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Relative Confusion

Guest Miranda

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Story Title: Relative Confusion

Story description: A light hearted story about Leah.

Type of story: LONG FIC!

Main Characters: Leah Baker, most of the present characters and some made up ones.

BTTB rating: G

Does story include spoilers: Yes

Is story being proof read: No

Any warnings: None.

Summary: Set after the OC and two years after 'Lookalike', a story for a bit of light relief from the drama of all the other OC stories.

Leah has been struggling in the background unnoticed for a long time, but then her life starts to get better.

I apologise to Tachel fans in advance, because in my Home and Away universe, they aren't together.

All lyrics courtesy of www.metrolyrics.com

Relative Confusion

Leah had never felt more despondent. Her naturally sunny disposition had taken so many knocks lately that she was struggling to keep going. Dan's death had devastated her, then she had been so disappointed by the collapse of the Den, the carefully arranged tribute to her beloved husband.

She stood looking out to sea while she waited for VJ to buy a smoothie from the diner. It was his first day back at school and he deserved a treat. What a boring mum I've been lately, she thought. Busy with chores instead of having fun in the holidays. When Miles was around, VJ was never bored- but she didn't want to think about Miles. It was too embarrassing.

'I'm really sorry Leah,' he said after she poured her heart out to him that day. 'I- my feelings- they've changed. I don't feel that way about you anymore.'

'But- oh- I see. Forget I said anything.' She prepared to leave at once- her pride was too wounded to stay.

'No- Leah- I don't want to hurt you. I think we just- we just both needed someone-' He looked so concerned, his wild curls flapping all over the place.

'It doesn't matter. Forget it.' Leah swept out of the caravan park without a backward glance. Miles was as kind and caring as usual, but there were no other feelings there.

'Mum! I've got it! Let's go!' VJ bounded out of the diner. He was eager to go to school- a new year, new friends, new adventures awaited.

'Come on then.' Leah pushed thoughts of Miles aside and walked with her son towards school.


On the way back from school, Leah was trudging along, lost in thought. She had to pull herself out of this low point: it felt uncomfortable and strange.

Rounding the corner past the diner, she walked straight into someone, making him drop his bag of shopping.

'Oh, sorry-' she began, looking up. 'Oh! Lucas. Hello!'

'Hello,' said Lucas, smiling. He began picking up the shopping- food for lunch, household items. Leah helped him. It was nice to see the familiar lanky blond boy- or young man as he was now.

'I'm so sorry I made you drop these. I'm in a world of my own these days.'

'Don't worry, I'm always in a world of my own. I never know what's round the next corner.'

'Aren't you back at university yet? The school term's just started. I thought the uni one would've, too.'

'Er- no- no, I'm lucky. I get longer holidays than school kids. Thought I'd come and see my dad for a couple of weeks, cos last summer I went travelling. I'm all the family he's got these days, and family's important.'

'Yes, it is. Doesn't Jack visit now he's overseas?'

Lucas shrugged. 'Not really. He's got his new life now.'

To distract him from a painful subject, Leah asked: 'How is uni?'

'Oh, it's really good. I'm really enjoying it, my writing's got so much better-'

Leah listened as Lucas enthused about his new life. He'd obviously made the right decision to leave Summer Bay and broaden his horizons. Seeing a younger person so happy made Leah feel pleased and old at the same time. Although her interest in people had not waned, her zest for life had dimmed a bit lately.

'So how about you?' asked Lucas, when he finished telling her all about it.

'I'm working in the diner again. Roman's on his honeymoon, so I'm covering for him. You know that the Den- er- it didn't work out-'

'Yeah. I know about that.' He was keen to spare her from going over the details again.

'So that's it really. I'm just the same as I ever was.' To stop this sounding bitter, Leah smiled warmly.

'Oh, God! I've just remembered I'm supposed to be at Dad's right now! I'm helping him paint Jack's old room and he wanted to make an early start.'

'Say hi to Tony for me,' said Leah.

'I will. Nice to see you.' He was already striding off, waving.


Then Leah saw Rachel approaching. She was walking very slowly, because now she not only had 18 month old Jamie, but three month old twins, Anna and Edward. She was pushing the twins' double buggy, while trying to stop Jamie running off all over the place.

Leah watched fondly for a few seconds, then ran to help.

'Rach! Need a hand?'

'Oh, yes please!' A flustered Rachel handed the buggy over to her friend, then ran off after her son, bringing him back protesting.

'I remember when VJ was little, he was so lively. I couldn't imagine looking after more than one child.'

'Tell me about it,' sighed Rachel. She looked desperately tired and pale. Anna started crying, which started Edward off, and soon they were both bawling.

'Time for their milk.' She got two ready made bottles out of her bag, and carried the babies over to a convenient seat. 'I know I should be breastfeeding, but I can't do that as well as everything else.'

'Let me help. Can I give one of them their bottle?'

'Oh, yes please.'

Soon, quiet reigned as Leah fed Edward, Rachel fed Anna, and Jamie peered at them all, amazed by the sight. This didn't last long though, and he was soon off to investigate insects in the sand.

'I know I was desperate for children, Leah, but sometimes I feel like tearing my hair out,' said Rachel. 'I don't get a moment to myself, and sometimes I just-' she raised her eyes to heaven.

'Oh Rach, it will get easier. When they can amuse themselves, it'll get better.'

Leah felt rather envious. She would love to have more children, but for various reasons this did not seem likely. Oh well, she said to herself. Rachel has been a good friend to me and she's been through some tough times. Now it's the other way round, I mustn't complain.

