Okay I’ll admit it – I had no idea how to cook. I had been trying to make a decent plate of waffles for lets see… 6 hours now? It was just impossible, no wonder Lily had always hired a chef, ordered take out, or asked the maid to cook, it was a nightmare! But I was determined to be a real mom – those TV shows where the mom cooks a huge dinner and all the family eat around the table with wine, great conversation, and lots of laughter. The house I had bought was simply perfect for the life I envision, apart from the obvious things tearing it apart – the husband, yes husband, we went down to city hall and found out it was official, the look on Leo’s face when he realised we were married was just… awful, he looked distraught, as if it was the biggest mistake of his life. The fact that I worked more than I was home (which I was beginning to think maybe wasn’t the best idea I ever had) and the fact that I had no idea how to raise a child!
Things with Leo had gone from bad to worse. In some far corner of my mind that was unlocked by copious amounts of alcohol I must have believed that marriage was the key to happiness, but it actually wasn’t, it had only made things worse. And to add to my misfortune I couldn’t stop thinking about Noah. I still owned the city Triplex, and Consuela had phoned me every week with my messages, always, always there were at least 6 from Noah, begging me to talk to him, to at least tell him it’s over, but I couldn’t – because in my heart, it wasn’t over. It may have been years ago, and nothing actually ever happened between us, but we both knew there was a spark there, one that we couldn’t ignore, but I had to for now. I couldn’t kick Leo out, not with his child on the way. The pregnancy wasn’t half as bad as I expected, yes I had those bouts of sickness, which could come at any time of the day (I even had to jump out of the pool and run to the toilet once) but I was expecting much worse, this is what happens when you watch too much TV as a child!
It had been a difficult choice deciding to move out of the apartment, but that was another thing that I thought may fix the marriage. In a smaller place, maybe I’d feel closer to Leo as I’d actually be closer to him, he was always in the little den behind the kitchen, I’d see him hard at work on his easels, never turning round and acknowledging me, or even smiling. I went to a few parties while I still had my figure (the baby wasn’t showing yet) but they usually turned out to be pretty much a drag. The people were my age but acted 45. Like this one party thrown by the woman who lived on the cliff above us, Helen Dorenson. I was totally late to the party and had stupidly decided to walk (she only lived on the cliff above us after all) but the road was much longer than I thought, and I was 2 hours late by the time the house came into my sights.
I walked in expecting a party in full swing, with drinks and dancing and music, but I got like a 40 year old party populated by 25 year olds. They were all so serious with their glasses of champagne and their talks of politics, I went and said hello to the hostess (who looked scarily like me – a more glamorous version) and then quickly excused myself and went out onto the terrace.
I wasn’t sure if I missed living in the city as I looked over the water to the beauty of it’s lights, it was amazing being able to appreciate it from here. Ultimately I thought moving out would help mine and Leo’s marriage, and I wanted to raise our child away from the city, in a real family environment, where going into the city would be something to look forward to or something, I didn’t really know, but I was happy I did it. The house I bought was fabulous, I had never had any outside space and I may have overdone it with tree-houses and a huge pool and outside seating and barbecue areas and 4 cars parked on the drive when there were only 2 of us, I think I just got a little overexcited.
I quietly slipped away from the party through the back and began the walk home. Maybe I should become a writer or something, I really wasn’t happy at Belgravia Industries International, people didn’t treat me with respect because they thought (ok they knew) that I only had the job because of who my father was. I was asked to do the mundane tasks, and I didn’t dare accept Chace’s offer of a higher position in case they hated me even more. Walking into the house I had to stop and admire the art, I really did love Leo’s idea of just covering the house in pictures, it made it feel really homey compared to what I had grown up in (blank walls with signature pieces) although we had decided to keep the bedroom pretty much a copy of the bedroom in the triplex, but I was thinking of changing that soon.
I was dreading loosing my figure – it had always been one of my greatest assets, but it did eventually begin to deteriorate, and that’s when I discovered the joy of proper pyjamas! I couldn’t believe I had skipped out on wearing something so comfortable for the whole sexy/cute thing, these were a revelation! I only had one pair (and I wasn’t going shopping looking this fat, ew) so I’d just wash them every few days, and then put them straight back on, I loved it! Waffles were still an art I was attempting to master, but I was definitely getting better at it (I’d found a few cookbooks on the shelf which helped a lot).
