The time to tell Benjamin about Nathalie has come. Kate picked up Elisabeth’s old phone and searched for Benjamin’s number. As she ran her eyes over his name with a heart icon at the end, a happy smile played on her lips. Kate loved Elisabeth and Elisabeth loved Benjamin. He could never replace her daughter or her runaway son, but Kate knew she would love him as her own child. Benjamin was part of the family now.
After Elisabeth’s funeral in December, Benjamin returned to Moonlight Falls. Until this day, he had no clue about the existence of his and Elisabeth’s daughter, Nathalie. In order to make his everyday life a little happier, Benjamin spent a lot of time playing with Chloe. He knew he could never forget about Elisabeth, but if he remained lost in his memories and continued to reminiscent about the unrealized plans for their life together, he would probably never live a happy life again. It was very hard for Benjamin to admit it to himself, but eventually he would have to move on.
As every other day after breakfast, Chloe was enjoying the time with her daddy when Benjamin’s phone suddenly rang.
Who could it be this early in the morning? Benjamin thought to himself as he rose to his feet and pulled his cellphone out of the pocket of his jeans. When he looked at the screen he couldn’t understand at first. Elisabeth? This cannot be… Benjamin said to himself and looked at the picture on his desk.
Although he knew it wasn’t Elisabeth calling, Benjamin decided to answer.
“Good morning, Benjamin. It’s Kate.”
“Oh, hello Kate!” Benjamin exclaimed happily. “How are you? Are there any news about the investigation?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” said Kate and paused for a moment before she continued. “There aren’t any news, but… there’s something else I have to tell you,” she said guiltily. “I thought the doctors would let you know, but… I don’t know why I haven’t called you earlier… please, don’t get mad at me…,” she sighed.
“Kate, it’s all right. Just tell me,” assured her Benjamin.
“I don’t know if you knew, but Elisabeth was pregnant, Ben. She died at childbirth… I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you before.”
“It’s a girl. Elisabeth named her Nathalie.”
“I… I have a baby daughter?” Benjamin asked her, surprised.
“Yes,” Kate confirmed his doubt.
“And is she… is Nathalie all right? Where is she now?”
“Don’t worry, Nathalie is perfectly fine. She’s sleeping upstairs.”
“Upstairs? Do you mean-”
“Yes, she’s in our home now. Sound and safe,” Kate smiled in the phone.
“Oh my goodness, Kate! I cannot believe it! I have to see her!” Benjamin said joyfully.
“I wanted to propose something to you, Ben. I know Nathalie is your daughter and you have all the right to take her to Moonlight Falls. I was just wondering if you would like to consider moving to Monte Vista. It would make me very happy,” told him hopefully Kate.
“Kate, I don’t want to take her away from you,” told her Benjamin decisively. “The only, let’s say, problem is that I cannot afford a new house right now, I would first have to sell-”
“Benjamin,” Kate interrupted him. “You probably didn’t understand me well. I want you to move in with us.”
There was a moment of silence before Benjamin spoke again. “Are you sure about that? I wouldn’t want to be a nuisance.”
“If I wasn’t sure, I wouldn’t ask you,” Kate said decidedly.
“…we’ll see soon,” Kate finished his sentence and said goodbye.
Benjamin hung up the phone and looked down at Chloe who was still playing with her peg toy box.
“Well, dumpling, looks like you have a little baby sister now,” Benjamin said to Chloe as he picked her up from the floor and changed her from the PJ’s.
“Baby sister?” Chloe asked him curiously.
“Yes. Her name is Nathalie.”
“Nathalie,” she repeated after Benjamin and smiled.
Benjamin decided to pack just a few necessary things and leave everything else in Moonlight Falls. Before their departure, Benjamin paid one last visit to Bill Wilson who was very moved by the news. They said goodbye and soon after, Benjamin and Chloe were on their way towards a new life in Monte Vista, where they arrived the next day early in the morning.
The sun was rising above the horizon when the night express finally stopped at the train station. After they got off the train, Benjamin took his phone out of the pocket of his backpack and dialed Elisabeth’s number. While he was waiting for Kate to answer the call, he wondered why they haven’t exchanged their phone numbers yet.
