DISCLAIMER: Special Thanks to Eden and Liz. Ladies
You rule. ABC and AMC own the rights to these characters. I'm just using them for fun. I got this idea from a hallmark movie.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Secrets Within the Heart
I suppose our lives are a collection of moments. Some moments tell us who we are and others tell us what we might have been. I marked my tenth birthday with the moment I tried to cross the distance between me and my father. I looked for my father in the place he kept distance from me. My father was a caretaker at the homes that housed the rich. He opened them and maintained them over the long winters.
Maggie rode her bike along the white road. She saw her father and stopped.
"I thought you were heading to the carnival?" Mac said looking down at his daughter, "What are you doing here?"
"I thought maybe we could go together," Maggie said hopeful. Her father looked tired. He always worked long and hard hours.
"I can't," he said looking ahead of him. The snow was around them. The bitter cold marked his attention. "I need to make ice for a skating rink. The Montgomery's will be coming up this weekend for Christmas. It needs to be done." Mac looked down into the disappointed eyes of his daughter.
"Not ever for a bit?"
"If I don't work Maggie we don't get food on our table or a roof over our head."
Maggie nodded. "I know sir."
"Sorry," he said beginning to work on making the ice again.
"Can I help you?" Maggie offered.
"I'd like that," he smiled and kissed her head.
Maggie looked around her father's work area. All the tools all the special instruments he used to make the homes look so nice. "Don't touch," he said concerned as she reached for a tool, "it's sharp."
"Yes sir," Maggie nodded and smiled.
"Come on we need to go cut down a tree," he said reaching for a saw.
"I can help?" Maggie asked half surprised.
"Of course," he nodded, "Come on."
"Dad," Maggie asked and looked at her father. "It's times like this I really miss mom."
"I know honey, me too."
The large limo pulled up the drive. "Everything looks great," Travis smiled seeing Maggie and her father. "Thanks a million."
"Thank you," Mac nodded.
"And you," Travis smiled. "You must be your Dad's right hand woman."
"Yes sir," Maggie smiled.
"This is my daughter, Bianca," Travis said putting his daughter down.
"Hi," Maggie smiled. "I'm Maggie."
"How old are you?" Maggie asked the girl.
"I'm eight," the girl said smiling.
"I don't know how I let you talk me into coming here for Christmas," Erica said feeling dirty. "We could have gone to the city."
"Erica darling this will be nice," Travis laughed and looked at Maggie. Maggie smiled.
"I like your sweater," Bianca said looking at Maggie.
"We're going to see the children at the hospital," Bianca said proudly. "We bring them gifts and donate money."
"That's nice," Maggie said looking at her new friend.
"Mom has lots of money," Bianca whispered. Maggie laughed.
"Well let's get you unpacked," Mac said. "Come on "
Maggie watched as Bianca and Travis made their way down the stairs of the old house. Travis was dressed as Santa. "Ho Ho Ho," he said cheerfully. "Merry Christmas!"
"Oh Travis," Erica laughed.
"I'm not Travis I'm Santa. Have you been a good girl?" Travis asked Bianca.
"Yes sir," Bianca smiled as her father picked her up.
"And you?" he asked Maggie.
"Yes sir," she smiled as well.
"Come on then let's go to the hospital and deliver these gifts," Travis said looking at Mac who had just finished setting up the fire.
"Can Maggie come?" he asked Mac. "We'll be back just a bit after 10. Is that too late?"
"No," Mac smiled. "She can go."
"Honey," Erica said softly. "I'm tired. I think I'll stay here."
"Okay," Travis nodded. "You okay?"
"Just a headache."
"Okay girls! It's just us!" Travis laughed and grabbed his big red bag. "Let's go!"
Their trip to the hospital done, Maggie, Travis and Bianca were on their way home. The roads were starting to get bad. "Boy it's really coming down out here," Travis looked at Maggie. "Does it usually snow this much?"
"Yes," Maggie said softly.
"So Maggie do you ice skate?"
"I love it," Maggie nodded.
"I can skate too," Bianca added.
"That's right Binks you can out skate me even."
"You taught me how," Bianca smiled.
"Yeah I "
Travis saw the car dead ahead of him stalled. The cars hazards were on. "God!" he slammed on his breaks. The car began to swerve. It moved in circles and began spinning out of control.
