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I have a feeling this is going to be a bit contentious but I was half-relieved, half-disappointed to realise that the second and third most contentious things in it have already been done elsewhere, albeit in vastly different contexts.The subtitle's there so everyone knows what it's about before they start reading and for anyone that's got this far I promise I'll try to be as sensitive as possible.

Story Title: Shattered

Type of story: Long fiction

Main Characters: Melody, Axel, Geoff, Annie, Aden, Nicole, Irene, Roman and others

BTTB rating: A

Genre: Drama

Does story include spoilers: Possibly

Any warnings: "This story deals with adult themes from the outset."(Double warning:The first three or four chapters are particularly heavy.)In terms of actual violence or sexual content, it's actually fairly moderate.

Summary: A party gone wrong and a girl found traumatised upstairs.How will she cope?How will her friends cope?And what has happened to the boy responsible?


Axel checked his clothing one last time, carefully examining it to make sure everything was back in place. For reasons he couldn’t quite grasp, he seemed to be having trouble focusing but it looked all right to him. He glanced at the girl on the bed.“I’ll go down first, okay?You follow in a few minutes.Be a bit suspicious if we’re seen together, right?”She didn’t answer him.He wasn’t sure why but he found that slightly unnerving.He gave a nervous laugh.“Best not tell anyone about this, yeah?Our little secret.”Still she didn’t answer.But by then he’d almost forgotten she was there.He headed out towards the landing.Almost as an afterthought, he turned the light off and closed the door.

Melody lay on the bed in the darkness, her breath shallow and halting.She didn’t move.She didn’t speak. She didn’t do anything.

When Axel reached the bottom of the stairs, he was somewhat confused to see Aden and Nicole ushering a large crowd out through the door.“Is the party over?”he mumbled.

“Yeah, party’s over,”Aden replied, steering him through the door,“Go home.Sleep it off.Try not to get lost.”

Most of the party goers had left but Annie was still hovering behind.“Do you know where Melody went?I didn’t see her come downstairs.”

Nicole called up the stairs.“Melody!Party’s over!Come down now!”There was no reply.“Nope, must have snuck out already.She’s probably home by now.See you tomorrow.Bye.”She pushed Annie out of the door and closed it firmly behind her.

Aden and Nicole stood alone in the living room, staring at the mess around him.“If it still looks like this when Roman gets home, we are so dead,”Aden sighed.

When Annie got home, she found Geoff pacing the lounge nervously.He stopped sharply as he saw her, an anxious look on his face.“Annie, where’s Melody?”

“Well, hello to you too, Geoff.”

“I’m serious, Annie, where is she?”

“I don’t know, she left the party before me.Gone home, I think.”

Geoff shook his head.“I just had her mum on the phone.Demanding to know where she is.”

“Well, what did you tell her?”

“What do you think?I couldn’t say I saw her at a party earlier, she’d have the cops on me for sure.I told her I hadn’t seen her.”

“Look, Geoff, calm down.She left the party and she wouldn’t go anywhere else.She’s probably home already.”

Geoff nodded, although he looked less than convinced.“Yeah.Yeah, I’m sure that’s it.”

Aden and Nicole flopped down onto the sofa in relief.It had taken them over an hour but they had finally erased all trace of the party from downstairs.And it wasn’t a moment too soon, because just then Roman came through the door.“Hey there,”he greeted them,“What you been up to?”

“Oh, nothing much,”Nicole assured him,“Just sitting here watching television.On our own.”

Roman seemed to accept the comment at face value.“What happened to you, Aden?We were expecting you back.”

“Yeah, but there didn’t seem to be much of a crowd there so I thought I’d stay and keep Nicole company.”

“Well, yeah, we had enough staff to cope.”Roman looked around as though he’d lost something.“Aden, have you got the rota for next week?I seem to have mislaid mine.”

“Yeah, it’s up in my room.”

“I’ll go and get it for you,”Nicole offered hurriedly.

Roman looked at her in surprise.“Not like you to volunteer for anything.”

“Hey, looking this good takes effort.And seeing as how you’ve grounded me, wandering up and down stairs is the best exercise I’m going to get for the next few weeks, right?”

The real reason Nicole had volunteered was because she had suddenly realised they hadn’t checked upstairs during their clear up.The last thing they needed after all their hard effort was for Roman to suddenly find the result of someone’s over-indulgence smeared across his bedroom floor.Nicole quickly and carefully checked all the other rooms before heading for Aden’s.She turned on the light…and started as she realised she wasn’t alone.