“Hello, Benjamin!” said happily Kate. “Have you arrived already?”
“Hi, Kate. Yes, we just got off the train. I wanted to ask if you could give me your address so I can call a taxi,” told her Benjamin and walked towards the bench near the road.
“No need for that. David’s chauffeur will arrive any minute now, so we will send her to pick you up at the station,” informed him Kate.
“David’s got his own chauffeur?” Benjamin asked in surprise and sat down on the bench.
“Recently, he has received a significant promotion and the limousine came together with it,” laughed Kate. “I’m sure you’ll enjoy the ride, Ben!”
“Oh, we will, don’t worry,” told her Benjamin and winked at Chloe sitting on his lap.
“Very well then. See you in a while,” said Kate and hung up.
“Come here, Snow, let’s make you pretty for Chloe and Benjamin,” Kate called at the dog, took his brush from one of the drawers in the kitchen and brushed his coat.
“Oh, I know you like this, boy,” she said to Snowball when he intensely licked her hand. Elisabeth and Zachary were the only ones who genuinely cared about Snowball, but ever since they were gone, the other family members tended to forgot about him most of the time.
It didn’t take long and a black shiny limo pulled up at the train station. The woman driving the car was all dressed in black, her red hair pulled up under the chauffeur hat.
“Excuse me, sir. Are you Mr. Thomas?” she called at Benjamin from the car window.
Benjamin nodded at her in agreement and looked at Chloe. “Ready for a ride, dumpling?” he asked his daughter who curiously observed the limousine.
“Ready for the ride!” Chloe exclaimed joyfully and like a princess she let herself be carried to the limousine.
“After you, mademoiselle,” Benjamin said to Chloe, opened the door of the car and helped her get in.
“Thank you, sir,” Chloe told her father and sat on the leather seat. Benjamin raised an eyebrow and sat next to Chloe, who – being a very observant child – couldn’t have missed the new word she heard the chauffeur say a moment ago and use it straight away.
“Is this your first visit to Monte Vista, Mr. Thomas?” asked him the chauffeur and started the engine.
“Actually, I’ve already been here before.”
“I see. You must have liked it here since you’ve returned,” said the chauffeur and looked at him through the rear mirror.
“Yes,” answered Benjamin.
“How long are you going to stay this time?” she asked curiously.
“I’m moving here,” told her Benjamin and looked out of the window, hoping the chauffeur would stop asking questions.
“Everybody would love to live in Monte Vista. I’m sure you’ll like it here,” she smiled. “Where did you say you come from?”
“Oh. So, where are you from exactly?” asked him the chauffeur, emphasizing the last word.
“Moonlight Falls,” sighed Benjamin. This woman was starting to annoy him with all her questions.
“Yes. Moonlight Falls.”
“I’ve never been to Moonlight Falls. Would you mind telling me about it?”
“Maybe next time,” told her Benjamin, relieved they finally arrived.
“Okay. Have a nice day, Mr. Thomas!”
“Thanks. You too,” he said, took Chloe in his arms and got off the limousine. Enjoyable ride indeed, Benjamin thought to himself as he walked towards the stairs leading to the main door of the Loewe residence.
“Benjamin!” Kate called at him from the terrace, folded the newspaper and ran down the stairs to welcome him. Snowball jumped down from David’s lap and hurried after Kate. David brushed some of Snowball’s hair of his black tuxedo and quickly joined everybody in front of the house.
“Benjamin! It’s good to see you again!” David gave him a big smile and hugged him. “How was the ride?”
“Well, let’s say the chauffeur could be less nosy, but it was nice. Thank you.”
“Ha ha! You said it right! I’m lucky it takes just a few minutes to get to the theater,” laughed David. “Otherwise I’d rather take a taxi.”
“Yeah, that was my same idea,” smiled Benjamin.
“Welcome home, Benjamin,” told him Kate and hugged him tightly. “How was the trip? You both must be tired,” she asked him and looked down at Chloe. “Your room is ready, Ben, so if you need to take a nap you can,” Kate smiled at him.
