then. If you can't understand that I was looking out for you…putting your best interests ahead of what I really wanted… If you all you can do is sit around and feel sorry for yourself because you had the benefit of being loved by two women who made unbelievable sacrifices for you…

"Dammit, Caroline! When will it stop being about you? When will you get off your ass and grow up? I want to get to know you and if I can't be your mother, be your friend, but you won't let me. You have a choice here. When you've grown tired of feeling sorry for yourself, call me. You have my number."

Amid the stares and the sudden silence of the Port Charles Grill, Bobbie grabbed her purse and walked away from Carly. Speechless, Carly stared after her. Bobbie's little speech was so similar to Vincent's tirades, but neither of them were right, Carly reasoned. She was just... She only wanted...

Swallowing hard, Carly looked at the empty space in front of her. She just wanted a family, but there she was all alone. The realization hit her hard. Without pausing to consider her actions, she rose from the table and went after Bobbie.

Carly reached Bobbie just as the valet brought up Bobbie's car. Taking a deep breath, she found the courage to call out. "Bobbie."
"Yes?" she asked, slowly turning around to face the younger woman.

"I want to try again," Carly mumbled.

"What?" Bobbie asked, arching her eyebrows to emphasize her point. "What is it, Carly?"

Raising a hand to her forehead, Carly vigorously rubbed her furrowed brow. "I want to try again," she clearly enunciated. "Can we?"

The valet opened the driver's door to Bobbie's silver BMW and she slid inside. When he moved to close the door, she shook her head and pressed his tip in his hand. After he had walked away, she answered her daughter. "Yeah. We can try." Then she was gone.

Carly breathed an audible sigh of relief. She then went back inside the Grille and finished her glass of wine.

~*~

"Mama, are you sure this is okay?" Grace asked as she and Keesha left their car and headed towards Carrie's Creations. "Daddy wasn't joking when he said that he wanted you to take it easy. We don't have to do this today..."

"Gracie," Keesha said, wrapping her arm around her daughter's waist, "we're not waiting seven months to buy your winter formal. Your father can be a little...um...hyper. I'm pregnant, but that doesn't mean I can't go shopping with my daughter. I'll be fine."

"Okay, but if Daddy finds out, there may not be a winter formal," Grace said as they reached the boutique. She held the door open for her mother and they both stepped inside.

"You let me deal with your father. When we get home, I'll tell Jason that we went shopping. No biggie."

Grace laughed at her mother's dated slang. "If you say so."

"I do!"

The two females pounced upon the formal wear with eagerness and determination. Grace wanted the perfect gown and Keesha was determined to find it for her. As a salesperson handed Grace a few selections, the tinkling of the bell signaled that more customers arrived. Curious by nature, Keesha looked over her shoulder. She smiled as a dear friend came towards her with open arms.

"Congratulations are in order," AJ said as he wrapped his arms around Keesha. He gave her loud kiss on the cheeks as he released her.

"How did you know?" she asked him, a smile of happiness on her glowing face.

"My little brother couldn't wait to tell me," AJ said with a shrug. "Now, look at you. I should have realized it when I saw you last week. Your eyes are brighter and your cheeks are chubbier-"

"Watch it!" she warned him with a laugh.

"Hey," he said, raising his hands in mock defense, "I'm only speaking the truth. You look beautiful, Keesha. I mean that."

"Thank you," she said.

"How do you feel? You shouldn't overdo anything. Does Jason know you're shopping?"

"Not you, too!" she said rolling her eyes. "I feel great. I'm taking care of myself and no, he doesn't know I'm shopping. And, you're not gonna tell him either!"

"Wasn't planning to," AJ responded with a twinkle in his hazel eyes. "He's only a pain in the ass because he loves you."

"I know and that's why I forgive him," she said, smiling. "So, what brings you here? Do you normally lurk around Carrie's store? Should I report you to Stefan?"

"Very funny," he said laughing. "I'm here because Michael and I wanted to get Eve something."

"Is it her birthday? It shouldn't be...right?" Keesha asked, frowning as she tried to remember.

"No, you you're right. We just wanted to get her something. Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of her clinic and we wanted to mark it with a gift," he said. A bright flush appeared on his cheeks as Keesha grinned at him. "What?" he asked.

"Nothing. Except you are adorable when you blush," she said with a grin. "So, where's my nephew? Did he come with you?"

This time, AJ rolled his eyes. "Your daughter has him under her spell. As soon as he spotted her going towards the dressing room, he shot off in that direction. You probably won't see him until she's all done."

