The Past Returns – by Jodi

 

He drove down the long driveway to the ranch house, having second thoughts about the decision he had made over the weekend.  As he pulled up to the front of the house he turned the engine off and unfolded the newspaper article he had saved for the past 11 months.  He read the headline as he had done many times before:

 

                                    Texas Ranger Cordell Walker
                                                  to marry
                               Assistant District Attorney Alex Cahill 

 

His decision was made and he would do what he came to do.  He refolded the newspaper article, slipped it back in his wallet and opened the door of his truck. 

 

                                             **********

 

Alex carefully stood up from the rocking chair and walked over to the crib.  She laid the sleeping baby down for her nap.  She still couldn’t believe it had already been 4 weeks since the birth of their daughter. 

 

“Sleep good my angel.  Mommy will be downstairs.” Alex whispered as she stroked the baby's soft, blond hair, then picked up the baby monitor making sure the unit was turned on. 

 

Alex walked into the master bedroom, gathered up the few clothes that needed to be washed and headed downstairs.  As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she heard a knock at the front door.

 

“Just a minute.” Alex called out as she rounded the corner, threw the clothes into the laundry room and shut the door.  She sat the baby monitor on the table in the hallway.

 

When she reached the door she pulled the curtain back slightly to see who it was before unlocking the door and turning off the alarm.  Alex gasped and was shocked at who she saw standing on the other side.  When she had regained her composure, she turned off the alarm and reluctantly opened the door.

 

“Dalton…” said Alex barely able to speak.

 

“Hi Alex.” said Dalton Reed in return.

 

“What are you doing here?” asked Alex not sure she was ready to hear his answer.

 

“Nice to see you too Cahill.” said Dalton with a smirk.

 

“I’m sorry.  Come in.” Alex said as she stepped aside and let Dalton enter the foyer.  She pointed to the living room as she closed the door.  “Have a seat.”

 

Dalton sat down in one of the chairs.  “I guess I can’t call you Cahill anymore.”

 

“So you heard.” replied Alex.

 

“I saw the announcement in the newspaper about a year ago.  I was in Fort Worth for a rodeo.” said Dalton.

 

“Yes, we will be married a year in two weeks.” replied Alex.

 

“Congratulations.” said Dalton.

 

“Thank you.” said Alex a little uncomfortable.

 

There was silence for a few minutes.  Dalton sat staring at Alex.  She was wearing a pair of faded blue jeans, soft lavender blouse and no shoes.  Dalton thought she looked even more beautiful than she had the last time he saw her. Still tall and thin as ever, but there was something different about her.  She and Walker had come to Fort Worth to protect him against Victor Demarco.  ‘That must have been around 5 years ago.’ thought Dalton.

 

Alex broke the silence. “Would you like something to drink. We have coffee, water, tea..”

 

“I’ll take a glass of tea.  Thanks” answered Dalton.

 

Alex got up and went into the kitchen to get the tea. She couldn’t understand why she was so nervous.  When she had fixed the tea she walked back into the living room and put the tray down on the coffee table. 

 

“Here you go.” said Alex as she handed Dalton the glass.

 

“Are you happy Alex?” asked Dalton abruptly.

 

Alex was just about to sit back down when Dalton asked his question.  She stopped as if frozen in place.  It took her a moment before she could answer.

 

“Yes Dalton.  I am incredibly happy.” replied Alex a little on edge at Dalton’s question but wanted to get across how happy her marriage was.

 

Dalton just nodded. 

 

“What are you doing here? I don’t know why you came here since you knew I was married.” Alex said.

 

“Alex I think about you all the time.  I know I made a big mistake way back when we were dating.  I should have left the circuit and settled down here in Dallas with you.” replied Dalton.

 

“Dalton, that was a long time ago, we never would have worked.  I told you when I last saw you that I was in love with Walker and had been for a long time.  That hasn’t changed.” said Alex in return.