“Melody!”she gasped as quietly as possible,“What are you doing here?If Roman finds you, we’re gone. Come on, I’ll try and sneak you out.”Melody didn’t answer.Nicole looked at her worriedly.“Melody?”

She took the few steps over to the bed.Melody’s eyes were open so she didn’t seem to be asleep and Nicole could hear her breathing.But she wasn’t reacting to her presence at all.Nicole waved a hand in front of the younger girl’s eyes.There was the barest of a reaction, as though only a small part of Melody’s mind was aware of her surroundings at all.Then Nicole noticed that her dress was ripped and…were those bruises?

Nicole took a sudden, involuntary step back from the bed, her brain unable to process the thoughts that were suddenly running through it.“Dad!Aden!Come quickly!”

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Rachel Armstrong and her colleague Nurse Julie Cooper checked to make sure Melody was comfortable in the hospital bed.“You all right now, Melody?”Rachel asked.She wasn’t expecting an answer;Melody hadn’t said or done anything since she had been brought in.But her training had taught her to always assume a patient was aware of their surroundings.“I won’t be long.I just need to talk to some people.”

Roman and Nicole were waiting outside the room but for the moment Rachel ignored them.Two more people were just coming onto the ward and she knew they were the ones she needed to talk to first.“Mr and Mrs.Jones?I’m Doctor Armstrong.”

“How is Melody?”asked Christine Jones.

“Physically she isn’t in too bad a shape.She didn’t have any serious injuries so we’ve just made her comfortable.”

“Yes but…what happened to her?Why is she here?”

Rachel took a deep breath.“Mrs.Jones…I’m afraid all the signs are that Melody has been raped.”

Christine stared at her with a look of complete incomprehension.It wasn’t just that she didn’t believe or didn’t understand what Rachel had said, it was something more fundamental than that.It was the same kind of reaction she might have given if Rachel had announced that Melody had turned into a unicorn, something so far outside what she believed possible that she just couldn’t take it in.“No, that…that can’t be right.”

Her husband, Edward, spoke up.“What has she said?”

“As yet, nothing,”Rachel replied,“She’s still in a state of extreme shock.All we can do is hope she comes out of it on her own.”

Christine picked up on this.“So she hasn’t actually told you this then?You’re just guessing?”

Rachel tried to phrase her response as delicately as possible but it wasn’t a very delicate subject.“Mrs. Jones, it is clear from our examination that Melody recently had intercourse and…whoever it was, he wasn’t exactly gentle.”

Christine just stared vacantly for a moment, then her mind seemed to latch on to something.“That Campbell boy.”

Edward looked askance at her.“What?”

“That boy that’s been pestering her.I went to the police about him, told them to keep him away from her, but they said all they could do was warn him to leave her alone, that he hadn’t broken any laws.Well he’s broken them now, hasn’t he?”

Rachel felt the need to step in.“Mrs.Jones, I hardly think Geoff Campbell is responsible…”

Christine waved her away, heading towards the exit.“Don’t you worry.I know what needs to be done.”

The hammering on the back door was regular and extremely persistent.Hurrying over, Geoff pulled it open…and Christine Jones flung herself at him, striking him with her fists again and again.None of the blows did him any serious harm but such was the force of the attack that he had no chance of defending himself.“You monster!”she was screaming,“You took away my daughter!”

“Leave him alone!Leave him alone!”shrieked Annie, genuinely concerned for her brother’s safety.

Then a strong arm snaked around Christine’s waist and gently but firmly pulled her away from Geoff. Roman stepped between them, preventing her from attacking Geoff again.“Mrs.Jones, stop this.You don’t know that Geoff was responsible.Leave it to the police.”

Christine was calm now, but it was a calm so divorced from the situation, from the world, that it was even more terrifying than her fury.She looked at all three of them as if with new understanding.“Yes, I see now. You’ve corrupted her, all of you.You’ve taken her away from me.All of you.You’re all lost.”

With that she turned and left, barging into Irene as she did so.“Excuse me!”Irene called after her before noticing the crowd in her kitchen.“What the blue blazes has been going on here?”She looked at Geoff and Annie but both of them were as confused as she was.

Roman sighed.“I think you’d all better sit down.”

