Miracle at Laurel Falls by Muffy Chapter 5

Republisher’s Note:Tonight we publish our last chapter of Christmas fanfic until next year. Tune in Tomorrow for the resumption of Mob’s Cardinal.

Miracle at Laurel Falls by Muffy – Chapter 5

She had only been in the kitchen for a short time, looking over the stack of Christmas cards and other assorted mail…when she heard the doorbell. Thinking Danny had returned, she ran to the door and flew it open…only to be met by Carmen Santos.

Michelle invited her in, but a sense of dread filled every fiber of her being.

Carmen began, “Michelle, I am responsible for the phone call that Danny received. I had hoped that we could meet at some other point, but since it looks as if my son has chosen to keep me out of his…your lives…I had no other choice. When I discovered you two were traveling to Paris next week to be married, surrounded by your family, I knew I could no longer prolong this meeting.”

Michelle offered her tea and Carmen accepted. As she placed the cup and saucer in front of her guest, she realized how much her hands were shaking.

Carmen continued, “I have been most happy that you and Daniel have found one another. God knows, Daniel needs goodness in his life. The problem is that I don’t think you know Danny as well as you think you do.”

“When he lost his father, Daniel was devastated. He shut down completely. If only he’d had someone he could have confided in…talked out his feelings, shared his grief with. I clearly was not that person.” Michelle reflected on a similar time in her own life.

“He’s kept this bottled up inside since that day, Michelle..and nothing I could say…nothing I could do …. Daniel has a good heart, but he is clinging to the past..the *old* ways.”

“The very day that Miguel….Michael was kil….. died, he had planned to take Daniel to a special place..a tradition that was passed down from one generation to the next. There’s a bench in the center of City Park to which each father from each generation has taken their son. Since Daniel was clearly the future of our Family…”

“This talk was to be different from the rest, however. Michael had fought tooth and nail to make our world a safer place for our children and looked forward to seeing his grandchildren grow and prosper in a very different kind of world than he had known. Michael’s vision had been to legitimize the Santos business holdings and he had started this process ten years ago.”

“My son has grown to hate me, Michelle, for the truths that I have attempted to make him realize. Daniel is holding on to the past that he *thinks* he remembers but the past he envisions is filled with violence and hate and death. That’s the reason he will not return to Springfield to live. That’s the reason he wants to start a life together in Napa. He will only return when he can run the Santos Family the way the thinks his father would have continued on.”

Carmen reached across the table to grasp Michelle’s hands noticing that her face had turned as white as the freshly fallen snow.

“I have worked very hard to carry on Michael’s dream, fighting Daniel at every turn. I will continue to fight him, Michelle…but ….I could not allow my grandchildren to be….
…..you have a right to know the whole truth.”

Carmen stood to leave, still holding Michelle’s hand.

“I can see the doubt in your eyes and please realize how hard this is for me… I’ve seen how happy Daniel is. Do you know that for the first time in eight years, my son and I had breakfast this morning…and we TALKED…we actually TALKED.”

“I’m so very sorry, Michelle… I want things to be different. I pray the same prayer every night.”

“Ross Marler is old and dear friend of your father’s. Call him. Ask him about the Santos’ now compared with ten years ago.”

With that, she left and Michelle knew in her heart that Ross would only confirm what Carmen Santos had said was the truth.

When Danny arrived home that evening he was exhausted. The urgent business had been a wild goose chase. Nothing was making sense anymore.

And where was Michelle? He had tried to call her repeatedly and there was no answer. Picking up the phone to dial her again…he heard a rustle on the bed. Turning on the small lamp beside the bed, he came face to face with his beloved.

“Baby, I’m so glad you’re here…you had me worried to death.” Danny sat down on the bed to draw her into his arms.

Michelle reveled in his warmth and his touch. How was it that she could feel so safe and so protected…….Knowing what she had to do, she began quietly…

“Danny, were you ever going to tell me about what kind of life we would really have together? Or did you plan on keeping that part of *you* to yourself?”

He pressed a kiss on the top of her head. “What are you talking about, sweetie? You know I don’t have any secrets from you.”

Michelle disentangled herself from his arms and stood beside the bed. Walking over to the far wall she flipped the switch, lighting the room. Danny saw her face for the first time. Her eyes were red and swollen and there was more pain on her face than he had ever wanted to see there.

“Who have you been talking to Michelle? …because whatever was said, I can..”

“Don’t EVEN try to tell me this is some kind of figment of my imagination….Do Not INSULT me like that……”

“Okay,” he replied…getting off of the bed and turning his back to her. “What do you want to know?”

As she spoke her voice was much more even than she was feeling. She felt as if she was on a downward spiral and there was no chance of being saved from hitting the bottom.

“I want to know…… if you love me enough…if you believe in US enough…to look at your life and realize that the way you are going…what you’ve embraced as YOUR way of life…is….well….is wrong.”

Turning back toward her, he rubbed his hand through his hair and continued, “Michelle, you don’t have to worry about anything, about those things…I can protect you…my business dealings will be kept completely separate from our lives…I promise.”