 

“That morning you were in my trailer, we were kissing and things were starting to heat up.  You pulled away and told me that you couldn’t make love to me.  You never said why, but I knew.  I knew it was because of him.”

 

“I didn’t want to hurt you Dalton, but I was absolutely sure at that moment that I didn’t have feelings for you any more.  My feelings were completely with Walker.  I almost lost him that day.  He saw me leaving your trailer that morning and assumed I had been there all night.  It hurt him and it took a while for us to move past that.” explained Alex.

 

The telephone rang before the conversation could continue.  Alex had a feeling it was Walker calling to check on her and Angela.  Alex picked up the phone.

 

“Hello? Oh, hello darling.” said Alex putting her finger up to Dalton to excuse her for a minute.  She took the phone into the kitchen to take Walker’s call.  When she was done she returned to the living room and Dalton.

 

“You didn’t tell him I was here did you?” asked Dalton.

 

“No I didn’t, but I will tell him when he gets home.  We don‘t keep any secrets from each other.” answered Alex, still a little perplexed as to why Dalton was there.

 

“Alex, I…” started Dalton but stopping when he heard a noise.

 

At that moment, Alex heard Angela stir over the baby monitor.  She had known Angela wouldn’t sleep long since she fell asleep before she finished nursing.

 

“Alex did you hear that?” asked Dalton.

 

“Yes. I’ll be back in just a minute.” answered Alex.

 

“Okay.” said Dalton puzzled as he watched Alex walk upstairs. 

 

Alex climbed the stairs contemplating what she should do about Dalton.  She walked into the nursery, turned off the baby monitor and reached into the crib.

 

“Hi my sweet angel.  Did you sleep good?  Let’s change your diaper and then there is someone who needs to meet you.” Alex said tenderly to her daughter.  When she was done changing Angela, she grabbed a blanket and pacifier to take downstairs.

 

Alex took a deep breath as she stepped off the last step and walked into the living room.  The reaction she received from Dalton was exactly what she expected.

 

“Alex?” questioned Dalton as he looked at the small bundle in Alex’s arms.

 

“Dalton Reed I would like you to meet Angela Elizabeth Walker. Walker’s and my daughter.” said Alex. 

 

Dalton stood staring at Alex and the baby.  He knew his plan would never work now. 

 

“She is beautiful Alex.  How old is she?” asked Dalton, dejected.

 

“She is 4 weeks old.  I think she’s beautiful too, but of course I am partial.” Alex said trying to interject a little humor.

 

“Four weeks? Wow, you look great Alex I never would have guessed that you just had a baby. You and Walker didn’t waste any time.” Dalton half heartedly laughed back.

 

“Thanks for the compliment.  We both decided we wanted children right away after we were married, we got pregnant faster than we thought we would.  It even surprised us but we were and are thrilled.  She is the light of our lives.” 

 

Dalton continued to stare at the baby who looked so much like Alex.  Years of loneliness closing in on him.  The realization of what he had given up when he chose the rodeo circuit over Alex hit him hard.  Looking at the baby he knew she could have been his if he had just made the right decision.

 

“I always knew you would make a great mother Alex.  She is lucky to have you.  I’m sure Walker is a good father.” said Dalton.

 

“He is a wonderful father.  He loves her so much and is very protective of her and me.” Alex replied.  She saw a look on Dalton’s face that made her uncomfortable.

 

“I’m sure he is.  He was very protective of you five years ago.  I’m sure it’s even stronger now.” replied Dalton.

 

Angela began to fuss.  Alex tried the pacifier but Angela spit it out and started moving her face against Alex’s chest.

 

“Dalton I really need to feed Angela.” said Alex hoping he would decide to leave.

 

“It’s okay Alex we can talk some more while she eats.” said Dalton in return.

 

“Uh.. She doesn’t take a bottle…if you know what I mean.” said Alex a little apprehensive.