"Bianca Bianca," Travis held his daughter and Maggie in place as he tried to control the car. They finally slid off the road and hit a snow pile.
"God Bianca Maggie," Travis looked at them. "Are you girls okay?"
"Yeah," Maggie said looking at Bianca. The girl was in Maggie's arms. She was shaking.
"Stay here," Travis said getting out of the car. He moved around and saw the still body. He moved in closer. Whoever she was she was dead.
"Oh God Oh God "
"It's okay," Maggie said holding the crying Bianca. "We're going to be okay. Don't cry."
Travis was speaking with a police officer. He kept looking back at Maggie and Bianca sitting side by side wrapped up in a blanket. He looked over and saw the other victim the other victim he had not seen. The child.
He had hit a mother and a little girl
He began to shake. He walked off to the side and didn't stop. No one noticed it. Not Bianca. Not Maggie. Not even the police. He just walked away.
The knock startled Mac. "What is it?" he asked looking down a tear streaked Maggie.
"Car went off the road," the officer said handing Maggie to her father. "She is okay. Little girls is in surgery. Mother didn't make it. He's gone."
"Gone?" Mac asked confused. "What the hell do you mean?"
"Travis Montgomery. We can't find him. We're looking though."
"Is the little girl going to make it?"
"We just don't know."
There were a lot of prayers that night for Mr. Montgomery. Prayers the child would survive. None of the prayers were answered. Mrs. Montgomery had my father close the place that winter. He never took me to work with him again. It was the last time I saw Bianca too.
10 years later
Maggie now older and more beautiful than ever stood at the bottom of the stairs to her home. She took off her black cap and gown and looked around the house. He hadn't come. Her graduation of all things. She was mad. She was hurt. She needed to find him
She did find him. He was at work. One of the social gathering going on he was in the kitchen seeing things over.
"Dad," Maggie said crossing her arms.
"Hey Kid," he smiled. "What are you doing here?"
"You missed it."
"Oh damn. Is that ceremony over already?"
"I shouldn't be shocked really. You've never set aside time for me before. Why should now be any different right?"
"I'm sorry Maggie. I am. But I need to work. I need to "
"Yeah put food on the table. A roof over our head. I get it. You should have been there Dad. Today you should have been there."
"Listen Maggie "
"Don't," Maggie shook her head.
"If I don't work our family "
"What family!" Maggie shouted. "We don't' have a family."
"Never had a family? What have I been working for all my life?"
"A bunch of people who don't care about you!"
"I spent my life providing for you."
"Nice job," Maggie shook her head.
"Get out of here!" Mac shouted. "Get out of here and don't come back. You think you're better than me. You've always thought you were better than me!"
"I will be," Maggie said assured. She ran out of the kitchen and did not look back. She made her way home. She packed her suitcase. She looked around the house one last time and with that she was gone.
That day I took a vow. I wouldn't lose site of the things that were important.
10 years later
"If you can't reach me here try me on my cell. I want to hear from you as soon as you can reach me. We got the red light on the Chandler deal."
Palmer put his arm around the young woman's shoulder. "Maggie my darling. What are your plans for Christmas this year?"
"Nothing yet sir," Maggie smiled.
"A young beautiful woman like yourself surly you must have plans," he smiled. "What about the Bahamas?"
Maggie laughed. "Well maybe someday "
"You work too hard Maggie," Palmer said. "Treat yourself to some fun."
"Maybe next year " Maggie's cell phone rang. "I need to take this."
"Always working," Palmer laughed. "I guess that's what I pay you the big bucks for."
"Stone," Maggie said holding the phone up to her ear. "Tell me good news on Chandler Enterprises."
"Maggie?" the voice sounded older yet familiar.
"It's your father."
Maggie hadn't spoken to her father in ten years since she left home.
"My Doctor needs to speak with you," Mac said softly.
"Okay," Maggie slowly sat down.
"Can you come back to Pine Valley?"
"I guess when?"
Maggie's plane landed and she took her rented car directly to the hospital. She approached the nurses' station. "Hi. I'm Maggie Stone. I'm looking for Mac Stone. He's a patient here."
"One second," she said typing away. "His name is Mac Stone?"
