Paul looked at Terese. There was a slight hesitation between the pair as she gathered her thought.
“Where is this coming from? Is this about what happened this afternoon?”
“Forget I said anything”
He started to head back inside, she held his arm back.
“Don’t do that Paul, don’t shut me out. I see you. I know you.”
“Then you know that I’m fine. Please just leave it.”
“You can’t say something like that and expect me to just move on from it”
He sighed. His head dropped as he held her hands.
“This week had been a bit hectic and the end of it all just got to me.”
“Okay. Fine. If that’s all you think it is. When you’re ready to tell me what’s really going on I’ll be downstairs spending time with my family.”
As she walked out the door and went back down stairs Paul sat on the bed. Everything was still going around in his head. She now referred to them as her family. Was that the way she always did or was she playing a game to get him to open up? He looked at the floor. Why was he even feeling like this? This wasn’t him. Yes it was always important to him what his family thought of him, and yes he disappointed them more often than not but they always found a way back to where they were supposed to be, eventually. So why were Kim’s words haunting him so much. Was it because his family had grown since he got together with Terese. There was no way some would’ve even called him a friend in the past let along family but now they were having nights in and meals together, and to his surprise he was enjoying it. His life had been just him for too long, stuck in that penthouse, keeping the world at bay. Moving onto the street had been a change, a good change. Was this why Kim’s words were ringing in his head. Was she right in saying that one day this will all be for nothing and that he will end up back where he was?
“Paul we are having Ice Cream. Come down or it will all be gone” Roxy’s voice echoed form downstairs
He smiled to himself. What was he doing? Overthinking everything instead of actually spending time with them. He got to his feet. Kim’s words might’ve been confronting but tonight wasn’t the night to ponder about them. But he knew this wasn’t over, Terese needed answers but he didn’t want to ruin her night, he’d already done enough of that. He headed downstairs to the sound of idle chit chat.
“Right Paul, settle this please.” Ned got in before he had a chance to reach the kitchen.
He looked towards Terese and gave her a reassuring smile.
“What am I settling?”
“Clementine. Does she like Roxy or not?”
“Ha. You are kidding right, that cat doesn’t like anyone giving her competition for attention”
“Come on Roxy, how many times has she been sick on your shoes?” Harlow joined in
“Fine, just for that this tub is mine”
As the conversation carried on Terese took Lucy to one side.
“Now that’s a front if I ever saw one. Look at him, that not Paul”
“He’ll come around when he’s ready you know. Just give him time.”
“I can’t help think that this is all my fault.”
“Don’t do that. Ok. There is only one person to blame in all this and she’s living the life tonight at our hotel.”
Terese stopped to think for a while. She turned around to look at Paul and suddenly she turned back.
“Can I ask one more favor from you before you go?”
“How can I help?” Lucy said with a smile.
The sun glared through the kitchen window as morning broke. The sounds of last night were replaced by the quiet thought of this morning. Paul had already left to take Lucy to the airport. The kettle had finish boiling and Terese stood in her dressing gown pouring a cup for herself. As she carried her cup to the table she caught a glimpse of Ned coming down the stairs.
“Hey, how are you this morning?”
“Paul gone with Lucy”
“Yeah, they left around 7:30am”
Ned poured himself a cup and joined her at the table.
“Was he ok last night?”
“You noticed too.”
“I don’t know, he just seemed a bit quiet. Not that he’s usually the life and soul of a party but he seemed distant last night. Like he was somewhere else”
“He was defiantly somewhere else. Lost in his own little world.”
“You two ok?”
“I think so. We haven’t really had the chance for a proper catch up since last night.”
“Something happen last night”
“Not last night, no. Lucy informed me that Kim served him some harsh words before she left yesterday. Last night he asked me a question, but seemed worried when I didn’t answer and then just brushed it off like nothing.”
“Odd. It not like Paul to take notice of anyone else’s opinion of him.”
“It was more about us than him I think.”
“The two of you.”
“No all of us, this family.”
“So it’s not about the two of you it more about him and the rest of us. Why? Paul’s part of this family, he’s always been. He understands that right? Is that the question he’s been asking himself?”
“I think Kim’s words have made him think, figure out where he fits into the equation. Where he would stand should something happen.”
