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Always and Forever

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Hmm, I was meant to be working on Sally Called! when I came across this fic again and started re-reading - I’m very easily distracted. :wink: It’s one of my personal faves so thought I’d re-print.

It’s set at a time when the Sutherland sisters and Kane are children. :D


Dani Sutherland closed the book reluctantly. Kirsty and Jade loved Peter Pan and she loved reading to them. The twins were sweet. They'd started school this term and thought they were all grown up now. She'd held their hands right up to the classroom door, giving big sister advice all the way.

"Miss Terry is real nice but you must do what you're told..."

Jade's lower lip quivered but Kirsty couldn't wait and had almost dragged them inside. That was Kirsty for you, always impatient. Like now, she was jumping up and down on the bed, chanting. "Yay! Holidays tomorrow, holidays tomorrow! Jade-yyy!"

Jade giggled but stayed where she was, cuddling her favourite doll.

"Kirsty," Shelley Sutherland said sternly, but her eyes were laughing so Kirsty dared to jump three times more before bouncing herself into bed.

"Come on, kids, settle down now," Rhys said. laughing.

"The babies always get too excited," Dani said loftily, getting up off the bed to head for her own room, unaware of her parents sharing an amused glance.

Kirsty hugged herself in delight. She loved these moments, when Dani would read to them all before Mum and Dad kissed them goodnight. It felt so safe, so warm. The only snag was you were expected to go asleep at the end of it!

But Kirsty knew she would never, ever sleep tonight. Gran and Grandad were calling early tomorrow to take the three girls on a caravan holiday to a place called Summer Bay. The bedroom curtains were open and fluttering in the summer breeze and she looked happily at the stars shining brightly over the city, just as they'd always shone ever since she could remember. Summer Bay was going to be magic!


“Jeeezzz!" Scott Phillips said.

He sounded scared. He was nearly four years older than Kane and hardly ever scared, but Dad was in one of his drunken rages. Downstairs, Mum was screaming something, they couldn't tell what, but there was a lot of cursing. Dad gave a roar of anger and then came the inevitable sound of crashing crockery. Kane often marvelled that they had any plates or cups left at all.

"What we gonna do?" he looked across at his brother, their faces pale in the bright moonlight, the single curtain nailed to the window doing little to keep out the light.

"Whaddya mean - we?”

Kane felt a sinking in the pit of his stomach. Why did Scotty always have to do this? They'd be mates till they got caught, then Scott suddenly acted like he hated him. Like tonight.

Ma had packed them off to bed earlier than usual because she reckoned she had one of her headaches. Yeh, like they hadn't seen the bottle or smelled the drink on her breath! Anyways, they'd had a beaut time, running all round upstairs, jumping on and off beds and furniture, knowing she'd be too drunk to care. But Dad arrived home in the middle of it all and they'd quickly got in their beds.

But it was too late. Dad's footsteps were already thundering on the stairs. Kane tried to feign sleep, but his own breath betrayed him, growing faster, deeper, louder.

"Whinger!" Scott hissed.

Yeh, but even Scotty blanched when Richie Phillips crashed open the bedroom door.

"Can't you ******* kids ever keep ******* quiet?"

Scott sat up in bed. "I TOLD him, Dad. I TOLD him not to jump on the beds, but he wouldn't listen!"

Why did Dad always believe Scotty? Richie roughly grabbed Kane's arm, dragging him from the bed. "If you wanna act like an animal you can sleep outside like a ******* animal!"

"Dad - no! I don't wanna!"

But Kane was wasting his time arguing. The door banged shut. The heavy bolts slid in their latches and the key turned. Kane always, always hoped that Dad would change his mind at the last minute or Mum would suddenly protest, but it never ever happened. He slid down against the hard brick wall. The sea breeze had turned the night cold and he shivered in thin pyjamas.

A thousand stars, sparkling and glistening, dotted the dark sky. They must have shone down like this on lonely kids forever. Tears blurred his vision and he began a game of joining them into pictures.


Nobody stayed still for a minute. Kirsty was the worst, as always. She ran in and out of the kitchen inbetween mouthfuls of toast and cereal and spilled orange juice all over the breakfast table because she suddenly felt she had to jump up and show Dani exactly how she scored the goal when she'd joined in the boys' game at recess.

"Ewww, Kirsty always wants to be with boring boys," said Jade, wrinkling her nose.

Dani smiled at her baby sisters and sighed patiently at Mum when the orange juice was knocked over.

"Kirsty, for goodness' sake, sweetie, sit still!" Shelley said, mopping up the spillage. "And, Rhys, you're almost as bad as the kids!"

"Can't help it, I'm going to miss my three favourite girls," Rhys said, winking at Dani, gently rapping Kirsty's head and flicking Jade's hair. "Who's going to drive me insane when you lot aren't here?"

He kept checking the window to see if there was any sign of his Mum and Dad yet, not because he was in a hurry for the kids to go, but because he was choked up at the idea of them going on their very first holiday without him and Shelley. It was the same when they'd started school. Shelley had coped far better than Rhys, who'd fretted about Dani and, this year, the twins, all day long.

"Peter Pan!" Jade announced abruptly, her hand shooting to her mouth.

"I'll go get it!" Kirsty was up like a shot. Dani had promised to still read them their favourite story on holiday but nobody had thought to pack the book!

She tripped over the chair in her rush and fell, laughing, into Dad's arms.

"KIRSTY!" Everybody yelled, laughing. "SIT STILL!"


Kane crept round the back, his heart beating fast, the grass cold and damp underneath his bare feet. There was silence inside the house. He stood on tiptoe to peer inside the grimy kitchen window. Nobody around. And the window was open at the top. Oh, neat, this could even mean breakfast!

He carefully positioned an old empty wooden crate that had been nearly a quarter full of oranges the day he and Scotty had stolen it from outside the grocers. Gritting his teeth, he pushed the bottom sash upwards, and, with a superhuman effort that almost pulled his arms from their sockets, fell inside - and knocked over the kitchen stool below the window.

He'd jumped too quickly and pain was shooting through his ankle, but worse, far worse, was the loud clattering of the metal stool.

Dad would kill him.

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Thanks for your nice comments. :D And I AM still working on Sally Called! tho it might not seem like it at the moment... :rolleyes:


"Who said you could come back in?" Richie Phillips, with his eyes bloodshot and his face twisted, looked the picture of evil after last night's drinking binge. He was in no mood for brats.

"Daddy, no..." Kane backed away as Richie raised a hand and towered over him.

Normally, he would have taken his chances and dodged round his father - sometimes Dad ran after him, sometimes he couldn't be bothered - but his ankle hurt real bad.

"Snivelling little cur!" Richie impatiently pushed his small son to one side and went to find himself some painkillers. His head was banging and his mouth tasted like sawdust.

Kane threw his hands back to catch his fall and landed awkwardly. He couldn't get up. His ankle throbbed with pain and now his wrists wouldn't take his weight to lever himself off the floor. They weren't hurting as bad as his ankle though so he figured they might be okay after he'd rested them a while. He was pretty much expert on falls so knew about these things.

It was probably smarter anyways to stay where he was until Dad fell asleep or went out. Or until Scotty came down for brekkie and maybe happened to be in a good mood, though Scotty had a habit of disappearing when Dad had been drinking. It was no use shouting for Mum, no use shouting for anyone. This wasn't kids' TV where you got rescued by cops or a super hero or a kind millionaire who happened to be passing by and who later decided to adopt you. This was real life and no-one ever came.


"Wowww!" Kirsty stared in awe at the curving expanse of the sparkling blue sea. Boats, surfers, water skiiers, gulls dipping the waves...Summer Bay teemed with action and excitement!

Jade's eyes widened but she was too breathless to speak. She was the only one of the three who'd brought a doll, not Barbie but her favourite real-size baby one (cute, Dani had said, gross, Kirsty had said, but they'd both been laughing) and she rested her chin contentedly on the doll's head as the car window gave tantalising glimpses of a glittering, pretty, shiny world.

Dani, sitting inbetween the twins, stretched as far forward her seat belt would allow. For some time now she'd been fascinated by the rolling green countryside, so unlike the noisy, crowded city they were used to.

"Gran! Grandad! It's like a story! It’s like we’re three princesses coming home to our palace!"

Smiling, Mary Sutherland looked round at her three excited little granddaughters and Bill Sutherland chuckled as he looked up at the sign-post and took the road that would lead them down to the caravan park.

"Princesses, huh?" He said. "Well, I always suspected as much!"


Kane spent the afternoon roaming round the caravan park. Pretending he was a kid on holiday was one of his favourite games. Sometimes he made up stories about a caravan family - a Mum who never got angry, a Dad who never got drunk, a kid bro who hero-worshipped him and a baby bro who got up to all kinds and made them all laugh. Today in the game he imagined he was going for the ice-creams and Jordan, his kid bro - he'd given them all names - changed his mind again about what flavour he wanted so they...

He paused to stare curiously at a new group of holidaymakers. Judging by the way the wrinklies were studying the tourist map they were recent arrivals.

