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Caroline woke up with a splitting headache. She’d had a terrible nights’ sleep of course, after everything went down between herself and Xavier.
‘Oh God.’ She moaned, remembering the details of the previous evening. It wasn’t pretty…
‘Caroline, wait.’ Xavier was quick on the heels of his wife as she hurried up the steps to get away from him. ‘Caroline.’
‘WHAT?!’ Caroline turned to face him, fire in her eyes.
Xavier almost wished she didn’t turn around because he’d never seen her so angry but more than anything else, in there he saw the hurt and it was all his doing.
‘What is it Xavier? You want to talk now do you?’
‘Fuck you and your damn apology.’ She spewed before continuing angrily up the stairs and into their room.
‘Please what? Listen to you? You have nothing to say that I want to hear.’
She was right. There was nothing he could say to make this right between them. But he had to try something. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘I said get out.’ Caroline repeated herself. ‘Get out of this house. I don’t want to set my eyes on you for a while.’
‘Are you kicking me out?’ Xavier was shocked.
‘Yes I am.’
‘You can’t do that.’
‘I believe I just did.’
‘Where do you want me to go?’
‘I don’t give a damn where you go, but all I know is, I do not want you in this house right now because I swear to God Xavier, I will kill you.’ Caroline was almost convincing.
‘You can’t throw me out of our marital home Caroline.’
‘Fine, I’ll go and I’m taking the children with me.’ She walked into her wardrobe with every intention of packing her bags and leaving. She will not stay here another day.
‘You’re not going anywhere.’ Xavier walked in after his wife.
‘Watch me.’ Caroline threw open several of her Hermés suitcases and began to pack her clothes.
‘Caroline stop.’ Xavier said, in measured calm. There was no point in aggravating an already delicate situation and he was pretty sure he was walking a fine line between life and death. ‘You cannot leave this house. With or without the children. We have to talk about this.’
‘DAMN YOU!’ That did it for Caroline as tears fell down her eyes. ‘You lost the right to tell me what I can or cannot do the moment you picked your fucking ex-girlfriend’s side over mine. Now you suddenly want to talk to me? Fuck you.’
Xavier ran a hand along his head, confused. ‘Caroline, please.’ He wouldn’t let her shut her suitcase.
‘Xavier, I won’t repeat myself, get the hell out of my way.’
‘Where will you go?’
‘Anywhere but here. I don’t want you near me and I sure as hell will not stay in a house with your daughter. Innocent or not, I am not in the mood to be magnanimous about anything right now, so please just leave me the fuck alone.’
It was the tortured way he said her name, that tone that begged her to understand when she was past understanding. Caroline wished she didn’t love her husband but her breaking heart was a reminder that even at his worst she will always love him. And that hurt because in this moment she couldn’t say whether the same was true for him, of her.
‘Don’t.’ Caroline stopped packing to look at him. ‘You made me feel like a stranger in our home. We were meant to be partners and I have never felt so alone in my life.’ Tears slid down her face. ‘I need to be away from you Xavier. I need to.’
‘Are you saying you want a divorce?’
‘I’m saying right now, I don’t want to be here, in a place where I have been made to feel unwanted. Especially with you here. I need to leave.’
‘I’ll go.’ Xavier said. He understood how she felt, he wished he didn’t have to but he knew where she was coming from.
Caroline didn’t see Xavier leave but she knew when he left with Amelia.
Xavier woke up feeling disoriented for all of ten seconds before he realised he wasn’t at home, in his bed, next to his wife. He was in the Hyde Park Suite at the Mandarin Oriental, just down the road from his home, serving penance. He thinks about Caroline and that makes him wince with pain; he screwed up terribly and he needs to make it up to her. He started the process yesterday with a series of meetings and stern words. Starting with his mother. He ran into her at his brother’s house when he dropped off Amelia and he had stern words for her…
‘Hello my darling, what a nice surprise.’ Madeleine enthused when Xavier walked in. ‘Your brother and I were just talking about you.’
