Places In The Heart by Elisa

"Mornings, evenings

Days that hurried past.

Dreams that should have lasted.

Moments, hours, slipping by us…we told each other secrets

Somehow, I'll never let go, of the memories.

Something always seems to remind me.

Of how it was, of what is was, when it was…all there was."

It's amazing how one song, one smell, one familiar sight can bring a person back to a place they have tried so hard to forget. The familiarity of the pain begins to tug at a heart string, and your heart tightens for a moment. The woman sitting in her parked car sighed, it wasn't so much the memories that brought her pain. The memories were the best in her life. But after such a long time….she sighed once more. She closed her eyes for a moment before forcing herself to open them once more. To look out at the beach as she once used to. With great love and appreciation. Though the beach still held a special place in her heart. It wasn't what it once was. It no longer carried the peace and sanctuary it once did.

"Laughter, love songs, footsteps that I hear

Make me feel you're near me

Poems, pictures, letters never mailed

Books that never sale

Remember…that even though we can't be together.

We're more for having loved one another

We shared the sky. We learned to fly."

Her mind couldn't help but drift back to a person that had made her feel safer than anyone had ever before. No person had given her the love and security she received from him. He was the one and only. Her best friend. He made her laugh in times of woe. He gave her hugs whether she needed them or not, even the times she thought she was fine, one hug from him she'd realize she wasn't fine at all. He knew her better than anyone did or could. He knew her by instinct.

"Somewhere, when someone else's arms are around us

When time has put some distance between us

The years will kindly show

How memories come and go

They even flow like the tides

There, all quiet. Places in my heart. Ever since we parted.

Gentle, tender, traces of our song

Places that belong to you."

It had been awhile since she had heard the song. It was a song that held a lot of meaning. It had been buried under everything. It wasn't until she was cleaning out a drawer weeks ago did she find it, and even then she couldn't bring herself to play it. She had convinced herself that it was the past and feared of the consequences it may bring once she played the tape.

Chris had given her the song just before he got married. Months after he had left Palm Beach to move to Boston with Jillian. Rita could still remember the months of his absence, how hard they were. Though it wasn't his absence that pained her. It was more the sudden separation from each other. Chris's moving to Boston enabled Jillian to do what she had always wanted, separate them. Though they had both tried their best to hold on, it was never simple. Until they both realized that they were too much a part of each other. That as long as that was the case, no one stood a chance. So it was decided that a little break from each other's constant presence was needed if ever they were to give their lives a go. But the pain of holding back from each other was too great. It was much easier to just let go all together than hang around, not being able to be who they were to each other, as they once were. As they are and should be to each other. By the time Chris had announced his engagement, he and Rita had drifted apart. Rita left Palm Beach too, leaving behind the only family she ever really knew. Much to Fran and Harry's heartache, they let them be.

"Cap, I've asked Jillian to marry me." Harry grew silent on the other line, thankful that he was sitting down.

"Cap." Harry cleared his throat, trying to buy time to find the right words to say.

"Congratulations Chris." Was all that came out, Chris could read his silence. Harry Lipshitz never hid his true feelings for Jillian. Though Chris knew that Harry was trying his best, it made it harder.

"Will you come for the wedding?" he asked hopeful.

"Of course Fran and I would Chris. You know that's a question you didn't have to ask."

"I know. I guess….I just…"

"It's alright Chris"

"How's Rita Cap?" he asked. Harry had wondered how long it would take. He wasn't quite sure what had happened and guessed that it was just to hard to keep in touch and be refrained from being who they were to each other, so it was easier to go their separate ways completely.

"She's doing okay. I spoke to her just yesterday. She's doing well."

"What do you mean, you spoke with her yesterday. Isn't she at work? Is she sick Cap?"

Harry's silence returned as she realized that Chris didn't know that Rita had moved from Palm Beach too. "


"Uh, Chris. I thought you knew. Uh…Rita left Palm Beach too." Chris's knees shook a little and was thankful that he was sitting at home, alone.

"When Cap…"

Harry began to give him a blow by blow on Rita's job offer in San Francisco. It was a great opportunity and after long talks, they had all agreed that it was the best thing to do. "Listen Chris. It's Frannie's birthday next week. Why don't you fly down for the weekend and I'll tell Rita to do the same. I think it's better if it came from you….your news that it."

"Yeah Cap. I think you're right."

After much convincing Rita had agreed. She was reluctant about coming back to Palm Beach. For some reason Chris being there was the furthest from her mind. Friday night came Rita knocked on the Lipshitz home. She received the biggest shock of her life as Chris stood before her. Looking at her anxiously. The feeling of wanting to throw her arms around him and just turning away was tearing her apart. As she stood there Chris leaned over and wrapped his arms around her. It did not go unnoticed that she grew stiff under his embrace.

"Hey Sam. It's nice to see you again."

"You too Chris." She said lying.

For the sake of Fran and Harry, Rita tried her best to act as normal as she could around Chris. To push aside any animosity she felt. But she wasn't fooling anybody. After dinner Chris asked her to go for a walk with him. After receiving a pleading look from Harry and Fran she reluctantly agreed. Side by side they walked along the beach as they once often did, and when Rita closed her eyes, she could almost convince herself that nothing had changed. But it had. Everything was different.

"Sam, there's something I have to tell you." Rita looked up and waited for him to go on. "I asked Jillian to marry me." Rita's body grew rigid as she stood there trying to soak the words in. After a moment she had convinced herself to finally speak,

"Congratulations Chris. I wish you all the best. Really I do. I hope that you will be very happy." With that Rita leaned forward and planted a gentle kiss on his lips before turning around and walking away. Chris knew that as he watched walk away, she wasn't going to go to the wedding. To even ask wasn't practical. As she walked away he said a silent goodbye, praying that she would always know how much he loved her.