The three girls with them each carried a Sleeping Beauty wand - he'd seen them for sale in the site shop, when he'd been browsing among the pocket money toys looking for something to nick, but didn't think anyone was sooky enough to buy them - and two of them, running on ahead, were brandishing their wands like they really thought they were magic, but the third, the one who caught his attention, was trailing her wand behind like she was embarrassed to be carrying it.

Then she looked up suddenly.

"Hey," she said, smiling. The smile lit up her face.

He thought she was talking to somebody else. Kids didn't generally smile and say hey to him, not even at school. At school they said stuff like 'he's Scotty Phillips' brother' and kept well away unless he made them talk with his fists.

The girl giggled as Kane looked round for the person she was talking to. "There's nobody else here, stupid!"

"Kirsty, sweetheart, don't be rude." Mary Sutherland was always a little shocked by Kirsty's directness. Dani and Jade were very polite little girls, but Kirsty had lived by her own set of rules ever since she'd learnt to walk and talk.

So she was called Kirsty. He'd never had anything to do with girls before, reckoned they were jerks. But she was different. Like she was never afraid. Like she wouldn't care about him being Scotty Phillips' brother. It was strange, someone seeing him as himself.. Even his own Mum, when she got angry with him, spat out 'Richie Phillips' son!' before she slapped him like you'd slap some particularly disgusting insect.

"I'm Kirsty Sutherland. What's your name?"

"Kane." He grinned back at her. Normally he wouldn't have given the time of day to a girl, especially not one a couple of years younger, but he couldn't help liking Kirsty.

The other two kids ran back then, the youngest timid, the eldest frowning from Kirsty to Kane as if trying to make up her mind about him.

"Jade - Dani - this is my friend Kane! He's going to hang out with us - will you?" Kirsty suddenly seemed to realise she was taking an awful lot for granted.

"Maybe he can tomorrow, angel," Mary said, glancing at her watch. Dusk was settling and the journey down from the city had been long and tiring. They'd had a late lunch on arrival, unpacked almost everything and spent a pleasant couple of hours in the kiddies' playground, but all three girls got cranky if they didn't get enough sleep. "Kane's Mummy will worry if he's out late. Where's your caravan, Kane?"

"Down there." Kane pointed vaguely in the direction of some distant caravans.

She was crazy if she thought Mum was worried. Okay, Mum'd eventually found him in the kitchen and okay, it had turned out to be one of her good days. She'd only sworn at him twice before soaking a large cotton handkerchief and tying it round his swollen ankle. And she'd even made them both tea and toast. But that faraway look was always in her eyes and he was constantly on the alert because things could change at any second. And they had.

"You'd better get out from under my feet!" she'd said, as if suddenly aware of his presence, aiming a blow, but missing because he was too quick.

"It's a fair way away and you're a tad young to be out on your own at night," Bill said, concerned. "I'll walk you back."

"No, no! It's okay, here's my bro!"

Kane was surprised to see Scott at the opposite end of the path, but glad for once that his height and build made Scott look older and more responsible. But it was worrying that Scotty was there at all. Even more worrying that he was grinning triumphantly.

Kane turned quickly to Kirsty. He didn't want her, didn't want any of these people but especially not Kirsty, to get hurt, and anyone who tangled with Scott Phillips got hurt sooner or later. "See ya tomorrow, guys? What's your caravan number?"

"One-seven-nine." Dani provided the answer when Kirsty looked blank. She had memorised the number, ready to drill into her baby sisters in case they got lost, and decided she approved enough of Kirsty's new friend to tell him.

"Call tomorrow, Kane?" Kirsty asked hopefully.

She watched as he half ran, half hobbled away, looking funny with a large chequered hanky fluttering round his ankle. Jade and Dani were ace but they were too girly girly and she preferred boys, but why did she like this boy with the bright blue eyes so much?

"One-seven-nine, one-seven-nine." Kane was muttering it under his breath to remember, though he stopped within hearing distance of Scotty.

"Look," Scott said. He was holding a fistful of crisp ten dollar notes.

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Thanks for your reviews. SfanS, Kirsty and Jade are just turned five and both Dani and Kane are about seven-and-a-half. :)


Where'd ya get it?" Kane was half stoked, half terrified at the amount of money Scott had in his hand.

Scott smiled coolly. Kane was always hanging round the caravan park and had been easy enough to find. Stage two of the plan.

"I ask the questions, not you." He looked swiftly round to make sure no one was watching then caught his little brother in a headlock. "Who were those guys you were with?"

"Nobody. They were asking the way."

"You wouldn't lie to me, would ya?" Scott pressed harder.

"No, no, I swear!" Usually he wouldn't have dared but there was something about that kid called Kirsty.

To his amazement, Scott stuffed all the notes in Kane's pocket before letting him go.

"Whatcha doin'?" He felt a thrilling rush of adrenaline at the idea of carrying so much cash.

"Lose any of that and you're dead," Scott said in chilling tones.

”Can I keep it?"

"Jeez, did they drop you on ya ******* head the day you was born? We're gonna go the Diner and order whatever we like!"

Kane blinked. Was Scotty having a lend of him? Apart from a pie that he'd lifted from the shelves of the caravan site shop and eaten cold, he hadn't had anything to eat since the toast and he was starving.

"C'mon, drongo!" Scott slapped Kane across the head to show he meant business.


The twins had bunk beds. Dani had her own room like at home but she envied them the bunk beds. She watched Kirsty hanging by her arms from the top bunk and would never have dreamed of admitting to the bubs that she was dying to have a go herself.

Kirsty had tired of lying on her stomach and continuously swinging down from her waist, her long hair cascading over her face, to yell to her giggling twin "G'day, Jade!"

Now she was trying to swing herself on to Jade's bed and Jade was shouting encouragement, reaching to try and catch hold of her legs.

"You'll fall," Dani warned. She could hear Gran clattering about doing the supper dishes and felt she ought to be the grown-up with Gran busy and Grandad gone to the phones.

"Won't, won't, I can fly like Peter Pan!"

"H'mmph, if Peter Pan makes you think you can fly, p'raps I'd better read Cinderella next time!"

"Oh, YES, that as well!" Jade cried eagerly, clapping her hands in delight and forgetting to help her twin, who tumbled to the floor and banged her knee against the small bedside locker.

"Ow, ow, ow!" Kirsty hopped round the cramped room, holding on to her sore knee, and laughing at herself.


"So how are my girls?" Rhys asked.

The house was so quiet without them. He and Shelley had cooked themselves a candlelit dinner and they'd shared a bottle of wine and watched a romantic movie together. But they'd missed the constant interruptions, some little voice calling down for a drink or one of the kids waking from a nightmare or a fight breaking out in the twins' room.

As previously agreed, Bill and Mary Sutherland had gone to the caravan phones on arrival for Dani, Kirsty and Jade to say a brief hi to their Mum and Dad, but Bill had promised his son and daughter-in-law a more detailed update later. He brushed away a suicidal moth that was diving at the light above the pay phone and smiled broadly, picturing Rhys' face.

"Fine, Rhys, just fine. Little Kirsty has a boyfriend."

"Whaaat?" Rhys laughed in the middle of a sip of coffee and almost choked. "No, I don't think so, Dad! Kirsty has always made friends with the boys."

"This little guy is different. Kyle, Kye, some name like that. They even exchanged addresses - well, caravan addresses anyway. Kirsty was asking her Gran if she thought he'd turn up tomorrow. They have...uh...a date, you see."

Rhys roared with laughter and Shelley mouthed What, what?, indicating impatiently that it was her turn on the phone. She was dying to know what was so funny.


Alf Stewart, the owner of the popular Bayside Diner, frowned at the two noisy Phillips kids sitting in the corner. The youngest had fronted up, pulled a ten dollar note from his pocket and ordered double burgers, fries and large cokes.

"Where'd you get that?" Alf asked suspiciously.

"Late birthday prezzy," Scott Phillips answered sarcastically.

"Dead set?” Kane looked round at him hopefully. He'd already had his birthday this year but, as usual, there hadn't been any prezzies or cards and he still hadn't figured out if Scotty had meant for him to keep the money or not. His brother's hefty tread crushed his foot so he didn't say any more.

"See, it's like this, Mr Stewart." Scott leaned lazily on the counter. "We got the money so you get to take our orders. Like my Dad'd say, piece of pi..."

"I heard yer, young fella," Alf snapped.

Scott smirked. He knew the Diner was one of the businesses Dad collected protection money from. Alf wouldn't have paid but his wife, Ailsa, was worried about their small son. Duncan had just started school and she wouldn't have put it past Richie “Gus” Phillips to tell Kane to bash him. The wild little savage would have enjoyed it too, Ailsa said, he was known for being too free with his fists.

Alf’s blood reached boiling point. He watched helplessly as Kane and Scott deliberately knocked some more fries to the floor, knowing full well Richie would have his revenge if Alf intervened. When the hell would the Phillips kids get their comeuppance? The answer came far sooner than he expected.