She looked at him as though he had punched her in the gut. “How can you say that…much less THINK that?? YOU have made a conscience decision to live like this…and maybe ….yes….I would turn the other way and still find a way for us to be together….because I LOVE you that much Danny…..”

“…..But then I realized …..what I cannot allow to happen…what will NEVER happen…is to bring our child..children into a world that YOU have chosen due to some kind of MISGUIDED loyalty to your father’s memory…into a world you CHOOSE to have filled with violence.”

He looked at her as if looking through her. “You don’t understand how it is…”

With increasing intensity, she continued. “Okay, fair enough…maybe I don’t understand all of your *ways*….but answer me this…. At the parade the other day, you lifted your hand and those two goons came running to take care of Mick…how many more were at your disposal? When you were at the Christmas party at the country club the other night, how many bodyguards were watching your car? When you are at my house……how many armed men were on look-out…HOW MANY, DANNY??”

Her voice became very quiet. “Right now..right now if I went to that door…and called out…how many men would come running with their guns drawn? Do you want our babies to grow up like that….DO YOU DANNY?”

“That’s who I am, Michelle. You can’t change me….” There was defeat in his voice as well as his words.

“Well, I guess I just got my answer.” The tears were clouding her vision and flowing down her face as she looked down at his grandmother’s ring one more time.

Quietly taking it off, her voice choked with emotion, ” You know, I actually thought you loved me…silly me, huh?”…..

“…….But you don’t even know the meaning of the word.”

She placed the ring on his dresser as she walked out of the life of the only man she would ever love.

***************

“Where is she, Nick?” Danny was unshaven and looked as if he had not slept in days. Every waking moment had been spent in finding Michelle. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say, but he did know that without her in his life he was better off dead.

Choosing his words carefully, Nick replied, “Danny…you know I can’t tell you that. You have to let her go.”

“You KNOW we belong together…you KNOW THAT…now where the HELL IS SHE?!?” Danny didn’t care that every one in the department store’s small cafe had turned to stare.

It was December 23rd. Eight years earlier, due to massive city budget cuts, the annual lighting of the Springfield Christmas tree at Laurel Falls has been discontinued. Nick had just listened to the last Christmas wish from the last child for this season and would be leaving shortly.

The past few days had been very hard…. Saying goodbye to a heart-broken Michelle and watching her life unravel before his eyes. He had done the only thing he could think of ….. He made an overseas call to Ed Bauer to tell him that his daughter needed him home…desperately. And now, the reason for all of her happiness as well as her overwhelming pain was sitting across from him. What Danny did not know and what he could never know… Michelle, the precious young woman he had first met years before during such a sad time in her life…. was not simply protecting herself from the way of life Danny was determined to perpetuate. That very day she had confronted Danny about his life … she had confirmed that she was in fact carrying their child….. an innocent baby…..a child she vowed to protect with her own life.

“Danny….if you want to see Michelle again, you have to do something for me first. Go home and get cleaned up. In the meantime, I will get a message to her. Go to Laurel Falls tonight at seven o’clock and wait for her at her special place. If Michelle shows up, you’ll have one chance to try and make things right…..to try and sort things out with her…..But…….If she’s not there…you must accept that …and leave her alone…..forever.”

For the first time in his very long life…… Nick wondered if he was doing the right thing… His heart was heavier than it had ever been. “Can you agree to my terms, Danny? Can you let her go if that’s what is best?”

Danny looked at Michelle’s old friend and realized it was out of his hands and had to be done on Nick’s terms or not at all.

By the time Danny arrived at Laurel Falls that evening, he had accepted what he should have days ago. Michelle was better off without him. The path of his life had been set 10 years earlier…and there was no changing his destiny. He had to carry on his father’s business…. and that meant he couldn’t have the woman he loved.

He knew it was selfish….utterly selfish on his part…but he wanted to see her one more time…just see her ..and touch her …and know that she was real …and that for a short time they had been happy.

He didn’t even know if she would show up. Who could blame her if she didn’t. After all, in the short time he had known her….. he had taken and given nothing in return….she had given of herself unconditionally.. …She had been willing to uproot herself and start a life with him in California…she had given herself to him completely…in every way… and what could he offer her….a life filled with uncertainty and only guarded safety…..she deserved so much more.

So, he was here at Laurel Falls…a place that held what he knew would be the most wonderful memories of his life…time spent with Michelle.

Now, only two questions remained….. Was he going to be man enough for once in his miserable life to do the right thing….and would she even care enough to come.

*******************

“Nick,” she said to herself, out loud, “I can’t imagine why you wanted to meet me here to say goodbye.”

Michelle had been staying at the Bauer Cabin since her encounter with Danny, a place he knew nothing about. She had barely taken the time to go home, pack, and tell Nick not to worry. She had broken down then, and told him everything.

Just two hours ago she had received the phone call from Nick…it was time he left Springfield but he wanted to see her once more…at Laurel Falls….could she come?

***************

Ed, Rick, Abby, and Meta hurriedly got off of their plane. It had been a long trip and all they wanted to do was to see Michelle and make certain she was okay. Nick could not have been more evasive…just that his baby girl needed him home.

