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You'll Never Be Alone

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Chapter 70

Five days later it was Saturday and Matilda was awake before anyone else. She had been sleeping better over the past few nights since the reading of the will but her dreams were still showered with memories of her mum. She had awoken and found the early morning sun shining in and found it impossible to go back to sleep. So, after a while she decided to go downstairs and get a drink. She turned on the TV, put a Friends DVD in and lay on the sofa.

An hour after she had gone downstairs she heard voices and feet coming down the stairs. She looked towards the door and was surprised to see Brad come into the room followed by Sally who was ushering him on. They both noticed Matilda at the same time and froze. Matilda sat up and continued looking at them, smiling.

“Umm ... Matilda, hi,” said Brad.

“Hello Brad,” she replied. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes thank you, very well,” smiled Brad who then looked at a giggling Sally.

“So, trying to sneak him out were you?” she asked Sally.

“Well ... we thought ... it would be easier until we could ... all sit down together and discuss it.”

Matilda smiled, they were acting like a couple of teenagers.

“Well Brad, you’d might as well stay for breakfast now,” smiled Sally, giving him a kiss.

“Why don’t I start making a full English?” suggested Matilda.

“You don’t have to do that, I’ll do it,” said Sally.

“No, no, you’ve done enough over the past couple of weeks. It won’t be as good as Leah’s but ...”

So Sally and Brad sat at the dining table whilst Matilda set about making breakfast for all 5 of them.

Half way through, Ric and Pippa came into the room.

“Brad!” said Ric. “You’re here early, couldn’t stay away?” said Ric.

Brad looked at Matilda then Sally and smiled, then the three of them burst out laughing.

“What? What’s funny?” asked Ric and he went over to see how the eggs were coming along.

“Umm well Brad spent the night,” said Sally, worried how Ric would take it.


“Yeah, I caught Sally trying to sneak him out,” said Matilda.

“Well ...” started Ric, “fancy a game on the play station before breakfast Brad?” he finished.

Sally came over and helped Matilda.

“I don’t know why I was so worried. Pippa thinks Brad is great and so does Ric. They’re obviously not fazed by it.”

“They can see he makes you happy and any person that does that will be made welcome,” said Matilda.

Soon, breakfast was done and the five of them sat round the table to eat.

“Brad, are you going to be here every morning?” asked Pippa.

“Umm well, not every morning. Why? Don’t you like having me here?” he asked.

“I like it! It means we have more time to play and mummy smiles more when you’re here,” explained Pippa.

“Well then, it’s good that I’m going to be around for a very very long time then isn’t it.”

“So, you got anything planned for today?” Sally asked Matilda and Ric.

“Well, actually I thought we could go round the house and maybe sort through some of the photos in the attic. I have to send some to everyone so I thought we could get on with that.”

“Sounds good, if you’re ready for that,” said Ric.

“I am,” Matilda reassured him.

“You both know you’re welcome to stay for as long as you want,” said Sally.

“Well, how about we go back today and see how we feel later,” suggested Matilda.

So an hour later they left Brad and Pippa playing a Barbie game on the play station and Sally watching. They walked to Matilda’s house and let themselves in.

“You sure you want to do this?” asked Ric, hugging Matilda.

“Yes,” replied Matilda, kissing Ric.

Ric got the ladder out and went up into the attic and passed down all the boxes labelled photos.

“So, where do you want to start?”

“Umm well why don’t we begin with the oldest and then work our way to the present,” suggested Matilda.

So they began looking through photos of Beth and Jack, Matilda’s dad. As they progressed, Scott appeared in the photos followed by Kit and then Robbie. After a couple of boxes Matilda and Henry first appeared. Matilda was always in pink and Henry in blue.

“You were such a sweet baby! So adorable,” said Ric, and he leaned in and kissed Matilda. He picked up another photo. “Where’s this?”

“That was the farm we lived on before my dad died,” explained Matilda.

“Did you like living there?”

“Well, it was kind of remote so as I got older that was an issue. But it was great growing up and being able to just run about and ride your bike and everything in your back yard that is huge.”

They finally got to a box of photos that was the Hunter’s just after moving to Summer Bay.

“It was the best thing that could have ever happened,” said Matilda. They found a picture that was Matilda, Henry and Ric on the beach, then Henry disappeared from the pictures and Cassie appeared, then Lucas.

“Hey, it’s our graduation from Summer Bay High,” said Ric, looking at a photo. It showed the four of them on the beach laughing and crying, running into the sea, sitting round a massive bonfire.

“So, I’ve split the photos into five piles,” explained Matilda. One pile for me to keep, and then a collection of photos each for Scott, Kit, Robbie and Henry.

“Hey, what’s this box?” asked Ric, noticing a box near Matilda that hadn’t been touched.

“Umm, that ... that is nothing,” said Matilda, trying not to blush.

“Come on I want to see!”

“No you don’t,” but it was no good, Ric grabbed the box and pulled it into the centre of the lounge. It was labelled ‘Matilda’s Things’.

“Fine, it’s the box I put things in to remember events in my life, it always lived at the bottom of my wardrobe, I took it with me to Uni and then I put it up in the attic when I got home.

Matilda opened the box and found more photos, diaries, souvenirs and many other things.

Ric grabbed a diary and started flicking through it.

“Hey, this is the year I came to Summer Bay!” said Ric. “So, what did you write about me?”

“No, give it back!”

Ric flicked through it and finally found his name. He began reading.

“Today I met a guy called Ric. He just moved to the Bay and is staying with Sally and Flynn. I was down at the beach with Henry and he came over and started talking to Henry. He was so hot and then I got talking to him and he’s a great guy. Henry had to leave to meet some other people from school and that left me and Ric. He doesn’t have any friends in the Bay so I showed him round. It was so easy to talk to him, which isn’t like the other guys here. We played pool at the surf club and he beat me but gave me some tips. I really like him, he seems like a really cool guy.”

Ric looked up, “So, you thought I was hot!” he said.

“Okay, so maybe I did.”

“Why did I never know this?”

“Because, I was shy. By the time I was confident enough, you were going out with Cassie. Then Lucas came and I started going out with him. Deep down, I knew it was always you I wanted to be with.” Matilda blushed. Ric leaned in and kissed her passionately.

“I always knew it was you I wanted to be with,” he whispered into her ear.

Ric went to get them some drinks and Matilda went to her room. She looked around to see it exactly how they left it. She moved round to her side of the bed and opened the cabinet. She pulled out a box and opened it. There were two letters in there, one from her dad and one from Belle. She pulled the letter from her mum out of her pocket and put it into the box. She returned back downstairs and sat on the sofa. She picked up one of the photos of when she was 6. It showed the whole family, including her dad, stood outside the farmhouse. Everyone looked so happy, smiling and joking. She continued looking at the photo and tears began to flow. She wiped her eyes when Ric came into the room. He looked at her and rushed to her side. She leaned into him and buried her face in his chest.

“So, you want to go back to Sal’s for a while,” he asked.

“Do you think she’ll mind?”

“I think she’s love it. She’s always said that it should be a full house, reminds her of her childhood.”

“I was thinking,” said Matilda, looking up. “I don’t think I could ever live here, not without the grief becoming overwhelming. Do you think mum would mind if I sold the house? We could buy somewhere else, together. This house is too big for us anyway.” Matilda looked nervous at suggesting it.

“If this is what you want, then I think it’s a good idea,” said Ric, hugging her tightly.

“What about my mum, she gave it to us.”

“She would want you to be happy, that was her first priority,” said Ric.

“I was also thinking, Scott and Hayley might want to buy it off me.”

“We could ask them,” said Ric.