"Oh I I should call the Doctor for you," the nurse said suddenly looking pale.
"What room is my father in?" Maggie asked.
"I should let the doctor speak "
"Is my father dead?"
Maggie felt her world crash. "God," she whispered and lowered the small flowers she had been carrying.
"This is in nice condition," the man said looking around the room. "Ms. Stone is there anything you'd like to keep?"
"I haven't been back here in ten years," Maggie said coldly. "You can take it all."
"The auction house will give you $5000 for the whole lot."
"$7500. And I want everything out of here by the end of the week."
"Yes," he nodded.
"I want to show the place as soon as I can."
"No problem," he nodded. "I understand."
Maggie began to look through a box. "I never saw this," she said looking down at a picture of her and her mother.
"Is that your mother?"
"She died when I was little," Maggie said sadly. "I thought he had got rid of all her pictures, he never wanted any of her up. Said it was too painful."
"Well losing someone you love often is," the stranger said. "I'll get right to work on this for you."
"Thanks," Maggie said watching him walk away.
Maggie drove. She took in the white surroundings. It always beautiful at Christmas. She glanced down unable to take her eyes off the picture of her mother and her. She came to a slow stop.
She turned the car around and pulled out her cell. She had changed her mind.
She jumped the wall and made her way to her father's shed. His place. Everything was the way it had been years ago. She saw his tools hung in their proper places, still clean and well maintained. She smiled. That was when she saw the note.
Montgomery's would be coming for Christmas.
I walked to Montgomery's house thinking how far I had ventured from this place and how much I had changed since I last saw it. The years had passed and I wondered if my father thought it too how quickly the time had passed. How much he had changed.
"Please leave your number for my mommy," the small voice said.
"Hi I'm calling from the estate looking for your mommy. Okay. Call me please," Maggie said before hanging up.
The hours had passed and before Maggie knew it it was the next day. The phone rang and startled her.
"Hi. I'm returning a call for Mr. Stone."
"Hi this is Maggie. I was the one who called you. I'm Mac's daughter."
"His daughter? Oh he didn't say his daughter worked with him," the woman said softly.
"Oh no I don't work with him. I'm here visiting from California."
"Oh," the woman replied.
"My father died."
"Mac died. I just spoke with him on Sunday. I'm so sorry."
"How well did you know my Dad?"
"I didn't. I'm sorry. I've never been there before. I just "
"Sadly no one will be able to open the house for you."
"Oh it's okay," she said. "I'm sorry for your loss Maggie."
Maggie had one last stop to make. One last place to say goodbye. She made her way to the hospital. "Can I help you?"
"Yes," she smiled. "I bought some presents for the children. Do you still do that?"
"Yes Miss. Just down the hall. There are presents under the tree there."
"Thank you," Maggie smiled. She walked down the hall and bent down pulling out the boxes she had brought. She looked down.
"To Danny from Travis," she read the nametag. "To Sara from Travis." Maggie paused. "What the hell?"
"Find anything?" the older nurse asked.
"I I knew a man named Travis Montgomery," Maggie said looking up.
"It was a long time ago," Maggie said standing up. "I came here to this hospital. We gave gifts to the children."
"I remember that," the nurses nodded. "I remember that night so well. That little girl and her mother. That poor man. Over come with guilt. I was on shift. He came to work here a few years after that. I got to know him well. Such a giving man."
"Is he still here?" Maggie asked intrigued.
"Oh I'm sorry. I didn't mean to mislead you. Travis is dead. He died a few years ago. We established this fund. Every year we bring gifts for the children in his name his memory."
"Come with me. I'll show you something."
Maggie followed the older woman as they walked down the hall and into a room. "I first met Travis here," she smiled at the memory. "He would sit in here nights during his break from work. He always got a lost look in his eyes. He'd swear to me he could see the lights of Montgomery Place ahead. But that's not possible," she said sadly.
"Do you know why he ran away? The police ruled it was an accident. There were no charges against him. He just disappeared."
"Travis killed a woman and a child. I think he would have taken his own life if it hadn't been for his daughter. He kept wishing he could see his daughter again."
"Why didn't he?" she asked.
"There was no chance of that happening. His wife divorced him. He never got to see his daughter again. One evening he just didn't show up for work. His brother came. Told me he had died. It was a heart attack. He was still young for his age."