The next morning when Rita woke up Chris was already gone. She found an envelope by her bedside. It wasn't until she was back at San Francisco in her new home was she able to open it. Inside she found a tape and a letter. Her hands shook as she placed the cassette in the player. She lay flat on her bed looking up at the ceiling as she listened. The words brought tears to hear eyes. After the song ended Rita rewound the tape and programmed it to play repeatedly as she began to read his letter.

"Dear Sammy, I'm not quite sure what words to say. Knowing that the distance that had grown between us in my fault. The pain that I have caused you is something I will forever regret. You mean so much to me Sammy and I don't want to lose you. It hurts that it has to be this way. But we were right, this is the only way. I don't know what I can ever do to make it better and I know that there's nothing I could do, for the damage is done. I just want you to know that I love you Rita. I always will. The first time I heard this song it brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of you and everything we have been through. I know this song will touch your heart as much as it has touched mine. Take care of yourself. Chris."

Rita banged her hands on the steering wheels, frustrated with herself. That was years ago. Why did it still bother her? Why did she have to find the tape, now of all times? Why did she listen to the self that wanted her to play it, why couldn't she just throw it back in the drawer and forget? The way she had for years now. How did she convince herself to bring the tape with her? She wanted to scream at herself for being so foolish. Did she honestly think that everything would fade away?

She waited for the sun to set, as she did she cursed herself for the confusion she had brought upon herself. After the sun had set Rita headed back for the Lipshitz house. It had been a long time since she had been at Palm Beach. It was Fran and Harry who traveled to visit her. Though she felt bad, she knew that they understood, but she couldn't avoid the place forever. Especially now, Harry Lipshitz suffered a heart attack. Though Fran wasn't very specific on the phone, Rita could hear the panic that lay in her voice. Rita jumped on the next plane out. When Rita arrived she found that Harry had slipped into a coma. After a week, she and Fran had convinced the doctors to let him go home and be left in the care of his wife and daughter. Rita refused to leave their sides, fearing that if she did, Harry would slip away. Fran could see the fear inside Rita but she knew that Rita needed a break so she asked her to go to the store for her, and pointedly told her to take her time.

When she arrived back at the house there was an unfamiliar car parked out front. She was about to ask Fran about it when she recognized the voice immediately. It was muffled sounds coming from the Cap's bedroom but it was undeniably Chris. Rita stopped in her tracks, not quite sure what to do. She gently put the grocery bags aside and walked towards the voice till she was just outside the door. The voice, it soothed her. The familiarity it brought angered her. How it could still comfort her after all the years. Rita leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. She could hear him perfectly now.

"Come on Cap. You gotta open your eyes. Yell at me if you're angry at me for not being around much, but don't do this to me." Rita's eyes began to water as she heard him plead with Harry. They were both feeling the guilt. Though Rita made a point of keeping in touch, she knew that her leaving made a huge impact. They had already lost a son in Chris as he moved away, she took their only daughter too. It had been a year since Fran and Harry had heard from Chris. Though it hurt them, they never pried nor told Rita how much it bothered them, though it was evident. They all assumed that Jillian had succeeded at all costs, she had convinced him to let go of all his ties. Rita felt disgusted at the man she once called her best friend. How he was so far from the person she knew and loved. The Chris she knew didn't seem to exist anymore. Fran looked up from where she stood in the corner of the room and gave Rita an encouraging look. Chris looked behind him and saw Rita standing by the door with her arms folded. Watching him with blank eyes. She looked worried and tired but she still looked beautiful. He stood from where he sat to greet her. The hesitancy was evident in his face while Rita's showed anger. She stepped back as soon as he stepped forward. Chris hung his head, unable to look at her. Rita walked past him and sat by Harry's bedside. Planting a gentle kiss on his forehead.

"Hey Cap, we're all here. Come on Harry open your eyes. Your family is here." She whispered softly in his ear. Though what she felt was far from what she was saying, she hoped it would make Harry open his eyes. Fran remained standing in the shadows, silent tears falling on her cheeks. Grieving over whether or not Harry would ever awaken, and grieving for the family that once existed and no longer evident. The tension between Rita and Chris was so think that it was suffocating. In some ways Fran was thankful that Harry was in a coma, knowing it would surely kill him to see them in the state they were in.

"Mama…" a soft quiet voice interrupted them. Rita looked towards the door and found her 12 year old daughter by the door. Chris glanced over at the door and back at Rita. Ignoring his gaze Rita went over to her daughter and took the girl into her embrace. Chris watched the little girl wrap her arms around Rita's neck, giving her a huge hug.

"Hey peanut. How was your nap?" The little girl just smiled and buried her face into her mother's neck. "Would you like a snack?" Not waiting for an answer Rita headed for the kitchen. Chris threw Fran a curious glance. She gave him an encouraging nod towards the door. Chris gave her a small smile before following Rita.

"Who are you?" Chris was taken aback by the girl's boldness as she asked him point blank who he was upon entering the doorway. Chris looked at Rita, who still refused to meet his eye.

"I'm an old friend of your Mommy's." Rita's face remained expressionless as he talked to her daughter. "I'm Chris. What's your name?"

"Samantha Frances Lance O'Fallon." Chris looked up as he realized that Rita was married.

"Hey Peanut, why don't you take your snack up to Gramma and Grampa's room. You can keep Gramma company and you can tell Grampa all about your dream." Feeling the tension and taking the hint, her perceptive daughter did as she was told. She grabbed her plate and walked over to her grandparent's room. She was their pride and joy. Their visits came more and more frequently after the birth of Samantha.