“So, I sell this place, we live with Sally for a while longer and then find our own place.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

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Thanks for all the great comments. They are really appreciated.

Chapter 71

Matilda and Ric called in at Scott and Hayley’s on their way back to the Caravan Park and were delighted to hear that they would love to buy the old family house. They arrived at the Caravan Park to find Brad still playing on the play station with Pippa and Sally was preparing lunch.

Once they had all finished eating, Ric said that they had something to say.

“Well, when we were at the house earlier, Matilda decided she couldn’t live there, not after all the memories and everything that has happened. So, Scott and Hayley are going to buy the house off Matilda and we are going to look for somewhere to buy together. We hope you don’t mind, but we’d like to stay here until we find somewhere,” explained Ric.

“Ric, Mattie, we would love for you to stay here!” said Sally. “This house was never meant for only a couple of people, I love it being full of people.”

“So, I’ll go round the house later and pick up our stuff, looks like we’re living here properly now!” he said.

“I’ll help you, just say when,” offered Brad.

“Thanks guys, Sal we really appreciate it!” said Matilda.

“Don’t mention it,” replied Sally.

Later that afternoon Matilda, Sally and Pippa went to get ice cream at the Diner while Brad and Ric went to get all their stuff from the house.

“So, Mattie’s going to live with us properly?” asked Pippa.

“For a while yeah, is that okay?” Matilda asked Pippa.

“It’s great!” came the girl’s reply.

“Thanks again Sally, I can’t tell you how grateful I am, and Ric.”

“As I’ve already told you, don’t mention it.”

They brought ice creams and sat in a booth. After a while, Jade came in to start her shift and Matilda left Sally and Pippa talking to go and tell her about the move.

“We haven’t had a girls night in for a while, we’ll have to arrange one, although my place is now out of the question.”

“And I don’t think we’d all fit in my flat, maybe Martha or Hayley will have us all round.”

“Well, I’ll see what I can do,” said Matilda and she returned to Sally and Pippa.

They returned home to find Brad and Ric just arriving back, the car full of stuff.

“Matilda, how many clothes do you have? It took us ages to pack them!” said Brad.

“Hey, a girl’s gotta have clothes for every occasion, isn’t that right Mattie!” said Sally.

“Definitely!” agreed Matilda.

“Oh no, they’re going to gang up on us all the time now,” joked Brad.

“Yep, and we have Pippa on our side, right Pip,” laughed Sally.

“No Pippa, you want to be on our side. We’ll watch Barbie DVD’s with you,” persuaded Ric.

“Hey don’t bribe her!”

“I want to be on the girl’s side!” stated Pippa.

“Ha so it’s three against two,” laughed Matilda.

“And when Brad isn’t here, it’s only me!” said Ric, “how am I going to cope?”

Sally stood and watched as Brad, Matilda, Ric and Pippa all joked around while unpacking the car. A massive smile appeared on her face.

“What?” asked Ric as everyone fell silent.

“It’s like one big happy family,” she smiled in reply.

“Well, I got news for you, we are one big happy family, well we’re not all family yet, but close enough,” smiled Ric. Matilda came and hugged him. “One day we will all be family,” Ric finished as he held Matilda tightly.

Once Ric and Matilda were all moved in, Ric and Brad started playing Ric’s play station again.

“It’s great your staying here, now the play station isn’t going anywhere,” joked Brad.

“Ah thanks man, nice to know I’m loved,” Ric replied.

“How can you be so obsessed with this thing?” asked Matilda, sitting down and watching the cars on the screen.

“Well in a similar way that you’re obsessed with Friends!” replied Ric.

“Hey! You got into Friends!”

“Yeah but I’m not obsessed like you,” laughed Ric.

“That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to ask you if I can watch Friends some time, it sounds good,” said Sally.

“Of course! Why don’t we go up to mine and Ric’s room and watch it now. Pippa’s playing in her room and the boys are all set for the next couple of hours.

So for the next couple of hours, Sally was introduced to Friends, starting at series one. And by the time the men called up, she was hooked.

All five of them went to the kitchen to try and figure out what to have for tea.

“How about we get a take away to celebrate Mattie and Ric moving in?” suggested Sally.

“Sounds good, what does everyone fancy?” asked Brad.

They finally decided to get a take out from the Diner and also decided to get one of Leah’s chocolate cakes for afterwards.

During dinner Matilda looked around the table at her almost family. After everything she had been through this is what she wanted, to have a laugh with people she cared about.

“So Ric, looking forward to going back to work?” asked Brad.

“Well yeah apart from the getting up early. But I suppose I do own the place so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I was late,” replied Ric.

He had been off work since Beth’s death but Matilda had persuaded him that on Monday he should go back.

“So, got any plans for tomorrow?” asked Sally.

“Umm don’t think so, Mattie wants to go and see Martha, Hayley and Jade but other than that ...”

Later that evening Pippa was getting tired so Matilda offered to go and read her a story in bed. Sally and Brad cuddled up on the sofa with a glass of wine and Ric went to have a shower.

Pippa’s room was pink. It had pink walls, pink bed sheets, pink bed covers, everything. The floor was covered in toys, mostly Barbie dolls. On the wall there were posters of dolphins, Disney characters and photos. The most pronounced photo hung next to the bed and was of a man holding a baby and looking at the camera. It was taken when Pippa was just a year old and the man was, of course, Flynn. The warmth in his eyes showed, even if it was only a picture. Pippa looked at Matilda and looked to where Matilda’s eyes were focused.

“Mattie? Did you know my daddy?” she asked, as she climbed into bed.

“Yeah I did actually. I used to come round here to hang out with Ric and he would sometimes be here. Or I would see him at town events or just on the beach.”

“Everyone says he was a hero,” Pippa said sadly. “But I never knew him, I was too young.”

“He saved many people’s lives and he would be so proud of you.”

“That’s what everyone says, but I wish I had met him. Properly I mean.”

“Pippa, did anyone ever tell you that you’re wise beyond your years.”

“I like Brad though. He’s like a second dad. Can I have one of those?” asked Pippa.

“Of course you can. Tony was like my second dad and your mummy’s like my second mum.”

“That’s good.”

Matilda looked back at the picture.

“You were such a cute baby, I remember when you first cam home from the hospital and your mum and dad couldn’t wait to show you off to everyone.”

“I like hearing stories about when I was a baby, mum doesn’t really like talking about it, it upsets her because of daddy.”

“Well I don’t think I’ve met two people more in love than your mum and dad. So, do you want me to read you a story?”

“Well, why don’t you tell me about how you and Ric met and fell in love,” suggested Pippa. So Matilda started talking while Pippa snuggled into bed.

When Pippa had fallen asleep, Matilda crept out of the room and leant against the wall. She wiped her eyes when she heard footsteps and saw Ric coming out of their room.

“Mattie? What’s wrong?” he asked.

“It’s ... nothing. Well I saw the picture of Flynn in Pippa’s room and it just made me think. She doesn’t know Flynn, has no memories of him or anything. I had 21 years with my mum, 21 years of memories and had 12 years with my dad. The only way she knows who he is, is because of things she’s been told.”

That night Matilda had fallen asleep feeling lucky. Instead of sad, she felt lucky that she had the memories.

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Chapter 72

Brad spent the night again, but this time without sneaking around. When Matilda woke up she found Ric laying in bed looking at her.

“Have you been watching me sleep?” asked Matilda.

“Not for long, but you just look so beautiful when you sleep,” he replied and kissed her neck. She turned her head so he could kiss her lips.

“That,” she said in between kisses, “was a good answer.”

