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My relationship with Zachary improved little by little. We still shared separate rooms and he was generally unresponsive to my attempts at romance. All he ever wanted to do was talk. Just talk! About his feelings, about what I did wrong, about what he did wrong, about what we can do to move forward now and every time we sat down to talk I got a headache. What happened to my goofball husband who turned every serious conversation into a joke? That used to annoy me so much but now I’d give anything to have that man back in exchange for this one.

But I made some progress with him after numerous apologies and promises to never mess up again, I got him to loosen up a little. I think he’s starting to trust me again because he gleefully accepted my idea for what to do with the kids during their upcoming school break.

“A trip to Windenburg is a good idea!”

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“I just think it’s good for the girls to travel while they’re young.” I added. “They can see another part of the world and learn about new customs. Plus it will give us all an opportunity to get to know each other better. I haven’t been able to spend as much time with them since I’ve been back and maybe a change of scenery will do us some good.” I stressed on the ‘us’ part so he would know I meant him and me.

“Maybe.” He simply said. Boy, Zachary really was making me work for it! I was happy he agreed and so I began planning right away.

Two weeks later, we all stood in front of our hotel at the heart of the Old Town District in Windenburg!

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Windenburg’s scenery was more beautiful seeing it in person than in the travel magazines I read and the tourism websites that I visited while I was doing research into places in the town to stay and visit. Everyone was so happy and excited about the trip that no one wanted to even see the hotel rooms because they wanted to start exploring the town.

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We went to a small café not too far from the hotel called the Hare and Hedgehog Café. The pastries were divine! I had a croissant while Zachary ordered a cannoli. Isabel and Ivy just wanted to try the espressos and Johanna scarfed down two pain au chocolats.

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After we filled up on pastries and coffee we went back to the hotel and checked into our rooms. That was when the jet lag kicked in and everyone wanted to go to bed. Isabel and Ivy had their own room with a double bed for them to share. We couldn’t let Johanna stay in a room by herself since she was too young so she stayed in mine and Zachary’s room. I worked it out that way because the only way Zachary would be okay with us sleeping in the same bed was if Johanna was in the same room. I didn’t mind that nothing would ever be able to happen with us on this trip so long as I still got to feel his body heat while he slept. It was another thing I missed while I was away and I knew that for the first time in years I would finally get a good night’s sleep with him next to me.

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The next morning we left to explore the town further visiting the museum, the library and some more cafés along the way. Windenburg’s beauty was incomparable to any other place I had been to. I loved how everywhere you turned there was something to admire and take pictures. I felt at home here, like if I could choose to live anywhere else instead of home then I would choose here.

We went to the Von Haunt Estate, a classic chalet gardens and museum which was established in the early 20th century and had become one of the town’s best tourist attractions. The estate seemed like it was frozen in time, as all the furnishings and décor remained as they were during the 1800’s when it was owned by Lord and Lady Mimsy. Of course, there was a fire that killed them both so some renovations had to be made to house before it was established by the city as a museum but it was very interesting to be in such a place that was rich with culture and elegance and the girls were more fascinated by it than I thought they would be.

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They went exploring around the main floor all on their own leaving Zachary and I alone in the main living room. It was the perfect opportunity for us to talk and I think he also had the same idea.

“Lord and Lady Mimsy really loved each other.” He began. “Some say that he married her for her money but he later fell in love with her and they had a good relationship until his anger issues destroyed them. It sounds familiar doesn’t it?”

“That’s supposed to be us? Does that mean I married you for your money?” I joked, knowing that if anyone was the gold digger in our relationship it was him since I had more money than him when we met.

“You know what I mean. He was an artist who was very passionate in all aspects of his life and dangerously unpredictable. He would be enraged at the slightest thing and it would lead to him fighting with his wife, to firing all the servants in the house only to rehire them a few days later, or trashing a room so he could use it as inspiration.”

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“Sounds like a crazy person!”

“He sounds like you.”

“Me?”

“Yes. Unpredictable. Reckless. That’s you! You do things and don’t think about the consequences because it’s just the way you are and the way you’ve always been.”

“You’re right. I’ve always been selfish and I know I have a twisted sense of right and wrong. When I was younger I did things that people would tell me was wrong but it always felt right to me. So I started to feel like the world was against me. I’ll be honest, in the beginning of our relationship and even after we got engaged, I wasn’t in love with you. I liked you a lot but I didn’t love you, or at least, I didn’t admit it to myself yet. I’ve always been guarded with my emotions and then you come along and made me fall for you so I couldn’t let you see this side of me. I thought it would send you running to the hills.”

