Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters in my fan fic!
“This is a vicious lie!” Brady shouted at DiMera as he attempted to attack his father’s enemy. His eyes revealed the molten fury bottled up in him as he recalled how DiMera claimed Chloe as his daughter. The fascinated eyes of the remaining guests (mainly regulars and a few extras) watched the unfolding scene in mute fascination.
John blocked Brady’s attempt with his arms and held on tightly to Brady. He had a difficult time restraining Brady, who had his fury to strengthen him. “Calm down, son,” John growled close to Brady’s ears. “Calm down, and then we will get to the bottom of this mess.” When Brady stopped struggling, John finally let him go.
Brady straightened the jacket of his tuxedo as he met his father’s gaze defiantly. “Fine!” he sneered, “I’m calm! Now what the hell do you mean about this?” Brady turned to DiMera, his fury still evident in his eyes and the rigid stance of his body. “Chloe has had enough pain in her life. She doesn’t need to be hurt by your lies now.”
Stefano answered as he smiled with amusement at the Black family’s reaction to his shocking news, “I can see that you care for my Chloe very much, little Black. Imagine that, John, our two children have fallen in love!”
John stared angrily as DiMera deliberately prodded Brady. He again put a restraining hand on Brady’s shoulder, keeping Brady from attempting to attack Stefano again. “You said you had proof that you are Chloe’s father.” John looked at Marlena and Brady. “We don’t believe that Chloe is your daughter.”
Stefano reached inside his tuxedo jacket and extracted a white envelope from inside. “I am shocked that you should question the veracity of my words! Well, since you insist, I happen to have the pertinent information on hand. This information will be shared with the Wesley family tomorrow by the adoption agency. I really should not share it with you until they see it, but, under the circumstances…”
Marlena warily eyed the envelope in Stefano’s hand, afraid of what it might contain. “What is it?” she asked.
Brady snatched the envelope quickly out of Stefano’s hands, causing Stefano to laugh. “John, you really must teach your son some finesse!” Stefano joked.
Brady eyed Stefano with blazing hatred but chose not to comment this time. Instead, he turned his back on them and opened the envelope. He looked through the different papers it contained. When he was finished, he looked back through them again.
“What is in the envelope, son?” John questioned Brady, after Brady was silently studying the papers for the third time.
Brady swore a blue streak under his breath as he finished his perusal of the information. When he faced his father, his expression looked defeated. He silently handed the information to his father, and stared straight ahead at the wall in front of him, trying to assimilate the information he had discovered in the envelope.
“John?” Marlena inquired after Brady had given him the information. She could tell from Brady’s response that the news was not good.
John held up the first paper from the envelope. “There are three papers in the envelope. This is a copy of Nancy’s daughter’s birth certificate. Attached to it is a copy of her death certificate, two days after she was born.”
“What was her name?” Marlena was afraid that she already knew the answer.
John responded with the obvious answer, “Chloe.”
Marlena fluttered her hands in front of her as she denied it. “But that doesn’t prove anything! You said that there were three papers. What is the last one?”
John sighed as he answered Marlena, “There is also the results of a DNA test in this envelope. The people tested were Chloe Lane and Stefano DiMera. The results are extremely conclusive. 99.90% match.”
Marlena fluttered her eyes for the hundredth time tonight at John as she pondered, “But how could that be?”
Stefano answered for her. “I had been attempting to find my daughter. The colleague who hid her so well died without ever revealing to me her location. I only knew that she was “placed” close to Salem. So, I started to research the possibilities of whom my daughter could be before I left Salem early this past summer. When I was nearly positive about Chloe’s true identity, I had a DNA test completed. The results were conclusive.”
Brady sneered at this as he focused his attention back on the group, “Oh, come on! You expect us to believe that Chloe took a DNA test without knowing it? I don’t accept this!”
Stefano nodded his head at Brady and responded, “Chloe needed a physical examination before she entered school in the fall. I simply borrowed a blood sample from her and had the DNA test run. I am completely willing to do another test, but I can assure you that the results will be the same.” He placed the envelope back in his tuxedo jacket.
Stefano smiled with utter conviction at the Black family. He was proud to have Chloe as his biological daughter. She was beautiful, smart, intelligent, compassionate to those she loved, and extremely talented. He could also appreciate the fact that Chloe had become another pawn for him in his ongoing battles against the Black family. The Black family, and Brady especially, would have a tough time accepting Chloe’s true parentage. The pain this knowledge caused them would be immeasurable.
“Father,” Lexi said as she sauntered up to the group. She blatantly ignored John and Marlena, “I believe it is time for us to leave the ball.”
Stefano looked at Lexi, a daughter who had come to love and accept him. She had also joined him in schemes. How will Greta and Chloe fit into my life? he wondered as he offered Lexi his arm. “Alexandra, you are right. John, Marlena, little Black, always a pleasure.” Stefano grinned with satisfaction as he and Lexi proceeded to leave Tuscany.
“Well, Father?” Lexi inquired as they waited for the elevator. She, along with the rest of the guest, had witnessed most of the startling encounter.
“Everything has gone as planned, Alexandra,” Stefano confirmed as they stepped into the elevator.
Brady ran both of his hands through his hair as he looked with anger at John and Marlena. “God!! This can’t be true!”
“I think it might be, son,” John said grimly. “I know DiMera well. He was very confident and sure of himself. It is a definite possibility that Chloe is DiMera’s daughter.” He sighed in defeat. “What is this knowledge doing to Chloe right now?”
Brady remembered how Chloe had fled the room earlier after Stefano had dropped his bombshell. He had wanted to go after her but his body had been immobilized with shock and anger at Stefano DiMera. Plus, he had wanted to find out if Stefano could confirm his information. “I’ve got to find her,” he said quietly to himself as he departed the room.
Marlena turned to John as they watched Brady’s exit from the room. “Oh, John! This is horrible!” She walked into his comforting embrace. “Brady and Chloe. They are going to hurt so much over this.”
John responded as he laid his head on top of Marlena’s. “I know.”
And he watched with grim sadness as his son, who had been so happily in love with Chloe, exited the room with steely determination. “I wonder what is going to happen between the two of them now.”
Oh my god! This can’tbe happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. The refrain ran through Chloe’s mind to the rhythm of the elevator as it brought her down to the parking garage. She was grateful to feel a blessed numbness over the news she had received a few minutes earlier.