 

“Oh! Well that explains the bigger…uh…“ said Dalton blushing a little and gesturing to his chest chuckling. “For a while there Alex I thought maybe you had had.. Uh you know that surgery…uh to enlarge…I was thinking you really had changed.”

 

Alex couldn’t help but laugh at Dalton’s obvious embarrassment and attempt to cover it up. “I have changed Dalton but not in that way, at least not permanently.” said Alex with a smile.

 

“Do you mind if I walk outside and look at the horses until you’re done?” asked Dalton.

 

“Sure that’s fine.  It will be about twenty minutes.” answered Alex.  She couldn’t understand why he kept hanging around.  He knew she was married and had a baby so why didn’t he leave?  He was there for a reason and she needed to find out what that reason was and before Walker got home.

 

“Okay.  I’ll be back.” said Dalton as he stepped into the foyer, opened the door and walked down to the corral.

 

Angela was really starting to get angry about the delay in her feeding. “Okay sweetie, showing a little of that Walker temper are we?”  Alex sat down in the recliner, opened her blouse and got Angela settled on her breast.    She used the blanket to cover her shoulder in case Dalton decided to return before the baby was done nursing.

 

‘Why are you here Dalton?’ thought Alex.  ’It was pretty obvious to you the last time we parted company that I was in love with Walker.  How could it not be more obvious now that we are married and have a baby?’  Alex continued to think as Angela ate.  She changed breast and Angela began to drift off to sleep again.  She looked at her watch, 5:00, she knew it would not be much longer before Walker got home from work.  How would she explain Dalton being there?  She knew Walker would be upset although he should know he didn’t have a reason to be jealous.  What man wouldn’t be jealous though if he came home from work and found one of his wife’s old boyfriends in his house?

 

Alex walked into the downstairs guest bedroom and rolled the portable crib out to lay Angela down in the living room.  As she laid the baby down and covered her up, Dalton returned from outside.

 

“Dalton.  Sit down. We need to talk.” said Alex, determined to get to the reason why he had come looking for her.

 

“I thought that is what we were doing Cahill…I mean Alex. Sorry.” said Dalton with a smile.

 

“That is what we need to talk about.  I am Alex Walker now, not Alex Cahill. Why did you come here Dalton, after all these years, especially if you knew I had married Walker?” asked Alex with a tone that she hoped Dalton would pick up on and know she intended this conversation to be serious.

 

Dalton hesitated.  He wasn’t sure what he wanted to say.  What he had originally come here to say and do had been interrupted when he was introduced to Alex’s baby.  He didn’t know Alex had had a baby and that changed everything.  He knew there had probably been an announcement in the local paper but he hadn’t been in Dallas since he had seen the article about her and Walker getting married.  He had chosen not to participate in any of the local rodeos for fear of running into Walker or Alex.  He had been sitting in a hotel in Kansas City when he decided he was tired of being lonely and knew that only one thing could cure his loneliness, Alex Cahill, married or not.

 

“Alex…I love you and have always loved you.  We had something between us and I came here…”

 

“Dalton, I’m…” Alex was starting to get angry.

 

“No Alex, let me finish.  I saw your wedding article in the Dallas newspaper while I was here for a rodeo.  I knew at that time I had lost the one thing I really wanted in this world, you.  I guess I had been living in a fantasy world thinking you were waiting for me and as soon as I chose to leave the circuit you would be there.  Then, there in the newspaper was the end of that fantasy.  I left Dallas and vowed never to come back.  I rode the circuit everywhere but Texas for a while.  I did return to the circuit in Houston, Amarillo and other places, but never Dallas.  Last week I was sitting in a hotel in Kansas City lonely and feeling sorry for myself.  I opened my wallet to pull out some money to pay for dinner, when the article about your wedding fell out.  When I picked it up and reread it, I felt that it was an answer to my prayers and it was meant for me to come see you.  I had decided to come win you back.  I was going to do everything in my power to get you back, even if that meant going up against Walker.” explained Dalton.

