The phone vibrates for the one hundredth time, quite literally, for the one hundredth time it is Francesca and for the one hundredth time Blu does not answer. Franny left messages, grovelling voice messages pleading with Blu to forgive her. Dada, Maya and Simi called too all asking her to forgive Franny but Blu is resolute this time.

Ding! Dong! The doorbell goes and Blu leaves it to the maid to answer, she hasn’t left home since returning from the cottage. She hasn’t heard from Brodie either, not that she expected she would. He’d gotten her note so Blu guessed they were well and truly over. She has to move on. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, but she understands why he wouldn’t call. Brodie is guarded, thanks in no small part to the publicity surrounding the Sterling family, he keeps his circle tight. In the privacy of their relationship, he is open, charming and lovely. He hates the press invasion into his life, it is one of the reasons he moved to New York. She was setting up her second office there, the media agency was taking off, she was in demand, brands big and small wanted to work with her and she had acquired a reputation for being the best. A year before she moved, a year into their relationship, Blu spent nearly six months in New York, working on projects that made her a household name. The work kept her busy, so she decided to take a leap and set up shop in New York as well. The decision was not an easy one to make, it was risking everything, and her relationship with Brodie. They’d been dating a year and were so into each other. Leaving him behind was going to be hard…

*

‘What’s up?’ Brodie asked Blu. Since coming home from work she’d been quiet, too quiet. Most nights they found themselves in town together, they would either spend it at his place or hers, just being with each other and making up for lost time.

‘Nothing. Why do you ask?’

‘Because you’re a terrible liar. You’ve had that look on your face since you woke up this morning.’

‘What look?’

‘One that says something is on your mind, has been on your mind for some time. Are you looking for a way to tell me you’re going to have to move to New York?’

Blu jerked her head to look at him, ‘how did you know?’

‘Because my darling, I know you.’

‘But…I don’t know how to do long distance Brodie.’

‘Blu I don’t want you not to follow your dreams because of us. I love you and I want to be with you, but this is what you’ve worked so hard for. You’re setting up the New York office so I know this was only a matter of time.’

‘Are you breaking up with me?’

‘No, I’m trying to make it easy for you. Do you want us to be done?’

‘No. Do you want to try long distance?’

‘I’m willing if you are. Sweetheart what do you want?’

This was the conversation about their future they didn’t expect to have so early on in the relationship even if they’d thought about it separately.

‘Brodie I don’t want you to hang around waiting for me-’

‘Shouldn’t that be my decision?’

‘What do you want? From this. From us.’

‘I want to be with you. I’ll fly out, you’ll fly in and we’ll figure it out from there. That’s what I want.’

‘That’s what I want too.’

They figured it out from there, Brodie was headhunted by another firm in New York, and he took the leap six months after Blu did. Blu instigated them setting down roots in New York, they bought an apartment, a five bedroom pre-war apartment, which they decorated together, mostly influenced by her taste. They argued over the couch, she wanted a powder blue velvet sofa which was impractical, but Brodie’s option was a black leather one. Blu won that battle but in turn converted one of the bedrooms into a man cave for him, complete with all its trappings.

Two and a half years after dating Brodie asked Blu to marry him, in the privacy of their home, just the two of them, no showy stuff. They were lying on the sofa, on a Saturday night when they should have gone to an event they’d both been invited to but passed on. They were dressed in their pyjamas and intertwined on the powder blue velvet sofa when Brodie suddenly looped her fingers with his, got down on one knee and produced a ring from behind her ears like a magician.

‘Brodie…’ Blu sat up stunned on the couch. Was this really happening? ‘What’s going on?’

‘Blu my darling… I love you and I will love you for as long as I live in this life and beyond. In you I have found happiness I never thought I could have. I want to always feel this way and I hope to make you as happy, if not happier, than you make me. Will you marry me?’

‘Oh my goodness. You’re proposing?’

Brodie laughed. ‘I am.’

Tears fell down Blu’s eyes. Tears of happiness.

Brodie laughed, ‘how long are you going to keep me down here?’

‘Yes!’

‘Yes?’

‘Fuck yes!’

Brodie slipped the ring on her finger. A most stunning five carat diamond ring, crystal clear and beautiful.

‘Oh Brodie this is so beautiful.’

‘If you don’t like it we can-’

‘I love it, almost as much as I love you.’

That night they FaceTimed family and friends; Brodie’s siblings, their friends and Blu’s parents. Brodie had asked her parents and best friends for their blessings before he proposed.

Those were good times. Blu opened her bedside bureaux, the red box is still in there with her ring. She hasn’t looked at it since that day in September. The polite thing would be to return it but she cannot bring herself to.

Knock. Knock. The maid gently knocks the door to her room bringing her out of her musings, there were tears in her eyes.

‘Oh Blu get yourself together.’ She wipes her tears away and answers the door.

‘This just came for your Miss.’ Elsie her maid hands her another basket of baked goods with another I’m sorry note from Franny. She’d sent six in the past twenty-four hours. That’s Francesca for you, she can wear you out with an apology; nothing has changed since they were in school together, she’d fuck up royally and spend the next month apologising every day with silly notes and gift baskets.