“Well, Chloe slept the whole way and I’m used to staying awake long nights…”
“Very well. I’ll show you the room later then. I have redecorated Elisabeth’s bedroom for you… I wasn’t sure about the color choice, but in case we can redecorate. Do you like orange color, Benjamin?”
David smiled to himself when he saw the inattentive expression on Benjamin’s face. After such a long journey, the last thing anybody would wish to discuss was the color palette of a room they have never seen before…
“So, you must be Chloe,” said David and looked at the little girl sitting at his feet and playing with Snow. “I’m David. Nice to meet you,” he said as he bent down to shake her little hand.
“I’d like to stick around a little longer, but the chauffeur is waiting,” sighed David as he rose to his feet. “I’ll see you guys in the evening.”
“In the evening? I thought you’d be back for lunch…,” Kate asked him with a puzzled expression oh her face.
“I’ll see what I can do,” he smiled at Kate and kissed her on the cheek. “Bye-bye, don’t have too much fun without me,” he said jokingly and winked at Chloe.
“Benjamin, I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you earlier about Nathalie. Everything happened so fast… Elisabeth… and the funeral… I was distracted. I’m truly sorry you got to know about her only now.”
“It’s all right, Kate. I can understand, because I was pretty messed up myself… If it wasn’t for my helpful neighbor, I’m sure the social workers would have taken Chloe away… I wasn’t able to do anything, absolutely anything…,” Benjamin sighed heavily.
“Don’t blame yourself, Ben. Sometimes, things we cannot predict happen so suddenly and unexpectedly leaving us completely unprepared to face them and deal with them, but that’s when friends step in to help us,” told him Kate and looked in his eyes. “I believe that death is only the beginning of something new. Most of us fear it, because naturally, we are afraid of the unknown, but I know that Elisabeth is happy wherever she’s now.”
“Sometimes, I can feel her presence. I don’t know if I am imagining things, but I feel she’s there. Do you believe in ghosts, Kate?” Benjamin asked her a question she least expected. For a moment there, Kate considered telling him about her innate ability to see ghosts, but instead she just mysteriously smiled at him.
“Maybe you can stop by Elisabeth’s grave before meeting Nathalie,” suggested Kate. “I’ll wait for you in the nursery on the first floor. Just use the stairs by the outdoor bar and after you reach the first door, turn to the right. You can’t get lost.”
“Okay,” Benjamin nodded his head and in silence headed towards Elisabeth’s grave. Kate picked up Chloe from the ground and took her upstairs to the nursery to meet her half-sister.
“This is your baby sister,” Kate whispered to Chloe as they watched Nathalie sleep in her crib.
“Nathalie,” Chloe said softly and stretched her hand to caress the baby. Nathalie let out a soft, relaxed sigh, slowly opened her eyes and carefully observed the faces looking down at her.
Meanwhile, Benjamin stood by Elisabeth’s tall marble gravestone, thoughts running on his mind like crazy. From the first day he saw her, Benjamin knew Elisabeth was the one. At that time, his relationship with Bailey was already falling apart. Elisabeth appeared in his life at the right moment giving him hope. Hope for a better, happy life.
Although they have known each other for less than a year, it was long enough for them to become true soul mates. When Elisabeth’s life was consumed by the curse Dong Huo has put on her a moment before she defeated him forever, Benjamin’s dreams collapsed like a house of cards. Since their trip to Champs Les Sims, Benjamin started planning his surprise move to Monte Vista, however, he had no idea things would turn out so dramatically different. By losing Elisabeth, he lost his hope. Hope for a better life filled with love and happiness. He knew he could never love anyone the way he loved Elisabeth. She would forever be the woman of his life.
As if two faces weren’t enough already, soon another unknown face appeared above the crib.
“Benjamin, meet your daughter Nathalie,” Kate told him proudly and smiled at the baby.
“She’s so beautiful,” Benjamin gushed over the tiny little face of his baby daughter. “May I hold her?” he asked eagerly.
“Of course, she’s all yours,” Kate joyfully smiled at him.
Benjamin took Nathalie in his hands and raised her to his face. Nathalie first silently observed him and then she stretched her little arm towards Benjamin’s nose and tried to grab it.