They spent the next half an hour cuddled in each others arms and finally decided to go downstairs.

“Hey Pippa, Sally,” said Matilda as she walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“Morning, Brad’s just having a shower but he’ll be done soon,” replied Sally.

Matilda had a shower next and dried her hair while Ric had a shower. He came into the room as she was finishing and was putting on her make up.

“I don’t know why you wear make up, your naturally beautiful!” he said, kissing her neck again.

“Well you have to say that, you’re my fiancé,” she replied. “I’m meeting the girls down at the beach in half an hour and I’ll probably have lunch with them. Will you be alright on your own?”

“Mattie I’ll be fine. Besides, I won’t be alone we live in a full house now.”

Matilda walked down to the beach and met up with Hayley, Martha and Jade.

“So, how are you?” asked Jade.

“I’m good. It’s so much better to be living at the Caravan Park. How are things going with you and Jack?” she asked Martha.

“Actually, they couldn’t be better! He’s totally cut back his hours, is spending time with Katie and we’re making time to be alone.”

“That’s super!” said Hayley. “That reminds me, Scott wanted me to tell you Mattie that he’s going to the bank tomorrow to start the process for selling out house.”


It was a windy day so too cold for sunbathing so instead they sat at the top of the beach on a picnic table.

“Oh before I forget, as part of Jack’s ‘new man’ thing, he wanted me to invite you all round next Saturday evening, including the guys. We thought it would be good to all get together.”

“Actually guys, I have something to announce. I know I only just got to Summer Bay but .., I’m leaving. I leave in the week to the city.”

“Oh my gosh,” Matilda, Hayley and Martha all said in unison.

“I came back here because I thought it was what I wanted. But there’s no future for me here. I’ve been offered an amazing job for a magazine in the City and I couldn’t pass it up.”

“Then you have to go. But, one condition, you have to call and you have to invite us shopping,” said Matilda.

“Thanks for being supportive guys. I’ve only known you a couple of months but it’s been great.”

The four of them hugged in a massive bear hug and stayed like that for ages.

When Matilda arrived back home she found Ric watching Friends on the TV.

“So, you are getting to like them,” Matilda said.

“Well, if I’m marrying you, I need to understand the stories don’t I so that I know what your Friends references are about. So, did you have a good time with the girls?”

Matilda sat down beside him and cuddled up to him.

“Jade’s leaving,” she said and Ric held her tighter. “She’s got a job for a magazine lined up in the city so she’s leaving on Wednesday. I know I haven’t known her long but, she’s my friend, I’m going to miss her.”

“I know you will,” agreed Ric.

“Why is it that every time I get close to someone, something happens.”

“Not every time. I’m still here, Hayley and Martha are too.”

“I suppose. Where is everyone else?” asked Matilda.

“Food shopping in Yabbie Creek, they should be gone a couple of hours because Pippa needs some new school uniform and then Brad wanted to go look for a new suit.”

“So, we have the place to ourselves,” smiled Matilda and she kissed Ric softly.

“Mmm and what are you thinking?” he replied, returning the kisses.

“Well ...” Matilda replied before putting more passion into the kiss. Ric wrapped Matilda in his arms and picked her up, carrying her upstairs. He put her gently down on the bed and went to shut the door. They quickly went back to kissing and soon clothes were being thrown to the bottom of the bed.

An hour later Matilda was fixing her hair that had got messed up and touching up her make up. She went downstairs to find Ric fixing them both a sandwich.

“Thought you might be hungry,” he said.

“It’s like you read my mind.”

She went over to the computer while Ric finished the snack. She had two new e-mails, the first from Henry, the second from Lucas.

Heya sis,

Well as promised, this is the first of many emails. The flight back to good old England was long but, made better from the cute girl sitting next to me. Sadly, she lives up in Scotland so we won’t be seeing each other again. It’s meant to be summer here but it is currently raining and cold. That’s one thing I have always misses about Oz, even in winter it is still warm. I am currently rehearsing for a new play which I am starring in for a couple of months towards the end of the year. Well, I think I’ve done my brotherly job so reply soon with all your news. Scott’s filled me in about the will. Hope your okay and that Ric’s treating you right. If he’s not, I’ll be back like a flash. I know you’ve found a good guy there Mattie.

So, can’t wait to hear from you,



Well I got back to Uni okay and classes are going well. I was a little behind but am all caught up now. I am planning on coming back to the Bay in a couple of weeks so it would be good to meet up with you, and Ric. It’s so great that we can all be friends again. I heard that you’ve moved in permanently with Sally and are looking for a house. I understand why you’re doing this, I found it hard to be back for a week. Well I’d better go because I’ve got a lecture. But I’ll phone you soon or e-mail.

Keep well and be in touch,


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I know I say it a lot but thank you so much for your comments! They really are appreciated!

Chapter 73

Monday morning Matilda woke with the sun shining through the window and the alarm clock ringing. Ric groaned and turned onto his back, slowly opening his eyes.

“Ugh I have work today,” he moaned, turning to look at Matilda.

“I have my meeting with your granddad,” Matilda.

“You’ll be fine. He loves you, you’re basically his grand-daughter.”

They went downstairs to find Pippa eating cereal and Sally making drinks. Brad had spent the night back at his flat.

“Morning you two, do you want some toast?” said Sally.

“Yes please,” replied Matilda and Ric in unison and they went to sit at the table with Pippa.

“Are you picking me up from school today Mattie?” asked Pippa. Sally has given Matilda a break from it since her mum died.

“Yeah I am Pip, what do you want to do?”

“Umm play with Noah,” replied Pippa.

“Do you ever want to do anything other than play with Noah?” teased Ric.

“He’s my friend!”

Brad came round to walk Pippa and Sally to school and work leaving Matilda and Ric to finish getting ready. Matilda was fixing her hair and was wearing a knee length skirt and a blouse with her hair tied up in a pony tail.

“How do I look?” asked Matilda.

“Beautiful,” replied Ric, walking over and kissing her.

“Do I look like a serious business partner?”

“Mattie, it’s the Surf Club. Granddad isn’t going to care how you’re dressed.”

“But I want to look nice to show that I’m serious about this.”

“Well you look amazing.”

“Thanks, don’t you have to go?” asked Matilda. “I’ll walk with you and then go to the beach for a bit before going to the surf club.”

So they walked hand in hand to the garage and stopped just outside. Ric leaned in and kissed Matilda softly on the lips. The rest of the guys were watching and whistled.

“Nice going boss!” one of them called out.

“Hey, how did you get such a hottie?” another said.

“Okay guy, for those of you who haven’t met her, this is my fiancé Matilda,” said Ric. Matilda shyly waved.

She left the garage and walked to the beach. She sat on a bench and looked out to sea. She saw someone coming towards her, it was Drew.

“Hey Matilda, are you feeling better?” asked Drew.

“Yes thank you. Shouldn’t you be in school?”

“I have a free period so thought I’d come down here. It makes me feel close to her,” he added. Matilda knew he was talking about Belle.

“Me too,” she said. “So, how are things going?”

“They’re alright I guess.”

“Anything you want to talk about?”

“It’s just that, none of the guys at school understand about Belle. They all like to hook up with a different girl every week. They don’t understand that I loved her. Even though she was 22 and I’m 16, I really did love her. They keep trying to get me to hook up with random girls, but that’s not me, it’s not who I am.”

“Drew, you have the right idea. Girls shouldn’t be someone you just hook up with for a night. You’re mature in that you want a relationship. I know how you felt about Belle and if you want to talk to someone then I’m always here.”

“Everyone keeps telling me to get over her but I can’t. I know it’s been like 5 months but ...”

