I stood outside of Stephan’s house, nervous and out of breath since I ran to get there.
“Dani, baby I knew it!” He said to me with a wide smile on his face. “I knew you’d make the right decision.”
He moved to kiss me but I pushed him away, spewing out, “Stop Stephan! You have the wrong idea. I choose Clay, not you.”
He remained silent and stared at me in shock for a few seconds. “You choose… Clay? Why?”
“Because…” I took a deep breath as I needed to ensure I worded everything right so he would understand my choice. “…as much as I still care about you Stephan, I’m in love with Clay. I know it must hurt to hear me say those words but it’s the truth. What we had was not real. It was based on lies from the get-go…”
“But I love you Dani… my feelings for you were real, they’re still real!”
“I believe you, I really do. But Clay has always been honest with me. He’s always made me happy. I trust him, with everything I have. I can’t say the same for you. I don’t think I can ever truly trust you again, and I’m being honest here.”
“He can never make you feel the way I can…”
“You’re right. He makes me feel strong, smart and capable of taking care of things. When I was with you, most times I felt insecure, suspicious, worried. He makes me laugh. He’s supportive. He’s not perfect and he doesn’t try to be. He can be a couch potato on most days and he’s obsessed with watching sports which I don’t understand, but he’s a good man, a good man. I know he’s genuine and I know his feelings for me and the girls are genuine. I believe you love us as much as you are capable of loving but there’s a darkness in you that makes you selfish and I can’t pretend I don’t see it anymore. I’m sorry, I really am. I don’t want to hurt you but I need to follow my heart… and my heart is with Clay.”
“I can’t believe this… Dani I love you so much…I…”
The look on his face showed devastation. He was so sure I would go back to him. His heart was breaking and I felt horrible but I made my decision and there was nothing and no one that could make me change it.
“Why did you even come here? To rub it in?! You think I’m bad but you’re worse! After I gave up so much for you, you cast me aside for blondie?!”
“Excuse me?!” I yelled, the anger rising steadily after hearing the nonsense that came out of his mouth. “After everything you gave up for me? What did you give up Stephan? What? Nothing, that’s what! You never gave up a thing. You got caught in your lies and I kicked you out of my life and still you did nothing to redeem yourself. You went back to being a criminal and you’re probably still one now for all I know! You sacrificed nothing for me.”
“I killed my sister for you.”
“Don’t try that. You killed her to protect yourself, not me!” I was seething now. I tried to be nice in all of this which took a lot of effort because I’m generally not very nice to people who do me wrong but now no more nice-Dani. “I asked you to leave because I couldn’t arrest you myself, not after I just gave birth to Leni. I hoped you would do the right thing and turn yourself in but no, you ran away like a coward.”
“Don’t call me a coward! How the hell did you expect me to volunteer to go to jail for the rest of my life? How could I be a father if I was sitting in a cell?”
“At least our daughters would have known where you were. I could have made them understand why you were there. They could have visited you. You might have gotten out early with good behaviour since the jails are so overcrowded but you vanished instead! I raised the girls on my own. I had to console Gemma when you left and deal with her acting up because of it. Why did you even think I was still waiting for you? We’re divorced! That means it’s over. It’s been over for years! You think you could show up and I’d forget everything and just fall into your arms like the stupid girl I was all those years ago? Well tough, you can’t pull the wool over my eyes anymore. We’re done so just accept it and move on. I have my wedding to get to. Goodbye.”
I walked away, actually I jogged away. I was in a hurry to not only get away from him but to get back home so I could marry the man I loved. I felt a rush of relief after finally getting everything off my chest. Those feelings that I thought I still had for him were misplaced. I realised the truth that morning. I wasn’t in love with Stephan anymore but I needed closure and now that I had it, I could truly move on.
Everyone wondered where I went but I just told them I went to the spa for a last minute massage and some alone time. I knew Clay didn’t believe my story like everyone else did and I knew he would ask about it later in private but until then we went to the arch, said our vows, exchanged rings and shared our first kiss as husband and wife in front of our family and friends.
After everyone offered us congratulations they all hurried to get some of the catered food at the buffet table leaving Clay and I with a moment alone. As expected he asked, “Where did you go this morning?”
Without hesitation, I told the truth. “I went to see Stephan.”
He wasn’t pleased but he didn’t get upset. “What for?”
“I needed closure. I needed to get some things off my chest.”
He sighed in relief. “I was a little scared when Leni went to check on you and you weren’t here. I was worried that… never mind.”
I hugged my husband, feeling a little guilty that I made him think I had cold feet. “Clay, I would never run out on you. You are everything I have ever wanted and I’m so glad you’re now my husband.” We kissed passionately which resulted in cheers and a few ‘awws’ from everyone.
