tagMatureLife is a Soap Opera Act 03

Life is a Soap Opera Act 03

byHLD©

This is the conclusion to the "Life is a Soap Opera" series. If you haven't read the other two chapters, you might want to give them a read first. I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment or send me an email.

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

Bailey felt like her stomach was on fire.

She had been drifting in and out of consciousness since the night before. Her sister had finally taken her to the ER first thing in the morning, then called her parents.

Through the haze, she refused any treatment other than ibuprofen.

The pain will go away, she told herself. It always does.

But it hadn't. If anything, it got worse. She heard her parents and the doctors talking. Her mother pleaded with her to sign over power of attorney to them, but she refused.

"Not until I talk to Gabe," she said. Even though the pain was sometimes unbearable, she held out until she could see him.

They had moved her to a semi-private room. There was no one in the other bed. Her father had arrived a little later, but she told him the same things that she had told her mother, her sister and the doctor.

She was running a fever. The panic attacks didn't help. Her family never left her side, even when she yelled and screamed at them. One at a time, they snuck downstairs to get something from the cafeteria or a quick nap on a couch in the lobby, but they were always there for her. Bailey appreciated that, she really did. But she needed Gabriel first.

The sun was going down when the door burst open.

Gabriel stood there, a wild look in his eyes. Time seemed to stand still. She smiled feebly through her tears.

"Bailey . .. oh, my god!" he rushed over to her bed.

His fingers wrapped around hers. Bailey began to cry. Relief. Fear. Sadness. She was overcome with emotion.

He kissed her forehead. His lips felt cool against her skin.

"I'm here, sweetheart," he whispered over and over in her ear.

"I'm sorry, Gabe," she sobbed and buried her face in his shoulder. She tried to pull him close to her, but the pain in her abdomen shot through her body again.

"Sorry? For what?" he asked, confused.

"I'm not . . . I can't . . ." Bailey started to panic again. Her breaths came shorter. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She squeezed Gabe's hand as if her life depended on it.

"It's okay, Bailey," he said, stroking her hair calmly.

"Don't let them . . . promise me . . ." She couldn't continue and burst into tears again. She began to hyperventilate.

"Would you excuse us for a moment?" Gabe asked her family. They solemnly filed out of the room and closed the door.

He sat on the edge of the bed and held her close to him. She cried for a long time. Partly from the pain. Partly from fear. Partly because deep down she knew she could no longer keep her promise to him.

"What's . . . Bailey, look at me . . . What is it, sweetheart?"

"Promise me you won't let them . . . promise me, Gabe . . . Promise me you won't let them give me a hysterectomy."

"What are you talking about, Bailey?" She could tell he was straining to keep his voice even.

"I heard them talking, Gabe," she whispered, choking back sobs. "I heard Daddy and the doctor say they're going to do it . . . they're going to take my ovaries."

"No one is taking your ovaries," he said, his tone reassuring. A little bit. "No one is having a hysterectomy today. Everything is going to be fine, Bailey. I promise."

Those were the words she needed to hear. From the man she needed to say them. With a great effort, her breathing became regular. She took deep, calming breaths.

"I'm going to have your baby," she vowed.

"Yes, you are, sweetheart," he said soothingly. "Yes, you are."

Gabriel wiped the tears from her eyes. He smiled and she knew everything was going to work out.

His touch was gentle. She felt safe with him.

Gabriel.

Her guardian angel.

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

"Would someone please tell me what this is all about." Gabe quietly closed the door to the hospital room. Bailey had calmed down. She consented to a painkiller, something she earlier refused for fear of someone doing something to her if she passed out.

Andy and Joanne exchanged a worried look. Her father took a deep breath. "She's had these problems for years . . . but it's never been this bad."

"What kind of problems?"

They both deferred to the doctor who was talking quietly with them.

"Endometriosis. Do you know what it is?" She asked in a kind voice. Gabe shook his head. "It's when the same kind of tissue that lines the inside of a woman's uterus grows on the outside as well. It affects about one in fourteen women to one degree or another, although most never know it. When a woman ovulates, the tissue in the uterus swells in anticipation of accepting a fertilised egg. If a woman has endometriosis, the tissue outside her uterus—called implants—also swells. It can cause internal bleeding and be very painful."