When the day finally came for my child to come into the world I panicked for a second. I felt my water break and I started running around the house screaming in panic, but in fact I wasn’t even in pain. I had seen way to many movies! I was perfectly calm, and the doctor soon arrived to deliver the baby at home like we had planned. I couldn’t wait to be a mother, it was such a strange thought, I had just created a human inside me. How? It was so interesting, so… I don’t know, it was just amazing.
Thomas Belgravia was born in the kitchen (of course, I was never out of there) at 11PM, and he was absolutely beautiful. I had a child. I was a mother. It was really just sinking in. I had all these thoughts about the house and what it would be like having a family here, but now I actually had a family of my own.
Okay – I had some problems here. I wanted to actually show him being a baby for a while (although I don’t know why because they’re boring at that stage) but little Thomas had… other ideas.
Anyone else get these ridiculous problems with babies?! I believe its the custom content, but never mind.
It seemed like only a few days before he became a little toddler, and an absolutely adorable one at that. I loved the nursery we (I use the term loosely – Leo bought a few toys then went back to his art) created for him, and I’m pretty sure he loved it too. Oriana sent him a totally cute toy to play with which he loved. A room full of designer toys and he wants to play with the rag doll my sister sent him, typical.
He was so gorgeous, I couldn’t believe he was my son! Everyone was dying to meet him, after all he was the first male to be born into the family. I started getting back into the books that I had purchased in France and never really took the time to read. I was always in the room with him, although I did leave him alone from time to time (I didn’t want to baby him too much) but never for more than 10 minutes… and yes I usually hid behind the door listening to make sure he was okay. He’d sit at my feet playing with that doll while I read aloud, trying to immerse him in the French language, I wanted him to understand other cultures.
Going out to collect the mail one morning I was excited to find a little package inside, a present! I had no idea who it could be from, but I wished I had never opened it when I did. A note from Noah – We still need to talk. – With two little diamond earrings to go with it. It was so tempting to meet with him, maybe I should speak to him. I was going to have to at one point, but I was afraid. I just couldn’t handle divorcing Leo. What about little Tommy, he would grow up in a broken family, not that Leo spent much time with him, he had recently been featured in one of the local galleries and spent all his time there readjusting where his paintings hung, changing the lighting and God knows what else.
As I moved into the hall towards the ringing doorbell later in the day I had to hide behind the wall in shock, he was here! Was he like some sort of crazy stalker?! Maybe he wasn’t genuine at all and just wanted to chop me up into a million pieces. I knew I had to answer, I couldn’t let this go on any longer, we had to talk.
Opening the door was a huge step in itself, I had never been willing to talk to him before, leaving him locked outside the grille gates, ignoring him (and getting married!) to escape him at the wedding, ignoring all his calls… but it was time to deal with it. We moved through to the kitchen, where some inane conversation about my house came up before we really got down to it.
“I still have feelings for you Arielle. I want to explore those feelings. I know your life is complicated right now with a husband and a child, but I’m willing to fight through it if you are… Arielle? Will you look at me?!”
“I feel the same way Noah. But you have to give me time, things are happening at an alarming rate in my life, I have my son to think about. Yes, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that me and Leo don’t work, and marriage was stupid, but I can’t just cut him loose, I have to tell him and we have to work out plans for Tommy and the the division of assets, the art, the money he’s made while we’ve been together… its complicated.”
“I’m willing to wait if you’ll be there at the end of it all.” Gosh he was so understanding, even better than I remembered him from years ago, but still just as hot. We looked at each other for a long while, the conversation had been much easier than I imagined, I thought his persistence would translate to wanting to be with me ASAP (which he clearly still wanted) but I was glad he was willing to wait for me. After all, I was hot.
“I’ll call you. I promise.” We hugged before he went about his business, which I realised I actually didn’t know what that was. I really had no idea about his life, was he still living with his room-mates in that huge modern house with the courtyard? Well when we did get together he’d obviously move here.
It was nerve racking, thinking about talking with Leo. I was waiting for him to come home, settling little Tommy down in bed in the nursery. He was such a joy, it was as if he never wanted me to leave, he totally loved me, and the feeling was mutual.