‘Thank you Elsie. Help yourself to anything please and let the rest of the staff know they can too.’

‘Yes Miss. Thank you.’

Alone, Blu dialled Franny from her cell phone. ‘Stop! Stop it now.’

‘Blu I’m so sorry.’ Franny said as soon as she hears her friend’s voice over the phone.

‘Yes she is Blu. She has more baskets coming your way.’ Roland says in the background.

‘Franny stop, that’s seven baskets I couldn’t possibly eat all of it as much of a sweet tooth as I am.’

‘But I just wanted to apologise. I screwed up in the worst way possible and I cannot take it back. I am so sorry.’

‘You’re forgiven.’

‘I promise-’

‘No, don’t make any promises because I will hold you to it and will never forgive you if you break your word.’

‘I promise not to change and to always love you.’

‘Thank you.’

‘Have you spoken to Brodie?’

‘No… he’s mad at me and I cannot blame him.’

‘Oh Blu.’

That softness in Franny’s voice does it. Blu lets out a soft wail and the flood gates open.

‘Oh darling I am so sorry.’ Franny wants to be there with her best friend so she could put her arms around her and comfort her.

‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t-’

‘Stop.’ Franny chokes back her tears. ‘You are one fifth of me and so you get to call me and cry for as long as you want.’

‘Thank you.’ She needed a good cry and her friend let her cry for as long as she wanted to. She misses Brodie, wants to take back the last few months of their life, go back and do things right. But it is too late.

‘Brodie what’s going on?’ Elliot asks his youngest brother who is in a right mood.

‘I don’t know let’s ask Mum. Seems she had something to do with Blu running off.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Leila Sterling is staring at all five of her children, they’d ambushed her at home. She was just unwinding from her last trip before the holidays and she needed some peace and quiet. She hadn’t asked what they were doing for the holidays, she assumed it would be the usual and so she ordered the usual lunch from Harrods to be delivered on Christmas Eve and her chef will cater to them.

‘What did you say to Blu?’

‘When-?’

‘Oh mum stop it!’ Anais snapped.

Brodie turns to his sister. ‘You knew?’

‘I heard which was why I said to talk to her because I thought she would do the right thing.’

‘I’m not talking about anything.’ Leila does not see how she cannot, with her children ganging up on her. She spares Logan a look, sure he is still mad at her for what she did to him and Francesca that awful woman. She was only trying to protect them, protect their legacy and with him she secured it.

‘Now you don’t want to talk? But you could say whatever bullshit you wanted to my fiancée to make her run-’

‘I didn’t make her do anything she didn’t want to do. If whatever I said made her run, then she wasn’t worth it in the first place.’

‘Mum, you need to stop. Start talking or I will.’ Anais gets in her mother’s face. ‘I told you to do this weeks ago but you don’t listen. Are you going to tell him or should I?’

‘I have nothing to say-’

‘Mum is the reason why Blu ran that day. She had a son before she met dad.’

‘What?!’

‘Anais!’

‘No mum. I told you. I warned you about what I would do if you didn’t tell Brodie so are you going to tell him or should I keep telling your story the way I heard it?’

‘We have a brother?’ Isabel asks her mother.

‘Had.’ Leila swallows hard. This memory is one she forced down but cannot outrun. She has never told anyone this story until Brodie’s wedding day. Admittedly she was feeling particularly spiteful after what she found out about the son she had been forced to give up. The child she never stopped loving because she’d been in love with his father.

‘He died?’ Logan asked.

‘Yes. Two years ago, he needed a born marrow transplant but they didn’t find a match. One of you could’ve been a match but now we’ll never know because he’s dead.’

‘How is that Blu’s fault? Elliot asked.

‘Because it’s her parent’s fault.’

‘What?’

‘I and Marie were the best of friends at school. I was in love with Clyde but he was in love with her. One night after our winter formal, we were drunk, one thing led to another and we had sex. I wanted him to pick me instead of her but the next day he went back to her, told her everything that happened, apologised. She forgave him and they moved on with their lives as if I never mattered. We had a huge fight, me and Marie, and we stopped being the best of friends from that day. I found out four months later that I was pregnant, I didn’t tell them. Your grandmother took me out of school, I had the baby and she gave him away- it was either that or she disinherit me. She made sure I held him, made sure I named him and made me sign the adoption papers. That was the first and last I saw my son. I was just the carrier of the child I loved more than I could possibly understand. I hired an investigator six months ago to track him down and as it so happens he lived in New York. Two years ago he got seriously ill and needed a bone marrow transplant, but they couldn’t match him to a donor. His name was Brodie.’

‘What?’ Brodie did not believe all he just heard his mother say. He has to sit down, they all sat down.

‘I found out before the wedding that he died and how. Losing you to Blu was a loss all over again for me that I couldn’t bear.’ Leila Sterling has tears in her eyes. None of her children have ever seen her cry. ‘I am so sorry Brodie.’