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Summer Bay High

Guest Skykat

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: Since the last update of this fic, we learnt of the very sad death of one of BTTB members, Frankie. Back in January I came very close to leaving this forum. Frankie persuaded me not to. I know she was following this story as its main theme is friendship I’d like to dedicate this chapter to her memory.

To Frankie



written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

I hate when he knocks on the door. I hate that sound, that silly tap-tap-tap like he’s asking a question. It makes me go ice cold and I get that tight little knot in my stomach. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I HATE IT.

“Oh, for God’s sake, what’s the matter NOW?”

Hayley’s voice cut harshly into Cassie’s thoughts and she realised she was rocking herself again. It was something she always did when something upset her. It helped her to relax but the downside was the memories always came flooding back. Wrapping her arms around herself and rocking herself to and fro reassured her but it was always embarrassing when someone noticed. See, no matter how bad things got, they could never be as bad as they used to be. Could they?

“Nothing,” Cassie muttered.

Hayley regarded with contempt. “Well, stop it then, you fruit basket. Either that or phone the loonie bin right now and save us all the bother.”

Cassie flinched. “Has nothing ever hurt you, Hayley? Has NOTHING ever hurt you in your perfect little life? You know what I’d give for my only worry to be if my nail varnish matched my outfit or if Daddy would give me a few extra dollars allowance? You know what I’d give?”

Hayley stared at her, speechless. She’d never known Cassie so vehement before. Cassie had seemed incapable of getting mad with at anyone. It just wasn’t in her.

“I’m sorry.” Cassie clapped her hand over her mouth, eyes wide, as if suddenly realising that fact herself.

“So you should be.” Hayley wrinkled her delicate nose and looked her up and down with contempt and Cassie cringed. What was she thinking, yelling at poor Hayley like that?

“I didn’t mean it,” she said apologetically, horrified with herself. How could she have been such a bitch? “Honest, I didn’t mean it, Hayles.”

Hayley sniffed. “You’re a nasty cow, Cassie Turner. After everything I’ve just been through with Kane Phillips and you talk to me like that.”

“I know.” Cassie hung her head, full of remorse. It was awful what happened to us...”

“It doesn’t matter with you,” Hayley cut in spitefully. “You dress like a slut and you act like a slut so you’re used to that kind of thing. I’m not.”

That hurt so much. Hayley wasn’t to know but it still hurt so much. Cassie bit back the tears that sprang to her eyes and to better fight them looked around at the little guest room. Oh, God, no, not again! She was hoping she might be okay this time but through the misty tears she could see the walls closing in. She tried to be logical, to tell herself it wasn’t happening, but her heart was hammering. It was stupid, she knew it was, but she couldn’t help it...She hurried shakily towards the door and released the lock.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Hayley raced after her and banged the door shut again, pressing her back determinedly against it.

“I thought...I didn’t think...you don’t need me here...I’m...I’m upsetting you.” Cassie’s head was already spinning and Hayley was confusing her all the more.

“You think I’m going to let a bunny boiler like you wander round on your own? How do I know you’re not going to attack someone with a knife?”

“I wouldn’t!” Cassie tried to sidestep but Hayley was quicker and blocked her way.

“How do I know you wouldn’t? You’re not going anywhere!”

“I have to get out. Hayley, I can’t breathe.” Cassie felt the familiar tightness grip her chest and could hear her blood thundering in her ears. “I’m claustrophobic.”

Hayley snorted. “Jerk! What about the time you hid in the store room for an hour all because you had a blue in the school caff? You’re just being a big drama queen. Centre of attention. As usual.”

“I am. It’s because...it doesn’t matter.” Cassie gulped.

Anyway, what was the point of telling Hayley the reason was, at her last school Amy Simpson and Gemma Hill’s merciless bullying had culminated in them sneaking up behind her and locking her in the cramped, airless cleaning cupboard? What was the point of telling Hayley that after fifteen minutes of Cassie’s frantic shouting and banging, they’d suddenly flung open the door and when she fell out Gemma had laughingly taken a photo on her mobile phone? What was the point of telling Hayley how Cassie had sat with a bottle of tablets in the bathroom after a photo of her red-faced, wild-eyed and dishevelled had circulated the school’s mobile phone to whispers of Crazy Cassie. Hayley wouldn’t care. Hayley didn’t care about anyone but herself.

After the cupboard, she never felt comfortable staying in any confined space after a while. It was incredible she had lasted so long here in the guest room but so much had gone on she hadn’t had time to think about it.

“Hayley, I swear, I can’t breathe...” Cassie’s piped staccato voice sounded foreign even to her own ears.

Hayley’s lips curled in derision. “Yeh, yeh. Like you’re fooling anyone.”

Cassie could bear it no longer. In a rush of terror, she pushed Hayley aside, yanked open the door and ran down the stairs as though her life depended on it. Her knees buckled just as she reached the bottom step and she sank down by the little window she and Kane Phillips had got in through earlier, for several minutes drinking in the night air in large thankful gulps until she began to feel calmer though her heart was still racing. She was vaguely aware that Hayley had followed her down but neither of them spoke until the door banged suddenly behind them. They both looked at it.

“I’m not going back in there,” Cassie said.

“Well, you’re not coming back into my party, dag.”


To Hayley’s fury, Crazy Cassie simply wriggled out of the window. There was a small gazebo above, for two hundred years ago the mansion’s architect had been commissioned by his romantic employer to create a wooden window seat where sweethearts could sit outside and dream dreams away from prying eyes. It offered little protection from the storm-ridden night but it was shelter enough. Cassie rubbed her arms, shivering as she looked up at the lightning streaking across the sky. It would never be over, would it? He was dead now but it would never go away. She’d always be Crazy Cassie.

Cassie Turner had just spread the rag rug and box of matches under the shade of the cherry tree, settled herself down and picked up the large Five-year Diary when a large shiny black beetle emerged from under it, seized its chance and hitched a lift on the back of her hand.

“Yeurgh! Gross!” She shrieked, leaping to her feet, dropping the thick book and shaking the creature back down to the ground, where it scurried off towards the tomato plants as if it had suddenly remembered a much more urgent appointment and its would-be transport could go take a hike. On her bloody own.

Cassie looked warily round to check no one had heard her. The Old Farm was so beautiful on that bright summer’s day, washed as it had been by the early morning rain and full of joy and life. Birds called to one another and sunlight sparkled on still-wet leaves that rustled with the breeze telling its secrets. Rain-scented roses shook their pink heads, shimmying proudly in green-leaf dresses, and a pretty blue wren, startled by Cassie’s sudden movement and scattering pink blossom down on her in its wake, flew off the branch of the cherry tree to soar towards a bright blue sky where dozens of pure white clouds were hurrying by on their way to see the world.

A world that was Cassie’s to call her own.

The Old Farm was a half-hour car drive away from even its nearest neighbours. It had been built by Cassie’s great-grandparents in 1925 (carved above the farmhouse door was the year and entwined hearts with their initials) as a self-sufficient smallholding where, as well as growing their own fruit and vegetables to be sold down at the local market, they had kept goats and hens. Cassie’s grandmother with whom she lived no longer kept any farm animals and as Joy Turner suffered from bouts of arthritis the fruit and vegetable plots couldn’t be tended as often as they once were, yielding only enough for their own consumption, but the two had been happy enough together.

Cassie had been ten-and-a-half years old when, only a few months after her father’s unexpected death, her mother tragically drowned when she suffered an epileptic fit while in the bath and she had come to live with her maternal grandmother Joy Turner. Cassie’s parents had never married and Cassie thought sharing the same surname as her Gran somehow made their relationship even more special. The Old Farm was remote and a great distance from the nearest primary school so Mrs Turner suggested home-schooling might be the best plan until Cassie was old enough to bus to high school. The education authorities were fortunately in agreement. Cassie could have danced for joy when she heard. She was a painfully shy child who found it difficult to make friends, self-conscious about the long limbs that made her gawky and awkward, forever dropping things or falling over and scraping elbows and knees. But during those twelve months living with her grandmother she blossomed.

The little girl loved everything about The Old Farm, as she and her Gran called it, never tiring of looking up at the entwined hearts and daydreaming about the romance of it all. No matter how many times her grandmother told her it was a hard life, that her parents had worked from dawn to dusk and even then barely managed to keep their heads above water, Cassandra Patricia Turner was a dreamer and always would be. And, after all, Joy Turner could hardly blame her.

“Always with your head in the clouds, Cassie,” she would smile fondly, and with more than an ounce of truth, for Cassie loved gazing up into the sky and daydreaming. But Joy understood. Having been brought up in the shadow of the Second World War and the cinema’s golden age, she herself had loved the escapism of Hollywood movies. Joy and Cassie were kindred spirits. Between them, cultivating the field, watching old movies, baking or knitting or sewing, they managed to console each other over the deaths that had left them both heartbroken.

It was several months after she had begun keeping a Five Year Diary and a few days before she was due to start high school that Cassie's Uncle Ben came home from the Army. Cassie was looking forward to meeting him. Joy Turner had been married and widowed twice and Ben was her son from her first marriage but he and Cassie’s mother had never got on so Becky never visited when he was home on leave nor did he ever visit his half-sister.

Cassie picked up the Five Year Diary again. Because now it was over, finally, finally OVER - she breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of freedom - she would live one last time with and console that past self. And so she riffled through the pages till at last she found it.

I’m going to meet Uncle Ben at last!!!! No, I DON’T mean a jar of sweet and sour sauce!!!!

Cassie stopped to wipe her eyes and smile sadly at the joke she’d found hysterically funny when she was only a child. She remembered giggling as she wrote it and popping another lolly into her mouth - she was working her way steadfastly through a mixed bag - and almost choking because she’d giggled so much and then giggling some more because Betsy the cat jumped down from her lap in annoyance and was staring at her in astonishment. How little Cassie knew then. How very little.

“He’s dead, Cassie,” she said aloud to reassure and left her words to ring out on the wind. And she squinted up at the azure pools of sky and the pure whiteness of the hurrying clouds for a moment before she read on.

Gran got married and widowed twice and Uncle Ben is from her first mirage. Gran’s always talking about him so I know heaps already. I’ve seen photos and he looks a bit like me. He’s leaving the Army for good now and coming to live with us!!!! Betsy just jumped on my knee again and she’s purring cos I’m scratching her ears. Gran finished knitting the teapot cosy. Rained a bit this morning. It’s green and white. I brung the washing in for Gran.

There were several blank pages now. Cassie’s New Year Resolution, written on the first page in bold lettering, Write in Dairy Every Day had soon fallen by the wayside - though the pedantic among us might argue it never began in the first place as Cassie had never set foot inside any dairy to write in anyway. A couple more dates bore her childlike scribble, inconsequential information: Omelette for dinner; Gran is going to the dentist to get new denchewers; OMG the tulip seeds somehow got mixed up and now we have red and yellow petals on each flower!!!! There was a sketch of Betsy next to a reminder about her next vet’s appointment. A complaint about her nose being sunburnt and having too many freckles. And then came the first mention.

He won’t stop knocking on the door. He won’t go away. I don’t know what to do.

Cassie thin body shuddered with small gulping sobs and she rested her forehead against the cherry tree and put her fist in her mouth, biting down hard on her knuckles and whimpering softly. Knocks on the door had once meant something good. Knocks on the door had once meant the mailman and she’d fly down the stairs like a bat out of hell whenever she heard the happy rat-tat-tat.

Joy Turner, a tall, elegant lady with twinkling eyes and dimples in her cheeks, loved to make things - rag rugs, cross stitch pictures, crocheted doilies, anything and everything - but as she lived several hours away from the nearest stores she frequently had to send away for the means with which to make them. That, and the fact she was a sucker too for the latest gadgets meant the most interesting parcels would often be delivered. Once a dozen ornamental dolls had arrived and Joy happily knitted ten toilet roll holders (teaching her young granddaughter how to knit the other two). Cassie happily knitted away although for the life of her she couldn’t understand why anybody would want to hide their toilet roll under the knitted skirt of an ornamental doll. Neither, it seemed, could anyone else. They kept two, gave four away to a church fete, one to the mailman, and the rest were stored in the attic with other items that had accumulated over the years.

Some were, like the hand-knitted, crocheted and embroidered, eventually despatched to various charity shops, others were declared hopeless cases too poor even for the very poor, and sentenced to sit out the rest of their days in their attic prison: a spider catcher too flimsy to catch any spiders; an alarm clock that infuriatingly spoke the exact time every five minutes; a satellite navigation system that no matter where it was programmed for determinedly took everybody to the same corner of Reynolds Lane; a pyramid jigsaw it was impossible to finish; a twenty-different-tunes door-bell (it kept getting stuck and playing the same tune for hours on end as did several replacements so Gran and Danny Byrne, the tousled-haired mailman, who was always as keen as Cassie to know what was inside the parcel, finally admitted defeat and went back to raps on the door). There was, it has to be said, the occasional success: Joy still carried the jar opener in her “super-duper multi-compartments you’ll-never-be-without-what-you-need ever again giant leather handbag”, which had come in useful once when a young mother at the next table in a café had been unable to open her young son’s jar of baby food.

Cassie wiped her eyes and smiled at the memories as the warmth of the sun caressed her and tenderly kissed her upturned face. It hadn’t been all bad. Before Uncle Ben she and her grandmother had been everything to each other. And Gran’s arthritis hadn’t been as painful back then so she’d still been able to drive and sometimes they would climb into the elderly, coughing car to shop at the nearest stores or picnic by Zigzag Creek or drive all the way to the town to catch a show. But sadly the halcyon days weren’t to last.

Uncle Ben’s imminent homecoming coincided with the school summer holidays and Joy Turner’s shock letter from the bank informing her she had gone heavily into debt. Cassie’s grandmother took off her small round spectacles and put them back on again to re-read the official notification as though by doing this it would somehow alter the bad news.

“But shouldn’t they have told you before it happened, Gran?” Cassie was sitting on the arm of the chair reading the letter over her shoulder. “Mum and Dad used to check their bank statements every single month. They said banks always had to tell you about your money.”

And then she remembered all the letters from the bank and other official places that had been placed unopened in the letter-rack and for the first time she noticed how old and tired her once lively grandmother had suddenly become in just the last few weeks, as if old age had abruptly caught up with her and for all those cheated years was now demanding recompense in full. It came as a terrible shock to Cassie to realise her grandmother’s health was failing. All those little moments of scattiness and forgetfulness that they’d both found incredibly funny at the time suddenly didn’t seem so funny anymore. When the phone had been cut off last week Cassie simply assumed there was a fault and Gran would arrange for an engineer to fix it, when the electric had gone off the day before yesterday Cassie simply thought it a great adventure when they sat in front of the coal fire embroidering by its comforting light, dunking biscuits in mugs of tea made with water boiled on the fire range in a whistling copper kettle.

Joy Turner gazed sadly at the patch of soup she’d spilt on the sleeve of her cardigan. “I’m a silly old woman, Cassie. I can’t even take care of myself. Whatever am I to do?” She suddenly caught her granddaughter’s arm and buried her face against her.

Cassie laughed, thinking she was fooling, but to her alarm her grandmother only clutched her tighter and began to sob like a child. She stroked her grey head and soothed and shushed, hiding how lonely and scared she felt inside. She was eleven and a half. Too young to know anything at all about banks and paying bills. She was glad that soon another grown-up would be here to take care of things.

“Don’t worry, Gran. Everything will be fine when Uncle Ben comes home,” she whispered reassuringly.

And to begin with everything it was fine. It was wonderful to see the happiness in Gran’s face, to hear her singing again as she cooked dinner, to know she was so pleased to have her son back. Uncle Ben quickly had everything sorted. The electric and telephone were reconnected, the bank withdrew its charges, and his regular wage as a delivery driver taking dairy produce from the local farms to the surrounding villages provided a much needed regular income now that Grandad’s insurance, that Joy had been spending so freely, had finally run out. With Cassie and her Gran growing fruit and vegetables, Ben’s pay-out from the Army and his regular wage they managed well enough. Some weekends however he bought himself some beers and sat at home drinking. Heavily. But where was the harm when he worked so hard?

The first time he knocked on her bedroom door Cassie shouted happily for him to come in, thinking he was curious to know who she was talking to. It was a particularly bright night and Cassie, who had a vivid imagination and was very young for her age, had been making up tales for Betsy (who was half snoozing on the window ledge) about the long grey clouds that were scudding through the sky being very tall people on their way to the moon to buy star-luminous space trinkets or to catch moon-ships that would sail through a sky that, according to Cassie, turned into a deep blue river on the other side. She knew by his staggering that Uncle Ben had been drinking but she was unperturbed. When her father had met up with his friends for a night out he’d sometimes returned home slightly the worse for wear. If the meet-up happened on a non-school night he would bring back something for them to eat and he and Cassie would sit on Cassie’s bed talking about their favourite soccer team or what Cassie had done at school, munching away on cheese and tomato pizza or fish and chips washed down with apple or orange tango. Mum would get mad at him of course but eventually things would calm down and then they would all sit talking and enjoying the feast.

So Cassie only smiled as her uncle fell into the room. His breath reeked of beer but then so had her father’s. Her smile became more uncertain however and she felt a shiver of fear when he crouched down beside her and put his arm round her thin shoulders. Gran was a deep sleeper, her bedroom at the opposite side of the farm-house, and Daddy had never...

The cosy old-fashioned world Cassie and her Gran had cocooned themselves within, making their rag-rug while watching Gone With the Wind or The Wizard of Oz, collecting wind-fallen apples from the two benevolent old apple trees to bake apple pie, climbing into the cantankerous car to picnic by Zigzag Creek with home-grown strawberries, thick chunks of cheese on home-baked bread and home-made raspberry, ginger and honey lemonade (their own invention and an acquired taste) all this had gone forever. Gran’s arthritis made it impossible for her to drive these days and she often found it difficult even to knit and sew now. There were no more gadgets delivered. Grandad's insurance money had run out and Danny Byrne had stopped calling with parcels some time ago, just before he and his wife and new baby moved to the city.

Cassie crept downstairs, fully dressed after a sleepless night, wondering how on earth she was going to tell her grandmother something she didn’t understand herself. She hoped Uncle Ben would be out gardening as he often was on Sundays but to her dismay he sat at the table tucking into bacon and eggs and chatting with his mother. And Cassie froze. Gran was looking at her only son with such adoration. How could Cassie break her heart?

There was no one to tell.

She slid into her chair and sat staring at her breakfast, not caring that her skin was red and raw after her furious shower, not caring that her hair was still soaking wet and dripping down on to the plate.

Joy Turner jumped anxiously out of her seat. Usually on Sundays her granddaughter ate a hearty breakfast and pottered about in her nightclothes watching TV or reading before taking a long, leisurely bubble bath. “Whatever’s the matter, Cassie? Are you crook? Oh, sweetheart, you’re burning up!”

Cassie looked up. Uncle Ben was behaving exactly how he always did. Had it all been some terrible, terrible dream? Perhaps it never actually happened! A sliver of hope fluttered momentarily into her heart. And then he said something about Cassie being a growing girl and Cassie knew with overwhelming certainty that it had. She leapt from the table, feeling suddenly sick, and raced to the bathroom.

Gran hurried after her fussing. “Oh, you poor lamb! You’ve probably caught a nasty chill after being out in that rain yesterday. This is all my fault, I should never have let you stay out so long digging, I should have insisted you came in when I told you to. Now I’m going to give you a dose of medicine and then we’ll have you tucked up on the couch with hot chocolate and we’ll watch ...”

Cassie smiled weakly and allowed herself to be hugged and cosseted and kissed. How could she tell her? Gran loved him. He was her son and she was proud of him. She would crumple if she ever knew the truth. And if she killed herself it would break her grandmother’s heart too though she thought about it so often after Uncle Ben. Especially when Gemma and Amy did what they did. She had sat on the edge of the bath rattling the bottle of tablets round in her hands.

She noticed a piece of ragged paper marking a place. She pulled it out and unfolded it from its straw-like twist to read the shakily-written writing still blotched by tears.

My name is Cassandra Patricia Turner and I am eleven. I hope I never get to be twelve. Because then it will stop.

Tears rained gently down Cassie’s face for a childhood lost. Only the years changed. School after school after school. They called her Crazy Cassie. They locked her in cupboards and laughed at her and mocked when she rocked herself to and fro trying to shake away everything he’d done. Nobody to ever understand. Nobody to ever turn to. With heavy heart, she flicked through the sad, lonely pages. And then she came to the last diary entry and suddenly all the sadness melted away.

Okay, I know it’s years since I last wrote in here but I just had to tell someone!!!!! I started Summer Bay High today. I thought it was going to be like all the other schools and it was at first. I was reading the notice-board and I knew they were laughing and saying stuff but I pretended I couldn't hear. Then the COOLEST thing happened. A girl came up to me and started talking. She said her name was Martha but to call her Mac. And she seemed nice, you know, like she wanted to be friends. Maybe someday I’ll be able to tell Mac everything and then it won’t hurt so much anymore. Imagine what it must be like to have someone to talk to. Imagine having someone to listen. Imagine having A FRIEND

“Thanks for being there,” she said quietly. She ripped out the precious page, folded it neatly into four squares and placed it carefully in her jeans pocket. A memory she would keep forever.

Cassie picked up the box of matches and struck a match. The heat briefly warmed her fingers as the yellow flame flickered tremulously in the bright sunlight. She threw the lighted match on to the thick book, the smell of burning permeating the air, and drew her knees up to her chin to watch until gradually the Five Year Diary became a blackened and charred nothingness and tiny curled pieces fell and scattered on the summer breeze. Then she rose to her feet and stamped out the dying fire. The smoke curled one last time. Gone.

Uncle Ben had died two days ago. He’d been drinking in the town and had staggered in front of a hay truck winding its way down the narrow country lane. Sam and Eileen Quinn, whose farm the hay truck had been driving away from, had taken Gran into town to make the funeral arrangements. Cassie said she’s stay behind and keep an eye on The Old Farm and the elderly Betsy. But she’d stayed behind to burn the Five Year Diary. To know the overwhelming relief of him being gone. And to know she had a friend.

She smiled up at the night sky. She was still Crazy Cassie. Maybe she always would be. Or... maybe she wouldn’t. With friends you could be strong. With friends you could do anything. Somehow she wasn’t surprised when Hayley emerged from the window and joined her outside. She said nothing but only shifted along the wooden bench to make room.

“You’re seriously loopy!” Hayley said coldly. “Only loonies sit on their own laughing at nothing. What are you waiting for, a full moon? It’s a scientific fact weirdos get even more weird when it’s a full moon. That’s where they got the word lunatic from, did you know that?”

Hayley spat out the insults with her usual malice yet her words weren’t hurting anymore. Cassie didn’t look at her. She carried on watching the storm. “I know you’re lonely, Hayles,” she replied evenly. “I know you’d give anything to have the friendship I have with Mac. I know I don’t need you, you need me. So if you can’t speak to me civilly you can get lost.”

“WHAT?" Hayley screeched loudly. "You stupid, stupid, ugly, pathetic litttle jerk. This is my par...”

“You heard me, Hayley.” Cassie could hardly believe she was saying it herself. It was if she’d found an inner strength. “If you can’t speak to me civilly, get lost.” She stood up wondering whether to make a run through the rain back inside to the party. She wouldn’t let what happened with Kane Phillips ruin her life like her uncle had ruined it. She was stronger than that. She was worth more than that.

And then Hayley suddenly screamed. Cassie turned just in time to see the glowing white misty shape of a woman emerging from Whitelady Copse.

“It’s the ghost!” Hayley squealed. “It’s Lady Eleanor!”

Cassie laughed. “It’s someone dressed up fooling around. It’s so obvious even a blind man could see it. Anyway, I have to go...”

“Cassie! Cassie, don’t leave me!” Hayley clutched her arm, staring at the apparition, transfixed by terror.

Despite all Hayley's cruel words, Cassie’s big soft heart was touched.

