"Sure, just let me get myself up first," he responded. She could hear him grimacing to stand. His ribs were still hurting him. She could barely see him in the tiny bit of light that was coming from above.
Julian walked over toward Sheridan and bent down, grabbing onto her arms. He pulled her up gently. "There you go," he said.
"Thanks," she replied gratefully. "Pregnant women do need to use the restroom a lot."
"Some restroom," Julian complained. "Merely a hole dug in the corner of this blasted pit."
"It's better now that you hung the blanket up on those pipes sticking out of the sides of the pit. It makes a nice curtain," Sheridan said.
"Too bad those pipes weren't higher," Julian grumbled. "Then we could have climbed out of here."
"I don't think either one of us is in any kind of shape to climb out now," Sheridan said. "We are kind of a sorry lot, aren't we?"
"Yes, I guess we are," he agreed, rubbing his right side.
After Sheridan used the makeshift latrine, she eased herself back onto the cushion on the opposite side of the pit. Julian walked over and sat down beside her. "How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Pretty good for 36 weeks gestation," she joked. "Really, Julian, I'm fine. But I certainly hope Luis finds us soon. The last thing I want is for my baby to be born in this awful place."
"How much time do you have left? Four weeks?"
Sheridan nodded. "Anywhere from two to six weeks is normal, they say."
"No problem, then," Julian assured her. "Luis will definitely find us by then."
"Are you sure?" she asked, worry creeping into her voice.
"He'll find us, Sheridan. If there's one thing I know about Luis Lopez- Fitzgerald, it's that he never gives up. The man's a bloodhound when it comes to searching for you. Why in Bermuda..." he stopped, realizing his own part in what had befallen Sheridan on that island. Julian sighed and began to choke back tears.
"What about Bermuda? Julian, what's wrong?" Sheridan asked, concerned that her brother was so emotional. She had never seen him like this before.
Julian shook his head and did not answer her. He was suddenly overwhelmed with guilt.
"Bermuda," Sheridan said, deep in thought. "Luis always suspected you had something to do with the boat explosion. I was never sure."
Julian turned to face his sister. "Sheridan," he began, "there is so much I am sorry for. What happened in Bermuda is one of the lowest points in my life. I was a monster, an ogre. I had no soul." He stopped, unable to go on.
"You mean you were involved?" Sheridan asked, tears forming in her eyes. "My own brother tried to..."
"Sheridan, listen to me," Julian said, finding his voice once more. "I can't make it up to you - the terrible things I've done for Father. There's no way I can. That explosion led to you and Luis being separated for a year..."
"And to me being married to Antonio, instead of Luis. Oh my God, Julian! You were behind everything terrible that has happened in my life in the last two years!"
"I have no excuse," he said. "I just want you to know I am truly, truly sorry for what I have done."
"You tried to kill me!" she cried. "My own brother and my father wanted me dead!" The tears began to flow from her eyes. She put her head down in her hands and sobbed freely.
"Sheridan, I want you to know one thing: I love you. You're my little sister. I will not do anything to hurt you again," Julian declared, putting his arms around her lowered shoulders.
Sheridan pulled back, pushing his arms away with her hands, and continued to sob. "How can I believe that - when you tried to kill me?!"
"I'm not the man I was then, Sheridan. Thank God. That man is dead, for all intensive purposes. Your brother is back. The brother who played tag with you when you were little, do you remember that? The brother who promised our mother..." He stopped, thinking of the promise he had made to their mother before she died.
"What did you promise our mother?" Sheridan asked, looking at him through her tears.
"I promised her I would take care of you," he said. "It was right before she died. She asked me to look out for you, and I said I would. I've done a terrible job of that up until this point, obviously."
Sheridan wiped her tear-stained face and considered Julian's words. Her brother had just admitted that he had once tried to kill her, but he also had declared that he was a changed man, vowing to take care of her. Which was the real Julian?
Julian hesitantly reached out and patted Sheridan's shoulder with his right hand. This time she didn't pull away. "I don't blame you if you never forgive me. I can't forgive myself for what I've done. Just know this - I will never hurt you again. I will do everything I can to protect you, in this pit and out. I'll give my life for you, Sheridan. I owe you that, and so much more."
Sheridan looked into her brother's eyes once more. "I believe you, Julian. For some crazy reason, I do believe that you'll do what you can to protect me. You've already shown that - here in this pit. You tried to find me and were so desperate to get to me when I screamed that you rushed on in, without calling Luis. And when you tried to escape the other day, your first concern was for me."
"I will keep my promise to our mother, finally," Julian said. "I'm just so sad that it took this long for me to say that - to try to do that. Our mother's been gone so many years."
"Since I was a small child," Sheridan said, wiping her eyes once more. "Julian, you obviously have changed, completely, since I was in Bermuda. What happened to cause it?"
"I suppose a lot of things," he said slowly. "When everyone thought I was dead, I was hiding out. I think I realized then what a mess I had made of my life. The whole town wanted me dead, even..."
"Even who, Julian?" Sheridan asked, sitting up straighter.
"Even the woman I love," he replied. "I was such a jerk to her. I threatened to expose our past. I don't blame her for wishing I was dead."
"The two of you must have had some stormy relationship these past few years," Sheridan said, in a lighter tone of voice.
"It's never been smooth. If there's one thing I can say about our relationship, it's that there's always a lot of passion between the two of us."
"Kind of like me and Luis, in the beginning," Sheridan suggested. "We always argued. We got into it something fierce. But underneath all of that, there was a whole lot of passion - and love."
"My love for this woman has something to do with the change in me," he admitted. "It was during that terrible time that I realized how much I still indeed loved her."
"I can tell how much," Sheridan said. "She must be one special lady."
"The best," Julian agreed. "And she's not the only one who helped me change. Little Timmy had a lot to do with it as well."
"Timmy? You mean Tabitha's grandnephew?" Sheridan asked in surprise.
"Yes," Julian said, lowering his head in sadness. "Timmy and I came across one another when I was hiding out. He and I had some great adventures together. He really made me see the good in life, and what I was doing wrong."
"Then poor Timmy died," Sheridan said, putting her hand on Julian's. "I'm sorry; I had no idea the two of you were close."
"His death hit me hard," Julian admitted. "I was really out of it for awhile. Then everything kind of came together to slap me in the face and make me see myself for who I was. I didn't like what I saw."
"You have made some awful mistakes, Julian. You've done some really terrible things. I'm just glad that even this late in life, you decided to change. You have turned your life around."
"I'm trying," he confessed. "But I realize there is so much I still need to atone for, especially with you. I think maybe fate - my God, I am sounding like Theresa now - but I really do believe that fate led me to you here in this pit."
Sheridan smiled and laid her head on her brother's shoulder. "I'm not sure whether it was fate, or God, or pure chance that brought you here, but I am just glad you're here, Julian."
With that, Julian knew that he was forgiven. He couldn't believe how truly
special his sister was. He was now more determined than ever to keep the promise
he had made long ago to their dying mother...