PC Elaine Harris, new to the force, couldn't help smiling across at Scott and Kane. She had a soft spot for kids. It didn't seem right that they'd been looking for them despite what Mrs Thomas, the elderly owner of the caravan shop, had said.

Apparently the light-fingered Phillips boys were always in and out the shop because it was an easy target especially since her husband had died and she was running the place on her own. Betty Thomas had noticed the money missing from the cash register when she'd closed up and was convinced the Phillips kids were responsible, but Elaine didn’t think so though.

Her colleague Matt Daley however had been a policeman for many years and was a great deal more cynical. "So we've found them at last! Scott and Kane Phillips - master crims in the making."

"Aw, come on, Matt, they're just kids," Elaine objected.

Matt sighed. "Those two've never been just kids!"

"Cops!" Kane hissed nervously. He didn't like the way they were looking over and he still didn't know how Scotty had come by his fortune.

"Shut it, dork," Scott said impatiently. "We just walk outta here real cool."

Kane jumped down off the chair to follow Scott. That was his second mistake. The first had been to not to make sure the money was stuffed deep enough in his pocket. Elaine watched in amazement as a large wad of notes fell to the floor.

Matt smiled grimly. "G'day, Scott! Funny how I heard the caravan shop had money stolen today and how you two have all this cash..."

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PC Elaine Harris felt sorry for the little guy. He was far too young to be charged but he'd been given a severe ticking off at the station and he looked scared.

"Look, it'll be okay," she said as the police car swept into the Phillips drive. "As long as you don't do anything like this again you won't be in any more trouble."

"Yeh," Kane said patiently.

The lecture at the cop shop had been a breeze. He had more worrying things on his mind. He'd got the message alright from Scott's glares - dob me in and you're dead, mate, not as in nearly dead or half dead but dead-in-the-ground-forever-dead. Scott had told the cops Kane took the money and he didn't know a thing about it, but he wasn't off the hook yet with Scotty. And Dad would likely bash them, not for the robbery, but for getting caught. Kane was in big, big trouble. He almost pitied the cop's innocence.

Elaine looked curiously at Kane and Scott's home. It was an old detached building set in large grounds but similar houses at either side were empty and derelict and the words 'faded glory' sprang suddenly to her mind.

The garden was a wilderness of overgrown grass and weeds. Paint was peeling from the front door and none of the curtains matched. From the side of the house she could make out what looked like a burnt out shed, a dumped wooden crate, broken bricks that had tumbled down from some decaying garden wall and an overflowing garbo bag. She knew this was a poor neighbourhood with a shifting population but no other house looked as bleak as the Phillips' did.

By startling contrast, the inside of the family home, even with its mismatched furniture, was unexpectedly clean - even the pile of old clothes on the battered old couch by the side of the stairs seemed to have been placed there with exceptional care.

It was a shock too to meet the boys' father. Her colleague Matt had warned Elaine he was an ex-crim and she'd somehow expected a fat, balding, scruffy bloke, but Richard Augustus Phillips was a tall, slim, handsome man with intense brown eyes.

"Sorry about all this." When he wasn't drunk, Richie could switch on the charm whenever he wanted and when he smiled at Elaine all she saw was a devoted Dad doing his best to bring up two ungrateful kids who preferred to run wild.

Richie's own kids weren't fooled. Kane looked anxiously round when the cops finally left. He was right. Dad's face had changed and he was no longer smiling. And where the hell was Mum? Dad had told the cops she was crook but that could have meant anything. Sometimes she disappeared for a couple of days without telling anyone when or where she was going. Sometimes, after she and Dad had a blue and even though she gave as good as she got, she just sat staring in her room for hours without seeming to see or hear. But now and again she was what Scotty called 'half a fruitcake instead of a whole one' and he was hoping now would be one of those times.

"How many times have I told you two I don't like ******* cops sniffing round?" Richie was furious. He often had hot money or drugs or stolen property stashed in the house and his kids had been prepared to ruin everything for a lousy three hundred dollars.

"Wasn't my fault," Scotty protested. "I had to give it to him to mind cos I got a police record. How was I to know the stupid drongo was gonna stuff up and drop it?"

"You - bed - now!" Richie barely looked at his youngest son.

Kane ran out the room and up the stairs, hardly able to believe his luck, pausing only to check out his parents' room for Mum. Empty. And Dad was yelling louder. Jeez, it was gonna be a rough night!

He scrambled quickly into bed and pulled the duvet over his head when he heard Scott coming up. Scott pulled it back. He was holding his jaw and the blood was dripping through his fingers, and he was smarting, not just from the punch or the loss of the cash, but because by his reckoning Kane stuffed up so Kane, not Scott, should've been the one to cop it.

"I'm gonna get you for this," he said, staring icily. "An' I'm savin' it cos when I get ya it's gonna be real good. You hear me? Real good."

Scotty was like Dad. It was wiser not to answer, not to breathe, when they threatened cos that only made it ten times worse. Kane waited till Scotty had gone to wash off the blood before he let out a breath. One-seven-nine, he thought. That kid Kirsty with the magic smile was staying in one-seven-nine. Thinking of Kirsty was the only thing getting him through this.


"I'm sorry, mate, I need for your Mum or Dad to be here to say it's okay." Bill Sutherland couldn't help yawning. He was never fully awake until after his first cuppa and it seemed like the sun had barely risen.

"Yeh, yeh, they said I could," Kane said desperately. As if he'd even ask them!

Kirsty, still in her pyjamas, peeped inquisitively round the caravan door, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She smiled broadly when she saw Kane. "Cool, you're coming with us! We're going on a boat!"

"Kirsty, we can't take Kyle unless his Mummy or Daddy say we can," Bill explained.

"Kane, Grandad. His name's Kane." Little Kirsty's face was like thunder. She hated people to get names wrong. It was like you didn't matter if someone got your name wrong and she sensed this little boy with the bright blue eyes had never mattered very much to anyone.

"Sorry, pet, I need for Kane's parents to say if it's okay he can come with us," Bill amended, ruffling her already tousled hair.

Kane could have cried. As soon as he'd woken up he'd come straight down to the caravan park to see Kirsty. And they were going on a boat! It had always been his dream to go on a boat, but it looked like he'd never get the chance.

And then he had an amazing stroke of good luck!

"That's my Mum," he lied, waving. He raised his voice and hoped this would work. "I'm gonna be all day with Kirsty's family!"

Suzy Palmer waved back. It was the third time she’d stayed at Summer Bay Caravan Park. She knew Kane vaguely as sometimes he’d chat with her small son. She assumed his family came on holiday the same times as she did.

"We're doing the boat trip and all round Yabbie Creek so we'll bring him back around seven, if that's okay," Bill said helpfully.

"Right," Suzy said, baffled, but too busy with her son to ask Bill why he felt he needed to tell her. Jamie hadn't settled all night and she'd taken him for an early morning stroll but he was still crying and she lifted him from his buggy. "You have a good time, Kane."

"Okay!" Kane ran quickly up the caravan steps before anyone changed their mind or realised Mrs Palmer wasn't his Mum.

"We're just having breakfast, if you'd like some," Mary Sutherland smiled, busy dishing up scrambled eggs and grilled bacon.

"YEH!" Kane said, staring in amazement at the amount of toys strewn over the caravan, mostly girl toys - he suspected the toy truck and the footie cards were Kirsty’s - but, hey, heaps of toys just for three kids...

"Pleeease," Dani corrected, but she couldn't have been too mad because she was buttering toast for him and the twins while singing snatches of some kids song.

Bill Sutherland talked to him about footie and Jade was still shy but she did whisper she wanted a baby brother like Kane had.

"You'll have to see your Mum and Dad about that, Jade!" Bill laughed.

Kane grinned happily at Kirsty, who'd shoved up to make room beside her on the curved caravan seat surrounding the crowded table. This had to be the best day of his life!


Diane Phillips clicked the seat belt into place. She'd spent the night at a comfortable little inexpensive hotel not too far from the airport to be ready for her early morning flight and she was feeling very relaxed. It had all gone smoothly. Richie would get one hell of a shock when he finally found the note!

Her passport was bang up to date and she'd been saving welfare money and dipping into Richie's funds for some time now. She'd been very, very careful so her husband hadn't got suspicious, even her spring cleaning had been a smokescreen and the chance to search through wardrobes and dressers for things to pack. She deserved a break from two whining kids and this time it would be for much longer than the normal day or two in a cheap boarding house. She didn't know if she'd ever go back.

She settled back in her seat. The plane soared noisily towards the sky and was swallowed up into the snowy white clouds.

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The Sutherlands decided they would catch the sightseeing cruise at Yabbie Creek because it was a longer trip than the ferry from Summer Bay, which they could do later in the week. Kane and Kirsty tore excitedly round the fast ferry that would take them to the departure point, trying to take everything in at once.

"Careful!" Mary Sutherland warned yet again, her heart in her mouth. Kane was every bit as bad as Kirsty for running and climbing and wanting to do everything faster and higher and Mary kept expecting one or both of them to slip any minute.