 

Alex sat stunned at Dalton’s revelation.  She didn’t know how to react or what to feel, she was feeling many emotions at the moment.  She was angry at Dalton for even thinking he could break up her marriage to Walker but then she felt sorry for him and the loneliness he felt. 

 

“When I got here Alex and saw you I felt bolstered in my attempt to win you back. You were beautiful as ever.  You had the same smile, the same blue eyes, that same sexy figure. I couldn’t wait to start winning you back.  But then all that changed.” said Dalton with a hint on sadness.

 

“What changed your mind?” asked Alex glad that something did.  She was still reeling from Dalton’s explanation of his appearance at her door.

 

“She did.” said Dalton pointing to the crib where Angela slept.

 

“Angela changed your mind?” asked Alex.

 

“Yes Alex.  I remembered back to when we were dating.  We had driven up to Lake Ebby for the day.  We were sitting out by the lake talking about our lives.  You talked about your childhood and how wonderful it was until your father left.  You told me how you spent years feeling rejected by him and how much you had missed him.  When you came downstairs with your daughter, I knew I couldn’t do that to her.  I saw that little girl in you Alex that day we were at the lake.” explained Dalton.

 

Alex sat there for a moment collecting her thoughts.  What Dalton had said was overwhelming and her response had to be significant.  She stared over at the crib thanking God again for giving her the wonderful miracle laying under the pink blanket.  Tears started forming in her eyes.

 

“Dalton first I want to say thank you for remembering what I said that day at the lake and choosing to put my daughter before yourself.  She is also my first responsibility and she will always be first in everything I do.” started Alex.

 

Dalton sat looking straight at Alex knowing that this would be the last time he would see her.  He was beginning to grieve his loss and the decisions he had made in his life.

 

“When we started dating years ago, I can’t deny I had feelings for you.  However, even then those feelings were warring with the feelings I knew I had for Walker.  The first time I met Walker was in a courtroom with him as a witness.  That first meeting didn’t go very well.” continued Alex, knowing she needed to give Dalton her complete history with Walker so that he would understand just how strong their feelings were for each other.  She needed Dalton to know that even if Angela were not involved he never had a chance of winning her from Walker.

 

“It took us several years to finally admit our true feelings for each other.  We had some rocky times, including the time we protected you.  We have also been through some trials and near misses on our lives.  But Dalton, I love Walker.  I love him more than I could ever explain to you and he loves me the same way.  Even if Angela were not a part of the picture, you never had a chance of winning me back.  I belong to Walker, heart, mind, soul and body.  I could never and would never do ANYTHING to hurt him.  You see, when Angela was born I had some complications and we both almost died.  I know the hell Walker went through not knowing if he was going to lose one or both of us.  I would never put him through that again and don‘t want to.”

 

“I understand Alex.” was all Dalton could say.

 

“Do you Dalton?  I hope so.” replied Alex.

 

“I have spent what seems like a lifetime loving you Alex.  When I finally came to the point that I was willing to do everything I could to get you back, I knew I had already lost.  I couldn’t admit that to myself because if I did I had to admit what a fool I have been all these years.” said Dalton.

 

Alex felt truly sorry for Dalton.  He was a good person but she knew she never loved him and she now knew he understood that completely.  Alex also knew that when he left she would never see him again but she wished him the best.

 

“Dalton, thank you.” said Alex.

 

“Why are you thanking me Alex.  I came here intending to break up your marriage.” replied Dalton.

 

“Because Dalton, you realized you were never going to be able to do that and you didn’t try.  I also thank you for thinking of my daughter.”

 

Just as Alex finished her statement, she heard Walker’s truck in the driveway.  She didn’t know if she was ready for what may happen next. 

 

As Walker drove down his driveway and got close to his house he could see a truck in the driveway.  He knew he didn’t recognize the truck and he began to worry about Alex and Angela and who might be in the house with them.