“You and me, we are going to do great things together. I promise,” Benjamin whispered to Nathalie and as if she had understood, a little smile appeared on her face. When Benjamin looked into Nathalie’s gray eyes, he realized his daughters were the sense of his life, the reason he needed to pull himself together and be the happy, strong and successful man again.
Although Nathalie and Chloe were both still very small, Benjamin already knew that when they grew older they would start asking questions about their mother. He could imagine it will be probably very difficult for them to understand that each had a different mom, but he was certain that the hardest part of it all would be the moment they learned the truth. Nathalie will never get the chance to get to know her mother since she lost her the night she was born, but what about Chloe? Her mother didn’t care about her. Her mother despised her. Her mother hated her. Chloe was one big mistake as Bailey used to say… Benjamin could never tell this to Chloe. He was going to protect her from the truth at any cost… as if the Swain family had never existed.
Later in the afternoon Kate and Benjamin sat at the table on the garden terrace and enjoyed the pumpkin pie Kate just took out of the oven. It was still hot, but Benjamin didn’t mind. The smell was too inviting.
“Wow! I must admit that you’re a very skilled cook, Kate! You could open a pastry shop,” Benjamin complimented her cooking.
“Thank you, Benjamin. I’m very flattered,” Kate blushed. Neither the twins nor David used to compliment her cooking very often, so naturally, she was taken by surprise. “I had no idea you were a foodie, Ben,” she smiled at Benjamin.
“There are many things you still don’t know about me, Kate.”
“Well, I believe I will have plenty of time to get to know you now.”
“That I am sure of,” Benjamin smiled back at Kate and put another piece of the pumpkin pie in his mouth. “So,” said Benjamin while munching on the pumpkin delight. “Elisabeth told me you run an equestrian academy?”
“Yes, the LEA. I think you can guess what the letters stand for.”
“Loewe Equestrian Academy.”
“Mhmh,” Kate nodded her head.
“How much do you charge for beginner lessons?” Benjamin asked her quite spontaneously.
“Are you telling me you’d like to learn to ride a horse?!” Kate asked him in astonishment. When Benjamin saw the astounded expression on Kate’s face, he felt humiliated, but decided to stand by his word.
“I may not become the best jockey in the world, but at least let me try?”
“I’m sorry if it sounded as if I was underestimating you,” apologized Kate.
“What makes you think I couldn’t be a good rider?”
“Everybody can become very good at something if they take it seriously. I will be happy to teach you the riding skill, Ben. Free of charge, of course,” Kate smiled at Benjamin who now eagerly shoveled the pie in his mouth. “We used to have more horses…,” told him Kate and looked at the stables. “Now there’s only Lady,” she sighed sadly.
“And where are they now?”
“Oh… I am sorry.”
“It’s all right,” said Kate and wiped a tear away. Remembering about Bella, Freya and Orion – the trio of horses George O’Connor has given to her and to Elisabeth as a gift – always made her feel sad. They were all gone… Bella, Freya, Orion… George… and even her daughter now…
“Come on, Ben. Let me show you my beauty,” told him Kate and stood up from the table, leaving her piece of pumpkin pie sitting on the plate, untouched.
“Wait, you’re not going to eat your pie?” asked her Benjamin.
“Oh. Right,” Kate thought aloud and called at Snowball playing by the swimming pool. “Have a piece of pie, Snow,” she said, placed her plate on the floor and rubbed the dog behind his ears.
Benjamin was amazed by the velocity in which Snowball devoured the pie. Kate noticed the expression on his face and laughed. “You’re not the only foodie in this house, Ben,” she said and still smiling walked down the stairs leading to the garden.
When Kate opened the gate to the stables, Lady welcomed them with a loud neigh. “That’s my girl,” she said and motioned towards Lady’s stall box. The snow white mare walked to the gate of her box and observed the new visitor.
Kate took a treat from a sack hanging by the gate and offered it to the horse. Lady was known for having a sweet tooth, so naturally she never rejected a baby carrot.
“She truly is a beauty,” said Benjamin as he observed the horse. “Lipizzaner?”
“Very good! I had no idea horses were your passion, Ben,” Kate turned at Benjamin and smiled with appreciation.