"It's nice to see you again Sam." Chris said breaking the silence. Rita flinched as she heard he nickname that held such a significance at a point in her life.

"How have you been?" he asked.

"Fine. Busy, with…Sa…to take care of." Rita found it difficult to call her daughter by her name in his presence.

"You called her Sam…" he whispered. Rita looked up at him.

"The name meant a lot, for a longtime. It still meant a lot back then." She answered as her voice trailed off.

"And now…" he pried.

"Should it? Correct me if I'm wrong but you are the one that disappeared from the face of the earth not me."

"The last I checked it was you who insisted we should part ways all together than hang on." He bit back. As bad as he felt about dropping from her life, he couldn't take the full responsibility.

"Well considering how hard you tried to keep it together, I guess I'm glad things happened the way the did, because it showed just how easy it was for you." Their voices were rising without their realization. It wasn't until Fran came down,

"If you two want to continue this conversation. I suggest you take it elsewhere. I have a twelve year old girl upstairs upstairs because she can hear people yelling. And if Harry could hear you, it would just break his heart." Both Chris and Rita hung their head down low. Ashamed of what they had become and what had become of them. It was sad to think how different it all was once.

"I'm sorry." Chris apologized softly.

"Me too." After a few moments of silence Samantha emerged from the hallway hesitantly. She had never heard her mother raise her voice before. She walked over to Rita . Samantha looked over at Chris with deep curiosity.

