Broken Vows Chapter 2

Republisher’s Note: After the Manny marriage broke up, Michelle fled to Canada, but Danny eventually made a success as a legitimate businessman.

Broken Vows – Chapter 2

Danny spun around in his chair so that he could look out the enormous expanse of glass that formed the wall behind his desk. The view of Springfield was amazing from here in his office, but Danny wasn’t really seeing it. This was the anniversary of what he once believed was the happiest day of his life – the day he and Michelle had renewed their vows at Laurel Falls. As he reflected on everything that had happened in the three years that had passed since that day, he couldn’t help but let out a small, bitter laugh, at the irony of the way things had worked out.

A little more than a year after they’d exchanged vows at the falls, Michelle had left him; a few months after that, she’d left Springfield, and he hadn’t seen her since. His only contact with her had been through the lawyers who’d finalized their divorce last year.

Danny still remembered exactly how he’d felt on the day he and Michelle had truly become husband and wife – overwhelmed by love and desire and hope. He’d been blind to all of the differences between them, certain that with the strength of Michelle’s love, he could overcome anything, even his own demons. He’d been wrong.

For a long time after she’d left, he’d been angry – at her, at himself, at his family, at the world. He’d thrown himself into the life he’d been groomed for: heading one of the most powerful crime families in the state. He believed at the time that he was fulfilling his destiny, capitulating to the inevitable. Michelle had been his light, and when she turned her back on him, he took it as a sign that he was lost to the darkness.

It was Ray who’d finally helped him to see that nothing was inevitable, that there was always hope, but it took courage to turn your life around and save your own soul. This was after their grandmother had died and they’d uncovered all of her manipulations, including Carmen’s death and the set-up with Xeno. Danny had always believed that it was his duty, as a male Santos, to protect his family at all costs, but everything changed when he finally, truly accepted that the greatest damage to the family had always come from within its own ranks; if anything, he needed protection from them.

Slowly, methodically, he’d begun to turn things around. He created a new “code,” the rules by which he would live his life – without fear, anger, violence, or revenge. It was impossible to run away from who he was, but he could stay and stand up for what he believed in, and he did. He used the skills he’d learned in business school and appealed to the most basic motivation of the other families: greed. He’d brokered deals, stroked egos, and very carefully engineered an equitable distribution of every illegal line of business operated under the Santos name. He threatened no one, and refused to succumb to anyone else’s threats. And now, after months of sleepless nights and endless days, he sat at the head of a completely restructured, and legitimate, San Corp. He and Bill Lewis were making a name for themselves and the company in both the music and the technology industries with the marketing of software Bill had developed, which allowed for tracking of the rampant exchange of digital music and video files on the Internet.

He still thought about Michelle, often; he couldn’t help himself. Part of him wished she could see what he’d accomplished, on his own. He wanted her to know that she’d been wrong about him and that he had, after all, become a better man — the man she’d stopped believing he could be. Still, he never contacted her, although he knew Bill could’ve told him how to get in touch with her. As much as he’d loved Michelle, would always love her, the fact remained that she’d broken his heart and left him to fall into the abyss, and while he wished her well, he honestly didn’t know if he ever wanted to see her again.

“I can’t believe I’m here. I missed this place – and you – so much,” Michelle said. She and Rick were sitting across from each other at the table in the Bauer kitchen, each with a glass of lemonade in front of them. She looked around the room. “I love what you’ve done in here. The color is great,” she said, gesturing at the formerly beige walls, which were now painted a vibrant blue.

“This is all Chelsea’s doing,” Rick smiled. “She pointed out, quite accurately, that nothing in this house had changed since … well, since Mo died.” His expression sobered and he reached out to take his sister’s hand in his own. “I hope you’re okay with the changes.”

Michelle gave his hand a small squeeze. “Of course I am. It was time. And besides, this is your home, you and Chelsea have a right to redecorate!”

“It’s your home, too, Michelle. Always.”

Michelle could see that he meant it, and she was glad. “Thank you. I promise, though, I’ll find my own place as soon as I can. You’re newlyweds, you don’t need me underfoot.” She paused and looked in Rick’s eyes. He looked happy and content, in a way that he hadn’t been since before Abby left him. “I’m so glad you and Chelsea found each other, Rick. You deserve to be happy.”

“Hey,” Rick said, bringing his other hand around so that Michelle’s small hand was clasped in both of his. “You deserve to be happy, too. And somehow, I get the feeling that you’re not.” He let her hand go and leaned back in his chair. “Talk to me, sis. What’s going on?”

Michelle sighed. How could she explain something that she had a hard time understanding herself? When she’d left Springfield to go to school in Toronto, she’d been running away – from her marriage and from herself. She’d thought that leaving was a solution, but all of the months she’d been away had only made her more miserable and confused. The Danny that she left wasn’t the same one she’d fallen in love with, she knew that, but she missed – no, she ached – for him anyway. The therapist she’d gone to for a few months in Canada had told her she needed closure, but Michelle wasn’t sure if it was an ending that she was looking for. She turned to Rick and began to speak.

“You’re right, I’m not happy. I haven’t been happy since I lost the baby … I think I just kind of started shutting down then, and I feel like I’m only just now starting to come back to myself.” She looked away from Rick, down at her fingers splayed in front of her on the table. “For two years, I’ve been running, Rick, and I’m tired of it. I came back to face my problems.”

“You came back to face Danny, you mean,” Rick said.

Michelle looked up at him sharply. “Yeah. I guess you think that’s a bad idea, huh?”

“No, actually I don’t. There are definitely some unresolved issues between you two, and I don’t think you can move on without dealing with them. I think it would be good for both of you.”

“Wow,” Michelle had to grin. “I never thought I’d hear you express any concern for what’s good for Danny.”

Rick smiled back at her. “Well, you know, he’s changed, Michelle. I never would’ve thought it was possible, but he actually cleaned up the Santos family. And I do have him to thank, at least indirectly, for bringing Chelsea into my life.”

Michelle nodded. She knew the story – back when Danny was still running Millennium, he’d booked Chelsea Reardon to sing at the club. When her show proved to be popular, Danny had signed her to a regular Sunday-night gig. With the boardinghouse no longer run by the Reardons, Chelsea had ended up renting out the Bauers’ garage apartment, and she and Rick had fallen in love, helping each other overcome their respective histories and serial heartbreaks and disappointments.

“In fact,” Rick continued, “Chelsea invited him to the Bauer barbecue tomorrow.” Chelsea had ducked out a little while earlier, to do the last minute shopping for the Bauers’ annual July 4th cookout, as well as to give her husband and her niece some time alone to catch up.

It certainly hadn’t occurred to Michelle that Danny might be at the barbecue, and she suddenly became aware of her heart pounding heavily in her chest. “Oh. Well, that’s good, I guess,” she said casually, attempting to mask her nerves and her secret elation. In less than 24 hours, she’d be seeing Danny again.

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