The lengthy, handwritten letter Bree had sent her before she died had been full of apology for some slight she had imagined was the only reason that could have caused a wedge between herself and Alexis. Bree was sad that they’d drifted apart the way they had but she’d felt, of all the people she knew, that she could still turn to Alexis in her hour of need.
And Alexis hadn’t been there.
She and Raoul both lived with their own sense of guilt, and it pulled at each of them constantly—drove them to make the choices they did, feel what they felt. Alexis could only hope that, with its source being a common link for them both, that somehow they could find a solution together for the future.
Catherine looked tired but happy when Alexis arrived at her house to collect Ruby.
“Did you get done everything you wanted?” she asked after she invited Alexis in for a cup of tea.
“I did, thank you.”
Alexis looked at the woman who had been one of her own mother’s best friends and who had packed up her whole life in Blenheim to move to Banks Peninsula when it had become clear that Ruby needed a full-time carer other than her father. Catherine smiled back.
“I’m glad. So, how’s it all going? We’ve hardly had any chance to talk since I’ve been back home. How’s Raoul doing?”
Alexis bowed her head and studied the fine china cup in her hands. “I didn’t realize just how determined he was to keep his distance from Ruby. Sure, I’ve got him to hold her a few times but overall I’m not making much headway. He cares about her, I know he does, he just won’t show it or even admit it to himself. He’s so inflexible.”
“Bree used to say that, too. I think that’s why she never told anyone about the aneurysm. She knew he would have refused to have a family if he’d known, and she so wanted one with him.”
“Have you told him that?” Alexis asked, lifting her head to meet Catherine’s understanding gaze.
“Oh, I’ve told him several times but, as you say, he’s inflexible with a good dose of intractable thrown into the bargain. Once he makes up his mind, it’s made up. He still thinks he’s responsible somehow. I believe he finds it easier to accept that than to think he had no control over what happened. He’s not the kind of man who likes to relinquish control, is he? After all, while he won’t care for Ruby himself, he makes sure she’s cared for—and to his expectations. He’s still superprotective, isn’t he?”
Alexis’s lips twisted into a rueful smile. “Yes, that he most definitely is.”
“Bree was always the one thing he could never control. She would exasperate him something terrible at times.” Catherine laughed. “It used to puzzle me that they managed to work everything out between them—two people so different. I don’t think he’ll ever forgive her for keeping that information from him, though. He’s still angry at her. He’s not going to heal or move forward until he can let that go. Oh, I know he thinks he’s moving forward, especially with the development of his wines, but he’s just going through the motions. His heart’s not really in it.”
Alexis pondered her visit with Catherine later that night as she lay in bed, the book she’d planned to read lying open in her lap. The older woman’s words about Raoul’s anger and his need for forgiveness weighed heavily on her heart. She understood what Catherine had said because, she’d painfully realized, it applied to her, too. She’d never thought about it until now but she’d been angry with Bree for a long time. Angry that she’d met Raoul first, angry that she found her happiness with him.
It was petty and infantile but there it was. And she’d stupidly let those feelings get in the way of a long-standing friendship, one that had seen them through so many things together as they were growing up. So another part of her was angry with Bree for dying while things were still unsolved between them—for not giving Alexis a chance to come to peace with Bree’s marriage and renew their friendship.
It occurred to her that while Raoul had to forgive Bree for not telling him the truth about her health, she in turn had to forgive herself for allowing her attraction to him to come between her and Bree, and for not moving past her issues before it was too late. Could she do that?
It wasn’t as if she could appeal to Bree herself anymore for her forgiveness. Instead, she was doing all she could to care for Ruby, to try to ignite a relationship between father and daughter as she knew Bree would want. Was that enough?