Victoria hurried to the door, glancing back up towards the stairs mindful of Johnny and Katie sleeping upstairs. “Just a second,” she hissed, her hair still damp from the shower. She glanced out of the side window, sighing as she saw Billy standing there anxiously shifting from foot to foot.
“Billy,” she breathed, opening the door and blocking his entrance with her slight frame. “Look, it’s late and I’m really not up for any more confessions tonight.”
He shook his head. “Neither am I. I’m actually looking for Phyllis. I thought maybe she might have come over to talk to you.” He hesitated, “but I’m guessing she’s not here.”
“Phyllis? No I haven’t seen her. Why would she come here anyway?”
“I told her that I’d talked to you tonight about the wedding and then she suddenly had things to take care of. I thought maybe she was going to come over here and try to get you to change your mind, but I guess not. She should have been back by now and I’m probably just being paranoid.” He stopped talking for a moment, realizing Victoria wouldn’t be the least bit sympathetic to his plight.
“Anyway,” he sighed, “Guess I’ll check the house. She was going to take some measurements for window treatments. Maybe that’s where she is.” He turned but stopped when he felt her hand on his arm.
“Th..The house?” She forced the words from her lips, trying not to look as terrified as she felt. “She wouldn’t be there this late would she?” Her heart pounded inside her chest, so loud she was afraid he could surely hear it.
Billy smiled slightly. “We’ve had some guys working on the front porch and doing some landscaping and she doesn’t like being there when they’re all there. Apparently one of them keeps asking her to lunch. I don’t know. Anyway, she likes to go after hours so she can get a few things done without all the noise and interruptions.”
“Did you try calling her?” She couldn’t have been there. There was no way. She would have seen a light or something, wouldn’t she? Did she even look? Did she even bother to check?
“I didn’t get an answer. That’s why I came over here. I thought maybe you two were…”
Victoria shook her head quickly. “Well you should try her again,” she snapped, pointing to the phone that was in always in his pocket. “Try her again!”
Billy narrowed his eyes. “Why are you so worried about…” His hand reached for his phone, holding it just as it started to ring. “Ah,” he said with a smile, looking down at the screen as he saw her number. He placed the phone to his ear. “I was starting to get worried,” he said softly, turning his back towards Victoria.
She watched as his shoulders tensed. “What? Yes. Yes. Oh my God. Is she alright? Of course. Of course I can. Yes. Yes. I’m on my way. Please tell her I’m on my way.”
He whirled around. “I have to go,” he said quickly.
“Billy, what happened?” She had to ask—had to hear the words even if she already knew.
“There was a fire at the house,” he said quickly, “Phyllis is being rushed to the hospital. I have to go.”
She watched him as he threw himself into the car and careened down the dark street. Her stomach lurched as she forced a breath into her body, and sank down onto the cushion of the couch, the smell of gasoline still strong on the jacket that lay across the sofa’s back. “My God,” she whispered, “What have I done?”
“Hey Billy,” Stitch nodded, scribbling a note on a clipboard before handing it back to a nurse and walking over beside him.
“Stitch,” Billy sighed in relief, “Where is she? Where’s Phyllis? Have you seen here? Is she alright?”
“Hold on. One question at a time—they’ve got in the exam room right now. She’s not conscious, but that’s very common with smoke inhalation. The fire was reported very quickly by the neighbors so the hope is she wasn’t inside long enough to sustain any serious damage to her lungs or any serious burns.”
“When can I see her?”
“They just need to finish up the exam,” Stitch said softly. “Give them a few minutes and I’ll let you know the minute you can go in.”
Billy nodded gratefully. “Thanks.”
“No problem. There’s some cops over there that need to speak with you information if you’re up for it.”
Stitch motioned the cops over and Billy took a seat in the small waiting room chairs.
“I don’t know how much help I can really be,” he said quietly, “I wasn’t there when anything happened. I don’t know anything about the circumstances, really.”
He watched as the cops looked at one another. “What?”
“Mr. Abbott, We aren’t here to ask you questions about the fire. We’re here to get information to help with the case. We’ve already got a pretty good idea of the circumstances that led to the fire at your house tonight.”
“Really?” Billy sat up straighter, his eyes widening. “Was it faulty wiring because we had the inspection and…”
“No. No sir, nothing like that. I’m afraid there are all the indicators that this fire was intentionally set.”
There was silence for a moment as the information set in. “Wait a minute.” Billy blinked a few times, his mind reeling. “You’re telling me somebody intentionally set my house on fire. Someone wanted my house to burn down? Someone wanted to kill my fiancé? Who would do something like that?”
“That’s what we were hoping you could tell us.”
His breath caught in his throat. “I…I have no idea, but whatever you need….if it’s money or resources or experts—you let me know. Money is no object. I want this person found. I want them caught and I want them punished as harshly as possible and I want it done fast. Just tell me what to do.”
The officer nodded. “Really sir, the only thing we need you to do right now is to think of anyone who might want to do hurt you or your fiancé. Think of anyone who had a reason to want to see the two of you unhappy. Think of people that may feel wronged by something you’ve done. It could be a jealous ex or a disgruntled co-worker. Just think about it and if you come up with anything—even something that seems like nothing…” He handed Billy a business card, “just call me.”
Billy took the card, slowly turning it over in his hand. “I will,” he said slowly, “I’ll do that.”
He watched as they slowly walked out the revolving door.