'It's nice holding a tiny baby again,' she said in an upbeat tone. 'VJ has grown up so quickly.'

'Yes, people say "make the most of them when they are young, it goes so fast." I keep telling myself that. Listen to me, moaning away. You must tell me to shut up sometimes.' Rachel smiled, mocking her own crankiness.

'Shut up Rach!' Leah laughed.

'So what are you up to this morning? I don't want to hold you up.'

'Oh, not much. I'm not at the diner today.' Leah thought how much at a loose end she was these days.

'Hello!' called a cheery voice. Miles was drawing near, followed by Kirsty and Olly. He looked as dishevelled as ever in baggy checked trousers, a wildly patterned shirt and a red neckerchief.

'Are you alright?' Rachel whispered to Leah, concern on her face.

'Oh, yes. What's done is done, I can't change it.'

'Hey.' Kirsty and Olly reached them first. 'Aw… tiny twins. So cute.' She started talking to Rachel about day care, because Jamie and Olly went to the same one.

'How are you Leah?' asked Miles. His round, childlike face wore an uncertain expression, but he was obviously determined to make peace.

'Oh, fine,' she smiled. 'Just enjoying life.'

'You're a lady of leisure now aren't you? I mean- er- now the Den isn't- wasn't- Not that it was a bad idea- it was good- but-'

'Miles!' said Kirsty sharply. 'You're rambling.'

'Oh. Sorry- yes.'

Dear Miles, Leah thought. So transparently kind. 'Don't worry, I'm fine.'

'Come on, we better go.' Kirsty dragged him off in her usual whirlwind of activity. She was always busy, rushing around doing things.

'I don't think Miles has any choices in that relationship,' said Rachel. She and Leah exchanged glances.

'Oh well. It wasn't meant to happen between me and Miles, was it?' sighed Leah. 'Bad timing, I suppose.'

'Jamie!' shouted Rachel. 'Put that down and come here!' She started putting the babies away in their buggy. 'Jamie! We're going to meet Daddy now.'

'Are you meeting him for lunch?' Leah went to catch Jamie.

'Yes. It takes us hours to get ready for anything these days,' sighed Rachel. 'Oh well, I'm just having a bad day.'

Leah felt a bit impatient. Rachel and Hugh were so lucky- happy together, with such lovely children. Leah remembered when she was so happy with Dan, and they had VJ, Ryan and Drew living with them. Happy times which were now in the past.

'Oh, Leah, you are still coming to the babies' christening aren't you? We're having it while they're young so they don't get distressed like Jamie did. We'd love you to come.'

Leah was suddenly guilty. Rachel deserved her happiness: she had been through so much before she settled down with Hugh.

'Of course I'll come! I'd love to!'

'Because….. We'd like you to be Anna's godmother. I'm sorry it's such short notice, but please say yes.'

'Oh, Rach. I'd love to. Thank you.'

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A month later, Leah stared critically at herself in the mirror. Her hair was twisted up in a loose bun and she wore the thin gold necklace Dan had given her for the last birthday he had been there. She had chosen a strapless dress in an unusual dark bronze colour which was very slightly shiny. She had debated with herself between this dress and one with sleeves, but decided that strapless would be alright if she made sure it looked elegant. She had a wrap to wear in church in case the minister didn’t like people to show bare shoulders.

Now used to going everywhere without Dan, she and VJ got into her car and drove to the church.

When they went in, the church was packed with Summer Bay residents, all chattering excitedly.

Hugh, Rachel, their children, Leah and VJ were all at the front of the church in one pew. The other godparents, Alf, Irene and Brad sat behind. The church was decorated with lots of fresh flowers and the scent was beautiful and uplifting. Leah felt a sudden burst of happiness. She hadn’t been to a church ceremony of any kind for ages and it was nice to have a break in routine.

She glanced round. Geoff was assisting the minister, and Nicole was involved too. Leah thought how much more respectably Nicole conducted herself now she was with Geoff. Instead of wearing a revealing dress, she looked modest and feminine. After their terrible experience together though, it was not surprising. She was probably glad to be alive.

Kirsty, Miles and Jai were on the other side of the church, in the middle with Annie and Belle. With a shock, Leah noticed that Kirsty was wearing exactly the same dress as she was. She wasn’t wearing a wrap though. Instead she wore a necklace of large, bold beads and earrings in the same colour as the dress, and a large artificial flower behind one ear. She looked lovely, but rather flamboyant. But Kirsty and Miles looked good together- he never chose conventional clothes, so they complemented each other.

Leah turned back to the ceremony. It started with a hymn, and then the babies were taken to the font to be blessed. Leah, Alf, Irene, Brad and Jamie went up with them.

‘Edward wet!’ he exclaimed in a loud voice. ‘Jamie not put water on him.’

‘No darling,’ said Rachel. ‘Only grown ups can put water on him. Just be quiet a bit longer and then you can run around.’

Leah smiled. She’d love to have another baby and watch him or her grow up through all the funny stages of talking and walking.

The christening was not a solemn occasion, but formal, and she was glad when the official part was over. Everyone could now relax, start talking and setting off for the party at the surf club.

Rachel and Hugh led the way, with their children. There was a blond man with them- he looked familiar, but Leah couldn’t think where she’d seen him before. Then Colleen bustled up.

‘A lovely service, don’t you think?’ she said. ‘Of course, it’s a shame that Dr Sullivan and Dr Armstrong aren’t married, but that seems to be the way of things these days.’

‘Well, at least they have each other.’

‘Not like you and me, dear. A pair of old widows,’ Colleen was only half joking.