"Thank you for telling me."
"Are you close to the family?" the nurse asked.
"No," Maggie shook his head. "I knew them a long time ago. Sort of in another life I guess you could say," Maggie sighed. "I better go. Thank you."
"Thank you for your donations," the nurse smiled.
Maggie walked into the hardware store. It had been years
"Hi. I was wondering well I'm looking for someone's help. I'm looking for someone who might be able to open up Montgomery Place for Christmas."
"Who are you?" the older man asked softly.
"I'm Maggie Stone. My father, Mac, he was the caretaker."
"Mac," the man smiled. "He was a good man. I'm sorry for your loss Maggie."
"Thanks," Maggie nodded. "I saw a note saying the Montgomery place is going to need to be opened for Christmas."
"Yeah your Dad was in here talking about it on Monday. Who would have thought it? After all these years the Montgomery girl is coming back."
"Montgomery you mean his daughter."
"Yeah what's her name Bianca I think your Dad had said?"
"Bianca Montgomery," Maggie said softly.
"Want me to ask around for you?" the older man asked. "See if I can find someone to open it?"
"No no that's okay," Maggie shook her head. "Forget."
Maggie stood in front of the boarded house. She could hear the wind blowing off the lake. She approached it slowly. The mailbox had fallen off the front door. She reached down and picked it up. It would need to be fixed.
There was a lot to be fixed.
Maggie's cell phone rang. "Hello?"
"Laurie. Hey," Maggie smiled. "What? I can't hear you," Maggie said as Laurie broke in and out. "Yeah I know. I've got that filed in the back room. I know. Look, tell him the documents will be out next week. Yeah I know I was supposed to be home today. I've got some stuff I need to take care of here. Laurie look just transfer all my calls to voice mail. I'll check messages from there .Laurie can you hear me?"
She walked outside and grabbed her coat. It was dark so dark. "Laurie?" She hung up. It was then she noticed the flashlight. Maggie saw it make its way around the corner of the Montgomery house. She walked slowly following whoever it was. She saw them take out keys. He was an older man moving slow.
He went inside and came back out again. He got into his car and drove away. Maggie pulled her keys out of her jeans and quickly got into her own car following him.
Maggie made her way inside the old warehouse. She saw the lights turn on and she jumped back startled. An old man was holding two cups of coffee, "You followed me from Montgomery Place. I was inside helping a friend open it up for the holidays."
"You're you're Mac's daughter?" the old man asked softly. He could see it now in her eyes.
"He and I were talking about you just the other day. I'm Jackson."
"I remember spending a lot of time here when I was a kid," Maggie said looking around the room. All the old carnival rides.
"So you came home," Jackson said.
"I won't be here long," Maggie answered. "I'll be heading back to LA soon."
"Yeah you catch the plane tomorrow and I'll take care of opening the cottage for Mac."
Maggie walked outside and looked up. "You don't see stars like this where I live. Too much smog."
"Well goodnight. Thanks for taking care of the house."
Maggie picked up the phone and dialed the number.
"Hi. This is Maggie."
"Hi Mac's daughter right?"
"Yes. Listen I just wanted to let you know the house will be open for you when you get here."
"OH wonderful," the woman answered.
"I I didn't get your name," Maggie hinted.
"Bianca. Bianca Montgomery."
Maggie waited a second. She quickly realized Bianca didn't know who she was. "So I wasn't planning on staying but I think I'll stick around a few extra days. Make sure things are all set for you when you arrive. You and your husband?"
"Oh no," Bianca laughed. "Just my daughter and I."
"A daughter "
"Her name is Lilly," Bianca smiled. "It's our first Christmas away from home."
"Well I'm sure you guys will have fun," Maggie smiled. Bianca paused. There was something about this woman's voice. Something familiar almost. "You must be looking forward to coming back. It's been years."
"Oh you're mistaken," Bianca smiled. "I've never been there before."
"Oh," Maggie paused. "My mistake."
"So I'll see you?"
"Sounds wonderful. I look forward to meeting you."
Maggie hung up the phone and stood in her father cottage.
As a young girl I stood in this room and dreamed of becoming my father. That was before we became so angry at one another.