"Sam, say hello to Chris. Really its okay." She said reassuringly. Sam headed on over to Chris. Giving him a slight embrace. Chris smiled at the evident sweetness of her. As he looked at her,he noticed just how much a part of Rita she was. The similarity was extraordinary. She was Rita in all possible ways, even in temperament. "Hey there munchkin. Pleasure to meet you." He said flashing the young girl the famous Lorenzo smile. Rita saw her daughter giggle as he poked her and tickled her, noticing the Lorenzo charm was alive and kicking. "My Daddy calls me munchkin too." Sam informed him. Hearing the mention of Sam's father was like a cold splash of water on his face. Chris looked up at Rita who was pretending to be occupied with the groceries. Chris walked towards Rita. "Can we talk?" he asked. Rita shook her head. She wasn't ready. As glad as she was to see him again, it wasn't enough. "Not yet Chris. I'm sorry." She placed a hand on his arm before putting an arm around Sam and headed back to Harry's room. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The days passed with Chris and Rita civil to one another. The animosity no longer lingered. All that was left was sadness. Chris noticed that Rita was making a point of keeping him at arms length, and even though he understood, it still pained him. They both needed the best friend that once existed in one another but neither were quite sure how to approach the situation, or each other for that matter. Harry's condition didn't worsen or improve. Watching him was tearing Fran apart. It didn't help that Chris and Rita weren't even speaking to each other much. It seemed the whole house was filled with tension and sadness. "Fran, I think it would be better if I go. My presence is not making things any easier. It's just bringing on more pain." Chris said apologetically one morning. Fran looked up from her tea and looked at him in the eye. Unable to say a word, though she didn't have to. Rita was on her way down and heard him. "Yeah, that would be about right. You're great at that. As soon as things get a little too tough Christopher finds a door to walk out of. Never failing to say that it's for the better that this sacrifice is for our benefit. I know this song. You've played it to me before remember. If you're leaving in the account of me, don't over-exert yourself. I'll go." Chris was about to say something when Fran stood up."That's it. I've had it with the both of you. I don't know what I can say for you guys to finally talk to each other. Or how I could convince both of you just how much you care and love one another. I'm tired of being in the middle of your crossfire. For years Harry and I have been like a tennis ball thrown from one end of the court to another. Chris, Harry and I love you like our son. Do you know how hurtful it was that you just dropped out of all our lives? That you just went missing from our lives especially these last few years, where we wondered whether you were alive or dead." Chris hung his head down low. "And Rita, I know you're mad. You're angry, for everything that's happened,but you cannot close yourself off forever, in the end it will be Samantha who will pay. She needs you. She needs you to be who you are, not this bitter person you have become to be in the last months that I have watched you." She placed a hand on each of their arm, "Harry and I will always love you both. You're the children we were never able to have. There's not a day that passes that I don't thank the Gods above for the gift of the two of you and Samantha. All I want is for the two of you to take a good look in your hearts. Forget the pride. Forget your anger. Rita, the greatest legacy you could leave your child is the love you share. I remember how much you two loved each other. How devoted you once were to one another. Let Sam see that. Let her see the love that I know is within you. Ever since Chris left you have shut yourself off from the world,even to Harry and me. I want my Grand daughter to know that her parents loved each other." Chris's head jerked up as Rita' face turned white. She began to step backwards, as Chris looked at her expectantly for some type of response. Fran realized what had escaped from her mouth and dropped her gaze. "Fran can you watch Sam please." Without waiting for an answer Rita turned and ran out of the house. Chris jumped up to go after her but Fran grabbed his arm. "Give her a little time." Chris saw the pleading look in her eyes and sat back down. He couldn't believe his ears. The words still rang in his ears.Sam was his daughter. It seemed impossible. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Rita drove to the beach, her mind a blur from the words that flew out of Fran's mouth. She dropped her head into her hands as she sat on the sand.It wasn't the way she wanted him to know. If she were honest with herself, she knew that she never wanted to tell him. After all, it was a long time ago. Chris stood meters away watching her. If what Fran had said was true, her anger made more sense. Everything had become clearer, but why hadn't she told him. He walked towards her quietly and sat beside her. Rita felt his presence immediately. She knew the time she had been putting of and afraid of had come. There was no more running away, she had to tell him. She owed it to him, to Sam, to Fran, to Harry, to herself. A silent conversation passed between them. Unanswered questions that didn't need to be verbalized. After a few moments Chris broke the silence."I need to know Rita, Is she?" Rita looked up and met his gaze and nodded. It was then that Chris no longer needed to ask questions, he knew the answers in his heart. He knew when and how. Almost 13 years ago Rita was hurt during an undercover assignment with a transfer cop Michael Price. While out on the field a bomb had exploded, the impact sent Rita flying backwards. Chris was just coming back from a visit with Jillian in Boston when Harry had called him. He rushed over terrified that he had lost her. "Tonight, holding you so close. I was so scared my knees were shaking. I love you Sam." "I know that Chris. I love you too." "No Sam…I mean I'm in love with you." Rita looked up at him over her >shoulder. Scared to hear the rest fearing her own self control fading away. "Chris, I…" before she could say anymore Chris sealed her lips with his own. Mesmerized Rita opened her eyes and looked into his lovingly. How long had she waited for the moment to come and it had arrived. Chris and Rita spent a magical night together, their hearts and souls entwining with each other,their hearts, body and mind became one. When Rita awoke the next day her heart sank as she realized that Chris had gotten out of bed, immediately she knew that something was wrong. As got dressed she told herself to compose,to not fall apart. To be strong and to be ready for whatever it is Chris had to say. Rita found Chris sitting on his couch with his head in his hands. Rita walked over to him and placed a hand on his shoulder. Surprised, he jumped at her touch. As he met her eyes Rita could see the sadness the lived within them. "Sam…" they said in unison. Rita took a deep breath,"You go ahead Chris…" "I told Jillian I would move to Boston with her. But that was before, before…." Rita flinched. She felt as though she had been slapped in the face. Do you love her Chris?" she asked, needing to know, though in her heart she knew the answer. Chris remained silent. Rita let out the air she was holding in,"Chris it's alright. We were both taken by our emotions last night. It was a traumatizing night. It was only natural that we seek comfort in each other.We both said things last night that we don't mean. It happened. It's over. I think you should go to Boston. Especially since it's something you have already decided upon." She told him with false bravado as her insides began to wrench. The weeks that followed were difficult. Chris rushed his packing and made haste promises to keep in touch. Things were so tense between him and Rita and they couldn't even hold a conversation with each other. After he moved to Boston it got worse. They were both pretending that everything was okay, convincing each other that nothing had changed, but it had. Gradually the distance between them, widened till the miles were un-measurable and the closeness unredeemable. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ They sat there in silence, unable to say anything further. Though there was so much more that they needed to discuss, the most important question was answered. Rita made a silent promise to one day explain it all, to find the courage to talk about everything that had happened boldly without hesitations. They returned to the Lipshitz household in silence, just the way they had left it. Chris was in shock. He wasn't sure what to do or say. Rita watched his face as Sam greeted them at the doorway. She could see that all he wanted to do was hold her up in his arms. Sam smiled at them both and edged close to Rita who took her in her arms."Hey Peanut, what do you want for dinner?" Rita asked. Sam looked over at Chris and gave him a small smile. "Pizza." Rita chuckled. Sam and Chris were so much alike that it sometimes pained her to watch Sam grow up, at the same time it was comforting. Chris broke into a grin. "Well, why don't I call and you and Chris go to pick it up, and if you're good, I'm sure you can convince Chris to stop over for ice cream before you pick up the Pizza." Sam's face lit up. It was rare ,if not ever that her mother let her have a treat before dinner. Chris's face filled with apprehension and gratefulness for the time with Sam. Rita just gave him a slight nod. "Go, go." She said shooing them out the door. Rita watched them from a window with a sad smile on her face. How she wished it had all ended differently. How she wished that she had stopped him from going to Boston all together. That she told him that she truly loved him.How she wished she had told him that time he told her he was getting married that she was pregnant with Sam. The could have beens weren't helping. She sighed. Rita jumped when she felt someone's hand on her shoulder. She turned around to find Fran standing behind her."I'm proud of you Sweetie." Rita leaned over and wrapped her arms around Fran."I wish it could have been different Fran. I really do." "I know you do. But you did the right thing, he needed to know and if anything could rekindle the friendship between the two of you, it would be that little girl." "Oh Fran, as much as I want to regain the friendship we once had. All that matters now is Samantha. She has her father now. I think Chris and I have passed certain stages of our friendship and we have violated so much that I don't think we could ever get back what once was. Sad really, but it's something I have learned to accept. He wasn't the only one who broke a few promises. I did too." "Does he know about Michael?" Rita shook her head. "No, I figured I should drop a bombshell at a time. I don't think he's ready to hear that just yet. After all, how do I even begin?" Fran nodded understanding. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "So what flavor munchkin?" Chris asked, unable to take his eyes off her. "Rocky road crunch." Chris broke into a grin. "Ah, that's one of my personal favorites. You have good taste kid." Sam grinned back. "Chris?" she said hesitantly. Chris grabbed their ice creams and led her to a table."What's up?" "You're my Dad aren't you?" Chris almost choked on his ice cream as he looked up. "What makes you say that?" "The way my Mommy looks at you. My daddy, isn't really my Daddy, I always knew that." "How?" he asked. "Mommy is always honest with me. She always tells me that I'm the most important person in her life. That she and I have to stick together. That if there was one thing she could give me is honesty. She told me that Dad wasn't my Dad, but that didn't make him love me any less. Then when I asked her about my real Dad, she would always grow quiet. But after a little while she told me that one day I'll know who he is. But until that day comes, she said that there is only one thing I need to know about my father." Chris held his breath. Scared to hear the words. "She said that whether or not my father knew about me. She was certain with all her heart that he loved me completely. Without question, without a doubt. She said once I feel his love for me, I would know who he is." Chris's heart warmed as she spoke of Rita. It meant a lot to him that she spoke of him fondly, even through everything. At the same time it didn't surprise him. "I always knew that whoever my father was, that my Mom loved him completely.I could see it every time she would answer my questions. Then that day you arrived, I saw the same look she had in her eyes when she spoke of you. Even through her anger, whatever it was she felt for you was evident through her eyes." "That and I heard Grams." She continued with a grin. "Hey you were supposed to be napping." He teased. "I'm a light sleeper. Mom left the door open when she left. Who was I to close it?" "How do you feel about it?" he asked, wanting to hear the reassurance from her that she didn't resent him. "Well, I suppose I'm okay with it. At least the mystery has been solved. Mom always painted such great stories about you. Way back when I was still little she used to tell me about the Lance/Lorenzo triumphant stories. The partnership, but especially the friendship. She loves you a lot you know." "I love her too kid." He responded solemnly. "I think that's the thing she misses most. I think that's what hurt the >most when you guys went your separate ways. She once told me that she had never counted on, or ever trusted in a person the way she did with you." Chris's heart sank as he heard her speak. She was so much like Rita. She was a fireball just like her mother. Open, honest and ready to say whatever it was on her mind. "Chris, Um, Dad…Um.." "What is it Sam?" Chris watched Sam put her spoon down and fidget with the cup as she tried her best to say what she wanted to. "Would it…um, would it have made a difference if you knew about me?" Chris put his spoon down and took Sam's hands in his. Sam kept her eyes on the table. Chris reached up and lifted her chin with his fingers. "Yes Sam, it would have. It would have made your mother and I be more truthful with each other. The beautiful night you were created was the most honest night your mother and I ever had, but because I was so scared and so frightened of what was going on I ran. I realize how much I hurt your Mom but I could never take back the pain I caused her. The guilt ate me up…" "Is that why you stopped being in contact. With Grams and Gramps too?" Chris nodded."The day I told your mother I was getting married, I knew then and there just how much I've hurt her. I mean I hurt her when I moved to Boston, but I think we were both hoping that, that would be temporary. The moment I uttered the words of marrying Jillian, I saw a part of your mother close off and there was nothing I could do to reach her anymore. Because that very day I knew I broke the best of her. I just wish…" Sam placed a hand on her teary father's hand. "Dad, we were happy. I think you should know that. We weren't miserable. I have never felt as though I was anything less than the most important. Mom loved me so much, that she almost loved me for the both of you. I had everything a kid could ever ask for. I grew up with a father and a mother." Sam saw Chris flinch at the mention of her stepfather. "I know that must hurt, and I'm sorry. I just want you to know that, we were happy. The only regret that lies is the lost friendship between you and Mom.See I don't think she ever loved Papa as much as she loved you. Papa always knew that, but like what Mom did with me, he loved her enough for both of them. You were the most important person in Mom's life for the longest time,and even after you went your separate ways, you remained the most constant in her