‘Well- er-‘

‘Although I have it on good authority that they soon will be married. Not that I’m one to gossip of course. But you mark my words…’ Colleen tapped her nose knowingly and Leah didn’t know whether to be impatient or amused.


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The surf club was decorated in pink and blue in honour of Anna and Edward. They slept in their buggy at the back, while everyone else drank, ate, chatted and laughed.

Nicole was in charge of the music.

Geoff, get those discs, she instructed. Put them on that table and Ill play them next. Lucas, put that speaker higher up, itll be louder.

Her two helpers exchanged long suffering glances.

I dont think you should just play modern stuff, said Geoff. Its a Christening, so you should play some hymns.

Nicole glared at him. Its all arranged now, I cant change it.

Geoff gazed at her beseechingly.

Oh, careful Nic. Hes giving you that look: you wont get your own way now, said Lucas with amusement.

I havent got any hymns, anyway, she said dismissively.

But I have. Triumphantly, Geoff took some CDs out of his rucksack and put them neatly on the table. Lucas couldnt hide his laughter anymore.

Nicoles face was a mixture of surprise and annoyance.

Oh alright then! she snapped. You can shut up too! she added to Lucas, but he just laughed more.

Leah looked round the room. Rachel and Hugh were more relaxed now the official part of the day was over- they were smiling and laughing with all their friends. Again, Leah saw their blond friend with them and tried to remember his name. It was. Ceri, that was it! How could she have forgotten? He had collaborated with her to get Hugh together with Rachel, and they had had many conversations. That seemed so long ago now and so much had happened since then.

As she looked at Ceri, Jazz came up to him. Touching him familiarly on the arm, she began chatting animatedly. She was in a low cut black dress and the skirt barely reached her knees. Shes the same as ever, thought Leah disapprovingly: always after the newest man in Summer Bay.

I think Ive missed out there, said a voice, and Leah turned to see Tony watching Jazz.

You think so?

I dunno Leah. I know Jazz is- well- the way she is- but she really brought a bit of fun to my life, he sighed.

She brought a bit of something, said Lucas cheekily, as he offered round the canapés.

Alright, alright, smiled Tony. The less said about that the better.

People started dancing to the latest choice of Nicoles. This included Jazz and Ceri, Miles and Kirsty, Aden and Belle, Morag and Ross, Jai and Annie. All couples, thought Leah. Jazz was really showing off, dancing sexily with lots of hair flicking and wiggling about.

Why dont we dance too? suggested Leah. Show her youre not lost without her.

Yeah, Dad, go on.

No, Im no good at dancing to this modern stuff.

Ah, Ive got a theory. If you dance to music you danced to when you were young, youll do it well.

I dont think so, Luc. Anyway, what do you mean were young? Im still young!

Lucas smiled and drifted away.

Oh come on, Tony. Lets dance! Leah dragged him into the dancing but he looked uncomfortable.

All of a sudden, Stayin Alive started playing and Tony couldnt resist it.

Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk,

Im a womans man: no time to talk.

Music loud and women warm, Ive been kicked around

Since I was born.

And now its all right. Its ok.

And you may look the other way.

We can try to understand

The New York times effect on man.

People started to notice him dancing with Leah, and soon everyone was watching, clapping and laughing, even cheering.

Tony and Leah were really enjoying themselves, getting into the Seventies. She glanced over at the table where Nicole had set up the music. Lucas gave her a thumbs up sign, Geoff was smiling bemusedly and Nicole was trying not to laugh.

Whether youre a brother or whether youre a mother,

Youre stayin alive, stayin alive.

Feel the city breakin and everybody shakin,

And were stayin alive, stayin alive.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive, stayin alive.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin alive.

Leah took a quick look at Jazz, who was watching Tony: she looked as if she was sucking a lemon.

Finally, Stayin Alive finished. Tony ended up in an exaggerated John Travolta pose with one arm in the air, and Leah was twirled gracefully to the floor. Everyone else cheered. Tony helped Leah up off the floor and they bowed, laughing.

Strewth, mate, said Alf. Didnt know we had a performer in Summer Bay.

That was simply marvellous, said Morag, patting Tony on the shoulder. Ross is always trying to drag me onto the dance floor, but theres no way, so I applaud your bravery.

Oh, well. Now Tony looked embarrassed at his display, but then Jazz came over.

Well, Tony. Im impressed. I didnt know you were so fit. She looked admiringly at his chest and stomach. Most men his age had beer guts and didnt bother working out, but Tony was the opposite.

Some of us have got it, and some havent, observed Leah breezily.

Jazz ignored her. You need a better partner though. She smiled warmly at him. Come and have a drink with me.

Tony did not resist, and was borne away happily.

Aw said a voice next to Leah. What a lovely couple. She turned to find Ceri trying to look innocent next to her.

Something tells me youre not serious.

She's a bit scary, isn't she? Anyway, how are you, Leah?

Im fine. Keeping myself busy.

He nodded.

H-how are you?

Im alright. I dont work at St Johannes anymore.

Oh? Why did you leave?

He hesitated.

Sorry. None of my business. What are you doing these days?

Im just travelling around. Seeing the sights.

That sounds nice. Are you enjoying yourself?

Yes. Do you want another drink?

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Leah watched him go to fetch their drinks. He had changed in the last two years, but then, everybody does. His hair was longer and not as neat as before, and his skin was more tanned: a light honey rather than the peachy cream colour she remembered. She wondered how long he had been travelling around: if it had been for the entire two years, no wonder he looked more weathered.

What about me? She thought. Do I look older and more weathered? Not tonight: she loved her dress, it made her feel glamorous. And despite her enthusiastic dancing with Tony, she hadn’t got too untidy or hot.

