Goodbye Again

Marlena has just seen and heard John praying about his feelings for her and his commitment to Kristen and the baby he believes is his. She is torn about telling him what she knows of Kristen's true nature, but also realizes John loves the woman and she doesn't want to hurt him. "Maybe she'll change if she thinks I'm no longer a threat to her happiness with John and their baby," Marlena says trying to convince herself that letting go is what is best for John. Somewhere deep inside she knows this is wrong, but for some reason she doesn't really understand she feels she cannot tell John the truth as she knows it about Kristen. As she considers all of the ramifications of their situation Marlena makes a decision about her future and leaves to make all the arrangements.

After packing enough clothes for two weeks or so for she and Belle Marlena sets herself to make a call to her best friend and the man she loves more than anything else in the world. "John," she said as he answered, "I'm calling to tell you that I've decided to go away for awhile and I'm taking Belle with me."

There was silence for several moments on the other end of the line and then he spoke, "Doc, are you sure about this? Where are you going? How long will you be gone?" he asked in rapid sucession, feeling suddenly afraid that he was actually going to lose her completely this time.

"John, slow down and I'll answer the questions. Yes, I'm sure this is what I need right now. I'm not sure how long I'll be gone or exactly where I'm going, but I'm starting with a trip to see my parents in Colorado. I'll let you know where I'm headed after I've had some time to....think about my...future.." she said, her voice trailing off softly. If she had finished the sentence, she would have used the words, "without you."

John completed the sentence in his mind and felt an incredible sense of deja vu as he did so. Oh God, how can this be happening? How did we come to this? "Doc, you make it sound as if you're going away for a long time. I...hope...not. about you so much and I'll miss you and Belle. When are you leaving?"

"In just a few minutes actually. I made the decision and booked a flight immediately. I'm calling you from the car phone and I'm just about at the airport. "Goodbye, John," she said with tears in her eyes.

As she was about to hang up she heard him say with desperation in his voice, "Wait..please, I don't want you to go, at least not without saying goodbye in person." I'll be there in a few minutes, please Marlena, wait!"

She wanted to refuse him, but couldn't as she thought about him holding her in his strong arms, breathing in his rugged masculine scent for one last time. Things would be very different when she returned someday down the line. She would be over him then and would not ever respond to him in the same way. She was sure of that because she could not bear to keep feeling the agony of unfulfilled desire at his slightest touch. "Okay, John I'll wait, for Belle she deserves to say goodbye and give you a kiss."

"Thanks Doc, I'll be there soon." He hung up and then ran out the door of the Mansion, not even bothering to tell Kristen where he was going. She and the baby were resting anyway. Oh Doc, I wish... "What, what do you wish?"John he asked himself out loud. "Do you wish you had just told Marlena how you felt, a thousand times before and now it's too late!! Did you think she would wait forever, you idiot?" His thoughts and emotions were so confusing as he rushed to see her for what seemed to be maybe the last time. Somehow he knew the relationship would be forever changed if and when she returned to Salem. He had no idea how it was he had convinced himself he could live without her as his heart sank at the thought of not seeing her smiling face so many times in a week, "Be honest with yourself John, you can hardly stand not seeing her every day."

When John arrived at the airport he looked for her car and spotted her at the departing parking area near American Airlines. She looked determined, but a little sad and he couldn't help but wonder if it were about him. It had always killed him to see her in pain, but that was all he seemed to cause her. He was letting her go for that reason among others he couldn't quite remember at this moment. 'Oh Doc, how could such a love end like this?' As there was no answer in sight he turned off the engine and got out of the Jeep, not wanting to waste a second of what might the last time he spent with her for a very long while.

He touched her on the arm and she struggled to hide the effects of the simple contact. "Marlena, thank you for waiting for me. I would hate for you to go without saying goodbye. Finding it hard to look her in the eyes he said, "I...hope you...find what you're looking for. You know I want you to be happy. That's all I ever wanted for you, Doc."

"And that's all I want for you, John. I hope you find it with...Kristen and your son. You seem..happy with them."

Hesitating he finally answered with half-hearted agreement, "Yes, I guess I am, but Doc I...want you to know how....important you are to me. I can't bear to think of not...seeing you, not..." He had to look away and hide his tears from her or he would pull her into his arms and confess his love and he couldn't do that. not now, it was just too late. No, he had to let her go no matter how much it hurt.