heart and mind. I honestly think my Mom is still in love with you,but as you have noticed she has that brick wall around her." Chris chuckled. "I did notice that." "That's been up for the longest time. Ever since I could remember. The only time that wall comes down, is when I'm around. The wall comes down only for me. I hate that Dad. I have always hated that. Even with Gram and Gramps she pulls away, she doesn't notice it but she does. Grams says it's because they're a constant reminder." Chris gave her hands a squeeze. "Dad, where have you been these last couple of years when Gram and Gramps lost track of you?" Chris sighed. He knew he had a whole lot of explaining to do. "Sam, there really isn't any explanation or excuse that would make my disappearance justified. I have never loved anyone as much I loved, or love you mother. Through everything, there was always a sparkle of hope that one day we would be together. Things between Jillian and I were far from perfect, but I tried to stick it out because it was a choice that I made and had to stick by. One of the sacrifices I had to make was the distance between your Mother, Gram, Gramps and myself. Jillian always felt threatened by their worth in my life. Especially your Mom's because she knew that they were the only family I acknowledged, she did her best to split that up. I'm ashamed to say that she succeeded. I was so busy trying to make things work between us because I felt as though I owed it to her, and slowly I lost track and continuity. Years passed and I had not seen nor talked to Fran,Harry and especially to your mother who had moved away too." Sam sat quietly as she listened to her father's heart felt words. "You gotta understand that when you let time pass the way I did, and you neglect those you love, it's never easy to come back. Then a few years ago Jillian and I hit rock bottom and I wanted so much to return, so I tracked your Mom down. I sat outside your home one afternoon and watched her sit in your front porch…" Sam smiled at the memory,"Mom always waited for Dad in our front porch just before he got home from work. It was like a ritual." Chris noticed the sad look that passed through Sam's face. "Well, that's exactly what I witnessed. I watched your Mom throw her arms around him. Her face lit up, just as I remembered it used to. I knew then that no matter how I felt, no matter how much I just wanted to beg for her to come back, it wouldn't have been fair. She deserved to live out her life happily, even if it meant it was without me. I guess in the end my pride overtook everything and I felt sorry for myself, as I blamed myself for the horror it had become. I hid away from the world, and yes even to Fran and Harry. I can never take back the regret I feel for that. Especially now…Anyway, when I saw that your Mom looked happy, I made the decision to go back to Jillian and just keep trying." "Dad, I think you and Mom should talk. You need to tell her this." "She wouldn't want to hear it now Sam." "Yes, she would. Even if she says she doesn't. You owe her this much." Chris looked up to meet Sam's gaze,"I owe much more than that Kid." Sam didn't know what to do or say. She loved that they were so honest with each other. Though she loved Michael as a father, the connection between her and Chris was undeniable. Sam leaned over and wrapped her arms around her father's neck. Chris immediately pulled her closer to him and held onto her tightly. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Hey I was beginning to wonder if you guys went all the way to Italy to get our pizza." Rita teased. Her face couldn't help gut glow as she saw the bond between father and daughter. She was glad that they got along so well. "Sorry Sam. We got talking in the ice cream parlor and lost track of time."He apologized. Rita threw him a reassuring smile. "It's alright Chris. I was just teasing. Now you my peanut. Get cleaned up for dinner. And you better have left some room for dinner." Rita said ushering her daughter towards the stairs that led to the bathroom. Sam grumbled, but the smile was evident. "She's something." Chris stated when Sam was out of earshot. "She's you." She threw back. "She's stubborn and some times pigheaded. She's definitely an athlete. She's a natural on the court." "She has your spirit Sam." Rita glanced up and smiled at him. For the first time it seemed as though he had reached a tiny part of her. "She knows Sam." Chris said, Rita lifted her head and looked at him. "She asked me plain and simple, but I think she already knew the answer." "Well our dear sweet daughter is one perceptive child. I sometimes fear that I have forced her to grow up much to quickly by always offering her the truth, never leaving enough room for fantasy and dreams." "No Sam, she's perfect just the way she is." Before they could say anymore Fran bounded down from the stairs. She had over heard parts of their conversation and decided to interrupt before they had a chance to make it heated. Fran feared that it wouldn't take very much for the air to grow tense. Wounds were all still fresh and were susceptible to further tares. "Do you need help with setting up the dinner Doll?" she asked. Rita glanced up from the plates in her hands and smiled at Fran, knowing exactly what she was doing. "No thanks Fran. We got everything covered." Fran picked up on the undertone and gave a slight nod."Well, I'll go tell Harry that we're going to have dinner." "No Fran, let me." Rita said placing the plates in her hands. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Hey Cap, it's me Rita. Fran wanted me to let you know that we're having dinner now. I wish you'd come down with me. There's someone downstairs I know you'd love to see, who's dying to see you too. I don't suppose I could convince you to wake up now could I? Oh boy. I sure wish you could talk back….wow…who ever thought I'd say that huh Cap. Come on Cap, that was a little funny. The least you could do was smile. Seriously Cap, I wish you were here to offer your worldly advice. I miss them. Especially now, I also wanted you to know that he knows now Cap. Well you'd be proud to know that Fran told him. I kind of just nodded in shock. I honestly don't know where to take it from here Cap. I've missed him so much. I miss him so much, what we were, what he was in my life. Even through the length of time that's passed, it hasn't changed the way I feel about him. I still love him." Rita poured out her heart and soul as she confided in Harry. After Chris had left Harry played surrogate best friend, listening to Rita's woes. Sam stood at the door silently praying for everything to turn out for the best. For her grandfather to wake up and her mother and father to reconcile once and for all. "What do I do now Cap. It's so hard to be in the same room as him. At the same time I can't help but want to be by his side. Remember when you used to tease us about being attached from the hip, often joking around that we needed to be surgically removed from each other. I miss those days Cap. I miss you yelling at us for always being late. Lately I miss everything from the past. It's like I'm living in the past, wishing that it had stayed the way it was. Especially the last couple of months. I feel like I'm travelling down a spiral Cap, and it's fast coming down. It seems as though I have no firm grasp on anything except for Sam. She's what keeps me going. She seems to be the only stable thing in my life. Of course you and Fran. Oh Pops, I wish you were well again." Rita laid her head down on Harry's hands as she cried. Years before Rita started calling Harry Pops, much to his enjoyment. He considered Rita and Chris as his own children and loved them both dearly. Sam's eyes began to fill with tears watching her mother. She jumped when large hands dropped on her shoulder. She looked up and saw her father. She hadn't noticed that he had crept up beside her. He too had heard Rita. "Oh Pop, I don't know how to snap out of it. It's just after everything,it's so hard to be positive about anything that doesn't involve my daughter.Ever since, ever since…." Rita couldn't go on and Chris couldn't bare to watch her. Sam watched her father move instinctively towards her mother and wrap his arms around her. Surprised Rita looked up at him in confusion. Chris searched her eyes, all he saw was sorrow and the guilt killed him.Rita leaned against his chest as he hugged her tightly. Sam left the room quietly, wanting to give her parents the privacy and thought it was about time they got the chance to be alone. Chris kissed the top of her head as he held her tightly. No words needed to be spoken, as silent apologies seemed to fly from all directions. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity, when they were interrupted. "Are you two quite finished?" Rita and Chris jumped back from each other and turned to see Harry laying there smiling at them meekly. Rita and Chris rushed over and threw their arms around him. >"Sam, Fran he's awake." Chris shouted. They heard Fran shriek as she and Sam ran up the stairs, both dove into his arms as he lay there smiling. "Oh Hesch," "Gramps. I'm so glad you're back." The excitement lasted a couple of hours. They called the doctor who called in, dinner was forgotten all together. Sam fell asleep beside her Grandfather. The two were close, when Rita and Sam were home she and Harry exchanged Faxes daily, and talked on the phone often. "Those two are real close." Chris observed as he and Rita watched from the doorway. Fran too had fallen asleep in the chair beside Harry's bed. "Yeah they're the only Grandparents she knows. You should see them talk Chris. You should see the way Harry's eyes light up when she walks into the room." "I know that look Sam. It's the same one he uses when you walk into the room." Rita looked up at him tenderly. "I've missed you." She spoke quietly. Chris locked her gaze, "I've missed you." They walked down to the kitchen to grab something to eat. It was past midnight and they were reminded that they had not had dinner. Rita switched the radio on as she went to heat up the pizza. Soft music lulled the room,Rita hummed along with the tune, stopping still as she realized what song was playing, "Two old friends, meet again, Wearing older faces Talking about the places, they have been Two old sweethearts, that fell apart Somewhere along the road How were they to know That someday they'd meet again And never need for more than reminiscing Maybe this time It'll be loving they will find Maybe now they can be more than just friends She's back in his life And it feel so right Maybe this time Love won't end Chris too noticed, the song was unfamiliar but the words hit him like a ton of bricks. He watched Rita's hands tremble as she looked down. It's the same old feeling Back again It's the one they had back when They were too young to know when love was real But somehow, somethings never change And even time has improved the flame It's burning even brighter than it did before And they got another chance, And if they take it Maybe this time It'll be loving they will find Maybe now they can be more than just friends She's back in his life And it feels so right Maybe this time Love won't end Paralyzed by the song Rita stood still. As Chris continued to listen. It was as though the song was written with them in mind. He knew that Rita shared his thoughts as she stood there in her silence. After everything they have been through the glimmer of hope for a happy ending burned within them. She's smiling like she used to smile way back when It's feeling like we used to feel way back when They tried but something kept them Waiting for this magic moment Chris stood from where he sat and wrapped his arms around her. As Rita wrapped her arms around him, it felt as though she was home. The familiarity of his embrace dissolved most of the hurt that harbored in her heart. She loved him and she couldn't deny it. She never could. Maybe this time It'll be loving they will find Maybe now they can be more than just friends She's back in his life And it feel so right Maybe this time Love won't end Maybe this time Maybe this time Maybe this time Love won't end "Sam can we talk?" he whispered against her ear. Rita nodded. It was time to stop running from the truth. Hiding from all the anger she felt for his desertion. If she learned anything from almost losing Harry, it was thatlife was precious and if she were to make her daughter happy she had to begin with her on happiness. She owed it to Sam. She owed it to herself.Rita grabbed her keys and wrote a quick note for Harry, Fran and Sam. Chris smiled knowing where they were headed. "So who goes first?" Rita asked shyly as they sat against their favorite rock on the beach. "I guess I should." Rita smiled at him encouragingly."I want to say I'm sorry Sam. For everything, for abandoning you, for disappearing. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you. I loved you so much. I love you so much." His heart ached as he spoke the words. "After that night, the night Sam…well you know…" Rita gave his hand a squeeze,"I wanted nothing more than to be with you forever. That's what I wanted to tell you. But what came out was the whole Jillian thing. And I guess I loved her too, and my saying yes to her made the possibility of us even more complicated. I knew what happened between us was true, I've known it for the longest time but it scared me too. I have never been as close to anybody as I was to you, and until that day I thought I was closer to you than humanly possible, but that night changed all that. That night proved all that wrong.What I never told you was that Jillian was pregnant," Surprise crept to Rita's face as she stared at him. Chris grabbed hold of her hands and held them tightly,"That's why I chose to go with her, then you and I happened, I got so confused Sam. All I wanted was to be with you, but I had already told Jillian I was moving to Boston with her, so I could be there for her and the baby. I loved her yes, but I didn't love her the way I loved you. I have never loved anybody the way I love you. I asked her to marry me because at the time I thought it was the right thing to do for our child. The reason why I never told you that she was pregnant was because it wouldn't have made what I was doing any more forgivable. That and because I knew how much it would hurt you too and at that time I didn't want to hurt you any more than I already have." He said answering her silent questions. "Jillian lost our baby the weekend I came home to Palm Beach. When I got back she was crying telling me that she had lost our baby and blamed me for not being around when she needed me most. From there her guilt trips became more and more demanding. She hated it when I would speak of you, or Harry or Fran. She resented my concern for you guys and made a point of it every time I made contact. Even at our wedding she did everything in her power to keep me away from them" Chris continued with his head hanging low. Rita continued to listen ,horrified at how awful Jillian was to him, Harry and Fran had vaguely commented about the wedding, she always thought it were sparing her feelings, but there was so much more. "She kept wanting to try and have a baby, as if to make up for the loss of our first child. She used the death of our first child to get me back in bed with her which I had refused from that night with you…" his eyes pleaded for her understanding, Rita reached over and ran her fingers through his hair. "For years and years we tried to no avail, she became more and more demanding. By that time I had hardly talked to Harry and Fran and when I did there was nothing to say. It wasn't as if I could really tell them what was happening. From their part they tried to tell me what was happening with you, but as much as I wanted to know about you, I couldn't bare to hear it so I would change the subject. I'm sorry Sam" Rita placed her head on his shoulder, as a reassurance that it was alright. "Then