People kept stopping Ceri to talk to him, and he spent a little while with Miles and Kirsty, until finally breaking away to return to Leah.

‘Sorry about that. Hope you’re not dyin’ of thirst.’ He had brought her a mocktail, because she was driving, while he had a lager.

‘No, no, I’m alright.’

‘Listen, I want to say how sorry I am about your husband. Rachel and Hugh told me. How horrible.’

Leah was now used to people saying this but it still hurt. She didn’t know what to reply.

‘Sorry.’ Ceri inwardly cursed himself for bringing up the subject.

‘Excuse me a minute.’ Leah had to get some fresh air: the jolly atmosphere was too much in the surf club. Putting her drink down on a table, she skirted round people as quickly as possible, and went outside to look at the sea. The sun was setting and the breeze was getting up. The flags outside the surf club fluttered, making a familiar slapping sound.

She was surprised a few moments later when Ceri joined her.

‘Here’s your drink. A bit crowded in there.’ He didn’t look at her, just handed her glass over.

‘I don’t usually get like that these days. It happened two years ago, but it seems like yesterday.’

‘What happened?’

Leah found herself pouring out the story of Dan’s death- the sudden phone call, the terrible shock she had suffered, Dan’s funeral, the American visitor who explained Dan had died saving his son.

‘That sort of accident is quick you know. I’ve handled some of those and they’re immediate. He wouldn’t have suffered.’ Ceri said matter of factly.

Leah stared at him in astonishment.

‘How dare you dismiss his death like that?’

‘I’m not. I’m just telling you, as a doctor.’

‘Well, thanks. I guess.’

‘Look, I know it doesn’t make it any easier for you, but I deal with life and death all the time, and some deaths are better than others. Believe me.’

She was silenced. She had experienced sympathy, incomprehension, blame and all sorts of other reactions from people over Dan’s death, but never calm reason.

‘I’ll tell you something,’ he said. ‘You wanted to know why I left St Johannes, and why I’m travelling around?’

‘Yes.’ She couldn’t imagine the reason would interest her, but it would distract her from thinking about Dan.

‘I’m looking for my mother.’

‘What? I thought your mother and father were in Wales.’

‘They were my adopted parents. I mean- I’ve never known any others, but sometimes you want to know where you came from.’

She was shocked. Her family had always been close: she had always known she was a genuine Poulos and her ancestry had never been anything but certain.

‘Why are you looking in Australia?’

‘She emigrated here after I was born. I think. But I’ve hit a dead end with my investigations. Will you help me?’

Leah was shocked again- how many times was that in the last few minutes?

‘Why me?’

‘I need an Australian to help me get through the red tape.’

‘So any Australian will do? Thanks!’

‘No, silly. I wanted you to help me.’

‘Why not Hugh, Rachel or any of your other friends? You must have made some friends around here.’

He shrugged. ‘Hugh and Rachel have got their hands full by the look of it. I just thought you’d know what to do.’

She paused, listening to the sounds of the party, the waves and the birds calling.

‘I don’t know, but can I think about it?’

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The party was coming to an end. After her strange conversation with Ceri, Leah went back inside and chatted to other people. She noticed that he went over to Miles and Kirsty. Maybe he’s asking them for help with his quest, she thought.

‘You alright for getting home, darl?’ asked Irene.

‘Oh, yes, thanks. Me and VJ came in the car.’

‘How are you these days? I never get to see you much at the diner.’

Leah wished everyone would stop asking her how she was.

‘I’m fine. Roman will be back soon won’t he?’

‘Yes, I wonder how he gets on with the Bucktons. Seems funny to think of Morag as his mother in law now, doesn’t it? I never thought it would work out between him and Charlie, did you?’

‘I suppose not. But she did save Nicole’s life.’

‘Yeah, and Geoff’s. Thank God.’

‘I didn’t think Roman was the marrying kind though.’

‘More like a confirmed bachelor,’ agreed Irene, giggling.

‘Do you want a lift home?’

‘That’d be nice, love.’

On the way home, Leah and Irene continued their conversation about Roman and his new family, the Bucktons.

‘I never thought Morag would get married again,’ said Leah.

‘There’s hope for us all then, isn’t there, if she does.’ Irene giggled again.

‘Oh, don’t be mean. She’s not that bad. Especially these days now she’s happy.’

Irene nodded.

‘How’s the rest of your gang?’

‘Well… Belle and Aden seem to have settled down. I’ve just got Annie and Jai, and Geoff and Nicole to sort out. Honestly, love, why do I do it to meself? Perhaps I should retire and not take in any more kids, eh?’

They both chuckled, knowing that Irene would never stop looking after people.

‘You never got that lodger, did you darl?’ she asked.

‘No. I just never got round to it. I should, shouldn’t I? That house is too big for me and VJ. We’re a small family now.’

‘Does Drew never visit? Or Ryan and Amanda?’

‘Sometimes they do. But its not the same as a family living there.’

When she and VJ got home, the emptiness of the house seemed greater than ever. She must do something about it. She mused on this as she took the washing from the washing machine and hung it out on the line. Getting a lodger was a good idea: she would start looking for one as soon as possible.

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The next day, Leah was pleased to start her mid morning shift at the diner. She had been ironing and mulling over Ceri’s request since taking VJ to school, and was tired of all that.

‘Hello!’ said a jolly voice, and Roman appeared at the door.

‘Hello yourself!’ she said, giving him a hug. ‘How’s married life?’

‘I seem to be coping,’ he laughed. ‘Its great.’

‘You’ll have to be sensible from now on, you know.’