"It's okay. I'll look after her," Kane said importantly, placing a hand on Kirsty's shoulder to prevent her leaning too near the edge.

"Mate, you're not even old enough to look after yourself!" Bill laughed.

"Kindred spirits!" Mary joked to her husband, amused by Kane's chivalry. For once their wild little granddaughter hadn't objected to being fussed over.

"What's kindred spirits?" Kirsty whispered loudly to Kane. Her first instinct had been to shake his hand off - and she would have done with anyone else, even Grandad, because, like Kane, she wanted always to be free - but for some reason she hadn't. It was nice when Kane wanted to protect her.

"Something you drink," he replied, worried Kirsty's Gran and Grandad were going to start drinking . People changed when they drank. Started yelling, hitting, throwing things. Kirsty might get hurt.

"No, no, it's not!" Dani argued, for once not wearing her music headphones and overhearing. "It's a kind of ghost!"

"Nah, that's just called spirits - spirits are ghosts," Kane said knowledgeably. "Kindred spirits is in a bottle."

"Ghosts! Don't talk about ghosts!" Jade shuddered and held her doll tighter. "I don't like ghosts!"

"Okay, talk about what we wanna be when we grow up," Kane said, grinning down at her. They all, even Kirsty, felt like Jade was much, much younger. "I'm gonna work on a ship and take people all round the world."

"Will you be a pirate?" Kirsty asked enthusiastically.

Kane laughed. "I don't think the passengers would like that!"

Her face fell. "There are pirates in Peter Pan."

"Well, I might be for a bit," he said, not wanting to disappoint her and the idea growing on him. "You know, I could be a pirate after brekkie but not after lunch or somethin' 'cos I wouldn't wanna scare the passengers too much."

Kane noticed Kirsty's grandparents wiping their eyes but laughing too so he decided it must be the wind from the sea making them cry. He leaned on the safety-covered rails with Kirsty to watch the white foams rolling and crashing and joining together in the water, and longed to sail his own ship one day, to know this freedom of the sea forever. He just hoped Kirsty’s Gran and Grandad weren't going to start drinking kindred spirits when they got to Yabbie Creek.


Scott and his mates preferred hanging out in the city but they'd become familiar faces to security in the shopping malls so they were lying low for a while, checking out the action in sleepy Summer Bay - which wasn't much, as usual.

They strolled down to the caravan park because it would be full of dorks and good for a laugh this time of year with the schools being closed for half-term. For once though there was actually something happening!

"Fire!" Lew announced. Rather unnecessarily.

After all, Scotty and Paul could hear the sirens and smell the burning for themselves, and, if that hadn't already been enough, the clouds of black smoke and thick heat carried on the air would pretty much have given the game away.

“Jeez, it'll be awesome!" Paul predicted.

They weren't disappointed. It was the caravan park shop. Or what was left of the shop.

Flakes of black soot were cascading down from the red-tinged sky and back into the huge orange-yellow flames while the firefighters raced around trying to put it out, watched by a crowd of interested onlookers.

"If looks could kill you'd be dead, mate!" Lew laughed suddenly.

Scotty looked to where he indicated. Old Mrs Thomas, the owner of the shop, was staring at him, her wispy grey hair blowing in the breeze, the firelight glowing red on her face.

Scott smiled slowly as the realisation suddenly dawned. Dad must have arranged for the fire in revenge for her calling the cops. And Mrs Thomas knew who was behind this fire alright - but she was too terrified to breathe a word of her suspicions to anyone.

Scotty never wanted so much to grow up to be like his father as he did at that moment.


The news of the fire on their return distracted Bill Sutherland and he didn't wait till Kane had gone inside Suzy Palmer's caravan as he'd intended. If they hadn’t gone on the ferry, the kids could have been there when the fire broke out. He didn't want to worry Rhys or Shelley or spoil the girls' holiday by going home early, yet it didn't seem right, not telling his son and daughter-in-law what had happened either. Bill didn’t know what to do for the best.

"I'll be okay now," Kane said.

"I'll wait till you've knocked."

"Um...I don't wanna wake Jamie."

Bill gave him a look. Little Jamie was screaming the place down.

"It's just...it's like I'm a bub if you wait with me. My bro laughs at me for being a bub."

That struck a chord with Bill alright. He'd been the youngest of four brothers. “Okay, mate, you win. I won't hang around."

Kane waited until he'd turned the corner, then he ran back down the caravan steps and out of the brightly lit caravan park. The rain had hidden the stars and turned the evening sky inky black, and normally the dark scared him - it had done ever since Dad locked him in the cupboard under the stairs for smashing the window - but tonight felt different.

Kirsty and him had talked forever. Stupid stuff, stuff they'd never told anyone else, like how he reckoned the rain here floated out to the oceans and made you always remember Summer Bay, and how he sometimes sat alone for hours down on the wharf, just watching ships come and go. Kirsty said one day she was going to win a gold medal swimming for Australia and what she loved most in the whole wide world, not counting people or animals, was a cute tiny toy dog that she'd found by the roadside one day, and she tucked Boot into the corner of her pillowslip every night, even on holiday, and nobody, not even Jade, knew.

They hadn't been able to stop talking, not even when Dani did big exaggerated yawns and Jade had a little cry because she thought Kirsty wasn't ever going to be her twin any more. He was sure if he could always talk to Kirsty he'd never be scared again.



Needed to clear my head and I decided going on holiday was probably the best way to do that. I'm gone for at least two weeks. Don't bother trying to figure out where I am. I'm not as stupid as you think and I've got rid of all the paperwork.


Richie re-read the note, then furiously cracked open another tinnie and took a long gulp of beer. He and Diane had always both loved and hated one another. That had been fine until the kids came along. One whinging kid had been bad enough, but then Kane was born and right from the first Diane had resented him, said it tied her down forever now.

Thinking of the kids made him angrier. Anyone who dobbed in a Phillips would cop it sweet and he'd had to call in a few favours to arrange for the shop to be set alight. Scott had been wrong to spend the cash so soon but he was right about one thing - Kane had stuffed up. Again.

Richie had a grudging admiration for Scott - he was no dill. He'd got home around six, taken one look at his Dad and the grog, got himself some tucker, gone upstairs with it and stayed there. Scott instinctively knew how to avoid pushing him too far, when to stay out of his way. Unlike his youngest son. Kane was far too soft. Needed a lesson in toughening up.

And he was about to get it, he thought, as there came a hesitant rapping on the front door.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: For anyone reading it, I hope to have the next chapter of Sally Called! ready by the weekend. :D

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Thanks for your reviews, everyone. Out of all the fics I've written, this one is my favourite so it's nice to know you like it too. :D


Partly because it was so dark, party because it was raining heavily, Kane hadn't stopped running since the caravan park and he was out of breath.

When it was dark, Summer Bay was full of strange, terrifying shadows that weren't there in daylight and he hadn’t dared look round once - the roar of the sea sounded exactly like the sea monsters that Scotty told him came ashore by night looking for little kids to eat.

In his own garden he swapped his fear of the dark for another terror.

It had been a beaut day but now it was back to the reality. A light was burning in the front room and through the glass he could see his father. He was watching TV - and, oh Jeez, drinking! Okay, he had to be real careful now. Dad, Mum, Scotty, you never knew which of them was going to take a swing at you for some reason or no reason, and you had to keep all of them sweet - but Dad was the most dangerous.

Kane took a deep breath. He stretched but he still couldn't quite reach the doorbell so he knocked uncertainly on the door.

Richard Augustus Phillips, aka Gus, opened it, inhaling leisurely on a cigarette. Kane could hear a footie game on TV. Feel the warmth of the central heating. Smell freshly cooked pizza. He took a tentative step inside.

His father shoved him roughly back.

"Your Ma didn't want you any more so she shot through. I don't want you either. Rack off!"

He slammed the door in his son's face and laughed.


Dani had read the twins some more of Peter Pan and they'd just started on Cinderella - Gran had bought them the book today from a shop in Yabbie Creek. Dani heard a tiny snore and smiled as she looked at Jade. Her little sister had fallen fast asleep, still cuddling Abby, the doll that she took with her everywhere, and she looked sooo cute.

Kirsty swung suddenly down from the top bunk, hanging on by her arms.

"Kirsty, you're supposed to be going to sleep!” Dani said, whispering so as not to disturb Jade.

"The rain sounds funny!" Kirsty said, in as quiet a voice as possible, listening to the tinny sound hitting the roof. "It's different rain in Summer Bay."

"Don't be silly. It's only ordinary rain," Dani whispered back.

Kirsty found her footing on Jade's bed and jumped to the floor. She glanced back guiltily but her twin had barely stirred.

"It's not, Dani, it’s not!” She said, shaking her head, desperate to make her older sister understand. “It's Summer Bay rain and it goes out from Summer Bay to ALL the oceans in the world so's no matter where you are you can look at the sea and always remember here. Kane said so. He said it's special rain."