“I’m not leaving, Hayles,” she said gently. “Friends don’t. Not unless they absolutely have to.”

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How many years can a mountain exist

Before it's washed to the sea?

Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist

Before they're allowed to be free?

Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,

Pretending he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,

The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Blowin’ in the Wind © Bob Dylan

Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, spoilt rich girl Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be Summer Bay's party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that...


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

He didn’t want to go back. But if he didn’t go back home where else could he go?

Home! What the hell was home? It had never been a home, it had been a swimming training centre. Swimming being the only thing he was ever any good at, his father had coached him in it as thoroughly as though he were preparing for an Olympic marathon. Home! Yeh, as if!

Kim snorted derisively as though someone else had made the suggestion he go there and he wasn’t all alone on this storm-ravaged night, sheltering from a particularly heavy deluge of rain under the spreading branches of a convenient tree. Which was probably the most stupid thing anyone could do in a storm. Yep, even Kim Hyde knew that and Kim Hyde was stupid. Kim Hyde was so stupid he couldn’t do anything but swim. Ask his Dad!

He rocked unsteadily. Might as well chance the rain then. Let’s face it, he wouldn’t exactly drown, would he?

“‘Cos I can swim!” He roared, face upturned to the rain. “I may be dumb but I can bloody well swim!”

He lurched forward drunkenly, stretching out his arms and clasping his hands as though about to make a dive, only to lose his footing in the slippery mud and bang his head against the tree. Half-heartedly, he rubbed the blood from his cut forehead with the cuff of his sleeve. After his earlier scuffle with Jack, he was already bloodied and bruised. A few more scratches wouldn’t make much difference. He sucked in a breath. Had he really laid into Jack Holden like that? What the hell had gotten into him tonight?

Kim was by nature a peacemaker and hated throwing punches but the drink had fired his emotions. Yet if he was honest with himself his anger hadn’t been directed at Jack and Gypsy’s smooching despite the pain and humiliation of knowing Gypsy Nash had seduced him and then immediately ditched him simply because she knew it would wind up Hayley and seducing guys and winding up Hayley seemed to be Gypsy’s sole purpose on this earth. No, if he was honest with himself, he’d always been angry with his Dad. All his life he had yearned to feel loved yet something always held his father back. He’d been given everything, toys and pocket money, the latest video games and gadgets, and, as he got older, even his own brand new car, but none of it could ever compensate for what he wanted most, to bridge the chasm that always seemed to exist between them, as if they were strangers who just happened to share the same genes.

Widower Barry Hyde tried to instil into his son to “be a man” and never show emotion but Kim was a sensitive kid and, if only he’d been clever enough to pass exams, probably destined for a career as a vet, for he was never able to walk past if any creature was hurt. When he was only ten years old he’d even risked his own life to save some fledgling birds from would-be predators, with grim determination climbing to the top of a tree to tenderly place the fallen nest safely back amongst its braches before plunging from its dizzy heights himself, breaking an arm, fracturing his collarbone and suffering a (mercifully brief) bout of concussion.

But even today he could recall clear as a bell when he came round in the hospital because that was the only time he thought he saw his father cry though he’d long since convinced himself it was his imagination.


Kim didn’t meant to sound as surprised as he obviously was. He had been given an injection to ease the pain but it had made him drowsy and he’d been waking only fleetingly ever since. He was aware that he was in hospital and that they were trying to get in touch with his father, who was somewhere out on the road, travelling to an education conference in another town. It was only natural that when Barry Hyde was contacted he would hurry back to his son’s bedside. But there had been a niggling little doubt at the back of little boy’s mind telling him Dad would probably be far too busy and was far too important to return immediately. And there was something else that added to his astonishment, something he knew he would remember forever...the smell of antiseptic, the touch of the crisp white sheets, the hushed footsteps and murmur of voices, all combined to freeze-frame the moment he saw the tears shining in his father’s eyes.

“What on earth were you doing?”

There was a catch in Barry Hyde’s voice and his hair stood on end as though he’d been running his fingers through it. Despite the grogginess Kim felt suddenly blissfully happy as a cloud of warmth descended and enveloped him.

“I found a nest...the chicks...they’d have died,” he croaked sleepily.

He was almost sure his Dad squeezed his hand. Almost sure. “Son, it’s good that you care so much. But you have to...”

Oh, God, he fought so hard to stay awake and in that bubble of happiness but the injection had been a powerful one and was pulling him back like some strong magnetic force. A ten-year-old boy was no match for it. He fell helplessly and angrily back into the pain-free darkness without ever learning what the but was.

When, much later, he woke anew Barry Hyde stood at the bottom of the bed talking with his doctor, no longer the anxious, flurried parent but instead every inch the school principal he was, perfectly groomed, hair smoothed back, fingers locked behind his ramrod straight back, nodding his head approvingly at the doctor’s chart as though discussing proposed timetables with the school secretary. Kim blinked back tears that his father never saw, his heart aching, longing with every fibre of his being to go back to that moment and knowing he never could. Or even if it happened.

He tried to ask about the memory but somehow the words never came out right.

“Dad, when I was in hospital did you...?”

Barry Hyde looked up from the newspaper and the top of his reading glasses, pen poised in air, about to stab in a figure in answer to a particularly complicated sudoku puzzle. And he waited. And waited. Expectantly at first and then in amusement as the minutes ticked by.

Kim swallowed and stared at a spot on the wall that he suddenly seemed to find fascinating. What was he thinking? He and his Dad didn’t go in for girly emotional stuff like this. They never had done. Did you squeeze my hand and cry? What sort of geek asked questions like that?

“For goodness sake, Kim, let’s try and have this conversation before one of us dies!”

It was one of Barry Hyde’s rare attempts at humour and even though the corner of his lips twitched the remark unintentionally came across as a sarcastic put-down. After the unusually more relaxed atmosphere since Kim’s discharge from hospital, they both sensed the subtle shift in gear back to their status quo.

“When I was in hospital, did you put my footie boots anywhere?” He finished lamely.

His father frowned. “I should imagine they’ll be in their usual place, in the cupboard under the stairs. Though surely you’re not feeling up to playing football?”

“Nuh. I was just checking.”


Barry Hyde went back to the sudoko puzzle and Kim Hyde went to pretend to look for his football boots. So he never knew. And anyway he probably dreamt it.

Maybe, Kim used to think as a kid, in one of his many sleepless speculations as to why they never bonded as father and son, his Dad suspected he might be gay. Occasionally other kids had called him that and Kim had flushed, which didn’t help matters, even though he knew there was no truth in the name-calling. Not that he had anything against anyone who was gay. As far as Kim was concerned, there was room for everybody in the world. It was just he wasn’t, he liked girls, a lot, and didn’t see the need to fight to prove it.

But even now the only time he could ever recall his father hugging him had been the time he was dating Irene Roberts and then only because Irene had agreed to go to the theatre with him.

Kim sniffed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. Dad changed so much for the better during the short time he was with Irene. Become a different person. Cracks in that cold reserve had begun to show like icicles melting slowly in a wintry sun. Sometimes he’d be heard whistling catchy little tunes or he’d chat easily to Kim about some light-hearted item in the news, occasional weekends he’d suggest they order pizza for dinner; once he’d even joined Kim to watch his son’s favourite comedy show that he usually dismissed as “mindless drivel” and had actually sat laughing out loud.

Kim sighed nostalgically and looked down towards the Summer Bay Diner Irene Roberts was running while its owner Alf Stewart was away on a long vacation. And then he did a double take as he saw several strange yellow lights flickering steadfastly in its windows. Maybe he should go see if everything was okay. At least it would be an excuse not to go home yet, if nothing else. He pulled up his collar, bowed his head and squelched determinedly through the mud and rain like a moth called to a flame.

Kim Hyde didn’t know it then but he was about to hear something about his past that would change his whole life.


“That wasn’t funny, Gyps,” Noah Lawson said, after an uneasy silence.

The Baystormer was receding now, moving out across the ocean to hit the distant costal towns, the rain stopping for several minutes at a time, returning in short, sharp bursts to catch people off guard. Raindrops still pattered rhythmically as he spoke but they were earlier, lighter drops that dripped down through the branches of Whitelady Woods’ shadowy trees where they had been gathering to fall like silvery tears.

“I mean, okay, it was...at first.” he conceded, in answer to her piercing look, reminding him guiltily of his own initial laughter. “But not after a while.”

“Personally,” Gypsy replied, slightly appeased. “I thought it was the funniest thing I’ve seen in years.”

She smirked as best her lips would allow, her face being covered as it was in a luminous greasepaint that, together with a white wedding dress, bonnet and matching gloves, she’d borrowed from the props department of Summer Bay High (fervently hoping that the greasepaint would wash off easily enough later) and pulled back the long white gloves, idly wondering if the props department would mind if she borrowed them on a semi-permanent basis. She’d taken quite a liking to those gloves. Maybe she’d look out for a black pair to match some sexy black undies for when she was in femme fatale mood. Which she usually was, she thought amusedly.

Gypsy was on a high. Hayley’s terror of ghosts had been a very interesting revelation that she’d only learnt of that night, when she’d overheard Adam Kerr telling a couple of mates about Hayley imagining she’d heard a ghost and then going on to relate in crude detail how he’d tried to use the information to get inside her knickers and how he had no intention of giving up. All three laughed and shook hands on the twenty dollar bet he proposed, that he’d score with the Ice Queen before this party was over, something about Kane Phillips could always take the rap. Whatever, Gypsy had stopped listening long before they drifted off, too busy wondering how and when to put this fascinating snippet of gossip about Hayley’s phobia to best use.

Coming face to face in Summer Bay High’s common room with the blown-up photo of her naked self with the lipstick-smeared word “SLUT” written in large capital letters over her exposed body had clinched the when. The when was going to be now!

Gypsy had stood, sobbing and shaking in Jack’s arms, feeling as violated as she had the day she learnt she’d been found as a tiny baby, naked and trussed up tightly as a chicken for the oven, and left to die high on jagged cliffs in the scorching heat. Well, if Hayley could play dirty so could Gypsy. As an eleven-year-old, Gypsy hadn’t won the part of Tallulah in the school play Bugsy Malone within weeks of starting at Summer Bay High for nothing. Like Hayley’s younger brother Nick, currently away in Hollywood where he’d been signed up for a movie, albeit a low-budget movie, she had a flair for acting. And maybe she should have stopped that long, leisurely Lady Eleanor walk out of Whitelady Woods when Hayley looked deathly grey, as if she were actually going to have a heart attack and die of fright, but what the hell, Miss Piranha sure deserved payback for stooping so low.

Noah, Jack and Kit exchanged glances although Kit Hunter, who’d been at the receiving end of Hayley’s spite often enough before, mixed it in with a shrug and a half smile. They had eagerly gone along with Gypsy’s idea to dress up as Lady Eleanor and give Hayley a short, sharp shock because Gypsy’s fury when she tore the hated picture into snowflake-sized shreds was preferable to witnessing that stark devastation and hearing those heart-rending sobs that tore at the very depths of your soul. But somehow it all seemed to have got out of hand.

The original plan had been for Gypsy, dressed up as Lady Eleanor Hartwell, who reputedly haunted Whitelady Woods hence its name, to make a brief appearance at the party but for Gypsy it had been a golden opportunity too good to miss when, in full glare of one of the mansion security lights, she espied her arch enemy sitting on the window seat with Crazy Cassie. And if Gypsy needed a backdrop for her act the storm was more than willing to provide one. Even she was unaware of how well the flash of lightning framed her and made her Lady Eleanor Hartwell slow-walk all the more convincing. And, okay, it had gone on longer than anyone really felt comfortable with, but who cared?

Pleased with the show, Gypsy undid the ribbons on the bonnet and tumbled out her thick mane of red hair.

“Pity Crazy Cassie was babysitting,” she remarked airily. “Princess Piranha’s face! Now that would’ve made a great photo to put up in the common room!”

She twirled the bonnet round by its brim and spun it up into the air where it hooked itself neatly on a tree branch. Kit caught her eye and grinned. That was all it took. They fell against each other, dissolving into peals of laughter.

“I hope she’s okay though,” Noah said worriedly, looking towards the Smith mansion. “She looked pretty shaken up.”

“Oh, stuff you, Godfreak!” Gypsy rounded on him, angry too because Kit had checked her laughter and gone over to him. “Don’t you think I had a tough time of it tonight? Go join a monastery if you feel that bad!”

She felt a light touch on her elbow and breathed more slowly.

“Gyps,” Jack said mildly.

His brown eyes were gentle and her heart lurched as she thought suddenly of Will. If anyone had asked her to describe Will Smith’s eyes, she would have said they were always laughing. But that wasn’t strictly true. Sometimes his eyes were sad and she knew she’d hurt him. And she couldn’t help but hurt Will. She had to hurt him so he wouldn’t love her because she didn’t deserve to be loved. If she deserved to be loved, she never would have been left to die all alone high on those jagged rocks.

“Sorry,” Gypsy muttered. “Not about Hayley but for what I said.”

“No worries,” Noah shrugged.

Calmer now, she glanced up and was overwhelmingly relieved to have both Noah and Kit smile back at her. It meant so much when so very few people smiled in friendship at Gypsy. She buried her head against Jack’s chest, breathing in his manliness, the closeness of his body comforting her. He stroked her hair and lifted her head to meet his lips to let her know he understood.

But he wasn’t Will. He never could be.

Jack read her expression. “Is it too soon?” He asked, recalling their earlier pact that night to be friends rather than lovers. Both of them without their true loves seeking consolation from each other.

“Yeh.” Gypsy smiled, glad of the excuse. “It’s just...too soon.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

Jack was a nice guy. She rested her head against his chest again and tears brimmed in her eyes. She had no one to blame but herself. It was all her own fault she’d lost Will, the only guy she had ever truly loved, forever.

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  • 4 weeks later...

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many thanks for your comments. :D I’m damned if I know what this chapter has to do with H&A or Hayley’s birthday party but never mind... :P

Anyone who wants to know more about Irene’s tragedy will find it on Chapter 25 on fanfiction.net. It’s on here too but it’s probably just easier to find on fanfiction.net. :)


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

Barry Hyde, who had pulled up the chair opposite, spoke at last, his voice thick with emotion. “That was beautiful. I had no idea your mother wrote poetry.”

“Neither did I. Not until after her death.”

Irene Roberts’ voice was unusually shaky and she placed the last page on her lap to wipe the corners of her eyes with the heels of her hands. Reading by candlelight while the clock Evelyn McFarlane had bought so long ago ticked steadily on and rain pattered against the Diner windows had made the words all the more poignant. She smiled sadly as Barry caught hold of her hands and stroked her wrists gently with his thumbs. Never before had she confided in anyone as much as she’d confided in Barry. Never before had she trusted another human being to reach so deep within her soul.

“They said that summer was perfect.” Irene’s voice was little more than a whisper. “The news every night would show happy people soaking up the sun or jokey items like folk frying eggs on pavements. They said sales of cold drinks and ice creams rocketed. They said the economy had never been in better shape. Cafés, hotels, pubs, shops, everywhere hired staff, everyone was out and about, everyone spent like there was no tomorrow. I remember everybody seemed to be smiling that perfect summer. Everybody smiled but me.”


She found it when she hadn’t been looking and knew at once it was what she had been searching for.

The unassuming biscuit tin, its faded wrapping torn across pictures of jammie dodgers and custard creams long since eaten, sat quietly and unobtrusively by the cardboard boxes of clothes, toys and books earmarked for the charity shop, patient and uncomplaining next to the broken goods destined for the garbo, lonely and unloved, a little apart from the bundle of newspapers tied neatly with string ready to be taken to the recycling bin. Waiting. Its moment would be soon.

Bright sunlight from that perfect summer burst furiously into the house the moment she took down the curtains that had been respectfully drawn since their funerals and realised too late that she’d given a street audience free access to what they seemed to regard as their own live show. Small knots of people from Morningside Crescent and its surrounding streets were gathered in huddles, one or two carefully keeping small children close by as though just by looking on her, someone who had lost a mother, step-father and four siblings in the space of one day, might somehow cause their own family to be spirited away too.

A group of older kids, some of whom Irene recognised, some of whom were from outside the neighbourhood, two or three leaning on bikes, one boy absently munching potato chips, stared uneasily towards the house. Two elderly brothers, who had never married and lived in Morningside Crescent all their lives, who called each other “bro” and who had been nicknamed Twinny and Tweeny so long ago that their real names were lost far back in the mists of time, leaned on their front gate watching Irene intently while their old black cat, her fur peppered with white now, snoozed contentedly on the window-sill in the sun.

Mrs Elizabeth Howell and Miss Winifred Cumberland, both leading lights in the community, who had together set up the annual best-kept garden competition (rumour has it to shame the Dreadful McFarlanes into tidying their scruffy, overgrown garden) and who some years previously had been instrumental in ensuring a local fish and chip shop was never opened (“It could attract more of the likes those Dreadful McFarlane children!” Elizabeth “Betty” Howell confided in her great friend Felicity Silverthorne as they shook their heads over the wicked ways of the world while gossiping over coffee and cakes) were whispering to one another in disgust. Because disgusting was what it was, they agreed. Her family barely cold in their graves after the car crash and her brother taking his own life and there she was, reeking of alcohol, staggering all over the place.

And bouquets of flowers wrapped in shiny, crinkly cellophane, tied with ribbons fluttering tenderly as a child’s prayer, colours bright as a summer song, perfumes dancing on the whispering breeze, carpeted every area of the McFarlane front garden, long since paved-over. But nobody came to ask how she was. Because nobody really cared.

The McFarlane family had been told often enough what they thought of them.

Eleven-year-old Irene McFarlane, eldest of six (very soon to be eldest of seven as little Christabel would arrive in this chequered world two days after Boxing Day) singing along - and under her breath so as not to wake her younger brothers and sisters - to Silent Night playing softly on the radio, stepped back to admire the chocolate coins that she and her mother had just finished hanging on the Xmas tree, for the little ones, unable to resist, always surreptitiously ate them if they were put there any earlier than Xmas Eve.

The little tree, together with six red and gold baubles and a Xmas angel, had been stolen from P J Cropper’s Superstore (Everything You Want and More!) exactly two years ago that day - ssh though, I shouldn’t really be telling you this, but neither Evelyn nor P J Cropper’s ever did discover the theft anyway so what does it matter all these years later? Evelyn naively believed her nine-year-old daughter’s story that she’d found the items dumped behind the store for the garbo; the customer Irene shadowed to make it look as though she were shopping with her mother never once turned round to notice the little girl following her; the security guard was busy watching a cleaner put a barrier round a smashed bottle of sherry; and a spotty-faced boy working on the Xmas department of P J Cropper’s over the holiday period idly wondered about the cheeky-looking kid trailing after her mum dragging a Xmas tree box he couldn’t recall anyone paying for, then checked his watch to see how long he had till break-time. Evelyn, who thought it an amazing coincidence that only the previous day she had been sighing to Irene over the now sorry state of the tree bought by the twins’ father for their very first Xmas (since their split Mike collected the twins on Boxing Day and always jealously made sure that at his own home the annually bought real tree was decorated like a scene straight out of a Victorian Xmas card) and how she wished she had the money to buy a new one truly believed it was a very, very lucky find.

“It looks lovely, darling,” Evelyn said, putting her arm round her daughter’s shoulders and kissing the top of her head from an awkward angle, her fat, round stomach (Evelyn was convinced the way she was carrying all at the front it had to be a girl) making any more graceful movement impossible.

Irene smiled in satisfaction. The tree was all finished now with the Xmas angel atop and dozens of small wrapped presents at its bottom. The kitchen smelled of mince pies and Xmas cake and the table was set with last year’s Xmas theme plastic table-cloth (the hole that Terry had accidentally made last year in his hurry to get up and play with the new toys was hardly noticeable, Irene and her mother decided) and Xmas crackers that until very recently had slept in dented boxes, twelve to a bed, and which the snooty manager of a snooty store was forced to reluctantly sell off dirt cheap just before closing time when people flatly refused to pay full price for damaged stock.

There weren’t many cards - there never were; Evelyn had no relatives other than her children and nobody liked the Dreadful McFarlanes very much - but Irene had created a very pretty makeshift card holder adorned with green and silver tinsel to hold what few they had. The decorations were enjoying their annual outing from the loft, yawning and stretching luxuriously from the four corners of the ceiling in the living-room, dining room and even the little vestibule, with Xmas bells, lanterns and balloons draped at regular intervals. Interspersed with these were paper chains made by the kids, as Irene called her younger siblings: nine-year-old twins Katie and Jill, seven-year-old Benji, Terry, who toddled along full of self-importance at three-and-a-half, and Ruthie, who’d just turned two and gave him as good as she got. At least, the older ones had made paper chains; Terry and Ruthie had played “snow” with the white crepe paper and almost toppled the tree when their game deteriorated into a fight hence its current lop-sidedness as though at any moment it intended to hobble across the room. Not that mother and daughter seemed to notice, their faces glowing with pride in the reflected glory of the red and gold hues of the stolen baubles .

It promised to be a good Xmas this year, Irene thought happily. Not that it was ever a bad Xmas - Irene always organised the kids with the presents they wanted to get and Evelyn always made sure her children had several small, inexpensive gifts that she bought and hid throughout the year, and all round the year too coins would be thrown into the “Xmas jar” (a family size washed-out coffee jar) to ensure there was enough buy everything needed for Xmas dinner. But this year Jeff Maddox, Terry’s father and the father of Evelyn’s as yet unborn child, had turned up again unexpectedly a few nights ago, swearing he was going to stay and face up to his responsibilities this time, and was that very evening working as a barman in a rundown hotel, cash in hand so that it didn’t affect Evelyn’s welfare money. The pay wasn’t much and he worked long hours to earn it, but it came in useful to buy the little extras of Xmas.

Mum was so much happier with Jeff , Irene noted, than with any of her other boyfriends, and the kids were very fond of him. Jeff, being pretty much a big kid himself, joined in all their games with equal enthusiasm - Benji had been very impressed when he took the rap for the broken window during a game of indoor footie, claiming it only hit Benji’s foot because he’d passed it to him, and promising to fix things. As good as his word, a thick piece of wood now blocked the draught - and all light - from the vestibule window and was covered, inside and out, with chalked pictures that, aided and abetted by Jeff, who’s idea it was, several small hands had sketched.

Sometimes, Irene thought, amusedly watching the horrified expressions of Mr and Mrs Hudson from No 11 as they passed by and saw the graffitti’d wood, she could almost imagine Jeff joining in Benji, Terry and Ruthie’s favourite game of throwing clumps of mud on snobby neighbours’ paths and then running off with all three of them! Still, Jeff was a great help in other ways. Evelyn got very mixed up with cooking so Irene, who’d made the Xmas cake, got Jeff to ice it and to prepare the trifle and even tonight had him help Evelyn prepare the veg and supervise the twins baking mince pies before he left for his busy Xmas Eve shift. And Evelyn being pregnant and Irene not quite tall enough to reach, Jeff had hung all the decorations this year, which was why they looked “very swanky” as Katie and Jill described it.

Nobody knew then that Jeff would leave again in a few days’ time. They should have. Jeff had a habit of turning up and never staying very long. It was always the same reason.

“I’m sorry, Evie, but I’m too young to be tied down and I’m exhausted with all this working. I’ve arranged for a taxi to pick me up at four.”

Nobody knew then how Terry and Ruthie would press their little tear-smeared faces against the living-room window, screaming for him to come back, how Christabel, cradled in her heartbroken mother’s arms, would wail in sympathy, how Benji would act macho and mutter “Well, he don’t want us. Who cares? No use bawlin’ over it” but he’d kick the wall as he turned away, his big brown eyes shining with tears. Katie and Jill had been away at their father’s when the drama unfolded and, when Irene worriedly asked if they were okay after she broke the news, they assured her they were fine because they had their real Dad. But that night when they were painting in their colouring-in books Irene, wondering why they were so suspiciously quiet, looked up to see both had silent tears trickling down on the pages.