When Edward arrived home, he could hear a banging from their bedroom.He followed the noise to discover Christine with a large suitcase, which she seemed to be stuffing with clothes in a virtually random manner. “Christine, what are you doing?Why did you leave the hospital like that?I’ve been looking for you.”

“We’re leaving,”Christine told him simply.

“But…Melody isn’t ready to leave hospital yet.”

“Not Melody.Just us.”

Edward was dumbfounded.“We can’t just leave her!”

“She’s lost to us, Eddie.Lost.It’s this town, it’s corrupted her.I tried to reason with them but they’re all in it together.They’ve been dripping poison in her ear, turning her away from the truth.They’ve taken her from us.She’s one of them now.We have to leave now or we’ll be lost as well.”

Christine seemed to have lost any sense of rationality but Edward still tried to get through to her. “Christine, Melody was attacked.She was a victim.It’s not her fault.She’s our daughter, we can’t just leave her.”

“I no longer have a daughter.”She fixed him with a look of utter conviction.“And if you don’t come with me now, then I no longer have a husband.”

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I meant to say before-thank you to everyone that's been sending me words of encouragement on this one.It's always nice to know that there's someone out there that likes what you do.


Irene had agreed to take Annie to the hospital but it was taking her time to get her things together.Geoff wished she’d get a move on because Annie was taking advantage of the wait to make her feelings towards him plain.“Why won’t you come with us?”

“Annie, you know why.”

“But she’s your girlfriend-or at least she was a few hours ago.You’re supposed to care about her.She needs us.”

“I do care about her, Annie, and I wish I could go with you.But if I show up at the hospital, Mrs.Jones will call the police.She’s probably at the station already telling them I attacked her.”

“He’s got a point, girlie,”put in Irene, who finally seemed to have got her handbag sorted,“Last thing Melody needs is the police handcuffing him by her bedside.”

Annie seemed to accept this.“All right.We’ll give her your love.”

“Yeah,”Geoff called after them as they left, before lowering his voice to a mumble,“Give her my love.”

Roman had returned to the hospital after explaining the situation to Irene and Geoff and Annie.Once there he had sought out Nicole and proceeded to tear a strip off her.“What on earth did you think you were doing, Nicole?You knew you were grounded.I thought it would be obvious that that meant no parties.”

“I know, Roman, okay?I know.I just thought it would be a good way to meet people.”

“You just thought it was a good idea to invite drunken louts to a party where there’s young girls about, did you?”

“I didn’t invite them, they just…turned up.It wasn’t supposed to be like that.It was just supposed to be an elite gathering with a few friends.”

“Nicole, you’re going to have to learn that your actions have consequences-and right now, Melody is feeling those consequences.”He sighed.It was clear from her expression that she was feeling as much guilt over the incident as she ever would.“Look, come on, let’s go home.”

“Do we have to?It’s just…I want to make sure Melody’s all right.”

A large part of Roman wanted to drag Nicole home and lock her in her room for the next week as punishment for what she’d done.But it was unusual for her to show concern for anyone other than herself and he didn’t want to discourage it.Besides, Aden had practically been climbing the walls when they left him, reeling off a catalogue of all the things he was going to do to the person responsible when he got his hands on him, and Roman thought he’d have a much better chance of calming him down without Nicole’s own unique brand of help.“All right.I’ll see you later.”

Once at the hospital, Irene and Annie had tracked down Melody’s room.While Annie sat with her friend, Irene stood out in the corridor, chatting with Rachel.“So what happens now?”

Rachel shook her head helplessly.“I wish I knew.Normally we’d be calling the police and arranging an examination, trying to find a DNA sample so we can identify her attacker.But Melody’s in no condition to make a decision like that and with no next of kin to hand…”

“Would it help if I gave permission?”

Irene and Rachel turned at the voice.It was Edward Jones.“Yes,”Rachel said at last,“In the circumstances, I think that would be enough.”

“Then I’ll sign whatever you want me to.I want the person that did this to her caught.”He turned to Irene. “Mrs.Roberts, can I speak to you in private?”

Edward had signed the forms that Rachel needed to get things moving and then he and Irene had headed to the hospital canteen.After ordering two cups of tea, they sat at a table.“I just want you to know,”Edward began,“I don’t believe Geoff Campbell was responsible for this.Melody has always spoken very highly of him and I think she’s a good judge of character.”

