|Still... the journey continues...|
Chapter 9, by Wendy & Ansia
Note : We are adding a link somewhere in the chapter. This is a link to a song on YouTube that we believe will be the next CC and Sophia song. So when you see the link, just click on it and read the story as you listen to the song. However, when you finish the first part of this chapter, let the song end before reading the next part. Now on with chapter 9 of Still... the journey continues... Enjoy and any and all comments are welcome.
that day at the villa...
CC enters the sitting room, putting a collection of flowers from the garden on the console table while distractedly toweling at his hands. As he does so he asks Sophia who was at the door, curious about the car he spied driving off during his time in the garden.
At her silence, he looks to the ottoman by the hearth where she sits, legs hugged to her chest. He follows her gaze across the room, the boxes he finds there answering his previous question.
CC walks to the ottoman, cautiously kneeling before it as he lays his forearm over Sophia's feet. "Ken's effects," he more states than questions, a slight edge to his tone.
Sophia gives a slight nod "Cruz had them sent over for me" she exhales, her eyes still trained on the ominous boxes.
"Sophia, if you'd rather me not be here when you..." he begins, almost thinking it'd be best if she'd dismiss him as his annoyance seems to have re-emerged along with the presence of Ken's belongings.
"No, CC," she replies, lowering her hand to his forearm to hold him in place as her eyes meet his eyes for the first time since he'd entered the room. "We've pushed each other away long enough...and I'd rather not do this alone," she firmly states turning her sights back to the ominous boxes with a deep sigh: She is dreading and delaying the job before her, as if putting it off might somehow make it all go away.
Sensing her reluctance and noticing her shiver, he offers to start a fire. At her approving nod, he sets to the task, welcoming the distraction for the chance it provides him to examine his own feelings and figure out how to broach this matter as much as to take the chill out of the air.
As CC tends the fire, he recalls how carefree and invincible they'd felt at each of their weddings. Yet, somehow, they were never quite able to sustain those feelings in marriage. Invariably they came to hurt and distance themselves from each other, time and time again. 'We've pushed each other away long enough,' Sophia's words echo in his head as he shakes it at the site of Ken's belongings...a reminder of the latest painful chapter they'd endured due to their shortcomings.
He knows he has played no small part in those shortcomings throughout the years - his impatience, his stubbornness, his jealousy, his pride, his ego, his vengeance, his selfishness, his demands, his standards and expectations...his disillusions. He also knows the prevailing counterpoint to the hurt they'd caused each other was the one other unfailing constant within their relationship: Their love: No matter the circumstances, she had always been, and would forever be, the love of his life. He determines, despite himself, to avoid repeating past mistakes and do right by this incredible woman who owned his heart...not quite knowing how, but willing to do whatever that might require.
Once the fire is set, he stands and starts to speak, almost hesitantly. "Sophia, I feel as if I owe you an apology."
"CC?" she questions, surprise and confusion in her voice at his uncharacteristic comment.
"I can't help but think everything you've gone through...are still going through...is my fault."
"Your fault?" she asks, still not following his line of thought.
"If I hadn't been so damn unfair to you, so damn eager and willing to hurt you...hadn't gotten involved with Santana...pushed you into Ken's arms," he reasons.
"CC, stop it!" she reprimands, rising to her feet to confront him. "You are not the only culpable party here: It's more than that and you know it, just as it was my decision to marry Ken. Did it ever occur to you that maybe it's owning up to my own past sins that has me feeling so damn scared now?" Sophia questions, alluding to their entire history as she eyes the boxes that represent the most recent piece of that past.
"Maybe that part of you that loved Ken is feeling betrayed," CC theorizes. "It is hard to conceive that someone we once loved could cause us so much pain," he continues, also referring to their own relationship as much any they had with either Ken or Santana.
that...it's not so much that I loved Ken as I loved the idea of
loving him and the thought that he could return to my life what I thought I had
lost with you. I may have wanted to, even tried to love him as I had you, but
deep down I knew it wasn't possible: I will never love anyone as I
have and will always love you," she vows.
CC, feeling reassured by her revelation and, at the same time, foolish for having doubted her love for him, attempts further apology. "Sophia, if only I had known that..."
"CC, then you wouldn't have been true to yourself. I don't ever want you to sacrifice a part of yourself for me...I love you...every single, last, infuuurrrriiiating piece of you," she says, accentuating each of the latter words with a poke to his chest and feigned mock frustration before turning more serious again. "It was never Ken or Santana or Lionel or Channing or Eden or my disappearance all those years or any of that," she counts off, addressing the lingering sources of pain that resonated in their relationship. "It was always us...," she clarifies gesturing between them, "we're the ones that wronged each other and ourselves...they were just part of the journey we choose to follow. But wherever that journey may have taken us, it always brings us back to the same destination: each other. We're here now, together, a whole lot wiser and as in love as ever: Know that," she stresses.