Irene however didn’t cry. Irene stood with fists on hips and told it like it was. Jeff rolled down the window again to continue with the same excuses he had making to Evelyn until she had to shepherd her distraught children indoors.

But he barely opened his mouth. “Irene, I’m so sorry. One day you’ll grow up and...”

Irene launched, eyes blazing. “Now you just shut your bloody big gob and listen to me, Jeff Maddox. It’s way past time you grew up, matey! You got rocks in your head if you think waltzing in and out of people’s lives is the way to behave. And don’t give me all that rubbish about needing your freedom. You’ve got two kids to my Mum and you’ve got responsibilities and even if you didn’t have two kids all six kids adore you like you was their own Dad and you’ve managed to bloody well break their hearts again as well as my Mum’s. You’re a good bloke, Jeff, but you got sawdust for brains between those lugholes. Grow up? Me grow up? Give it a try yourself some time, you flamin’ great galah! ”

Irene hadn’t paused for breath and she marched back into the house without giving Jeff a chance to reply. Someone had to hold it all together and her family needed her.

The taxi driver roared with laughter. “God help the poor bloke who winds up married to that Sheila! Jeez, imagine the fights!”

“I think,” Jeff whispered, in one of his rare moments of insight and shamed by Irene’s words. “Whoever has Irene by their side has already won the battle.”

“What’s that, mate? Didn’t catch ya.”

“Nothing, nothing. Best hurry or I’ll miss my train.”

And because someone had to hold it all together it was Irene who ran to her mother when she heard her gasp as she went out to empty the trash the Xmas Eve Jeff was working in the busy rundown hotel bar, the children slept and the stolen Xmas tree was considering limping across the room.

“The b*****ds!” Irene declared hotly.

“Bludgers” had been carved in large, damning, diagonal letters across the back door.

“Irene!” Evelyn, who never swore herself, was shocked by her outburst. “I’m sure they didn’t really mean it, dear. Sometimes people do silly things when they’ve been drinking.”

Irene bit her tongue to stop a whole tirade of swear words. She was all for banging on doors and demanding the coward reveal themselves but Evelyn would never allow that. Her mother was far too innocent for this cruel world at times.


Poor Evelyn McFarlane, with her clutch of qualifications in such obscure subjects as Deportment, Ancient Greece and Embroidery gained at the exclusive boarding school where “gaarls” came from all over the world to be educated and after their education returned to their grand homes, country estates and even, very occasionally, palaces, and to which her family had sent her to hide the scandal of her illegitimate birth, never fitted in. Her fabulously wealthy grandparents, who’d paid for her education and whom she never met, cut their disgraced daughter and her illegitimate child out of their will and left their enormous fortune to a cats’ home. (It is to be hoped that the cats made great use of their legacy, perhaps with silk-sheet-lined cat beds and four-and-five-course banquets that they sat on satin cushions to devour while Evelyn’s children shivered under old coats thrown over thin duvets and often went to bed still hungry there being nothing to eat but bread and jam.)

Penniless after her mother’s death, unable to keep up the maintenance payments of their luxurious home and unable to get a job with qualifications that failed to impress prospective employers (who secretly thought that with her cut-glass accent Evelyn must have money stashed away in banks and bonds and anyway would last no more than a week in the real world) Evelyn on her twenty-first birthday found herself living on Government hand-outs and downsizing to a pokey little flat. And that was when she fell hopelessly in love for the very first time.

Hal (she never did find out his real name) was an ex-soldier, helping a mate out with the van he’d borrowed to raise cash before embarking on a round-the-world trip and which he’d advertised as “Man and Van for Hire - No Job too Big or too Small” and which Evelyn found cheap enough and adequate enough for the small amount of furniture she had left to take with her, the likes of the grand piano and grandfather clock all having gradually been sold off to pay for the upkeep of her home before she finally had to admit defeat.

In the absence of anyone else to buy one, Evelyn had treated herself to a large chocolate cake and when Hal, who had dark, curly hair and a dazzling smile, jokingly asked if she was celebrating moving in she quite seriously, and without an ounce of self-pity, told him about her birthday. Hal had been so sympathetic that Evelyn almost cried. He and the friend, Steve, had insisted on buying bottles of wine and Chinese takeaways and the three sat on the bare floorboards of the cramped flat with its crumbling plaster and chipped paint while music blared and a fierce argument raged in the alcoholic’s flat below (par for the course, as Evelyn was to soon learn). Dizzy with happiness at his attention and even though Hal admitted to being ten years older, Evelyn was convinced she had found her soul-mate. She was horrified some time later when she learnt that Hal was married with four children, regarded Evelyn as “a bit of a fling” and apparently thought Evelyn felt the same way. Heartbroken, she immediately cut all ties and moved to a flat even more damp, dark and dismal than the last.

Two months later she found out she was pregnant with Irene.

And so Evelyn lurched through life, falling in love and falling pregnant every time. She was too poor to mix with the people she had known at school while her refined accent and ways marked her out as “too posh” for the working class and “too uppity” for the snooty, middle-class neighbourhood, who resented the welfare authorities moving in a single mother living on hand-outs because a much bigger house was needed to accommodate her ever-growing brood and the exclusive suburb was the only one with a house big enough. It was far too late and rivers had run too deep by the time Jeff Maddox finally did grow up enough to accept responsibility, take a job and settle down. Neighbours still called her an “uppity little madam” although in truth timid, gentle Evelyn never had a bad word to say about anyone.

And nobody saw what Evelyn’s children saw, how often she went without herself to ensure they had food, toys and clothes, and how much they knew they were loved.


A lump came to Irene’s throat at the memories. Jeff, who hated confrontation as much as Evelyn did, had painted over the back door but anyone who stood close enough could still make out the hateful word Bludgers even now.

Her foot almost missed the bottom step as she stepped down again from the foot-stool with the curtains, only sheer determination not to give the vultures the satisfaction stopping her from falling. She needed another drink but the bottle of strong red wine she’d brought with her had emptied fast. Maybe she should have waited for her best friends Didi and Sadie to come back with her to 10 Morningside Crescent, to the pretty little half-moon shaped street with its detached houses and carefully manicured lawns, as they’d arranged. She knew they’d be furious when they found out she’d gone back to the house on her own.

It was two weeks now since her brother Benji’s suicide and the car crash that had wiped out her family and Didi and Sadie had been back with Irene a couple of days earlier to help sort things but on a whim, tiring of psychologists, counsellors and not being considered well enough yet to return to nursing, Irene had decided to catch the train to the little grey town and her old home while her friends were rostered on their nursing shifts. She’d always been fiercely proud of her independence and her determination not to be a burden on anyone had given her the confidence to go on her own.

That, and the bottle of wine she’d downed just before leaving. The other she’d brought with her in the same brown paper store bag that the clerk had placed both bottles inside as he jingled the money into the cash register, wishing her a nice day and unaware of the tragedy that had befallen the pretty young nurse.

She tried hard to concentrate on folding the curtains into one of the suitcases that so recently had held their holiday clothes. Evelyn McFarlane had painstakingly begun making them on the second-hand sewing machine Jeff had stolen for her from a car boot sale and, being hopeless at anything that required manual dexterity, wept in despair over ever completing, her eldest daughter taking over the work as she had so frequently taken up the reins of so many things before.

But she couldn’t help but see them all on the edge of her vision.

She was close to baring raw emotion with unchecked tears and it stung her heart to keep them back but the last thing she wanted was for these hypocrites to see her break down. It wasn’t the kids. She couldn’t be angry with the kids. What did they know? Their parents, who went to church and sent their children there too on Sundays, holy days, and look-at-me-with-fancy-clothes-and-fine-prayers-haven’t-I-booked-my-place-in-heaven-days had always told them to keep away from the Dreadful McFarlanes, piously claiming it was disgusting that Evelyn had seven children to five different men. And that she didn’t cut the grass or paint the front door in shiny new paint or change the curtains as often as she should.

Irene picked up the dented biscuit tin because it was there. She lifted the lid and sadly riffled through old rent books and long-paid utility bills. And then she came across them.

Yellowing pages torn raggedly from school exercise books, covered in any writing utensil that had been there at the time, green ink, blue ink, red pencil, black felt tip pen...

She suddenly remembered a long ago day, arriving home earlier than usual from school because she, Benji and the twins had run all the way when they were caught in an unexpected rainstorm. Her mother, having completely forgotten to switch on the oven or even put the casserole inside, was sitting at the kitchen table, using one of the kids’ colouring pencils to scribble something on a scrap of paper while Terry and Ruthie played nearby. A recipe, Evelyn said, scooping up the paper to put into her apron pocket and jumping up to fuss over her children. Irene thought it strange because she knew Mum hated cooking. She’d often found her in tears of despair because the potatoes refused to go soft or the cake had sunk in the middle or the carrots had no intention of being grated with ease and bits of carrot were flying defiantly all over the kitchen. But she’d been too busy helping dry off the kids and then breaking up a fight between Terry and Ruthie to wonder about it for long.

And now, faster than time, the poem leapt out from yesterday and spoke to her heart. Blue skies and gentle breezes carry me home...

Tears blurred and the words ran into each other. She blinked several times, her back to the window, her face hidden from the watchers. It was as if her mother was there again, so close she could almost smell the light lavender and bergamot scent of her favourite perfume. As if she was there giving her strength in her own quiet way to face everything life threw at her. She stood with tears trickling down her cheeks and read each poem over and over. Then she placed the torn pages carefully back in the tin.

She would never return to this house of memories. She carried each of them still in her heart and always would. She had more than these pathetic people would ever have. She picked up the suitcase and tin, slammed the front door for the very last time and head held high left Morningside Crescent forever. She looked back only once.

To the shock of everyone, Irene McFarlane, daughter of Evelyn McFarlane, whom they’d mocked and shunned and looked down upon, paused at the corner of the street, put down the scruffy, battered suitcase and dented biscuit tin and, grinning broadly, jabbed two fingers in the air.


With trembling hands, Irene replaced the poems into the expensive velvet folder she’d bought specially to house the precious pages filled with her mother’s small, untidy handwriting.

“Barry, have you ever wondered if there are times in our lives when we’re...when we’re just guided to something?” She asked when she’d finished telling her story.

“Or to someone,” he said brokenly.

And when she looked up and into his eyes she knew she would never be alone again. And all that was to be and all that had ever been echoed through the years of silence like the gossamer threads of dreams.

Like music.

Like dancing.

Like whispers that brush through time asking the eternal question. And at last finding the answer in another’s eyes.

“Irene, I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to tell Kim. And if he hates me...” His voice cracked again. “He hates me.”

“He won’t hate you, Barry. I promise you.”

The sudden drop in temperature, the increased noisiness of the storm, the slight movement, drew them outside their world and into the present, to the shadow that had fallen between them.

“Tell me what, Dad?” Kim stood shivering in the doorway, his hair soaking, candelight shining on his troubled face.

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  • 5 weeks later...

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m well aware this chapter is pretty poor quality. :( Apologies, everything’s been hectic in the run-up to Xmas and work’s been mad busy too. This is a Will/Dani/Gypsy chapter. Hopefully, the next chapter will be Barry/Irene/Kim but if not I’ll be working on a Hayley/Cassie chapter. :)

This being a long-drawn-out fic, this chapter relates to Will/Dani scenes written way back in Chapters 17, 28 & 29. If anyone wants to refresh their memory, they can check out the chapters on fanfiction.net. And in case you’re wondering how I know all this, I had to search for the relevant chapters for continuity purposes... :P

Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be the party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that...


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

Kirsty Sutherland, her long hair piled up inside a stylish beret, stifled a squeal as a large drop of ice cold rain plopped down from the guttering and caught her square on the back of her bare neck. Couldn’t have the ‘rents waking! Mum and Dad would kill her if they caught her climbing out of her bedroom window and down a slippery drainpipe in the pouring rain in the middle of the night.

The irony that she might kill herself for real sailed blissfully over daredevil Kirsty’s head. And even if anyone had been around to remind her, I doubt it would have made a scrap of difference. Kirsty thrived on danger. And, fortunately, she did have an advantage.

Although she’d only been a student at Summer Bay High for a handful of weeks, lithe, double-jointed Kirsty was already its best gymnast - in the lower school at least. In the somewhat appropriate dizzy heights of its top year and immediately noticeable being the tallest student in the school, Davey Molyneaux, star basketball player of an amateur team and a brilliant all-round sportsman attracting interest from talent scouts for professional teams, had it nailed as its greatest athlete - in one infamous race he’d even given swimming champ Kim Hyde a run for his money (“That’s not the correct English, is it? Shouldn’t it be a SWIM for his money?” Big-eyed Crazy Cassie Turner enquired quite seriously when she overheard Adam Kerr relating the tale, blushing beetroot red and scuttling away when Hayley and crew burst into mocking laughter).

Oblivious to the possibility of falling, Kirsty congratulated herself . Dani would owe her big time for this! Woohoo, had to be worth several squirts of Dani’s latest expensive perfume or a couple of bucks at the very least!

Despite Kirsty having a twin and Dani being over three years older, the two sisters were very much in the same ball park and born to be rebels - the complete opposite to Kirsty’s twin, Jade, who enjoyed cooking, sewing and generally looking after everyone and everything and who could have slipped just as easily into a girl’s life of over a hundred years ago without her new-found peers being any the wiser. Kirsty and Dani adored her. Everybody did. It was impossible not to love quiet, generous-hearted little Jade, who would give away her last cent to anyone who asked. Her ambition was to meet a nice guy, settle down, have kids and be a stay-at-home Mum and that was fine, that was Jade. But it wasn’t Kirsty or Dani! Dani was blazing a trail in finding out exactly how far a teenage daughter dared go pushing buttons when she had a Dad as doting and protective as their own and Kirsty was behind her every step of the way.

As far as Rhys Sutherland was concerned, no boy was or ever would be good enough for any of his three beautiful daughters and especially not the “cocky young mongrel” who had rocked up with Dani earlier tonight. It had been Kirsty’s idea to listen in on the doorstep argument when Will Smith had walked Dani home from his sister Hayley’s birthday party and Jade, always so easily swept up in Kirsty’s schemes because Kirsty poured her heart and soul into everything she did, had eagerly gone along with it. Even though the twins hadn’t been able to see a thing from the tiny frosted window directly above the front porch because the spoilsport porch roof blocked the view, both had thoroughly enjoyed the drama of Dani being a diva, Mum trying to calm things down and Dani’s new boyfriend, confronted with Rhys Sutherland Rage, managing to say all the wrong things. Of course they’d been rumbled and, under threat of a week’s grounding, banished to their own bedroom at the back of the house and with none of the exciting view, where Jade soon drifted off to sleep. Kirsty however was still wide awake and as soon as she thought sufficient time had elapsed crept out on to the landing to find out what she’d missed.

Dad was still ranting over Dani’s new boyfriend and, wowee, it was a scorcher! She was almost sure she could feel the heat of his anger sweeping up the stairs. Mum’s much calmer response meant she only heard the murmur of her voice so Kirsty didn’t know what was said in return. But she did know something else: Dad’s anti-Will Smith stance had instantly made Will Smith a hundred times more wantable!

She jumped as she heard Dani gasp and, much as she longed to know the reason why, Dani’s bedroom door had an exceptionally loud squeak that would alert her parents faster than a crim turned supergrass and Dani had already been interrogated with hot needles tonight as it was - well, okay, not quite - when she’d only gone down to make a hot chocolate.

Kirsty thought fast. Dad had confiscated Dani’s mobile till tomorrow in case Will Smith texted so it had to be something Dani had seen outside - but how on earth was she going to find out what? That was when she had the brainwave. If only she’d thought of it when she and Jade had been climbing on each other’s shoulders trying in vain to see out of the tiny high frosted window above the front porch! To her delight, the new viewing platform was perfect. Standing on the loo and poking her head out of the bathroom window had given Kirsty a far better insight into matters than she could ever have imagined. Although she’d had to wait till she heard everybody go to bed before she could make her next move...

But the rattling of a different window being opened froze her in her tracks like a cautious spider.

“Kirsty!” Dani exclaimed.

She had been startled to catch sight of a rapidly moving figure clad in jeans, jacket and trainers scaling the bathroom drainpipe opposite. For a crazy moment, she’d thought it was Will and at the same time wished it was Davey Molyneaux come to rescue a damsel in distress - because a damsel in distress, banished to the tower by her evil father, was exactly how Dani had romantically been thinking of herself as she cupped a long-drained mug of hot chocolate and gazed up at the storm-ridden night sky. But the momentary flash of faraway lightning as the Baystormer sought pastures new had illuminated the climber just long enough to recognise.

“Ssshhh! Back in a sec!” Kirsty called in a stage whisper, swiftly continuing the short remainder of her journey and dropping softly down on to the muddy grass to run to the front porch.

Her older sister watched curiously as she bent out of sight momentarily before she turned back and, jumping on the spot in triumph, grinned broadly and waved what looked like a gold envelope. Dani’s heart thudded in anticipation. It had to be the letter she’d seen Will push under the front door earlier though she couldn’t figure out how on earth Kirsty had managed to retrieve it.

Neither Dani nor Will knew that, in his haste to post the love poem and avoid coming face to face with the Mad Dad again, Will hadn’t been very thorough in its delivery. Standing on the loo, eagle-eyed Kirsty had grinned to herself as she spotted the corner of the envelope peeking out. Although why it was in a gold envelope Kirsty couldn’t fathom.

“You’re a fool, Will Smith.”

He couldn’t figure out if she was laughing because she really thought he was or laughing because she thought he was sweet. Tentatively, he reached to touch that glorious head of red hair, to draw her beautiful face to his own, but with an impatient sigh, she pushed him away.

“I don’t love you,” she added, her words like ice. “I never will.”

Why did those gorgeous gold-flecked green eyes seem to contradict what she was saying? Why did his heart hammer in his chest and his mind turn to mush whenever he was with her? As his kid sister Hayley was always telling him, he was rich, handsome, easygoing, he could have his pick of any chick in Summer Bay High so why waste his time? But the only girl he had ever truly loved was Gypsy.

“I mean it,” he pleaded. “I’ll always, always keep this poem next to my heart, Gyps, always, always in this gold envelope because, I tell you no lies, o, sweet surprise! Gold flecks in green eyes...”

Will was proud of the poem he’d written for her and fond of quoting it. The ‘O, sweet surprise!’ had been plagiarized from the school poetry book he’d flicked through while searching for inspiration but 'I tell you no lies' and 'gold flecks in green eyes' was all his own work. She’d told him it was the worst poem she had ever read, he shrugged, unoffended, and said everyone knew English wasn’t his best subject; she’d mocked it with two strangers she flirted with on the beach, he forgave her; she tore it into tiny pieces, from memory he produced a painstakingly handwritten copy. Was he a fool like she said? A doormat, like Hayley had called him? But what did you do, how did you cope, if you loved someone more than life itself? If their breath was your breath, if they could light the room with their smile or break you with their cold rejection?

“Don’t do this to me! I hate you!”

She pushed him away again, more forcefully this time. But if she hated him so much, why was she crying? Tell me that, he wanted to yell at the car drivers slowing down to watch and the passers-by who stopped to stare, If she hates me so much, then why is she crying?

Irene Roberts had just got off the return bus from Pioneer Bay where she’d been to have her hair coloured and styled and was heading in Gypsy’s direction but, engrossed in the new timetables leaflet she’d picked up from the bus station, totally unaware of her presence until Gypsy suddenly hurled herself into her arms, sobbing as though her heart would break. Startled though she was, Irene didn’t ask questions. She never did.

Gyps had told him once, before their relationship had begun to get serious and they were just friends, that she always felt safe with Irene, which was why she’d chosen to stay and lodge with her here in Summer Bay after her parents moved to Yabbie Creek and her brother left home for Uni. Gyps reckoned Irene somehow had a kind of deep wisdom which had a calming effect on everyone. He knew what she meant. Back in the day, when Mrs Roberts had been dating Barry Hyde, the uptight principal of Summer Bay High and his best mate’s Dad, the guy had never been more relaxed. And whenever he himself visited Gypsy at the Diner Irene was running in the absence of its owner Alf Stewart, he never felt tongue-tied or rambled like an idiot as he had done with every single one of his previous girlfriends’ parents or guardians - and Will being a chick magnet that was a pretty long list!

But right at this moment he could only stand and watch helplessly while Irene stroked Gypsy’s hair and hushed her, envious that he couldn’t give Gypsy the comfort she needed, aching with jealousy that she wasn’t in his arms.

“I don’t know what’s happened, lovey...uh-uh, I don’t want to know.” Irene pressed a finger to her lips as Will opened his mouth to explain. “That’s your business and for you guys to work out by yourselves. But give her time, hey?”

“I only told her I loved her, Irene.” Choked with emotion, he looked up at the older woman, hurt and confused by Gypsy’s heartfelt sobs.

“Give her time, Will,” Irene said gently. “Time and space.”

He nodded and, heeding Irene’s advice, turned and walked away, eyes blinded by tears, heart heavy as a rock, hoping and praying that Mrs Roberts was right and time and space was all that Gypsy needed.

But tonight at Hayley’s party Gypsy had sealed their fate. Tonight, just to get back at arch enemy Hayley, she’d seduced Kim Hyde, one of his best mates, and then, half-naked and in front of everyone, she’d draped herself around his other best mate Jack Holden, raining kisses on the nape of his neck, one hand unbuttoning his shirt, her other hand reaching downwards. Will had felt sick. He was worth more than that. He deserved better. Hayley and other people had told him so often enough.

So when a Gypsy look-alike with a stunning figure, glorious red hair and mischievous green eyes - but heaps more class - had made it clear she was interested, he’d acted like any red-blooded male would, and who could blame him? He was over Gypsy. Well and truly over. Dani Sutherland was high maintenance but she had every right to be. He didn’t need Gypsy’s mind games anymore. He didn’t need her smartass answers or her constant flirting with other guys or her hard-edged contempt for everything and everyone...

...Or those moments of vulnerability that tore at his heart and made him love her and want to envelop her in his arms and keep her safe forever...

No, stuff Gypsy Nash! He’d do anything for Dani now. Anything. Including giving her, in its original gold envelope, to match Gypsy’s gold-flecked green eyes, the love poem he’d written for Gypsy.


Dani was yearning to read what Will had written, but she couldn’t have her kid sister risking life and limb just to satisfy her curiosity.

“Kirst!” She hissed urgently. “You are NOT climbing back up!”

“Oh, yes, I am! You don’t want Dad to see it, do you?” Despite the heavily falling rain, Kirsty had already begun shinning back up another drainpipe, this time the one that fed the old-fashioned wash-basin in Dani’s bedroom.

“Kirsty!” Dani’s hiss grew more urgent.

“It’s okay, Dani!” Kirsty hated being told what to do and sounded tetchy. “I’ve done it before - the bathroom one anyway, after Dad grounded me over the hair colour and the pizza!”

Kirsty didn’t elaborate and Dani, biting her lip with anxiety, didn’t ask.


Will Smith was woken abruptly out of a deep, alcohol-fuelled slumber by slightly raised voices. He sat up and rubbed his stiff neck, wondering where the hell he was - until the overpowering smell of petrol, rubber and paint combined to launch a fierce onslaught on his nostrils and quickly remind him.

He blinked in the semi-darkness (an old rubber torch he’d found and stood upright nearby lent some light) as his vision gradually adjusted to assorted shapes and shadows and somewhere from the mists of sleep his memory filtered choppily back.