"Oh, John you are so...important to me too and you always will be. I...have to go now, the plane is leaving soon. She turned to leave and then couldn't stop herself from saying it, "I....loved you, John so..much and I won't ever forget our special time together. I'll treasure every memory we made." She was crying openly, not able to hold back the tears of grief any longer. Then she left him standing there alone as she scooped up Belle and headed toward the gate.

John stood silently for a moment and watched her walk away. He was letting the best thing that ever happened to him get away and it tore his heart apart. He ran after and then turned her gently to face him saying, "Marlena, wait. I..loved you too, more than words can ever express and I'm so...sorry that my love caused you so much pain. I never wanted that and I don't ever want to hurt you like that again. He stopped, afraid he'd say more than he should, and looked down at the dirty airport carpet. "I....I'll miss you, please come home soon."

"I'll miss you too. Gathering herself together she said, "Now why don't you give your daughter a kiss so we can catch the plane on time."

John gazed deeply at his precious little girl, 'our little girl,' he thought, noticing just how incredibly beautiful both these women were and how much Belle resembled Marlena. He kissed Belle and said, "Oh my sweet Belle baby, Daddy is going to miss you so very much. I hope you have fun with your Mommy though."

Belle smiled sweetly with a little sadness in her eyes as she asked, "Daddy are you still going to love me as much now that you have a new baby with Brady's new momma?"

The innocent but heartfelt question sent shooting pain through his heart and Marlena's too as it just brought the agony John and Marlen both felt to the bright light of day. He said simply, "Oh sweetheart, of course Daddy still loves you. Nothing will ever change the way I feel for you and...your Mommy. I will always love you and I'll always be there whenever you need me. Please, don't ever forget that," he said looking more at Marlena than his daughter.

Wishing things could be different, but knowing it was over forever Marlena looked up at the clock and said, "John we have to go now, I'm sorry but we'll have to say Goodbye now."

That deja vu feeling came rushing back for both of them as they remembered the last time they had to say the word, when it was John who was trying to leave to save them the pain that resulted from the inevitable affair. He didn't know where he would find the strength to say it now, but he steeled himself as he truly believed he had no choice, "Goodbye, Doc," he said with unbearable sadness and tears in his eyes.Then he suddenly took her into a powerful embrace and an earth shaking kiss, savoring every second of it as she responded for but an instant and then pulled out of the embrace.

She saw his tears as she felt them drop from her own as well. "Goodbye, John, and congratulations on the baby again." She turned to go as her tears fell, making a light trail on the carpet.

The words to a an old familiar song came to mind and seemed to fit the occasion perfectly:

How can I just let you walk away Just let you leave without a trace When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh You're the only one who ever knew me at all

How can you just walk away from me When all I can do is watch you leave Cos we've shared the laughter and the pain and even shared the tears You're the only one who ever knew me at all....

I wish I could just make you turn around Turn around and see me cry There's so much I need to say to you So many reasons why You're the only one who really knew me at all......

John watched them go until they got on the plane and then he stood at the window until the plane left the ground. "Oh Marlena, how I wish our love had never ended. I'll love you forever lady. Goodbye, Doc. I love you!!"

Marlena somehow knew he was standing there watching, saying a last goodbye to her. "I will always love you too John, but those feelings will be buried deep inside and I will start my new life without you. It will never be the same for us again. "Goodbye, my love."

Chapter 2 - Same Old Conversation

John lingered at the window with his right hand on the glass for a long moment before turning away and leaving the airport. As he left, he knew he wasn't ready to go home to Kristen and the baby just yet. John drove around in silence for a while and ended up at the park where he sat on a bench to try and finish letting Marlena go out of his heart. Instead, all his recollections of their time together left him longing for her again. He remembered the most difficult times too, the ones where their bond seemed almost indestructible. He pictured them at Maison Blanch when Marlena had risked her own safety by pretending to seduce Stefano to save John, when she took care of him after he collapsed from Stefano's horrible treatment. He remembered all the times when Marlena had been taken from the people she loved and he had ignored everything else in his life to search for and rescue her from the madman. Then there was Aremid where he was tried and convicted unjustly of murdering Tony and Marlena had complete faith in his innocence. Sharing those terrifying experiences had a powerful effect on the strength of the ties between them, probably more than the good times if one were being honest about it. Deep in thought and missing her desperately he did not hear his friend approach.