"You knew these pictures were here," Maggie said looking at the older man who made his way upstairs. They had finished opening up most of the house.
"Your father saved them when the movers came years ago. They were going to toss most of it."
"Why did he save them?"
"He used to say no one should ever be forgotten. Not totally. We had a fight your father and I did. Just before he passed away."
"Opening up Montgomery Place for the holidays. I said we should take all these things away."
"Sometimes things are better left the way they are in the past."
"Do you think he saved these things in case Bianca came back?"
"I don't know," Jackson said.
"Imagine my old man caring about these things. I spoke with an older woman at the hospital. She told me about Travis Montgomery how he passed away."
"So you want me to finish opening the rest of the house for you? You can take off to LA."
"No," Maggie shook her head. "You know it's amazing. But I'm actually enjoying getting some dirt on my hands," she smiled.
"Whatever you want," the Jackson smiled.
"So you stuck around huh?" the hardware store employee smiled.
"yeah I got some help opening up the old place," Maggie laughed. "Woman's work is never done."
"True," he laughed.
"My father's friend Jackson he's giving me a hand."
"Oh yeah Jackson Montgomery," the man nodded.
"What?" Maggie paused. "What did you say?"
"Jackson Montgomery runs the carnival warehouse area. He's helping huh."
"Montgomery?" Maggie was so confused now. All this time Jackson had never mentioned he was a Montgomery.
Maggie was quiet in her approach as she entered Montgomery's Place again. "You're a horrible liar," she said startling Jackson.
"I know," he nodded.
"You should have told me. You shouldn't have lied."
"Sometimes I wish you never came here."
"Because like I said sometimes it's better to leave the past in the past. Come with me. There are some things you should know now."
"Just come with me," he said taking her hand and leading her to the car. "It won't take long."
Maggie waited as Jackson turned the engine off in the parking garage. "What are we doing here?"
"Just wait. Watch. There is a concert tonight. Give it ten minutes."
Maggie turned and watched as the people left their cars and entered the building. As the lot cleared, people slowly approached all the parked cars and spread themselves out on the hoods.
"What?" Maggie looked confused.
"Sometimes I think they look like fallen angels," Jackson said softly. "They lay out on the hoods for the heat from the cars. They're cold. They're hungry." He stopped and pointed. "Him that one. That's "
"Travis Montgomery " Maggie breathed out seeing the man from her past and recognizing him instantly.
"You lied to the nurse. You told her he was dead."
"She was a good woman. But he had come apart. He couldn't work anymore. He couldn't keep it together. I know she tried to help him but he was past help at that point. He couldn't have the two things he needed most."
"What?" Maggie asked looking at Jackson.
"His daughter and forgiveness."
"He should know "
"What? That his daughter is coming up for Christmas? She doesn't even know him. Erica wouldn't allow it. I doubt she even remembers him remembers what happened that night. Go on call to him. Have him come over. Tell him who you are. Maybe that is the right thing to do because God knows I don't know anymore."
"Do what's in your heart Maggie "
"Hi Maggie," Bianca said into her phone. "Good to hear from you. How are things going there?"
"Good," Maggie said softly. "I meant to ask you what room did you stay in when you were here."
"Oh," Bianca laughed. "I thought I had told you I've never been there before."
"No," Bianca said. "My mother closed the cottage just after my father left her. It was right before I was born."
"I see," Maggie said realizing now how deep the lies went.
"There were too many painful memories I guess."
"I want to talk to her mommy," Lilly said into the phone. She grabbed it. "Is there snow there?"
"Yes," Maggie answered. "And more before you come too."
"I love snow," Lilly said. "Bye."
"Bye," Maggie smiled.
"Goodnight Bianca," Maggie said.
"Night Maggie," Bianca said as she hung up.
Maggie saw the SUV pull up. She approached it. She saw her the girl who had grown to a woman. She was beautiful. Maggie smiled.
"What does it look like mommy?" Lilly asked as her dog barked.
"It's yellow and blue. It has big shutters and a big porch that runs along the front. Lilly turned her head. "Maggie's here," she whispered.
"Hi," Maggie smiled. She saw the large dog sitting next to Bianca's daughter. He sat at attention.
"Hello," Bianca smiled back and extended her hand. "Nice to meet you Maggie."