“Well I’ve been around long enough to know he will never leave your side, and considering we could talk about anything this morning and it all been about Paul I think I can fairly say that you won’t leave his either. So why is he second guessing everything.”
“I don’t know. I need to talk to him. If that fails I have an idea how to make things better, but I might need your help.”
“Anything to make this a happy household?”
“Great I’ll let you know this afternoon which way the wind is blowing. Thanks Ned”
Ned looked at his watch. And finished his cuppa.
“Well I’d better head to work, those bosses of mine are real nightmares when things don’t go their way”
“See you later” he shouted as he headed out the door.
What is going on with me? Last night was one thing. But today I should’ve just moved on from it right? I should’ve forgotten her cynical words and enjoy my time with Lucy. And I did for most of it, don’t get me wrong it was good, just me and her finally getting a catch up. But now on the way back the silence in the car and a couple of meaningful songs on that radio and I’m back to where I was last night. How can I possible explain to Terese what’s going on if I can’t explain it to myself? How can I tell her that I’m afraid that if she’ll leave me I will end up alone? How can I tell her this is all to do with her without sounding selfish?”
He leaned over and placed the flowers on the stone in front of him.
“I lost you when I didn’t expect it and that was my fault. My history got you killed and I will never forgive myself for that. It was supposed to be the happiest day of your life and yet again I ruined it. My past will always come back to haunt those I love as I keep putting them in harm’s way. Maybe Kim was right maybe I am the problem and never the solution. Oh Kate what am I supposed to do? Do I dare tell Terese all this and risk her having these thoughts in her head or do I carry on as I always do?
He stood there for a while as if waiting for an answer. He looked up and smiled.
“I think I know the answer to that one don’t I. She has been searching for an explanation since last night, when I ruined her celebration. I really need to talk to her. Will she understand, I don’t know. Maybe she will be able to shed a light on what going on in my head.” He gave her a smile “I’ll see you soon darling.”
As he turned and walked towards the car a familiar face came towards him.
“Left any room for me to share? Mark asked as he approached Paul
“She wouldn’t have it any other way” he smiled
He reached his car and glanced back. Life was cruel at times but it also gave us the best times, and all he needed for that was Terese. He got in the car. I’ll order lunch he thought, no one would want to cook today, not in this atmosphere.
The front door opened much to Terese’s delight. Paul stepped inside with a generous bouquet of flowers in one hand and his keys in the other. As he put his keys down on the sideboard Harlow came rushing down the stairs.
“Hey grandad, did Lucy get off ok?”
“Hey darling. Yeah she got her flight. She’s going to give us a call when she lands. Are you joining us for a late lunch?”
“No I had a sandwich before, I’m heading out to meet Yashvi. I’ll see you later. Bye Terese”
“Bye Harlow.” Terese shouted from the kitchen.
Paul came through the living room and handed her the flowers. He looked at her with a loving smile.
“I am so sorry about last night”
“I’m not angry Paul, I was just a bit disappointed. I can’t help you if you insist of shutting everything out when something is going on.”
“I know, but I needed to figure it out on my own.”
“Not if it’s about the two of us. Not if it affect me too.”
“It didn’t. Not really.”
“So why did you panic last night? Why did you decide to crawl back into your shell before I even had the chance to answer your question?”
“Because the question wasn’t fair. Last night was your night, it should never have been about me”
“Last night was about us, and the fact that you don’t seem to want to share it is really worrying me. What on earth did she tell you?”
“I’m sure Lucy filled you in?”
“Well I’m asking you. I need to hear it from you.”
“Fine. She told me that I should enjoy my life as it is because it won’t last long. The complaint was all because of me. You were being punished because of me and it’s only a matter of time before you realise that your life would be easier without me.”
“So it was about us”
“She said everyone leaves. In the end everyone leaves and I would be left to wonder the what-ifs.”
Terese took his hands. Looked at him. He had the same worrying sadness in his eyes as he did the night before.
“You know I love you more than anything don’t you. More than any disagreement or complaint. More than any job or hotel. I will always be by your side no matter what is happening around us.”
“Oh Terese I know you love me, and I love you too.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“It not you, it everything else.”
“I don’t understand. What else is there?”
“It sounds silly. I don’t even understand it properly myself. I certainly don’t understand why I let it affect me so much.”
“Talk to me.”
“I know you will always be there for me Terese, but what if you left?”
