It had been an eventful few days for the Gardner family. Exhausted, exasperated, and many other bad adjectives could be used to describe them. The emotional raft they had been riding for the past few months finally came to calmer waters. Samantha Flint was dead. No one had expected the once-great manipulator to ever go away, let alone die, but sometimes life is funny that way. These were the things Redmond and Annette considered on their trip back home to Huntsport. A wide range of feeling came over them, but through it all, happiness prevailed. Their baby girl, Olivia, was safely in their arms once more. They could be a family now for the first time, a real family. Aunts, uncles, and grandparents awaited their arrival, ready to get back to a sense of relative peace.
The family members anxiously waited in the train station for the return of Redmond, Annette, and Olivia.
“God, I’ve missed them so much,” said Laura Gardner.
“I know, honey, I know. It’s been a rough road for all of us,” said Frank, putting an arm around his wife.
“I just thank God that Olivia’s all right!” said Stella Bains.
“She’s got strong blood in her veins, that’s for sure,” said Elaine Gardner.
“I’ll say. That poor kid’s been through more in the past few months than most people have to get through in their lifetime!” said Louise Falcone to Michael.
“Hey, that’s their train, isn’t it? The 47? It is!” shouted Steven Bains.
The train pulled slowly into the platform, heaving great bellows of smoke and steam from its stacks. It too seemed to breathe a sight of relief along with the family. Strangers filed out the compartments, searching frantically for their loved ones. At last, Redmond appeared, then Annette behind him with Olivia in her arms. Tears formed in Annette’s green eyes as she stepped off the train and walked towards her mother.
“Thank God! Thank God!” sobbed Stella, hugging her daughter and grandchild with every ounce of love in her body.
Laura Gardner took Redmond’s face in her hands, “You’re a good man, Redmond. I’m so, so proud of you.” She hugged him while Frank patted his back.
Elaine, Steven, Louise, and Michael joined in, hugging anyone who had an open arm. Louise looked down at her niece, and the baby smiled back. She even laughed a little bit.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen her smile since we left,” said Annette, “I think she knows she’s back with the people who love her.”
By this time, photographers and reporters had crowded the intimate moment. The Gardners had made headlines taking matters into their own hands to retrieve their kidnapped daughter. Questions were hurled at them left and right, and flashbulbs blinded them all. They answered all questions with, “We’re just so incredibly happy, thank you all for your support,” and bright, sincere smiles.
As Laura ushered Annette into a car, she said, “I’ve got a little party set up for you all once we get back home. That is, if you’re up to it.”
Annette smiled. “Of course I am. If it means being back with you all, then I’m up for anything.”
Back at the Gardner home, the family was comfortably settled. A sense of peace floated through the rooms of the old house. Photographs seemed to smile again. The sun shone a little brighter, and the air was just a little sweeter. In the past, every member of the family had overcome unimaginable obstacles. Now, they sat serenely in the company of each other, ready to face another day.
Michael and Louise sat on a love seat near the fireplace. Their marriage had been tested on and off again for a while. Trust had been gained and broken. Somehow, Olivia’s safe return put life into perspective for them both. They were each willing to give the other a chance again. Time on this earth is limited, so they decided to try to do the best the could.
Elaine sat on the window seat, looking out over the bay. She had loved Teddy Burke, then lost him far too soon. Her life had spiraled out of control after that, only to be saved by the charming, understanding Rhys. The anger and bitterness she had held onto for so long was slowly melting away.
Steven Bains tended bar, thinking back to the dark days he spent in hiding. He had damaged a few relationships to bring justice to Peter Falcone, but in his heart he knew he had done right. Life back in the family was still an adjustment, but a welcome one, especially for his mother.
Stella Bains stood over Olivia’s crib making endless faces for her. She thought back to the joys her own children had brought her, and the pain of her husband being locked away. For Stella, good and bad had to be taken at face value. Things were settling down now, and she welcomed a new chapter to her story with open arms.
Annette and Redmond stood beside each other, taking in the warm faces that surrounded them. Love was something they had been missing for a long time, in all its forms. For Annette, the energy of the room was summed up in Frank Gardner’s proud face. As a new grandfather, he was able to see a new generation grow and flourish.
Laura raised a glass. “Excuse me everyone, but I think it’s time we toast.” Everyone grabbed a glass of champagne. “I would like to make a toast to this family, to all we’ve been through, and all that’s yet to come our way. We’re only human, each made of vice and virtue, so we’ve got to do the best with what we’ve got. We’re family, no matter what, so we’ve got to keep looking out for each other. As the days go by, remember, we’ve all got a story, and there will always be more to tell! Let’s make our time with each other count. I know we’re all best-sellers!”
Glasses clinked, and Olivia Gardner laughed the precious laugh that would carry them through the rest of their days.