"Likewise," Maggie said shaking Bianca's hand. She felt the jolt rush through her. It was familiar and sweet and safe.
"This is Lilly," Bianca said placing her hand on her daughter shoulder.
"Hi Lilly," Maggie smiled. "I'm Maggie."
"Hi Maggie." Maggie realized quickly that Lilly was blind. So small. So young.
"Well we better get in and get settled. It was a pleasure meeting you."
"Nice meeting you too," Maggie said.
It was later that night that Maggie heard a dog bark outside. She came out. Dressed in her pajamas. She saw Lilly, Bianca's daughter, standing outside alone, the dog at her side. Maggie ran back inside and grabbed a jacket and came back outside. But no one was there.
"Hello?" she called out. There was no answer. She looked confused but went back inside.
The next day Bianca and Lilly were walking down the driveway near the gates entrance.
"Morning," Bianca smiled and waved.
"Morning," Maggie smiled back. She was working on a lose fitting by the gate.
"Maggie Stone," Lilly smiled and waved in Maggie's direction.
"Hey Lilly," Maggie laughed. "Out for a walk?"
"Yeah," Lilly said as she approached the gate. She gently traced her gloved hands along the metal, picturing their shape and design.
"The house okay?" Maggie asked.
"It's wonderful," Bianca smiled. "Thank you so much. You must have worked really hard." Bianca noticed the gash on Maggie's hand. "Oh," she reached down mother instinct taking over. "I hope that isn't on our account?"
"No," Maggie smiled at the warmth in Bianca's touch. "Just my own stupidity." Bianca smiled.
"You know I was thinking you must have known my mother or met her at some point right? Your Dad's been serving these houses all these years. He knew her."
"I yeah my Dad never took me to work with him much," Maggie lied partially. Though there was some truth in it. "He didn't think I belonged out here."
"Lilly's been fascinated by this gate since we arrived," Bianca laughed. "We were just on our way out. Have you had breakfast?"
"No," Maggie smiled. "I haven't."
"Well would you like to join us?"
"Actually I was hoping to run into you," Maggie smiled. "I was hoping you and Lilly here would join me on a little adventure."
"Oh really?" Bianca smiled looking down at her daughter. "What do you think kid?"
"Yeah," Lilly smiled. "I love adventures."
"Well let's go then " Maggie dropped the keys in the snow. "Darn "
She and Bianca began searching for them. Lilly gently reached down.
"Here you go Maggie," she smiled and handed the keys almost like she sensed them. Maggie looked amazed and smiled.
"Was it warm enough last night?" Maggie asked Bianca as she and Lilly drove in Maggie's small SUV.
"Perfectly really. Not too warm. Not too cold."
"Good," Maggie nodded. Maggie approached the stop sign and pulled the car to a stop.
"I kept walking from room to room," Bianca admitted. "I couldn't shake the feeling like I had been there before. It was weird but the truth is my mother just told me about the house a month ago before she and her new husband moved to Europe."
Maggie looked past Bianca seeing the older man standing with other homeless people. They held their hands out, trying to keep them warm by the fire from the trash can. It was Travis Montgomery.
Bianca didn't notice him. Maggie realized she wouldn't even recognize him. "I must have taken a wrong turn," she said. Maggie looked back and noticed Lilly had turned her head, looking out the window seeing something no one else could. She tilted her head to the side. Maggie was certain she was sensing something. But she didn't want to risk it. She began to move the car again.
"Here it is," Maggie said pulling the car in front of the old warehouse. "Come on inside." Bianca and Lilly followed Maggie in. Maggie flipped the switch to Jackson old warehouse. The lights lit up the room, and the carousal showed.
"Oh Lilly," Bianca breathed out amazed. "It's a beautiful horse carousal."
"And Lilly there is a horse here that's just been waiting for you to ride him," Maggie winked at Bianca.
"Really?" Lilly smiled excited.
"Yup come on up here," Maggie reached down and grabbed the little girl, placing her on the horse. Lilly began to trace her hands along the carving.
"It's beautiful," Lilly whispered in Maggie's ear. Maggie turned her head .suddenly Lilly touched Maggie's face. She gently ran her hands up and down its side. "Your beautiful too Maggie."
Maggie smiled. "Thank you," Maggie said softly.