When the elevator stopped, Chloe hesitated before stepping out. She wasn’t quite certain where she was going. She shivered as she stepped out of the elevator. The parking garage was cold from the bitter winter air and she had forgotten her coat in her haste to leave the ball and all of the prying eyes that had witnessed the shattering of her life.
“I feel like Cinderella,” Chloe murmured to herself despondently as she walked slowly away from the elevator, heading in no particular direction. She barely noticed the cold now because she had her horrible thoughts to warm her up. “Only Cinderella left the ball because she was afraid her prince would discover who she really was. I left because my prince knows exactly who I am.”
A picture of Stefano DiMera formed itself in her mind from last spring. She remembered how he had enjoyed her singing before Greta’s coronation. She had believed him to be a nice, eccentric man who appreciated opera as much as she did. Was I ever wrong, she thought in disgust at herself. “Damn, I was so naïve!”
Chloe then thought of the many revelations she had learned about Stefano DiMera tonight at the ball. He was responsible for so much unhappiness in the Black and Brady families. He used people for his own gain. He manipulated people and forced them to dance to his special, usually evil tune. She remembered the scene she witnessed from a distance between Hope Brady and Stefano. Mrs. Brady, a woman she personally liked and respected, had thrown her champagne in his face. People did not like Stefano DiMera. They simply feared him.
“And that man is my father!” Chloe exclaimed in anger. She slammed her hands down on the hood of a car, expressing her fury and disbelief at DiMera’s revelation minutes ago. Then the blessed numbness returned again to her after her display of anger.
She looked back at the elevator, hoping to see Brady come charging out of it any minute. She felt despair rise in her when she realized he wasn’t coming. “Can you blame him?” Chloe said as she continued to walk away from the elevator. “Hell, he just received the shock of his life! His girlfriend is the daughter of his father’s most hated enemy.”
She laughed hollowly as she continued on aimlessly. “What about you, Lane?” she said. “You have always wished to know who your father is. Now I’d give anything for complete ignorance.”
Chloe noticed her reflection in a car window on the parking garage level. She stopped by the window and peered down at her reflection. “I look…” Chloe searched her mind for the correct adjective, “devastated. Yes, that’s the right word for it.” She watched as a solitary tear slid down her cheek. “My world has been shattered.”
As she slowly turned away from her reflection, Chloe remembered her telephone conversation with Brady the night before and chuckled grimly at herself. “Oh, Chloe, you predicted this and didn’t even realize it! How stupid can I be? I told Brady that I was nervous about attending another dance, afraid that it would end like the Last Blast. Dammit, you made up that reason to stop Brady from worrying about you.”
Chloe had a flashback to last spring, when her nude body was shown on the large screen in the high school gymnasium under the title of operagirl.net. She had experienced so many feelings that night: disbelief, devastation, horror, anger, frustration, and, above all else, hurt. Phillip had contributed to that hurt by believing she was responsible for the Internet sight. He had called her horrible names and left her even more vulnerable. Even some of her friends had doubted her.
“And it happened again, only so much worse this time. I thought nothing in my life could top that awful night,” Chloe said sadly as she felt another tear slid down her face. “The Last Blast Dance was awful! I had my body exposed in that degrading fashion in front of the entire high school and on the Internet!”
Chloe was silent for a few seconds as her pace slowed. Then, she compared her feelings about tonight and the Last Blast Dance and came to a stunning realization. “Tonight is ten times worse. I didn’t have my body exposed to the public. No, I had my soul laid bare in that room, in front of so many people.” She chewed on her bottom lip as she realized that wasn’t the only reason. “Why else is tonight worse than the Last Blast?” Chloe asked herself in confusion.
Then the answer hit her with the reaction of a thunderbolt. “My god! Only one person completely stood behind me the night of the Last Blast. He came to me that night and believed in my innocence. He is the one who I’ve learned to lean on, who has made me understand how strong I can be and has helped me overcome my feelings of inadequacy.” She glanced around her but he didn’t magically appear by her. How she wished for a fairy godmother to grant her one wish. “And he is not here now,” Chloe whispered in defeat.
She leaned against a wall, hanging her head in dejection. She used her hand to trace a heart on the wall. “Oh, Brady,” she said heartbrokenly, “I need you so much! Where are you?” Of course he didn’t answer her. Chloe believed that his absence spoke louder than any word ever could. Had she lost Brady forever because of the identity of her father?
A pair of hands gently touched Chloe’s hunched shoulders from behind her. Chloe raised her head slowly when she felt the comfort. She knew it wasn’t Brady before she turned her head. She always felt an undeniable shock of electricity when he touched her. Chloe didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed that Brady wasn’t here.
Greta felt her heart hurt when she saw the utter desolation in Chloe’s eyes. She didn’t know how to make it better for the young woman. Hell, Greta had been dealing with the same news for nearly two years and still hadn’t completely accepted it. “I am taking you home with me,” she said simply to Chloe.
Chloe didn’t protest. At least she finally had a destination. She followed along slowly as Greta gently guided her towards Hope’s car. “Hope is driving us to my house,” Greta explained as they neared Hope, who was waiting by the door with a solemn expression on her face. “I didn’t drive myself here.”
Hope watched the two women walking towards her. She greeted them, “Hey, girls. What do you say we blow this joint?”
Greta smiled weakly at Hope’s attempt at humor. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.” The three women opened the doors and climbed into Hope’s shiny silver car. The car slowly drove away as the elevator doors opened, revealing a young man in a hurry.
“Chloe?” Brady called as he began his search for the woman he loved.
The car slowly pulled into the driveway of Greta’s house. Greta had recently bought the house when she had become tired of living in her apartment. When Hope stopped the car, Greta turned to a silent Chloe, who sat in the backseat, and said, “Here we are!”
Chloe smiled weakly at Greta as she opened her car door. She was grateful for the support the two women were showing her. “Thanks for letting me stay here tonight. I don’t think I would have been able to go home and face Nancy and Craig.”
Greta waited on the path for Chloe before they started up the walk to the front door of her house. She hesitatingly draped her arm around the younger woman’s shoulders. “It’s not a problem, Chloe. I am really glad that you’re visiting me.”