“I’m glad to hear it.Hopefully if the boys in blue get a DNA match then it’ll be enough to convince your wife as well.”

“Christine’s gone.”

Irene didn’t understand him.“Gone?Well, what do you mean?Gone where?”

“Left town.For good.She’s left Melody and she’s left me.”

Irene was flabbergasted at the revelation, despite everything she knew about Christine.“What kind of parent, what kind of person, could do that to a child at a time like this?”

“I know what people in this town think of Christine, Mrs.Roberts.But I firmly believe that in her own way she does love Melody.Everything that she’s done, it’s been because she thought it was best for her.But there are many aspects of modern life that Christine just won’t accept exist.And now Melody has become one of those.”

“I guess I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“My role in the family has always been that of the breadwinner.I go out to work in order to provide for us. Raising Melody-that’s been Christine’s job.I’m not sure I’m up to it on my own.”

“Love, what are you saying?From what I can make out, she doesn’t have anyone else.”

“The Campbells.They live with you, don’t they?”

Irene suddenly began to realise where this was going.“Yes…”

“I love my daughter, Mrs.Roberts.But I don’t think I could look after her alone in normal circumstances. And with what’s happened, she’s going to need special care and attention.I don’t think I can be the parent that she needs right now.”He took a deep breath.“Mrs.Roberts…when Melody comes out of hospital, will you look after her for me?”

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thanks for the update! looking foward to reading more aden!


Love it, Everyone one just wants to hear about Aden. Including me XD

Update XD

Where's Aden,lol.

Update soon.

Okay, Aden fans, don't expect it to work every time but because I was able to think up a scene that I liked involving him there's an appearance by the Blonde One in this chapter.Enjoy.(Oh, and in case you're wondering about the edit to the last chapter I just added an italic I forgot about.)


Irene had sent Annie and Geoff to bed once they’d got back from the hospital.Belle had come home by then and she and Irene had sat up at the table, where Irene had explained what had happened-including her conversation with Edward Jones and how he wanted Melody to come and live with them. “So what are you going to do?”Belle asked when she’d finished.

Irene sighed.“I wish I knew, love.I want to help Melody, of course I do, but we just don’t have the room here.”

Belle thought about this for a moment.“Would it help if I moved out?”

“Well, yeah, I guess so but…where would you go?”

“Leah’s.She’s got an empty room now that Drew’s gone and we’ve been getting on well since we’ve been working together.I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.”

“Love, this is your home.I don’t want you to think I’m turfing you out.”

Belle shook her head.“Irene, you’ve been like a second mother to me-like a first mother a lot of the time. But I’m a big girl now.I can look after myself.It’s Melody that needs you.”

“She needs something.I’m not so sure it’s me.What that poor mite’s been through, it’s hard to imagine. What can I do to make that better?”

“What you’ve done for all of us, I guess.Give her somewhere where she feels safe and loved and someone to talk to if she feels like she needs it.”

Almost impulsively, Irene squeezed Belle’s hand, thinking of the wild child with the massive chip on her shoulder that she’d met two years ago and the generous young woman sat in front of her now.“Well, I guess if I’ve played any part in how you’ve turned out, I must be getting something right.”She got up and headed towards the phone.

“What are you doing?”

“Giving Edward Jones a ring.Letting him know there’s somewhere for Melody to stay.”

Roman examined the fist-shaped dent in his living room wall carefully before looking quizzically at Aden. “I decided to blame the wall,”Aden explained, with a hint of embarassment in the otherwise cocky response.

Roman nodded, as though this was the most normal thing in the world.“Well, it’s gonna need a bit of plastering.”He glanced at Aden’s bleeding knuckles.“So are you for that matter.You want me to run you to the hospital?”

Aden shook his head.“They’ve already had one person brought in from this house tonight.Just point me in the direction of the guy that did that to her, then I’ll give them another patient.”

“We have laws to deal with that sort of thing, Aden.If you ignore them, you’re no better than the person that hurt Melody.”

There was a flash of anger in Aden’s eyes.“Don’t you ever compare me to scum like that!”

“Violence is violence, Aden, no matter who it’s directed against.”

“She’s just a kid, Roman!Just a kid!And someone came in here and did that to her.And I was down here the whole time and I did nothing!Just like my dad…”He broke off, obviously realising he was heading towards territory he didn’t feel like exploring.

