Sheridan awoke and sat up on the cushion she had been sleeping on. She turned around to look at her brother. Julian was already awake, sitting against the wall of the pit. He smiled at her.
“So, you sure look better,” Sheridan said.
“I feel a lot better,” Julian agreed. “Your nursing did the trick, sister dear.”
She smiled. “I did the best I could. I’m just glad you’re OK.”
“Well, I’ve seen better days,” he admitted, “but I am definitely on the mend.”
“How long have we been here now?” she asked.
“Together? Three days,” Julian said. “But you were here two weeks before I arrived. I don’t know how you stood it for that long.”
“I almost didn’t,” Sheridan revealed. “Now you know why I’ve lost all track of time.”
“That’s certainly understandable,” said Julian. “One can forget about a lot of things down here.”
“Being trapped down here does make you focus on what’s important in your life,” Sheridan said. “I never stop thinking about Luis. He’s always on my mind – he and our baby.” She smiled, patting her stomach. She was now eight months pregnant.
“You never think of Antonio then?” Julian inquired. “I mean, I understand your undying love for Luis, but don’t you think about Antonio as well?”
Sheridan shook her head sadly, feeling somewhat guilty. “That’s just it. I don’t think about him,” she said. “It’s all about Luis. I guess that’s one good thing about being down here. It certainly cleared my head of what was not important.”
Julian raised his eyebrows in surprise. “I know you cared for Antonio or you wouldn’t have married him.”
“Oh, I do care about him,” she said. “I even loved him at one time, but it was nothing like what I feel for Luis. I can see things so much better now. How I wish that we had just told Antonio the truth months ago! Then Luis and I could have been together all this time. Now all those months seem like they were wasted. I realize now how precious that time really was.”
Julian nodded sadly. “I know what you mean about wasted time. I feel that way myself sometimes. Like I’ve wasted a lot of years…”
“You mean with Ivy?” Sheridan asked. “I know the two of you didn’t really have a conventional marriage. At least that’s over with now, Julian. You’ve moved on with Rebecca.”
“Yes, Rebecca…” he said. “More wasted time…”
“Julian, I thought you and Rebecca were close,” Sheridan said.
“Appearances aren’t always what they seem, my dear,” he replied. “Rebecca and I have had some fun times together, but really it meant nothing compared to…”
“Compared to what, Julian?” she asked. “Who were you closer to than Rebecca and Ivy?”
Julian hesitated about saying anymore to Sheridan. He had never told anyone of his feelings for Eve. No one knew how he truly felt except Eve and his father, of course. But Alistair was incapable of understanding love.
“I, I did have a relationship once,” he began, looking not at Sheridan, but instead at a spot on the wall of the pit opposite him. “It was a wonderful relationship. We loved each other completely.” He smiled sadly and then continued. “She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. We had something so special together, a once in a lifetime kind of love. It reminds me of what you have with Luis.”
Sheridan’s eyes widened at the realization that her brother was capable of such a deep love. She had never thought of Julian as someone who could harbor such strong emotions for someone. “Julian,” she asked, “what happened to her? Where is she? Why aren’t the two of you together?”
“It’s a long story,” Julian said, finally looking at his sister. “You see, Father didn’t want me with this woman. He had made a deal with the former governor that I marry his daughter.”
“I had no idea that you were in love with someone else when you married Ivy!” Sheridan exclaimed. “Julian, how could you go through with it?”
“I was weak,” Julian said. “Father threatened to disown me if I went against his wishes and married the woman I loved.”
“So it was the Crane fortune or the love of your life, and you chose the fortune,” Sheridan said.
“I’d give anything to have that choice back again,” Julian said. “I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. I’ve regretted my actions everyday since.”
“But how could you do it, Julian? How could you just give up the woman that you loved?”
“You’re disappointed in me, aren’t you? Well, I am in myself as well. Actually, I had planned to keep her in my life – as a …”
“A mistress? Julian! That’s not how you treat the woman that you love.”
“I know, I know,” he said. “Anyway, it never got to that point. When I saw her shortly before the wedding, I found out she was pregnant.”
“Julian!” Sheridan exclaimed. “You abandoned this poor woman and her baby? How could you!”
“We…it’s a long story,” he said. “I had to marry Ivy. At the time, that’s what I believed. Now I know I could have chosen a far different path, and should have.”
He paused for a moment and took a deep breath. “Later, I heard that the baby died shortly after he was born.”
“Oh, Julian!” Sheridan cried. “How awful for both of you. That poor woman – what she had to go through, all alone. It must have been a nightmare for her.”
“It was,” he said sadly. “I will never forgive myself for letting her go through that by herself.”
“It’s such a sad story,” Sheridan said. “So tragic. I feel for you, Julian, I do. But I especially feel for that poor woman and what she had to go through.”
“You and me both,” Julian said, tears forming in his eyes. “That’s not the end of the story, either. Recently, we - this woman and I - have come to believe that our child may not have died after all.”
“What do you mean?” Sheridan asked incredulously.
“We think that maybe Father had him kidnapped from the hospital, and the doctors lied about his death.”
“My God! I know our father can be cruel, but even he wouldn’t stoop to that level, would he? To kidnap an infant, and make the mother think he was dead…”
“I believe Father could do even worse,” Julian revealed. “I think he would have killed my son if he had to.”
Sheridan’s eyes and mouth opened wide in total shock. “My God, Julian, why would he want to kill an innocent baby?” She placed her hands protectively on her stomach as she talked.
“The child was an embarrassment to him, a thorn in his side,” Julian offered. “When our father wants someone out of the way, it usually happens.”
Sheridan got up and walked over to comfort Julian. “I’m so sorry,” she said, putting her hands on his shoulders. “I don’t know what else to say. I’ve never heard such a tragic story.”
“There’s more,” Julian said, wiping a tear that had fallen from his eye. “But if it’s all right with you, I think I’ll wait until another time to talk about it.”
Sheridan hugged her brother. “I’m here for you, Julian, no matter what.”