Abe Carver had seen the pained expression so many times before on his best friend's face and he surmised why it was there accurately. John was thinking of his love for Marlena again. Here we go again he thought "same old conversation." No, this is it, I'm not going to go through this with him. It's going to end once and for all and I won't discuss it with him ever again after today. "Hey, partner what are you doing sitting out here in the cold by yourself?"

John didn't even try to make up an excuse, he was hurting so much with the memories still fresh in his mind. "He looked up sadly and said, "I let her go Abe, I just let her go." Fighting back the tears that wanted to flow he concluded, "Things will never be the same for us again. She's gone, she's really gone and I have to find a way to get her out of my heart and out of my soul."

"What exactly are you saying, John? Did Marlena go away somewhere?"

"Yes, she just left with Belle on what sounded like a long trip, starting with a visit to her parents in Colorado. She said she'd let me know where they were going next after she had some time to make some decisions about her future.." Once again those two words hung in the air.

"Without you" completed Abe. "John are you absolutely sure that letting her go is what you really want?" he asked. Knowing the answer he was going to get, he hardly wanted to hear the same old line of guilt, etc. from his friend. 'No, I'm going to force the issue this time,' he determined, waiting for the right moment.

John finally broke down, the tears spilling out like water rushing over a dam and he cried out, "What I want, What I want!! What I want can never be, Abe! What I want is to get on a plane right now and go out to Colorado to sweep her off her feet, to wine and dine and romance her back into my heart. I want to spoil her rotten and buy her the biggest damn house in all of Salem. I want to put a gorgeous ring on her finger and see that incredible smile of hers and love for me shining through those beautiful eyes. That's what I want Abe!"

Abe smiled and said, "Good, for once you're being honest John. It's very refreshing! I'm going to say all of this to you once John and that's it. I'm never going to have this conversation with you again because it's getting you nowhere. It causes you only pain and confusion. So once you make up your mind what you're going to do, don't bring it up again, have you got that?"

Shocked at his friend's strong words he agreed, "Yes, I've got it Abe."

"Okay then, listen to me John. You have told me repeatedly that you love Marlena very deeply and I have seen that love grow over a lot of years through all kinds of circumstances. You also keep telling me that your love has only hurt Marlena and that you don't want to hurt her again, that you think she doesn't love you and that what's best for her is to let her go."

Standing up and taking a step back from the bench Abe continued in very firm tones, "Well, I think you're wrong, John. You have no idea what is best for her or what she wants because Dammit you never asked her! You never gave her the chance to tell you what SHE feels, what SHE wants. Softening his tone and putting a hand to John's shoulder he finished saying, "Ask her and then you can put this to rest. Good luck buddy," he said as he started to walk away and let John think.

"Wait, what about Kristen and the baby?" he asked almost as if his friend could really answer that question for him.

"Don't you think they deserve better than to spend a life with you as your second choice? And, don't you deserve to have a chance at a life with the woman you love more than anything else on earth? Goodbye, John I hope you're happy with your decision, whatever it is."

Seriously considering what his best friend has just said John told him, "Thanks, Abe. You're right. I'm going to make a decision here today and then there's no turning back, no regrets, no wondering what might have been. I won't bother you with this again."

There was a long, slightly awkward silence and then John said, "I'm going Abe. I'm going to Colorado to tell her exactly how I feel and to ask her how she feels about me, NOW!"

Abe smiled and gave John a brief hug of encouragement and said, "Good, now get out of here would you, get out there, take her in your arms and never let her go!"

"I will, if she'll have me!" he said excitedly. John ran off to find her and do just that, if that was what she wanted. "Please God just give me one chance to win her back and I'll never let her down. I'll spend every day of my life trying to make her happy."

Chapter 3 - Love is Risky Business

The sun was beginning to set over the horizon making a glorious array of colors. 'How fitting,' she thought, 'The sun is setting on our love John, it's over now.' Marlena glanced over at her sleeping angel of a girl and thought, 'Our love will live on in a way through Belle, but our relationship will never be the same, the nights of romance and passion gone forever. I wish...Oh stop it Marlena, there's no sense focusing on a dream that can never become a reality. It is finished and it's time to get on with your life now.'