CC takes her in his arms. "Never doubt my love for you, Sophia...never. And you know...I hold nothing against you and I am so very sorry for every ounce of pain I have ever caused you: you deserve, and I will do, so much better," he declares.
deserve and we will do better," she amends moving in to seal the deal
with a sweet kiss.
"Fair enough," CC mutters, before giving into the tender kiss.
After the briefest of moments, they pull apart and Sophia, newly geared to face this part of her past, moves obligingly to open one of the boxes. She removes a small box and returns to the ottoman, motioning for CC to sit beside her.
She opens the box to reveal some of Ken's most personal effects: a wallet, some keys, a cell phone and his wedding ring. Sophia picks up the golden band and studies it before returning it to the box in favor of the wallet. Examining its contents, she pulls and immediately recognizes a picture from one of the concealing slots: It was their wedding picture. She can't help the tears that form in her eyes as one escapes down her cheek. She hands the picture over to CC who studies it.
"You do make a beautiful bride. Even when you're not marrying me," he compliments with a smile before wiping her tear away with a curled finger.
Sophia returns his smile with a small one of her own before she returns to her task. Once she is done sorting through the box, she looks at CC. "Cruz wanted me to tell him if I came across anything unusual. So far, I don't see anything out of the ordinary here," she informs him.
"Oh, I do," CC corrects.
"Where?" she asks, rifling through the boxes contents. Not finding anything, she looks up at CC with a befuddled expression.
"I see someone very extraordinary right here in front of me," he says, tilting her chin to bring her eyes to his.
Sophia blushes under CC's gaze before returning the sentiment. "Well then, it must take one to know one...I just wish I felt more extraordinary right now...but I know I have to do this to get on with my life...our life" she says raising her lips to his. Just as their lips are about to meet, inspiration strikes and she grabs the wedding photo from CC to kneel before the fire.
Now, click here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwcLPV4Y4Jk&mode
CC, alarmed at her interruption of the kiss and unusual behavior, incredulously follows her to the fire. "Sophia, I've don't mean to infringe on your free spirit by having you explain your every action to me, but..."
he could further question her abrupt actions, she interjects, her tone now full
of wonder and excitement. "CC, did I ever tell you about my Aunt Helen?"
He thinks for a moment. "No, come to think of it, I don't remember hearing the name... Sophia, what does that have to do with..." he manages before Sophia resumes speaking.
"Well, Helen was my mother's sister...I used to love when she would come over: She was much younger than my mother...as a matter a fact she was not much older than I was, so I really connected with her," Sophia recounts. "On one of her visits, she was terribly upset. You see, she was just coming out of a relationship with a man who had betrayed her. She was very hurt, so distraught in fact, that nothing seemed to console her," she explains, pausing long enough to take the poker to stoke at the fire in a moment of silent reflection.
"Nothing that was, until this one night...my mother had invited her to a beach party, to try to get her mind off things. She ended up taking all of his pictures out of this album she had been crying over all day and bringing them down to a bonfire on the beach. Slowly, one by one, she put every picture in the fire and watched it burn. When she was finished, she told me that it had been like a 'rebirth' of sorts for her, helping her come to terms with what had happened and release all the feelings of hate and hurt she'd bottled up inside. After that point, she was able to get on with her life," Sophia finishes looking back at CC.
CC, now understanding her intent, takes the poker from her and begins to stoke the fire up more. "Well then, we need to have this fire blazing, don't we?" he accommodates with a grin.
the fire was good and high he looks to Sophia. She places the picture in the
fire and, together, they watch it reduce to ash. CC then looks to Sophia
"Well, it will probably take more work and time...and pictures...before I'm completely free of all my hurt...but I'm already starting to feel better," she confirms with a slight smile.
"And I have something that I hope will make you feel even better," CC says rising to assist Sophia to her feet and the sofa. He then collects the nearly forgotten flowers from the console behind the sofa as they sit She takes the flowers he offers, breathing in their scent, before bringing them to her heart and looking at him adoringly.
beautiful," she says appreciatively.
"You're beautiful," he clarifies with equal admiration, caressing the side of her face before brushing her lips with his own. He then cradles her in his arms and reclines on the sofa. Together they lie watching the fire in silent companionship as they think back over all that had happened since they were last in Santa Barbara and drawing strength from each other to face the coming days...and the rest of their lives.
At the cemetery, following the conclusion of the service for Ken.
wind and overcast had picked up and with the impending threat of storm, nearly
all of the small gathering had left the gravesite...all but three: Cruz and CC
stand behind Sophia, carefully watching her poised at the foot of Ken's grave.
She is statuesque: posture perfect, head held high, seemingly unfazed as her
hair blows about in the wind, an unreadable expression fixed on her face. The
only discernable movement she makes comes from the hands folded together at her
waist: one clutches the flower encased in it, while the other clasps at her
shawl, keeping it over her shoulders against the gusting wind. After what seems
like an eternity to CC, he steps to her right, and gently wraps his arm around
her in a show of solidarity.