“I know. It’s hard. It will slowly get better and eventually you will meet someone else.”

“She was the first person I ever cared about. Going from home to home you don’t make a lot of friends. But when I arrived at Irene’s it was different. I felt different, like it was finally going to work. She was part of that. Well, enough about me, why are you all dressed up?”

“I inherited my mum’s 50% of the Surf Club and I have a meeting with Mr Stewart to discuss things. So, I wanted to look nice.”

“You’re amazing Mattie,” replied Drew. “I mean it. You’re so kind, loyal, sensitive. You’ve been through a lot and still make time to help other people.”

“Thanks Drew,” said Matilda, blushing.

“I’d better get back to school, I’ll see you around. Oh and ... you couldn’t put a good word in for me at the Surf Club could you? Working at the Diner is fine but Colleen can get a bit much.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” laughed Matilda. “And I agree about Colleen.”

Matilda walked up to the Surf Club and found Alf waiting for her.

“Hello Matilda,” he said when he saw her.

“Hey Mr Stewart, how are you?” Matilda asked.

“Not to bad, but it should be me asking you.

“I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me that over the past couple of weeks,” smiled Matilda.

“Nice to see you smiling again though,” Alf replied.

“So, shall we get started?” suggested Matilda.

“Good idea, now, do you want to take an active role in the running of it or be more ... behind the scenes.”

“Well I’ve been thinking, my mum left it to me for a reason. I want to get involved ... if that’s okay,” she added hesitantly. “But I’m not sure exactly how much use I would be.”

An hour later Matilda was walking home, feeling happier than she had in a while. She decided to go and see Ric at the garage as it would be his lunch break.

“Hey babe, this is a nice surprise,” he said, kissing her and leading her to his office.

“Well I wanted to see you and tell you how it went,” replied Matilda, kissing him for a greeting.

“So, how did it go? Granddad wasn’t a slave driver was he?” joked Ric.

“No, he was really nice. I said I wanted to be involved like my mum was and so I said I would do some of the day shifts during the week. So, I’m working 10 til 2 Monday to Friday for a couple of weeks to see how I like it. That means I can still pick up Pippa at half 3 and I have evenings and weekends free. I know my mum did a lot more shifts but ... Oh and he said he’d teach me to do the books so that I can learn. I’m actually really excited about it all,” finished Matilda, a smiled spread across her face.

“So, you’re a business owner now, like me,” said Ric.

“Yep, I have a proper job, my own proper income. Not that I don’t love looking after Pippa every day after school, but it’s not a proper job. Now I can do both!”

Matilda left soon after, kissing Ric goodbye, and returned to the Caravan Park. She was surprised to find Sally sat on the sofa, staring into space.

“Sally? Is something wrong?” asked Matilda. Sally turned to face her.

“Umm it’s nothing, not really. I had a free period and couldn’t concentrate so came home.”

“Anything I can help with?”

“I’m just being silly,” said Sally.

“I’m a great listener,” offered Matilda.

“Well, you have offered great advice in the past, if you’re sure you want to hear my petty troubles.”

“Hey, you’ve done so much to help me these past couple of months, now let me help you.”

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Chapter 74

Matilda sat down next to Sally.

“You sure you don’t mind listening to me? You don’t have anything better to do?” said Sally.

“Honestly. I want to help. You’re like a second mum to me, so what’s up?”

“It’s just, this is going to sound really petty and stupid but it’s everything that’s been going on with Brad.”

“But ... I thought everything was going great, I thought you said this weekend you couldn’t be happier?” wondered Matilda.

“Yeah I am happy. Things are going great with Brad, in fact I was thinking about asking him to move in. He spends most nights here anyway. But ...”

“But it makes you think of Flynn and how he’d feel,” finished Matilda.

“Well yeah. It’s another man moving into our house, and I know it’s stupid and I know Brad’s fine with my feelings for Flynn, but ... I don’t know, it just feels a bit weird.”

“That’s understandable Sal. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two people more in love than you and Flynn but, as I said at the airport, you can love two people. There’s always going to be a place for Flynn in your heart, and so there should be, but there’s room for Brad too. Flynn was an amazing guy and would want you to be happy and if that means Brad moving in, then he would want it to happen.”

“I keep thinking of the tape he left me, did Ric tell you about the tapes?” Sally checked.

“Yeah, he left one each for you, Ric, Cassie, Mr Stewart and Pippa,” said Matilda.

“At the end of my video it says for me to move on with my life and to not hold back because of him. He wanted me to find someone else.”

“So there you are, there’s your answer. But if you don’t feel comfortable then leave it for a while. You have to do what’s best for you, what feel’s right in your heart,”

“Do you think the others would mind if he were to move in?”

“Like you said, he’s here basically all the time anyway. Ric’s really friendly with him, they have a special bond and Pippa thinks of him as a second dad, she told me so the other night.”

“Really?” asked Sally, pleased.

“Yeah, I went in to read her a book and I saw the picture of Flynn above her bed. She saw me looking and asked some questions about him. Then she asked if she could have two dads, I said of course she could. After all, I had my proper dad then Tony and you’re like my second mum.”

“She’s been beginning to ask about Flynn, but I don’t know what to tell her. I don’t like talking about it too much in front of Brad in case he feels uncomfortable. And ... it makes me ... emotional.”

“You know, it’s only natural now that she’s getting older that she asks. That’s why she likes Mr Stewart coming over, he tells her stories about her dad.”

“I thought he did. Flynn asked him to make sure we were all okay and to make sure nothing happened. I guess I’d better talk to Pippa more about her dad.”

“You don’t have to if you don’t feel ready, but you have to remember, she’s not the average 8 year old, she’s very bright for her age.”

“I could say that about someone else,” said Sally, looking at Matilda. “You always know what to say to make people feel better and seem to sort out everyone’s problems. Drew mentioned he’d spoken to you this morning,” Sally added.

“I was down at the beach and he needed someone to listen. None of the people in his class understand about Belle.”

“They’re young, they think they are invincible only Drew knows differently.”

“Out of curiosity, Pippa hasn’t seen the video from Flynn has she?” asked Matilda quietly.

“No ... I keep wondering whether she’s ready, but when’s the right time to show a girl a video of the dad she never knew properly. What do you think I should do?”

“Sally, I can’t answer that. You’re Pippa’s mum, you have to decide what’s for the best.”

“Mmm not everything can be sorted by you then,” laughed Sally.

“Nope, I’m not that brilliant,” laughed Matilda.

“Thanks Mattie, you’ve really helped,” and Sally hugged Matilda.

“Anytime, I’m happy to help.”

“Well, I’d better get back to school, before I’m missed,” said Sally.

“Do you want company for the walk?” offered Matilda.

“Sure, why not,” replied Sally and the two of them set off for the high school.

When they got to the school Sally hugged Matilda and set off for her classroom. Brad had been walking across the car park and saw this. He walked over to the gate and called out Matilda’s name. She turned around and retraced her steps to where Brad was.

“What’s up Brad?” she asked.

“Umm I noticed this morning at break that Sal seemed a bit ... pre-occupied and I saw her with you just a minute ago, is everything okay?”

“Umm yeah. She just had some stuff on her mind but I think it’s all sorted now,” said Matilda.

“Anything I should know about?”

“I’m sure you’ll find out in the end. Just, let her know how much you love her, and Pippa.”

“Thanks for being there for her Mattie, I’d better get back.”

“Anytime Brad. You’re all family so I’m always here.”

She made her way slowly over to the elementary school as there was still time before Pippa would be coming out. Hayley had just arrived and was looking for someone to talk to.

“Hey Hayley,” called out Matilda.