She and Kane had stayed together all day though both Dani and Jade had got a bit jealous. Kirsty hadn't meant to ignore them, but she couldn't help it, she'd never known anyone, not even Jade, who understood her so well.

She ran to see the special rain, but the caravan window was too dark and misty to look out of.

"Sweetie, what do you think you're doing?" Dani always tried to sound like Shelley when she was trying to be grown up with the twins.

Kirsty thought it sucked when Dani used names like 'sweetie', so she didn't answer. With some difficulty, she pushed open the caravan window and cold drops of rain splashed in on her face. She was sure it felt like no rain she'd ever felt before.

"Close the window!" Dani said in a loud stage whisper.

"Told you - special rain! Come and see it, Dan!" Kirsty forgot to keep her voice down.

"I already can and it's just ordinary rain!" Dani’s voice rose too.

"No, it's not! Kane said it's special rain that goes out to the sea and oceans!"

"Kirsty, all rain does that, we did it in school!"

"But it doesn't all make you remember Summer Bay like Kane sa..."

"Kane said this, Kane said that, I'm sick of hearing what Kane said!"

"Girls, what's with all the yelling?" Mary Sutherland had given up on trying to watch a favourite soap.

The shouting woke Jade and she sat up sleepily, wondering for a second or two where she was and why the ceiling was so low. Then she remembered. She was on holiday and the ceiling was her twin's bunk bed and Kirsty and Dani were arguing about Kane.

"Kane's Kirsty's boyfriend!" she giggled, falling back on her pillow.

"He is NOT, Jade Sutherland!" Kirsty said hotly. Unlike Dani and Jade, she reckoned it was geeky to have boyfriends and she was pretty sure Kane felt the same way about girlfriends. "He's my bestest mate!"

Quickly, before another argument broke out, Mary Sutherland had the window closed, the dispute resolved more or less amicably and the twins tucked up in bed.

"It IS special rain though, Gran, why can't Dani see?" Kirsty asked later, puzzled.

Jade had only been half awake and had fallen back into a deep sleep, and Dani, who was allowed to stay up a bit later because she was older, was with Grandad so it was just the two of them.

"Perhaps it's only special rain to special people," Gran said mysteriously, kissing Kirsty's forehead.


The large, wrought iron front gate creaked and rattled like a horror movie intro as Kane swung himself back and forth, glad that the faint glow of the streetlamp broke the dark. The moon kept dodging behind the rainclouds and the veil of rain made it too misty to even see the stars to play the picture game, but he wasn't sure he wanted to.

He had to be grown up now. He'd been swinging on the gate for some time, both to keep warm and because he was trying to figure out what he was going to do now the olds didn't want him anymore. He'd have to quit school and get a job.


Kane recognised the voice. It was one of his neighbours. Frank Rimmer, on his way home from work, was startled to come across little Kane Phillips playing out in the torrential rain. The kid was drenched.

"Don't you reckon you should be playing indoors now, mate?"

Kane shrugged. "My Dad won't let me in. I don't live there any more. I gotta get a job."

"A job...?" Frank was baffled.

But he had five young kids himself and their games often didn't make any sense. Kids didn't think the same way as adults did. Probably Richie Phillips hadn't heard the door because of the noise of the rain and now Kane had convinced himself he'd been thrown out. Ordinarily he wouldn't have interfered because no one round these parts liked cops or stickybeaks. But one of his own kids was about Kane's age so he took it on himself to go down the path to bang loudly on Richie's front window.

"Rich, mate! Your kid's locked out!"

Richie staggered to the door. He took a while to undo the bolts because he was swaying so much but by the time he did he was all smiles. "G'day, Frank! Jeez, Kane, whatcha doin' out here? I thought you was inside with Scott!"

"Kids, eh?" Frank grinned. He could see Richie was blotto, but he'd heard a rumour that Richie's wife had been seen walking out carrying a suitcase, and anyway, he liked a few beers himself.

"Yeh, kids!" Richie agreed.

Frank didn't hang around for long. Rich needed his space, needed to drown his sorrows over his Sheila. Richie waited till Frank had reached the end of the path and pulled the squeaking gate to behind him before he closed the door. From the corner of his eye he could see Kane edging towards the stairs.

"So you're so ******* soft you go whingin' to the ******* neighbours now?"

Kane picked up the speed of an Olympic runner. He was on the next to last step. He'd nearly made it to the top.

His father stumbled drunkenly back down twice but he could take much bigger steps, his arms could reach much further. To Kane's terror, a hand clamped like a metal vice round his ankle and his father picked him up, swung him upside-down over the top of the stairs.........

........and then he let go......

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Kane woke to bright yellow sunlight hitting his eyes and to a room reeking of beer and stale tobacco. For a moment he wasn’t sure where he was. And then it all came back to him. The terror of last night as he'd plunged into nothingness, then the momentary relief as he’d landed on something soft, then the terror again, listening to his father's cursing and staggering footsteps as Richie Phillips crashed drunkenly into the furniture.

He remembered not daring to move, hardly daring to breathe, crouched among the jumble of old clothes on the ripped couch. Mum had pushed it to the side of the stairs some days ago, when she'd been spring cleaning, and it had broken his fall, though the impact of landing had still hurt and he'd managed to bang his face hard enough to knock a tooth out. He'd stayed there listening, trying to keep alert, but at some point he must have carelessly drifted into sleep. Now he sat up and looked around cautiously. Dad was snoring and the TV was talking to itself about a presidential election in some far-off country.

There was a sudden creak on the stairs.

"Jeez, that was some blue last night!" Scott said in a low voice, watching Richie warily. "I heard ya fall downstairs."

"You coulda seen if I was okay!"

"I don't do anything I don't wanna, jerk!" Scott pushed a threatening fist in his face. "And don'tcha forget I owe you for stuffing up over the caravan shop cos I ain't forgot, I ain't never gonna forget..."

Richie mumbled something in his sleep and he backed off slightly, ready to do a runner the moment Dad woke. "You'll keep. Read this."

Scott had had a profitable morning searching round upstairs while Dad was out for the count, and he was now five dollars, a packet of mints, a half full packet of smokes and a box of matches richer. He unfurled the note he'd found too in Dad's jacket and gave it to his kid brother.

Kane took a while to focus. His vision was still blurry. He scanned through the words in surprise. "Mum's gone on holiday!"

"I said read it - that means all of it - or can't ya read?" It bugged Scotty that Kane could read better than himself so he always had to make out Kane was the dill. He'd been able to understand an odd word here and there but not enough for it to make sense.

Kane choked back tears. If Scott knew he was missing Mum he'd make it ten times worse for him. Scotty didn't seem to need anyone like Kane did. He read the note aloud.


Needed to clear my head and I decided going on holiday was probably the best way to do that. I'm gone for at least two weeks. Don't bother trying to figure out where I am. I'm not as stupid as you think and I've got rid of all the paperwork."

"Yeh, well, you better make sure you put it back in Dad's black jacket or he'll kill you," Scott said, satisfied.

"I can't go upstairs, Scott. I don't think I live here any more."

Scotty shook his head. "You're not the full quid, you."

The shrill ringing of the phone cut into the air and Richie stirred.

"I'm outta here!" Scott said.

Kane froze. He didn't know what mood his father was going to be in and even Scotty was better company than no one at all. "You can't go..."

"I already told you, I don't do anything I don't wanna!" Scott was out the door and gone before Richie had even picked up the phone.


"Sorry, Kirst. It looks like Kane and his family have gone out for the day," Bill said.

Kirsty sighed deeply and knocked a third time but Suzy Palmer's caravan remained obstinately silent.

"But he said he'd come with us today. Grandad! He knew all about the picnic and everything!" She bit her lip to stop a stray tear.

"I suppose Kane's Mum wanted him to go with them today. We can't hog him forever," Mary said.

Kirsty jumped down from the top of the caravan steps. She did the same every time she left their own caravan, even though her grandparents kept telling her they were too high for her, and, as usual, she fell over and, as usual, she was back up on her feet before anyone tried to help.

"It'll be neat, just the three of us." Dani said encouragingly, cradling the extra bag she'd packed with potato chips and a cold drink each for the twins.

Her grandparents had the main picnic food, and that was fine for sausage rolls and stuff, but Dani had insisted on packing extra of the bubs' favourite chips and juice. Though she felt guilty about it, she was secretly glad Kane was out. She hadn't liked Kirsty hanging on to his every word like she usually did with Dani.

"Yeh, and you can play with my doll for a bit," Jade said, hoping to cheer her twin up with a great sacrifice.

"And I might teach you and Jade some dance steps later - if you're good," Dani added. Dani and her personal stereo were as inseparable as Jade and her doll.

"Come on, guys, we better get going before it's time to come back and before your Grandad starts eating all the doughnuts," Mary laughed, adjusting her sunglasses, glad she'd packed even more suntan lotion than usual for the grandkids. The blazing sun was scorching down from a perfect cloudless sky and its heat had very quickly cleared away last night's heavy rainfall.

