- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -Giselle's next birthday arrived long before she wanted it to, and the other three family members would soon be following suit. It was far from intentional that the Devereaux family had birthdays so close together, and in the beginning, the financial strain meant that birthdays were no more special than any other day. Now, though, the Devereaux could afford to host real birthday bashes for the very first time. Considering the circumstances, Giselle was less than thrilled when she learned that Odin wanted to throw her a party.
In an attempt to make Giselle's birthday more palatable for her, Odin set to work planning a huge affair for his wife. He invited everyone in town, even Esme's friends, and had the Bistro cater the event. Giselle pretended to enjoy herself at the party, and while she did like seeing so many of her friends, it was with great hesitation that she blew out the candles on her cake.
Giselle was worried enough that her relationship with Esme would suffer as she aged, but now she feared she would pass on before Aimee reached adulthood. Esme seemed to take little interest in her sister, and Giselle fiercely hoped that would change when Aimee grew up. If it didn't, each of her daughters would embark upon their life journeys alone, just as Giselle had. The very idea made Giselle sick. As she had done so often in the recent past, Giselle pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind and turned her attention to her creative endeavors. She was determined to become master of pen and paint before she died, and was aware that it might be the only successful legacy she left behind.
Odin found elderly Giselle just as attractive as he had found adult Giselle. His love for her hadn't diminished in the least, so he was distinctly upset when Hal Breckenridge showed up for Odin's birthday party, talking about the latest woman he'd kicked to the curb. When creating the guest list for Odin's birthday, Giselle had merely handed the newspaper girl a stack of invitations to be passed out with the morning daily, so she couldn't be blamed for his appearance per se. Nevertheless, Hal's presence made Odin uncomfortable, and he took Giselle aside to make her aware of this fact.
When the couple emerged from the kitchen, Giselle made a beeline for Hal. He was sitting on the living room couch, engrossed in a conversation with a coworker of Odin's whom Giselle did not recognize.
"I need to speak with you," she said quietly.
Hal glanced up and started. He excused himself from the conversation, and followed Giselle into the master bedroom. Giselle closed the door behind them, and whirled around to face her ex-boyfriend.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Giselle demanded.
Hal reached into his back pocket and pulled out a familiar slip of paper. He held it up. "I got an invitation."
Giselle ripped the invitation from his grasp, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into the wastepaper basket. "Invitation rescinded."
Hal crossed his arms. "C'mon, Giselle, can't we put this all behind us? It's been years."
Giselle let out a disbelieving chuckle. "As if that's a good reason for me to forgive you for the hell you put me through. 'It's been years.' Please, Hal."
Hal tried a different tactic. "I moved away for a while. I just moved back into town. Did you know that?"
"No. I didn't know that," Giselle said haughtily.
When it was clear that she wouldn't request more information, Hal went on. "I moved to Riverblossom Hills. I got a job there, but it didn't work out."
Giselle dropped the cool demeanor and stared at him, wide-eyed. "What?"
"Your last name is plastered all over that city. Did you know that?"
"So it's your family?"
She nodded again.
"Was Jean-Luc Devereaux your father? Did you know he died recently?"
Giselle looked away and was silent.
Hal stared at her long and hard, scrutinizing her. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want anyone to know."
"Does Odin know?"
"No. No he doesn't. And I would really appreciate it if we could keep this between us," Giselle said, the urgency in her voice more than apparent.
"Odin. Right." Hal paused, and took the opportunity to glance around the bedroom for the first time. His eyes rested on the luxuriously outfitted bed. "I could have been your Odin," he said quietly.
"I wanted you to be," Giselle replied, barely audible.
It was as if realization was dawning on Hal for the first time. "You have two kids. Those could have been my kids."
Giselle said nothing and stared at her feet.
The seconds stretched into minutes, and neither Giselle nor Hal said anything more. Finally, Giselle put her hand on the doorknob.
"I should get back to the party," she said. "People will wonder where I've gone, and it's almost time for Odin to blow out his candles."
She turned the knob and walked out, leaving Hal to his thoughts.
When he was sure that neither Giselle nor Odin were paying attention, Hal left the bedroom and walked out the front door without so much as a good-bye.