Hope slammed her car door a little harder than necessary as she watched Greta and Chloe walk up the steps to the front door. “Damn you, DiMera!” Hope swore as she followed behind the two of them. She had witnessed the entire devastating scene at the ball. DiMera had shocked her and everyone who was left at the ball with his announcement about Greta and Chloe. “And he’s probably celebrating his “victory”!” Hope muttered as she entered the front door. “I’ll bet he had the whole thing planned.”
Greta said to Chloe when they entered the hallway, “Follow me. I’ll get you some clothes to change into for the night. I don’t think you will want to sleep in that beautiful gown.”
Chloe smiled listlessly in response. She didn’t care what happened to this dress. She would probably throw it out tomorrow, like she had done to her Last Blast dress from last spring. She walked behind Greta up the stairs to her into her bedroom.
“All right,” Greta said, wanting to complete mundane chores to keep her mind off of the night’s troubling events. “Let’s see. You’re about my height and my size, so we shouldn’t have any trouble finding you some clothes that fit.”
Chloe realized what Greta was attempting to and decided to go along with her. “I always have a hard time borrowing clothes from Belle when I stay over at her place. We aren’t the same size. I usually end up borrowing clothes from…” Chloe stopped herself before she could say Brady’s name. She sat down dejectedly on Greta’s bed.
“Brady.” Greta finished for her. She had noticed that Brady hadn’t followed Chloe after Stefano’s shocking announcement. Of course, Colin had not made a mover to assist her, either. We’re in the same boat, Greta thought as she cautiously sat down next to Chloe, unsure of her reception. She had never attempted to be a sister before. “Chloe, I…” Greta sighed in frustration. “Dammit! I don’t know what to say.”
Chloe lifted her sad sapphire eyes to meet Greta’s. “It doesn’t matter,” she said to Greta. Chloe laid her hand lightly on top of hers. “You are the only one who knows exactly how I am feeling right now.” She was deeply hurt and shocked, but realized that Greta could totally sympathize with her.
Greta squeezed her hand back in a solid response of support. “That’s true. Only the truth didn’t come so unexpectedly to me, as it did to you. I’ve had a lot of time to prepare myself for the revelation. You, on the other hand, were completely blindsided.”
“Not completely,” Chloe disagreed with her sadly. “You see, in the past few weeks, I received a few hints that I could possibly meet my father tonight at the Christmas Ball. Someone sent me a dozen red roses, without a note attached to it. Then, I received a mysterious e-mail. The server wouldn’t let me reply to it. Finally, I received another e-mail that explained my father had sent me the roses and that he wanted to meet me tonight, at the Christmas Ball. But he never revealed his name.”
Chloe sighed in frustration. “I was so excited about the possibility of finally meeting my father. I didn’t share it with anyone, not even Brady. And now I would give anything to change time and make certain it never happened!”
“Oh, Chloe,” Greta said as she gently trailed her hand down Chloe’s cheekbone. She could imagine the anxiety and hope that Chloe had felt, only to have it dashed when she realized the true identity of her father. “What a horrible way for Stefano to get your attention.”
Chloe shook her head in agreement. “I know. I was expecting something wonderful to happen.” She laughed listlessly. “We surely didn’t get something wonderful, did we? Instead, most of Salem found out that our father is the most hated man currently in residence.”
“He is very infamous in Salem,” Greta agreed with Chloe. “But you need to believe one very important thing. He may be our father and we can’t change that. But, you and I make our own lives. He does not have any control over us!”
Chloe nodded at Greta and then stood up from her bed. “Thank you, Greta,” she said. “Would you mind if I took a shower?” Chloe wanted to clean her body, even if she couldn’t clean her soul.
“Of course. The bathroom is across the hall. Everything you need should be in there. Come downstairs when you’re finished. Hope and I will make you some tea.” Greta stopped Chloe when she was halfway through the door. “Wait, you’ll need some clothes!” And Greta proceeded to pull out a pair of gray sweatpants and a pink t-shirt. She handed the clothes to Chloe, who left and went into the bathroom.
Greta eyed the closed bathroom door, thinking of the desolate young woman inside. She walked down the stairs to the kitchen, where Hope had a kettle of tea boiling. (A cup of tea seems to be the “cure-all” for every ailment in Salem!)
“…Thanks, Julie. I’ll be home tomorrow morning.” And Hope hung up the phone. She heard Greta enter the kitchen and said, “I hope you have room for one more. I called Julie, who is watching J.T., and she is going to keep him for the rest of the night. So, I’m going to stay over tonight, too.”
Greta fixed herself a cup of tea as she smiled gratefully at Hope. “I really appreciate that. Damn, I feel awful for Chloe right now! That poor girl has had her world ripped apart.”
Hope nodded as she sipped from her cup. She sat down on a kitchen stool at the counter and agreed with Greta. “Both of you have been horribly affected by tonight. Why didn’t you tell anyone who you’re father was?”
“It was so hard for me to accept Stefano as my biological father. He has been responsible for so much pain and heartbreak in this town and to many people that I love and care about. I didn’t want to share it with anyone until I had come to terms with it myself. As you can see, I still haven’t,” Greta answered as she dipped her tea bag repeatedly into her mug. “I’ve known the truth for almost two years and haven’t been able accept it. I wonder how long it’s going to affect Chloe.”
Hope said grimly, “A long time, I’m sure.” She added some more sugar to her tea. “The three of us are some sight, aren’t we? Stefano has affected us all in some way.”
“We’ll have to be strong for each other,” Greta replied to her friend. “I’m not certain if there will be that many other people out there in the big, bad world supporting us.” She thought about how Colin had left her with Stefano. Colin had some serious issues with Stefano DiMera, and Greta believed he wouldn’t take the information that he was her father very well. She may very well have lost him.
“We are all strong,” Hope said, “and we will get through this, one way or another.”
“Together,” Greta answered, glad that she finally had people to support her through this. Hope smiled in agreement.
Chloe wiped the steam from the mirror in the bathroom with her towel. She felt…better now that she had showered, not quite as shattered. She watched her face as it appeared after the steam was gone.
“Chloe Lane,” she said to her reflection, “what is going to happen now? Your father is the most despised man in Salem. People actively hate him. He has been responsible for so much unhappiness. He has also wreaked havoc in the lives of so many families here.” She paused and then admitted aloud to herself, “Including your boyfriend’s and your best friend’s.”
She smiled slightly as she remembered her times with Belle and Brady. “They are so special to me,” Chloe admitted. “Belle befriended me in Salem before anyone else would even talk to me, except to call me “Ghoul Girl”. She accepted me for who I was, not for who she wanted me to be.”