"How painful?" Gabe asked.

"At best, mild discomfort. At worst . . . think of getting kicked in the balls every five minutes for about four days straight," the doctor said. "Bailey's been seeing me about this for, what . . . three or four years now. She has flare-ups when she menstruates sometimes, but other times, it's just like having cramps. About four months ago, I did a pelvic exam and found some scar tissue from the implants around her fallopian tubes and ovaries. That's why she's in so much pain right now. In the long term, endometriosis can cause infertility but it's not fatal."

"She told me something about taking her ovaries or giving her a hysterectomy," Gabe looked confused.

"We'd only do that in an extreme case or for a woman who did not want to have children. I'm Clara Chapman, by the way," she reached out with her hand and he shook it bewilderedly.

"Gabe MacKenzie."

"Yes, Bailey's told me a lot about you," she replied with a warm smile. "Normally we treat minor cases with simple anti-inflammatory drugs or even hormone therapies. Some birth control pills can reduce or eliminate a woman's period and that makes the symptoms go away because the implants don't become inflamed. I've been trying to get her to have laparoscopic surgery to remove some of the implants, but she's been resistant to that idea."

His head was swimming with all the information that had been thrown at him.

Dr. Chapman took his hand, and pulled him close so only he could hear. "Bailey trusts you—and only you—on this. This isn't life threatening, but unless she does something soon, it's only going to get more painful for her."

Gabe saw how serious the other woman was.

"I'm going to go see if we can make our girl a little more comfortable," she said and went in to the hospital room.

Gabe, Andy, Joanne and April stood in the hallway. Everyone looked shell-shocked.

"We never thought she would get this bad," Joanne said softly. "She's complained about the pain for a while, but we never had to bring her to the hospital."

"Why would she think you were going to give her a hysterectomy?" Gabriel asked.

Andy looked away. "That was my fault. I was talking to Dr. Chapman and we thought Bailey was asleep. We were discussing options and she said unless they do something soon, the pain is only going to get worse. Removing her ovaries or um . . . uterus . . . are only last-resort type things. We should have gone out in the hallway, but she heard us and freaked out. That's when she started screaming for you."

"Are there any other options?"

"No good ones. Bailey's been taking prescription ibuprofen for a while, but that tears up her stomach. We've talked about surgery a couple of times . . . but . . ." Joanne's voice trailed off and she looked embarrassed. "It's so expensive."

"Not any more," Gabe said, his voice hardening. He hated seeing someone he loved so dearly in pain. He wrung his hands for just a second as he made his decision. "Andy . . . Joanne . . . I would like your blessing to ask Bailey for her hand in marriage."

The pair of them looked shocked. April's jaw nearly hit the floor.

"I'll take care of her," he promised desperately. "You know how much I love her. I can provide for her. She means the world to me . . . and I don't want to lose her."

"We know, Gabriel," Joanne said. She reached out and took his hands. "When you showed up at the house on prom night, a part of me knew you were going to be in her life forever."

There was a sad look in Andy's eyes. He tried to smile, but he knew Bailey had already given her heart away. Gabriel reached out, but instead of taking his hand, Andy pulled him into a hug. Both men wiped tears from their eyes. Then it was April's turn to embrace her future brother-in-law.

"You're my baby girl's dream come true," Andy said softly. "And I know you'll always be good to her."

"I will," Gabe promised. "I swear to God, I will."

"Then welcome to the family."

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

Bailey had surgery the next day and didn't find out until years later that Gabriel had paid the bill. Dr. Chapman removed most of the scar tissue around her fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. She spent the next month convalescing at Gabe's house, her longest stretch ever without going home. He never left her side.

The show had gone on Christmas break so he wasn't missing too much production. When it returned, he told them that he needed some more time off. Rose and the other writers were very creative in explaining his absence and the producers assured him he would have a place when he decided to return.

Gabriel swore the family to secrecy and didn't mention getting married to Bailey; he wanted things to be perfect.

