The same thought lingered in Carter’s head as he headed into work the next day. He felt detached from reality like he had forgotten to do something extremely important but just could not remember what it was. He was pleased to see Harvey had cleaned himself up and was already making himself at home behind the bar.
He stood gazing at his old friend wondering where he had been in the last few years. What had happened to him to make him sink so low? He was so caught up in his thoughts that he had not noticed Vinnie approaching. “Carter, would you like to tell me why the hell the bar shut early last night? I came by at 8pm and it was all locked up. Do you know how much business we must have missed out on?!”
It was like something snapped inside Carter. Vinnie was the match that lit the fire and it suddenly roared through Carter like a blast of flames. “You know what Vinnie, I don’t care anymore,” he spat. “I am tired. I am tired of your bitching, I am tired of this bar and I am tired of you. I quit!”
He then turned to Harvey who had stopped mixing and was watching the scene with interest. “The job’s all yours Harvey,” he said before pulling out his keys and throwing them at Vinnie.
As he walked outside he took a deep breath and filled his lungs with fresh air. For the first time in a long time, he felt free. But there was still a piece of the puzzle missing! He grabbed the first cab that roared past and stopped outside Mother Abigail’s Emporium. He got the cab to wait outside, this was only going to take a few minutes.
He slipped into Anna’s building unnoticed, he did not want to call up to her before so had to wait until someone was leaving so he could sneak in.
He got in the elevator and hit the button to floor fifteen. He was not nervous, nor excited. He was determined and fixated on what he was about to do. There was no backing out. No running away and hiding. It was high time Carter Starr faced facts and finally did what he should have done a long time ago.
When the doors pinged open fifteen floors later, Carter had psyched himself up so much he nearly ran to Anna’s door. He rang the doorbell and waited.
He heard shuffling coming from the other side. Thank god she’s home, he thought to himself. He then took a deep breath, pulled out the small velvet box from his pocket and got down on one knee. This had to be done right. When Anna opened the door, there Carter was on one knee, the largest diamond she had ever seen starring up at her.
“Carter,” Anna gasped. “What are you doing? What’s going on?”
“Something I should have done a long time ago,” Carter replied. “Please don’t go to Sunset Valley Anna. Danny needs you – I need you. In fact I am head over heels madly in love with you and I cannot bear to think of existing another day without you. Please stay here and be with me. Marry me?”
“You certainly took your time,” Anna replied giggling and holding her hand out to let Carter thread the ring on her finger, she had been waiting for this moment her whole life!
It did not take Anna and Carter long to find the premise for their new bar. It was on 42 Street down by the fashion district. Perfect for all the artistic and fashion easters alike. They named it Danny’s Place.
It was an instant hit. Teamed with Carter’s reputation and mixology skills, and Anna’s smart business moves, the place was full every night with the movers and shakers of Bridgeport looking for an easy place to hang out.
“Darling are you ok in there?” Carter could hear Anna throwing up through the bathroom door. This was the third morning in a row she had been sick and he could feel the worry creeping through him. “Please answer me darling. Can I get you anything?”
“No I’m ok,” Anna said opening the bathroom door and facing Carter. She was deathly pale but was still managing to grin from ear to ear.
“Let’s get you to bed, I’ll call Harvey to cover your shift today.”
“Carter I said I’m ok, don’t worry Harvey, it’s his only day off this week.”
“But your sick darling, maybe we should call the doctor.”
“Darling I’m not sick,” Anna replied giggling. “I’m pregnant!”
“But we only started trying a month ago,” Carter shrieked. “You can’t be pregnant already?”
“I know, it must have happened straight away. Are you pleased,” Anna asked unable to hide her happiness even through her sweat drawn face.
“I’ve never been happier,” Carter replied pulling his wife into a hug. He had to remind himself not to hug her too tight; he did not want to harm the baby.
“I love you,” Anna whispered into Carter’s ear.
“I love you more,” he whispered back. This was a game they liked to play, who loved who more. Carter always won.
Anna’s pregnancy progressed quickly and soon she had to give up helping Carter at the bar as her back hurt too much. If she did not know any better she would have sworn she was expecting twins as her bump was so big but the doctor had reassured her there was just one baby in there, just a big one. She spent her time relaxing at home, and pigging out. The baby was certainly one hungry little one!