“I told you I’m not going anywhere.”
“By choice maybe. People leave all the time. Who says we should be any different. And if something would happen, what then?”
Terese was a bit lost in the conversation so she guided him to the sofa and they both sat down.
“If I lost you I would lose everybody and everything. This family, Terese. I was never keen on the idea of moving to the street, but now I can’t imagine living without it. But what if Kim was right, if you are the glue holding us together then my life is the same old empty one as it was before. Am I only Paul Robinson from the Penthouse without you?”
“Oh Paul, you are much more than that. You asked me last night if this will always be us. You left before I even had the chance to answer. But you weren’t asking about the two of us were you?”
“Can you really see the Kennedys, Ned and Roxy having any time for me without you around?”
“I think you’re not giving yourself enough credits or them to be honest. Ned and Roxy will always be here for us, for you. As for Karl and Susan, you know how much they care even when you don’t make it easy."
“I know, like I said its silly all this going around in my head. I just feel without you, my life will be empty. A lonely journey that no one could save me from.”
“Nothing is silly about this. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You like everybody else deserve family and friends around you.”
“Yes and there are plenty of people around here that would be there for you should something happen? Now come here.”
She leaned over the sofa and gave him a hug.
“Thank You Darling”
He hugged her back but something was not right. Her hugs usually fixed everything, and the conversation had been good but there was still something just niggling away at him. This was her talking and sure her words were enough but for some reason they didn’t reassure him, not today. He got up on his feet and looked at the door.
“I might go pick something up for lunch”
“But I thought we were putting something together here”
“I called the Waterhole on the way, the takeout is ready for us.”
“I’ll come with you then?”
“No you stay here, I won’t be long”
“Ok, see you in a bit”
As Paul left Terese sighed. He was really shook up over Kim’s words and despite sounding like it was all ok something was still not quite right. This time her words didn’t seem enough so it was time for plan B. She reached over to the coffee table and grabbed her phone. She found Ned and started typing, it was time to bring the plan together. This was certainly going to cheer him up.
Ned opened his phone to a message reading “Plan B”. He opened the door of Harold’s and saw Susan and Shane chatting at the counter. He walked towards them with a smile on his face.
“Hey guys” he casually said as he approached them.
“Hi Ned, how’s Terese? Shane filled me in.”
“Yeah she’s good. Glad it’s all over. If only everyone was as good as her.”
“Yeah, it not me. Paul’s been a bit out of sorts since yesterday.”
“Shock seeing his former lover making life hard for his future wife to be no doubt.” Shane jumped in
“No, that didn’t faze him at all. If anything he was all geared up for that fight. Something happened after that and all of a sudden he’s gone into his shell.”
“Paul in his shell, that’s not good” Susan agreed
“Exactly. From what I gathered from Terese she mentioned people leaving him. Now we think he’s overthinking about being alone.”
“How can you be alone on Ramsey St?” Shane questioned
“I think he feels we all are only there for him because of Terese.”
“Poor bloke.” Shane pitied
“Can we help at all?” Susan asked
“That’s why I’m here actually. Terese has an idea how to help him but she will need our help.”
“What do you want” Shane said eagerly
Ned pulled a message up on his phone and handed it to Susan.
“Can you gather these and meet us here around 6 o clock?”
“Leave it with us. Shane and I will get on the case.”
“Thanks guys. I’ve got a list as well. Let me know if you get stuck with anything.”
“No worries mate. 6 you said right?"
“Yeah” Ned headed towards the door “Thank You”
Susan looked at Shane.
“Better get started then”
Terese and Paul walked hand in hand towards the complex. He was quiet. Lunch had gone ok, but it was all petty converstion and mindless chat. After their heart to heart he had spoken no word about it since. She looked over to him. What he was feeling was normal for anybody else, but not for him. That”s why it hit him so hard. Tonight was going to fix everything though, she hoped. Paul suddenly stopped and looked at her.
“Why don”t we just go somewhere different for dinner tonight. Just the two of us. Celebrate this whole drama being over with.”
She looked at him with confussion on her face yet she knew exacly why he was suggeesting.
“How about that lovely Tuscan resteraunt in the city.”
“Don”t be silly. All I need to celebrate is you by my side, no matter where we are. No, The Waterhole is just fine.”
