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The next day, early in the morning, they left the B&B and continued on their way to the sea. The sun and the blue sky were a superb touch for that wonderful day making the landscape really look like a painting by Cézanne. Even though his evening with Iris hadn't gone as he had hoped, Nicholas was quite calm, thinking about what would happen later. He had already planned everything, the only thing he needed to make everything perfect was the presence of Iris. Last night they talked about many things, they had chosen to tell their sad stories, to empty their hearts from all the suffering and the hurt of the past. The evening was almost at the end when Nicholas confessed to Iris what he felt for her, but her response was very... vague, choosing to get back to her shell. The whole night, in his room, he tried to understand why Iris was so afraid to really speak up, how come they always took a step forward and then five steps back. He had to find out why she was feeling all this fear of letting go and telling him what he already knew. Nicholas was betting everything on the evening that he had planned for them. At the end of that night, he will get from Iris the answers to all of his questions. Obviously, he hoped for a positive outcome of this "meeting" with her, but he was going to accept whatever choice Iris would make, even if that choice would've hurt his heart. This would be his leap of faith.
Nicholas pushed away every thought from his mind for a moment and glanced at the two girls next to him in the car. They were getting along so well together... looking at both of them no one would've believed that until a few days ago they did not know each other at all. They were laughing, singing silly songs, joking about anything, talking to each other without considering the man next to them who was driving in silence. They were acting as if he wasn't even there. Nicholas didn't know whether to feel hurt since his daughter and the woman he loved didn't talk to him or be happy because the two of them were getting along so well.
"Daddy, please, let's stop here for a while," Alice said enthusiastically, totally swept away by the beauty and the colors of the field in front of her. "Iris, look at this place! Look at how many flowers, how many butterflies!"
"Yes, Nicholas, let's stop here," Iris added. "This place is magical. We can have a picnic under this tree. Come on, we have all the time in the world to get to the hotel."
On special request, he stopped the car and his "girls" got out and started laughing and chasing each other in the sun-drenched field. It was wonderful to see them having so much fun together as if they were friends since forever. It had been so long since Nicholas saw his daughter so happy and carefree. Iris doted on his daughter and, in return, the little girl adored Iris. Their image together warmed his heart and Nicholas smiled happily thanking silently the fate for this wonderful gift.
"Nicholas, would you give me a hand, please?" Iris asked him, opening the trunk and extending him a blanket. "Before we left the B&B, Madame Dubois, the owner, gave me a small basket full of goodies. If you will put the blanket under the tree, I will begin to prepare our lunch."
After finishing her sandwich, Alice took a slice of apple that Iris cut for her, and walked away from them. At that moment, her attention was concentrated on a very large and colorful butterfly and on some pretty flowers all around her. Iris put what was left of their lunch in the basket and took everything back to the car. She came back to Nicholas and stood beside him on the blanket. She was looking thoughtfully towards the horizon.
"A penny for your thoughts," Nicholas whispered in her ear.
"To be honest, this time I wasn't thinking of anything in particular, just how beautiful and peaceful it is here. The sky is so serene and blue. We are far from civilization and, strangely, I don't miss it, not one iota. Here, with both of you, I'm feeling really good, I am very happy. Thank you so much, Nicholas!"
"It's exactly how I feel every time I lose myself in the infinite blue of your beautiful eyes."
Iris turned to him and looked carefully at his features, surprised by the bluntness of his words. She didn't say anything to him, but she smiled at him and that smile told Nicholas much more than he wanted to know.
"It would be a good idea to hit the road again," she added getting up from the blanket, "I'll go and get Alice."
They've arrived in Nice in the evening and stopped in front of an amazing hotel where Nicholas had reserved again an apartment entirely for them. The last part of the trip had been exhausting for Alice, so Nicholas decided to order dinner in the room. Immediately after, the little girl fell asleep in a matter of seconds. Iris dressed Alice in her nightgown, put her under the covers and gave her a light kiss on the forehead. She slowly closed the door and reached Nicholas on the terrace.