"He's so cute," Keesha said after she spotted Michael hanging out by the dressing room. She could see that he was carrying on a conversation and she was pretty sure that Grace was that someone. Her daughter kept her romantic feelings to herself, but Keesha had a strong suspicion that Michael's feelings were returned. When she turned back to AJ, she asked, "Is he going to the Winter Formal?"

"Yeah, I guess so," AJ said with a shrug. "I dunno. I heard him talking to his mother about it, but he clammed up when I walked in. So, who knows?"

"Aw, AJ," Keesha said, patting his arm as he began to pout. "Boys get like that. He doesn't want you to think that he's a sissy. He'll talk to you when he's more comfortable with himself."

"That's what Eve said. I guess I'll just have to bide my time, right?"

Keesha nodded. "Right."

"So, what are you and Grace doing after this? I'm sure I'll score major points if we all take a break together. Want to or will Jason send out a search party?"

"Oh, be quiet!" Keesha said, causing AJ to laugh. "We can do that. I'm sure that I'll score a few points of my own, too."

A half-hour later, Grace decided on a lavender knee length gown, and AJ and Michael chose a purse and scarf for Eve. With their shopping complete, they left the store and walked the short distance to a nearby teahouse. AJ and Grace went to the counter to place the orders while Keesha and Michael chose a table with a view. Before they sat down to wait for the others to return, Michael turned to Keesha and said, "Congratulations, Auntie. Dad told me that you're having a baby."

Keesha returned Michael's hug, smiling as he kissed her cheek the same as his father had. "Thank you. We're all excited about it."

Michael held a chair out for Keesha and after she had sat down, he did, too. "I'm sure Uncle Jason is going nuts. Try not to do too much, okay? I know that you have a lot of help around the house, but if you need more, call me. I'd love to come by and help out whenever."

"Oh, Michael," Keesha said, reaching across the table to pat his hand. "That's very nice of you. I'll be sure to give you call, okay?"

"Okay," he said with a smile.

AJ and Grace joined them. Grace gave Keesha a mug of steaming chamomile tea as AJ handed his son a mug of hot chocolate. Sitting side by side, the teenagers quickly engaged themselves in conversation. AJ chuckled as he turned towards Keesha. He was surprised to see that a scowl was on her face as she looked outside. He quietly asked her, "What's wrong?"

"I thought I saw someone," she said turning away from the window to look at him.

"Who did you see?"

Leaning close to him so as not to disturb the kids, she said against his ear, "She looked like Carly."

"What?!" AJ blurted out. "Are you sure?"

"Dad, what it is?" Michael asked, instantly alarmed.

"Mama, are you okay?" Grace added.

Keesha plastered a smile on her face and waved their worries away. "I'm fine. AJ was just over-reacting to an old joke. Right, AJ?"

With a faint chuckle, he nodded. "Yeah, don't mind me."

Convinced that all was well, Grace and Michael resumed their conversation. AJ then turned back to Keesha. Speaking in hushed tones, he asked, "Are you sure? Was it really her?"

"It looked like her," Keesha whispered back. "But I can't be sure."

"Was she walking?" he asked, shifting as if he moved to go look for her.

Keesha rested her hand on his. "AJ, she's long gone by now. She was in the backseat of a Rolls Royce. The window was down and I saw a woman who looked like her."

"Did you get the license plates?" he asked, frowning.

"No, I'm sorry. Try not to worry. It may not be her."

"And, it may be," he countered. "I had a feeling she was back in town. A deep, sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. I told Eve, but she said I was being paranoid again."

"What are you gonna do?" Keesha asked. Remembering Carly went after Michael the last time she was in town, Keesha glanced at the young man. He was happy now and he had put the abduction behind him. Then a phone call came to Keesha's mind and she instinctively placed a protective hand over her abdomen. She promised herself that she would never allow that shrew to get her like that again. Never again.

"Are you okay?" AJ asked, noticing the odd light in Keesha's eyes and her protective gesture.

"I'm fine," Keesha reassured him. "You didn't answer me. What are your plans?"

"I'm keeping my eyes on my son. I don't trust her and God knows what she's capable of. She's tried to get him once. I won't let her have a second try."

"Good for you!" Keesha said. "Don't let her anywhere near him."

"I won't," AJ agreed. "You can believe me."

"I do believe you," Keesha said softly. And she had no intentions of letting the woman near her or her family either. If Carly had returned that meant war, and Keesha, like AJ, intended to win!

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