She trailed her hand along the counter. “And Brady. Oh, god, Brady!” she exclaimed in despair. “He is so important to me! Brady and I have such an intense connection between us. He pushes me to show my feelings, whether I am singing opera or just talking to him. He makes me laugh when I am so upset with Nancy!” Her eyes laughed as she recalled the time this past summer when she went bowling with Brady, Nancy, and Craig. “We always have so much fun together. It’s because we have so much in common.”
She fingered the necklace Brady had given her earlier tonight that signified the love he felt for her. It seemed like eons ago now. “And now we have even more in common. Stefano DiMera. My father, and his father’s enemy. Damn, it sounds like a really awful opera! Will we survive this mess?” Chloe wondered aloud as she finished dressing.
Chloe heard the end of Hope and Greta’s conversation as she stopped by the kitchen door and silently agreed with them. I think the three of us will need to help each other come to grips with this horrifying news. Chloe then entered the kitchen, dressed in the gray sweatpants and pink t-shirt Greta had given her.
“Chloe, you’re here,” Hope exclaimed with a warm smile. She stood up from her kitchen stool by the counter. “Here, have a seat. I’ll make you some hot tea.”
Chloe walked over to the stool that Hope had vacated and sat, heartened a little by Hope’s reception to her. Stefano had royally messed up Hope’s life, Chloe thought, and she doesn’t seem to hold him against me or Greta. Maybe other people’s reactions to the news won’t be that bad. Chloe was surprised at the strain of optimism that popped into her head. All right, and maybe hell might freeze over.
“Hope and I were discussing the surprising turn of events of this evening,” Greta began as Hope carried over a cup of tea for Chloe. Chloe accepted it with a small smile as she added sugar to her tea.
Hope sat down on the stool next to Chloe, so that Chloe was in- between her and Greta. “That’s a surprise, isn’t it?” she said to Greta and Chloe, at a small attempt at wry humor.
“I would never have expected it,” Chloe responded as she sipped the hot liquid, grateful to feel the warmth. She still felt cold and numb on the inside.
“Anyway,” Greta grinned at her friend and her new sister, pleased that they were attempting to rally around each other, “we thought that the best way to face the world of Salem is together. We will need each other to get through this, ah, situation.”
Chloe suddenly felt grateful to be here, where her plight was accepted and understood. “When I was taking my shower a few minutes ago, I wondered how on earth I would be able to get through tonight. I mean, my world has completely shattered, in the blink of an eye. I’m not the same Chloe Lane I was, even an hour ago. Everything is completely different.”
Hope looked sadly at the two new sisters. “We are here to help you, Chloe. Greta is your sister. She knows exactly how you are feeling right now. I’ve also been a victim of Stefano DiMera, and I know how hard it is to put your life back together after it has been destroyed.”
Greta shook her head as a realization dawned on her at Hope’s words. “Hope, you’re right! I didn’t think about this before but we are victims, too!” Greta turned to Chloe and said, “You said that Stefano had contacted you through “mysterious” ways for the past few weeks. You never knew his identity, just the fact that he was your father. He wanted you to become curious and excited about the possibility of meeting him.”
She slammed the countertop with her hand as she began to unravel Stefano’s diabolical plan for the evening. “If Stefano wanted to have both of us meet with him so he could share his “joyful” news, he could have done in a more appropriate manner.”
“Such as in private,” Chloe interjected sarcastically.
“Right. Instead, Stefano set the stage so carefully for us tonight, crafting it so he could reveal his identity to both of us in front of people we care about and the town of Salem!” Greta flushed in excitement as she picked apart Stefano’s plan. “Now the only question is, why? Why did Stefano choose to reveal his parentage to us at the Christmas Ball, with such a large audience?”
Hope arched her eyebrow at Greta and laid her teacup on the kitchen counter. “You are onto something here, Greta.” She remembered her earlier conversation with DiMera. “He let something slip when he talked to me in front of Shawn tonight. I know he did it for a reason. But I’ll get to that in a moment. O.k., so Stefano wanted both of you to know he was your father. He “revealed” this information in public, and created a sensation throughout Tuscany. There’s only one reason why he would do that,” Hope said decisively.
“I’m a little drained right now, and am not thinking too clearly,” Chloe said when Hope paused. “Why would he choose to reveal that he was our father in such a sensational way?”
Hope answered Chloe, “I think he wants to alienate you from people that you care about. You see? He wants to make both of you vulnerable so you will need to turn to him.” Hope turned to Greta and said, “He made sure that Colin and John knew you were his daughter. I’m not certain what has happened between Colin and DiMera, but I know it’s bad. Colin and John are two people you seek out for support in Salem.”
Greta pointed at Hope in agreement, even though her hypothesis recalled the hurt she had felt about Colin’s desertion when Stefano had greeted her tonight. And he still hadn’t called her. “Yes, this could be it.”
Hope turned to Chloe. “Chloe, he planned this whole, elaborate scheme for you. The timing had to be perfect for it to work. He contacted you through mysterious ways, hoping to gain your attention and interest. Then, at the ball, he instigated a conversation between John and Marlena that would lead back to family. When it did, Stefano was able to drop his bombshell in front of you, Brady, John, and Marlena. They are people you would rely on for support.”
Chloe placed both hands over her mouth as she breathed, “You’re right! And that’s the reason why Brady didn’t come after me. He must have calculated their responses to the news!”
“It’s like a chess game to DiMera,” Hope said, “and we were all his pawns tonight. He did the same thing with me, when he caused further friction in my relationship with Shawn. The man is utterly ruthless.” She analyzed the situation as she calmly sipped her tea.
A beautiful pink dawn was breaking as a new day in Salem began. Brady did not notice the gorgeous winter morning as he stepped out of the door of his “hot wheels.” “Dammit!,” he exclaimed after he slammed the car door in mute frustration. “Where the hell are you, Chloe?” But he received no new answer. He gingerly placed the gift Chloe had given him last evening in the pocket of his tuxedo jacket and started up the path to the penthouse.
Belle pulled the blanket tighter around her as she reclined on the sofa. John and Marlena had explained the whole horrible incident to her when they came home from the ball. Belle had been completely shocked about the truth of Chloe’s father. She was really worried about Brady, who had spent the entire night looking for Chloe. Her father told her that Brady had traded in the limo for his jeep so he could search for Chloe. Belle couldn’t understand why Brady hadn’t gone after her right away, instead of demanding proof of Stefano DiMera’s allegations. “I hope you didn’t make a big mistake,” Belle whispered. She knew Chloe well.
