Be Mine Epilogue — Part 3
“Mummy!” Aidan grinned, his silver eyes glowing beneath his tousled black curls.
Heart bursting with joy, Aura laughed at her three year old. “Hello, darling. Where’s your sister?”
“Mummy! Mummy!” Alexa squeaked. Her little head with its soft black curls bobbed in and out of the video frame as she jostled for space with her older brother.
“Let’s place it here. Then you’ll be able to see,” Aura’s mother said, adjusting the computer so all three of them came into the frame.
“Hi, Mum.” Aura smiled at her.
“Happy Valentine’s!” Alexa yelled with a huge grin, then she clapped her hands over her mouth and giggled.
“Aw, thank you, sweetheart,” Aura said. “And happy Valentine’s to you too.”
“Lisa taught her that,” Mum said.
“Aunty Lisa gave us cakes too.” Aidan grabbed a pink and red box from beside him on the sofa and held it up to the screen. Four huge swirly-iced cupcakes sat inside with two conspicuous gaps where a fifth and a sixth were missing.
“They look yummy,” Aura said.
Bill must have made them. He baked the cakes and pastries Lisa and he sold in their trendy London cafe. It was a business of love for them both.
They’d started it two years ago with Nathan’s help, and it was now flourishing based on its reputation for the finest cakes and coffees.
“Aunty Lisa said we should save one for you.” Aidan poked longingly at the colourful icing on each of the four cakes.
Aura laughed. “That’s sweet of Aunty Lisa, but somehow I don’t think that’ll happen.”
“Oh dear, they’ve had more than enough cake for one day.” Mum gently took the box from Aidan. “Let’s save the rest for tomorrow, love. Otherwise I don’t know how I’ll get you both to bed on a sugar overload.”
“I hope they haven’t been a handful, mum?” Aura asked.
Mum tucked her blonde hair behind her ear and smiled. “Not at all. They were playing with the kids at Lisa’s house most of the day, so George and I went out for dinner, then we collected them from Lisa’s afterwards.”
“Mummy, we got balloons,” Aidan crowed happily.
“Red and pink,” Alexa chirped, her dove-grey eyes glowing.
“That’s wonderful,” Aura said. “Show me when I get home.”
“Are you coming home tonight?” Aidan’s eyes widened with hope.
Aura shook her head. “Not tonight, darling. Mummy’s working tonight.” His face fell. “But you can stay at Grandma’s,” Aura said brightly. “And promise me you’ll both be really good and go to sleep quickly. And I’ll see you… so very soon.” She wanted to say ‘tomorrow’, but that wouldn’t happen, not with her trip to New York.
Aidan nodded sadly, and Alexa gave her a hopeful smile.
Aura curled her fingers into her palms. If only she could reach through the screen and gather them both to her and never let go. She’d held them too briefly last night, and then she’d had to leave them behind to come to Milan. And now she was leaving her babies once again with no idea how many days would separate them. How many more nights before she could hold them, smell their sweet baby scent, and kiss them goodnight?
Mum gathered Aidan and Alexa to her in a quick hug. “There’s no need for the long faces. Wish Mummy goodnight and then run off to bed. You’ll see her and Daddy tomorrow.”
Aura didn’t have the heart to correct her.
Both children cheered up, and pressing kisses to the computer screen for her, hurried off to bed.
They disappeared, and Aura swallowed back sudden tears.
“They’ve missed you so much,” Mum said. “It’ll be good for the four of you to have this weekend together.”
“Mum, I’m not coming home this weekend.”
“But… why not, love?”
“I’m flying out to New York tonight.”
Mum sat back, lost for words for a moment. “And Nathan?” she asked eventually.
“I’m travelling alone,” Aura said, and just saying that brought a wave of loneliness washing over her.
“But Nathan had arranged…”
Aura sat forward. “What? What did he arrange?”
“He’d planned a surprise weekend away. He’d cleared his diary for it.”
“I… I didn’t know.”