He had only just left the Sutherland property when the Baystormer began to end with a typical Baystormer finale: several minutes when rain fell so lightly that it barely touched, broken by several minutes of sudden deluges far faster and far heavier than anything that had gone on before - or Splash and Bash as kids who had grown up in the coastal towns where the notorious Baystormers frequently hit had long ago nicknamed it. Will had needed shelter fast and the Sutherland garage was more than happy to accommodate him, for, unfortunately for Rhys Sutherland, proud owner of the gleaming red car it housed and his wife Shelley, proud owner of the equally gleaming dark blue smart little run-around parked alongside, but fortunately for Will, its door had a mechanical fault, which meant it never quite reached the ground and left a gap just big enough for a body to slide through should a body be so inclined.

Will Smith had been one such body so inclined and grateful enough for somewhere dry and out of the rain but it had been freezing and uncomfortable sleeping on a cold, hard floor with only a car blanket for a bed, the crook of his arm for a pillow and the smell of petrol, rubber and paint for company. The same smell that was making him feel nauseous now. Crawling on his stomach and elbows to reach it, he arrived at the gap in the garage door and thankfully inhaled the free night air. But the night air brought with it too a sudden clarity and, grabbing the torch that he’d accidentally kicked over in his soldier-like manoeuvring, he scrambled quickly outside in a panic.


If pushed for an answer, it’s a safe bet that most people in Summer Bay would admit they didn’t think Will Smith would win any awards for brains. And should any have had lingering doubts Will was about to dispel them.

Seeing the two figures at an upstairs window and aware it was Dani’s bedroom (eyes teasing, she’d given him this information when they’d been slow-kissing goodnight on the doorstep) he shone the torch upwards, first dazzling both Dani and Kirsty with a beam bright as a movie camera, and then, guessing correctly by its colour the gold envelope Kirsty was handing to her sister to be his poem, he padded out the action drama he was obviously filming with sound effects.

“Dani, NO!” He yelled. “Don’t read it!”

She looked at him for a moment, shared a glance with Kirsty, and immediately ripped open the envelope.

Why the hell had she done that when he’d specifically asked her not to? Jeez, chicks were hard work! Maybe she hadn’t heard him through the pouring rain. It was the only explanation.

“I DIDN’T FINISH IT!” He roared so loud that his words scraped and burnt his throat. “I NEED IT BACK!”

Dogs barked in the distance. Jade, the quieter half of the two annoying kid sisters, appeared next to Kirsty at Dani’s bedroom window, blinking in baffled sleepiness. Lights flicked on in what seemed like every room of the house.

But Will had eyes and ears for none but Dani. Oh, God, what was wrong with her? She couldn’t have not heard this time yet she was still determinedly unfolding the page.

“HEARTS!” He cried, a desperate guy driven to desperate measures and desperate excuses. “I NEED TO DRAW HEARTS ON IT!”

The front door burst open dramatically and like a man possessed Rhys Sutherland came bearing down on him, Shelley racing after trying to stop him. For the second time that night, Dani’s father grabbed him by the throat and in the struggle the torch clattered down on the path.

Rhys Sutherland spoke through clenched teeth. “Set foot near here again without my say-so, Smith, and I’ll have you arrested so fast your feet won’t touch the ground!”

“Rhys! Rhys, for God’s sake!” Shelley remonstrated, determinedly pulling her husband back.

Will hardly noticed anyone. All he saw was Dani’s face turning thunderous. She crumpled the page and hurled it down at him.

“I never want to see you again, you...you low-life loser!”

The curtains were drawn across. The torch shone mockingly on the poem now smeared by mud, its words smudging and running into nothingness, shreds of soaking paper turning into tiny crumbled pieces.

But the eyes of Mad Dad had lit up and his face twisted into a satisfied smirk. “You heard my daughter,” he sneered in delight.

A word of advice for the lovelorn. Should you ever write an ode to love wax lyrical all you will. But never, ever begin your poem with the name of your ex. And be sure you are true to yourself when you tell your heart you no longer care for the one you loved so well before.

For as Will was left alone in the silence, the truth came to him that he’d only been fooling himself into thinking he could love anew, while a black sky wept for Gypsy and a wayward wind whispered Gypsy’s name through the rivers and trees. But nothing could ever hurt so much as the pain of missing Gypsy still searing through his broken heart.

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  • 4 weeks later...

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm damned if I know where the opening for this chapter came from, it was just I needed a beginning and it came into my head. BTW, the romcom channel is my own invention so don't bother looking for it on your TV! :P

This chapter refers to events in Chapter 22 (Martha's knife) and Chapter 28 (Hayley's childhood). See fanfic.net if you wish to refresh your memory. :)

Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, spoilt rich girl Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be the party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that...


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

Hush now. Rivers will run with or without you or I to mind that they may or nay. Close your eyes and rest awhile. Sleep. The chattering streams still wind excitedly down the green mountains on their long journey out to the vast oceans and Mother Nature still spins the wheels of time. The warm kisses and tender buds of spring, the glorious burst of summer bright with her raiments of wide blue skies and flowers stretching far beyond the horizon, the autumn leaves falling, old, thin and withered now, but burnished brown, red and gold for all that, the snowflakes swirling and glittering in the pale winter sun.

The years pass by. We grow, we live, we love, but we never truly left yesterday’s hopes and wishes and fears behind. Ah, mock the memories if you will, deny them if you can, laugh at the child you used to be. But when you’re all alone and the night is silent, sit and see the moonlight filtering through the clouds.

And tell me then you never had a dream.

Hayley hadn’t spoken a word since the fright. Cassie anxiously steered her indoors, her friend clinging so tightly to her arm that she winced in pain. Despite her reassurances that the ghost had only been someone dressed up as Lady Eleanor Hartwell, the White Lady who reputedly haunted Whitelady Woods, Cassie doubted Hayley had taken in a word. She was ashen-faced still and trembling like a leaf.

“Do you want something to drink?” Cassie asked uncertainly, suddenly out of her depth.

Outdoors, with Hayley so reliant on her, she had been strong but back here among the party crowd Cassie’s new-found confidence upped and left her like a wraith. Hayley’s crew had laughed at her far too often for it not to have left its mark and Cassie was only human.

“Do you want...anyone...?” Cassie tried when Hayley didn’t answer. Cassie looked helplessly around.

For who, she did not know. Or should that be for whom? Adam Kerr maybe. She frowned. Why was she worrying about grammar at a time like this? What did it matter if anyone laughed? Hayley needed real friends with her right now. What use would creepy Adam Kerr be? Hayley might think he was the bees’ knees but Cassie had never liked him or the way he’d pawed her the time they had gone to the movies, when she’d been so pathetically grateful to have a boyfriend that she’d actually agreed to a date when she actually despised him. Nor had she liked the way he’d looked her over tonight when she’d been wearing nothing but the bathrobe after she’d showered. Nope, Adam Kerr was the last person Hayley needed around, Cassie decided, gaining a new resolve as something made her forget her unease and stung her into action.

It was obvious nobody else intended to help!

Not a single one of the so-called “friends” that Hayley had so carefully selected to be her party guests. Or The Beautiful People, as she referred to her exclusive circle, who sneered at lesser mortals such as Crazy Cassie and who had received gilt-edged invitations bearing the only half-joking message in bold copperplate “You, Being one of the Beautiful People, are Cordially Invited to Hayley Smith’s Strictly no Dags, Dropkicks or Uglies Party of the Year”.

Cassie had only got to the party by default, because Martha “Mac” McKenzie had insisted on her being there and Hayley wanted popular, pretty Mac in her circle. She was well aware that she was scorned by the sophisticated. Yet the very same sophisticated were now too wrapped up in their own enjoyment, too busy laughing, talking, eating, drinking, dancing, pashing, too shallow, Cassie thought angrily, to let Hayley’s being crook spoil their fun. They glanced at their hostess briefly, one or two looking quickly away and pretending they hadn’t noticed anything amiss, most salving their consciences by muttering vague niceties about how they hoped Hayley felt better soon and it was a good thing Cassie was with her.

Several times Cassie was on the verge of blurting out “Yeh, right, because it means YOU don’t have to be, doesn’t it?” But she bit her tongue. No point in making waves. Hayley was in shock and it wouldn’t do any good to disturb her further. She was a million miles away, her heartbroken gaze oblivious to everything and everyone. So lost, so sad, so...lonely. And none of them cared.

“Maybe you should get some rest?” Cassie suggested gently, swallowing a lump in her throat, close to tears as sympathy overwhelmed her. No doubt Hayley’s crew would say it was the sort of thing a dag would do, pity someone who’d always treated them badly, but, stuff it, Cassie would rather be a dag than be a part of their false world.

Music boomed all around as they walked up the sweeping marble staircase and although she’d been inside Hartwell Mansion before (albeit a handful of times and then admitted with great reluctance by Hayley who would have had her wait outside except Martha strongly objected) Cassie caught a breath. The vastly wealthy Smith family had kept many of its stunningly beautiful original features when they’d purchased the mansion some six or seven years previously and with its grand marble staircase, magnificent chandeliers and the antique mahogany grandfather clock in the front hall gleaming in their glorious light, it was like stepping inside a fairytale. She could almost picture herself in satin ball gown and diamond tiara gliding elegantly towards her waiting prince, almost hear the waltz music and see the dancers...

A loud bang and swishing noise from outside jolted her suddenly out of her reverie and Cassie chided herself as she narrowly stopped them both from tumbling back downstairs. It was only fireworks - God only knew how and when they’d been acquired when fireworks were illegal - but someone had a whole heap of them and had been busy setting them off in the grounds.

“You okay, Hayles?” She asked guiltily.

Hayley stared at her blankly, not even seeing her, and Cassie shivered, wondering if perhaps she should have called a doctor. After all, she was hardly an expert in medicine, was she? What if she’d done untold damage by taking it upon herself to simply prescribe rest? And how the hell was Hayley meant to get peace and quiet in the middle of a party anyway?

But to Cassie’s enormous relief, as if sleepwalking and seemingly unaware of Cassie’s presence, the moment they reached her room Hayley let go of her arm, slipped fully clothed between the silk sheets and despite the noise, somehow, perhaps because of all the alcohol she’d downed earlier, perhaps exhausted by the shock, managed to fall into a deep sleep.

Cassie threw the duvet with its expensive hand-embroidered Italian cover over her friend’s shoulders and, not liking to leave her alone, settled in the easy chair and, picking up the remote switched on the flat screen TV built into the wall, clicked on the new romcom channel, quickly pressing the mute button before it even had a chance to utter a sound. A movie flickered brightly into life as she gazed enviously round Hayley’s bedroom. It wasn’t the first time she had seen it; she, Martha and Hayley had even gossiped and changed here earlier, but the spaciousness and luxuriousness never failed to impress her and she couldn’t help but compare it to her own tiny box-room at her grandmother’s, wishing she’d been as lucky in life as Hayley yet knowing in her heart of hearts she wouldn’t swap her Gran’s love for all the money in the world. But it didn’t hurt to dream, did it? Ugly and stupid as she was, she couldn’t expect any guy to ever fall in love with her - Cassie bit her lip, remembering what happened with her uncle and now Kane Phillips - but she could always dream. Dreams were all she had. All she would ever have. Well, she’d keep them. In dreams, nobody got hurt and everybody had happy endings. Not even Kane Phillips or her uncle could take away her dreams.

Cassie turned her attention back to the TV screen and, gleaning from the sub-titles of the romantic comedy that the hero, a geeky toy factory worker, was pretending to be the factory owner to impress the heroine, a plain toy store clerk, who was pretending to own the toy store to impress the hero, Cassie kicked off her shoes, drew her knees up to her chin and was soon immersed in the story.


Molly watches. Oh, it’s silly, when you’re all grown up, to think she still does, but...

One hand raised as though in greeting, the beautiful ebony-coloured doll still sits on the book-shelf on the wall, on top of the three My Best Fairytales books that have been laid flat on the end, her head askew, one side of her black hair loosely tied with five-year-old Hayley’s favourite pink hair-slide. For her childhood room is just how she remembers the sunny afternoon her parents died, when Fiona, the lady who worked for DOCS, told little Hayley to choose three best toys to take away with them. Except it’s dark and lit by moonlight now and the pile of freshly washed clothes have been moved from the bed to the little white dresser and there are still seven Barbies tumbled in the toy basket because this time Hayley, Freddie Teddy, Princess Barbie and Pink-and-Pretty Barbie never went away.

But, as always in the dream, the night-cooled air steals in through the open window where the sky blue curtains are fluttering timidly in the breeze...

That early summer, sky blue replaced pink as her favourite colour, which had replaced yellow, which had replaced orange, because it was a summer of changes and growing and being Hayley, not just Mummy and Daddy’s little girl or Will’s little sister or baby Nick’s big sister.

Her favourite colour changed to blue because of the blue butterfly that darted erratically around the garden before landing on her nose making her giggle with its tickling and Daddy, who’d been helping her plant freesia bulbs, said it was because her blue eyes were pretty as the summer sky and sky blue had always been his best colour. And down at the open-air market with her parents next day, a week or two before her favourite colour changed back to pink because it had always been pink really as she explained gravely to Daddy so as to let him down gently, she chose sky blue curtains for her room while Will chose curtains that had pictures of red racing cars, and the plump curtain lady with the smudged lipstick and spectacles that hung down on a silver neck chain wrote down the measurements for the curtains to be altered and said they were both excellent choices as she offered Hayley and Will a toffee each (Nick was too young to eat toffee, Mummy explained to Hayley) from a crumpled paper bag, unaware the toffees had begun to melt until they stuck to their teeth.

The bedroom curtains have been changed several times since then but again it’s the turn of the sky blue that flutter with the moonlight and the air is perfumed by the fresh laundry smell of the clothes her mother has washed that morning but hasn’t yet had time to put away. Because she got into a car with her husband, to slip to the store for a short while, they said. Except they never returned to collect Hayley, Will and Nick from Mrs Holland’s where they were playing on the garden slide and splashing in the paddling pool with Mrs Holland’s two children.

The fire was too hot, Will told her one day in the Children’s Home, but Hayley didn’t know what he meant, and she petulantly stamped her foot and told her seven-year-old brother he was stupid, nobody carried fires in their cars, and she didn’t like them being dead, why didn’t they come back? Will put his hands on her shoulders and she opened her mouth to scream because she thought he was going to shake her. But he didn’t.

“It’ll be okay, buddy,” he said, using the nickname Daddy always used when she was upset, trying hard not to cry, and she was so shocked because Will never cried and never called her by Daddy’s nickname that the scream froze.

“I want them to come back, I want them to come back” she intoned instead, holding Freddie Teddy tightly to her chest, afraid of this alien new world. “I want them to come back, I want them to come back...”

But they never did. Never. Until...

Oh, she’s dreamed this dream so many times before! And at first she thinks it’s a dream, like she always does, and it feels so real like it always does, but this time...

She sits up, woken by the coolness of the breeze kissing her forehead and riffling through her hair, back in her old bed with Freddie Teddy cradled in her arms. As if knowing, she rests her chin on Freddie’s soft head and looks to the window. Sure enough, the same voices carry on the shoulders of the night.

“It’s okay, buddy, we’re back! Where are you?”

“Hayley! Hayley, it’s us!”

She stifles a laugh, a silent laugh but, just as in the dream, she doesn’t register the silence. Then.

She shivers with happiness, at the Xmases-and-birthdays’ excitement in Mum’s voice, at hearing Dad calling her by the familiar nickname after all these years, she throws back the duvet, vaguely aware that her footsteps make no noise as she runs towards the tremulous fingers of moonlight that dance on the walls and glisten on Molly’s face. She draws back the sky blue curtains. She can’t see them, but they sound so close they must be just outside. She shouts back in answer...

But her words make no sound. Not a breath, not a whisper, not the smallest ripple to disturb the calm summer night. And her parents’ voices brushed now with sighs float through the darkness, so near and yet so far away.

“She didn’t wait then.”

“Why would she? She has a new family, a new life, plenty of cash. She’s disowned us. ”

“Nick and Will didn’t.”

“Hayley did though.”

In desperation she pounds her fists against the glass, but her fists make no sound; with silent tears and silent screams, she says “I love you!” over and over but the words are buried too deep for even herself to hear, and all the while, just as they always did in the dreams, the beloved voices are growing fainter.

“Hayley died a long time ago. See? She’s already dead.”

And as her parents’ faint voices are heard no more, she looks down, and just like in the dream, she sees an ethereal white figure standing below the window beckoning to her until suddenly she is the figure beckoning, turning, running deeper and deeper and deeper into this dark fog of thick woods and muddy tangled bracken, further and further into the damned and the lost...

At last, too late, far, far too late, she finds her voice, gives a strangled cry as something grabs her arm...



“Mac? You okay? You’ve been quiet a helluva long time. I’m gonna need to move soon.”

To Kane Phillips’ amusement, a gentle snore was his only answer. He tore his gaze away from the sky and craned his neck to check out Martha McKenzie instead. And he liked what he saw. When hadn’t he? Droplets of sea spray glistening on that beautiful face with long lashes and full red lips, she slept as soundly as though she were safely at home tucked up in a warm, cosy bed, not stranded as they were on a tiny island in the middle of the sea.

But a sharp stone had been digging mercilessly into his shoulder blades for some time and the arm that had been cradling her head for so long ached to be free. Maybe though he could last out just a little longer. Besides he liked being so close to such a hot chick and the steady sleeping rhythm of her body against his aching arm. He smiled down at her serene visage and, at an awkward angle, reached out to tenderly tuck a stray piece of dark hair behind her ear. In an odd kind of way the night was peaceful, with its sighing wind and rushing moonlit sea and they had found a shelter of sorts in a small cave, the damp, cloggy sand preferable at least to the hard, unrelenting rocks. They had with them too a supply of water collected from the freshwater pool, the Volvo bottle filled to its brim, as was some kind of deep, square plastic container that he’d also scavenged from among the rubbish that had been washed up on the shore, Martha’s raging thirst soon winning out over her anxiety of what germs the items might contain.

Cold, hungry and exhausted they may been, but they were as comfortable as their reduced circumstances would allow and in the breath of the night the island was theirs alone.

The Baystormer had rolled way along the coast from Summer Bay and was busy attacking another coastal town, looked like either Pioneer Bay or Settler Point, its distance lending an eerie silence as it played out like some theatrical show for his sole entertainment, and he watched for a little while before the pain in both his arm and back eventually became too great. With a sigh of relief, he slowly withdrew his stiff arm from under Martha’s soft, warm neck and pushed her body gently away, startled when warm, sticky blood suddenly began to gush forth from her right hip like a fountain. Jeez! What the **** had happened?

Quickly he loosened the waistband on her trousers to find out only to draw in a sharp breath as something sliced a deep gash into his thumb and made him turn his attention instead to unzipping her pocket where his hand first clasped round Hayley’s long-dead mobile phone - and then pulled out the obvious reason for the bleeding. Why in hell’s name had Martha McKenzie been carrying a Swiss army knife to a party?

But questions could wait. Copious amounts of rich red blood were pouring out from the wound and it was best not to take any chances. He dropped the bloodied knife and peeled off his shirt to make a tourniquet.

But the split second when he lost sight as he pulled the shirt up over his head was all the time that Martha McKenzie needed to raise herself to a half-sitting position and grab the knife, which she was now pointing straight at him.

Still holding the crumpled shirt in his hands, he stared at her in bewilderment.

“You sick, sick b*****d! Touch me and I’ll kill you,” she promised breathlessly, her eyes filled with hate, ignoring the blood drenching her hip and soaking the sand beside her like a river, although her face was white and her brow creased in pain.

“For Crissakes, what’s the matter with you?” He yelled back, watching the knife, transfixed. The slightest wrong move by Mac and either of them could get hurt.

“I was a fool to give you a second chance. I promised my friends I’d deal with you,” she added, fighting hard to find her breath with each word.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I know what happened with Cassie and Hayley.”

“Cassie and Hayley?” Phillips gave a short laugh, convinced this had to be some kind of joke. Sure, he’d made out with Crazy Cassie but it had been her idea and, sure, he’d given spoilt little rich girl Hayley a scare by pretending he wasn’t going to let her go, but she’d been amusing herself by coming on to him and then treating him like dirt. “Mac...”

“Don't you dare move!”

The clear threat in her voice froze him. Waves rolled and crashed in the seconds an eternity passed between them. Her heart beating like a drum, she looked down at the knife, unable to believe what she was prepared to do. And, misreading the gesture, he made the big mistake of relaxing.

“Jeez, Mac, you know, for a minute there I really thought...”

His eyes widened and a strange shuddering gurgling emitted from his throat as the ice cold blade plunged into the bare flesh of his chest and he slumped helplessly forward.

Sometimes, if they managed to sneak on board, he and his brother Scotty would hide in the ferry dunnies and cross the river from the slums and hell houses of Summer Hill to the richer, classier town of Summer Bay - not exactly a fun way to travel if the dunnies got smelly, as they often did, and there was the additional problem of how to get back without paying too, there being no certainty they’d make it past the security on the return trip. If the slow guy was on the tickets however it was a breeze. And there he was!

“Hey, there, Tommo!”

“Good to see ya again, Tommo!”

Tommo grinned his usual vacant grin at the two apparently friendly kids, his tombstone dentures way too big for his mouth, his innocent ice blue eyes wary. In his experience, kids especially kids this age (Scott was maybe twelve although with his sturdy build he could and often did pass for fourteen or even fifteen and Kane a cheeky, skinny nine-year-old) weren’t always so friendly. Kids this age often laughed at or, at best, stared at him. Dogs growled suspiciously at his gait or snapped at his ankles. Unsympathetic people lost patience when he didn’t understand and yelled at him. Life had taught him to expect the worst.

Tommy Dixon was a gangly man in his mid to late forties who had been working on the ferries since he was seventeen but his name badge still bore the legend “Tommy Dixon, Trainee”, his employers deeming it wise should, as sometimes happened, an incident arose that Tommy was unable to deal with, in which case a colleague would quickly be despatched to the scene with the pacifying apology to any angry customer “Tommy's just learning the job”.

“Tickets please. If you don’t have your tickets already you can buy them from me.” Tommy carefully intoned the sales patter that he’d been taught from day one and which he rehearsed in front of the mirror at home where he lived with his elderly mother every time he put on his uniform for the start of each new shift.

“Jeez, Tommo, ya forgot us already?” Scott Phillips pulled himself up to his full height like a man of the world. “We don’t pay!”

Tommo stroked his chin and gave a long, low laugh and as he always did when confused.

“We’re the captain’s kids,” Kane said helpfully. “Don’t ya remember, mate?”

“Sure he does,” Scott said. “Best give us our free tickets quick-smart, Tommo. Don’t want ya gettin’ in heaps with the old man now, do we?”

“D’ya think he ever gets it in the neck over us when they count the dough the end of the day?” A return ticket safely tucked in his pocket with a warning from Scotty he was dead meat if he lost it, Kane turned to look back at the simple-minded Tommo who was painstakingly counting coins into a very patient lady’s outstretched palm.

“Who gives a flying ****? The bloke’s doolally,” Scott replied, and in the excitement of running up on deck Kane soon forgot his brief concern.

One day he was gonna be a sea captain and sail his very own ship, maybe sail out to every ocean in the world. Nothing could beat the sea wind running through his hair and caressing his face like a mother, nothing could beat the music of the roaring waves and mewing gulls or the tugging of his heart for a dream he yearned to follow...


Silence. Nothing but the roar of the wind and the sigh of the sea. Her trembling hands stroked his face as she wept softly. What had she done?

Oh, hush now, safe and warm in the arms of sleep. Wheels of time still spin. Rivers will run and seasons begin anew. Let the stars climb the velvet sky and the dream tree shed its leaves down on to the quiet earth. Hush now. Let the dreams fall. Be still.