Pulling a book from the shelf I settled down in the den and waited for him to arrive. It was a great book, but I wasn’t paying any attention to it, I may as well have been reading it upside down. I had no idea how the conversation would go, would there be shouting and screaming? Maybe he’d hit me in anger, although if he did I’d smack him right back. It was another 3 hours before he finally came home, dumping a huge pile of easels in the corner and mumbling hello.
“Leo, we need to talk.” I gritted my teeth in nervousness, this was it, the moment my marriage would end, soon I would officially be a divorcee. Gosh, a 23 year old divorcee, it was a strange thought.
He let out a long sigh, “I know.”
“This just isn’t working out Leo, I’m sorry, truly, I really wanted it to work out, but I can’t stay in this sort of marriage.”
“Things were just… crazy between us Arielle. It was all a bit of a whirlwind, and to be honest, there’s a girl at the art gallery who I’m interested -”
“-Woah woah woah,” I cut across him, “I don’t wanna hear about anything like that right now, this is hard enough.” At least we both had people waiting at the other end for us, but I couldn’t help but feel a little upset that he was interested in somebody else.
“And what about little Tommy? He’s staying here by the way.” I told him firmly, if he wanted to battle for custody he better be prepared for a very long battle. The mayor was a good friend of Chace’s, and Lily had worked with the district attorney doing research for one of her movies, if he thought he was taking Tommy he had another thing coming.
“I know I’d never be able to fight you for custody, and I wouldn’t want to. I of course still want to visit, we’ll have to work something out properly, who has him on what days and such.” It was real. We were officially broken up, this was it. We eventually decided to go down to the court the next day and apply for a divorce.
“And what about the houses, the money, the art?”
“You can keep it all, it’s all your money Arielle. And you can keep the paintings of mine that we’ve hung, I actually think they might be worth a lot in a few years, there’s a lot of interest in them at the gallery.”
It was weird that we could talk so… normally. There was none of the kicking and screaming I expected, plates being smashed, the house being trashed, punches flying at each other. We hadn’t talked for weeks, and I actually thought we could be friends now that we were getting out of the marriage, it would be best for Tommy if we were friends. It seemed like we both knew that it would be better off for everyone if we were divorced. I didn’t really know how to explain it to Tommy, we would have to do it later in life, he couldn’t even talk yet, never mind understand something like this. I knew Lily had kept secrets from us growing up, and I didn’t want to be like that with my children, I was going to tell them everything, I wanted to be both a mother and a friend, not just an authority figure. He decided to end it now, not to stay the night. I insisted that he should stay, but he just wanted to get away, and said he was sleeping at the gallery, although I had a feeling he was going to see that girl – and I kind of felt happy for him. Standing in the kitchen the finality of it all sunk in, we were finished, the house felt… different, emptier.
It was pretty amazing when Noah moved in a few days after Leo’s departure. I wasn’t used to sleeping alone, so I was definitely glad he was here. I knew our relationship was going to work, it just felt so different. He was so thoughtful too, like when he first arrived at the door with his bags, after letting him in he pulled out a beautiful bouquet of roses, Leo had never done something like that for me!
We shared our first kiss that very day in the kitchen, and then things just began to take off at an alarming rate. We had been talking for a while, it wasn’t at all awkward, we had so much to catch up on, so many years apart, we barely knew anything about each other, but that’s what made it so exciting. After finding out that he was in the music business (orchestra line) he moved towards me and just for a second I looked away shyly, then we looked at each other and kissed. It was like a spark exploded inside my head, he was so great!
Another thing I wasn’t expecting about him was that he was really family oriented. He seemed so polished and perfect on the surface, with his shiny suits and his perfectly tousled hair, but he loved starting up the barbecue and we’d sit outside for hours with a few bottles of red, getting to know each other more and more. Tommy took to him straight away, I suppose he had never really known Leo (which was beginning to change – isn’t it odd how as soon as me and Leo were no longer a couple he became a better father than he had been when we were together?) and Noah really took on the role of a father, teaching him to talk and telling him all about his favourite football team – The Llamas.