“Mattie! It’s good to have to back here at school! I’ve been lonely waiting here without you.”

“Nice to know I was missed,” smiled Matilda.

Pippa and Noah came out together and were hatching a plan.

“Mummy, can we go to the beach?” asked Noah.

“Mattie, can we go too!” said Pippa, both were looking sweetly up at the adults. Hayley and Matilda looked at each other and smiled.

“I guess we could, it would give us time to talk,” suggested Hayley.

“Yeah, we don’t have to be back until dinner,” replied Matilda.

They walked down to the beach and the two kids were under strict instructions not to go anywhere near the sea in case they got their uniform wet.

“So, you still serious about selling us the house?” asked Hayley.

“Definitely! If you still want to buy it of course.”

“Yeah we do. We just have to sell our place.”

“Great. Ric and I are going to be living at the Caravan Park until we find somewhere so we have all the time in the world to find our dream house,” said Matilda.

“I’ll bet Sally is pleased to have the house full again,” said Hayley.

“Yeah, I think it was strange it being just her and Pippa.”

They chatted for a while about Jade leaving, before heading home in different directions.

“I like you living with us!” said Pippa, holding Matilda’s hand.

“Well that’s good,” smiled Matilda.

“Will Ric play my new Barbie play station game with me later?”

“Umm well you can always ask. I’m sure he’d love to play with you.”

“I’m so glad he brought a play station, he’s teaching me how to play all the games.”

They arrived back at the Caravan Park to find Sally cuddled up to Brad on the sofa and Ric was just changing out of his work clothes.

“Hey mummy,” called out Pippa.

“Hey sweetie, did you have fun with Mattie?”

“Yeah we went to the beach with Noah and Hayley. I’m going to go change out of my uniform,” and Pippa went running up the stairs as Ric entered the room. He walked over and greeted Matilda with a kiss.

“Mattie, thanks again for today, it was just what I needed,” said Sally from where she was sat.

“Don’t mention it.”

“What are you on about?” asked Ric.

“Oh just your amazing fiancé!” joked Matilda.

“Really? Well, if she’s amazing then how about I have another kiss,” Ric replied and Matilda leaned in and kissed him.

“Seriously Ric, you’ve found a good one there, don’t ever let her go,” said Brad.

“Don’t worry, I don’t plan on letting her go anywhere,” and he put his arm round Matilda’s waist. Ric went to make drinks and Matilda sat on the chair in the lounge.

“Mattie, I’ve told Brad what we discussed earlier and I asked him to move in here. We’re telling the others at dinner,” said Sally in a quiet voice so Ric wouldn’t hear.”

“That’s great guys!” replied Matilda.

“It’s all down to you Mattie. You’ve actually helped us a lot in out relationship, so thank you,” added Brad.

“Hey what are you guys talking about?” called Ric from the kitchen.

“None of your business,” called back Matilda.

“Now is that what an amazing fiancé would say to her future husband?” joked Ric.

“Well, you’ll find out soon,” called out Sally.

“Not fair!” moaned Ric.

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Chapter 75

That night Sally announced that she had asked Brad to move in with her. Everyone was pleased and Ric couldn’t help notice that Matilda wasn’t as surprised as he was. Once they were in their room and getting ready for bed he put his arms round her waist and hugged her.

“Why do I think you already knew about Brad moving in?” he asked.

“Well ... I might have known...” replied Matilda.

“And you didn’t tell me!” smiled Ric.

“It wasn’t up to me, it was for Sally to tell you in her own time. I came home from seeing you at the garage and she was here. She needed someone to talk to so I listened.”

“What did she talk about?” asked Ric.

“Well ... mostly Flynn. Then we moved on to Pippa and the videos that Flynn left you.”

“Have I told you how great it is to have a fiancé that goes around and sorts everyone’s problems out?” said Ric.

“Come on, now you’re exaggerating.”

“Fine, but you do help a lot of people, and I love you for it. Your so kind, sensitive, loving,” said Ric.

“For that, you get a kiss,” and Matilda walked over to him, put her arms around his neck and passionately kissed him.

“Have you noticed anything about Drew?” she asked once they were in bed and sitting cuddled up to each other.

“Like what?”

“Well, does he seem more distant than usual?” replied Matilda.

“He turns up at the garage everyday after school, I show him what to do, he learns and goes home happy, why?”

“I had a chat with him earlier, he hasn’t really made any real friends at school. He’s still not completely over Belle and the guys at school don’t understand about the situation.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll keep a close eye on him and maybe take him to the Diner after work one day.”

“Ahh you’re so sweet! I think he’d really appreciate that” and Matilda moved closed to Ric.

She started playing with her charm bracelet that hung on her wrist. It had been a Christmas present from Ric. He had brought a book charm to symbolise her graduating and they had then brought a heart charm once they’d declared their love for each other. Belle had then brought her a bell charm as something to remember her by. Since then she also had a dolphin, after swimming with them in Florida, a car, for her dad since she had gotten a car with money he left her, and then an Eiffel tower for her mum and Tony. She thought it was a wonderful present since she could keep buying charms and build up a whole set that showed significant moments and people in her life.

After a while she looked up at Ric.

“We’ve been though so much, you and me, haven’t we,” she said.

“Yeah we have. But we’ve made it through it all and now look at us,” replied Ric.

“We’re getting married. I’m so glad you kissed me on the beach the day I came back from Uni. If you hadn’t, who knows whether we would have gotten together.”

“We would have ... eventually. I’d been thinking about you for ages. If I hadn’t kissed you that night, my feelings would have come out at some point.”

“And all I needed was a little push to see that my feelings were more than friendship.”

“I was so nervous after a kissed you that night. I thought I’d lost you forever,” said Ric.

“Well I thought I’d lost you after I ran away from you that night,” replied Matilda.

“Any reason we’re going down memory lane?” asked Ric.

“Not really,” laughed Matilda. “I was just looking at my charm bracelet and it got me thinking.”

“Well, we have so much more to look forward to in the future.”

“Like our wedding!” said Matilda. “Although it’s going to be strange without my mum.”

“I know, but she’ll be with you in your heart.”

“Who’s going to walk me down the aisle?” asked Matilda.

“Umm well ... there’s Scott?” suggested Ric, hugging Matilda.

“Yeah, that’s a good idea! I’ll think about it and maybe ask him. Then you’re down to just one best man.”

“I think Jack will manage the duties by himself,” nodded Ric.

“I’m so pleased him and Martha are going good,” commented Matilda.

“Do you ever stop thinking about other people?” asked Ric.

“Sometimes,” smiled Matilda.

“Mmm I love your caring side!” Ric said and kissed Matilda. She moved round so that she could kiss him properly.

“Are you tired?” asked Ric.

“That depends,” replied Matilda.

“On what?”

“On what you had in mind.”

Ric leaned in and kissed her more passionately and ran his hands through her hair before cupping her chin in his hands.

“Well, in that case ... I’m wide awake,” laughed Matilda.

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Chapter 76

“It’s going to be strange without Jade,” commented Matilda.

“Yeah, but she was only here a couple of months and you’ll see her all the time. You can go on shopping trips and spend lots of money with her, you like that,” replied Ric.

It was Saturday evening, Matilda and Ric were walking hand in hand to Martha and Jack’s house. Jade had left that Wednesday after a goodbye party. They arrived and were let in by Scott.

“Jack’s changing Katie,” Scott explained “and Martha’s getting the wine.”

Matilda and Ric sat down on the available sofa just as Martha came in with glasses and a bottle of wine.

