The older woman understood, but she was concerned about her son’s feelings as well. He had been thoroughly devastated when he thought the woman he loved had perished in a plane crash and his mother had never quite stopped worrying about him. Though she knew he was very happy to have Marlena back, Caroline also knew he loved Isabella and she wondered how he was going to handle the stress of all the changes to come. Making a choice was going to be very difficult for him without the added pressure of knowing the two women were actively competing to win his affections, which she now believed was inevitable. Just by looking at him, she could already see the signs of stress in his face. He was tense off and on during the evening and she had periodically noticed him staring out the window, lost in thought, probably worrying about Isabella. Then, in the next moment he would be telling someone he was ecstatic that Marlena had returned. After the polite interchange with Marlena, Caroline managed to get a moment alone in the kitchen with her son and she said, “Roman…I know this is such a shock for you and I can see that it’s already wearing on you. If you need to..talk, I’m always here for you.”
He shrugged off the concern saying, “I appreciate that Mom, but I’m fine. Marlena’s the one you should be worried about. I want to make sure she’s really okay and help her regain her life and her memories of what happened. Don’t worry about me, okay?”
Caroline smiled knowingly, “Oh, Roman, it’s just like you to try and forget about your own feelings and focus on someone else’s needs. Please, take care of yourself too, Roman. I know it was very hard to see Isabella leave here tonight, I know how much you love her.”
He sighed..exhaustedly; it was so difficult to keep pretending and his mother sometimes saw through him. Roman decided to let down his guard and be honest. “Yea….it…was. You should have seen her, Mom.” With a few tears forming behind his eyes, he spoke of his other love, “She was trying to be so brave, but it was tearing her apart. When she gave me back the ring, I felt like… I was kicked in the stomach. I couldn’t think that far, but she did, she’s so strong, Mom.” Battling for his composure, he voiced his sadness about the decision he was facing in the near future, “Oh, Mom, I don’t want to hurt her…and I don’t want to hurt Marlena either. But that’s exactly what’s gonna happen, one of them is gonna get hurt…no matter what I do!”
She hated that he had to face a choice like that, but it couldn’t be denied. “Yes, sweety…you have to choose and one of them will be hurt, there isn’t any way to avoid it. I’m so sorry, Roman.”
He wiped away a straggling tear or two with the back of his closed hand and blew out a long breath. Then he said resignedly, “Yea…me too. Thanks for listening…it helps. I’ll see you soon, Ma.”
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Caroline knew he had been as open as he could be for the moment and so she hugged him gingerly and said, “I love you very much, Roman and your father and I will support you in whatever decision you make.” In the back of her mind, she recalled her conversation with Marlena earlier and felt guilty for having given out two different messages. She just couldn’t put more pressure on Roman by pressing the church’s stance on the sanctity of marriage on him at this moment. Though it was no fault of his own, he was already feeling bad about loving two women at the same time. Even though he didn’t say it, Caroline knew her son felt guilty that he didn’t know Marlena was alive and that he hadn’t waited for her.
“Thanks, Mom, that means a lot to me, it really does.” He put his arm around her and together they walked out into the living room where the only ones left were the closest of family members. Kayla, Bo and Hope, and Shawn were there with Marlena, standing by the door, ready to leave. “Well, it looks like it’s time to call it a night,” said Roman.
“Yes, it is…son, we’ll see you two tomorrow sometime. You just let us know when it’s convenient to visit. And, if you’re needin’ some time alone to catch up on things, we’ll be glad to watch the twins for you,” said Shawn helpfully while checking with his wife non verbally.
“Yes, we will, anytime at all,” agreed Caroline. “Well, let’s go Shawn, Marlena is probably very tired after this long day.”
Stifling a yawn, Marlena finally admitted, “I hate to say it, but I guess it is starting to catch up with me, I think I could fall asleep standing up.”
Kayla said, “I still can’t believe we’re standing here talking to you. It’s incredible! I’m so happy, Marlena!” She moved in for one last hug, pulling Marlena close. “Welcome home, Marlena,” she whispered.
It was all getting to be a bit too much for Marlena and she found herself near tears again, “Oh…Kayla..I’m so happy to be here with all of you. You have made me feel so loved…thank you so much!”
Bo said, “Marlena…you don’t need to thank us for loving you. We’re lucky to have you back, we’re the ones who should be thankful.”
“That is a fact…I know I’m thanking God every few minutes, Doc. Now, please say goodnight before we’re too tired to make it up the stairs.”
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“Goodnight,” said all four of the remaining Brady’s at the same time. As Roman shut the door behind them, he leaned heavily against the door and said, “Oh, Doc….that was great but I’m beat, how about you?”