Soon the plane had landed in Colorado and Marlena was greeted enthusiastically by her parents. "Belle has grown so much and she's so beautiful, so much like her mother," said Belle's grandmother with pride.

"Oh, Mom it's so good to be here, I've missed you so much and I think I really need you now," she said sadly.

"I have missed you too, and I know this must be a very difficult time for you. I'm so sorry things didn't work out the way you had hoped honey," her mother said as she hugged Marlena who looked to be near tears again.

Fighting back those tears she said, "Mom, I appreciate your support, but I don't want to talk about this right now, okay? Maybe later when Belle goes down for the night and I get settled."

"I understand, sweetheart."

John made a couple of quick phone calls to arrange his trip, telling Kristen that he had some important business to take care of that required a short trip and that they could talk when he returned. Even though all of that was true he felt more than a little guilty about giving her a false impression about what type of business it was. But, he had to take this one last chance to win Marlena's heart. Within the hour he was on his way to Colorado.

While John was airborne he rehearsed a hundred times all the words he should say to tell Marlena how much he loved her, and how he had always loved her, and how sorry he was about all the time they had lost when they could have been together. He hoped she would listen to him and that she still loved him, but he wasn't sure of anything where Marlena was concerned.

John arrived in Denver and went straight to the home of Marlena's parents to see her. He caught a glimpse of her in her sweat pants and sweatshirt. She was one of the few women who was fortunate to look beautiful in anything she wore, he decided. "Oh Lord please let her talk to me."

When Marlena's mother came to the door and saw him standing there she was positively shocked and she just stared at him for several moments before saying loudly, "Why John Black what in the world are you doing here?" wanting to give Marlena the chance to go into another part of the house if she chose. "Please come in for a minute while I check and see if Marlena wants to see you."

He was somewhat taken aback, but instantly realized his mistake in arriving unannounced. He hadn't thought it through on that level and hoped that his love would not turn him away. He said as he stepped across the threshold, "Yes thank you and please forgive me for coming here unannounced. I guess I wasn't thinking, I'm sorry."

"We'll let it pass this time," she said with a slightly irritated look on her face. "Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go find my daughter and see what she wants to do."

'I could be in real hot water here,' John thought. 'They are not too happy with me right now. Please Marlena don't send me away, give me a chance,' he pleaded silently.

After a few minutes, Marlena appeared from the living room and entered the foyer to greet him. She didn't smile warmly as he expected and he knew he had his work cut out. She was completely silent, waiting for him to make the first move. He smiled sheepishly and said, "I...uh suppose you're wondering what I'm doing here?"

"You could say that. John, I thought we said all there was to be said at the airport in Salem. Why are you here John?" she asked with a similar look of irritation to the one her mother had earlier. 'Well I see where she gets her strong and independent personality,' he thought.

"Well, I...uh I've been doing some thinking and I wanted to talk with you about something really important. It's, Doc."

She reacted instantly to that comment with fire in her eyes, "John there is no US! In case you've forgotten you're married now and you have a newborn baby waiting at home for you! Why don't you go home to them and leave me alone to visit with my parents," she said in frustration as she turned around to head back into the living room.

'This is going to be harder than I thought,' he decided as he gently grasped her forearm to stop her saying, "Wait, Marlena please I really need to talk to you, to tell you something. Something I should have been open about a long time ago. Will you please listen to what I have to say?" he asked with a sweet pleading look that had always worked in the past.

She didn't respond in the same old way as she asked angrily, "Why should I, John? You made everything I need to know perfectly clear when you married..Kristen in the delivery room for God's sake, without even telling me of your plans!" Her anger seemed to building as she went on, "We were supposed to be such close friends, John and you kept that from me."

'Oh Boy, I'm in big trouble here, could be heading for a crash and burn scenario,' he thought as he scrambled for the words that would calm her anger and get her to listen. He couldn't think of a one, so he did what came naturally and tried to kiss her. She pushed him away before he even got close. She had seen him look at her and knew what was coming. "Don't even think about trying that again, John. You said you came here to talk so start talking, you're time is running out," she said as she crossed her arms in front of her.