a little while later I found out that she never miscarried. She aborted…" Rita gasped horrified. Chris's eyes began to fill with tears, "That was the last straw. I decided to leave her. My first instinct was to find you. And I did." "Yeah Sam, I tracked you down. I sat in front of your house in California for a few hours. I watched you come home from work, I watched you sit on your front porch. I was trying to muster the courage to approach you when," It was then Rita knew what he saw. It was her afternoon ritual with Michael.She would greet him at the porch every evening with a hug hello. Rita looked away wistfully at the thought of Michael. "When I saw that, I knew that you were happy and I had no right to invade that, no matter what. So I reversed and drove away without a word. I was a coward from the very beginning up to that point. I went back to Boston and agreed to make it work, but it didn't last long. So I got on a plane to Sydney, why there I don't know. I guess because it seemed so far from everything. There I met up with distant cousins I vaguely remember. I enjoyed the peace and unfamiliarity. I found sanctuary in it, so I stayed.My short visit turned into years. I was travelling around Australia with my cousin Isabella when I heard about Harry. As soon as I did she put me on a plane headed for the States. I feel so guilty." "Chris, I can't tell you it wasn't your fault. All I can tell you is that it wasn't all just you. I could have fought for us, just as you could have fought for us, but different forces were working against us. We both had different paths to live. I will always be grateful to you for our daughter.She means the world to me. I guess at that time we just weren't ready to risk it all, our friendship was the world to both of us, and we tried too hard to keep it the way it was. We tried so hard to keep it that, we lost it. Sometimes when you love too much your grip is so tight that your hands become slippery and lets go. We've both had our hard times, but we had our blessings too. I was lucky. I had Sam with me all the time. I saw her grow up into the beautiful lady she is becoming. I was never really alone. In times of hardship Fran and Harry were always near by, and I…" "You had Michael." He said completing her sentence for her. Rita nodded."Yeah. After you I never thought I could trust in a person ever again. You owned such a huge part of me that when you left, it felt as though you took such a huge piece of me with you, and I hated you for that. I was angry,bitter, and God only knows what. Then Michael came into my life. It was while I was still pregnant with Sam, I couldn't afford to live in a house by myself and I really wanted a house so Sam could have a home to grow up in,so I advertised for a housemate. Michael was my first prospect. From the very beginning we clicked, so we became housemates. Weeks turned to months,and months turned to years. We were the best of friends, but I could never fully give him what I could you. Because every time I tried I felt as though I was betraying you, our memories. I loved Michael so much and he knows that,but he always knew that no matter how close we were, or how much we loved each other a huge part of me was missing. But he loved me in spite of it.Michael was there from pregnancy to birth, through Sam's childhood, Sam and I adore him." Rita could tell that she was hurting him as she spoke of Michael but that wasn't her intention,"I will always be grateful for the love and friendship that I share with Michael and for the love and friendship he gave without question. I once asked him why he loved me so much knowing how much I had already closed off,and you know what he said?" Rita took a deep breath as tears began to creep down her cheeks,"He told me that he loved me completely because he knew that I loved him completely the best way I knew how, and that he wasn't competing with you.That whatever love I gave him was enough, all he ever wanted from me was my own happiness. Most importantly he loved Samantha like his own." "He sounds like such a great person Sam. I'm glad you had him in your life and Sam's. I can tell how much she loves him. I now know why you married him," Rita choked,"What? What are you talking about? I never married Michael." Chris looked as though he was about to faint. Amused Rita gave a soft chuckle."Trust you to assume." Chris grinned. "How come you guys never married? You deserve all the happiness Sam. I wish I didn't come in between all that," There was a time when Rita would have liked to let him stew in his guilt but they had both grown up a lot in the last days, she rested her chin on his shoulder, "Because Michael was gay." Chris spun his head to face her. Rita smiled asshe continued to rest her chin on his shoulder. She was nodding as he sat there speechless."Yup, he was the best friend I could ever ask for. There was never any danger of becoming anything more than platonic. We had such an uncomplicated friendship. Mainly because he made it so uncomplicated, every time I would burst into tears for no reason he would let me bawl my eyes out, hug me and let it go. He was great." "So when do I get to meet him Sam?" Rita bit her lower lip as looked away,she sighed sadly trying to hold back the tears."Michael died in a car accident a few months ago." "Oh Sam." Chris took her in his arms. Rita wiped her tears,"He was driving home from work and he was stopped at a stop light when a drunk driver hit his car head on, he was trapped in his car. He died instantly. I waited on the porch for hours. I could feel it in my bones, but I didn't want to believe in my gut feelings so I waited almost all night, I was still there when the police came to tell me that he died, but I knew it as soon as they got out of their car. I never got to say goodbye. I wish he could have known how much I loved him." "Oh Sam, I'm sure he knew." "But as much as I wanted to, I could never show it. I wish I had given him what he had given me." "Sam, he never asked for it did he? Meaning he felt it. You said so yourself he was your best friend and you were his. He knew you well. Just because you held back doesn't mean he never felt it. Just like after all these years we still love each other. Just because we're both too scared to say it,doesn't mean we don't feel it." Silence passed between them, they were both lost in their thoughts. "So now that's all out, now what?" Rita asked him honestly not knowing which road lay ahead of them. "I think we both know what we want." "But we're not ready…" she interrupted,"So we take it day by day. For now we love our daughter as best we can, and each other.Our friendship suffered greatly through the years, but I know it's strong. I feel it in my heart. I know we'll be okay. For now we spend time with Fran and Harry. Let's try being a family first before, you know.The wounds are still fresh for all of us." " All I want is to have you in my life Sam. However which way. From there, who knows." He said grinning at her. Rita leaned over and kissed his cheek."Thanks Sam. It means a lot that you're sticking around." There was still so much healing to be done but the friendship is strong and able to withhold anything. They both know that now. For the firsttime in a long time they let their hearts feel it, and they did. One day they knew it would all work out. That one day, they will finally be together. "Forit was their destiny and they were drawn to it." THE END ********************************************************************** Lisa always teases me about getting sued and all that so just in case there's a copyright dude on the list...The Silk Characters aren't mine. Because if they were I'd like to point out I would have given Chris and Rita a better exit...or at least given more time for them to transcend into the other phase of their relationship...but enough of that. Isabella, Samantha and whoever else that seems unfamiliar, belongs to my active imagination.


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