He had tried calling the house several times, but there was no answer. He was starting to panic.

Just then a delivery person approached him.

“Dr. Bauer?” Ed nodded his head.

“A package for you, sir.”

Ed took the oblong package and tore into it……things were getting more curious by the minute… and then he saw it…..He took the hand-crafted wooden cane in his hand and immediately knew exactly where to find Michelle.

Running up to the nearest cab, he waved the others to get inside…. “Laurel Falls, please…and hurry.”

***************
Danny had given Carlos the day off. Carmen Santos needed to run some errands and he had offered to take her to her destination.

She realized that they were not heading into town, per her instructions.

“Carlos ….where are we going?”

“Sit back and relax Mrs. Santos. I have it on good authority that everything’s going to be just fine.”

She was not coming.

He had given his word to Nick

He had never felt more alone.

Even though darkness was descending, as he sat down on the large rock, his eyes could still make out …..

Over there was where they had built a snowman and he remembered her pout when at first he had refused to send Carlos to a nearby store for the perfect carrot for the nose….and over there, they had watched some children sledding down the hill and she kept pleading for them to join in the fun….over there they had sipped hot cocoa, leaning against each other, each lost in their own thoughts as the moon danced on the snow covered landscape….over there they had spotted a deer which seemed to just stop and stare at them, wondering why they were intruding on his special place….over there Carlos had patiently helped Michelle build the fort as she excitedly kept showing him snowball after snowball, making sure she was doing it just right.

He head went down to rest in his hands and for the first time in his life he cried, really cried, his sobs racking his entire body.

“Daniel.” The voice only uttered one word, but it was not as much what was said it was …Danny knew that voice. He rose his head and saw the outline of a figure enveloped in diffuse light, walking toward him.

“Yes…it’s Papa.” Danny just sat there, mesmerized.

“We need to talk, son.” Michael continued.

“All of this pain……the pain you are feeling….it’s unnecessary, Daniel.”

Danny let out a low sarcastic laugh. Now he had an apparition telling him he was crazy. Just want he needed. “Oh, really??? So then why don’t YOU tell me what I SHOULD be feeling…?”

The bright figure smirked…it was a look Danny had seen so many times….in his own reflection. “Daniel, what your mother has told you time and again about my plans to change the Family business..it’s all true. ”

He let out a loud laugh and spoke to the sky. “OK, now I understand…Great work, mother…sound effects and all…you don’t miss a trick do you?”

“Danny,” this time there was a softer voice calling his name. “Danny look at me…you know who I am, don’t you?” Danny gazed at a second figure. He did know who she was…it was Michelle’s mom…he had seen her picture. She had a kind, understanding face and so much love in her eyes. “Danny, what your father is telling you is the truth…listen to him with your heart, Danny.”

Danny rubbed his eyes and really looked at his father for the first time. It was him. He was here talking to him. There was so much he wanted to say…but all that would come out was.. “Papa.”

“Son, you must know, it has been so difficult to watch your struggles over these past years..knowing there was nothing I could do. But I am here now…Daniel…do you understand what I’m saying…”

“How….what??” He was having a difficult time forming coherent thoughts much less verbalizing them.

“The hows and whys are not important. Do you understand what I’m telling you about what my vision for our Family?” Michael’s voice was insistent.

“Yes…you’re telling me that all of my life ….fighting Mama …”

Miguel Santos nodded his head and smiled. “You do realize I’m not particularly pleased with the way you have treated your mother… I’m thinking an apology and major groveling will be involved.”

Danny smiled now. There were so many questions he wanted to ask…so many things he wanted to tell his father… then his thoughts went back to the reason for his pain…

“Papa……”

“Danny,” this time the voice he heard filled his heart with so much joy he felt he would burst. “Danny… what’s going on?” she said softly.

He looked around and saw her and did not hesitate for a minute as he ran to her. “Baby, you came.” He grabbed her and held her tightly.

She looked at him, the tears threatening. “Danny, I don’t understand…”

Danny held her…his face buried in her hair…smelling her…holding her …she was real.

As if coming back to the present, he jerked around while still holding the woman he loved. “Papa…”

He saw the figures retreating and the light growing dimmer… “Papa” his voice pled.

“Son, always remember I love you.”

“But Papa.”

“Danny, who are you talking to?” Michelle was confused.

“Papa…I love you.” He could barely make out his father’s smiling face as the light was barely visible now…the tears were falling freely.

His father had gone.

Michelle gazed up at him with wonder…. and understood.

Danny’s hands gently cupped her face, drinking in her sight. “He was here, Michelle…he was here….oh, baby…everything’s going to be all right.”

She didn’t know how she knew…but she knew what he was saying was true…everything WAS going to be all right.

She raised her arms to envelope his neck with her embrace…as he lifted her off of the ground and swung her around. Stopping while still holding her in the air… he looked into her eyes and brought his mouth to hers.

She hung to him for dear life, placing her entire soul into her answering kiss.

On the other side of the clearing they heard a commotion.

“MICHELLE!!” It was Ed Bauer’s voice that rang out.

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