John knew he had to come clean immediately so he just blurted it out, "Marlena, I love you. I've never stopped loving you in all these years and I finally realized that when we were in Aremid and you gave me your unconditonal support during the trial. That meant so much to me and when I thought I was going to die, I wrote you this letter telling you of my love, but I guess it got lost in the confusion." He glanced over at her and she seemed to be softening a bit as he continued, "Anyway, I tried to tell you about my feelings after we came back from Aremid, but you said you wanted us to be friends, so I guess I gave up without a fight and I know now I shouldn't have. It was a mistake to go back to Kristen so quickly and to encourage her to have a baby. It was foolish and I'm sorry, but I still love you and I realized after you left today that if I didn't take this chance you would be lost to me forever, Doc."

She stood silent her arms still crossed, a gesture that indicated his little confession was not enough for her and that she was carefully considering her response to his speech. "That's very nice John, but I think it might be just too little too late. You seem to keep forgetting you are married now and I heard you say with your own mouth that you are committed to Kristen and the baby and that you didn't want to break that commitment for any reason."

John was shocked at that revelation, "You heard me praying Doc? I'm...sorry about that."

"Why are you sorry, John because I heard you or because you said it? Did you lie about your feelings even to God?" She was livid now and he didn't think he could break through the wall she was putting up as they spoke.

He was very calm as he replied and he gave her an apologetic look, "No, I'm sorry if hearing that hurt your feelings and I have since changed my perspective. I know that I can't live without you, that you are the only woman who has ever truly captured my heart and soul." He smiled letting all the love he felt for her pour out through his eyes, "I love you very much and I would like the chance to win your heart again, that is if you still love me which brings me to the other reason I came here--to ask you how you feel about me."

She was beginning to cave in to his charms and she knew it was only a matter of time before she let him kiss her, which she could tell he was preparing to do to melt her last defenses. "How do I feel about you, can't you tell, John? I'm angry with you."

Grinning in spite of the tension he said, "Yes, I can see that you're angry and I take that as a very good sign. You wouldn't be this angry if you didn't still feel something for me." Then he stopped and couldn't help himself as he said, "God, you're beautiful when you're angry Doc!" Then he prepared to duck flying objects and he was right about her intensions, but she was frustrated in her attempt as she couldn't find anything handy to wing at him.

"You are really pushing it, John. This is serious business. You are talking about walking out on a wife and child. I don't think we should be joking about it do you?" She wasn't about to tell him about Kristen's deceptions. She wanted him to chose her over Kristen. Then she would tell him what she knew.

John decided for his own safety, he better agree with her, "You're right, I'm sorry, but it's true you are gorgeous when you're angry." Still smiling he continued, "I'll be serious from now on, I promise. Now, please tell me how you feel about me. Do you still love me Marlena?"

She decided to tell the truth and said it with little emotion because answering his question did not mean they would be getting back together, "Yes, I still love you John, but that may not be enough for us."

"How can you say that? We just admitted we still love each other. Are you telling me that doesn't mean anything to you, Marlena?" he asked in surprise at her attitude. He had thought that if she learned they both felt the same way she would be very happy about it and eventually take him back.

Changing the subject slightly, she asked, "Tell me something John, did you go to Kristen and tell her what you are telling me? Did you break it off with her and tell her you wanted a divorce or annulment and that you love me, anything like that before you came here?"

She had caught him off guard, " I..didn't, but I planned to talk with her when I got back. I guess I was so overwhelmed with my feelings toward you that I didn't...think. I didn't want to wait to see you, to..tell you how I felt." He winced at her acid expression, realizing that he was in trouble and prayed for divine intervention.

Marlena was really angry again and she didn't hold back anything as she let him know exactly how she felt. "John, I want you to leave now. Get out of my sight!" She started to walk away from him and then turned back toward him with venom, "What....did you think you could just come running out here and confess your love to me and I was going to melt into your arms or fall at your feet in gratitude because of it? Well you were wrong, John Black!"

'Uh oh, she used the last name, she's really steamed.' John tried to respond and explain himself, but before he could formulate a response she continued to vent at him, "You said I was the only woman who is truly in your heart. If that's true, John then you should have told Kristen and then come to me or did you think that just in case I turned you down you would settle for a life with your second choice? Love is about taking risks, John. Now like I said I want you to go!"