“Hey guys,” she said to Matilda and Ric. “Jack will be in soon, he’s just putting Katie to sleep,” she said with a smile on her face. It was clear Martha liked the ‘new’ Jack.

Before long the three couples were all sat in the lounge, the Chinese food had been ordered and Martha had poured them all a glass of wine.

“We haven’t had a proper get together like this in ages!” commented Scott.

“Yeah we should definitely do it more often.”

“So, thought any more about the wedding?” asked Scott.

“Well, we’re definitely agreed on sometime between Christmas and New Year. A summer wedding on the beach and the reception at that Headland Hotel. We’re booking it in the week actually.”

“Then we get to think about your dress!” said Hayley excitedly.

“And you and Martha, we have to get you bridesmaid dresses, and Jade.”

“We’ll definitely have to go shopping in the City.”

“Sounds like a plan!”

“Are you girls going to stop screaming anytime soon?” asked Ric.

“We’re just excited,” replied Martha.

“Yeah, you want me to look perfect on our wedding day, don’t you,” said Matilda.

“You look perfect everyday,” and that earned him a kiss from Matilda.

“Watch the displays of affection!” joked Scott. “That’s my baby sister”

“Hey I’m not a baby!” protested Matilda.

The Chinese food arrived and they all sat round the table and took a bit of everything.

“So, how do you like working at the Surf Club?” asked Scott.

“It’s great. Mr Stewart’s been really great and it’s actually quite fun.”

“Glad you’re liking it, mum would have been proud of you,” replied Scott.

The rest of the evening past with lots of laughter and joking. The three couples all agreed that it was a fun night.

“Scott, I know you’re working tomorrow so can I meet you Monday, on the beach at 9?” asked Matilda as she hugged her brother goodbye.

“Of course, is something wrong?” asked a puzzled Scott.

“No, I just ... need to talk to you.”

Ric and Matilda walked back to the Caravan Park and let themselves in quietly as not to wake Sally, Brad or Pippa.

Monday morning things in the Caravan Park were hectic. Brad could only find one shoe, Sally couldn’t get the hair straightners to work and Pippa was moaning it was too early. Ric was getting ready for work and Matilda was getting dressed to go and meet Scott.

Brad eventually found the missing shoe under the sofa, the hair straightner’s refused to work so Sally borrowed Matilda’s, Pippa was still tired and yawning when the three of them left. Matilda walked with Ric to the garage and then went on to the beach. She found Scott waiting on a bench and hugged him.

“So ... what’s this about?” asked Scott.

“Well, it’s the wedding. I was going to ask Mum to walk me down the aisle cos dad can’t, but obviously I can’t now. So, I was wandering if you could?” suggested Matilda.

“Mattie ... I would be honoured!” said Scott, pulling his sister into a massive hug.

“Really? Because you don’t have to.”

“Of course I want to! I love you sis, and I can see how much you love Ric, he’s a great guy.”

“Yeah he is.”

Matilda walked into the Surf Club and put her bag in the storeroom. She walked out to find a brown haired girl just arriving and getting ready to start work.

“Hi, I’m Matilda.”

“Becky. You’re the new part owner aren’t you?”

“Yeah, my mum, Beth, left it to me.”

“I would have met you last week but I was on holiday, went to see my family in Sydney,” explained Becky.

Becky and Matilda got to know each other during their shift as they weren’t that busy.

“What are you doing after work?” asked Becky.

“Actually I’m picking up Pippa. She’s my fiancé’s little sister. She’s 8 and goes to Summer Bay elementary. Her mum, Sally, is vice principle at the high school so I look after Pippa until she finishes work.”

“Ah that’s sweet. So, I’ll see you tomorrow, boss,” replied Becky.

“Please don’t call me boss, Matilda or Mattie is fine!”

“Okay, see ya Mattie.”

“So, Pippa what do you want to do?” asked Matilda as they arrived home.

“Umm can we play on the play station?”

“Okay cool, but go get changed first,” replied Matilda. “I’ll make us some drinks.”

When Ric came home, Matilda and Pippa were still playing on the play station.

“I knew you’d come round to liking it!” joked Ric.

“Okay yes, there are some good games. But I don’t get why you and Brad are obsessed with it!” replied Matilda.

Ric replied by kissing Matilda.

“Eww I’m still here!” cried out Pippa.

“Pippa, when you’re a bit older you will have no problem with physical displays of affection,” explained Ric.

“Nope, not going to happen!” said Pippa.

“Mm yeah I’ll remind you of that.”

That night Lucas rang.

“Hey Mattie, haven’t spoken in nearly a week so thought I’d ring,” he said.

“Actually I was just thinking I should ring you!”

“So, things at the Surf Club going well?”

“Yeah, really well. There’s a girl called Becky on the same shift as me and she’s really nice. Alf has been teaching me how to do the books which I’m actually finding interesting.”

“Good for you!”

“So, how’s Uni going?”

“It’s good. The lectures are really interesting and I feel really good about the whole thing. Lawyer here I come!”

“That’s great Lucas. So, any girl’s in your life?” Matilda asked cheekily.

“No not at the moment but I’m concentrating on my studies. I don’t want to get behind because of a girl.”

“Sounds ... sensible.”

“Well I’d better go, got a paper to finish for tomorrow.”

“Okay, speak to you soon Luc,” said Matilda.

“Bye Mattie,” finished Lucas.

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Chapter 77

A month later Matilda, Alf, Sally and Brad were in the kitchen on a Saturday afternoon discussing Ric’s birthday which was the following Saturday. Pippa had gotten Ric out of the house saying she wanted to go to the Diner for a milkshake.

“So, anyone have any plans?” asked Sally.

“Actually ... I have,” replied Matilda and she filled them in on the present she had brought for Ric.

“Then in the evening we could have a party with the rest of the town,” suggested Brad.

“Yeah we can use the Surf Club,” said Alf while Matilda nodded.

“So, do you think the party should be a surprise?” asked Brad.

“Mmm well I think that would be good. He surprised me at our engagement party after all so it’ll be my way of returning the gift.”

“So, I’ll talk to Leah about the cake, we’ll all spread the word about the party but make sure people keep it a secret,” said Sally.

“Well once Colleen finds out, that’ll be hard. She’s bound to let it slip,” joked Alf.

As Ric walked into the room everyone went silent.

“Did I interrupt something?” he asked, looking around at Sally, Brad, Matilda and his grandfather.

“No, no of course not,” everyone said.

“What are you doing here granddad?” he asked.

“Well ... I was ... teaching young Matilda about the books.”

“Right and where are the books then?” said a suspicious Ric.

“Well ... we’ve been doing it on the internet,” said Matilda.

“Right, so I’ll be off. See you all soon,” and Mr Stewart left.

“Okay, so whose going to tell me what’s going on?”

“Nothing is going on!” said Sally.

“Yeah right. Pippa you’ll tell me won’t you!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about Ric,” she said, even though she did.

Later that afternoon, Ric and Matilda were walking hand in hand along the beach. The wind was blowing and the sea was choppy and lapping up around their ankles.

“So, what was going on earlier?” he asked.


“I can always tell when you’re lying!” laughed Ric.

“Will you just drop it!”

That evening everyone was sat round the table having just finished dinner.

“So Ric, looking forward to being 25?”

“Yeah, but that means I’m closer to 30 so that’s depressing.”

“Yeah cos 30’s so old,” said Brad.

“Sorry, it’s just ... I don’t feel that ... it doesn’t seem long ago that I was turning 18.”

“I understand mate,” replied Brad.

“I need to go round to Scott’s to sign something to do with the house so I’ll be back in a little while,” said Matilda after she had helped Sally wash the dishes.

“Want me to come?” called Ric.