"Yeh," Kirsty said flatly.

Dolls, dances, doughnuts, none of it mattered without Kane. Kane was funny yet sad, tough yet kind, good yet bad and was so sad behind those bright blue eyes and she didn't know why.


Richie replaced the receiver. He'd been charm personified while talking on the phone but inwardly he was cursing. So they'd like him to call in the cop shop so that a social worker from DOCS could check on how Kane was doing since the caravan shop robbery. Routine questioning, they said. Richard "Gus" Phillips wasn't stupid. They were bound to mention the fire. Well, nothing could connect him. Jed and Harry would have done their job far too well for that. They wouldn't have liked to be on the end of Richie's wrath if they hadn't.

But last night's little problem now...he had to tread much more carefully here...

"If you know what's good for you, you won't ever breathe a word to anyone about the...uh...accident...last night," he said.

Not that he was to blame - this was all Kane's fault for provoking him - but no doubt people wouldn't see it like that and, even now, if the cops ever got to hear about Kane's fall, Richie could end up with ten, even twenty, years in the slammer.

It had been a pure fluke that the couch had been where it was. His wife Diane had pushed it there ready for the garbo collection when she'd begun spring cleaning. Richie had noticed the cop glancing towards it when she'd brought his sons home after the caravan shop robbery, and had remembered thinking PC Elaine Harris didn't miss much and feeling annoyed that Diane had fooled him with her spring cleaning ploy while she packed under his very nose.

"You got that?" he added, because his small son seemed far more interested in some game that involved piling up old clothes on the couch instead of listening.

"Yeh," Kane said vaguely, frowning thoughtfully at a pair of well worn boots and deciding there was no way they would be any use.

Dad was in a good mood - he'd heard him chatting happily away on the phone - so he was sure he wouldn't mind him taking the garbo for his new home. He'd worked out he could live in the burnt out, roofless garden shed, build a roof out of the old clothes, hunt fish down in Yabbie Creek and collect apples from the tree in Frank Rimmer's garden.

And, Jeez, as if he was gonna dare tell anyone! Once he'd seen Dad bash a guy for lagging so Kane knew exactly what happened to laggers. Besides it wasn't the first time Dad had thrown him around when he was blotto. Kane was used to it, prob'ly happened to most kids. Nah, the most important thing at the moment was Dad wasn't drunk and was in a good mood so that meant Kane wouldn't get thrown around and it was safe.

"If you ever talk to the cops they'll lock you in a dark, dark cell forever. No lights. No telly. No torch. Only The Dark."

Richie had his kid's full attention now - he knew full well his youngest son’s terror of The Dark. It had started when Richie had locked him in the cupboard under the stairs, but you had to knock the sookiness out of your kids somehow. Time to play his next card. "Okay, we gotta go out so you better run up and get a bath and I'll get ya some clean clothes."

Kane stared at his father in amazement. "So I still live HERE?"

"Yeh, yeh, put a move on!" said Richie impatiently. Then he said something that really took Kane's breath away. "We're gonna go to McDonald's."


Scotty was dying to try his first smoke but he needed a place where no stickybeaks could poke their noses in and the caravan park was the nearest and quietest place he could think of. He hid behind an empty van, lit a match, fired up the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

Almost immediately, he turned green and chucked up. Jeez, what the hell did people get out of this? He was still leaning his forehead on the caravan when he heard them go past. It was the name that caught his attention.

"Maybe Kane will come with us tomorrow," someone said. A little kid's voice.

He looked curiously round the side of the van. It had to be them. Three kids and two wrinklies, obviously the grandparents. They had their backs to him, heading for the park exit, but he was pretty sure they were the same guys Kane had been talking to the day Scott had robbed the shop. Pretty damn sure they were talking about the same Kane.

So Kane HAD lied about not knowing them - sounded to Scott like they were all best buddies! First time he'd known Kane to have any mates - which would make it all the more satisfying. He grinned. He'd warned Kane he would cop it for stuffing up. And the plan taking shape in his mind right now was perfect...

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Thanks for your nice reviews. :D

This doesn’t have much to do with anything, but there was this really cute baby called Abby on the bus today...awwww... :wub: Glad I chose the name Abby for Jade’s doll, it’s a really pretty name. :D


"No, no, no, Kirsty!" Dani was fast losing patience with the bubs. Kirsty kept doing all the wrong moves and Jade insisted her doll had to learn the dance steps as well. "It's three steps left, then you have to turn right around!"

"Like Abby," said Jade helpfully, bent forward and dancing the life-size baby doll in front of her like a puppet. "Good on ya, Abby! Clever girl!"

"Jade, we can't be a proper girl band with a doll!" Dani protested. "It's ruining our act. How can we 'spect our public to take us seriously?"

Kirsty had had enough. If Kane was here, the two of them would've been playing dares, but all Dani and Jade wanted to play was dolls and dancing. "I'm with a couple of ******* dorks!" she sighed, rolling her eyes heavenwards.

The word was out before she realised and her hands flew to her mouth, but it was too late.

"Oh, sweetie!" said Dani, folding her arms in her best Shelley-disappointed-impression, while Jade stared at her twin in shock.

Worse, Gran and Grandad were sitting nearby sunbathing and they'd overheard.

"Kirsty!" Mary Sutherland was horrified. "Where on earth did you learn language like that?"

"I think I'd better have a word with young Kane's Mum," Bill said gravely.

"No, Grandad! It wasn't Kane, I just heard someone say it!" Kirsty lied, desperate to protect her bestest mate. She couldn't bear the thought of not being allowed to see Kane again. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"It's not just that, pet," Mary said, crouching down to her little granddaughter and taking Kirsty's hands in her own. "It's not very nice to call your sisters dorks now, is it?"

"No-o," Kirsty agreed. "But Kane didn't tell me that word either!"

Looked like the dancing was over for the day. With a sigh, Dani put her earphones on and switched on her music. She didn't know what she'd do without her music.

Jade burst into tears because she hated Kirsty to get shouted at and Bill lifted her into his arms to console her. He exchanged a look with his wife. The girls never used to fight as much as this.


"G'day, Kane!" PC Elaine Harris smiled. Richie and his son were just leaving the police station as she walked through carrying some files. Then she frowned. "You're not in any more trouble...?"

"Nah," Richie said. "They just wanted to see how he was doin'. Kane told 'em all about his trip to McDonald's, didn't ya, mate?"

Elaine hadn't been able to shake off an uneasy feeling since she'd visited the Phillips' home. Richard “Gus” Phillips was very handsome, no doubting that, but as she'd left that night she'd thought for a brief moment she'd seen another expression in his face...something cold and hard. And Kane's eyes, a bright sparkling blue, unlike his Dad's and his brother's, had seemed strangely haunted.

Richie was called to the desk to sign some papers or other and Elaine seized her chance.

"You doing okay then, Kane?"

Kane froze. If you ever talked to cops, Dad had said, they'd lock you in a dark, dark cell forever. Kane wasn't taking any chances. He wouldn’t talk. He nodded dumbly.

Elaine frowned again. Was there something wrong or had it all been her imagination?

"See you got the Happy Meal batmobile, huh? Collected any others?"

Kane shook his head emphatically. No way was he gonna talk to a cop and end up being locked in The Dark!

"Kane, if something's worrying you, you can tell me. You know you can talk to me, don’t you?"

Ha, trying to catch him out! Cops were cunning, they'd try anything to get you to speak just so's they could lock you up! But Kane was no dill. He nodded again.

"We gotta go," Richie said, turning from the counter.

He smiled that smile that made Elaine's heart skip a beat again and she convinced herself it must have all been her imagination after all. Kane seemed happy enough and DOCS would surely have picked up on anything wrong. Besides, she had other things on her mind. Tomorrow she was transferring to another station in another town to complete her police training.

Kane began talking as soon as they left the police station. Anything and everything that came into his head, from his opinion they should put fizzy lemonade instead of water in drinking taps, to whether or not anybody really could count to a million. He was stoked to be out with his Dad and he had heaps he wanted to tell him.

Richie was tired of pretending to be the perfect father. Now Kane had told the social worker his Dad was ace and they went on days out like McDonald’s, he didn't have to keep up the act any longer. Kane's incessant chatter had got on his nerves, but he'd gritted his teeth because his kids could get taken from him. And his kids were his kids, his property, his to decide what to do with.

"Stop your ******* jabbering!" He snatched the Batmobile out of his son's hands and trampled on it.

Kane stared in bewilderment at the shattered toy as the sunlight caught the broken pieces of plastic and made them glisten like tears. He'd thought his Dad had decided he liked him after all, he really had, but he still didn't, even though they'd gone to McDonald's and he'd told the social worker Kane was a great kid and, as a special treat, on the way home he was going to buy him a footie shirt they'd seen in a shop window on the way to the cop station. But they'd walked past the shop where they'd seen the shirt and Dad hadn’t bought him anything...

...The street was crowded with shoppers and the day rang with happy voices and the shops were bright with their displays and no one took much notice of one small boy in the middle of it all.