He gave her a quizzical look. ‘Yeah… right.’

‘And they’ll be no slacking and going off into romantic dreams now you’re back here working.’

‘Like that’ll happen!’ They both chuckled.

‘Hello, darl!’ Irene came bustling in, and also gave Roman a hug. ‘Enjoy your honeymoon?’

He started talking about where they had been and what had happened, while he was cutting bread and chopping up salad. Leah started unloading the dishwasher, and Irene checked the fridges and freezers. The three spent a happy hour chatting about holidays and weddings, and the time flew.

‘First lunchtime orders,’ said Aden, coming in with plates. ‘One omelette and salad, one chicken wrap, one burger and chips, one dinosaur burger with mash, all for table five. And can we warm two babies’ bottles?’

‘That’s a big order,’ said Roman. ‘Who’s that for?’

‘Look outside.’

‘I bet I know,’ said Irene.

A blond head, an auburn head and a dark head peered out of the kitchen door to see.

‘Ah!’ they all said. The order was for Hugh, Rachel, Ceri, Jamie, Edward and Anna.

‘Let’s get started,’ said Roman. ‘Can’t keep them waiting.’

‘You better take notes about families- it’ll be you next,’ teased Irene.

‘Don’t even say it. Charlie is cooing over babies already.’

‘Oh don’t tell me you wouldn’t like kids,’ said Leah. ‘You’re just as soppy as her.’

Roman smiled. ‘Yes, I’d like a family.’

Leah and Aden carried the food out to table five. Ceri stood up to help them, and she couldn’t help comparing him with Aden. Both blond, but that was where the similarity ended. Aden had always been rather Scandinavian looking, and broad, with a football player’s physique. Ceri had much warmer colouring- his hair was light gold, and he was leaner and slightly taller.

Just then, Belle came in, and Aden hurried off to speak to her. She had been offered a job at the ‘Summer Bay News’, but even though Gavin had been sacked for fraud, she still hadn’t wanted to go back there. She and Aden were delighted when she was offered a job at the ‘Yabbie Creek Herald’ instead, and her career seemed to be off to a great start.

The door of the diner opened again, and Miles, Kirsty and Olly came in.

‘Hey Ceri,’ exclaimed Kirsty loudly. ‘How are you?’

Ceri went over to sit with them, because space at Rachel’s table was very limited.

‘Deaf and tired,’ he said in response to her question. ‘All the kids were really excited last night and I didn’t get much sleep.’

‘I guess there’s not much room at Rachel’s place these days,’ said Miles sympathetically.

‘Hey! I know! Why don’t you come and live with us?’ suggested Kirsty brightly. ‘We’ve got enough room.’

‘Er- would that be alright?’

‘Yes, yes, of course. All welcome,’ smiled Miles.

‘I’ll ask Rachel and Hugh if it’s okay with them.’

Leah wondered for a minute if Ceri would be a suitable lodger for her house, but then quickly pushed the idea out of her head. He was a bit too distracting- she couldn’t categorize her feelings about him, but it definitely wouldn’t be a good idea for him to lodge with her.

‘That’s all sorted then,’ he said, returning to the table. ‘I think they’ll be glad just to be on their own, frankly,’ he added in a whisper. ‘They don’t need a visitor to look after too.’

‘That’s great! We’ll get your room ready! And don’t worry, Olly sleeps through the night now, he won’t disturb you.’

‘Hi Leah,’ said Miles, as she came to clear their plates.

‘Hey Leah! I loved your dance with Tony yesterday,’ said Kirsty.

Leah couldn’t help but laugh. ‘We’ll have to call him Tony Manero from now on!’

‘That’s the hero of “Saturday Night Fever”,’ explained Miles to Kirsty.

Just then, Jazz swanned in.

‘Hello everyone,’ she said, sitting down gracefully next to Ceri, who flinched. ‘Last night was fun, wasn’t it?’

‘It was!’ said Kirsty. ‘Miles and I had a great time!’

‘Did you enjoy it?’ murmured Jazz to Ceri.

‘Yeah, I did.’

‘You’ll have to dance with me next time,’ she purred in his ear.

‘Maybe I will.’

Leah discreetly returned to the kitchen, with the plates. Poor Tony, she thought. Jazz doesn’t seem to be very keen on him today.

Rachel’s and Miles’ family meals carried on in a leisurely fashion. Leah kept an eye on the tables: Ceri seemed to be very comfortable with Jazz, Miles and Kirsty, and she could see Tony’s chances with Jazz getting slimmer and slimmer.

An hour later, Ceri put his head round the kitchen door.


‘Hello there,’ said Roman, taking a dish of lasagne out of the oven. ‘Something we can get you?’

‘I’ve come to settle the bill for Hugh and Rachel.’

He stepped into the kitchen, and Leah did another quick comparison, this time between Roman and Ceri. Like Aden, Roman was much bulkier, a solid figure, and much more tanned than Ceri. And Roman always looked like he was planning something, but Ceri’s face was much more open and easy to read.

‘You can pay at the desk- but as you’re here- Leah, can you-‘ Roman sped out of the kitchen with the lasagne, before it got cold.

‘Hi,’ she said to Ceri. ‘Are you paying by credit card? I can do that in here if you like.’

‘Yes. I wanted to apologise about last night as well.’

‘What for?’

‘I didn’t mean to- I think I had a bit too much to drink and rambled on about stuff. I hope I didn’t upset you about Dan.’

Leah paused.

‘Its okay.’ She hadn’t realised he was a bit drunk last night: it explained his candidness.

‘I get the feeling I said the wrong thing about Dan and rabbited on about my own problems. Sorry.’