“No, you play with Brad on the racing car game, I’ll be back before you know it.”

Matilda popped into the Diner to buy a milkshake before heading to Scott’s. Drew was working so served her.

“Everything alright?” she asked.

“They’re okay. Ric’s been really nice. He brought me here for dinner the other day and he’s been showing me all sorts of things with the cars,” smiled Drew.

“Glad you’re liking it,” replied Matilda.

“It’s great! Much better than school.”

“So, still not making any friends?”

“No, they think I’m stupid and don’t want anything to do with me.”

“Drew, what are you doing next Saturday?” asked Matilda, an idea forming in her head.

“Nothing, as usual, why?”

“Well, can you come round to the Caravan Park at 9?”

“Sure ... but why?”

“You’ll find out next Saturday,” smiled Matilda.

Drew went into the kitchen to make the milkshake.

“What do you have planned?” asked Irene. Matilda told Irene of the birthday present for Ric. Drew came out with the milkshake and Matilda left and walked round to Scott’s.

“Hey bro, how are you?” she asked.

“I’m brilliant. Can’t wait to move into the house. It’ll mean we have more room.”

“Well, as of this week it will be all yours!”

“Yep, can’t wait. It was so nice of you to think of us,” said Hayley.

“No problem. So, you need me to sign some papers?”

Matilda dealt with the papers and then accepted a glass of wine from Hayley.

“Actually, I need to make a quick call, do you mind?” Matilda moved into the kitchen to finalise the plans.

She returned to the Caravan Park half and hour later.

“Hey babe, you were gone quite a while,” commented Ric.

“Well I went to the Diner on the way to get a milkshake and got talking to Drew.”

“You got a milkshake without me!” protested Ric.

“I’m sorry, next time I’ll get you one too, that better?”

“That’s great. Brad’s putting Pippa to bed and Sally’s popped round Leah’s,” explained Ric. Matilda sat down on the sofa and looked at the TV screen which was showing the racing car play station game.

“So, how do you play?” she asked, picking up a spare controller.

“We don’t have to play if you don’t want to, we could watch TV,” offered Ric.

“Afraid I’m going to beat you?” teased Matilda.

“Alright then ...” and he proceeded to explain all the controls.

They were racing when Brad came back downstairs.

“So, Mattie, you’ve come over to our side,” Brad joked.

“You know, this game isn’t bad. Still don’t understand your obsession with it, but it’s okay.”

Ric pulled her into a hug and kissed her on the forehead.

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Chapter 78

It was now Friday, the day before Ric’s birthday. He woke up and looked over to a sleeping Matilda. She opened her eyes.

“You’re watching me sleep again,” she said.

“I can’t help it,” replied Ric, putting his arm round her and pulling her close to him. “I might come and see you in my lunch break today.”

“I might not be there. Drew’s asked me to meet him at the beach so I took an hour off work.”

“Why does Drew want to see you?”

“Well, he just said he wanted to talk about something. I want to help him so I said I’d meet him.”

“You’re so kind,” said Ric and kissed her on the neck, “and considerate,” he kissed her again, “and the most wonderful fiancé in the world,” and he kissed her again.

“You’re not such a bad fiancé yourself,” replied Matilda and she kissed him on the lips.

“So, I’ll see you after work,” said Ric as they approached the garage. “Good luck with whatever Drew wants.”

“Thanks Ric, see you later,” and she kissed him goodbye.

She made her way to the Surf Club and arrived at the same time as Becky.

“So, I hear you’re escaping for an hour,” said Becky.

“Yeah, I have to go and meet someone.”

“A guy? Behind your fiancés back?” teases Becky.

“No, it’s this kid Drew. He’s 16 and goes to the high school. He moved here in the summer from foster care and has been going from place to place his whole life. He lives with Irene now. Anyway, he fell for my friend Belle, who died in January from skin cancer. He’s never really gotten over the death and hasn’t made any friends at school. He needs someone to talk to so I said I’d always be there for him.”

“That’s so nice of you. That poor kid, sounds like he’s been through a hell of a lot.”

“Yeah, I just feel really bad for him.”

“If he’s not getting on at school, why doesn’t he get an apprenticeship somewhere?”

“Can you do that?”

“Yeah my brother did it. He wasn’t very academic so stopped trying in school. So, he dropped out, got an apprenticeship working on a boat and now owns his own sailing business. He’s raking in the money, it was the best decision he ever made.”

“Hmm that’s an idea. I’ll think about it, thanks Becky,” she moved off to serve a customer.

“So, it’s your Ric that the party’s for tomorrow?” asked Becky a while later.

“Yeah, but it’s a surprise and he’s nearly found out about 10 times. Leah came round with cake ideas and he came home early, Colleen was going on about it in the Diner and he walked in.”

“Well, it’s very nice of you to go to that trouble.”

“Well, when he proposed he planned a massive party that involved bringing family from France over, web links to my brother in America and it was all a surprise.”

“Wow, you’ve found a good guy. Can’t wait to meet him.”

“I’ll introduce you tomorrow, are you working?”

“Yeah, Mr Stewart’s getting everyone who is free to work.”

“Well it is his grandson.”

“Is it weird working with your future grandfather in law?”

“I thought it would be, but it’s not. He’s really nice.”

An hour later Matilda left to go and meet Drew. She found him down on the beach.

“Hey Drew,” she called out. He stood up and hugged her.

“Thanks for meeting me. I didn’t know whether you’d be able to get off work and I only have a lunch hour, no free period’s today.”

“It’s fine Drew.”

“Good, cos I didn’t want to cause you too much hassle.”

“So, why did you want to see me?”

“Mattie, what would you say if I said I wanted to drop out of school?”

“Is that what you want?”

“Well, yeah, I hate it there and the kids are horrible.”

“Well, an hour ago I would have tried to persuade you to stay at school, but, I’ve come to see that maybe school isn’t for everyone. Have you thought of doing an apprenticeship?”

“Umm I thought you had to be older?”

“Well, I tell you what, let me look into it and I’ll phone you later.”

“Really?” said Drew, a smile forming across his face.

“Yeah, so anything else you want to talk about?”

“You could tell me why I have to meet you tomorrow at your house?”

“Sorry, can’t tell you that. Oh and tell Irene to come as well, and to bring a camera.”

“What are you up to Mattie?”

“So, how are things going living with Irene?”

“Change of subject but never mind. Actually, they’re going well. She’s really kind. Dunno what she’ll think of dropping out of school though.”

“Do you talk to her about stuff?”

“Some things,” said Drew.

“Have you told her about the other kids, how much you hate school?”

“Umm sort of, but I didn’t want to bother her.”

“Drew, she’d want to know what was going on. She cares about you.”

“I know, it’s just ... she’s ... not exactly young,” mumbled Drew.

“And I’m more your age,” finished Matilda.

“I know you’re 5 years older than me, but I feel that I can talk to you,” explained Drew.

“Well, you’d better get back, I’ll find out about the apprenticeship thing and get back to you.”

“Thanks Mattie, you’re the best.”

Matilda went over to the garage to talk to Ric.

“Hey babe,” she said as she walked in.

“Hey, what are you doing here?”

“That’s a nice way to greet the love of your life!”

“Sorry,” he kissed her. “Hello sweetheart.”

“That’s better. Can I speak to you, in the office?” asked Matilda and she led him into the room.

“So, what brings you here?” he asked.

“Well, you know Drew?”

“Yeah, I know who he is surprisingly enough,” joked Ric.

“He’s a good worker right?”

“Yeah, but I don’t see where this is going?”

“Well, how would you feel if he had a full time apprenticeship?”