"Move it, ya ******* drongo!" Richie spat in a low voice that only Kane could hear, turning on his heel and striding ahead so that his small son had to run to catch up or face the consequences if he didn't.

And all the old fears that he'd thought gone forever came rushing back like a tide, though a golden sun was still streaming down and people were still laughing and carrying on with their lives. And nothing, nothing at all in the whole wide world, made sense except Kirsty.


"I'm here! Let's go!" Kane announced brightly as soon as Kirsty's Gran opened the caravan door.

"Go where exactly?" Mary Sutherland blinked. She and Bill had thought about cooling Kane and Kirsty's friendship after the swearing but they hadn't the heart. They were only here for two weeks, Kirsty was happy when she was with him and Kane looked after her. The only problem was, he had a habit of turning up unexpectedly and at that moment she was very, very busy.

"I'm easy, no worries." Kane shrugged. “Don’t mind.”

Anywhere as long as he was with Kirsty. Just away. Away from all the bad things at home that you didn't dare tell anyone about because Dad said if you did the cops would come and didn't Kane remember what he'd told him would happen if he ever talked to a cop?

Dad had been doing one of his mysterious deals, which meant angry, raised voices in the dead of night, and him and Scotty watching from the bedroom window when a fight between two of the guys spilled over into the garden. And when the loser finally staggered away, collapsing twice on the path and leaning for an age against the gate, and Kane terrified he was dead, Scotty had turned to him, his eyes glinting scarily in the moonlight, and said, "See, he musta stuffed up. I got somethin' real good saved for you for stuffin' up."

It wasn't just the caravan shop now. Scotty was sore over McDonald's too, and the longer Scotty let it go before he took his revenge, the heavier you copped it. And so you were scared of falling asleep and you jumped at every noise, and in the morning you crept past the broken glass on the stairs, listening out in terror in case you woke Dad or Scotty, and you tried not to stand in the dried blood trailing down the path, and you wished so hard you had a Mum.

"Well, we hadn't planned to go anywhere so it's real nice of you not to mind." Mary Sutherland wasn't normally sharp with kids, but she did have her hands full.

The sarcasm sailed over Kane's head. "Oh, that's okay," he said, feeling like he must have been very, very generous, walking in uninvited.

And then his eyes widened in fear. Jade had her head tilted forward, blood pouring from her face, and Dani was screaming hysterically.

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"Where's Kirsty?" Kane was frantic. Jade's face was covered in blood and Dani was still screaming . "Is she okay? Is she with her Grandad? You want me to go look for them?"

"Kane, they've only gone to get groceries!" Mary said, applying a fresh tissue to Jade's nose and trying to calm her two grandchildren.

"Yeh, well, I'd better go find them 'cos I'm the man!" Kane said, true to his word, running off immediately, and leaving Mary Sutherland staring after him in confusion.

A thousand terrors rushed through his mind. He'd thought Kirsty, Jade and Dani were safe, he really had, but it just proved you could never, ever trust grown-ups. They always, always let you down in the end. Occasionally, official-looking people would visit the Phillips, always politely phoning or writing to their parents first to let them know, and while they were there it was like happy families. But it was always ten times worse after they'd gone.

And once he tried to tell a teacher he got to like about what happened at home, but he’d got his words mixed up because he knew Dad would kill him if he ever found out. So Mr Cooper had spoken to Scott instead and Scotty said it was lies - but he was getting too big to be hit much now and Dad didn't chance pushing him around. Scotty had made five dollars for dobbing him in to Dad and Dad had waited for Kane and...Jeez, he wasn't gonna tell no more teachers!

Kirsty and her Grandad were coming through the entrance to the caravan park, having had to go into Summer Bay itself for their groceries since the fire at the caravan shop. Bill was carrying two bags and Kirsty had a football tucked under one arm and was carrying a mysterious large flat parcel in her other hand.

"Hey, bestest mate!" she ran happily to greet him. "Wanna game of footie?"

She was wearing shorts instead of her usual trousers today and he could see a huge blue-black bruise on her knee and there was a cut on her elbow that hadn't been there last time he saw her.

"Kirst, you gotta tell me!" he whispered urgently. "Your Grandad - has he been drinking?"

Kirsty was going to laugh because she thought he was fooling when he put both hands on her shoulders - but then she saw a sadness in his eyes that almost broke her heart. So she thought about it very, very carefully before she nodded seriously and answered slowly.

"Yeh. He had a cup of tea with brekkie and some OJ and, oh, yeh, some lemmo and does milk on cereal count?"

"No, no, I mean has he been drinking kindred spirits?"

"Dunno...don't think so...but I dunno..."

Kirsty was puzzled when Kane pulled a face to warn her Grandad might overhear but she nodded in agreement. She didn't know what was going on, but she'd have trusted Kane with her life.

"Kane! Here again? We adopted you or something?" Bill laughed as he caught them up. "Joke, mate, joke," he added, taken aback by the intensity of his look. Suzy Palmer seemed nice enough but her little boy certainly had some issues.


Rhys Sutherland looked up at the kitchen clock as he washed the veggies ready for dinner. He was counting the days till the kids came back. He couldn't wait for the three mini tornados to storm through every room and the noise reach waaay above the sound barrier again. Jade would fuss over the dolls and cuddly toys she'd had to leave behind, Dani would want to show them some new dance or sing them some new song, and Kirsty, the noisiest of the three, would have yet more battle scars from playing boys' games.

Kirsty was always showing off about her scars and the fact she didn't cry. Sometimes, when Rhys went to pick the girls up from school, and she displayed her latest plaster like a medal and gave a detailed account of how she'd acquired her latest injury, he got the impression she’d like him to say in admiration 'Half your luck!'

According to his parents, Kirsty's "bestest mate" was just as accident prone. Rhys thought he wouldn’t mind meeting this kid one day. He smiled to himself. No doubt this kid's father was every bit as proud of him as Rhys was of his own kids!


Kirsty angrily kicked the ball and yet again it banged against the side of a caravan and bounced back to her.

They'd been chased out to play after Kirsty had been showing Kane how she’d swung from the bunk bed and got the bruise on her knee, and last night's jump from the bedside locker when she'd cut her elbow, and, being a bestest mate, Kane had decided to try out both moves for himself.

"Not fair! Dani can scream and Jade can scream and I might wanna scream too and I can scream louder than both of them. I know cos we had a screaming contest once and I won."

Kane smiled, happy now he knew Kirsty was okay. Jade had had a nosebleed. She got heaps of them, Kirsty told him, and Dani always freaked when she saw the blood. Kirsty herself never freaked when she saw blood because she was used to falling over, but she liked making a noise.

"I don't think your Gran and Grandad let Dani stay just so's she could scream. They said she could only stay and help if she stopped screaming."

"Yeh, well..." Kirsty furiously whacked the ball at the caravan again. "Jade's my twin and if anyone gets to scream when she has a nosebleed it should be me. It's a real loud scream. Wanna hear it?"

"Okay!" Kane caught the football as it bounced off the caravan.

Kirsty took a breath and gave it her best shot. A long, long high-pitched wailing scream.

"Ripper!" Kane said, impressed.

"Your turn!" Kirsty grinned breathlessly.

So Kane screamed. And tears sprang suddenly to Kirsty's eyes when she heard him but she didn't know why. It was only a game.

He screamed for every time Dad's fist smashed into his face. For every time the door was locked and his bed was a patch of cold, hard ground. For all the hurt and pain and loneliness.

Kirsty caught hold of his hand for some reason she didn't understand herself. Passers by glared disapprovingly. A couple of caravan doors swung open.

The maintenance guy fixing a water sprinkler took charge. "You kids rack off, go on, you flamin' galahs!"

"You go to ******* hell!" Kane said, kicking the water sprinkler which made a gush of water flow and drench the man's shoes.

The maintenance guy never knew the terror of having no one to run to and nowhere to hide, never knew what it was like to be alone looking up at the stars with tears stinging your eyes.

"Yeh, you go to ******* hell!" Kirsty squeezed Kane’s hand tighter and kicked the sprinkler in solidarity.

Then they ran like outlaws, laughing to each other in their despair.


Betty Thomas shuddered every time the ball thudded against the caravan. The fire had left her jumping at every shadow.

When the screaming started, she was terrified someone had been hurt. Then she looked through the window and saw the youngest Phillips boy vandalising the water sprinkler and giving the maintenance man a mouthful of abuse. His behaviour didn't surprise her. What did shock her was the little girl.

She recognised her as one of the three very well brought up children who'd often come into her shop with their grandparents. Betty was leaving the caravan park for good tomorrow and she had intended to leave without any fuss, but now she wondered - was she foolhardy enough to risk crossing Richie Phillips again?

Even thinking of Richie Phillips made her tremble. If he had the shop burnt down just because she'd reported his kids to the police what else was he capable of? He had visited her the day after the fire, feigning concern, but there'd been a hidden threat in every single word. And she was all alone, her nearest relative a sister in New Zealand whom she was flying out to live with. He'd mentioned that a few times, the fact she was frail and alone.