“Well, let’s say I’m not a total ignorant,” he smirked.
“I have never thought that.”
“Are you renovating the stables?” Benjamin asked Kate as he looked around and noticed the difference between the stall boxes.
“A couple of years ago, someone set our stables on fire. The wooden stalls you see behind you were the only thing that we managed to save that night…”
“Oh, I’m sorry, Kate. I had no idea,” Benjamin apologized and looked at Kate. She seemed very sad and troubled now. “Did… did some of your horses die in the fire?”
“No,” said Kate and gently caressed Lady on the forehead. “Luckily I managed to get them out on time,” she continued. “People can be so cruel sometimes, don’t you think?”
“I don’t understand… Why would someone want to harm your horses, Kate?”
“Equestrian sport is no cakewalk, Benjamin. The path to success and recognition is long and challenging. You win, you lose. The winner takes it all and some of the losers may get angry and resentful of his hard-earned achievements. Envy, hatred and even malice aren’t unknown to the equestrian world, Ben.”
“But why to take revenge on such innocent creatures?” asked her Benjamin as he caressed Lady.
“There is nothing like the bond between a jockey and his horse. Everyone who wants to hurt knows where to hit… When a certain person poisoned Freya, Elisabeth didn’t want to race ever again.”
“What?! Someone had poisoned her horse?” Benjamin asked angrily. Kate nodded and closed her eyes to hide the tears.
“After the unsuccessful attempt to burn our stables to the ground and possibly put to death all of our horses, the little viper came back with the intention to kill a specific horse,” told him Kate with a shaky voice and looked straight at Benjamin. “I swear if I had caught her on spot, I wouldn’t have been able to control myself,” she said coldly.
Meanwhile, David has returned home from work. Snowball was the only one to welcome him. When he looked at David with his dark brown eyes and whimpered, letting his human friend know he’d like to go out for a walk, David bent down and rubbed his head. “Okay, okay… Let me just change the clothes.”
After David and Snowball left for an evening walk to the beach, Kate and Benjamin headed back inside Elisabeth’s apartment.
“As I said before, in case we can redecorate,” Kate said to Benjamin and placed her hand on the handle of the door leading to Elisabeth’s bedroom. “Ready?” she asked him with a notable excitement in her voice.
“Let’s see it,” Benjamin smiled at her and Kate opened the door.
“So, what do you think?” she asked Benjamin, nervously awaiting his answer.
“Well, I have to admit that this is not my favorite color, but it looks good.”
“Yes. No need to redecorate,” Benjamin smiled at Kate, who sighed in relief.
“I was really nervous when we stood behind the door. I’m happy you like the room, Ben,” admitted Kate and pulled the curtain on the window next to the bed aside. “When we worked on the project for Elisabeth’s apartment, I made sure she could see the stables from her room.”
“That was so nice of you, Kate. Such a great idea. I’m sure Elisabeth would have loved the bedroom.”
“Well, actually, the first thing she asked me when I showed her the room was if I knew her favorite color was green, not pink,” said Kate and a little smile formed on her lips. “I’m sure she didn’t like it,” she added and looked out the window.
“Thank you, Kate. Thank you for inviting us to live with you. It means so much to me. Really, thank you so much,” Benjamin said, trying to distract Kate from her thoughts. It worked. Kate happily smiled at him and pulled him into a hug.
“Nathalie can be the only thing that connects us, but I feel we’re a real family now,” Kate whispered as they hugged. “Thank you for moving to Monte Vista, Ben.”
Before going to sleep, Benjamin went to check on his daughters in the nursery situated right next to his bedroom. They were both already asleep. He gently kissed them on their tiny foreheads and covered them with their little blankets.
“Sleep well, my darlings,” he whispered and turned off the light.
When Benjamin came back to his bedroom he took the photo of him, Chloe and Elisabeth out of his backpack and placed it on the bed table. A memory of the beautiful day at the autumn festival in Moonlight Falls. It was the only picture he had.
“Sweet dreams, Elisabeth.”
Benjamin Thomas is officially a member of the Loewe Family now! Welcome!
CLICK ON THE PICTURE TO VIEW BENJAMIN’S PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION CARD