“Aden, this wasn’t your fault.You didn’t know.”

Aden sank heavily into the sofa.Roman thought he could see his eyes beginning to tear.“He did it to her on my bed, Roman.On my bed.What sort of a monster did we let in here?”

Roman sensed he needed to do something but he didn’t want to hurt Aden’s pride.“Maybe we should make you up a bed down here for tonight,”he suggested at last,“Just in case the police need to check for forensics.”

Aden nodded.“Yeah.Thanks, Roman.”

Axel’s head hurt and his guts were churning.Which was usually evidence that he’d had a lot to drink the previous night.Someone had set his clock radio for seven o’clock and a local radio station was blaring in his ear.A news reporter was speaking in sombre tones.“Police are appealing for witnesses after a fifteen-year-old girl was admitted to the Northern District Hospital last night.The girl was raped during a party at a friend’s house at…”

Axel hit the off button but memories of the previous night were beginning to stir.That Melody girl…how old was she exactly?He knew she’d been going out with Geoff Campbell, who was only a year below him, but then again he did recall seeing her hanging around with the Year 9 girls.He tried to push the thought out of his head.After all, he hadn’t raped her.Had he?

Unwanted, unbidden, a memory flashed through his head.A tiny, terrified voice.“No, Axel, please, don’t! Stop!”

Suddenly it wasn’t just the drink making him feel ill.

Axel looked around the hospital corridor nervously.He didn’t want anyone to see him and he wasn’t sure what he’d tell them if they did, wasn’t sure what excuse he could have for being here.He glanced at the patients’ board.There it was.Room 14:M.Jones.

He followed the numbers until he got to the right room and stood some distance back.Whoever was in bed was out of sight.But through the open door he could see Nicole of all people, sitting with her.He tried to slip away quietly but she turned and saw him.A look of confusion on her face, she came out into the corridor.“Axel?What are you doing here?”

It occurred to Axel that the best explanation was the truth, or at least a version of it.“I, er, heard something on the news.They said someone got hurt at the party.I wondered who it was.Is that Melody in there?I thought I saw her name on the board.”

Even though she was obviously concerned for Melody, a part of Nicole seemed to be revelling in the drama of it.“Oh, Axel, she was just lying there.I didn’t know what to do, I just stood there screaming for help in this really uncool way.They’re saying that someone raped her.”

“And what’s she saying?I mean, is she awake?”

“Well, her eyes are open but there doesn’t seem to be anyone at home.Why don’t you come in and see her?Maybe you can bring her out of it.”

Axel was afraid that was exactly what would happen.He had visions of her pointing and screaming at him, of security guards rushing in and wrestling him to the ground, of being dragged away to the police station and locked up.“No, I don’t really know her.I’d best stay out of the way.Not even worth telling anybody I was here.Er, I hope she gets better.”He left the hospital as quickly as he thought he could without looking suspicious.

Jack Holden was keeping a careful eye on things as the forensics technician took a swab of saliva from Geoff’s mouth.Irene was watching them from over by the kitchen, making her total disdain for the whole business abundantly plain.“Is this really necessary, Jack?”

“Mrs.Jones made an accusation against Geoff in front of a lot of witnesses, Irene.We have to follow it up.”

“Mrs.Jones left town right after making that accusation.That shows how much she cares about what happened.”

“Look if the DNA test clears Geoff…”


“We have to go on the evidence available…”

“It’s all right, Irene,”interrupted Geoff,“The sooner they rule me out, the sooner they can catch the louse that really hurt her.”

Jack nodded in appreciation.“That’s the right attitude, mate.”He glanced at the technician.“You finished, Tessa?”She nodded.“All right, then we’ll get out of your hair.The results will be back in a couple of days.”

“Well, if you’re done,”Irene cut in,“we’d like to head off to the hospital, if that’s all right?”

Geoff was shocked by the comment.“Irene, we can’t, remember?The AVO.”

“Actually, that’s not a problem,”Jack told them,“Melody’s dad came to the station first thing and had it withdrawn.You’re free to go see her whenever you want.”He had a sudden feeling the news wasn’t as welcome as he’d expected it to be and thought it best to be somewhere else.“We’ll see ourselves out.”

Irene waited until Jack and Tessa had gone before turning back to Geoff.“Well, boy, that’s your excuse out the window.Now you want to tell me the real reason you don’t want to go and see Melody?”