She fingered the necklace that had been a present from her late husband. Tom had always believed in sleeping out a problem. That was what she would do. Tomorrow everything would be so much clearer. For today she would push the decision to the back of her mind. There were hours and hours yet before darkness fell.

The stars had not yet danced their shimmering reflections on the dark blue sea of the Bay nor the night breeze yet whispered through the waves its gentle lullaby. Richie Phillips was not yet furious and drunk and waiting for Kane.

A broken bike chain wrapped round his fist.

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Thanks for the reviews. :D


"Mashed potato!" Kirsty decided at last after giving it careful thought.

"No way!" Kane said. “A plane couldn't fly through mashed potato."

Kirsty giggled. It would have been fun if planes landed at airports covered in mashed potato though. Especially if the pilot got out with mashed potato dripping all down his head.

They were holding on to the rungs of the monkey ladder, hanging by their knees and looking at the world from their vantage point of upside-down, having arrived at the kids' playground after running away from the maintenance guy.

"Okay, what do you reckon?" she asked.

"Uhhh...well, I KNOW it's ice 'cos we did it in school when we were doing rain so I reckon if clouds had taste they would taste of...ice cream!"

"Oh, yeh! And then if you wanted some ice cream you just put your head out of the window."

"Nah, Kirst, you can't open a window on a plane."

"Yeh, but this is pretend so we can!"

She imagined the bliss of reaching into the sky for the ice cream cloud and dangled her arms to rock herself happily to and fro like a circus trapeze performer.

"Kirsty!" Kane yelled, startled, hastily reaching out to steady her. "Don't do that!"

"Okay, okay!" Normally Kirsty did the complete opposite of what people said she couldn't do, but, because it was Kane, she pulled herself up through the rungs to sit on top of the monkey ladder. "But I wouldn't have falled," she added, as Kane swung himself up to join her. "And I wasn't scared."

"Yeh, well, I was for you."

"You swung "no hands" too."

"I'm bigger. You're too little."

"I am?"


"Says who?"

“Says me."

It was a funny kind of blue because they both kept smiling.


Without his father knowing a thing about it, Scott had had a front door key copied a long time ago. He wheeled the bike inside the cold, silent Phillips house. If Dad had been home there was no way he'd have chanced it, but Richie Phillips had gone to watch the big footie game in the city and wouldn't be back till late. Scotty could afford to take his time.

He swigged from the large bottle of lemmo he'd found in the fridge and angrily kicked the bike that was leaning against the couch. Frank Rimmer, a neighbour who lived at the very top of the street and who was something of a sook, had passed the old bike to Richie "for when Kane's a bit bigger", but Scott had decided to keep it instead. "It's not much good though," Frank had added apologetically. Too bloody right it wasn't, Scott thought, kicking the bike again.

He'd wanted the satisfaction of paying Kane back for the caravan shop stuff-up today. Maybe he shouldn't have left it so long but he had his reasons other than wanting to make sure Kane was scared enough to do what he said and, anyways, he'd been busy with his mates doing over some shops in Yabbie Creek. But if he didn't move fast he was gonna blow payback altogether!

Halfway through following Kane down to the caravan site, the bike chain had decided to come loose and flatly refused to be fitted back on again. Even his mates hadn't been around to help - Scott reckoned the fewer people knew about his revenge plan the safer for him. So only Scott himself knew what was going to happen. And Kane would get to know. That was, until the bike. And a lot depended on the bike.

Once Kane had got his instructions Scotty would need to get away as fast as possible.


"I don't know what you've been doing, Kirsty Sutherland, but you’d better wash your face. It's filthy!"

Kirsty exchanged a secret look with Kane. They had returned via the burnt-out caravan site shop, ducking under the safety barrier and daring each other to go inside. She put a hand up to her face and traced a black mark running down her cheek.

"But it'll only get dirty again, Gran!" she reasoned logically.

Mary Sutherland laughed. "That may be so, but I'd still like you to wash your face before we tell you where we've decided to go today. You too, Kane!"

Kane grinned. He never minded Kirsty's Gran and Grandad telling him stuff like to get washed or not to drink coke too fast just for the bubbles to go up his nose. No one at home cared what he did unless he got in their way and then it was dangerous. Getting told off by the Sutherlands had never been dangerous, but he didn't want to push his luck.

Even when they had a water fight while washing and Kirsty's Grandad yelled at them because he had to mop up, Bill Sutherland began laughing because Kirsty was pulling funny faces at Kane without realising he could see them both in the mirror.

Kane was desperately trying to warn her not to because he'd been bashed more than once by his Dad when Richie thought he'd looked at him the wrong way and he was terrified the same thing might happen to Kirsty. That was what made Bill suddenly study Kane more closely, the fact he looked genuinely scared.

"That another bruise you got there, Kane?" Bill was still laughing as he flicked some soapy water back at Kirsty but alarm bells were ringing in his head. He reached yet again for the bottle of witch hazel. Between them, Kane and Kirsty were keeping the profits of its manufacturers at an all time high. "How'd you get that one then?"

"Playing," Kane said too quickly.

Dad had hit him last night, he couldn't remember why or even if there had been a why. He couldn't tell him the truth. He had visions of Kirsty's Grandad storming round to the house and Dad bashing the old guy to a pulp.

"Kirsty, Kirsty!" Jade tumbled into the bathroom, her face wreathed in smiles. "Gran says we're going to the theme park!"

"YAYYY!" The twins hugged each other and jumped up and down, causing the caravan to rock slightly.

Dani followed at a more sedate pace to take each by the hand. "Kirsty! Jade! Don't run about when you were eating lollies not long ago, you'll be sick! And hurry up, you two!" She sighed at her Grandad who was still busy bathing Kane's bruise.

"Yeh, come ON!" Kirsty added to Kane.

"Women, hey, Kane?" Bill said as Dani swept out with the twins, shaking her head in despair at the male population.

"Mum said I could go to the theme park," Kane said, anxious to stake his claim in the latest day out. Kirsty's Gran and Grandad had peculiar ideas about how you were supposed to tell your folks where you were going. He didn’t know why. His olds never bothered asking Kane or Scotty what they got up to all day.

"Yeh, I thought she might somehow, mate, though it baffles me how you know all this without even asking her. You two got a psychic connection?"

Kane hadn't a clue what that was, but thought he'd better play along with it. "Yeh," he said warily. "But it's not mine, it's Mum's. I'm only allowed to use it sometimes."

Bill tossed the used cotton wool into the bin. "No worries, mate," he said, smiling, but deep in thought.

Kane always seemed reluctant to go inside the Palmer caravan or spend time with the family. And Jamie had been screaming the place down the first night Bill had walked Kane back. Was Suzy Palmer finding her kids too much to cope with and lashing out?

She never seemed particularly interested in where Kane was going or how long he'd be, though the Sutherlands dutifully kept her informed. Maybe Bill should keep an eye on things and, if needs be, put her in touch with his daughter-in-law. Shelley was a trained counsellor and would know how to deal with everything professionally.


Suzy Palmer rocked Jamie in her arms and listened politely as Mary Sutherland told her about the theme park they were taking the kids to. She thought Bill and Mary were a lovely old couple, if a bit dotty. For some reason, they always sought her out to tell her all about Kane.

Well, he was a nice enough kid but a golden sun was blazing down and the earlier clouds had lifted to reveal a perfect blue sky and she wanted to take Jamie for a day on the beach. "I really MUST go now," she said at last. She wondered what on earth she'd done to deserve Bill Sutherland's frown as she hurried off.


Scott had just about had enough of the stupid bike. The chain wouldn't stay on no matter how hard he tried. He stood up and listened a while to the music pounding from the stereo, glaring at the cycle murderously.

His hands were covered in oil and his legs were stiff from crouching down. Okay, one last go. One last go and if it didn't fix this time he'd smash the ******* contraption to pieces. He needed this damn bike for a very quick getaway once Kane did exactly what he wanted. He impatiently tried again to stretch the chain to fit - and that was when it finally gave up the ghost and snapped.

Scott swore loudly and furiously hurled the broken chain to the floor. Droplets of oil shot up into the air and fell back down like a black fountain.

It took a lot to scare Scotty but he drew an involuntary sharp breath. Dad was really going to do his block! It was bad enough oil had spattered the wall and furniture, but there was something worse. Far, far worse.

Richie Phillips was proud of his reputation as a sharp dresser, no expense spared, and he'd treated himself to some new clobber after clinching a deal on some hot jewellery. The designer shirt and classy jeans hung on the back of the door, ready for him to wear tonight out celebrating his footie team's expected victory. Now both were covered in black spots of oil.

When Dad got home and saw THAT Scotty was dead. You never dared so much as breathe on Richie Phillips' new clothes before he wore them, not if you wanted to live.

But Dad wouldn't be back for hours yet. Time was on Scott’s side when he wormed his way out of this one. Because there was a way out. A very easy way out.

There was Kane.

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