Mum shook her head. “No wonder he’s working late tonight. I thought it strange. He was supposed to be in Milan with you.”
“Nathan’s working tonight?” Aura asked, latching onto any information about him.
“Hasn’t he spoken to you?”
Aura glanced away.
“Aura,” Mum said. “I won’t poke my nose between the two of you. But you have to tell me if you’re not all right.”
“I’m fine, Mum. I’ve been busy. That’s all.”
“You’ve been running ragged for months now. You’re barely home. Is this really what you want from your work?”
“It’s not something I can control or stop. There are things I have to do to survive in this business.”
Mum frowned. “None of us ‘have to’. We all have a choice.”
Exactly what Nathan had said. But it was easy for him and Mum to say that. They weren’t the ones trying to build a career where who you rubbed shoulders with was the golden grail of success.
“I’m sure the world won’t end just because you take a step back,” Mum continued.
“Then I might as well quit,” Aura said with a fierce shake of her head. “And why should I be the quitter when others get out there and do what needs to be done?”
“But you’re not them, and their life isn’t yours.”
“God, you make me sound so incapable.”
“Aura, that’s not what I meant. I know you. And I don’t think world domination is in your blood. Be true to what makes you happy. Let other people live the lives they choose.”
“You don’t understand,” Aura said quietly. “I have no choice. If I slow down or step off the show wheel, I’ll be left behind. A nobody.”
“How can you be nobody? The fashion world didn’t make you who you are. It was your own talent. You made it by yourself.”
“No, Mum.” Aura shook her head. “Not by myself. I had you, Nathan, everyone. And I won’t let any of you down.”
Mum tutted. “You could never. I’m already so proud of you. And I’ll be proud of you no matter what you choose to do. I just want you to be happy.”
Aura gave her a small smile. “Thanks, Mum.”
“I won’t make you late for your award tonight,” Mum said. “But promise me you’ll look after yourself, love.”
With a nod and a goodnight, Aura switched off the video chat.
The laptop screen flicked to black, and the room descended into silence once more.
Funny, tonight was supposed to be her crowning glory, a night recognizing her talent. She should be skipping her way to the awards ceremony. But she couldn’t even muster the will to stand up and take the first step. Her heart had remained in London with Nathan and their babies, and hadn’t returned to her.
She closed the laptop, and going back to the bedroom, picked up her phone and swiped to Nathan’s text.
‘We need a break.’
He was working tonight, so maybe that was why he wasn’t replying to her.
No, who was she kidding? Nathan always answered her texts no matter where he was.
She studied his curt words again.
What had she dreamed her future would be like?
Whatever it was, Nathan had always been part of it.
She had to text him one more time. He had to reply.
But suddenly a new message popped up on screen.
Aura sighed as her PA’s words let her know the car was here to take her to the awards ceremony.
She was out of time. And picking up her purse, she left the bedroom.
* * *
“I’ve been so lucky to meet and work with so many talented people. I wouldn’t be here without everything I’ve learned from them.” Aura paused in her acceptance speech and glanced around.
The lavish function hall with its marble pillars and glittering chandeliers, enticed with a rich scent of rose, cinnamon, and sugar. It called to mind an Italian bakery, but there were no cakes near the stage. Fashionistas and designers from all over the world filled the hall and spread before her like a sea of interested faces. She had their attention in the front. But towards the back, a lot of air-kissing was going on and lots of bright smiles as networking happened in earnest and connections were made.
She’d kept her speech short. What did she have to say that these much more experienced people hadn’t heard a million times before?
Designer of the Year.
Suddenly it seemed a joke, and she gripped the gold statuette tighter. It was formed in the image of a fashionable woman holding aloft a crystal globe.
Aura’s gaze dropped to the statuette’s dark wood base.
That was her name engraved in gold.
And she was the one up on stage tonight making this acceptance speech. She was the star of the show. But it sure didn’t feel like it.