He was overcome by her intensity and it took him awhile to figure out what to do. Then he spoke very carefully, "Marlena, I can see that you're very angry, but I want to answer your questions and then if you still want me to go, I will." He said very calmly and with total sincerity, "No, I didn't tell her about what I had decided and no I didn't expect you to fall at my feet. I did hope for a little kiss on the cheek maybe," he said with a half smile in an attempt to lighten the mood which fell flat. "Seriously, Doc I hoped you would say that you na Evans, I am John Black and I intend to win your heart." He pulled a single rose out of his jacket pocket, handed it to her and finished up with, "I'll see you again very soon right here in Colorado if that meets with your approval pretty lady. And he smiled at her so tenderly and stared directly into her soul with those gorgeous baby blues and this time her heart did melt.

Marlena knew she had made the right decision in admitting her love to him though she had doubted she would do so when he first arrived and even during their "discussion." She wanted to know for certain that he meant it when he said she was the only woman in his heart. She was certain now as she had never seen him this happy with Kristen, not once in all those years that he had an on again/off again relationship with the..witch. He loves ME, He really loves me and he wants his future to be with me. Thank you Lord.

She was thrilled, but she wasn't going to make it easy for him to win her again. He would have to buy her flowers and candy and have romantic candlelight dinners, take her to the movies, for walks in the park, and take her out dancing, the works and she would not sleep with the man for quite awhile, though it would kill her to resist his advances. She didn't want him to think she had just been pining away for him and that he could just expect to make love to her immediately because she hadn't been with anyone for a long time. He would have to work for that too and she would tease him with it as a little bit of payback for her suffering. She smiled as she imagined all the ways he would try to break down her defenses and the fun they would have along the way.

John realized that he needed to go now and leave her to her visit with her parents and that he had to go back and be honest with Kristen about his feelings, Wishing he hadn't taken so long to risk Marlena's rejection, he said simply, "Goodbye, Marlena until we meet again, my sweet love." John kissed her and put his arms around her, running his hands through her silky hair. He breathed in her sweet scent and relished the feel of her body close to his, then swiftly broke off the embrace as he felt the heady rush of desire building and said, "I...uh, I better be going now, Marlena."

As he took a step backward Marlena couldn't help but say teasingly, "John, are you sure you're able to drive, you look a little dizzy right now."

She was right, he was dizzy with desire for her. That brief embrace sent shivers throughout his entire body and if he didn't leave he would be tempted to sweep her up in his arms and take her back to the plane with him, to the hotel or right there in the rental car. He said as he swallowed hard, "Uh..Yea...I'll be just fine, and I can't wait to see you again." And with his back to the door, he opened it while still admiring her beauty in a whole new way and he practically fell down backwards over the door frame, barely catching himself as he lost his balance.

Marlena watched the events unfold and doubled over in laughter, feeling very satisfied by the effect she was having on him. So, she moved in quickly, catching him off guard and gave him another kiss to remember her while they were apart. She took his breath away and he swooned. "Woah, what was that for, Marlena?"

"Just a little something to remind you of what you've been missing all this time we were apart," she said smiling mischieviously.

Still under the effects of the spell she was weaving he said dreamily, "Trust me Marlena, I didn't need any reminding, but I'm so glad you did that. As he started to move in for another passionate embrace, she put her hands up to stop him and replied, "John, you know it's getting rather late and I've decided that your courting has just begun. A true gentleman has a lady home by this time of night and bids her ado with a gentle kiss on the cheek.

John groaned and did as she asked saying, "Oh, you're really going to take this courting thing seriously, aren't you, Marlena?"

She said, "You can count on it Mr. Black. Goodbye for now!" and then she nudged him out the door, leaving him still flushed with his desire for her. He walked down the sidewalk slowly while committing the evening to memory and grinning with boyish excitement as he practically floated to the car.

Chapter 4 - The Courtship Begins

Marlena Evans had slept restlessy that night dreaming of John and their future together. Yet strangely enough she felt more rested than she had in all their years apart. He loves ME. He loves me and he wants to share the rest of his life with me. She could hardly believe that it was real, that he had really come to see her and finally admit his love for her and take the risk that she returned that love. As she went to pinch herself just to make sure, she was surprised to hear her mother's voice through the door. "Marlena may I come in for a moment?"

"Yes, please do, Mom," she said as her mother entered bringing a tray for breakfast containing all her old favorites. She wanted to spoil Marlena this morning and she placed the tray on the bed and then moved over to turn on the stereo, fiddling with the radio dial. Then she turned and said, "I thought you might like some relaxing music with your meal, I hope you don't mind sweetheart," she said smiling.