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Thanks for your reviews. :D For anyone following, the latest chapter of SBH "Showdown" (Barry/Irene/Kim) has today been posted on fanfiction.net under TV shows "Home and Away". One day I might learn how to do hyperlinks but until then... :P

There's no view count registering on BTTB and as I like to keep tabs on the view count there doesn't seem much point in posting here until it's sorted. When it is, I'll post the chapter on here as well, but in the meantime it can be accessed on fanfiction.net and any comments can be left in either place. :)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: **sighs** Now on fanfic.net “the area is currently inaccessible due to a technical glitch” so I can't carry on keeping count there either! :( Not happy with the heaviness of this chapter - I don’t like dealing with murder - but I’ve begun work today on Gypsy/Jack/Noah/Kit so the next update should be a bit brighter. :)


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

“Kim.” Barry’s voice cracked even as he said his name. He rose like a man condemned and if he hadn’t at that moment felt Irene clasp her fingers in his he would surely have broken down.

Oh, God, son, please don’t hate me. Please understand how much I’ve always loved you...

“Tell me what, Dad?” Kim Hyde repeated. He came further into the darkened candle-lit room, slowly, uncertainly, his blue eyes bewildered, unwittingly bringing rushing back to his father’s mind a tender memory of a long gone day.


“Hey, there, Kim! We’re going to have heaps of fun at kindy while Daddy’s at work, aren’t we?”

A petite, pretty young Asian girl, her long dark hair struggling out of its pony tail and a splodge of green paint on the large waterproof apron she wore over jeans and a white T-shirt with the rainbow-coloured logo KindyKids emblazoned across, greeted them as pre-arranged while Barry stood talking to Debbie Rudd, the nursery school manager. Father and son had been given a tour of KindyKids the week before and while Kim had been to shy to join in with the other kids, he had taken a shine to Bonita and been fine if she stayed close by.

“Go say hi to Bonita, Kim,” Barry prompted gently, his heart snapping in two as he deliberately let go of the tiny hand clinging desperately to his own.

Alarmed to feel his hand being dropped, the little boy looked up at his father, bewilderment in his big blue eyes. His lower lip trembled and a fat tear rolled slowly done one chubby cheek. They had never been separated before and at barely two years old, he was way younger than many Australian kids were when starting pre-school. But KindyKids, the brand new premises that had opened within a short driving distance, had an excellent reputation and Barry needed to get back to teaching, both to keep up with the latest teaching methods and to keep his sanity. And although he tried to tell himself that he needed to return to work too in order to pay the bills that were threatening to engulf them, the truth was very different. No bill had ever yet been left unpaid. For several years, Barry Hyde had been using his sharp brain to successfully play the stock market and as a result was quite comfortably off - if he hadn’t been, he never would have been able to afford such exclusive childcare.

He watched as Bonita stooped down to Kim’s height and said something that made him look up with a timid smile at a picture of Scooby Doo, one of several large cartoon and fairytale characters that had been painted on the walls. And as she rose again Kim willingly stretched up to reach her proffered hand and gave another small smile as, reassured by Bonita’s presence and obviously in response to her whispered suggestion, he turned to wave a farewell to his father. But for a moment a shadow crossed his young face again, bewilderment returning briefly to those questioning blue eyes, and nothing could or ever would stop Barry’s guilt.

Because his child should have still had a mother.


“Why would I hate you?”


He was drinking in every detail of his face. Savouring what might prove to be the very last moments he would ever spend with his son. That he resembled his mother Kerry so much twisted his heart with guilt at what he’d done just as it twisted with knife-like guilt every second of every day.

I can never forgive myself but if you can never forgive me, then I crumble and I die...

“Dad, you said “if I hate you”. I heard you.” He had reached him now. No longer a child, he stood taller, broader and stronger than his father and yet still with that same childlike trust in his eyes. “Why would I hate you?”

“I know I’ve been a huge disappointment to you,” Kim continued brokenly, the yellow candlelight glowing on his soaking blond hair and catching the shine of raindrops on his face. “But I always wanted...”

“A disappointment?” Barry gulped back a sob and he wiped the pads of finger and thumb over his eyelids as tears threatened to blur his vision. “How can you even begin to think that?”

The answer when it came broke his heart.

The son he loved, was so proud of, only shrugged matter-of-factly. “I know you’ve never thought much of me much, Dad, and I don’t blame you,” he said, devoid of self pity. “It’s tough on you, you being so clever and me being so dumb.”

“Kim, you’re not dumb, as you call it, and I’ve only ever loved you!” Barry cried, yearning to clasp him in his arms as he might have done when he was a small child, but so many years had passed since then and he’d hidden his emotion for so long that he held back even now. Yet there was a chink in his armour. Irene. Irene, standing by his side, the scent of her hair, the warmth of her breath, the strength of her love. Hesitantly, feeling unmanly and uneasy at the gesture, he reached out and briefly touched Kim’s arm and was rewarded with the flicker of an uncertain smile. And then, as always, both backed away from the other and became as strangers again.

“Kim, dahl, sit down. You too, Barry.” Irene’s calm voice came like a shaft of sunlight streaming in through the hubbub of steadily falling rain and silent storm of father and son’s conflicting emotions.

“Your father has something to tell you,” she added gravely. “Promise me something. Promise me you’ll hear him out before you judge?”

“Sure, Irene.”

Kim frowned, puzzled, as he obediently sank down. He had always liked Irene Roberts. Dad had been a different person during the brief spell they’d dated, open and relaxed, as if some great weight had been lifted from his mind. They had seemed the perfect match and Kim never did get to the bottom of why they broke up - though he knew it had something to do with Irene talking of having her recently-separated grown-up daughter and two small grandchildren come to live with her to help the daughter out financially. Nothing ever did come of the idea because the daughter and husband got back together but the damage was done. Dad was an enigma at times. For someone who’d devoted his whole life to teaching, he was never easy in the company of very young kids and when he did have to spend time with any he would have the poor child jumping at their own shadow with his over-protectiveness, always terrified they might hurt themselves or eat something that made them crook or come down with heatstroke or measles or tonsilitis or a thousand and one other ailments. Irene would have calmed him down for sure, Kim thought, his brow clearing as a brand new thought suddenly struck him.

“Wait! Are you two hooking up?” He asked, grinning. “Getting hitched and moving away? Jeez, Dad, I wouldn’t hate you for that, I’d be stoked, not about the moving away bit, the mar...”

“For pity’s sake, Kim, will you listen? This has nothing to do with marriage!” Barry spoke more curtly than he intended, keen now to unburden himself of his terrible confession.

“Told you I was a thicko.” Kim sighed, his gaze falling as his father realised it had so often fallen in dejection before. When he told him his schoolwork wasn’t good enough or he hadn’t improved on his swimming time or he needed to study night and day to stand a chance of passing even a single exam.

“Oh, God, son,” he said, burning with guilt and shame. “What have I done to you?”


When he held his newborn son in his arms for the very first time, he felt a rush of love so powerful the force of it took his breath away. It caught him totally unprepared. Two years ago, after the tragic death of their infant son Jonathan tore out his soul, he had never thought he could ever be happy again. With this pregnancy, they had deliberately kept everything low key, almost afraid that if they announced it with the same razzmatazz as they had welcomed Jonathan into the world then Fate would seek them out and exact revenge. Family and friends were of course informed, but this time there was no half page advertisement in the local newspaper, no lavish party thrown to celebrate the news, no round of applause and bottle of champagne popped open in the school staff room, no specially-recorded jokey telephone answer-phone message left for delighted callers to piece together the cryptic clues.

But he hadn’t bargained on his newborn son stealing his heart.

Ironically, just as with Jonathan, it was Barry who gave baby Kim his first bath when they brought him home. He had tried to persuade Kerry to share in the precious moment of bonding but she said she was exhausted since the birth and spent most of her time sleeping. It was natural, he thought, ignoring the niggling doubts that surfaced again at how Jonathan had died. How could he even think like that about his wife? Jonathan’s death had been a terrible, terrible accident and nothing more.

He carefully tested the water’s temperature and then very, very gently lowered his precious child into the blue baby bath, and all the while talking soft, soothing baby words. He began tenderly sponging his son’s soft, slippery body, a flood of emotion overwhelming him as Kim’s mouth opened, his button nose wrinkled and he stared up at his father in wide-eyed surprise.

And afterwards the young father sat, almost motionless, his sleeping child, washed, wrapped and warm, cradled in his arms, silently thanking the God he had cursed when his firstborn died. Outside a wild night gathered hellbent on destruction, a banshee wind wailed and suicidal raindrops dashed themselves against the glass, but inside, safe inside, where the little lamps glowed golden and classical music lightly played, the curtains closed out all harm.

He could hear Kerry moving about in the bedroom above, not the busy footfalls of someone with purpose but a desperate, frantic pacing. Just as she’d often paced too after the birth of Jonathan. Tiny alarm bells rang at the back of his mind but he left them to ring unanswered. Because how could he tear himself away from this perfect human being? All that concerned him was the child, the child who stirred now, snuffling and whimpering, the splash of a silver tear rolling slowly down one plump, pink baby cheek.

“Ssh, shh,” he whispered, rocking him against his chest. “It’s only Mummy.”

His baby son’s eyes immediately flew open on hearing the familiar voice and snatched his father’s heart all over again.

“I would kill to protect you,” Barry Hyde promised.

Why he felt the need to say it, he didn’t know.


“I’m sorry,” Barry said hoarsely.

Kim shrugged. “No worries. It’s all okay.”

“No, it’s not. It never has been. Kim, I’m...I’m sorry I never told you all this before. I was too much of a coward, the time was never right...” His choked voice fell to a whisper. “I was so afraid of losing you...” And then even the whisper trailed away and became so faint it was barely audible. “And I’m so afraid of losing you now...”

“Aw, c’mon, Dad, whatever it is, we’ll be right!”

Finding himself suddenly in the strange new role of trying to console his father, Kim was at a loss how to even begin. He made to punch him on the arm like he might have done with a mate like Will or Jack, but their relationship had never been a physical one, never involved bear hugs or slaps on the back, and his clenched fist dropped helplessly back down to his side. They had only ever used words before.

But words could never be enough.

A little while back, when the final whistle blew ten minutes after Davey Molyneaux had scored the goal that clinched the game and won Summer Bay High the school league championship, Davey’s Dad had run on to the pitch, cupped his son’s face in his hands and planted a long, wet smacker on his forehead. The guys ribbed Davey mercilessly about it for ages afterwards but Davey himself simply laughed. It wasn’t the first time and it wouldn’t be the last that his Dad demonstrated his emotion so openly.

And, though he never told anyone, Kim had been secretly envious of their easygoing father/son mateyness, remembering the time he had broken through some new swimming record and his own Dad had simply punched the air and said “Well done!” before resuming the coaching. Ah, wait, he had told one person! She had understood. She always did. Funny how they were always drawn to each other.

Irene’s arm slipped around Barry’s shoulders and he held her close. “Irene, help me please. I can’t do this on my own...”

She kissed his cheek. Oh, so tenderly, oh, so lightly, brushing his tears with her lips.

“Before you were born, Kim” she said gently, turning to him, her warm brown eyes full of sympathy. “Your parents lost a child.”

“I know.” Kim nodded solemnly. “Jonathan. Dad told me about it.”

“What you don’t know,” Irene said emotionally and after waiting a while for Barry to speak, but his sobs were too heavy and he could only nod his assent for her to go on; “is exactly how Jonathan died.”


His wife stood motionless at the top of the stairs, like a ghost in the thin grey light, and he raced up them, called from a late night at the school making preparations for tomorrow’s annual parent/teacher day by her increasingly frantic phone calls.

“Kerry! Kerry, what’s wrong?”

She was carrying something across her outstretched arms. Jonathan’s christening gown. Her eyes were glassy and a thin smile played on her lips though small tears rained down off her chin.

“It’s too late, Barry. Jonathan’s gone to Heaven. I left him for just a moment and the angels came. I knew they would come tonight. We have to prepare him now.”

He pushed past her into the bathroom, in a room still permeated by baby smells of oils and talc and creams, and saw to his horror the small, lifeless body floating face down on top of the bathwater. He scooped up his son and lay him tenderly in his lap, pressed his mouth over the tiny mouth and nose. He gave two slow, desperate breaths and searched in vain for a pulse. Nothing.

He placed two fingers on the baby’s chest and pressed five times, so terrified of accidentally crushing those tiny ribs. And still nothing. Again he sealed his lips over the tiny mouth and nose. All to no avail. He heard an unearthly, wolf-like howl and realised it came from himself.


At last Kim spoke, breaking the long, stunned silence when the very air seemed to crackle with electric and the very night seemed to have lifted him body and soul and plunged him into somebody else’s life. He absently rubbed the throbbing bruise on his cheekbone from when he’d had the fight with Jack over Gypsy. Barely a few hours ago and yet so long ago now that if it hadn’t been for the physical evidence he wouldn’t have been sure if it happened at all.

“But you always said it was an accident...” His words spun into the harrowing emptiness and fell down into the loneliness of the night.

Barry Hyde, weeping openly now, his fingers locked in Irene’s, drew a deep breath before he could answer. “It was what I wanted you to believe. It was what I wanted to believe myself.”

Kim wiped a hand across his tear-moistened face, swept back his soaking hair. “Dad, why in hell are you doing this?” He asked with quiet sorrow. “Why are you making up these terrible stories about Mum?”

“Because it’s true,” Barry replied simply.

Kim stared at him, still unwilling to believe. “Jonathan’s death was an accident. You always told me it was!”

Barry swallowed. “I lied.”

“I don’t understand.” He looked wildly from his father to Irene. “Why would you lie? Why would you need to?”

“Because I didn’t mean to do what I did,” Barry said heavily. “All I thought about was protecting you. She would have...she would have...”

He looked at his son. The son he loved so much he would kill for. He gripped Irene’s hand tighter.

Oh, God, Kim, please don’t hate me...


The night would haunt him forever. The night and the moon.

A cold wind rose from the sea the night he dug his wife’s grave and through the cold wind came the mewing cries of his newborn son and the clank of metal on cold, hard ground sealing the evil inside him. The silhouettes of his sister Lorraine cradling her nephew and standing a little away from him, on the tiny mound of ground created by the newly discarded soil, suddenly seem as though they are on a distant hill, so far removed are they from he in their innocence.

Panting heavily, he pauses to wipe the beads of sweat from his brow and look up at the accusing moon.

“Hurry!” Lorraine urges above the faraway sound of the roaring sea. Her voice grows more urgent. “For God’s sake, Barry, hurry!”

Yet for him there is no God. There is no hope.

The wind whips strands of hair across her face. The baby whimpers and she soothes and whispers. She is still in mourning for her husband. Her brother and a heavily pregnant Kerry attended the funeral just a few weeks ago, consoling her by the side of the grave, supporting her when she was overcome by grief. Their own marriage had been childless.

Yet what would David have done, he wonders, if they had been blessed or cursed with a son or daughter and David had found Lorraine trying to drown their tiny, helpless child as Kerry had tried to drown Kim and drowned their firstborn before him? Would he too have been evil enough to wrap his hands around his wife’s neck and push her down into the tepid bath water? Would he too have watched so unforgiving as her eyes bulged and her face reddened and bloated? Would only the child’s screams of hunger have woken him from what he was doing when it was all too late and her body was limp?

The night would haunt him forever. The night and the moon.


“You killed my mother?” Kim sprang to his feet, breathless and trembling, a myriad of emotions churning around inside him. “You killed her, you hushed it up, you buried her body?”

Barry spread his palms in a gesture of bleak despair. “I didn’t mean to do what I did,” he whispered. “I only wanted to stop her hurting you. I loved you so much. I couldn’t bear you to be hurt.”

“You said she was ill.” Kim’s voice wavered. “You said it was post-natal depression. Then why didn’t you get help? For Crissakes, couldn’t you at least have done that for her?”

“It wasn’t that easy,” Barry said throatily. “Don’t you think I tried? Kerry wouldn’t go to see any doctors. She said there was nothing wrong with her. And I...I tried to convince myself it was all in my imagination. There were days, weeks even, when she seemed fine.”

“Please, dahl, try and understand the dilemma your father was in,” Irene pleaded. “With some folk, mental illness isn’t that obvious. And when we love too much we see only what we want to see.”

“All I understand is he murdered my mother!” Kim was towering over him now, bristling with a raging fury that was alien to his placid nature. “Where was your compassion, Dad? Where was your conscience? If it was an accident like you say, why didn’t you go to the cops?”

“If I had,” Barry said sadly, “what would have happened to you? The only family was your Aunt Lorraine and she’d just lost her husband and been diagnosed with cancer and only weeks to live herself. There was no one else to turn to. I was terrified that they’d take you away from me and I’d never see you again.”

“No, Dad.” Kim shook his head emphatically. He had always had a simple childlike honesty unsullied by the intricacies of the world and to his way of thinking things were either black or white with no room for any grey. “Don’t use me as an excuse.” His looked down on his father with uncharacteristic scorn. “So now I know why we moved from pillar to post, why I was uprooted from home after home, school after school! It wasn’t to do with your career, it was to do with you running from justice. And you know something? Maybe...just maybe...”

For a brief moment the mask of scorn slipped as a wave of pity washed over his face and a sob caught in his throat; “I could’ve understood if you’d turned yourself in, if you’d had an ounce of remorse. Because you know what really galls me?” His voice turned harsh again. “How you dug her grave and left her there. How in all those years you never tried to put anything right. You’re a murderer and a coward. Isn’t that the truth, Dad?”

The icy words pierced Barry’s heart like a shard of glass and he fell against Irene sobbing helplessly.

The night was a friend. A cold, lonely friend, as much in need of solace as himself, and Kim staggered towards where it waited for him at the open door with its blessed cloak of darkness.

Why? I picture her all alone. Was she cold? Did she feel anything in that harsh grave? Did you, Dad, did you? Unmourned, Unmarked unloved and I...

Gathering all his strength, Barry raced desperately after him.

“Kim! Kim, please...” He reached for him, pulled him into his arms, but his son broke free, dusted the sleeve of his shirt as though his touch were poison.

“Don’t you get it, Dad? I want nothing more to do with you!”

“Kim!” He tried again, a broken man, but Kim shoved him roughly aside and he fell unceremoniously to the ground.

“I have to go after him, Irene.” With her help, he scrambled to his feet, and ran into the thick blackness.

“Kim! Kim, where are you?” He screamed, blinded by tears, but his solitary voice echoed mockingly back at him.


And after a while Kim stopped to catch his breath on the very same hill where a little while ago Noah and Kit and before them Jack and Gypsy had looked down to admire its panoramic views of the moonlit sea and Summer Bay. But Kim had no calm to quell his racing heart, no stars or moon to capture some brief light amid the terrible darkness. Far below a black sea rolled towards the shore and in the distance the Baystormer’s flashes of lightning danced wildly through a tormented sky and here and alone he flung himself on the quiet, sodden earth and broke down sobbing heartbrokenly for the mother he never knew.

I’m not very bright, Dad, but I do know how to love. You throw out unwanted shoes, broken crockery, crushed empty cartons. Was she unwanted, broken, crushed, Dad? There MUST have been a time when you could have stopped. She was weaker than you. I’ve seen pictures, all I have of my mother, a slim, frail woman, a breath of wind could have blown her over. I don’t know all the clever things other people know. My schoolbooks are full of dog-eared pages and corrections. But I do know how to love. You didn’t save me, you destroyed me.

He closed his eyes and tried to think of what it must have been like for her to die on a windswept night and dumped in a grave by the person who was meant to have loved you most of all. Illogically, he felt tainted just by knowing he’d been there, guilt that he was the reason she died.

He clenched his fists and hurried on. To where? And the answer came almost immediately and the answer was stranger than all that happened this night.

She’d always been there. They’d often chatted, both of them on the fringes of all that was cool at Summer Bay High yet knowing that they never quite belonged. She’d smile in sympathy if his Dad found fault over some piece of work that he’d sweated buckets over, they’d exchange frowns when Hayley was bagging someone out, she’d walked through the crowded classroom just to squeeze his shoulder when she noticed him blanch, retch and wipe away tears the day they were shown the documentary about Canadian seals being killed for their skins, she never got the guys she hoped for and so at the school dances he would dance with her. Lost souls thrown together at random. Looking for someone they would never find when maybe the person they had been looking for had been beside them all along.

She would understand.


Long after the Baystormer had rolled away along the distant coast, the heavy rain that had pooled in the broken guttering was still seeking refuge and so slowly slithered along its diverted course on to the roof until it came to the tiniest gap where it dripped steadily down through on to the old wooden beams.

Irene looked up at the leak above the Diner entrance without the problem really registering. Barry and Kim could be anywhere. The night was dark as ink and it was probably wiser to stay in the Diner until morning brought its welcome rays of sunlight. She sighed heavily as from her shelter she vainly searched the immediate vicinity of the night with a solitary candle like an inn-keeper of old greeting tired, dusty travellers. The irony was not lost on Irene.

“You look like Wee Willie Winkie, matey!” She muttered. Then she sighed again. “Oh, Barry! I only wish...” She swallowed back tears.

“I love you,” she whispered.

Soundlessly above her, the first beam, softened and weakened by the hours of rain, began to work loose...

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  • 2 weeks later...

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I had a couple of days off work so thought I’d write the next chapter. :)

Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, spoilt rich girl Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be the party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that...

A loud bang and swishing noise from outside jolted her suddenly out of her reverie and Cassie chided herself as she narrowly stopped them herself and Hayley from tumbling back downstairs. It was only fireworks - God only knew how and when they’d been acquired when fireworks were illegal - but someone had a whole heap of them and had been busy setting them off in the grounds. (Chapter 36: Dreams)


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

“Hey! How come they’ve stopped?”

Gypsy Nash sounded as though she had just paid for over a hundred dollars for a ticket only to be cheated out of the show. She was leaning alone against a crooked tree on the river bank, where she’d been craning her neck to watch the glorious shower of colourful sparks that lit up and then fell from the sky, cheering with each new swish. It was an odd kind of cheering however. If he hadn’t known better, Jack Holden who, after very little persuasion from his three companions and despite his laughing protests he intended to be a fully-fledged cop upholding the law one day (he already had a place at police training college in Melbourne for next summer provided he got the required grades) had been busy lighting rockets and sending them off on their final journeys, would have sworn she was crying.

Noah and Kit had discovered the box of illegal fireworks hidden in a shed at the side of grand Hartwell Mansion. They didn’t say exactly why they had gone looking in such an out-of-the-way place and Gypsy and Jack grinned knowingly and decided not to ask. Especially as after initially being so keen to watch the fireworks they had strolled further and further along the river bank, lost in each other.

With Noah and Kit too busy pashing to notice the end of any firework display outside of their own, it was left to Gypsy to turn to ascertain the reason for the no-show. She cut a striking figure. Haunting was the word that sprang suddenly to Jack Holden’s mind.

The flowing white wedding dress that she’d borrowed from Summer Bay High’s drama department with the specific purpose of scaring Hayley to death, was soaked and mud-spattered yet its sequins still shone and glittered like diamonds while the intricately-laced bridal veil borrowed from same (against all odds on that storm-ravaged, muddy night having managed to somehow stay virginal white) which, during her impersonation of Lady Eleanor’s ghost, Gypsy had chosen to wear as a jaunty scarf, was drawn down over her face.

The drama department’s bonnet hung on the crooked tree’s branch where last she’d thrown it, its ribbons dancing in the breeze, as Gypsy pulled back the wedding veil, allowing her magnificent red hair to tumble freely down over her shoulders, and, raising arms clad in the wedding dress’s matching long gloves (alas, no longer white but grey) and, shielding her eyes to better see through the thin moonlight, she looked enquiringly at Jack. Some of the luminous greasepaint that she’d painted on her face to add to the ghostly illusion had streaked and cracked and he was sure there were tear streaks running down. Pretty damn sure. Oh, but her eyes...those sparkling green eyes, they were so beautiful.

“Sorry, Gyps. That’s the lot.” He shrugged apologetically, wishing there could be more to make those beautiful green eyes smile at him again.

“Already? No way! You sure you’ve checked properly?”

Gypsy made to see for herself only for her foot to catch in the long hem of the mud-spattered wedding dress. A loud ripping noise ensued and sent her flying into Jack’s arms and into an uncontrollable fit of giggling.