‘Its alright! Really,’ she smiled. ‘I’m still thinking about your request.’

‘My- What request?’

‘To help you find your mother.’

‘Oh! I meant to keep that a secret. Me and my big mouth.’

‘Don’t be so daft! I won’t tell anyone.’

‘Thank you.’

She patted him awkwardly on the arm.

‘Hello? Can I pay my bill?’ Miles peered round the door, waving a credit card like a white flag. ‘Oh, sorry, was I interrupting something?’

‘No!’ Leah leapt away from Ceri. ‘Let’s go outside to the till.’ She dashed out of the kitchen, dragging Miles with her.

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On her way home after work, Leah went to the supermarket. She found herself thinking about Ceri’s search for his mother. Could she help? Should she get involved with his family issues? Finding clues about his family sounded intriguing, but was it a bit too personal?

Who could she ask about adoption and looking for lost relatives? Sally had been adopted by the Fletchers, and she in turn had adopted Cassie. She would phone Sally tonight and have a chat with her.

She put the matter aside, and concentrated on which type of cheese to buy this week. God! She lived a boring life these days- she wouldn’t even be thinking about Ceri and his requests if she had a full life.

Then she saw Jazz standing by the milk shelves. She was wearing a bikini top, a mini skirt and stilettos. Leah sighed: just the person she didn’t want to see. But there was no way to avoid her because she needed some milk too. So she took a deep breath and said:

‘Hello. Stocking up?’

‘Hi there. Yeah.’

Leah took a litre of semi skimmed milk and was about to pass by, but Jazz said:

‘Can I ask you something?’

‘Yes, of course.’

‘How well do you know that friend of Rachel’s, Ceri?’

‘Not that well. Why?’

‘Hm. I just wondered if he’s married.’

‘Why?’ Leah couldn’t imagine that Jazz was worried about hurting someone’s wife.

‘Well, I’m trying not to get involved with married men these days.’ She met Leah’s eyes for a second, then looked away.

‘Don’t worry, he’s not married.’

‘Its just that he’s very- er- elusive.’ She giggled.


‘Yes. He doesn’t- er- really respond to me.’

‘What d’you mean?’

Jazz went off into a long description of how she felt, and how she didn’t know what to do. She mentioned Tony, but Leah had stopped listening. She looked at her watch: she needed to get home and put away the shopping, fetch VJ and all the other things she usually did.

‘I mean- er- I think he’s avoiding me.’ Jazz finally talked herself out. ‘Do you think he is?’

‘Jazz, you’ve only just met Ceri. I don’t think he’d be avoiding you.’ She hadn’t the time to listen to Jazz’s imaginary problems. ‘What about Tony? For some reason, he’s crazy about you, and you’re running off after some man you don’t even know. I think you should be happy with what you’ve got and not keep chasing every man in sight.’

Jazz looked puzzled, but Leah bustled by impatiently. Really! Jazz should sort her life out.

When she got home with the shopping, she sat down on a chair for a breather before putting it all away. She began thinking about Tony and wondering whether he knew about Jazz’ wandering eye- surely he must do! Maybe he had given up on her, or maybe he was hurt. Or maybe she was worrying about other people’s problems too much and should leave them alone. Leah laughed at herself- what a busybody she was becoming! Colleen had better watch out!

Pushing those thoughts aside, she got on with putting away the shopping. Jazz obviously had low self esteem: that was why she needed to keep attracting men. Or maybe she was just lonely- she never mentioned a family. Leah would be lost without hers: VJ, her parents, Chris, Dmitri; even Alexi was there for her, however much she disapproved of his actions. Yes, she should definitely help Ceri find his mother.

That evening, VJ was staying over with a friend, so Leah took her opportunity to phone Sally.

‘Hi, is that you, Sally? Its Leah.’

‘Leah! I’m so sorry I haven’t phoned you! We’ve been so busy…’ Sally went off into details about Cassie’s daughter, Summer Rose, and Leah made admiring and appreciative noises at suitable intervals until she finished.

‘I’m glad you are all so happy, Sal. I really miss you, it’s not the same here without you.’

‘I miss everyone too. But I’m glad I’ve seen more of the world, its been so interesting. Would you like to come out and visit us some time?’

‘Oh, I’d love to. I feel like I’m stuck in a rut here.’

‘Oh, Leah, I’m sorry. Perhaps you should make changes in your life.’

‘Perhaps I should…’

‘How’s Miles? I speak to him sometimes, but you know what men are like: they never tell you anything important.’

Leah paused. Miles again.

‘I think he’s alright. He’s still settled with Kirsty, you know.’

‘Yes.’ Sally didn’t sound very pleased about that. ‘I assumed that wouldn’t last. But as long as they are happy.’

‘Sal. I need to ask you something.’

‘Yes, of course. What is it?’

‘I’ve got a friend who’s over in Australia to find his real mother. He was adopted, and I thought because you were adopted, then you adopted Cassie, you might know something about it.’

There was a pause.

‘Sal, are you still there?’

‘Yes. I don’t know if I can help much. I never wanted to find my parents. It was only when Miles came along that I knew anything about them. Would you know where to start?’

‘No, but I can look into it. Its just that it would be so interesting to find out. He doesn’t know much about her-‘ She got carried away with explaining, then realised Sally had gone quiet.

‘What do you think?’

‘I think it’s a good idea, as long as you remember you’re doing it for him, not just as something to keep you busy. What’s your friend’s name?’

‘Ceri. Oh Sal! I’m not that sad! Of course I’m doing it for him!’

‘Well, good luck.’

