“I’ve said what I wanted to say. Don’t wait dinner for me. I’ll eat later.”
* * *
Alexis watched him leave the room. A view she seemed to have a whole lot of lately. She’d been an idiot to think she could win this tug of love with him. It had been destined for failure from the beginning. She deserved more than that, and so did he—so why on earth couldn’t he see that? Why wouldn’t he grab what he was offered with both hands and run with it?
It made her heart ache to think he’d chosen to remove himself from love, that he was so broken that he couldn’t try again. No, it was more that he wouldn’t try again. It was a conscious choice. She just couldn’t understand why anyone would choose loneliness and solitude over love.
Over the next few days she watched as a handful of selected applicants arrived at the house for interviews with Raoul. Each time, he’d ask Alexis to bring Ruby in to the meetings to introduce her to her potential carer. Some introductions had gone okay, some not so much. When Raoul told her at the end of the week that he’d made a suitable appointment and that the woman would be starting the following Monday, Alexis’s heart sank. Her time here now was limited. Soon, she’d have to leave and the very idea just broke her heart.
The only bright light in the darkness was planning Ruby’s first birthday party next week. Catherine had suggested they hold the celebration at the play center since it was already designed to cater to a big group of small children and everyone who she would have been inviting went there anyway.
Raoul, though, was adamant he wouldn’t go.
“No,” he said emphatically when Alexis invited him.
“But it’s Ruby’s birthday,” she implored.
“She won’t know the difference.”
Alexis rolled her eyes. “That’s not the point.”
“It’s also the anniversary of Bree’s death, have you stopped to think about that?”
“Of course I have,” she argued back. It seemed they always ended up arguing these days and it was taking a toll. “But you can’t punish Ruby for that for the rest of her life. Are you going to deny her a celebration every year because you lost Bree that day, too? Can’t you grasp what you have for once, rejoice in it instead of holding on to what you’ve lost?”
“I said no. That’s the end of it.”
It was like talking to a brick wall. He’d distanced himself so effectively she had no idea of how to get through to him anymore.
The following two weeks passed in a blur. The new nanny, Jenny, was wonderfully competent. She’d just returned to the area after working for a family up in Wellington who had a job transfer to overseas. She hadn’t wanted to go with them, preferring to stay in New Zealand, so the position with Ruby was perfect timing for her.
Alexis hadn’t wanted to like the other woman and had, in what she recognized as a ridiculously petty way, resented how easily she’d taken over Ruby’s care and how quickly Ruby seemed to bond with her. Each day Jenny took over more and more of Alexis’s duties, and Catherine, too, agreed the other woman seemed to be working out really well.
With less time with Ruby herself, Alexis had more time to think about nursery preparations for when she got home, and even time to get back to her designs. She’d played a little with some sketches in the past couple of weeks, a few ideas for herself mostly, and her hands itched to see how the ideas would come to life in her preferred range of hand-dyed natural fabrics. She’d never imagined designing a maternity range of clothes before, especially not for the high-end fashion boutiques her work usually showcased in. Now she was getting excited about the idea.
Besides, she reminded herself, she’d need something to distract her once she left. This was going to be one of the hardest things she’d ever had to do. The second hardest was going to be telling her dad about her pregnancy. He’d be disappointed in her, she knew it, but the prospect of new life would help lift him from his grief and give them something they could look forward to together.
Alexis had toyed with the idea of phoning him with the news, or sending him an email, but she knew this was the kind of thing she’d have to tell him face-to-face. At least, she consoled herself, moving back to her father’s home meant that she’d be nearer to Tamsyn, her half sister, and Tamsyn’s husband, Finn, her father’s business partner and the man who’d been like a big brother to her growing up. She could almost begin to tell herself she was looking forward to it.