He waited on her hand and foot around the house. April was working and going to school. Bailey received special dispensation from the dean of students for a late spring registration and signed up for all on-line classes (Thanks again, Al Gore!).

When she could get up and move around again, Bailey went back to her work-study job but had to give up waitressing. She switched to the birth control pills that have only four periods a year and for the first time in a long while, she was generally pain free.

Gabe hated to, but he returned to New York for a month of shooting before taking off again in February. After confiding his plans with Joanne, Gabriel flew everyone to Florida for a long weekend.

They told Andy that Gabe wanted to propose to Bailey at Disney World and they told Bailey they were surprising her dad with a trip to Florida and the Daytona 500.

The five of them had a nice dinner at the California Grille on a Friday night. Thanks to a phone call from the studio, they had some prime seats from the top of the Contemporary Resort to watch the sun set and then view the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom.

He fidgeted nervously throughout the meal. Bailey simply thought she had died and gone to Heaven. They were staying at the Grand Floridian, which was nothing but pure luxury. The food was exquisite and as far as she knew, she would be spending the next day in Disney World.

"Having a good time, Pumpkin?" her dad asked.

"Oh, yes!" Bailey could barely contain her excitement.

The five of them talked until the fireworks started, then they all went outside on the catwalk, their meal on hold. With the music piped in to the restaurant, Gabe stood behind Bailey and held her in his arms. She leaned back. He felt as if he were meant to hold this woman for the rest of his life.

When the fireworks were over, the rest of the crowd filed back in to the restaurant, but neither Gabe nor Bailey was in a rush.

"I love you, Bailey Crawford," he whispered in her ear.

"I love you, too, Gabe MacKenzie," she replied automatically. "Thank you for this trip. It's been wonderful and I know Daddy's going to have a great time at the race on Sunday."

"He sure will," Gabe said, not letting go. "But that's not the real reason I brought you here."

"What do you mean?"

He took a deep breath before reaching into his pocket. Her eyes were wide when she realised what he held in his hand.

With his arms still around her, he opened the small box. The diamonds and white gold shone under the moonlight. Gabe could feel her pulse race.

"When your mom called me back before Christmas, I thought I'd lost you," he said softly. "I can't stand the thought of not having you in my life. I want to be near you all the time. Bailey . . . Will you marry me?"

Her fingernails dug into his arm, but Gabe didn't care. When she somehow found the motor coordination required to move, Bailey turned and threw her arms around him. She didn't speak. She couldn't speak.

Instead she just kissed him. It was a hard, passionate, sloppy, delicious kiss.

They both started to cry. Tears of joy streamed down their cheeks.

Gabe pulled back long enough to take the ring from her and slip it on her finger. When some of the other people around them realised what was going on, they started to clap and cheer.

They each paused long enough to embrace the rest of her family before returning to each other. When the meal was over, they returned to their rooms at the hotel. Gabe and Bailey made love until they both passed out.

The next day it was off to see the Magic Kingdom and the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Gabe was obligated to attend some of the TV network's functions, but he didn't mind. After all, that was how he was paying for the trip. Andy was amazed at finally being able to attend the Daytona 500 in person. They had box seats, and he was like a kid in a candy store. Or rather, a motorhead gone straight to a Heaven filled with muscle cars, Holly double pumpers and the deep, throaty rumble of big American V-8 engines.

Despite all the sucking up he did to her parents, Gabe knew it was Bailey who was floating along with her head in the clouds. For the remainder of the weekend, they held hands. Bailey's eyes kept falling on the ring, and not just because the rock was huge.

Gabe knew that there was a part of her that never thought she would see this day. She was always the ugly duckling next to her sister. But he saw her for who she was, and once she came to believe it, too, the beauty outside matched the beauty on her inside.

He introduced her to everyone, proudly proclaiming her as his fiancée, which he knew would cause a minor stir in the press back in New York. They posed for pictures and in each one, Bailey was radiant. She truly was Cinderella at the ball, only this time the clock was stuck on 11:59.

The weekend ended with a private jet flight home. They had a gazillion pictures from the weekend, if only to prove to all their friends back in Washington County that it had really happened. The news of their engagement had beaten them back and the local TV cameras were at the airport to greet them.