‘Hello mother.’ Xavier was cold towards her, seeing her got his hackles up because she was one of the problems and it was his fault for not curbing her misbehaviour towards Caroline a long time ago. Caroline
‘Xavier what’s the matter?’ Madeleine inquired, perturbed by her son’s frostiness. Good thing for her Richard chose that moment to walk in. He immediately sensed the tension bouncing off his brother.
‘Hello Amelia, come on,’ he beckoned to his niece, ‘Abigail will set you up in your room.’
Amelia went with the maid leaving the three adults alone in the living room.
‘Its Caroline isn’t it? What’s she done this time. I knew that girl was-‘
‘Mother, don’t.’ Richard warned.
‘What’s wrong?’ Madeleine was taken aback by her son’s waspishness.
‘You are what’s wrong.’ Xavier retorted.
‘What on earth’s gotten into you?’
‘I should have put a stop to this ages ago. From now on you will leave Caroline alone. You will not talk about her like that again. You don’t like her, fine. But she is my wife, the mother of two of my children and I love her. You will respect that and extend the same courtesy to her.’
‘I haven’t done anything-‘
‘You’ve done enough. Scheming with Bernadette, your digs at her whenever you come round, undermining her…all that ends now.’ Xavier walked out leaving a very chastened Madeleine behind. Xavier loves his mother, he always will but he also knows she is one of the problems in his marriage and it was up to him to set her straight. And hopefully he did…
After Richard’s his next stop was his lawyer’s offices in Chancery Lane where he spent a half hour in talks about his options for sole custody of Amelia. He hasn’t discussed it with Caroline but he was hopeful that when she does eventually calm down and forgive him, if she forgives him, she will be more receptive to the idea of having Amelia around full time.
‘Has there been any abuse?’ Gregory Bainsley, the shrewd Darling Family Attorney asked Xavier, looking at him over the rim of his glasses.
‘Not in that sense but there has been manipulation of her innocence in a way, especially against Caroline.’
‘I have to ask son, because full custody from a mother who is alive and well and by all accounts fit will be a hard sell in court.’
‘First of all she is not fit to be the mother of my child and secondly this won’t go to court unless she wants the world to know the extent of her stupidity.’
‘Abuse of position as a primary carer is what we’ll go with. I’ll draw up the papers.’
‘Thank you Gregory.’
‘Take it easy son, no matter how bad things are they will get better.’
Xavier laughed more to himself, he was the reason why things got so bad in the first place.
Caroline returned home from dropping the kids off at her parents’ for the weekend. She was finally looking forward to a moment of peace to herself so she could make sense of her jumbled thoughts and Xavier. Her heart ached with pain whenever she thinks of her husband because in the midst of all this, he is the one person she really wants to be with, but he was also the source of her pain.
Caroline walked into the living room to see Madeleine sitting there. Alone. Just the person she does not care to see. ‘What do you want Madeleine? Xavier is not here and I’d really appreciate the day to myself.’
‘I’ve come here to see you.’ Madeleine says with a sombre smile. She was not surprised by Caroline’s unwelcome greeting, she’d gone out of her way to make her feel unwelcome so she wouldn’t even be surprised if she physically threw her out of her home either.
‘As it so happens, I don’t want to see you.’
Madeleine nods, acknowledging her daughter-in-law’s words. Caroline was the only one out of her four daughters-in-law who stood up to her and frankly, she admired her for it. ‘I understand that and you have every right and more to ask me to leave and I will, but I was hoping we could talk. I am here as a mother. As one mother to another, please hear me out.’
Caroline takes a sit in the armchair opposite Madeleine, still very sceptical of her motives. ‘I’m listening.’
‘I want to apologise.’ Madeleine has the grace to look contrite when she says this. ‘I know I haven’t been very welcoming towards you-‘
‘You never gave me a chance.’ Caroline says, her anger getting the better of her.
‘I know and I am so sorry. I should’ve-‘
‘I don’t care for your apology Madeleine, I don’t want or need it. You succeeded in driving a wedge between myself and your son, isn’t that what you want? Well, you got your wish so I don’t care much for what you have to say.’