She cleared her throat. “Most of all I want to thank my family for their love and support, and… and my husband for being by my side every step of the way. He was… is my rock.”
But Nathan wasn’t by her side tonight.
She scanned the listening faces again. But no stranger’s smile could fill the emptiness inside her. Nathan would have stood right in front, and his smile of encouragement would have been the only one that mattered.
“Um…” She glanced down at the gold statuette. The crystal globe glittered beneath the hall’s bright lights, and rainbow hues danced across its glass surface like congratulatory winks.
All at once a reality sank in for Aura. She’d been so caught up in her heartbreak, she’d missed it.
She looked back at the waiting audience. “I never dreamed growing up that I would reach this place. I never even dared hope. But I hope young designers can look at me today and know that no matter where they think they are, they can still reach their dreams.” She paused with a small smile. “I also know I’ve plenty more learning and work to do, and…” She held up the statuette. “This beautiful award will be my encouragement to stay on that journey. I’m so grateful.”
The hall erupted into applause, and Aura breathed out.
This was the award’s true meaning. It didn’t suddenly make her better than anyone else. In fact, it meant nothing to anyone else. But it was her marker of how far she’d come since those early days in Langley. She was a better designer than four years ago, but that was only the beginning of the journey.
She bent to the microphone to say her final ‘thank you’, and a familiar face towards the side of the hall caught her eye.
He was far from her, and the light was dimmer there, but she’d recognize him anywhere.
Her heart thundered in her chest. He was leaning back against a marble pillar, tall and handsome in his fitted dark evening suit. People milled around him, one or two trying to catch his attention. But his light eyes were intent on her. She locked gazes with him, and joy and relief bloomed inside.
He’d come for her.
“Ahem.” The young presenter on stage beside her cleared his throat quietly.
Aura snapped back to the present. “Thank you,” she said into the microphone, not taking her gaze from Nathan. Then she quickly stepped off the podium.
“Fantastic speech,” the presenter said as he walked off stage with her.
“Thanks.” Aura gave him a fleeting smile and urgently scanned the hall again for Nathan.
But he wasn’t there.
Had he really been there?
She shook her head. Was she so desperate to see Nathan, she was imagining him everywhere?
“Aurora.” Several people came to offer their congratulations as she stepped off stage. Aura smiled and thanked them, shook hands and kissed cheeks, all the while moving in the direction Nathan had stood.
Her red-haired PA came and caught her in a hug. “Aura, you did great,” she said, a broad smile lighting up her cheerful face.
Aura hugged her back. They’d worked together three years now, and Sally had made herself indispensable. Things magically switched from chaotic to smooth whenever she was around.
“Will you look after this for me?” Aura asked, handing her the statuette.
“Sure.” Sally took it and looked it over in awe. “It’s beautiful.”
But Aura was already searching for a glimpse of Nathan again. “Sally, give me a minute, okay? I need to find someone.” And she hurried past her PA to where Nathan had to be.
To be continued tomorrow…
Chocolate, oh, chocolate! Wherefore art thou?
My kingdom for a piece of fine chocolate!
Actually, I don’t have a kingdom, but if I did, I’d totally swap it for chocolate.
But did you know that after ‘A Night Out’ (the number one gift) the next preferred gift given on Valentine’s Day is a box of scrumptious chocolates? Chocolates are actually even more popular than roses on Valentine’s Day.
So what is it about chocolates that makes them so romantic?
Maybe it’s the look of those pretty little treats. A box of luxury chocolates is an art form in itself, in my opinion.
But more likely, it’s the taste—that sweet, burst in your mouth and melt your heart bliss. This could also be why caramel is the most popular flavour among Valentine chocolates.
My favourite though, is the rose truffle treat. I love the squishy-soft, rose-flavoured centre with the sweet milk chocolate cover.
So tell me, what’s your favourite chocolate for Valentine’s Day? Or any day for that matter. Because chocolate is like a must-have, gimme more, every day treat, right?