"Oh, Mom you don't have to spoil me like this you know. Just being here with you and Dad is enough for me," said Marlena sweetly.

A few minutes after she was alone she heard the disk jockey say, "Hello everybody this is KLUV the luuuuuv line coming at you early in the morning. You all know that we don't usually take dedications at this time of day, but my last caller was just too persuasive to turn down. The call came long distance from way across the country and the man is so smitten that he offered to buy the radio station if I agreed to play this song for the lady he loves. Okay pretty lady he said you would know what he meant:

To my precious Doc from the man who still wants to be your Good Guy with a capital G. Here is Bryan Adams "Please Forgive Me"

Still feels like the first night together Feels like the first kiss It's gettin better baby, no one can better this Still holdin on, You're still the one

First time our eyes met Same feeling I get Only feels much stronger Wanna love you longer

You still turn the fire on So if you're feeling lonely don't You're the only love I ever wanted I only want to make it good So if I love you a little more than I should

Please forgive me, I know not what I do Please forgive me, I can't stop lovin you Don't deny me this pain I'm going through Please forgive me if I need you like I do

Please believe it, every word I say is true Please forgive me, I can't stop lovin you

Still feels like our best times are together Feels like the first touch We're still getting closer baby I can't get close enough

Still holding on, you're still number one I remember the smell of your skin, I remember everything I remember all your moves, I remember You, yea I remember the nights, you know I still do

So if you're feeling lonely don't You're the only love I ever want Only wanna to make it good So if I love you a little more than I should

Please forgive me, I know not what I do Please forgive me, I can't stop lovin you Don't deny me this pain I'm going through Please forgive me if I need you like I do

Babe believe it every word I say is true Please forgive me, I can't stop lovin you

The one thing I'm sure of Is the way we make love The one thing I depend on Is for us to stay strong

With every word and every breath I'm prayin It's why I'm saying Please forgive me, I know not what I do Please forgive me, I can't stop lovin you Don't deny me this pain I'm going through Please forgive me if I need you like I do

Babe believe it every word I say is true Please forgive me if I can't stop lovin you Believe it, I don't know what I do Please forgive me, I can't stop lovin you Can't Stop Loving You

As she listened to the song she couldn't help but be touched by his romantic gesture. Oh John, I love you so much. You are going to make it so difficult to take it slow, you romantic fool. As she dried the tears of joy from her face and got dressed her mother called out to her, "Honey, there's a delivery here for you. She scrambled into her jeans and sweatshirt and practically flew down the stairs in anticipation. Then her eyes landed on the most beautiful flower arrangement she had ever seen in her entire life. It had all her favorite flowers and she was shaking so much she could hardly read the card. Then as she made the attempt, the doorbell rang again. The man handed her a huge box of deluxe chocolates from the small family operated shop she had told John about only one time, in passing she thought. After recovering slightly she read the card,

To My Precious Marlena, Please forgive me, for waiting so long to take the risk. And thank you for giving me a chance to win your heart. You won't regret it, I promise You All My Love, John

All she could do was stand there in the foyer of her parents home and burst into joyful tears at all that John was already doing to keep that promise. She calmly and quietly stepped out onto the porch of the house and then shouted at the top of her lungs and you would swear he could hear it all the way back in Salem, USA. "I LOVE YOU JOHN BLACK!"

Chapter 5 - Sharing Good News

John went to see Abe before going to the Mansion, having called him from the plane. He wanted to thank his good friend for forcing the issue and making him see that he had been avoiding taking the risk that Marlena had mentioned so angrily. The truth be told, he had been afraid that she didn't love him, that was strangely worse than the agony of wondering and wishing she loved him still. He knew that if she had sent him away his whole world would have been shattered. Just the mere possibility that she cared for him more deeply than as a friend was comforting to him, yet he had not felt he deserved her love because he had hurt her so much. He realized now how foolish and needless that lingering guilt had been. It had simply kept them from sharing some wonderful years together. Years he now in many ways considered wasted time, time spent without her in his life, his arms, his everything. Years when he could have held her close and loved her, but this was no time for regrets, only new possibilities.

The Jeep came to a stop near the Carver's home and John's heart felt light for the first time in longer than he could even remember. He rang the bell and was greeted cautiously by his best male friend. "Hi, John did it..." He stopped mid-sentence as he saw the light in John's eyes, the sparkle was there again. She had not turned him away, thank God he thought, but he waited for John to say it.