Belle started when she heard the key being placed in the door. Brady, you’re home! she thought. A second later, Brady opened the door and entered the penthouse. Belle got a really good look at him because he wasn’t aware of her presence yet. He was still wearing the tuxedo. He looked…defeated, Belle thought. Completely different from the confidence, happiness, and amusement that had exuded from him at the ball.
But her heart really went out to him as she saw the naked emotions written across his face: despair, worry, anger, frustration. She knew Brady would not normally show anyone his feelings. She was catching him when his guard was down. He turned to close the door quietly behind him and started to walk toward the stairs.
Enough of that, Belle thought. “Brady,” she whispered loudly, hoping to catch his attention.
Brady’s thoughts were focused on something else and he didn’t hear her or respond. He had flashbacked to the evening he had witnessed Chloe Lane wearing that alluring slip while she was getting ready for the Last Blast. She had looked like she had stepped out of one of his secret dreams. Brady had finally realized at that point that his true feelings for Chloe were going to have to surface, preferably sooner than later. That night had been an epiphany for him. And then, Brady thought, she was finally mine.
She tried again to break into Brady’s thoughts, “Brady Black, come over here!”
Brady turned around in surprise as he finally noticed his little sister waiting for him on the living room sofa. He quickly schooled his features into a semblance of his normal face.
“Tink, it hasn’t been a good evening,” Brady began in obvious displeasure. “I won’t be good company.”
Belle rolled her eyes at her big brother. She had never seen her brother more vulnerable than he was right now. “Shut up and sit down,” she ordered, hoping to get to the bottom of Brady’s despair.
Brady did as he was told, basically because he didn’t have the energy to fight with Belle right now. His face was now completely devoid of any expression. Only his eyes revealed the inner turmoil he was experiencing.
Belle searched his face. I won’t have this silent treatment, she thought as she began, “Mom and Dad told me what happened tonight after I left.” Brady’s face didn’t reveal any emotion. Typical. “About Chloe…” she prompted.
“Yeah?” Brady said, hoping Belle would leave it alone.
Belle blew the hair out of her eyes in exasperation as she dropped the blanket into her lap. “Brady. This is me, your sister. You can tell me what you’re feeling! I’ll listen, and I might even be able to help.”
Brady felt his hastily built charade start to crumble. He began with the most pressuring problem. “Tink, I don’t know where she is. I left Tuscany after DiMera shared his “information” and she was already gone. I’ve looked for her everywhere! She’s not home; she’s not answering her cell phone. I feel like I’m about to go crazy!” His strong emotions began to show as Brady continued, “Sh@t! Why didn’t I follow her tonight when she left the room?” He dropped his head in his hands in despair.
Belle moved closer to Brady. She draped her arm around him in comfort as she hugged him lightly. “Chloe found out something really bad tonight. She needs time to deal with it.”
“I don’t know about that,” Brady responded as he started to discuss what was really worrying him. “Chloe has always come to me when she’s had a problem. I don’t know why she’s hiding right now.”
Belle punched her big brother on the shoulder. “Brady! Chloe is NOT hiding from you! She’s, well, she’s probably in serious shock right now and is wondering what’s going to happen next.”
Brady cocked his head to one side in puzzlement as he asked, “What do you mean by that?”
“O.k. Let’s recap. Tonight Salem found out that Stefano DiMera is Chloe’s father. Chloe knows that DiMera is, like, an extremely feared man in Salem. Maybe she’s worried about how people will respond to her.”
“Dammit!” Brady exclaimed loudly as he remembered his conversations about Stefano DiMera with Chloe and his family during the evening. Belle looked at him in surprise. “Tonight, of all nights, Dad, Marlena, and I discussed DiMera. We talked about how evil he is and how everyone who is related to him eventually follows the same path.”
Belle brought both of her hands to her cheeks in dismay. “Oh no!” she breathed. She hadn’t been aware of that little tidbit.
“Oh yes,” Brady said. He stood up and began to pace furiously. “Chloe could be thinking that I wouldn’t want her anymore, because her father is Stefano DiMera!” He punched one hand into the other in anger. “I hadn’t thought of this yet! That’s the reason why Chloe hasn’t come to me.”
Belle stood up, sorry that her attempt to soothe Brady had backfired so badly. “Brady, Chloe needs space right now to think, and to come to grips with this shocking news. She loves you. I know she will come to you.” Belle started to push him gently towards the stairs. “You totally need some rest.”
“How can I, Belle?” Brady questioned her. “Chloe is out there, somewhere, by herself, when she needs me the most.”
Belle walked with Brady slowly up the stairs to his room. “Rest first,” she offered a small smile to Brady, “and then go find her.” She stepped on the tops of her toes to kiss Brady on the cheek. “She loves you, Brady.”
Brady smiled slightly as he said, “Thanks, Tink.” He opened his door and entered his bedroom. He took the special gift Chloe had given him out of his jacket the second the door behind him closed. He gently held it in his hands, gingerly tracing Chloe’s name with his finger. “Your heart is so fragile,” he said as he laid the heart on his dresser by her picture. “I pray that tonight didn’t break it.”
Nancy walked up the stairs towards Chloe’s room. She had left the ball soon after Stefano DiMera had arrived, and she wanted to find out what happened. Before she sailed into Chloe’s room, she remembered the reason why she insisted on leaving. Bill Horton is back in town, she thought. Will he know about Chloe?
“Good morning, Chloe, dear!” she called out at she marched into her room. “Did you enjoy the…Chloe?” she questioned the empty room, noticing that the bed was still freshly made. And that her gown from the ball was not hanging up by the closet. “She’s not here!”
Nancy turned around in a huff and bounded down the stairs. “Craig! Chloe’s not here! I don’t think she came home last night at all!”
Craig watched his upset wife enter the dining room, where he was placidly reading the morning newspaper. “She probably spent the night at the Blacks. In Belle’s room,” he added as an afterthought before Nancy could become even more upset.
“But wouldn’t she have called?” Nancy asked worriedly.