It was pretty much a miracle how perfect things were turning out, I had the most beautiful son in the world, a perfect boyfriend who was also an amazing father to another mans son (it wasn’t even an issue – he said he would raise Tommy as if he was his own) and an amazing home. The only wobbly part was my career. After my maternity leave I never returned to Belgravia Industries International, it just wasn’t a good fit for me, the corporate world didn’t interest me one bit, so with Alex’s help I started to write down the ideas in my head, mainly it was extracts of my life but with less drama (it wouldn’t even be realistic to write my own life – who would believe it!?) mainly revolving around a character I tactfully (ha) named Ariel. Of course I never let Tommy out of my sights as I worked, gently closing the den door and always watching him out of the corner of my eye through the glass.
It was all a whirlwind – my book was almost finished, which Alex was extremely proud of – she actually said it was good! Noah was now a permanent part of my life, I suppose you could say we were boyfriend and girlfriend but that seemed an odd title as I was a mother! I was kind of hoping he’d pop the question soon… okay I know I shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Tommy was growing up faster than I ever anticipated, he was already running up and down the house, throwing his toys off the walls (ruining several pieces of art but so what – it’s just money) and generally just being a boisterous little man, I loved him so much.
In the back of my mind I had been worried about leaving my job and raising Tommy at home, I thought it could just be a routine, maybe I’d have to turn to the vodka to pass the days and become one of those awful alcoholic mothers. But it was so different. Every day was an adventure, I never knew what new word Tommy was going to spout, or what mischief he’d get up to. His laugh was the greatest thing to hear, it was totally the best laugh I had ever heard. Genuine happiness. It felt so different from my childhood. I had vague memories, but I wanted Tommy’s to be full of happy memories. I definitely needed to buy a camera, I wanted something to look back on and smile at when I was old and grey.
“Arielle,” Noah began one day as he came home from work, “We should go away. What do you think of China?” China?! Wow, I had been desperate to travel since my trip to France, and this was great news!
“I’ll miss Tommy but it could be nice to have some time away from him, maybe Lily will babysit him, it’s going to be amazing Noah!” I didn’t know what to expect from China, what was I supposed to pack? I wanted to immerse myself in the culture and really fit in there. As the plane touched down in China 2 weeks later I stared out the window just as I had done when we touched down in France years ago. It was so different to France, and amazing in so many different ways.
The hotel we were staying in had a great suite, and we wasted no time in christening the bed, and finally cementing our position as a couple. It was strange, I was about to have sex with the person I had tried to use to take my virginity, it was totally strange. I was glad that we hadn’t done it all those years ago. What was I thinking trying to lose my virginity to him just so I could say I wasn’t a virgin any longer. High school didn’t even cross my mind any more, it felt like a whole other life, I hadn’t spoken to Michael or Emily in years, or that weird guy who put even more pressure on me to lose my virginity. He was probably stoned in the local park.
The trip may not have lived up to my France trip with regards to drama but that was exactly why I loved it. We just did things normal people do, I wasn’t flying to Paris to hide from a crazy teacher who was bribing me, I was just living. Long days spent in the Scholars Garden, trips to The Temple of Heaven to take in the view of the city, learning the basics of martial arts with Noah at the Academy, it was all so… peaceful. And exactly how a holiday should be.
We both missed Tommy, it was wonderful how quickly Noah had settled into the role of a father, Tommy actually asked to talk to him when Lily called us and put him on the phone every morning and evening. I was actually excited to get home and see him, which I never thought would be me. I didn’t used to be this person, I was never nurturing, for a while I wasn’t even sure that I wanted children, but once I had one it was the best decision I ever made. On our last day Noah convinced me to take an early morning hike up to one of the highest points in the city (which I will NEVER do again, my shoes were ruined!) and as we stood there taking in the view I felt his tension, what was he nervous about?
“Arielle,” he began, getting down on one knee. Oh boy, this was it. “I love you. I know we have only officially been together for a few weeks, but we’ve had a connection for years, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?”
“Arielle – say something…” I didn’t realise that I had been stood in silence, thinking about the last time this happened, with Howland.
“Yes, yes, of course!” I screamed as I snapped out of my little daze and threw myself into his warm embrace.
We spent the rest of the day in the hotel bedroom, just doing what engaged couples do, if you know what I mean, and as I woke up the next morning I had that very same feeling I had when I realised I was pregnant with Tommy, and I knew another baby was on the way.