They continued talking about common interests until Sally said she had to go.

‘I think Cassie could do with a break. I could hear screaming from upstairs, I think Summer doesn’t want to go to bed. Its so lovely to hear from you Leah. I’ll phone you next time. Bye.’

Leah was pleased to get Sally’s endorsement. She forgot about her friend’s reservations about the project, and began planning how to go about finding Ceri’s mother.

The easiest way would be the internet, so she started investigating it from home. She had watched programmes on television about people tracing their relatives and was sure she could make a good start on finding Ceri’s.

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The next day, Leah was amazed to receive a very grand, good quality envelope in the post. Carefully opening it, she read:

‘Mr Hugh Sullivan and Miss Rachel Armstrong would like to invite:

Mrs Leah Baker and Master Vincent Patterson, Junior, to their wedding.

The ceremony will take place at 2pm on October 17th, at St John’s Church, Summer Bay.

The reception will follow at the Surf Club, Summer Bay.’

So Colleen was right: they were planning a wedding! Luckily, Leah still had some wedding acceptance cards from when Roman and Charlie got married, so she quickly wrote a reply. She was so thrilled for Hugh and Rachel that she decided to take it round in person: she could go after her shift at the diner today.

‘Isn’t it exciting?’ she exclaimed as soon as she got to work.

‘What’s that, darl?’ Irene was busy chopping salad vegetables.

‘The wedding! Rachel and Hugh, you know!’

‘Oh, that! I’m sorry love. There’s been dramas at home today- teenage love and all that. Yes, it’s great news about Rachel and Hugh.’

‘I’m going to see what I can do to help.’

‘I’m sure we’ll be drafted in to help with the food.’

‘Are you okay?’

‘Oh, I dunno, love. Its Geoff and Nicole. They’re so different to each other: everything has to be a big argument and it never runs smoothly.’

‘Well if you ever want anyone to moan to, I’m always here.’

‘I know that love. Thanks.’

Leah arrived at Rachel and Hugh’s house, feeling a great sense of anticipation.

‘Hi!’ she called. ‘I just wanted to reply in person to your invitation.’

‘Come in Leah,’ Hugh appeared, carrying Jamie under one arm. The little boy looked like he needed a wash.

‘Is this a good time? I can always come back another day.’

‘No, its fine. Come in.’ Hugh looked very content these days- life as a father suited him perfectly. ‘I’ve just got to get this one in the bath: he decided to take up mud wrestling today.’

‘Hi Leah,’ called Rachel. ‘I’m in the bedroom, come in.’

Leah peered round the door hesitantly to see Rachel breastfeeding Edward, while Anna snoozed beside them.

‘Its alright, come in,’ laughed Rachel. She looked so much more relaxed these days.

Leah smiled at the happy trio.

‘Listen, I’m so excited about your wedding. Its only three weeks away. Is there anything I can do?’

‘Yes, we decided to just get on with it.’ she laughed again. ‘Actually, I was hoping you’d come round. I’d love it if you could be my bridesmaid, or matron of honour if you prefer.’

‘Oh Rach! Of course I will! Just give me some idea of the type of dress you’d like me to wear.’

Rachel outlined her plans, and Leah made notes on an old envelope.

‘There’s one other thing,’ added Rachel after the dress discussions had finished. ‘I haven’t even asked Roman and Irene if they can do the catering. I used to be so well organised before I had kids- I can’t organise anything now.’

‘Of course I’ll ask Roman and Irene, they’d love to do it. And I would too. We can even lend you Aden as a waiter, and I expect Belle could help out too, if she’s free.’ Leah’s mind was racing with the details.

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The three weeks before the wedding flew by.

As Leah had predicted, Roman and Irene were keen to help out with the catering. There was so much to do. The meal would be a buffet because Rachel and Hugh wanted it to be a casual occasion, without formal speeches or people sitting in designated places, but it still meant lots of extra work.

And of course Leah had to choose a dress. Rachel hadn’t been too restrictive in her wishes, but she did have a few requirements.

But finally, it was all done. It was the morning of October 17th, and everyone in Summer Bay was trying to get ready in time.

Leah, Roman and Irene were supervising the arrangement of the food in the surf club, with Alf overseeing all the other helpers.

Ceri was among the other helpers: he was moving chairs and tables with Tony, Aden, Miles and Jai. Meanwhile Jazz, Belle, Kirsty and Annie arranged the decorations, glasses, cutlery and crockery.

‘Hello stranger,’ said Ceri to Leah with a grin.

‘Hello! Where’ve you been hiding lately?’

‘Oh, I dunno. It’s a busy old house at the caravan park, you know.’

‘What, guests changing caravans all the time? Or wild parties every night?’ Leah was so excited about the wedding that she was already going off into flights of imagination.

Ceri chuckled. ‘No, silly. I meant people visiting. I didn’t realise Miles and Kirsty had so many friends.’

‘Oh.’ Leah suddenly felt unsettled. She hadn’t known that.

‘Look, tell me not to stick my nose in, but were you and Miles once an item?’

She gasped.

‘How did you know?’

‘You’re always lookin’ at him in a certain way. And Kirsty said something recently.’

‘What? What did she say?’

‘Somethin’ like “to think I nearly lost you to Leah”, or words to that effect.’

‘Oh, have you all been gossiping behind my back?’

‘No! I was just asking you. Forget I said anything.’

‘I will! It’s none of your business anyway.’

She flounced away, embarrassed. She had got on so well with Ceri when they met two years ago: now all he seemed to do was annoy her. She knew she was oversensitive these days though, and wished she was calmer like Rachel. Then again, Rachel hadn’t been so calm lately due to the arrival of the twins: everyone had their limits! Leah had been content and serene two years ago, but these days she wasn’t, so no wonder Ceri annoyed her more.