"Sophia...it's over now," he says softly, referring to the service for Ken and, he's hoping, this chapter in their lives. "Come back to the car with me."
"CC, give me a minute," she says wistfully.
"Take all the time you need...You know where I'll be when you're through."
know," she says raising her grateful and loving eyes to meet his.
"Sophia," Cruz says, approaching her free side to place a gentle hand on her arm and kiss on her cheek, conveying his empathy and support. She briefly lays her head on his shoulder in a silent gesture of mutual comfort and support, before he dismisses himself and steps back again to wait for CC. Sophia then leans into CC's form as he tightens his arm around her shoulders in a partial embrace. After a long moment, CC, almost reluctantly, releases his hold on her and, along with Cruz, makes his way to the awaiting limousine.
Now alone, Sophia stands feeling slightly awkward and uncertain. Her mind settles as she reflects on her time with Ken and the myriad of associated emotions. As she does so, she voices these recollections and thoughts in a private eulogy to the man who was once her husband as well as to the woman in her that had been a wife to that husband. She offers and asks forgiveness for both of them, and prays for understanding, having learned in the course of her life how they are the true pathways to healing, acceptance and, ultimately, peace: "May we now know peace," she concludes.
She lowers her head and gingerly crouches to the ground to deliver the flower from her hand to the grave. Her fingers linger on the elegant stem of the peace lily, her palm pressing it slightly into the soil. She remains still as she admires the lily's beauty, both fragile and strong at the same time, and considers its meaning: Self-love, renewal and absolution of guilt: The symbolic significance and parallels of each to the moment and her life not lost on her, with death once again death representing both promise lost and reborn. With a newfound sense of hope, she rights her herself both mentally and physically, pressing herself up and dusting away the dirt from her hands before wiping at a tear she hadn't even realized had been shed.
Once sufficiently composed, she turns to make for the car only to be paralyzed at the site of the monument before her: It is grand and overbearing, much like the man it calls to mind and the stone that was erected in his honor and memory years ago. Suddenly it's as if she's been instantly transported to the last time she stood before that monument, some fifteen years before, the atmosphere as real to her now as it had been then: She can hear the mourning hymn...can see the darkening skies...can feel the bone-chilling wind...the sorrow...the fear. She is transfixed by the monument, unsure of which space and time she now occupies her mind struggling with the surreal, desperately wrestling between its perceived and known realities. The hymn that had been harmoniously floating and blending with the wind becomes increasingly distorted, as both hymn and wind crescendo to a blood-curdling screech. In that same instant, a voice summons her from somewhere behind as a black glove approaches her shoulder: She instinctively lets out a silent scream, simultaneously jerking away from and spinning around to face the source.
"Sophia? Did I startle you?" CC asks, concerned at her terrified expression.
This time the voice fully penetrates her senses and the second she identifies its speaker, reality and relief overcome her.
Fully recognizing the present, she manages to regain her breath and voice just enough to respond. "CC, I was just..," she starts in a constricted voice while turning back to gesture at the monument. She stops mid-sentence, stunned to find it vanished.
"Sophia, you were just...?" CC prompts questioningly.
"I was just...reminiscing," she dazedly improvises, clearing her barely audible voice to mask her shock and still unable to move her astonished eyes from the now-vacant site the haunting monument had just occupied.
The double meaning in her words not evident to him, CC mistakenly attributes her apparent emotional state to fatigue. With the back of his hand lightly touching the underside of her chin, he gently turns her to face him. "Sophia," he begins, both bowing their heads as his hands return her slipped shawl, coming to rest on her trembling shoulders. "It's been a long day and you must be exhausted. Why don't we get you back to the villa, hmmm?" he proposes with a ginger kiss to her forehead.
still shaken by the overwhelming sense of déjà vu she had just undergone,
gives a consenting nod and scans the cemetery again: Suddenly, all now seems
calm and serene, as only they remain. Gone is the fierce wind, the dark sky, the
imposing monument, the tormenting ghosts, the sensation of being ruthlessly
ripped between her past and present...Now there is only the future standing
"Yes, it's over now," she determines, applying her own meaning to CC's earlier words with a final, pointed glance between Ken's grave and the clearing where the monument had stood moments before. As she walks back to the car with her future at her side, she pulls the shawl tightly to her...knowing the coldness coursing through her is not cause of the wind alone.
After the small group departs, a pair of loafers approach Ken's grave: a pair of Italian leather loafers with golden heels. The shoes stop over the grave, one slightly borrowing the peace lily placed by Sophia further into the soil. After a black rose lands by its side, the shoes move away.
Once the shoes disappear, two knees fall on the grave. A black, leather-gloved hand delicately frees the lily of dirt and grasps the stems of the two freshly laid flowers, drawing them to its owner's face where their fragrance is savored. The hand then shifts position as its owner stands and walks from the grave, flowers still in hand...
To be followed...