“I do want to but…how can I face her?It’s my fault.”

“And how do you make that one out?”

“She went to that party to see me.And I left her there!I made her upset then I went off and left her by herself.If I’d stayed with her, if I’d looked after her like a boyfriend’s supposed to, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Irene sighed.“Maybe you have got a reason to feel guilty, love.I don’t know.But I’ll tell you one thing.If you don’t head down to that hospital right now and give the girl you’re supposed to care about the support she needs, you’ll definitely have something to feel guilty about.So, what’s it to be?”

For a moment, she wasn’t sure which way he was going to jump.Then Geoff nodded.

Nicole was still sitting at Melody’s bedside when Irene and Geoff arrived at the hospital.“How is she?” asked Irene.

“No change,”Nicole replied.She held up a magazine.“I’ve tried reading to her but she seems even less interested in fashion than usual.”

Irene was torn between accepting that in her own way Nicole meant well and battering her about the head for her thoughtlessness.In the end, she just took her by the arm.“All right, kiddo, let’s give these two some space.I’ll buy you a coffee.”

Left alone with Melody, Geoff sank into the chair Nicole had vacated and took the girl’s hand.“Melody, I’m so sorry,”he told her.She continued staring straight ahead, not seeming to be aware of his presence.“I never wanted to hurt you.I never wanted to break up with you.I just couldn’t see any other way.Your mum was making things so hard and it was making you so miserable.I just couldn’t bear to think that I was the cause of it.I told myself that I might be hurting you now but it was the best thing in the long run.If I’d known what was going to happen, I’d never have left you.I’d have faced your mother, I’d have gone to prison, anything to protect you.”He swallowed hard.“I love you.”

He clasped her hand tight and lowered his head, touching her hand to his forehead, tears streaming down his cheeks.When he looked up, Melody was looking straight at him, tears in her eyes as well.“Thank you.”

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Jack stood by the bed with his notebook out.His colleague Lara Fitzgerald stood behind him, ready to chip in if necessary.It had taken a lot of persuading before Rachel had let them in but she’d finally accepted they needed to talk to Melody as soon as possible.“Just tell us what happened, Melody,”he told her,“Take your time.”

Melody swallowed hard.“I-I was upstairs, in Aden’s room.Geoff had broken up with me and I was upset, I just wanted some time to myself.I was just sitting there alone in the dark.Then this guy came in.”

“What did he look like?”

“I don’t know, it was too dark.He came and sat on the bed next to me and then he started kissing me.I told him to stop, that I didn’t like it, but he wouldn’t.He pushed me down on the bed and pinned me down and then…then he raped me.I was just so scared, I couldn’t do anything.Then he left and I was still scared, I couldn’t call out or move or…”

Lara stepped forward and placed her hand over Melody’s to calm her.“It’s all right, Melody.You’re safe now.”

“What sort of build was the guy?”Jack asked.

“I don’t know,”Melody replied,“Normal.”

“What about his voice?Was there anything you recognised there?”

“He didn’t really say much but no.It was just a normal voice.”

Jack snapped his book shut.“All right, Melody.That’s enough for now.But if you remember anything else, just tell the doctors and they’ll give us a call.”

Melody watched as they left.It was Axel! she wanted to shout after them.Axel did this to me!But she knew what would happen if she did that.There would be courts and lawyers and if he denied it, if he said she’d wanted it, she’d have to go through it all again, telling the whole world what had happened while he stood there looking at her in that same horrible way that he had when he came into the room.

Melody wanted to be brave, wanted to do the right thing, but she every time she thought about it she was filled with the same overwhelming dread that she had felt when Axel had been holding her down.So she said nothing.

Jack knocked on the office door and went in.His superior, McGrath, was behind the desk.“Got the DNA results back from Geoff Campbell,”Jack reported,“Negative, not that that’s a surprise.”

“And you didn’t get anything useful from the girl?”

Jack shook his head.“Average height, average build.She couldn’t even tell us the colour of his hair.”

“So basically we’ve got nothing?”

“There is one thing, sir.”Jack found the correct page in his notebook and passed it over.“Aden Jefferies and Nicole Franklin gave us a list of all the boys they remember being at the party.”

McGrath scanned the list.“So it must be one of these?”

“No.There were a few boys there no-one knew, friends of friends or something.And people were coming in and out all the time, they didn’t have much of a door policy.”