“But he’s at school?”

“Yeah, but he wants to quit and Becky was telling me that he could if he had an apprenticeship.”

“So you want me to take him on full time and train him up?”

“Yes, is that something you would be interested in?”

“Sure,” smiled Ric.

“Really? You’re not just saying that to please me?”

“No, I mean it. He’s a really hard worker and is passionate about cars. What more could I ask for?”

“Thank you so much Ric!” Matilda cried, and she kissed him on the lips, giving him a massive hug. “Right, I’m off to see Sally or Brad. I’ll see you later.”

She arrived at the school and decided to go along to the offices on the off chance one of them would have a free period. She was in luck, Sally was sat at her desk doing paperwork. Matilda knocked on the door.

“Mattie? What are you doing here? Is something wrong?”

“No, I just need to speak to you. It’s about Drew actually.”

“Okay, come in, sit down. I’m guessing he’s been telling you about how he’s not getting on with anyone in his class?”

“Well yeah we had a chat at lunch on the beach. Have you noticed it then?”

“Well, actually yeah and a couple of teachers have mentioned it. Also, he’s always alone at break times.”

“Well, I was at work this morning and Becky mentioned something about how 16 year olds could drop out of school and take up an apprenticeship.”

“Yeah, in cases where the child feels they aren’t cut out for education, they can build up skills in another area to prepare them for life.”

“Well, Drew mentioned he wanted to drop out, so I thought I’d come see about it.”

“Hang on, I’ll get Drew and we can talk about it in more detail, and Irene should be here too.”

“She doesn’t know anything about this at the moment. Drew hasn’t told her.”

“Why don’t we talk about it, then Irene can be informed if it’s decided to take it further?”

“Thanks Sal.”

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Chapter 79

An hour later Matilda and Drew left Sally’s office. They had had a long discussion about the apprenticeship and Drew was thrilled to hear that Ric could offer him one.

“So, now I just have to tell Irene,” he said, looking gloomy.

“Hey, she just wants what’s best for you, for you to be happy. Do you want me to come with you?” asked Matilda.

“No ,it’ll be okay. But ... can I call you later, tell you what she says?”

“Of course you can. I’d be disappointed if you didn’t. And, I’ll see you tomorrow, 9 o’clock.”

“Thanks Mattie, for everything.”

Once they had walked down the street, Matilda went in the way of the elementary school to pick up Pippa and Drew went off to find Irene. He was meant to still be in school but Sally had let him go.”

An hour later, Matilda’s mobile rang while she and Pippa were having a snack.


“Mattie, it’s Drew, you said I could call?”

“Of course. Have you talked to Irene?”

“Umm yeah, but she doesn’t really agree with it. She kept saying that school is what’s best. I tried to make her understand but ... she said if it’s what I really want then she’d support me, but I want her to understand.”

“Do you want me to come over, maybe have a talk to her?”

“I can’t ask you to do that. It’s not your problem.”

“Drew, how many times do I have to say it? I care about you, you’re my friend despite the age gap, I want you to be happy. Listen where are you?”

“Home, Irene had the afternoon off work.”

“I’m coming round okay, I’ll see you in a minute.” She put the phone down and got her shoes, and Pippa’s.

“Pip, how would you like a little trip out, there’ll be milkshakes!”


They arrived at the beach house and Pippa knocked on the door. Drew opened it.

“Hi Mattie, hey Pippa.”

“Pippa, how would you like to go with Drew to get milkshakes?”

“Okay! Come on Drew,” and she took the boy by the hand and led him down the path.

Matilda entered and shut the door behind her. Irene was sat at the kitchen table.

“Irene, I wanted to talk to you about Drew.”

“So, you support his decision to drop out of school?”

“Yes, I do, and I think if you heard the whole story you would too.”

“The whole story?”

“Drew hasn’t exactly been telling you the whole truth about school. I think he didn’t want to worry you, in case you sent him away like the other foster families. I know you wouldn’t, but that’s happened in the past hasn’t it.”

“So, what’s the truth?”

“You know, he had a crush on Belle?”

“Yeah, but what’s this got to do with school?”

“Well, he never got over her death, not properly. The other guys in his class think he’s weird because he doesn’t hook up with a different girl every week. But that’s not who he is. They make fun of him because his mum and dad abandoned him and he has never had a proper home. He’s struggling at school because of all the time he’s missed, and all the swapping schools. It’s not his fault, but he just doesn’t get on there. He hasn’t made any friends and he’s not academic. Ric says that he’s a great mechanic. He’s really passionate about cars and you should have seen his face light up when Ric first offered to teach him after school. It’s what he wants to do, it makes him happy.”

“I guess he has been hiding stuff from me,” mumbled Irene.

“He just ... I think he finds it hard to confide in people, especially adults.”

“But he talked to you.”

“Yes, well ... I’ve always told him he could and I think he finds the age gap isn’t as much of a problem.”

“Whenever he comes home from the garage he’s always really happy,” said Irene. “And after what you’ve said, it really is what’s best for him. Ric doesn’t mind taking him on?”

“No, Drew’s a really hard worker and just wants to learn, he’s the perfect apprentice in Ric’s eyes.”

“Well, I guess we’d better go tell him the good news,” smiled Irene.

“Thanks Irene, this will mean a lot to him,” they both stood up and Matilda hugged Irene.

They made their way to the Diner where they found Drew and Pippa half way through their milkshakes.

“Drew,” said Irene “I’ve had a talk with Matilda ... and I think doing the apprenticeship will be the right thing for you. I didn’t know what you were going through at school, I wish you would have told me.”

“I’m sorry Irene for not telling you. Thank you for supporting my decision though.”

Matilda and Pippa left to go home.

“Mattie!” Drew came running out of the Diner calling her. Matilda turned round. “Mattie, thank you so much! I don’t know what I would do without you. Thank you!”

“Drew, don’t mention it. Seeing you happy is enough thanks. In the future, try telling Irene the truth about what’s going on, she wants to be involved in your life.”

“I will, I promise. But ... I can still come see you right?”

“Of course! I’ll see you tomorrow.” Matilda took Pippa’s hand and was about to walk away when Drew hugged her.

“Belle knew what she was doing when she told me to go to you for help,” he whispered.”

Matilda and Pippa returned home and Ric was already there.

“So, do I have a new apprentice?”

“Yes you do. After a little persuasion, Irene came round to the idea, Sally was really helpful and Drew will be reporting to you bright and early Monday morning.”

“You sorted all that today?”

“Yeah, why what’s the big deal?”

“You are truly amazing. Drew really looks up to you and I can see why.”

“So, you don’t mind me spending so much time with him?” joked Matilda.

“Not at all. I trust you and I trust him. you’re more like brother and sister.”

“That’s exactly how I feel!”

“Ric, are you looking forward to tomorrow?” asked Pippa over dinner.

“Well, that depends. Have you brought me a present?” asked Ric.

“I can’t tell you that! It’s a surprise!” replied Pippa.

“Fine,” said Ric who pretended to sulk.

“Well you don’t have long to wait now,” smiled Matilda.

“Mmmm I suppose, Brad do you want to play on the play station?”

“Just leave us to do the dishes why don’t you!” said Sally and Matilda.

“Well, it is my birthday tomorrow,” smiled Ric cheekily.

“Okay, go play,” said Matilda and she kissed him.

“I can do the dishes if you really want,” offered Brad.

“No, no we can do them, it’s okay you go play with Ric,” said Sally and she kissed Brad.

“What is with all the kissing!” cried out Pippa and everyone laughed. Just to annoy her, Ric kissed Matilda on the lips and Sally pulled Brad into another kiss.

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