“Omigod, that sounded like...nope, I’m too ladylike to say it!”

Gypsy had celebrated her success at frightening Hayley with a couple of glasses of strong wine and this, plus the alcohol she’d consumed earlier, was taking its toll. The slippery mud made it difficult for Jack to steady both of them and made it seem as though they were performing a crazy kind of dance, which made Gypsy giggle all the more. The box that had held all the fireworks was kicked over in the struggle to stay upright and a solitary packet of matches coughed out.

“Rats!” Gypsy looked down in drunken disappointment. “Hey!” She frowned quizzically after seeming to think it over, looking back up at him. “Hey, Mr Cop, how come fireworks got here in the first place?”

“Who knows?” Jack smiled because Gypsy was an amusing drunk. Or perhaps he smiled because in the end the only way to keep her upright was to clasp his arms around her soft, slender waist and she leaned her head against him as if she’d always belonged there. “Kane Phillips said something about making sure Hayley’s party went with a bang though. And you know Phillips, he can lay his hands on pretty much anything, legal or not. Wonder where he’s got to anyway?”

“Well, who the hell cares?” Gypsy’s voice was muffled and tickling his chest. “He’ll be breaking and entering someplace or dealing drugs or bashing some old lady...”

“Aw, come on. Give the guy a break. Even Phillips isn’t into bashing wrinklies. You know, I think he could even be a half decent bloke given a chance.”

“Whoo-hoo, get you! What’s the story, Morning Glory?” Gypsy teased, licking her pert lips, the usual flash of mischief returning to her pretty face. Jack only grinned. With his track record for the ladies, the one thing Jack Holden could never be accused of was batting for the other side.

Gypsy was about to add more, warming to her theme and in true Gypsy fashion determined to bait, except Kit interrupted with an intriguing invitation. “Guys! Come check this out!”

Noah and Kit were almost silhouettes in the moonlight by now, having strolled as far down as the old, disused restaurant that was on the fringe of the vast grounds of Hartwell Mansion and it was only the river that carried Kit’s voice although she yelled so loud her throat was sore.

“Think you can make it?” Jack helped Gypsy swing around.

“Sure I can!” Gypsy’s floppy-doll actions didn’t back up her words however and her clumsiness as she ran into him had Jack only narrowly stopping himself from slithering backwards into the river.

“Sorry!” Gypsy exclaimed guiltily. “Ohhh...sugarplum fairy!” She added as she tried to reach out to help and wobbled uncertainly.

“Sugar what?” Jack took matters into his own hands and had her lean on him.

“Aw, it’s what Irene always says when she’s trying not to swear. Everyone used to say it way back when. She told me once she had a boyfriend who’s Mum thought she was common as muck and Irene was trying to impress at a family dinner - only she couldn’t saw through the roast beef and it slipped off her plate and sent gravy and peas flying over snobby Mum’s lap. So Irene said sugarplum fairy only the old bat thought she was insulting her and had her husband chuck her out of the house in the pouring rain! Irene swore then alright! I’ve never been so happy in all my life!” She added, spluttering with laughter.

“Then why are you acting like your heart is broken?” Jack asked quietly.

“I am not!” Gypsy protested vehemently. “I am not, Jack Holden!”

She looked down at the thick brown mud though and didn’t say anything else.


“Jeeezus!” Will Smith did a double take as he unexpectedly came across the silent figure already sitting there. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Kim Hyde glanced up briefly and returned to watching the swaying moonlit river overlooking the harbour. “I could ask you the same question.”

He sounded edgy. Probably still be sore over the blue they’d had last time they’d spoken tonight when Kim had stormed off after he flatly refused to hook him up with his sister Hayley, Will figured.

“I asked first. Barley?” With a grin, he made the crossed fingers sign that had always accompanied the expression which called a truce to games when they were kids.

Kim only shrugged in answer and Will, after a moment’s hesitation, sat down beside him on the bench overlooking the river bank and sheltered by the spreading branches of a benevolent old oak tree, one of several benches with a view situated at designated spots along the river, and which were provided for hikers who often followed the long river trail that would eventually lead to Whitelady Woods and then out to either the picturesque rolling hills of Summer Bay or to the equally picturesque cliffs. Where he’d been planning to sit anyway but in the original scenario played out in his head it had been alone.

“Okay, I’ll start. I’ve just been dumped by the sexy Dani. Not cool. But it was the wake-up call I needed to make me realise Gypsy Nash is the only chick I ever loved or ever will. So I planned to sit here awhile before I head back to my kid sister’s party to figure out exactly how I’m gonna get back with her. Because I swear to you I will. Or I'll die trying.”

Will Smith, who normally treated everything as a big joke, had never spoken more sincerely in his whole life. Even Kim, lost in his own thoughts of a night that had yawned and stretched and thrown up its secrets, looked up in surprise. A thread of guilt twisted through him.

“Man, I’m really sorry about what happened with Gyps and me tonight. Really sorry. I was drunk, I was mad at Hayley, Gypsy was...I guess there aren’t any excuses.” He finally admitted, his voice dropping. “I know it’s one helluva big ask but...” Kim bit his lip, uncertain what Will’s response would be. “Shake?”

Will swallowed and, if truth be told, fought back a strong urge to punch him, to draw some satisfaction in drawing blood. He had taken it easily enough before when Gypsy seduced his friend as she had seduced so many guys before. Or thought he had. He’d been fooling himself when he told himself he didn’t give a stuff about her anymore. But if he owed Kim he owed others. And he knew all too well that Gypsy had been playing games both to spite her arch enemy Hayley and to prove to Will that she didn’t need him. With a rare clarity, as though the fresh breeze of the river had breathed some new magic into his heart, Will could suddenly see the truth that had been there all along, waiting for a tangle of emotion to be unravelled. Gypsy didn’t love herself enough to believe she was worthy of being loved. So it was up to him, the guy who loved her, to make her see that she was, wasn’t it? He reached out and magnanimously shook Kim’s hand.

“Though if it ever happens again,” he promised, only half joking. “You’re a dead man.”

“It’s never gonna happen again,” Kim replied solemnly. “I don’t do the dirty on mates.”

Will nodded, still puzzled by his sombre attitude. Whatever had happened, he wasn’t himself and he didn’t seem prepared to talk about it anytime soon. Somehow he knew Kim would fob him off with the answer but still he asked.

“Sooo...I ‘fessed up. You still haven’t said why you’re here?”

Kim shook himself. Where to begin? Where did anyone begin when they’d just learned that their mother had deliberately drowned their brother then tried to drown them? That their father had murdered her and buried the body? There was a storm brewing up inside him and he didn’t know how to deal with it. But if he was going to tell anyone, he needed more than a mate. No, if he was going to confide in anyone, it was going to be Cassie Turner.

“I need to get my head together before I see Cassie,” was all the information he volunteered.

“Cassie? As in the Cassie?”

His friend was immediately on the defensive. “I just need to talk to her,” he said testily. “And she isn’t crazy like everyone says.”

“I never said she was.” Will grinned his trademark broad grin. “I was wondering how long it’d take you guys to get together, s’all. Wow! Cassie!” He slapped him on the back and Kim gave a small smile.

“That obvious, huh?”

“That obvious to all but you guys,” Will confirmed. He was about to say a lot more when something floating on the river caught his attention. "Bloody hell! There’s someone in the water!”

But Kim, coached by his father to be a swimmer of almost Olympian standard, had already kicked off his shoes and dived into the icy river. Will quickly scrambled down and waded in after him to help drag the soaking, heavy body onto the grassy bank. He fell down, panting, to regain his breath, and it was only as Kim turned the man over that he saw his face.

“****!” Will said. “It’s...” He didn’t need to finish off the sentence however.

Kim didn’t yell. If anything, he was strangely calm. Frighteningly calm, Will thought, especially considering the identity of the person he’d just pulled out of the water. Maybe it was because, as an expert swimmer and volunteer lifeguard, he had regular first aid courses and had practised CPR a thousand times before. Maybe it was because last summer he’d saved the lives of two kids who’d got a little out of their depth and had only blushed and hurried away from the gathered crowd’s praise, insisting he’d just been doing his job.

The man’s eyes flickered open briefly before fluttering closed again. Long enough to recognise who held his life in his hands. Long enough for Kim to decide in that moment whether or not he hated his father enough to take a fitting revenge for his mother’s death...

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Like I said way, way back in this fic ONE person dies - Hayley, Martha, Kane, Irene, now Barry...? :unsure: Keep guessing.! :P

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  • 4 weeks later...

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This chapter is pretty long - again! :rolleyes: - so if you enjoy reading :unsure: you might like to make a cuppa and come back! :P

Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be the party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that...


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

“What’s it say?” Kit asked curiously, as Gypsy and Jack finally caught up with them by the cherry tree, where Noah knelt, busy wiping away muddied dead leaves and twigs from a brass plaque embedded in the ground.

“The Smith family. Never forgotten,” Noah reported, squinting down at the words and rubbing away some more debris. “The Smith Family. A New Beginning. April 2...can’t make out the rest but I figure it’ll be the year they moved here.” He rose cautiously, dusting the wet soil from his jeans, a sharp pain reminding him that it hadn’t been such a good idea after all to bend the knee he’d injured in the big footie game last week.

“Planting a tree to commemorate moving to Summer Bay. If it’d been anyone other than Hayley, I’d have though it was sweet,” Kit remarked to Gypsy, who hated their arch enemy with equal venom. “Knowing Hayley, it was probably just a photo-shoot opportunity.”

“Pur-leeze! Miss Piranha and sweet do not belong in the same sentence. Stupid jerks! It sounds like a bloody memorial not a house move,” Gypsy sneered, unaware.

Only the trees of Whitelady Woods knew and they chose to whisper their secrets to none but each other.


Glints of golden sunlight threaded their way through the newly-blossoming trees and tiny buds of spring poked their heads in awe towards the snow-white clouds dotting the April sky as the little family group, George and Julie Smith and their three adopted kids, thirteen-year-old Will, eleven-year-old Hayley and Nick, the youngest, eight years old, held each other’s hands and encircled the cherry tree sapling they’d planted.

“I feel like a dag,” Will Smith protested, although he was grinning.

“That’s because you ARE a dag,” his kid brother Nick said, hoping for a rise.

But nothing ever ruffled Will’s feathers and he only laughed. “Thanks heaps, bro!”

“Come on, guys.” George Smith chided, uncertain whether or not his sons were joking and concerned his wife might be upset if her idea were shot down. Ever since he’d known her, way back in high school as Julie Fleetwood then and blinking from behind bottle-thick spectacles, she had been a dreamer.

Julie’s long, rambling stories and poems were legendary and not just in English classes - once for History she had even managed to produce a tragic romantic tale set with the backdrop of the first world war (Australia’s role in the first world war being the set topic). And back in the late Sixties, when they’d been around fifteen and being a hippy was fashionable, desperate to be part of the in crowd, for a little while she had cut classes after gaining her attendance mark, crammed her uniform into her school bag, kicked off her shoes, unpinned her hair, worn long, flowing skirts and tried - in vain, coughing until she was sick - to smoke pot like the other rebels. The bohemian image lasted no more than a handful of weeks, the in crowd still ostracized her, nobody took much notice except to giggle or pass some sarcastic comment, and, sadly concluding she’d never fit in and would never meet the guy of her dreams, blissfully unaware that shy, geeky George Smith was madly in love with her and her quirky ways (though it would be another five or six years when they accidentally re-met at a Uni party that he’d find enough courage to tell her so) she went back to her studying and weekends returned to the denim and trainers that she felt far more comfortable in anyway.

But the one thing she had embraced about the hippy culture had been its peace and love philosophy. It was so like Julie, George thought affectionately, loving her all the more, to arrange for the family to gather in memory around the new young tree they’d planted, and as a further surprise ordering too a brass plaque engraved with a message that commemorated the kids’ parents’ deaths - without it actually mentioning them being dead!

And so it was that a smiling sun found the family here in Summer Bay, the pretty little coastal town they’d moved to a week or so ago, a world away from the smoky, grimy city where George had built up his hugely successful property development business and which had earned them enough money to buy Hartwell Mansion, the vast grounds of which they stood in now to gather around the spindly tree.

“Nah! Seriously, it’s a cool idea.” Will smiled up at his foster mother. “Thanks. I love it.”

“I’m glad,” Julie Smith returned the warm smile, and shook her head in amused warning at Nick, the clown of the family, who was pulling exaggerated faces at his older brother behind his back.

They may not have been her real sons (Julie and George were unable to have children of their own) but she had bonded with Will and Nick from the moment they met and, even though Smith was a common surname, told herself the fact the kids already shared the same surname as herself and her husband had to be more than mere coincidence - it was meant to be. If only, she sighed inwardly, she could have felt the same way about Hayley. It was six years now since they’d officially adopted the three kids after their parents had been killed in a car crash and Julie still didn’t feel she knew her daughter - or even liked her very much.

Years later she was to overhear Hayley’s friend Martha accuse her of acting like some kind of ice goddess (Julie wasn’t sure why, but it had been raining heavily all afternoon and she suspected Hayley was snobby enough to not want their other friend, shy, gawky, Cassie, whom Julie liked immensely, inside the house) and thought the description fitted her perfectly. In fact, if she hadn’t heard Mac, as the girls called Martha, tearing a stip off her adopted daughter, she’d have broken her own rule about not interfering in the kids’ friendships, and stormed into the war of words herself, blazing with fury when Hayley snootily told Cassie, who was wearing boots, she would trail muddy footprints all over the luxury carpet and that she not only sounded like a clod-hopping horse but looked like one too.

From the moment she had come to live with them, and unlike easygoing Will and Nick, Hayley had treated their staff and the employees of George’s company, in fact anyone who lacked money, as second-class citizens. It brought back unhappy memories of Julie’s own childhood, when better-off kids laughed because Mrs Fleetwood was often to be seen rummaging through clothes at charity shops or buying groceries in cheapo store Pennywisebuys (there were persistent rumours in the schoolyard that the supermarket put chopped rat in their meat and dead ants in their bags of currants) and who couldn’t seem to grasp that because her mother was a full-time carer for her disabled husband there was very little money left for treats for Julie and her autistic brother.

“I didn’t want it to be a sad occasion,” she added hopefully, the early years of unacceptance occasionally tainting the self-assurance that had come with age and wealth.

Hayley said nothing but only held Will’s hand tighter.

“The Smith Family Never Forgotten - The Smith Family A New Beginning.” As the eldest, Will had been tasked with opening The Memory Window, as Julie had named the impromptu service, and he read with a solemnity befitting the occasion. Then George lifted the box of rose petals his wife had brought and each took a handful from the box and scattered them down on the grass while Julie recited the Mary Frye poem as they watched the petals scatter through the light morning breeze and over the verdant land.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,

I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,

I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain,

I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,

I am in the graceful rush

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,

I am the starshine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,

I am in a quiet room.

I am in the birds that sing,

I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,

I am not there. I did not die.

A burst of birdsong broke the air, bringing the pretty little ceremony to its natural close, and Will’s gaze fell mischievously on the long disused restaurant.

“You guys hear this place is haunted?” He remarked innocently.

Once reached by winding steps at the end of the harbour and hugely popular, the restaurant had closed down some forty years earlier, when it was discovered that the late eighteenth-century building, originally an exceptionally large glass summerhouse and part of the vast Hartwell estate, stood on water-logged land. Empty and abandoned now, even the most cynical say there is something unnerving about the way the whispering trees of Whitelady Woods cast wavering shadows on its broken, silent windows and some claim it even holds an air of watching and waiting.

Over two centuries, there have been many sightings of what is believed to be the ghost of nineteen-year-old Lady Eleanor Hartwell, the White Lady, after whom Whitelady Woods takes its name, and who, jilted on her wedding day, drowned herself at this picturesque beauty spot in 1780. A superstition that her sighting foretells death has grown around her, one of the most widely quoted stories of more modern times being Hallowe’en night 1974, when three police officers, called out to investigate a suspected arson attack, followed what they thought to be a teenage girl in costume for several minutes only for her to disappear into a wall! One of the officers would later die in a holiday skiing accident and, only weeks after the sighting, his two fellow officers were involved in quelling a prison riot in Melbourne, one being shot dead and his colleague sustaining fatal injuries. Ghosts and Legends of Summer Bay points out however that the skiing accident took place eight yearslater and suggests the myth may have its origins in the fact that two days after Lady Eleanor’s suicide the church roof collapsed in the nearby village of Rushton (no longer in existence) tragically killing nine of the congregation, the hill upon which the church stood overlooking the river where Lady Eleanor drowned. (A separate chapter deals with reported paranormal events in this area.)

Whatever the truth of the matter, Will, as usual, only had hold of half a story but that still didn’t stop him telling it.

“Yep, it’s true!” He continued, now that he had everyone’s attention. “A grey lady comes out of the river, gnashing her teeth and wringing her hands (Will supplied the actions) and goes into the restaurant.”

“Hungry,” Nick commented, nodding his head knowledgeably. It wasn’t a particularly funny remark but Nick, a born entertainer, delivered it with perfect comedy timing and George roared with laughter.

“That’s nonsense, Will!” Julie frowned, feeling it somehow tainted the memory of their biological parents to discuss ghosts and hauntings immediately after a celebration of their lives. And the talk moved on to other things, the clouds sailed on by, the grass quivered in the quiet breeze, the fleeting conversation soon forgotten.

But not by Hayley. She stood a few moments longer than the rest, oh, such a short while so they’d never know, pretended to fix her hair and so convincingly that Julie and George exchanged amused but exasperated glances, silently asking each other if their conceited daughter would ever tire of gazing at her own reflection and preening herself.

Hayley swept back her hair to give herself time to hide silent tears and shivered as she looked down into the swirling sunlit river where her reflection swayed like an ethereal ghost, where Lady Eleanor had drowned so long ago. One day she’d see them, wouldn’t she? One day he real Mum and Dad would come back. And she wouldn’t be on her own anymore.

She’d made her brothers promise they would never tell anyone in Summer Bay that the three of them were adopted and she trusted Will implicitly but she wasn’t so sure about Nick. He wouldn’t tell anyone deliberately of course, but Nick loved to talk and his tongue often ran away with him. Fortunately he’d always wanted to go on stage and there was an exclusive private school in Yabbie Creek that specialized in drama (its most famous student, Oscar winning Hollywood actress Roxanne Barber, had graduated from there) which took pupils from aged eight and which had agreed to enrol him. Without Nick being around in Summer Bay too much to blurt out her secret, she might fit in at Summer Bay High. She was beautiful, all she had to make people care about her, but if they thought she had been born into wealth too, maybe...

Maybe somebody else in the whole wide world besides Will would love her like her real Mum and Dad used to.

Oh, sure, Nick did in his own way, but Nick was just a little kid. He was too young to even remember their real parents; to Nick, they were almost fairytale characters that he’d heard of but didn’t believe in anymore. No, there was only Will to share the precious memories, only Will who understood how much they’d loved them. But, like Nick, Will had his own friends. Hayley had her looks and that made people admire her but looks weren’t enough to make them like her. If they thought she had been born into this vast wealth though, had always had cooks and maids and Daddy’s employees to lord it over, she’d have friends too. Wouldn’t she? And then she wouldn’t feel as Lady Eleanor must feel if her ghost really did haunt Summer Bay.

Aching with loneliness, always, always, always on the outside looking in.


Gypsy dug her heel into the ground once more, feeling a grim satisfaction surge through her as she trampled mud and grass over the brass plaque that commemorated the Smith family.

“Wuss!” she grinned up at Kit, who had backed off after a cursory kick or two, more in a show of solidarity against the common enemy aka Hayley Smith, than in revenge.

Kit only shrugged and nestled against Noah. She could afford to be generous tonight, warm and secure as she was in his love. But Hayley had bagged her out heaps of times over her alcohol addiction even though Kit never touched a drop these days. She was all for her friend taking payback.

What Hayley had done, putting a secretly-taken blown-up photograph of Gypsy naked, with the word “Slut” written across in lipstick, up on the wall of Summer Bay High for all to see, Gypsy would never forgive her for. Fortunately she, Jack, Noah and Kit had discovered it before school opened on Monday and Gypsy had ripped the picture to snowflake-sized shreds. She was well aware of the message it sent. You're garbo, Gypsy Nash, you always will be.

Gypsy kicked the plaque again, so hard it hurt, but she hardly noticed. She had always known she’d been adopted by Joel and Natalie Nash, but she had imagined caring, loving parents who had simply been too poor to keep her and who she’d hoped to trace when she was older. But her hitherto tranquil, happy world had been turned upside-down and a storm unleashed inside her at eleven years old that terrible day at Summer Bay High a classmate had told her the truth. When last year her older brother Tom left for Uni and the Nashes moved to Yabbie Creek, Gypsy had insisted on being allowed to stay with Irene Roberts in Summer Bay and Natalie and Joel Nash, by now tearing their hair out at how best to deal with their wild daughter and relieved that Irene was willing to take on the challenge, agreed.

Gypsy’s tragic background, that she’d been abandoned as a baby and left, trussed and naked, on top of jagged cliffs in a searing sun, where she would have surely died if she hadn’t been found by chance by three small boys cutting school, was no secret at Summer Bay High nowadays - Jodie Beamish’s Mum had worked at the hospital where Gypsy had been taken to and Jodie Beamish had blabbed long ago - but it was considered taboo to mention it. But not by Hayley apparently. Nothing was too low for bitchy Hayley Smith to stoop to, was it?

She gritted her teeth and viciously attacked the plaque once more, the harrowing pain of never knowing who she was, of who left her to die and why, at the cruelty done to her at so tender an age, far beyond words or understanding.

Jack caught hold of her elbow. “Gyps. Don’t do that to Hayley. Please?”

“Why not?” Gypsy demanded, with a toss of her fiery red hair. “I destroy everything, don’t I? Ask anyone. They’ll tell you Gypsy Nash destroys everything and everyone she touches. And Miss Piranha deserves everything she gets!”

He was about to reply because she was vandalising someone’s property. But he found himself saying something strange instead. Words that popped into his head from nowhere. “Because it’s not in your eyes.”

She gave a small smile. “And what exactly does that mean, Holden?”

“I don’t know,” he answered truthfully.

“I guess it’d hurt Will and Nick too,” she said, sobering suddenly, and in a quiet, pensive tone so unlike her usual über-confident self. “And their olds. They don’t deserve to get hurt. Only Hayley.”

“Nobody in life deserves to get hurt. They just do,” Jack observed sadly, lost in his own thoughts. His mother had walked out on his father when Jack and his younger brother were small children and had never made contact with any of them again. So Jack did the same to chicks. Love ‘em and leave ‘em Holden, they called him. But tonight at Hayley’s party things had changed. Jack had always slept with every chick he could and Gypsy had always slept with every guy she could, yet some deep emotion of the night had reached out and touched them, drawing them together like magnets to find a companion in each other. They had even made a pact that would have been alien to them not so long ago: to take things slowly, simply, friends instead of lovers.

“You know, it’s weird how all four of us came from dysfunctional families,” Jack continued. “Sorry, Gyps, I didn’t mean to...” He looked up in sudden guilty realisation.

“S’okay,” she said, as his voice trailed off. His arms were around her waist, Gypsy somehow having fallen backwards into them as though it were the most natural thing in the world, and she reached up and stroked his face, the gentle, caring Gypsy rarely seen, the Gypsy Will Smith loved, to reassure she wasn’t offended. “Anyway, I’m living with Irene Roberts instead of my olds and my bro so I guess I’m still hanging dysfunctionally on in there!”

“Summer Bay seems to haves heaps of dysfunctional families,” Kit observed wryly. “It’s like soon as people set foot here, marriages break down, couples split up, affairs happen. You guys ever read about Lady Eleanor’s curse in Ghosts and Legends of Summer Bay? Maybe we should contact the publishers and tell them there’s a curse here too on falling in love!”