"She LOVES me Abe, She really LOVES ME!! He grinned from ear to ear and shouted like an excited child. Abe impulsively pulled John into a rough hug, then John added, "Marlena loves me and we have a chance at a life together, I can hardly believe it Abe!" John's eyes sparkled with boyish enthusiasm.

Abe's heart filled with joy for John and Marlena. He had seen their love grow stronger for years now, though slightly hidden and they sometimes seemed to be in such pain without each other. They simply shared a love in which the two were made complete only in the other, one meant to last a lifetime. He laughed and cried with his friend and said while patting him heartily on the back, "John, I am so...incredibly glad for you. You seem so much....happier already than I have ever seen you with...Kristen. I don't want to hurt your feelings, I know you love her in a way, but..."

"But not the way I love Doc. He said it so passionately, "I could never love anyone the way I love her, Abe. She soulmate, the other half of my heart. She fills me up like nothing and no one else ever has Abe, and I came here to thank you for confronting me about asking her what she wanted and needed. That is the most loving thing anyone has ever done for me. You helped me see how wrong I was staying caught up in my old guilt feelings for hurting her without ever truly asking how she still felt about me. I think that is what actually kept me from seeing into her heart, it blinded me and now I see." John kept smiling as he talked, like a schoolboy telling a buddy about a new crush.

Abe wanted details and John agreed to give them. He talked quickly and excitedly, "Well she wasn't exactly thrilled to see me when I got there and it seemed whatever I said was wrong at first. She kept getting madder and her face turned red. I thought I was going to crash and burn when she asked me if I had told Kristen about my decision; when I said no I really thought I'd lost her." He chuckled as he told the next part, "Then I asked her how she felt about me and of course she said she was angry and I said that was a good sign and that she is beautiful when she's angry. Whew! She hit the roof and wanted to throw something at me. Thank God there wasn't anything letal nearby."

Abe was laughing hard by now and had to ask, "John, that doesn't sound like the warm reunion you were hoping for, what did you say to turn it around?"

John laughed too, shrugged and said, "To tell you the truth, I don't exactly know. I answered all her questions honestly and at one point I stared deeply in her eyes and let her see all my love and desire and she started to cave, I could see it in her eyes. I knew then, she wouldn't turn me away."

He smiled on the next memory, "Then I told her I wasn't thinking of Kristen that day she came in the hospital room and we kissed, remember I mentioned that?" Well, I told her I was thinking of her and that the kiss was the best part of my day. I said I loved her and missed her kisses." Then she admitted the same thing, we kissed and that was it. I knew then we had a real chance."

"Buddy, I am thrilled for you. I have hoped this would happen for a long time because I have never really seen you truly happy since you were with Marlena in marriage all those years ago."

"To be totally honest, you're right. There has been an empty space inside, a void that can only be filled by Marlena. I love her so deeply my heart and soul ache for her. I can feel our bond of love growing again already. I swear I could hear her shout out that she loves me today when I was flying back on the plane. I had this image of her standing on the porch of her parents house and yelling it out to me. Can you believe that?"

Abe smiled again and replied, "Where you two are concerned nothing would amaze me partner. Congratulations!"

"Oh, one more thing, she says I have to win her heart all over again, to court her like we were starting from the beginning, you know flowers, candy, dancing, the whole deal. Then right before I left she said a gentleman would kiss her on the cheek and say goodnight, but that was right after she kissed me, I mean really kissed me. She did that on purpose, she's not going to make this easy, I can tell."

Smiling at his friends slight frustration he said, "Yea, she's going to make you work for it, John. Good for her, she deserves only the best of everything and you know it. Besides think of all the fun you'll have surprising her." John was slightly hesitant, "Abe, it's not that she doesn't deserve all that, I'd give her the sun, the moon and the stars if it were up to me, but I...she...I don't know how to say this. Abe, I held her for the briefest of moments and I...well I just don't know how in the world I am going to stop myself from trying to make love to her whenever I see her," he said glancing down at the ground, embarassed.

Abe just laughed and said, "Well I can see that some things never change." Then he patted his friend on the back saying, "Good Luck, buddy and get ready for a lot of cold showers." John laughed in spite of himself and just nodded his head. to be continued