“No, I’m….full of energy, Roman,” she said while yawning again. Then she laughed and he felt himself drifting back in time to so many other moments when the sound of her laughter had captivated him and filled his heart with joy. Taking her in his arms, he said with a slightly shaky voice that was laden with emotion, “Oh, Doc…you just can’t know how good it is to hear your laughter, I missed that sound in our home, and I missed you so..much!”
“Oh, Roman…I’m sorry I was gone for so long.” She could feel the love he felt and she wanted to act on the love she felt for him, but wasn’t sure of herself or how he would respond and she didn’t want to push him. She reached up tentatively for his face, caressing his cheeks with both hands. “I…love you, Roman,” she whispered as she went on her tip toes to kiss him, softly at first. He responded for a moment, relishing the feeling of her tongue intertwined with his, the sweetness of her lips and then that sense of betraying his commitment to Isabella hit him hard and fast and he pulled away from her.
Roman turned slightly away from her while apologizing in broken phrases, “I’m…sorry, Marlena…I…just…can’t.. It…feels….wr..wrong, somehow, I’m sorry. This is so confusing!” he finished anxiously, as he turned to face her again.
She was disappointed, but she did understand. However, in the split second he responded she felt something deep inside her being reawakened and she believed he did too and that it was the real reason he had broken off the kiss. She concluded that it scared him to feel something for her again, so quickly. “It’s okay, Roman. I shouldn’t have done that, I know this is a lot for you to handle right now.”
He showed her a weak smile and replied apologetically again, “Thanks, Doc…I don’t mean to reject you or make you feel bad, I’m just not ready for anything like that yet. Okay?”
“I know, Roman and it’s okay, I just love you so much and I want to show you that love,” she said honestly.
He glanced away, hiding from the desire in her eyes and said quietly, “Marlena….I…can’t..give you what you want and I’m sorry. I just…need some time to…make sense out of all of this, please try to understand.”
“I know…and I do understand, Roman. I just don’t want to pretend that I don’t love you the way I’ve always loved you. My feelings are right here in the present, Roman because I was asleep for five years, but yours aren’t because you thought I was dead. That makes it pretty confusing for you and I’m going to respect your need for some time to figure out who and what you want in your life.”
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He turned to face her, held her shoulders and stared into her eyes, wanting her to believe his next sentence, “Doc, I will always want you in my life…but..it’s true what you said, I had to put my feelings for you in the past in order to survive and move on. Now, five years later, suddenly it’s okay to…love you again. I’m not really sure what to do with that, Marlena,” he said, the distress he felt made clear by his expression.
Marlena sighed with frustration as she felt the need to voice what was unspoken, “And….there are your feelings for Isabella. Your love for her is all in the present, it seems more…real to you, doesn’t it?”
What could he say to that. He opted for the truth and with a gentle nod of his head, he said, “Yes…that’s how it seems, Doc. It’s all so unreal, having you here, almost like it’s just another dream that I’m gonna wake up from.”
Marlena touched his chin and gently tipped it up so their eyes met again. Softly she said, “Roman, it’s not a dream, your wife has come home. She’s back to stay and you have to face what that means. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not even next week, but soon, Roman. Honey, I know that it’s very difficult and confusing for you and I’m going to do everything I can to help make it easier for you, but sooner or later you have to decide whether or not you want to stay married to me.”
Hearing it said so clearly, so bluntly was painful and he didn’t want to think about it anymore and he pulled away from her. Changing the subject, he said, “You know it really is getting late, I think we should be going to bed and we can deal with this later. It’s been a long day and I’m really wiped out, Doc.” Roman leaned in to give her a quick peck on the cheek and then started up the stairs.
She lingered a moment, ‘Oh, Roman,’ she sighed to herself. ‘You can’t run from your feelings or the truth, at least not for long.’ Recognizing his need to avoid it for awhile, she turned and said, “You’re right, Roman it really has been a long day and I am tired.”
“Okay, then let me take you to your room. The guest room is all set, I…hope that’s okay, Doc.” He said it with an embarrassed apologetic tone and then averted his gaze slightly afterward. There was an awkward pause before she responded as she imagined him picking her up and carrying her into the bedroom they shared so long ago now and then making tender love to her.
She sighed with the knowledge that her vision might never come true and answered with a weak smile, “Yes, it will be just fine, Roman. Thank you.” She walked slowly toward the staircase and then took the hand he offered. Together they ascended the stairs toward their separate bedrooms. The love was there, but they weren’t anywhere near the right emotional climate in which to share it freely. ‘Maybe, some day,’ she thought to herself. Roman was thinking too, ‘I’m sorry, Doc…but I do love Isabella and I can’t be with either of you until I can decide what to do about this…crazy situation we’re all in right now.’ As they reached the hallway, Roman kissed Marlena lightly on the cheek and said, “Sweet dreams, Doc.”
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