“I hope you’re joking!” Noah said with mock severity.

“‘Course I am!” She looked up at him, eyes twinkling, dimples dancing, mouth twitching at the corners. “Shall we tell them, Noah? I’m dying to!”

Noah kissed her, grinning. “I guess we should. We were going to tell our dysfunctional families first, but you guys are good friends.” He glanced at Gypsy and Jack before turning back to Kit, waiting for her to speak, his eyes shining with so much love that Gypsy felt a harrowing pang of envy shoot through her body.

Kit licked her lips, savouring the moment, the splashing of the night-time river echoing through the waiting silence of the night. “We’re getting engaged!” She announced breathlessly.

The aching emptiness swept through Gypsy again, but, an excellent actress, she squealed with delight, hugging and kissing everyone, as excited as a child.

“Congrats, Kit! Half your luck, mate!” Jack kissed Kit on the cheek and pumped Noah’s arm.

“Thanks. I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” Noah said, laughing as Gypsy twirled Kit round and into the barn dance from Summer Bay High’s last end-of-term musical comedy, and which had become a short-lived craze in the school last year whenever anyone had good news.

Perhaps the elderly elm, a grand old man being the first tree as he was of Whitelady Woods and bearer of many sweethearts’ initials over the years, objected to all this attention apparently being bestowed upon the young upstart cherry tree, for he took advantage of a gust of wind from the river to shake the accumulated raindrops from his mighty branches, drenching the four friends.

“Damn, not a Baystormer boomerang!” Noah mistakenly attributed the soaking to the rare phenomenon when a Baystormer, blown by the wind, would double back on itself, as they hurriedly raced up the chipped stone steps to make for the wide porch of the abandoned restaurant, its brickwork ivy-covered, its fancy tile-work cracked and its windows broken, but a welcome shelter for all that.

But another already sat atop the steps, the heavy oak door banging at regular intervals behind her, where she had remained ever since her conversation with Kim Hyde.

“Megsy!” Gypsy cried in delight.

Megan Ashcroft smiled and put back in place the wide-brimmed hat that Gypsy had tilted with her drunken, enthusiastic hug. Megan was a loner, receiving the gilt-edged invite to Hayley’s party by virtue of her renowned psychic abilities and being an accomplished artist. But Megan was also self-sufficient, needing no-one but her one true love, Tony Lombardi, a gifted musician who was temporarily away at a music academy. She managed to never became involved in the gossip or petty squabbles of Summer Bay High and yet managed to be loved by all. Even Hayley had never knowingly said a bad word about her.

“Congratulations, Kit. Congratulations, Noah.” Megan leaned forward to kiss each on both cheeks, a Continental habit she had picked up from her half-Italian boyfriend, her beautiful and unusual eyes, one green, one brown, sparkling with joy. “You all shouted it loud enough.” She answered the unspoken question in Gypsy’s expression. “Loved the firework show earlier, Jack!”

“Awesome outfit, Megs!” Gypsy grinned as, without malice, she looked her classmate up and down.

Megan’s style was unique. She had teamed the hat with a green, high-necked, puff-sleeved blouse, a long, green necklace, several cheap, chunky bracelets and baggy black trousers, all purchased from her favourite second-hand clothes shop in Settlers’ Point, as many of Megan’s fashionable items were.

“Oh, I dunno. Looks like I’ve got serious competition,” Megan replied, accepting the words as they were intended, in good humour, and taking in Gypsy’s own apparel, the generally ripped and mud-spattered wedding dress, veil and gloves that she’d borrowed from Summer Bay High’s props department to frighten Hayley with her Lady Eleanor’s ghost impersonation, Megan diplomatically choosing not to reveal to her companions that she had actually seen Lady Eleanor’s ghost, the foreteller of death, this very night.

Megan’s grandmother, from whom she had inherited the gift of second sight, had told her that messages would often come unexpectedly and this fact was borne out now. A picture flashed suddenly and with startling clarity into Megan’s mind as an overwhelming sadness enveloped her in its arms. A dark, moonless night, a black river, a weeping bride. The bride turns and lifts her veil.

The face is Gypsy’s.

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep © Mary Frye

Ghosts and Legends of Summer Bay © I love music :P

AUTHOR’S NOTE: For anyone wishing to refresh their memory, Gypsy’s story Chapter 26 “Tramps and Thieves” can be found in this thread posted April 13 2008 and also on fanfiction.net.

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  • 1 month later...

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Sorry for the delay in updating, busy, busy, busy... :P

Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, spoilt rich girl Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be the party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that...

Kim didn't yell. If anything, he was strangely calm. Frighteningly calm, Will thought, considering the identity of the person he'd just pulled out of the water. Maybe it was because, as an expert swimmer and volunteer lifeguard, he had regular first aid courses and had practised CPR a thousand times before.

The man's eyes flickered open briefly before fluttering closed again. Long enough to recognise who held his life in his hands. Long enough for Kim to decide in that moment whether or not he hated his father enough to take a fitting revenge for his mother's death... (Chapter 38: Fireworks)


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

If only this terrible moment could be only a dream. If only he could close his eyes for just a moment and feel safe and secure and four years old all over again...

Daddy was crying!

He could never remember seeing Daddy cry before. Daddy was big and strong and only last week had climbed to the roof on a high ladder to rescue the cat Kim had spotted stuck there. He didn’t even cry when the frightened cat scratched him, but only scooped her to his chest and carried her back down very, very carefully and talked to her gently so she wouldn’t be so afraid.

And it worked. She lapped up the milk they gave her though she would only drink it if they didn’t come too near, but afterwards she even allowed Daddy to get close enough to read her collar so that they could phone her owner. The lady who came to collect her was crying with happiness as was her little girl - and Kim cried too but only because he was sad to have Misty leave. Oh, but not Daddy! Daddy was very calm. He NEVER cried. In fact, he never got too sad and he never got too happy about anything, Kim thought, almost as if he’d decided to fold being too happy and too sad into a big envelope that he’d posted off someplace where nobody would ever be able to find it again.

So to see Daddy crying...well.

But there he was, his strong shoulders heaving with sobs, holding the photo of Mummy and Jonathan, the big brother Kim never knew, because, like Daddy had told him, he’d gone to Heaven to be with Mummy. Kim stood in the door-frame, shocked and scared, all thoughts of asking for a top-up of the juice beaker, demanding another few pages of the bedtime story and chancing his luck by asking for a chocolate biscuit, taking advantage of the fact Daddy had been very worried about him today, flying from his mind.

It was the day they had gone swimming, like they’d done heaps of times before, but things had been different because Daddy had broken his ankle and couldn’t drive. So as not to disappoint Kim, they’d taken a cab to the swimming baths instead but it was the first time hadn’t gotten into the pool with him.

It was also the day Kim decided, with the supreme confidence of a four-year-old, that he was going to run down to the deep end, jump in and amaze everyone by swimming like a fish. The running down to the deep end was easily achievable but the little boy hadn’t bargained on what happened next and he gulped mouthfuls of water as he sank to the bottom of the pool, his arms and legs flailing in absolute terror. Almost immediately he was rescued by a lifeguard and he noticed some people who saw the rescue, other parents who’d brought their kids swimming too, cried a little with relief. But Daddy didn’t cry. Daddy never did. Until now.

Kim took two small paces into the room, hesitated for a fraction of a second, overwhelmed by his father’s emotion, and then ran to climb up on the couch beside him, staring in alarm at the tears glistening on his face. Then something special happened. Daddy put his arm round Kim’s shoulders and said he’d been so very, very scared he was going to lose Kim the same way he’d lost Mummy and Jonathan.

“But I didn’t get lost, Daddy,” Kim said, his blue eyes wide as he shook his head earnestly, keen to reassure. “I came downstairs and I got here. Did Mummy and Jonathan get out of Heaven? Should we could go look for them and put them back in?” His father owned a snow-globe that showed two penguins walking through swirling snowflakes and for reasons best known to himself four-year-old Kim imagined Heaven to be a place in the sky where snow-globes floated through the clouds.

Daddy gave a throaty laugh. “No, they’ll be right,” he said sniffily, ruffling his hair and kissing the top of his curly blond head as he cuddled Kim close. “You know something, Kimmy? What happened today will never happen again. You’re going to be the best swimmer in the world. And we won’t cry anymore.”

His words were to prove strangely prophetic because neither of them ever did. Oh, there were odd times, it has to be admitted, such as when Kim’s pet guinea pig died. Kim shed a few tears then, but Barry said weeping was for women and Kim told himself it was unmanly and bit back the tears. He wanted to be just like his father and his father was way too brave for tears. No, oddly enough, neither of them ever did cry again.

Except inside.


“Kim! Kim, please!”

Never had a voice sounded more desolate. Never had a wild wind mocked more cruelly, spinning his son’s name back at him like a banshee wail through the solitude of thick black night. An eerie, wispy mist had been curling around the man’s ankles for some time and it was hard to tell now where the earth ended and the river began. He had no idea of where he was or where he was going. Hell, perhaps. Didn’t the catholic church say that was where murderers were doomed to spend their eternity? Not that he’d believed in God for a long, long time. The last time he’d set foot inside a church had been for Jonathan’s funeral. There had been no funeral for his wife Kerry. His wife Kerry had been buried on a remote hillside by her killer to cover his crime.

He had told no one his secret until tonight, clinging to the only love he had left, the love of his son. But tonight he’d finally admitted to Kim what he’d done...

For a brief moment the mask of scorn slipped as a wave of pity washed over his face and a sob caught in his throat. "I could've understood if you'd turned yourself in, if you'd had an ounce of remorse. Because you know what really galls me?" His voice turned harsh again. "How you dug her grave and left her there. How in all these years you never tried to put anything right. You're a murderer and a coward. Isn't THAT the truth, Dad?"

Despite being brought up as Catholics, neither Barry Hyde he nor his fiancee Kerry Mitchell practised their religion, but they dutifully attended Mass at Kerry’s local church for the required three weeks prior to their wedding for the banns to be read. They had been childhood sweethearts and it was no surprise when they eventually named the date. Everyone said it was meant to be, it was a perfect match. And the weeks leading up to the big day brought perfect weather too: rain fell softly in the quiet rhythm of the night while the days inevitably brought blue, cloudless skies, benevolent golden sunshine and gentle, refreshing breezes sailing dreamily through the lazy, hazy heat.

But that morning everything changed.

Surprised that he hadn’t been woken by the usual birdsong, Barry slid open the thick curtains of his comfortable but cluttered flat. Ever since taking up a teaching post here, he had rented the large top floor apartment with its sloping ceilings and clanking pipes, partly because it was conveniently close to the school where he taught yet only a four-hour drive from his hometown, where Kerry still lived with her widowed mother, but also because it held breathtaking views of the rolling countryside. Watching the ever-changing seasons never failed to restore his dwindling faith that the world must surely have been created by some intelligence and not by accident as his logical mind tried to persuade his heart, and he would often pull up the sash to let in the pure morning air, drinking in the beauty and drama of nature with an artist’s eye, for Barry Hyde liked to relax by painting watercolours and fairly good ones at that. But only Kerry and his sister Lorraine knew of his flair for art. Like his own father before him, Barry shied away from anything “unmanly”, and the artist’s brushes and easels were hidden away in a cupboard, as, sadly, too were many of his pictures.

He reached automatically for the camera that he sometimes used to capture moments he would paint at some later date, planning to one day paint a picture of the wedding morning as a surprise gift for Kerry, and expecting the usual bright sunlight to rush in and greet him. But today there was no sunshine. In its place a dull rain fell against the window and so half-heartedly that after a few moments it gave up falling. An oppressive hush descended. No breeze ever came to playfully shake the tree branches or stir so much as a single blade of grass. The humid day, already hot and uncomfortable even at that early hour, stared dismally back at him, its heavy blanket of cloud obliterating the sky.

The wedding was quiet even by small town standards. Bride and groom had few relatives. For Barry, whose parents and younger sister Emma had died some years ago, there was his sister, Lorraine, and her husband, David, and for Kerry, there was only her mother. Until as recently as two weeks ago, there had been one other Mitchell relative, a spinster great-aunt, who had been a glamorous beauty back in the day, with so many suitors that she hadn’t settled down with any. Millvina Mitchell had packed several lifetimes into her youth: flying aeroplanes during the war, being a member of a travelling amateur dance troupe and playing a chorus girl in two silent movies, but she had passed away in her private nursing home, the wedding outfit the carers helped her choose still hanging in its wardrobe in crinkly cellophane, almost as if she’d heard the wedding would be far too low-key for someone of her ilk her to wait for.

The pews of the church were sparse and peopled with colleagues from the school where Barry taught and a handful of well wishers. Barry would happily have invited too every child in his school and their parents but Kerry balked at “too much attention” and, guilty that he’d talked her into a white wedding in the first place, as soon as they’d learnt she was pregnant and albeit with the best of intentions believing a white wedding to be every girl’s dream, he didn’t press her.

Barry had a great many acquaintances while Kerry had very few, but neither had anyone they could truly call a friend.

Kerry rarely met anyone. Although she was extremely clever and had gained a first class honours degree, she was still painfully shy and never put her qualifications to any use, instead staying at home to look after her arthritic mother. And, while his students didn’t realise it, Barry Hyde truly lived up to the nickname they’d given him of Dr Jekyll. Outwardly loud and confident, often brusque and acid-tongued, he was in reality a sensitive, gentle man and while he gave the impression that he didn’t need anyone he often wished he could laugh and chat as easily as others did. And so Barry’s brother-in-law David was best man and the elderly neighbour, who’d lived next door to Kerry’s mother since before Kerry was born, gave her away, with his eight-year-old twin grand-daughters bridesmaids.

After the wedding the couple moved to the large detached house that they’d been saving for, with its specially built “granny flat” for Mrs Mitchell, only for tragedy to strike weeks later, when Lucy Mitchell passed away suddenly after a short illness.

But there was the baby to think of now and, because it had to, after they’d grieved life went on as it had before. Kerry had no interest in pursuing a career, preferring to be a homemaker, and, thanks to Barry dabbling in stocks and shares, they could afford to live on one salary. Sometimes he would suggest going out to dinner or the theatre but she inevitably found excuses not to and, apart from the garden, there were whole days when she never left the house at all. She baked, gardened, watched TV or read and instead of going out they rented out movies and ordered takeaways, both closing their eyes to the sneaking suspicion that perhaps Kerry’s problems ran far deeper.

When she first took to wearing sunglasses and large sunhat no matter what the weather, believing everyone to be "staring at how fat she was" whenever she did venture outdoors,, whether it was to collect letters from the mailbox at the end of the front path or for her regular ante-natal check-ups, he teased her in amusement but she wept so heartbrokenly that he never did again. No doubt, Barry thought, his wife was over-emotional due to her hormones. He loved her as deeply as he had done when they were childhood sweethearts and was prepared to walk on eggshells around her.

Until the terrible day he found her trying to drown their baby son Kim in exactly the same way he’d long suspected she’d murdered their firstborn. But even so she didn’t deserve to be killed. Like Kim had said when he was old enough to be told the truth, he could have got her help before it happened. He could have stopped.

He looked down at his trembling hands as he shook with sobs, remembering his red-hot fury, the feeling of cuddling his warm, soft baby son in the crook of his left elbow, the feeling of tightening his wife’s dark, frizzy hair around his fingers as, even with the infant’s screams ringing in his ears, his right hand pushed her down into the bathwater. He could still remember exactly where the spots of blood that had splashed from her had stained him.

Stained his murderer’s soul.

A movement, almost imperceptible, caused him to glance up sharply. A luminous white light shone tremulously in the distance and suddenly out of the fog of darkness a small, thin young woman in a wedding dress appeared.

“Kerry?” He whispered in disbelief, and the night, she caught the whisper and echoed it through the trees like a memory lost.

She was wearing her wedding dress. She told him, her face bright with joy as she held their son's tiny, lifeless body wrapped in silk christening gown, that they had worn white for Jesus. She told him they must give thanks, Jonathan's spirit had flown with the angels to a far better place than this cruel, cruel world. And after he'd tried in vain over and over to breathe life into the infant, sobbing as they waited for the paramedics who would be able to do nothing more, he held her fragile body close to his strong chest and said he believed in her. Because he knew the truth would have been too terrible to bear.

She was wearing the bridal dress again when he found her trying to drown their secondborn son. It was the dress she was buried in.

Still soaking wet from where he'd pushed her down into the lukewarm bathwater, its lacy sleeves and bodice spattered with dozens of tiny spots of blood and fluttering in pale moonlight as he threw the midnight soil of centuries over her corpse, her drenched, dark curls strewn across her face, her wide brown eyes staring accusingly up at him.

The vision glided soundlessly on, the bridal veil covering her face, her head cast down, her hands clasped demurely together, the bridal train sweeping behind her, as she made her way towards the river.

He raced desperately after her, to where she’d paused by the riverbank, stretched out his arm to touch her shoulder. “Kerry, forgive me, please! I never meant for you to die.”

But at his touch the shimmering apparition had melted into nothingness and his hand was left grasping empty air as his foot slipped dangerously near the edge of the river and plunged him into the icy water.


I’ll never fall in love again.

Barry Hyde had pledged these words to the silently watching stars the night he buried his wife, knowing, after what he’d done, he wasn’t worthy of love anymore. And as time passed by, often he woke with tears stinging his eyes and the promise on his lips. It came in dreams, it came in shadows, it came in the lonely hush of night and in the bustling haste of day.

But he didn’t understand why it should come into his head the moment he met Irene Roberts.

Irene Roberts was a stunningly attractive redhead, but it was hatred at first sight. Both beeped their horns impatiently as they made for the same parking space, each mistakenly believing the other to be an imposter using Summer Bay High’s parking lot under the false pretence that they worked there. No sooner had they emphatically slammed shut their respective car doors than they crossed swords a second time.

Principal Hyde hauled over the coals the young couple blatantly pashing in the car park and Irene Roberts (their introductions had been angrily yelled at each other over their car roofs to justify their right to park “I am Irene Roberts, school secretary!” “I am Barry Hyde, school principal!”) hotly defended the young couple’s actions as harmless and demanded to know had he never been young or in love himself?

Barry turned abruptly on his heel without deigning to reply. He could still feel her glare burning into his back as he fisted the car keys and strode purposefully towards Summer Bay High with the air and confidence of one accustomed to being obeyed. As indeed he was.

Well known and well respected in the field of education, widower Barry Hyde had acted as spokesperson and negotiator with the minister of education on a number of occasions and, though he didn’t teach full time nowadays, he was highly sought after to fill temporary senior posts in Australian schools and colleges, which meant he and his son Kim travelled round a great deal. The little coastal town of Summer Bay, where he had been appointed principal of Summer Bay High while its regular principal Donald Fisher was on a twelve-month vacation visiting family in the USA, was their latest home and he intended to set ground rules at the school from day one.

The two students kissing and cuddling almost on the steps of Summer Bay High had been left in no doubt that if they or anyone else didn’t keep their passions outside school hours they would find themselves immediately suspended. He could sense Kim’s embarrassment as his son shuffled beside him, walking with the same quick step as his father but in Kim’s case it was to escape the stares rather than because he imagined being principal’s son carried any weight. As usual, his head was down and his hands were shoved in his pockets.

“For goodness sake, Kim, walk like a man!” Barry snapped, and Kim’s head automatically jerked upwards as he flushed an even deeper red than before.

Irene, who, with a flourish to match Barry’s self-importance had locked her own car, a scratched and dented green mini dwarfed by Principal Hyde’s gleaming silver Mercedes parked alongside it, marched with equal purpose at the opposite side of the wide path towards the school and reached the entrance a minute or two after father and son. She smiled in conspiratorial sympathy with Kim, who smiled shyly back as he politely held open the door, still blushing furiously at what was, by default, his first impression on his fellow students. Kim had inherited his mother Kerry’s painful shyness and his father’s dismissive manner when dealing with his peers never endeared him to would-be friends.

“Good God!” Barry exclaimed, coming to a dead halt before the main notice board.

“Is there another problem, Principal Hyde?” Irene demanded, as she followed him inside.

Barry stared in astonishment at the handiwork. A banner bearing the message “Better to have Loved and Lost than Never to have Loved at All” adorned the top of the board and below were clustered dozens and dozens of random objects: knots of pressed flowers, small teddy bears, badges; pink ribbons; a gold Buddha key-ring; a pretty silver chain and pendant of crescent moon and star...Bristling with fury at the obviously misguided art project, he turned round to the most troublesome woman he’d ever met and was likely to meet in his entire life.

“Indeed there is! School notice-boards are there for a specific purpose: to give out information to students. As school secretary, I would have expected you to ensure...” He broke off, reading Irene’s expression. “Mrs Roberts, judging by your defence of the young couple we encountered earlier and your reaction to this...this gaudy tribute to teenage angst, am I right in assuming you actually condone this wanton act of vandalism?”

Few people, if any, challenged Barry Hyde’s authority but Irene Roberts met his steely gaze without flinching and spoke in the same patronizing manner. “Mr Hyde, I am proud to say I do.”

He drew breath, about to put this stupidly stubborn woman straight on school protocol, but she silently indicated something else on the board that he hadn’t seen before - and which Barry read now in suitably chastised silence.

Almost smothered by the gifts a heart-shaped, hand-made card read, “RIP, Lydia” and underneath was a small school snapshot of a gap-toothed girl squinting at the sunlight hitting the camera, her straw-coloured hair tied in two blonde, green-ribboned bunches, her smile full of mischief, and who looked far too young to have left her mother’s side let alone this earth.

“Lydia Connolly was a first year student here,” Irene explained quietly. “Her death wasn’t totally unexpected. She suffered from a rare illness and it was unlikely she would live into adulthood. But she had made friends in the short time she was here and the kids wanted to pay their respects in the best way they knew how. Flat...” (Irene coughed, narrowly stopping herself from using the students' nickname for Donald Fisher of Flathead; Barry Hyde's strait-laced attitude made her want to behave like a defiant teenager) “Don Fisher gave them permission to use the notice-board.” She swept her hand over a palm cross and picture of Jesus taped at the bottom. “As Principal Fisher will no doubt have informed you, we don’t push religion down anyone’s throats here. We feel they’re at an age to make up their own minds and each and every student’s view is respected, whether that belief is Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, even Pink bloody Unicorn.”

“I’m sorry.” Barry spoke hoarsely, burning with shame at the faux pas. “I wrongly assumed the display to be an art project and tribute to...to teen romance.”

But Irene Roberts didn’t suffer fools gladly and she had no intention of letting the most arrogant man she had ever known off with a mere caution. She launched into one of the verbal attacks she was famed for. “Your trouble is, matey, you assume far too much. For Gawd’s sakes, you pompous jackass, if you took off the blinkers and climbed down from that bloody high horse once in a while you might actually see what’s going on around you!”

Barry’s initial shame quickly returned to vehement fury.

“Mrs Roberts, if you wish to keep your job here at Summer Bay High, I suggest you remember I am principal with the power to hire and fire.”

“Mr Hyde, may I remind you that this is my last week here as school secretary.” Unblinking and undaunted, Irene spoke in the same patronizing manner. “If you’d read your paperwork more thoroughly instead of poking that big nose into other matters, you’d be aware that I’m taking over the running of the Summer Bay Diner and that Don Fisher has already arranged for Mrs Andrea Wakefield, a lady with several years’ secretarial experience, to start here next Monday. In the meantime, perhaps we can at least pretend to be civil to each other!”

“Fine!” Barry said tersely.

They had reached the principal’s office (close to the main notice-board and fortunately easily identifiable by its brass nameplate as Barry had not asked for directions and Irene had not supplied any) where he pulled a small card from his wallet and following its instructions slowly punched in the security code to successfully gain access to the room, where he crashed into his seat and banged his briefcase down on the impressive mahogany desk.

“Fine!” Irene yelled angrily back, as she, from memory, deftly tapped in the numbers to uncode the security lock on the adjacent door marked Secretary before disappearing inside.