"You have a nice smile," Lilly whispered. "Mommy likes it." Maggie felt her heart warm slightly. She wasn't sure what was going on, but she liked it.
"Here we go," Maggie said flipping the switch. Just seeing the smile on Lilly and Bianca's face made it all worthwhile.
The ride over, Bianca, Maggie and Lilly walked down the path to the lake. Lilly was up ahead of them as she was playing with her dog.
"Can she see anything?" Maggie asked curious.
"At first yes. She could see lights. I tried teaching her colors but we never finished. She's totally blind now."
"There is so much sadness in the world," Bianca said softly looking at Maggie. "I'm trying to teach her about the beautiful things in it."
"You're doing a great job," Maggie answered. "She is an amazing kid."
"I loved the carousal Maggie Stone," Lilly said coming up to them. Maggie laughed.
"Well I'm glad you enjoyed it."
"Can we go again sometime?"
Maggie looked to Bianca who nodded. "I think we can arrange that."
"You know when I was a kid, it was my favorite thing in the world."
"What's your favorite thing now?"
"That's a good question," Maggie said softly. "I think I'd have to say the water is."
"What does the lake look like?" Lilly asked.
"It goes on forever," Maggie said getting down low next to Lilly. "It's like a reflection into your soul. And right in the middle of it is an island."
"Can we go out to it?" Lilly asked excited.
"It's getting cold honey," Bianca smiled.
"I'm not cold," Maggie laughed.
"Me either," Lilly cheered.
"Maybe some other time," Bianca smiled. "Come on lets head in. It's getting dark.
Maggie smiled as she saw the old sled behind the wood stove in her cabin. "I'll be damned," she laughed picking it up and dusting it off. She remembered the last time she had ridden it. She had hurt herself, sledding in a place her father asked her not. As a punishment he had taken it away. She smiled to herself. It needed to be cleaned and waxed but the old red metal sled still had some life in her yet. "And you'd bring some smiles to someone I know," she whispered. "Thanks Dad."
Her files and comments from the important business transaction she had been doing were forgotten. Instead she was sanding down her sled.
"You grew up in a beautiful place," Bianca said looking around the ice pond.
"I didn't stay," Maggie answered honestly. "I left it behind. I ran. When I was a kid I was determined to leave. Now that I'm back the reasons I left are becoming less clear."
"We all try to escape where we came from. My mother has all the money in the world and she is always unhappy. All I wanted to do was separate myself from that."
"You seem content."
"It's because of Lilly."
"When I first met her she was nine months old. No one wanted a blind baby. I couldn't leave her. She saw something in me I saw something in her."
"She's lucky to have you," Maggie said.
"I'm the lucky one," Bianca smiled. "She's taught me so much about myself."
"You know Bianca," Maggie looked and sounded so sincere. "Doing this work for you and Lilly it's the nicest thing I've done in a long time."
Bianca smiled. She finished lacing her skates.
"Listen we're going to see a Christmas Carol. Lilly and I would like you to join us."
"I'd love to," Maggie smiled. "Formal dress?"
"Sadly yes," Bianca laughed. "We'll pick you up at 7."
Maggie recognized the parking garage instantly. She, Bianca, and Lilly made their way to the elevator. "I'll be right back," Maggie said holding her hand.
"Okay," Bianca nodded. Maggie made her way down to where the homeless people were standing near the warm cars.
"I'm looking for someone who'd be interested in making honest wages for honest work." She locked eye with Travis. Travis nodded.
"Fifteen dollars an hour?"
"Thank you," Travis said.
"I'll pick you up at 10. Is that okay?"
"Yes Ms," Travis nodded. "I'll be here."
"See you then," Maggie said walking back around the corner. Travis watched her walk away.
Maggie watched the play progress. Bianca and Lilly were the best company she had in a long time. Bianca's arm gently lay next to Maggie's. Maggie knew it would be a mistake or a good move. She gently reached down and took Bianca's hand in her own. Bianca looked down and smiled as she glanced at Maggie. She gave Maggie's hand a small squeeze and looked back up to the stage. Lilly glanced at her mother and smiled. You didn't need to see to know the love that was growing between Bianca and Maggie.
Maggie pulled through the gate as Travis sat at her side. She and Travis noticed Lilly standing with her dog. Travis looked at her, his expression softening slightly.