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“Honesty would have been nice,” He said. “That’s all I expected from you and you didn’t deliver. That’s what hurt the most about this because it’s created doubt about you. I don’t believe you killed anyone. I don’t think you’re capable of it. But you have lied and cheated the people closest to you and it’s made me wonder if I’m wrong about you Gemma.”

“I’ll get rid of your doubt Zachary if you give me a chance. I’ll be honest with you from now on. I’ll make sure to tell you everything so you can help me make better decisions so I can become a better person.”

“Do you mean that? Are you sure you can change?”

“I want that more than anything. I want us to be together like we were before. I want our family to be a real family! Just let me prove myself and you’ll see.”

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He contemplated it for a while and then he said, “I want to believe you but I just don’t want to be disappointed again. I don’t think I can take it.” He sighed before finally saying, “Okay. I’ll give you another chance. Look, I never stopped loving you Gemma, in spite of everything. I want us to be okay again.”

For the first time in a long time, I had hope that our situation would improve. That we could be the way we were before. When the kids returned to us we decided to move on to the next item on our itinerary. The Bluffs.

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The receptionist at the front desk of our hotel suggested we go to The Bluffs in the late afternoon because at that time it would not be hot enough for us to get sunburn and because the sunsets on the island were worth watching. All the talk about the island was true. The cool salty breeze, the sound of birds chirping in the nearby trees, plus the isolation of the place made it very relaxing. I hated going to a community pool and having to comb through the dozens of people to get a space to swim hence why the only pool I go to is the one in our backyard. But in The Bluffs the natural pool was to die for!

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Usually, I don’t like such pools because of the dirt and plants made it difficult to see the floor of the pool. If I couldn’t see the floor of a pool, there was no way my neat-freak behind was going to get in. However, the water was warm and clean, very inviting and it made me want to stay in there for days. We spent the rest of the afternoon swimming around and playing games in the water until it started getting a little dark and chilly but none of us was ready to leave as we wanted to stay and watch the sunset so I had an idea.

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I noticed the setup of branches and logs near the cliff and recognised that someone who was here earlier created a bonfire. Probably some of the local youth came here last night for a party, which was another thing the hotel receptionist warned me about.

The bonfire unwittingly substituted as a campfire as we all gathered around it and began telling stories and jokes. Isabel was a lot like her father, a complete goofball who kept us entertained. Jo kept throwing twigs and rocks in the fire amused by how quickly they went up into flames. Ivy began telling us about the various types of flora on the island. I think she said there were 14 or something like that. I got a little bored halfway through her ranting to remember.

It was so nice doing all these family activities together.

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It was even better when I felt Zachary put his arm around me and pull me closer to him.

“You know, I haven’t seen you in that suit in a very long time,” he whispered. “Remember what happened the last time you wore that suit?”

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“Hmm…oh yes, that time in the hot tub! When we…um…conceived Johanna.” I laughed.

“Yeah, you were very tempting that day.”

“Am I tempting now?” I asked flirtatiously hoping he’d say yes.

“Definitely!”

I blushed uncontrollably as my heart beat faster and faster. “I miss being with you, Zachary.”

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“I miss it too, darling.”

Oh! He called me by his special name for me! Darling! The moment was made even more special when he put his arms around me and took my lips into his.

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It was the most romantic moment of my life kissing Zachary just as the sun set behind us. We kissed for what seemed like hours but it was actually for a few minutes. Thankfully the girls were too busy having fun with each other on the other side of the bonfire to notice what we were doing.

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We took advantage of their distraction to sneak off and have some much needed alone time.

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It was……..incredible! And it would have continued for a whole lot longer if we didn’t hear the sound of footsteps approaching us. Quickly throwing back on our swimsuits we hurried out of the bush only to be greeted by Ivy.

“Did you guys hear the animal noises just now? I knew this place had 17 types of wild plants but no idea they had wild animals here too.” She quipped smugly. “Don’t mind me I’m just looking for a place to use the bathroom but something tells me that this bush right here is already messy.”

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“Uh sure,” Zachary said nervously, “be careful, sweetie.”

He was mortified at having been caught by our daughter and tried to get away as fast as he could. I, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier. Nothing could spoil my mood, not even Ivy’s amusement at a perfectly normal act between a married couple.

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Soon we would head back to our hotel. Looks like Johanna was going to have to stay in her older sisters’ room tonight!

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