As they carried on walking Paul sensed something was going on. Why was she determined to eat at the complex tonight? They deserved a proper night together and normally she would jump at the chance. Something was defiantly going on here. As they came closer to the Hotel he saw something of a gathering.
“Something going on here tonight? I don”t remember there being an event? Is this to do with Pierce?”
“Can you stop asking so many questions and just go along with it?”
“Along with what? Terese what have you done?”
As they came round the corner Paul's face lit up. He looked at Terese.
“Is this you? Did you oraganise this?”
“With a little help from Lucy and our friends.” She said pointing to the crowd
He walked towards the giant chess board that was laid on the floor.
“One problem, where are the Black pieces?”
She walked towards him.
“Paul, you told me the other day that a chessboard symbolise the very reality of our day to day life. The King and Queen with their family by their side, and their friends protecting them. You have been so distant after what Kim told you and it breaks my heart to think that you feel you need me to have family and friends around you. Look around, everyone here tonight is here for you. “
“You've been everything to me these past couple of days. You've been my rock. The one keeping me sane through the whole drama and you desseve to know that no matter what happens you will always have someone by your side. You have been doubting everything today and I hate that my words are not enough to reassure you, so let me show you the only way I know how. You are the King and I am The Queen.
She guided him to the two empty squares on the board.
“Your family are the ones always by your side.”
As she looked towards the crowd Ned, Roxy, Leo, Amy, Harlow and David walked towards them and took they place in the empty six spaces either side of them. Leo looked towards him.
“I”m so sorry she caused so much hurt Dad. David and me made sure she knew she was in the wrong”
“And to finish the board, your friends, protecting and defending whatever happens”
As she talked Karl, Susan, Toadie, Kyle, Aaron, Chloe, Sheila and Shane took their places in front of them.
“Never doubt that we would be there for you. You can be a really pain, don”t get me wrong, but we”d never leave you out to dry. It”s just not the way things work around here.” Karl reassured him
“I know.” He looked up and down the line in front of him. “I just don”t know what to say.”
“Just say you now understand how all this works. Tell me you see that Kim was wrong.”
“My darling. I've lived here long enough to know how this community works. This had been playing on my mind yes, but as always you have put it at ease.”
“I”m glad” she leaned in and they shared a kiss
“Now we play right?” He asked eagerly
“Hold on no one said anything about being Bags's real pawns” Sheila panicked
“Ooh, are we doing the whole Harry Potter thing” Chloe got excited
“Sorry Sheila, Ned was suppose to fill you in on this. Yes we are playing.” Terese broke the bad news
“So who's White?” Paul asked
“Well Mark has kindly offered to be the competion” Terese filled them in as he waved.
“You are going down bro” Aaron shouted across the board.
“Let's play then.” Paul said quite excited at the prospect of being the master of his team “Sheila, F5”
He had a little chuckle to himself as she turned to give him a disapproving look before moving to her new space. As Mark pondered his first move Paul turned to Terese.
“Thank You for this. You are one in a million. This is just the best gift I could”ve asked for. My own human chessboard, it”s like you can read my mind” he joked
“Living the dream right”
“You know it” he said with a smile on his face
As he turned to make his next move Terese watched him. He was in his element, the first time this week she had seen him so happy, relaxed, just being himself. Everything had gone to plan and now everyone were enjoying themselvs. As the game carried on the sound of laughter grew and grew, this was the perfect end to a week that no one could forget in a hurry.
The moon shone as Paul and Terese stood on the Terrace having a drink looking down at the aftermath of their game. The party was in full swing as their family enjoyed the night.
“Oh Lucy called earlier. The board are happy so I start back on Monday.”
“That’s two reasons to celebrate tonight then”
He leaned over and gave her a kiss.
“So you have two days to do whatever you want. And I know exactly what we can do.”
“Oh yeah?” she said flirtatiously
“Yeah, book the musician for the wedding. Karl is sensing that we are stalling and I don’t like it”
“Oh does Karl Kennedy make you nervous.”
“A little bit yeah!”
She put her arm round his shoulder and pulled him closer.
“Always” He looked at her and smiled. “My dreams became my reality this year and I can’t wait to put those rings on our fingers and call you my wife”
He lifted his glass
“Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson”
She looked at him and smiled. She raised her glass towards his.
“Here’s to us.”
“Just the way things are”