"It's great we found someone to do that," Bianca said looking up at Travis who was removing snow from the roof area.
"Do what mommy?" Lilly asked as Bianca tightened her water safety jacket.
"Maggie hired someone to remove some of the snow off the roof."
"Well," Maggie jumped in as she picked Lilly up and placed her in the boat. "That was the roof doesn't leak. See, sometimes when snow gets heavy it causes roofs to leak. Not too much fun. Gets wet and cold."
"I never get cold Maggie," Lilly said proudly.
"You don't huh? Not even the night I saw you outside?"
"Lilly were you outside without me?" Bianca asked slightly shocked.
"I had Max, mom," Lilly said petting the top of her dogs head.
"Don't go outside without me at night," Bianca said.
"Sorry Mommy. I think Max really likes it here," Lilly smiled.
"Really? How would you like to live here?" Bianca asked Lilly.
"But what about NY and our friends?" Lilly asked.
"Well we could make new friends here in Pine Valley."
"Maggie would you live here with us? We have twelve big bedrooms," Lilly laughed. "I sure wouldn't want to have to clean them alone."
Maggie laughed. "No I can't blame you. Okay everyone ready?" Maggie pulled the chain as the motor in the boat started up.
"This is exciting Maggie," Lilly cheered.
After about a twenty minute ride they made their way to the island. "I feel like the Swiss family Robinson," Bianca as she tied the rope of the boat to the dock. .
"You want me to lift you out of there Lilly?" Maggie asked smiling.
"Lift me Maggie," Lilly held her hands up.
"You know what?" Maggie asked Lilly.
"If I was Max I'd be so proud to have found a little girl like you."
"Blind like me?" Lilly asked. Bianca looked up and watched Maggie face.
"exactly like you," Maggie smiled and kissed Lilly's cheek. Bianca just watched her daughters exchange with this amazing woman. She smiled.
"Come on Max," Maggie called the dog.
They walked for what seemed like hours. Lilly walked up ahead of them. "She's so independent," Maggie smiled at Bianca.
"She's taught me so much. There is no future to a child. There is only here and now and what is in front of you." Maggie nodded.
"It's getting windy mom," Lilly called out. Bianca looked up as the snow began to fall down. "And it's snowing."
"We should get ready to head back," Maggie said looking at Bianca. "the waters starting to look a little choppy."
"I agree," Bianca nodded.
"Come on," Maggie took Bianca's hand. "the docks this way."
They arrived at the dock and Maggie felt her heart drop. The boat was not tied where it had been secured. Bianca and Maggie both scanned the water area. About a hundred yards out was their boat drifting amongst the water.
"Maggie," Bianca said as Maggie walked closer to the dock. "What are we going to do?" Maggie looked left and right and scanned the area hoping to see someone anyone out on the lake. But she knew it getting late and the odds were not in their favor.
The wind picked up as the snow began to fall harder. Maggie looked back at Bianca. She knew there was only one thing to do.
"Maggie what are you doing? That water's freezing," Bianca said seeing Maggie taking off her heavy jacket and gloves and boots.
"It's the only way," Maggie said glancing at Bianca.
"What's she doing mommy?" Lilly asked as Maggie jumped into the water. She felt like millions of needles entered her at once. She gasped for air as the shocked of the freezing water hit her.
"God," she breathed out swimming as quickly as she could to the floating boat. By the time she reached it her joints were locked and she could barely feel her legs and arms. She began to swim back with the boat dragging behind her.
"Stay here baby," Bianca said as she went to help Maggie. Bianca pulled the boat to the dock as Maggie climbed inside.
"I I can't " Maggie was out of breath, and was shaking.
"I know," Bianca threw Maggie's jacket on her. "Lilly come on baby. Sit with Maggie keep her warm."
"Is Maggie okay?" Lilly asked as Bianca looked down at Maggie's pale color.
"I don't know baby," Bianca kissed her daughter as she tried to start the boats motor. But it wasn't starting. Bianca sat Lilly next to Maggie and sat down. "Hold on Maggie. Hold on," Bianca said as she began to row as quickly as she could in the choppy water and windy snow that had picked up much quicker than either would have suspected.
To Be Continued
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