‘I know and I understand because I have behaved appallingly towards you. But I am here to appeal to you on behalf of Xavier. He loves you very much, losing you will devastate him and he’ll never forgive himself for it. Please don’t leave him. I know you don’t owe me anything and I have no right to come in here and ask this of you, but he is my son and I love him. Please find it in your heart to forgive him.’ There. She said her piece and Madeleine hopes to God she’d done something to help Xavier or else he will never forgive her. ‘And for what it’s worth I am truly sorry. Driving a wedge between you and my son may have been my intentions at first, but seeing him so despondent without you put things in perspective for me. As a mother you can only want for your children’s happiness and you make him happy. Please think about that.’
Whilst his mother was making peace with his wife, Xavier was brewing war with his ex-girlfriend and baby mama.
‘Xavier is everything alright?’ Penelope is surprised to see Xavier on her doorstep. Surprised but happy. She’s never stopped loving him.
‘This will be short so listen well. What you do afterwards is up to you but you should know that I will not go down without a fight. I promise you that.’
‘Xavier you’re scaring me.’
‘You should be scared Penelope. You told Amelia to run away and blame it all on Caroline?’
Penelope’s eyes widen in horror.
‘Yes, she told me everything. Have you lost your damn mind? You use our daughter as a pawn in your stupid games?’
‘It wasn’t like that.’
‘It wasn’t like that? You didn’t give her money to run away with her friends and told her to blame it all on my wife? If it wasn’t so tell me how it was.’
‘Just what? What’s your excuse for being so stupid?’
‘I love you.’ Penelope says, close to tears.
‘And you think that’s reason enough to do what you did?’
‘Xavier please.’ She reaches out to touch him but he squirms out of her reach.
‘Don’t. Its too late for any pleas. I’ve filed for custody of Amelia, whether you get visiting rights will be up to me-‘
‘You can’t do that.’
‘Of course I can.’ Xavier replies coolly. ‘You use and abuse your position in our daughter’s life and you’re telling me what I can and can’t do?’
‘Please Xavier, please don’t do that.’
‘I’ll fight you!’
‘Please do. The whole world will know just what type of mother you are.’
‘Caroline will never agree to this.’
‘My wife, is my business not yours. Don’t you ever mention her name again. You will be hearing from my lawyers.’ With that Xavier leaves behind a most distraught Penelope.
The final stop of this exhausting day was at Starbucks in Knightsbridge. To meet up with Bernadette. She too had been a thorn in his marriage.
‘Hello you.’ Bernadette says sweetly when Xavier arrives at their table. She’d been so happy when he called to invite her to coffee. Although she would’ve much preferred somewhere more upscale not this tourist hangout, she’ll take what she can get for now. Eventually, he will realise his mistake for settling with that commoner Caroline.
‘Why the hell are you telling people we were engaged?’ Xavier did not waste time in faux pleasantries, he has a splitting headache and everything about this meeting irritates him but he has to do it, for Caroline’s sake.
‘You heard me. Why are you telling your friends that we were engaged?’
‘Don’t lie to me Bernadette.’ Xavier gave her a cold hard look.
Bernadette almost withers under his mean glare. ‘Fine.’ She relents. ‘You gave me the ring-‘
‘Bullshit. You took that ring because you liked it.’
‘Listen,’ Xavier snapped, losing his cool, ‘stop it. Right now. I only called you here to tell you that enough is enough. Leave Caroline alone. She’s my wife and I love her. Nothing you do or say is going to change that. Do I make myself clear?’
‘Crystal.’ Bernadette replies in a clipped tone.
By the time Xavier returns to his suite at the Mandarin Oriental, he is exhausted and angry and the one person he longs for is so mad at him right now. He picks up the phone from its cradle and calls home anyway. Home. His home with her.
Caroline looks at the phone ringing but doesn’t answer. She knows its Xavier. He already called her mobile phone ten times today.
‘I’m so sorry Caroline. Please forgive me.’ Xavier’s says on the answer machine.