 

“Dalton, that is Walker.  I really think you need to leave now.  I hope you understand.” said Alex praying that Dalton would decide to leave and hoping there would not be a confrontation between the two men.

 

“I understand Alex.  I will leave now.” Dalton stood up and peered over into the crib tears threatening his eyes knowing that he would never have that with Alex. 

 

As Dalton turned to walk towards the foyer, the front door opened and Walker entered.

 

“Alex?” called Walker.

 

“I’m in here darling.” answered Alex holding her breath.

 

Walker took a step into the living room and stopped short.  He couldn’t believe what he saw, who he saw standing in his house.  He felt the anger rising and also a wave of jealousy.  He didn’t know why he felt jealous, he trusted Alex and knew without a doubt she loved him completely.  It was just disconcerting having one of his wife’s old boyfriends in their house, especially one he thought he had lost Alex to a long time ago.

 

“Dalton.” Walker said

 

“Walker.” returned Dalton.

 

“Dalton was in Dallas.  He saw our wedding announcement in the paper last year and decided to come by.  He didn’t know we had a baby.” Alex said, trying to relieve some of the tension in the air.  She knew it wouldn’t leave until Dalton did.

 

“How was my angel today?” Walker asked stoically as he walked over to the crib to see his daughter.

 

“She’s been very good today.” answered Alex.

 

“She's beautiful Walker.” said Dalton, trying to help Alex out.

 

“Thank you Dalton.  I almost lost her and Alex when she was born.  I treasure them both everyday.” stated Walker trying to let Dalton know just how protective he was of his family.

 

“Alex told me that and I am sure you do, I know I would.  I’m glad they are both okay and doing well.  Alex, I guess I better go.  It was nice talking to you and seeing you again.”
 
“I’ll walk you out Reed.” said Walker all too happy that Dalton was choosing to leave on his own accord.

 

“I’ll walk him out darling.” said Alex laying her hand on Walker’s arm. She was looking at him and pleading with her eyes to let her handle it.  “Why don’t you watch Angela.  She should be waking up shortly.  Her pacifier is in the crib.  I’ll be back in just a minute and will start dinner.

 

Walker was very reluctant to let Alex walk outside with Dalton.  He knew there was nothing for him to be afraid of.  He really wanted to let Dalton know that any future visits to their home would not be appreciated.  He decided reluctantly to defer to Alex and let her handle it.

 

“Okay sweetheart. But I will start dinner since the little munchkin is still sleeping. Take your time.” said Walker not really meaning it.  He wanted to say hurry back.

 

Alex knew Walker was trying to be gracious but she knew he wasn’t succeeding. When Dalton was gone she would explain everything to Walker, knowing he would furious at the reason Dalton showed up on their doorstep. 

 

“Take care of them Walker.” Dalton said as he walked out the door not giving Walker time to respond although he knew what Walker’s response would be.

 

Alex and Dalton walked to his truck.  They both stood there for a minute, Dalton not wanting the time to end and Alex wishing he would just get in his truck and leave.

 

“Dalton…”  “Alex…” Dalton and Alex said in unison.

 

“Go ahead Dalton.” said Alex relieved.

 

“Alex I love you and always will.  Wait let me finish.” said Dalton seeing Alex about to interrupt. “I know you could never love me like you love Walker.  That is very apparent. I hope you have a wonderful life.  You have a beautiful little girl and I am sure you will have more.  You always looked forward to being a mother and I am glad you finally got the opportunity.  You chose the right man Alex.  I know he loves you and you love him.  I promise I will never interrupt your lives again.  I can’t guarantee that I won’t think about you but I will know you are happy.  Goodbye Alex. 

 

“Goodbye Dalton.  I hope you find someone someday and that you will be as happy as I am.”

 

Dalton opened the door to his truck and looked back one more time at Alex.  He then turned back, started the truck and drove off.

 

He had been such a fool.  He had lost the one thing that had meant the world to him, but his realization came too late.  Now she meant the world to someone else.