Bailey was overwhelmed by the attention, as was her family. But they handled it well and soon enough they went back to their daily lives. Only now they had a wedding to plan.

Reluctantly, Gabe returned to New York. The distance was something neither of them wanted, but they accepted it as a temporary condition. Bailey had two and a half months left before she finishing her AA degree. They were planning a fall wedding and she was going to move to New York and enroll at City College.

It would be the first time she would be living away separately from April, and Gabe knew that would be hard on the twins. But they both knew that day was coming and they were accepting of the coming change.

They continued their long-distance relationship. Although it pained them to be apart, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and knew in a short while, they would be together forever.

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

"Is your dad coming to the wedding?" Bailey asked from the kitchen table.

Gabe snorted. "No. He won't be able to make it."

It was the end of summer. Most of the wedding plans were finished and she was working on the final guest list so they could get a head count for the caterer. He was paying bills.

"Did you send him an invitation?"

"No."

Looking up, Bailey gave her fiancée a cross look. "Why not?"

"Because even if he could make it, I don't want him there."

She was at a loss for words. Even though she knew Gabriel and his dad weren't close, she assumed he would be invited to the wedding. "It can't be that bad."

"You don't know my father," Gabe said. He sounded annoyed, but she knew it wasn't because of her.

"You never talk about him."

"That's because he's a worthless sack of shit," he spat and Bailey was taken aback at the vitriol in his voice. A couple of times, she had asked about Gabe's dad, but his replies were always cryptic or vague.

They fell silent for a long time. Bailey watched Gabe stew, knowing that he'd open up once he had a minute to gather his thoughts.

"Dad left us high and dry," Gabe said finally. His voice was soft. And angry. "He ran out on us and left Mom to raise two kids on her own. We didn't hear from him for almost ten years. And when he did call, he was always wanting something. He showed up one night after a show and just expected me to let him mooch off me. He pulled that same shit with Michael."

"He's still your father," she said quietly. Bailey knew they came from different worlds. In hers, family was the most important thing there was. She was close to her parents and sister, even her cousins. She knew Gabe adored his mother and loved his brother, so the thought that he could turn his back on his father seemed alien to her.

"He never acted like it." All Gabe could do was frown. There was a crease in his brow Bailey had never seen before and she hoped never to be on the receiving end of his fury. "If you ever meet him, there's a good chance that within five minutes he's going to ask you for something. It might be for some money to invest in his latest scheme or it might be a 'loan'. He's always looking for a handout. I tried to help him a couple of times, but he just used me."

"When was the last time you saw him?"

Gabriel shrugged. "Five, maybe six years ago."

"Do you think he might have changed?"

"I doubt it."

"I think we should at least invite him to the wedding," Bailey said.

Taking a deep breath, Gabe forced himself to smile. He saw that she meant well. "Honey, if it makes you feel better, send him an invitation, but unless you want to get married around the Grand Canyon, my father won't be at our wedding."

"Why not?"

"Because last I checked, he was a 'guest' of the Arizona Department of Corrections in Phoenix." He took her hands. "I don't expect you to understand, but I don't want my father in my life right now. He's trouble. If you want, I'll take you to meet him, but I don't want him under my roof and I won't let him spend any time alone with you or any of our children. Ever. I just don't trust him."

Bailey's eyes were wide. She was speechless. He went back to the bills and she sat there watching him for a long time. Despite his bravado, she could see the hurt in his eyes. Her heart broke for him. Her family was so strong and his was so broken. She reached out and took his hand, holding it to let him know that she was there for him, and that he would never be without her love.

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

In the weeks before the wedding, Gabe came home to visit and sat her down at the kitchen table one morning. The date was fast approaching and he was trying to get home to her as often as he could, but she still felt like she had a million things to do before the big day.

"I have something for you to look at," he said. "Don't get so excited, sweetheart; you're not going to like it."

"I'm sure I'll like anything you give me," she replied.

"Not this." He drew out a thick envelope. A stack of papers fell out and he set it on the table.

"What's that?" Bailey asked.

"A pre-nuptial agreement." The words hung over them for a long moment.

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