She watched Ceri surreptitiously as he, Aden and Miles shifted the pool table, then brought in the tables and chairs and put them at the sides of the room. Ceri was stronger than he looked- it was a wiry strength and he easily matched the other two in lifting the heavy furniture.

She suddenly realised that Ceri probably thought she was gazing at Miles, so quickly turned away.

‘Come on, darl, get your head together,’ said Irene teasingly. ‘Stop looking at the blokes showing off their muscles.’

Leah giggled. ‘We’re being sad single women again, aren’t we?’

‘Nah… it’s only natural. Imagine if we were prancing about in tight t-shirts like that- their eyes would be out on stalks.’

‘What’s that about stalks?’ interrupted Roman. ‘Hurry up, we’ve only got another hour.’

‘Listen to him,’ mocked Irene. ‘Cracking the whip.’ She and Leah burst into more giggles, while Roman sighed and raised his eyes to heaven.

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Colleen was in charge of the flowers in church, with the assistance of Ruby Buckton, who was a true romantic. She had roped in Geoff, but Nicole had flatly refused.

‘My dad’s already got me waiting on people at the reception,’ she sniffed. ‘I’m not doing everything.’

‘You’re not doing everything,’ said Ruby. ‘It’s Rachel and Hugh’s day, remember, not yours.’

‘I suppose so,’ she sighed. Geoff wasn’t fooled though- he knew all this flouncing around was a front to hide her kindness.

The guests straggled into St John’s, all chattering loudly. As it was a casual wedding for friends, the guests weren’t separated into ‘Bride or Groom’ and everyone sat where they liked.

Brad and Tam had both come over to the bay for the wedding, but he was waiting outside the church while Tam travelled with Rachel and Leah in the car. Rachel had so many female friends in Summer Bay that she decided she would only have her best friend and her sister as her attendants.

Brad stepped forward when the car drew up, and helped his two sisters and Leah out.

‘Wow! You all look lovely,’ he said, genuine surprise in his face.

‘Ready?’ asked Leah of Rachel.

‘Can’t wait!’

Leah and Tam stepped out towards the church, Rachel following with Brad. The doors opened, and they went in.

Rachel’s dress was made of warm cream satin, generously cut because she still had a bit of ‘baby bump’, but definitely not a meringue. It had tiny cream pearls embroidered into the bodice, and chiffon-type sleeves. She wore cream satin shoes, plain but not ordinary, and carried a bouquet of cream roses and tulips, with dark green viburnum leaves as a contrast.

Leah and Tam, however, had been in discussion for a long time to find a colour to suit both of them. Leah was so dark and Tam so much fairer, that eventually they settled on a medium teal colour, in a shiny, luxurious fabric. Their bouquets were the same as Rachel’s, just a bit smaller.

Leah walked up the aisle first, followed by Tam. Hugh and Ceri were standing at the front- it had been just as much a headache for Rachel to think of what colour suits they should wear. Hugh was dark and Ceri fair, so she had settled on the medium shade of taupe, with cream shirts and light teal ties.

They both turned at the same time, and smiled at the approaching bridal party. They made a striking contrast: Hugh dark and swarthy, Ceri blond and sun-kissed.

The wedding march played, and Rachel glided after her bridesmaids, on Brad’s arm.

The guests made admiring noises.

‘Of course, its more usual for people to get married before they have children, but anything goes, these days,’ Colleen was saying, before Morag turned round and shushed her violently. A ripple of laughter spread through the church.

Geoff was assisting the minister again, and his calming presence quietened everybody.

‘Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today in the sight of God, to join together this man and this woman…’ intoned the minister.

As she was facing the congregation, Leah took the opportunity to survey the guests. The Bucktons were sitting in a group: Roman and Charlie cuddling up together, Ruby clasping her hands together dreamily, and even Morag and Ross were exchanging fond glances. Nicole was with them too, gazing admiringly at Geoff.

For a second, Leah felt a sting of sadness. Her wedding was so long ago now, and now she was alone. But she gritted her teeth and fixed on her smile.

Irene, Colleen, Belle and Annie were looking after Jamie, Anna, Edward and VJ. Aden and Jai were helping, but both appeared bored with the children.

Jazz was sitting with Tony. She was wearing a very dark purple dress, a colour which suited her and was less severe and obvious than black. Tony was in a mid brown suit with a cream shirt: his hair was slicked down a bit and he looked very suave and debonair. They look good together, thought Leah. I hope she has decided to stay with him: he deserves some fun, and maybe he will calm her down.

The service went smoothly. Rachel couldn’t stop smiling, and Hugh looked satisfied and proud.

‘You may kiss the bride,’ said the minister, and all the lovers in the congregation looked misty eyed as Hugh kissed Rachel, but all the singles watched enviously.

Colleen opened her mouth to say something, but Alf said firmly:

‘Don’t even think about it, woman!’ and everyone giggled.

Then it was time for the register to be signed, and the bride and groom to leave the church for the reception. Rachel and Hugh meandered down the aisle, chatting with everyone. Leah followed with Tam, who was talking to Geoff.

‘Is that her?’ asked Nicole loudly of Morag when Tam and Geoff drew level.

‘If you mean is that Tam Armstrong, yes, it most certainly is,’ hissed Morag. ‘Don’t be so rude.’

‘Can’t think what he saw in her,’ sneered Nicole, and Tam sneered back.

Morag caught Irene’s eye, and made a despairing face.

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