Now Danny was a teenager, he helped Anna out while Carter was at work. Every day after school he would come home and make dinner for Anna as she had been ordered to rest as much as possible to put less strain on her back.
Danny was not a great chef so he normally only cooked burgers or hotdogs for her, but that suited Anna just fine as all she wanted was junk food anyway.
During these months, they also spent a lot of time with the rest of the Starr family. A year before, Lee had passed away and Bella had moved in with Charlie and Heather. She wanted to give Carter and Anna their own space, plus Charlie’s house was much bigger. But that did not stop the whole clang coming over to Carter’s house at least once a week.
Charlie’s triplets had also recently aged into teenagers and they were all extremely close to Danny. Arthur and Annabel had taken after their mother and were complete misfits always arguing and trying to compete with each other.
In contrast, Andy had taken after his father and was the quieter more sensible child. He was a chess fanatic and since Bella had moved in with them, had become really close to his grandmother, appreciating her wisdom that only a person of a certain age has.
Heather and Charlie were still happily married. Sure they had their ups and their downs, but overall they were very happy. Charlie was now a world renowned Author and Heather was at the top of her field as a Private Investigator.
They had wanted to have more children but alas the triplets had put too much strain on Heather’s body the first time round so it had become impossible for her to conceive again. Instead she cooed and fussed over Anna’s growing bump making her promise to make her god-mother to the unborn baby.
But no one fussed more than Bella. These days she lived for her grandchildren, driving them crazy with endless phone calls and pleas to spend time with her. Being teenagers most of them (except Andy) were too cool to spend time with their old gran, so having a new baby was going to be a blessing to her.
But sadly life does not always go the way we plan. Something happens, things change and the plans we make dissolve into thin air. It was a Wednesday night when Carter got the phone call from his brother – Bella had passed away.
He wept for his mother that night cradled in Anna’s arms like a child. He never thought he would get through the grief. But often is the case in life that out of the bad come’s the good. Three days after Bella’s death, Anna’s waters broke and she went into labour.
Both Carter and Danny were at the bar and were not due home for a few hours. Anna tried to hobble to the phone but it was in the other room and the pain was so over bearing she could not pull herself there. As the contractions got closer and closer she called out for help, but there was no one around, she knew then that she would never make it to the hospital and she was going to be delivering the baby on her own.
By the time Carter and Charlie arrived home from work there was a new addition to the family and it was a little girl.
Carter looked at his wife cradling the baby on the sofa and jumped back in shock. “Wha… what’s happened. Darling are you ok?”
“Carter, Danny. I would like you to meet Esme.”
Anna rose from her seat and passed the small infant into her husband’s arms. He looked down into his daughter’s eyes and felt tears leak from his own eyes. “Hey my gorgeous baby doll,” he cooed. “Who’s daddy’s little girl then?”
“Can I hold her? Please can I hold her,” Danny chimed jumping up and down unable to contain his excitement at having a sister.
“Sit down first son,” Carter replied and Danny did as he was told. He planted himself on the sofa and Carter lowed Esme into his arms. He looked down at her beautiful face and saw her pure blue eyes twinkle back at him. “I love her,” he said looking back up at his parents.
“Awwwwww,” both Carter and Anna said, their emotions spilling with happiness. They were the perfect family at last.
But as she grew, Esme was not exactly the perfect child. Some might say she was just hyperactive, some might say she just had a lot of spirit. Danny said she was a little terror. The moment she learnt to crawl she drove everyone round the bend. Her mother spent her time chasing her around the house trying to catch up with the tearaway.
Changing her nappies was always an ordeal. She would scream and cry pushing her dad away and refusing to co-operate. It was hard work and by the time a nappy was changed, it was time to change another.
Danny was great with her and most of the time he was the only one who could calm Esme down. But not everything always went smoothly. Esme’s favourite game was to smack her brother round the face. Even though she had little hands it still stung and she found the whole thing absolutely hilarious. Danny loved her laugh too much to tell her off.
By the time she turned one, everyone was exhausted, run ragged by a toddler!
And things only got harder when Anna found out she was expecting again.