“Um...This fell on the floor with the other stuff.” Still stunned by the fiery exchange, Kim spoke almost in a whisper as he picked up the paperwork that had been blown off the desk by the draught from the doors, singling out a long white envelope marked “For the Urgent Attention of Principal Barry Hyde”.

“Thank you, Kim.” Barry spoke composedly as he accepted the letter, but his hands were shaking.

“Dad...? Are you okay...?” His son grinned, with sudden tongue-in-cheek concern.

“Perfectly well, thank you.” Barry Hyde said as he snapped open his laptop, fervently hoping he hadn’t broken it, and looked vaguely around for a socket. “Why on earth wouldn’t I be?”

“Uh...no reason, I guess," Kim shrugged.

He chose to pass no comment on the fact that a nervous tic had appeared in his father’s cheek and his face was colouring up a flaming red as though a furnace had suddenly fired up in the office. But he couldn’t help his mouth twitching at the corners. He had seen this reaction before and each time, he noticed, it had been when his father had dealings with a woman he obviously found attractive. Kim put some of it down to Dad wanting to stay true to Mum’s memory (he had heard him on two separate occasions turn down dates) but most of it down to bashfulness. Bashfulness was something Kim knew all about and he never loved his father more than he did in these rare moments when Barry Hyde showed a touching vulnerability that cut right through that cold reserve and made him human.

Awaiting the timetable that would guide him through his first day at Summer Bay High and the reason he had come with his father into the principal’s office, his son pulled up a chair, leaned lazily back and folded his arms, a picture of relaxation, to observe Barry’s discomfiture with a teasing smile.

Barry sighed. “Kim, I would really appreciate it if you could stop grinning at me like a village idiot!”

“Right,” Kim said, smiling more broadly than ever before, his eyes dancing in merriment.


But Barry Hyde knew when he was defeated and turned his attention instead to slicing open the long white envelope with the dragon-handle letter opener thoughtfully provided. What he read made him suck in a breath and look uncertainly across at the teak door marked Secretary, for there were two entrances to Irene Robert’s inner sanctum, one which students and general visitors to the school could approach to make enquiries at the little window hatch, and the other reached via the principal’s office, where confidential matters pertaining to the school could be discussed in privacy.

Barry tugged at his ear-lobe, loosened his tie, gazed at the light fitting, jingled some coins that had been left in the pen tray. Anything to procrastinate.

Dad normally quashed any romantic liaisons before they began and this was a totally new development. Intrigued, Kim rose from his chair.

“Is everything okay?” He asked, with far more sincerity than he’d enquired earlier, coming round to lay a hand on his shoulder.

“Not quite.” Barry swallowed, and looked down at the handwritten letter once more.

Don Fisher apologised profusely for “Putting him on the spot”. In all the preparations for America and the tragic death of first year student, Lydia Connolly, it had slipped his mind until Irene Roberts, “Summer Bay High's excellent secretary,” reminded him of the appointment. Don had committed himself to attending a charity function in Yabbie Creek (a larger coastal town across the water and regarded by many Summer Bay residents as a sophisticated cosmopolitan city) organised by Yabbie Creek Academy students in aid of HeartBeat.

The ex-principal had also enclosed two tickets and a flyer which explained that the fledgling charity, created to set up schools in African villages, had been launched by students of the Academy, who were hoping to encourage high schools students all across Australia to become involved. To this end, and to raise funds, they were cooking a jokey “romantic school dinner” to which they had invited heads of various schools and their partners, where couples would sit at tables decorated with hearts and flowers and be serenaded by romantic songs while sampling such delights as lumpy mashed potato, burnt snags and frogspawn (ie tapioca pudding) - fortunately, the students promised, washed down with “Excellent wines and beers to make up for the lack of decent food”.

"As I am not in a relationship at the moment, Mrs Roberts had kindly agreed to accompany me and says she will quite happily acoompany my replacement should you find yourself in the same predicament,” Don Fisher finished. “I can only apologize once again for such short notice and hope the fact that this event is tonight doesn't cause too many problems.”

Barry silently passed the letter and its contents for his son to read.

“Wow!” was Kim’s response after skimming over the two pages, a large grin spreading over his face again.

“Wow indeed.”

Barry could tell by his tone that Kim found the whole situation highly amusing. But, gathering all his courage, he took a deep breath, snatched up the tickets, and, feeling like a schoolboy on his first date, tapped politely on the teak door, entering meekly upon the hesitant and strangely emotional Come in! as though the voice had lately needed to steady itself before issuing the invitation.

“Hay fever,” Irene said, shoving something quickly into the desk drawer and plucking a tissue from a box on the desk to blow her nose.

Rain had threatened all morning, but in the short time he’d been gone the sun had peeped in to dance on the walls and catch the red glints of her hair. And the tell-tale teardrops shining in her eyes. Much later she told him it was the anniversary of her family’s death* and the object she had she had hidden in the drawer had been a photograph. Oh, much, much later. On a night when secrets would be shared, when she would tell him of her tragedy and he too would confide in her.

For now it was enough that he whispered, “Mrs Roberts, I’m so, so sorry for the comments I made earlier.”

“Irene,” she whispered back. “And I’m sorry for what I said too.”

“Barry,” he replied.

For now it was enough that the sun danced on the walls and their smiles broke through the silence.



“There’s a faint pulse.” His face soaked with tears, breathless with his vain attempts to restore his father to consciousness, Kim answered his friend’s question without looking up. “ Come on, Dad. You can make it. You’ve got to!” He took another breath and once more began desperately pummelling his chest.

“Look, mate, maybe I should go for help...?” Will suggested uncertainly.

Naturally they had already looked to their mobiles but Kim’s phone had been drenched when he dived into the water and Will had somehow managed to leave his phone in the beautiful Dani’s garage. He never knew if Kim heard him or not, but he made his decision. The grounds of Hartwell Mansion were vast, stretching over several acres, and it would take some time to reach there to phone the emergency services but he knew of a short cut that would take him to the road where he might flag down a car. Will Smith turned in the direction of a huddle of shadowy trees where he, Hayley and Nick, exploring the area when they’d first moved here, had been intrigued to discover an ancient path. They had never followed the winding path to its end; it had been enough to know a road could be seen in the distance and Will trusted in himself to find the way.

His fate was sealed.

*See Chapter 25: Guardian Angels

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This will be the last update for a little while. One reason is, I’m going on holiday in less than 2 weeks so won’t have time to write another chapter before then but the main reason is I’m going to be computerless for some weeks. :( The one I have now keeps shutting down and could give out any time so it’s being donated to a friend who can use its spare parts and I won’t be looking round for another computer till after I get back from hol. -_-

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Yes, finally updated! Thanks for your patience. :)


written by I love music

ideas and suggestions by Skykat

SUMMARY: Strictly no dags, dropkicks or uglies, Hayley Smith decreed. It was to be the party of the year. Nobody could ever guess it would be so much more than that.. .

The Story So Far: Wanting to take revenge on Kane Phillips after he attacks her two closest friends, Martha McKenzie follows him with a knife when he leaves the party but ends up running from him, falling into the sea in her terror. Phillips dives in after her and they are washed up on a deserted ocean island.

“I know what happened with Cassie and Hayley.”

“Cassie and Hayley?” Kane Phillips gave a short laugh, convinced this had to be some kind of joke. Sure, he’d made out with Crazy Cassie but it had been her idea and, sure, he’d given spoilt little rich girl Hayley a scare by pretending he wasn’t going to let her go, but she’d been amusing herself by coming on to him and then turning him down.


“Don't you dare move!”

The clear threat in her voice made him freeze. Waves rolled and crashed in the seconds an eternity passed between them. Her heart beating like a drum, Martha looked down at the knife, unable to believe what she was prepared to do. And, misreading the gesture, he made the big mistake of relaxing.

“Jeez, Mac, you know, for a minute there I really thought...”

His eyes widened and a strange shuddering gurgling emitted from his throat as the ice cold blade plunged into his lower chest and he slumped…

Chapter 36: Dreams


A sharp, aching fear engulfed her like a dark cloud as she realised the enormity of what she’d done.

“Kane, I didn’t mean it. I was scared, I didn’t know…oh, God, Kane, I’m so sorry! Please wake up!”

She knelt by his side, tracing her fingers desperately over the contours of his face. Although she couldn’t shake off the strangest feeling that he was only pretending to be unconscious. But that had to be her imagination, right? She’d plunged the sharp blade of a Swiss army knife into his stomach . Rich, red blood was pouring from the wound, creating a scarlet moonlit pool in the night’s pale gold sand. His eyes were fast shut, his body barely moving. How could anyone fake that? Why would anyone fake that? And yet…

Oblivious of the blood, she lay her head against him and listened again to the quiet beating of his heart, comforted by the rhythm of his chest and the small sound breaking into the lonely silence. She closed her eyes, trying to wish away the nightmare, trying to wish herself back into normality, and her exhausted mind filtered through a jumble of images, the unsolicited dream that swept her away into its world finally settling on the day she had received the invitation to Hayley Smith’s party.

Martha laughed in stunned disbelief as she read the words aloud:

You, Being one of the Beautiful People, are Cordially Invited to Hayley Smith’s Strictly no Dags, Dropkicks or Uglies Party of the Year.

“I know she said she was going to have that written on the invites but I honestly thought she was joking,“ she told Cassie Turner, her best friend. She stopped laughing however as she saw the serious look on Cassie‘s face.

“What’s wrong, Cass?” she asked gently.

Cassie was the same age as Martha - in fact, she was a couple of months older - but she often felt as though Cassie were much younger than herself. They had hit it off from the moment they’d met, when Hayley and her crew had been sniggering at gawky Cassie’s dorky overflowing school bag with its broken strap and her worn, daggy sensible school shoes as she stared in confusion at the school notice-board, running her fingers through her already wildly windswept hair. Martha was still fairly new to Summer Bay High and keen to fit in, but something snapped inside her as she watched poor Cassie shaking nervously, trying to ignore their derogatory remarks, and she had dared go against the crowd to offer her help.

A grateful childlike smile lit up Cassie’s anxious face and shone in her big, scared brown eyes. And that was when Mac realised she’d been fooling herself long enough. Stuff the so-called sophisticated ways of the Beautiful People, as Hayley and her hangers-on liked to refer to themselves! She’d prefer Cassie as a friend to any one of them. There was a refreshing honesty about her, so different from their shallow ways of judging people solely on looks and possessions. Before she came to live in Summer Bay, Martha had been like that too.

Martha “Mac” McKenzie had grown up in the old-fashioned village of Brookdown, and had loved the family atmosphere of the small village school, which boasted only twenty-eight pupils and was run by the kindly, silver-haired Mrs Nevett. The big news of the day would often be Mr and Mrs Greenwood, the elderly owners of the village’s only cake shop, over-baking a batch of buns, or an animal on someone’s farm giving birth, or if there’d been another bumper crop of strawberries or plums and the vicar‘s eccentric wife was making yet more jars of jam, which she regularly donated to Brookdown parishioners - who, already having far more jars of jam than they could eat in several lifetimes, secretly passed them to Brookdown School via Adam Bird, the caretaker, for redistribution to the elderly in distant cities.

Nobody in Brookdown had been particularly interested in celebrities or fashion and, no matter what happened in the world outside, days in the village drifted by in the same sleepy way they had always done. Summer Bay might only have been a seaside town, and not a very big one at that, but to Martha, used to a much slower pace of life, it glittered with the same excitement as New York or Milan or Paris, and Summer Bay High seemed to be the very last word in style. Flattered that wealthy, beautiful Hayley Smith, who was even related to a movie star, had taken her under her wing, Mac had begun to quickly change from a gauche, cowboy-booted country girl to an empty-headed social butterfly.

Meeting Cassie that day had been the reality check she needed, she told herself sternly. Changing her image to a more modern one was all very well, but she had always felt ill at ease with the cruelty and bitching that, at Summer Bay High at any rate, seemed to go hand in hand with it.

To her relief, Hayley didn’t totally cut her out of her exclusive circle when she began spending more time with Cassie and less time with the gang - but nor did she make any secret of the fact she considered Mac one of the Beautiful People and that her friendship with Cassie was holding her back. Mac had furiously bagged Hayley out over it on more than one occasion, especially the time when, thinking Martha had gone to the bathroom, she disdainfully told Cassie she could wait outside in the pouring rain because she didn’t want muddy footprints trailed all over Hartwell Mansion, and that she not only sounded like a clod-hopping horse but strongly resembled one too.

Martha was pretty certain now that Hayley, preying on Cassie’s low self-esteem, had done something spiteful.

Cassie bit her lip. “It’s nothing,” she lied.

But Martha saw the tell-tale glance towards the cluttered dresser in Cassie’s tiny bedroom and she shrewdly picked up Cassie’s own party invitation that her friend had placed face down without comment by a jaunty vase of flowers.

Cassie lived with her grandmother Joy just outside Summer Bay, on a dilapidated smallholding built by Cassie’s great-grandparents back in 1925. Some years ago The Old Farm had kept goats, hens and horses, even geese for a little while, but nowadays the only animal to be seen roaming was Betsy, the Turner’s elderly cat, and Mrs Turner and her granddaughter grew flowers, which they sold to the local market, as well as some fruit and a few vegetables, which they kept for their own use.

Martha was staying with her friend while her guardian Alf Stewart was away on a long pre-retirement vacation and, despite her bedroom being a cramped, converted loft with a narrow skylight for a window, and her wardrobe being a plastic, zip-up contraption, squashed between the put-up bed and wonky shelf that she banged her head on every single time she got out of bed, she was loving every minute of being there.

Her fellow students at Summer Bay High said she was crazy, but Martha thoroughly enjoyed sometimes hitching a lift to school on Mr Roach’s open-to-all-weathers milk float and catching the rickety country bus home later, to face a further half hour walk from the nearest bus stop, which meant, if it was sunny, dodging cow pats and sheep droppings, and, if it was wet, wading their way through deep, treacly mud. It reminded Mac of growing up on the family farm in Brookdown and she had taken to it like a duck to water - literally, for in heavy rain travellers crossing Ha’penny Brook had to hold on extra tight to the ropes that supported its slippery wooden bridge and twice Cassie and Martha, crying with laughter, had fallen into the (fortunately extremely shallow) stream.

They had both hurried out to greet Tommy Cotton when he’d trundled up in a chugging tractor to drop off their mail that Saturday morning. Cassie had told Martha that there had once been a postman and van but since he’d gone to live in the city with his wife and baby no one had replaced him, and so the folk on the surrounding farms had initiated their own haphazard postal service, whereby anyone with transport who happened to be collecting their own mail picked up and delivered their neighbours’ as well.

Mac had been so wrapped up in reading out her own invitation to the party that she’d barely noticed her friend was unusually quiet, but now, before Cassie could stop her, she snatched up the card on the dresser and gasped in shock.

“Oh, Cass! How can she be so mean?”

Felt tip pen had been used to strike several thick black lines through the earlier wording, thoroughly hammering home the message that Cassie was not considered among the elite. Not even worthy of a name, Martha thought angrily.

Knowing Martha wouldn’t come to the party if her daggy friend hadn’t been invited too, which meant if Martha didn’t come some of her own friends might not either (Hayley was well aware, though Mac wasn’t, that she was quickly losing her queen bee status to the hugely popular Martha McKenzie) and, never dreaming that she would ever get to see it because when the invitations were written Martha hadn’t been staying at Cassie‘s, Hayley had simply scrawled C. Turner at the bottom of the invite. The staff at Hartwell Mansion who were under strict instructions to check that each guest had a personal invitation before leaving the party to the Smiths (Hayley had paid them exceptionally well to take the rest of the time off while their foster parents were absent and, with such a hefty sum being offered and considering Will and Hayley old enough to be trusted, they had been happy to oblige) would be left in no doubt that Cassie Turner had only been invited to the party out of pity.

“It doesn’t matter,” Cassie said uncomfortably. “Please, Mac, don‘t say anything. I don’t want to ruin the party for everyone.”

“Well, it isn’t you ruining it,” Martha had begun, when a sudden loud crashing of the ocean startled her abruptly back into wakefulness and the present. She sat up groggily, finding it difficult to shake the heaviness of a deep, faraway sleep from her mind.

Kane Phillips lay grinning at her.

“Hey, babe. Was it good for you too?” he murmured in lazy amusement.

She flushed, ashamed at being caught resting her head on his bare chest like a lover, and confused by her swirling emotions. Relieved he wasn’t dead, wanting to wipe the smug smile off his face - and her heart lurching as she became acutely aware of the beautiful blueness of his eyes. Cassie had said, when she first confided in Mac that she wanted to be Kane Phillips’ girlfriend, that eyes were windows to the soul.

“Don’t you think so, Mac?”

Cassie looked to her companion for approval, feeling a warm glow of happiness envelop her as they strolled together along the beach, their arms linked. She had never had anyone to confide in like this before. Of course there was Gran but Gran was Gran and there were things only a friend her own age would understand. And Cassie had never had a friend before. Well, not since before her parents died when she was only ten-and-a-half years old, too young to appreciate boys and clothes and make-up and all the other things that had begun to replace kids’ games just around the time Uncle Ben had…had…Cassie didn’t want to think about it. One day she’d tell Martha the terrible secret, she would, she would. Mac was the nicest person in the world - well, after Kane Phillips and Gran - but it was going to take heaps of courage to tell anyone what Uncle Ben had done. Cassie didn’t feel ready to take that step just yet.

“Don’t you think eyes are mirrors to the soul?”

“You sound like Megan Ashcroft,” Martha said, trying not to laugh. “And they were windows a minute ago!”

“I like Megan. Isn’t it weird how one of her eyes is brown and the other green? She’s like a gypsy with all her fortune telling, isn’t she?” Cassie remarked chattily. “Talking of gypsies, Mac, I don’t understand why Hayley hates Gypsy Nash so much, do you? I mean, I know she’s a bit of a drama queen but so’s Hales and…”

“Cass!” Martha burst out laughing, unable to hold it back any longer. “Don't you ever pause for breath, you big dork?”

Cassie looked uncertain for a moment. After Uncle Ben and the relentless bullying she’d been subjected to at her previous high schools she still found it hard to trust people and, though she'd never told her, she always half expected stunningly pretty Martha McKenzie to desert her in favour of her much cooler friends. The Beautiful People, as Hayley called them, making it clear that Martha was wasting her time with Cassie Turner, the world’s biggest dag. And secretly Cassie agreed. Why on earth Martha wanted to hang out with someone as dull as herself was a mystery.

“It goes way back,” Martha shrugged, in answer to Cassie’s question. “Something to do with the school show. Jodie Beamish did start telling me the story once but I was only half listening. I’d just noticed Jack Holden looking my way, see,” she added, with a grin.

“You and Jack are sooo good together, Mac,“ Cassie said, relaxing again as she realised Martha had only been teasing her in the way close friends did.

It had been an awesome day. Gypsy Nash, who normally lodged at the Diner with Irene Roberts, was away visiting family in Yabbie Creek and Cassie’s grandmother had been invited to spend the weekend with old friends, so they were staying with Irene at the Diner which Martha’s grandfather owned. They’d caught a chick flick at Yabbie Creek’s multi-screen cinema, lingered over chocolate sundaes while people watching, checked out the new clothes store at the mall, and got off the bus back home to Summer Bay a stop earlier than they needed to so that they could walk along the beach talking guys. The red evening sunset glowed on the river and Cassie felt as though the magic of the night had breathed on her soul.

“Kane Phillips has lovely eyes, doesn‘t he? With any luck, we’ll be just like you and Jack one day!” She predicted happily.

Martha came to an abrupt halt, pulled her arm out of Cassie’s and turned round to face her friend, clenched fists on hips,. Cassie was like a kid sister to her and no way was she going to stand by and let her get involved with someone so dangerous!

“Now you listen to me, Cassandra Patricia Turner,” she demanded. “Kane Phillips is bad news. Promise me you won’t go anywhere near him.”

“Jack says he’s alright,” Cassie objected, blinking back hot tears of disappointment .

Once she got a boyfriend, she’d be normal, wouldn’t she? She wouldn’t have nightmares about her uncle anymore. But she couldn’t tell Martha this. Martha didn’t know anything about Uncle Ben and Cassie didn’t feel she could tell her until she was normal but she couldn’t be normal until she had a boyfriend. That was how it worked…wasn’t it? It was all mixed up inside her head.

Martha snorted derisively. “Huh! Jack Holden wants to give everyone a fair go. He’d say Sweeney Todd was misunderstood and just happened to pick up the wrong recipe when he began putting people into pies.”

“But I need a boyfriend! And Noah and Kim and Will, they all think Kane’s okay too.” Cassie named some more students in the hope of changing Martha’s mind.

Martha wasn‘t backing down however. “You don’t need a boyfriend, Cass. Nobody does. Anyway, Noah Lawson’s a Christian so he has to like everyone, it’s in the job description; Kim Hyde doesn’t know how to hate people and Will Smith‘s too lazy to be bothered. Look, Cass, I’m telling you this for your own good,” she added, her tone softening. “It’s different for guys. Kane Phillips is okay with the guys sometimes. But he disrespects girls.”

“I really like him,” Cassie said in a small voice, aware she was losing the argument.

“I know you do.” Martha said gently. “But what sort of mate would I be if I let you get hurt? Oh, Cass, you understand, don’t you? Friends?”

Cassie nodded, smiling weakly, and returned Martha’s hug. They had closed the door on the subject forever then. Or so Martha had thought.

Everything changed at Hayley’s party. A massive blue with Jack, a few drinks too many, and she had let Cassie get hurt. Hayley too. Her two best friends. Cassie was like a kid sister and Hayley, despite everything, had looked after Martha when she came to Summer Bay High.

But Mac had been far too wrapped up in her own problems at the party tonight to be there for her friends. If she hadn‘t been so mad with Jack she’d never have drunk so much, if she hadn’t drunk so much, she’d never have been stupid enough to let Hayley and Cassie talk her into helping fix Cassie up with Kane Phillips in the first place. And then, when her friends needed her most, where was she? In the sprawling grounds, drunkenly pouring a bucket of cold water over Jack and Gypsy because she’d seen them pashing, that‘s where!

What was she thinking, apologising to this lowlife who‘d attacked her friends? What was she thinking, gazing into a monster’s eyes? Those same cruel eyes had looked on Cassie and Hayley with nothing but icy contempt.

She looked away, ashamed of her betrayal, and staggered to her feet, examining the warm, sticky blood on her hip. It was only a flesh wound. The knife she’d carried in her trouser pocket must have dug into her and sliced her skin. She was lucky though, the damage could have been much worse and…

A shuffling and clattering noise from behind made her look back. Kane Phillips had tried to reach for the water bottle but only succeeded in knocking it over as he fell helplessly backwards, too weak to support himself. So he was more badly hurt than he was pretending to be with the big macho act. Even now he was grinning arrogantly up at her, ready with one of his usual smartass sneering comments.

But then he suddenly cried out and clutched his bloodied stomach as spasms of pain jerked through him.

“Mac…” His voice was hoarse when finally he could speak again, his breath laboured, his face pale in the moonlight, glistening beads of sweat pouring down his forehead,. the water he‘d collected from the freshwater pool trickling away as he waited for, expected, Martha’s help.

Whether he lived or died, if they were ever rescued, she still had a lot of explaining to do about the stabbing. But that had been an accident. What if…? She thought of Cassie. Of Hayley. Of how badly he’d hurt them. Well, she could do something for her friends now. She could let Kane Phillips know what it was like to be at the mercy of someone stronger. Someone without kindness or pity.

No one would ever know if she deliberately deprived him of water.

Even Phillips himself - IF he survived, and who cared if he didn’t? - was going to be way too crook to remember anything about payback. Trembling, shocked that she could even think like this, terrified of being left alone on the island but determined to avenge her friends, Martha steeled herself and turned away…

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