Craig stood up from his chair, trying uselessly to calm his wife down. He walked over to her and placed a kiss on the top of her head. “I’m certain that she’s fine.” Then, the doorbell rang, startling both of them. “I’ll go answer that,” Craig said to Nancy.
Nancy watched Craig walk towards the front door, her insatiable curiosity peeked. “Honestly! Who could be here this early in the morning?”
Craig opened the door to see a strange woman standing on the front step in a business suit. She was carrying a briefcase. “Good morning, Dr. Wesley,” she greeted him coolly. “I’m Janet Wilkerson. I am terribly sorry to bother you and your wife so early, but I have some pressing information I must share with you.”
“Sounds mysterious,” Craig said with a joking grin. The woman did not return it. “All right, come on in.” He gestured to the woman to enter his house.
Ten minutes later, he wished she had never darkened their doorway. “Wait a minute,” he nearly shouted, interrupting the woman from the adoption agency. He held Nancy protectively to him. “You are telling my wife and myself that Chloe Lane is not her daughter?”
“Regretfully, yes. There was a mix-up at the adoption agency that has recently came to light. Mrs. Wesley’s daughter died of natural causes two days after she was adopted. She was apparently replaced with your Chloe Lane. I am sorry. I know this information must come as quite a shock to you.” Janice began to open her briefcase.
“I don’t believe this!” Nancy shouted angrily. “Craig, make her tell us the truth!”
Craig felt a mounting fury about to erupt from him. He calmed himself down enough to ask the adoption agency official, “How could something like this happen?”
Janice hesitated as she took the papers out of her briefcase. “I am not certain how it happened. But, it did. We have the proof right here.” She solemnly handed the birth certificate and death certificate to the Wesleys.
Nancy glanced at it and said, “Oh no!” She slowly sank down onto the living room sofa. “Look at this, Craig! It says my Chloe is dead!”
Craig accepted the papers from Nancy and perused them carefully. “We still need more proof,” he said decisively.
“I have the further proof you need right here,” Janice answered as she pulled out the DNA test and quietly handed them over.
Craig reacted quickly when he read the results. “It says here that Stefano DiMera is Chloe’s father!” He jumped up out of his chair in anger.
Janice interjected calmly, “The DNA test is very conclusive. The father of Chloe Lane is Stefano DiMera.”
Nancy interrupted the official. She was having a difficult time accepting the information. Her face was showing a myriad of emotions. “But that’s impossible!”
Janice looked coolly at Nancy Wesley. “You are not Chloe Lane’s mother. According to Mr. DiMera, a woman named Gina von Amburg is Chloe’s biological mother.”
Craig glanced furiously at the woman who had so calmly destroyed their lives. “Get out!” he ordered when he saw how upset Nancy was at this news. He picked up her briefcase and proceeded to lead the woman quickly to the door. Craig opened the door and threw her briefcase outside. He was about to slam the door in the woman’s face when he heard Nancy crying in the living room. He left the door open slightly as he went back in to comfort his wife.
On the doorstep, Janice bent down to pick up her briefcase. She notices a pair of feet as a hand offers to help her up. She accepted the hand. “Mr. DiMera!” she said as she held onto his hand for leverage. “Be careful if you are going in there.” She pointed to the open doorway. “They are quite vicious.”
Stefano laughed maniacally as he watched Janice Wilkerson walk away. “Not as vicious as me!” he said as he walked through the open doorway, looking forward to this next part of his scheme.
“Ah, Doctor Wesley! A pleasure to see you again! And your charming wife!” Stefano greeted them exuberantly as he entered their living room, with a cheerfully fake smile on his face.
Nancy looked up from the circle of Craig’s supporting arms. “Oh my god! What are you doing here?” Craig also looked up, shocked to see this man in his house.
“Merely a social call,” Stefano replied merrily. “I simply wanted to talk to you and your husband about my daughter.”
“Listen,” Craig began furiously, not caring who he was dealing with. “I want you out of our house now before I call the police and have you arrested for trespassing. You are not welcome here.”
Stefano inwardly applauded Craig Wesley’s courage. “I am pleased that my daughter was cared for by people who really are concerned for her well-being. Now, you have seen the proof that Chloe Lane is my daughter. I would like to see her.” He paused dramatically, and then said, “Now.”
Nancy could feel the tears drying on her face. She was grateful that Craig was standing next to her, giving her support. “She’s not here.”
Stefano weighed Nancy Wesley’s answer and decided she was telling the truth. “That is not a surprise. No matter. I’ll find her later.” Stefano turned as if to leave their living room.
He turned back to face the Wesley’s, wanting them to know his stand without a doubt on Chloe’s importance to him. “I hear excellent reports from you as the chief of staff, Dr. Wesley. And Mrs. Wesley, I know that your radio show is receiving the highest ratings ever.” He stopped and appeared to choose his next words carefully. “Chloe is my daughter. It would be in both of your best interest if you would have Chloe move out as soon as possible. I want her with me.”
Nancy watched Stefano DiMera leave in shock. First she found out that Chloe wasn’t her real daughter. Now Stefano DiMera just threatened her and Craig. Not a very tranquil morning. She turned to face Craig. “Oh my, Craig! That man just threatened us!” She hugged him fiercely. “What are we going to do?”
“Chloe’s not going anywhere,” Craig said with finality. “I won’t let DiMera push us around. Come on, let’s go upstairs.” Craig led his crying wife up the stairs to their bedroom.
In the kitchen, Chloe leaded despairingly against the wall. “Just when I think my life couldn’t possibly get any worse,” she said sorrowfully. “No, I won’t let Nancy and Craig be hurt anymore by my father. I’ll move out. But I won’t move in with him.”
The early afternoon sun glinted off of the small amount of snow on the ground in scene of a picturesque winter day. “So beautiful,” Chloe murmured from the bench she was reclining on in a remote part of Salem Place. Two suitcases and a bag were spread out around her as she watched the happy people of Salem passing by her.
“I would give anything to be that carefree again,” Chloe said as she watched an obvious in love couple stroll by her, hand in hand. The couple only had eyes for each other and stopped a few feet away from Chloe to share a playful kiss. Painful memories of breathlessly kissing Brady played through her mind long after the couple walked away.
Chloe sighed in devastation as she leaned her head back on the top of the bench. She recalled the letter she had left on her old bed at the Wesley’s house as she had quietly stolen her way out of her old home, being careful not to make any noise to alert Craig or Nancy to her departure. Chloe had always had difficulty expressing her true feelings but the letter had simply poured out of her heart and soul.