The party lasted well into the night as we all laughed and stuffed our faces with wedding cake, good food and lots and lots of fruit punch. A part of me was slightly concerned that Stephan would show up and make a scene so I was thankful when he didn’t. Still, I could have sworn I saw him looking at us through the window while Clay and I were kissing.
When I was able to look properly, there was no one there. Perhaps it was just my imagination.
After all the guests left and everyone else retreated to their bedroom, Clay and I went to ours.
“You looked so beautiful today Danielle. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world!” Clay said to me as he caressed my chin. I melted in his arms, feeling so adored and safe to be my mushy romantic self with him.
We wasted no time consummating our marriage. I was exhausted but that didn’t hold me back as I wanted our wedding night to be amazing. And it was! It was the best experience we had yet!
A couple of days after we married Clay became an elder. I couldn’t believe he didn’t tell me it was his birthday. I would have baked a cake and we all would have celebrated with him but he didn’t want a fuss.
He looked so handsome for an old guy. I knew I was right behind him in a few days myself and I wondered if old age would look as good on my as it did on him.
Days went by and there was no word from Stephan. We tried calling his cell phone but it was disconnected and when I went over to his house, he was not there either. His landlady said he packed his stuff and moved out the morning after my wedding. There was no note, no text or email explaining why he left. He just disappeared. Gemma was of course more upset about it than Leni. She moped around the house looking like she was about to burst into tears at any second.
I finally sat her down so she could let it out, and she certainly let it out!
“I don’t understand Mum! Why would he do this? Why would he leave me without saying goodbye, again?!”
“Did you do something Mum? Did you tell him to go away?”
“I didn’t tell him to go away. I wouldn’t do that to the two of you.”
“You know he’s still in love with you, right? Maybe he left because you hurt him when you married Clay! Why couldn’t you get back together with him, Mum? He only made one mistake, why couldn’t you forgive him for that. He’s a changed man now!”
I sighed realising that the time had come for me to reveal the full truth to Gemma. She and Leni only knew that Stephan used to be a thief. They had no idea that he manipulated me from the start and killed his sister. I dreaded this day for a long time but it was surprisingly easy to tell her the truth. She listened attentively and didn’t overreact or jump to defend him like I thought she would. Instead, after I was finished, she took a moment to take it all in.
“Wow I can’t believe Dad did all of those… horrible things. Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I wanted to protect you and I didn’t think you’d understand but you’re older now so you deserve to hear the truth.”
“But all this time, I thought you were the bad guy Mum. I thought you pushed him away for no reason… I blamed you and Leni for so long. I’m sorry Mum.”
“It’s okay sweetie.”
“I feel so bad. I thought Dad and Grandpop were the only ones who loved me. You were so mean to me when I was little but I guess you had to be because I was so difficult. I missed Dad a lot then. I miss him now too. But he’s selfish. He didn’t like that you married Clay so he left me and Leni behind. It’s like you were the only reason he came back, not us. You’ve always been done what’s best for me Mum and I’m really sorry I never saw it before.”
“Gem I’m really glad to hear you say all of those things. I’ll be honest, a part of me wondered if you’d turn out to be just like him but I’m glad to see that you haven’t. You are sensitive and I see so much good in you. I really do.”
My relationship with Gemma improved from then on. She was a lot sweeter and nicer to everyone in the house including Leni. For the first time in a long time I was able to spend time with both of my girls without an argument taking place.
I was so glad to see Gemma maturing into a well-rounded, young woman and seeing this change in her made me decide to make her the heiress for our family legacy. Honestly, I was leaning towards choosing Leni. I had more faith in Leni being able to take on the responsibility. But then she got sick and her prognosis became a concern. She would become mentally unstable and have fertility issues when she becomes an adult so I wasn’t sure if she could handle it now. Gemma was the next choice but her mean ways didn’t help her cause. How could she be the one in charge of the family if she seemed to hate everyone? But now I know the reason behind her attitude and since she turned over a new leaf I’m confident that Gemma will be a great heiress.
“Gem, I have something to tell you.” I said to her one evening after dinner.
“What is it?”
“I’ve been thinking about the family legacy and well, it’s time for me to choose an heiress. I’ve been deliberating this since Leni’s birthday and now I’ve finally reached a decision. Now it wasn’t easy for me to choose between my girls. I just want you to know that I love you both, equally, and the one I chose is the one I think will be the best fit for the challenge. That person is you Gemma.”
“What? She’s joking right?” She asked Clay in shock.
“No she’s not kidding Gemma. You’re the heiress.” He answered.
“Oh wow Mum. I don’t know what to say. What about Leni? Does she know?”
“I spoke to her already. She’s happy with the decision. Are you?”
“Yes. Yes of course. Thanks for trusting me with this Mum. I won’t let you down, I promise.”
Here’s more pictures of Danielle and Clay’s Wedding
Congratulations to Gemma. The Generation 4 heiress! She won by a landslide.