He stilled, turning towards the familiar soft voice.
“What are you doing here?”
She took a shaky breath. “I just wanted to see what was going on. Is Phyllis alright?”
“They don’t know anything yet. They’re still examining her.” He stared at her, his mind spinning with possibilities. “You know, Vic. I can appreciate the fact that you’re trying here, but you really shouldn’t be here. It’s clear the way you feel about Phyllis and I really can’t handle you pretending to be all broken up…”
“Billy.” Her hand brushed his arm. “I never wanted anything like this to happen. I didn’t. I mean just because I don’t like her doesn’t mean I ever wished anything like this would happen.”
“Right,” he huffed sarcastically, “You just never wanted me to be with her. You just never wanted us to be happy. It killed you that we were getting married, that we might be living a life, having a family, moving into that house…” The words floated through the air for a moment. His eyes flashed with the idea, as if hearing the words out loud suddenly made the concept a living, breathing possibility.
He looked at her, his eyes staring into hers. The shining orbs that stared back him were already full of guilt and fear and he knew.
She heard it in his voice. It was a mix of disbelief, disgust, anger, shame, and disappointment. “I never meant for this to happen,” she said softly. “I swear, Billy. I never meant.”
“I don’t.” He ran his hands over his face, swallowing hard to quell the overwhelming urge to scream. “I don’t even know what to say to you right now. Phyllis could…”
“No. No. No. No….” She stammered, desperate to make him understand. “Listen, please listen. I need you to hear this. If you don’t hear anything else. If you don’t’ believe anything else, please believe this. I had no idea she was in that house. I had no idea she was inside. I swear it, Billy. I would never ever do that.”
“Because that’s your limit? You’ll burn down dreams but not people?”
Billy turned around to see Stitch standing in front of him.
“Stitch?” His heart pounded, the sick feeling in his stomach now becoming worse. “Is she? She’s not…”
He smiled. “You can see her now,” he said softly. “She’s awake. She’s asking for you.”
All the air seemed to leave his body in a giant sigh. “Thank God,” he smiled. “Oh, Thank God.”
“That’s wonderful.” Victoria said, closing her eyes in gratitude.
Billy whirled around, his eyes flashing in rage as he looked at her. “Get out of here,” he snarled. “I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to hear you. I don’t want to look at you.”
“Billy, I swear…I’m so sorry. I’ll make this right somehow. I promise. I will.”
“Oh you will. You will make this right. You will pay for this. I promise you that. Right now though, you aren’t my concern. Phyllis is. I’m going to see her and make sure she’s alright and I’ll deal with you later.”
Billy pushed open the door, tears immediately filling his eyes when he saw her. “Hi,” he whispered, rushing over to the bedside and taking her hand in his. His lips quickly found her forehead, brushing against the cool skin. “It’s so good to see you.”
“You too,” she sighed. She took a breath, coughing a bit and sighing as he quickly produced water for her. “You always take such good care of me,” she smiled.
“I always will. That’s a promise.”
She snuggled closer to him. “I almost hate to ask,” she said hesitantly, her eyes searching his, “the house?”
He shook his head, running his fingers through her hair when he saw her face fall. “Hey, it’s just a house.”
“You loved that house,” she said quietly.
Billy leaned in closer to her, his fingertips slowly tracing her jawline. He stopped just below her chin, raising her face up to look into her eyes. “That house was nothing but bricks and wood and nails without you and my kids in it. We can find another house. We can find ten other houses. We can live in a cardboard box on the street….as long as I have you and my kids, it’ll be a castle.”
6 Weeks Later
“Here you go, Mrs. Abbott.” Billy handed Phyllis another cup of coffee, smiling at the rings that shimmered on her finger as the sun played upon them.
“Thank you, Mr. Abbott,” she grinned. She leaned in, kissing him quickly as she glanced over at the small table in the corner. “You two good over there?”
“Yep,” Johnny replied. Katie nodded happily as she bit down on another jelly smeared piece of toast.
Johnny rushed over to her. “Are we gonna go on another boat today?” he asked cheerfully.
Phyllis grinned, looking over at Billy.
“That wasn’t a boat, that was a gondola,” Billy said with a smile. “Did you like that?”
“Uh huh—It was fun. I want to do it again.”
“I think we can probably fit that in. I mean we do have five more days here,” she sighed.
Johnny rushed back over to the breakfast table to share the good news with Katie.
Phyllis leaned in towards Billy who wrapped his arms around her. She looked up at him with a smile. “What’s the matter?” she asked, noting a small touch of concern in his eyes.
“I just wonder if she got off too easy,” Billy said quietly. “I mean you could have been really hurt and…”
“But I wasn’t,” Phyllis said softly, “And you and I both know we would have spent months upon months in court and she probably wouldn’t have served any time anyway. Newmans can buy their way out of anything. At least this way, we don’t waste any of our time being bitter and vindictive. Besides Victoria may not be serving a jail sentence but I still think 30 days of observation in Fairview will give her some much needed quiet time.”
Why do I feel like there’s a part of you that just enjoys knowing she’s spending time in Fairview?” he smirked.
“Maybe just a little,” she whispered. “Is that so wrong?”
Billy grinned, pulling her closer to him and sneaking another kiss. He pulled her hand up, staring at the ring on her finger. “No. I don’t guess so. I guess this way everyone got what they wanted. I know I certainly got what I wanted,” he whispered.
“So did I,” she smiled.