Dear Nancy and Craig, (it began)
I want to thank you for taking in me in two years ago and for giving me a real home, the first real home I have ever had. I know that I never let you see how much this home meant to be, so I will tell you know as I leave it. It meant the world to me. You took in a teenager who was angry at the world and helped her start to respect herself and her life through your suffocating but unconditional love.
I respect you even more because you would have willingly stood up to my father to keep me in your home. However, I cannot, no, I will not, allow you to sacrifice yourself for me. I am a more complete person because of both of you and I will never forget how you have changed my life for the better.
I love you both,
“Life is so funny,” Chloe said as she shook herself out of her reverie. “I spent two years wishing I could leave that house and now it’s the only place I want to be. But I won’t let Nancy and Craig become victims of Stefano DiMera.”
She closed her eyes as she pictured their reactions to the letter. “Nancy will go all emotional on Craig, crying and screaming, probably scaring the neighbors,” Chloe predicted with a fond smile. “Craig will calm her down, putting aside his own feelings to help her. He has always been the rock in her life, Nancy’s guiding force. They are such wonderful people. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realize it.”
Chloe sighed again as she contemplated the drastic turn her life had taken. “Brady has always been my rock, my guiding force, even when all we could do was fight. How we fought when we first met! Sometimes I thought Belle would just throw us both out of the penthouse windows to put an end to it.” She chuckled in remembrance of the early days with Brady. “Even then, Brady pushed me to challenge myself, to look into my soul and admire and question what I see there. God, what am I going to do? Will he want to be with me anymore?”
There was no answer to that question, just a huge hole in her soul where her heart had recently been. Chloe forgot about the fact that she was currently homeless as she wondered about Brady. Would they be able to deal with this devastating news? Chloe hoped and prayed that they would be able to.
“After all, tomorrow is another day,” Chloe quoted the famous line of Scarlett O’Hara from one of the best novels ever written. (Bet you can’t guess where I got my name from!) “How could she say that after Rhett, the owner of her heart and soul, left her behind in Atlanta? Will that happen to me?”
Chloe looked down at her luggage, trying to get her mind off of Brady’s reaction when he saw her for the first time. “Let’s think of another problem,” Chloe said as she eyed her luggage. “Where are you going to live now?” She closed her eyes again in resignation.
Greta walked away angrily from the Java Café, carrying a mocha in one hand. She, too, was worried about the drastic direction her life had taken. She tried to act unaware of the fact that people at Salem Place were glancing at her and excitedly pointing her out. “Look!” she heard one woman exclaim in an exaggerated stage whisper. “It’s her! Princess Greta, the daughter of that notorious Stefano DiMera!”
People had been reacting to her like this the whole morning. Greta had no clue why, but she was infuriated with the treatment. She tried to ignore it but it was getting harder.
Greta was so engrossed in her thoughts that she nearly missed the forlorn figure sitting alone on the park bench, with luggage lying at her feet. She completed an abrupt stop and walked hurriedly over to her sister. “Chloe!” she exclaimed in concern as she came up to her sister.
Chloe peered from under her eyelashes at Greta, surprised to see her new sister at Salem Place. She didn’t really want company; she wanted to be left alone to ponder the mess her life had become in the span of one short day. (One of the funniest things I find about Days Of Our Lives is how one day in Salem can last for three months in regular time…some of you are probably thinking that about my fic!) “Hi,” she said without enthusiasm.
Greta sat down on the bench next to her, pointing to the luggage, “What is all this?” she asked in concern.
Chloe’s face revealed the despair and loneliness she was trying so valiantly to hide. “It’s clothes and a few belongings from my room at the Wesley’s.”
Greta’s eyes showed her impatience as she questioned Chloe, “Why are they here with you, in Salem Place?” Then, the wrong realization dawned on Greta. “No! Did they kick you out of your house?”
Chloe smiled as she thought of Craig’s strong words to Nancy. “No, not at all.” She decided to elaborate, believing that Greta might be the only person who would understand right now. “You see, our father,” she said with obvious hatred, “couldn’t wait to share the news with Nancy and Craig. I overheard him threaten them about me. He wanted me to move out or else he would affect their jobs in some awful way. I heard Craig say that he wouldn’t let Stefano threaten them, but I couldn’t let them take that chance.”
“So you packed everything you needed and left.” Greta guessed accurately. “And I bet you left them a note, explaining your decision.”
“Of course,” Chloe said. “And now I have no where to go.”
Greta pulled Chloe to her in a comforting embrace as she said, “Now I am offended! There’s no question of where you will go! Of course you will come and stay with me!”
Chloe pulled out of the embrace, looking with wonder at her sister. “Really? You would let me move in with you? But you don’t even know me.”
Greta replied to Chloe, “You’re my little sister, Chloe. Of course I want you to move in with me! We’ll have a chance to really get to know each other. God, you are the only positive thing that has come out of this whole mess. I am so thankful that you’re my sister.”
Chloe shared her first genuine smile with Greta in what seemed like centuries. “Oh my god, a silver lining! I’m glad you’re my sister, too.”
Greta stood up from the bench and picked up Chloe’s suitcases. Chloe reached down and placed her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll take you home now,” Greta said as she smiled back at Chloe. “Let’s go.”
A few minutes after Greta and Chloe exited Salem Place, Brady walked down the same path. He had only been able to sleep for an hour before he had to go look for Chloe again. Salem Place seemed like a great place to start.
Brady hadn’t gotten more than an hour of sleep. The replay of the scene last night at Tuscany ran through his mind, over and over again. Brady wished that he could turn back time and have gone after Chloe earlier, instead of demanding proof of Stefano’s allegations. “I’m such a jacka@@!” Brady angrily castigated himself as he walked through Salem Place, looking everywhere for a sign of his perfect soulmate, Chloe Lane. “If I’d gone after Chloe right away, she would be with me now. She’d be safe, comfortable, and secure, and not all alone somewhere. We could go through this together!”
He was running out of ideas where Chloe could be. She was not at the Wesley’s, the pier, the gazebo, or any of their other special places. Brady felt like he was running in circles, always coming back to the place he started at. “I need you, Chloe,” he said to himself, “and I know that you need me now more than ever.”
He stopped by a store window, surveying the crowd that walked past. He saw a brunette with long, beautiful hair stand up from a bench. Brady’s heart leapt with excitement. He quickly started toward the woman. When he was a few steps away, the woman turned around. She quickly picked up her shopping bags and walked on down the path. Brady felt disappointment go straight through him. She was not Chloe.
Phillip and Shawn were walking down the sidewalk of Salem Place, discussing the upcoming basketball game. “You will need to guard their number twenty-four well,” Shawn said to Phillip. “He’s their best player and highest scored.”
“I can do it,” Phillip said “immodestly”. “Not a doubt in my mind.” Shawn laughed at Phillip’s “modesty”. Phillip started to reply when a strange sight caught his eye. “Hey, man, look at that,” Phillip said.
Shawn followed his friend’s hand but didn’t see anything as he asked, “What? You sound really concerned.”
Phillip pointed to the man standing apart from the shopping crowd. He questioned why Brady looked so…frustrated. “Look, it’s Brady! And, man, does he look upset!”
Shawn peered in the direction Phillip pointed to, amazed by the sight of the tough Brady Black showing visual signs of vulnerability. “You’re right. I wonder why.”
Phillip gazed at Shawn in disbelief as he remembered the sensational scene at the ball. “Don’t you know?” When Shawn continued to look at him blankly, Phillip continued, “Last night? At the ball?”
Shawn shrugged his shoulders. After the conversation he had overheard between Stefano and his mother, Shawn never wanted to think of that damn ball again. “What? Did him and Chloe get into a huge fight or something?”
“Or something,” Phillip said sarcastically. Then, complete understanding dawned on him as he recalled the scene that had pushed Shawn and Belle to depart the ball earlier. “You must have left by the time it happened.”
Shawn punched his friend playfully on the shoulder, trying to lighten the mood. “O.k. You’ve dragged out the suspense long enough. What the hell happened to make Brady look so p@@@ed off?”
“Chloe received the shock of her life last night,” Phillip began as he recounted what happened at the ball. Shawn’s eyes opened wide as he listened to the surprising tale. “…And then Chloe left the ball. Fled the room is the more accurate term. Brady stayed and tried to attack DiMera. He demanded proof of DiMera’s claims, and, sadly, received it. Chloe really is DiMera’s daughter.”
“Oh, man, that’s bad,” Shawn said as the information sunk in. “Let’s go talk to him.” He started toward Brady without waiting for Phillip’s response. “Hey Brady,” Shawn said when they were closer to him.
Brady turned from his survey of the crowd to greet Shawn and Phillip. Maybe Uncle Phil knows where Chloe is, Brady thought. It’s worth a try. “Hey,” Brady responded coolly. He wasn’t certain how to broach the subject.
“How’s Chloe handling the news?” Phillip asked after a few moments of awkward silence. It was always hard when the nephew/uncle came into contact with each other.
Brady shrugged his shoulders as he admitted ruefully, “I don’t know. I can’t find her.” Brady then turned his back on his two relatives. Phillip lightly whispered something to Shawn, who unobtrusively left the two of them alone.
Phillip stepped up to Brady, thinking how weird it was that he wanted to help him through this situation. “We both know Chloe very well,” Phillip began as he carefully gauged Brady’s reaction to his advice. Brady could take him down quickly and painfully and do some serious damage, so Phillip didn’t want to push any buttons.
“And?” Brady responded sarcastically, hiding the worry and pain he felt from Phillip. The last person on earth he wanted advice about Chloe from was his uncle. It had been hard enough to swallow Belle’s sympathy this morning. Brady, a very private person, really despised the fact that half of Salem seemed to be aware of his feelings and wanting to comment on them.
“Man, this is awkward,” Phillip said to Brady. He used his hands to push back his overly long locks from his face. (That’s one of Phillip’s annoyingly patented moves!!) “Listen. I want to start by saying that I’m happy for you and Chloe. You two have a special thing going. This is not about any remaining jealousy.”
“I’m listening,” Brady said as he nodded his head at Phillip. He was actively more responsive to Phillip’s input. Maybe Phillip had finally grown up a little.
“Chloe loves you, man, in a way she could never love anyone else. She depends on you, Brady, for help with all of her problems. You are her strength. And she’s going to need you now more than ever.” Phillip paused as a new thought occurred to him. “Are you upset that Chloe is a DiMera?”
Brady felt stunned at this startling conversation he was having with Phillip. “She’s still Chloe, Phillip. I don’t care that she’s a DiMera.”
Phillip nodded his head in support. “That’s a great start. Now, knowing Chloe, she’s upset about this news. She’ll want to attempt to come to terms with it by herself. It may take her awhile, but she’ll realize sooner or later that she’ll need you to help her.” Phillip grinned ironically as he continued to offer advice to the man who had won Chloe Lane’s heart and soul. “You need to give her some time and space, Brady. That’s something I couldn’t do, and look where that got us. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Let her come to you.”
“God, Phil, I know that you’re right. But I can’t help feeling that Chloe needs to know that I don’t care about Stefano! She needed to know that last night.” Brady exclaimed in disgust at himself.
“Tell her that when you see her.” Phillip hoped Brady would take his advice. Phillip pushed his scraggly hair out of his eyes again as he continued the conversation. “And then you have to make her believe it.”
“Piece of cake,” Brady said cockily, praying that he could make Chloe see how he still felt about her. “Now all I’ve got to do is see her.”
Just then, Shawn walked up, carrying three cappuccinos. “Hey, guys,” he greeted them, glad to see that there wasn’t any blood spilled on the ground before them, “I got us some drinks.” He handed them to his relatives.
“Thanks,” Brady said as he sipped his drink. “Well, I think I’m going to head home, see if there are any messages.”
“Good idea,” Phillip agreed. He returned Brady’s nod as he walked off towards his “hip and happening” car. “I hope Chloe comes to Brady soon.”
Shawn wasn’t paying any attention to Phillip. “WHAT THE HELL?” he roared in his best imitation of his uncle, Roman. (Roman wins, no contest. No one can say that line better than him.) Shawn stalked up to the newsstand and angrily ripped a tabloid off of the shelf. Phillip paid for it as it looked like Shawn was going to shoplift it.
“What is it?” Phillip asked curiously, wondering what else could possibly have happened in the sleepy town of Salem. Phillip’s eyes grew wide with surprise when Shawn showed him the front page. No wonder Shawn is so upset, Phillip thought in sympathy.