“But we have at least got some suspects.Problem is, how do we narrow it down?We can’t just knock on their doors and ask them all to provide DNA samples.”

“No,”Jack agreed,“But there might be something else we can do.”

Axel glanced at the piece of paper Leah had pinned to the Den’s notice board.On it was written a long list of names of boys from school, including his own.“What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s a list of all the boys who were seen at that party, the one where Melody was raped.The police want you all to come here this afternoon so they can take DNA samples.You know, so they can eliminate you from their enquiries.”

Axel’s blood went cold at the thought but he tried to appear calm.“What?They’re actually ordering us to come here?”

“Oh no, it’s purely voluntary.”

“So, what?They want us all to line up and give them our blood?”

“No, they don’t do that anymore.They’ll just take a swab of saliva from your mouth with a cotton bud.”

“Oh.That doesn’t sound too bad.”Except for what the results will show, Axel thought as Leah moved off. He was under no illusions about the supposedly voluntary nature of the arrangement.Anyone who refused would automatically be labelled number one suspect and probably be forced to give a sample anyway. Simply not turning up was not an option.He knew Melody had spoken to the police and for whatever reason, whether she’d chosen not to or she couldn’t remember, she hadn’t identified him.But if they got hold of his DNA and found a match, that was it.Even if he managed to convince them Melody had given her consent, she was fifteen.They’d probably lock him up anyway.

As his gaze drifted around the Den, he noticed Leah’s son sitting alone at one of the computers and an idea began to form in his mind.Checking that Leah wasn’t watching too closely, he wandered over to the boy and spoke quietly to him.“Hey.VJ, isn’t it?How would you feel about earning yourself some money?” To underline the point, he took a wad of notes out of his pocket, all he had on him, and flashed it at the boy.

VJ looked entranced by the money but still cautious.“What would I have to do?”

“Oh, nothing bad.Just do me a little favour.But it’ll be our secret, okay?You mustn’t tell anyone.”

Irene made her way through the hospital corridors towards Melody’s room.She’d spoken to Rachel who told her that physically there was very little wrong with her, the few injuries she had sustained during the attack well on their way to healing.In fact it seemed that she would be ready to come home soon.Which, Irene supposed, meant her place now.

She put on a smile before pushing the door open.Melody was sitting up in bed, now fully alert to her surroundings.“Hello, love, you’re looking a lot better than you were a few days ago.Got a bit of colour back in your cheeks at last, hey?”

Melody gave a weak smile but it was obvious something was worrying her.“Mrs.Roberts…what’s happened to my mum?”

Irene did her best to keep the smile in place even though the conversation was taking a turn for the worse. “What do you mean, darl?”

“Well, it’s just…I haven’t seen her since I came in here.I mean you’ve come to visit me and Geoff and Annie and even Nicole and my dad’s called in after work a couple of times but…I haven’t seen my mum. And no-one will tell me where she is.”

Irene felt angry with Edward Jones.He’d promised her he would sort this out, explain to Melody what was happening, but obviously he hadn’t been able to go through with it.On the other hand, she had agreed to take responsibility for Melody and this seemed a good place to start.She sat by the girl’s bed and took her hand.“Love…your mother’s gone away for a bit.”

“Gone away?But, why?Where?Doesn’t she know what happened?”

“Yeah, love, she knows and, well, she was kinda upset by it, so she decided to take off for a while.”

“But…where’s she gone?When’s she coming back?”

“Well, we don’t actually know that.”

“Doesn’t she love me anymore?”

Irene had her own thoughts on that subject but she kept them to herself.No point hurting the girl unnecessarily.“Oh, love, I’m sure she does.It’s just she has to cope with things in her own way, on her own for a bit.”

“So…what’s going to happen to me?Dad can’t look after me, he’s got to work.”

“Well, I spoke things over with your dad and we both thought it was best if, until your mum gets in touch, you come and stay with me and Geoff and Annie for a while.If that’s okay with you?”

Melody seemed to think about this for a long while before nodding.“I…I think I’d like that.Yes.”

Jack and Leah had stood off to one side to let the technician, Tessa, do her work.She had sorted all the boys into a line and was walking from one boy to the next, taking a swab from each with a cotton bud and placing the sample in a carefully labelled container.Axel was near the centre of the line, next to Aden.He had wanted to ask his friend if he’d heard anything about Melody, if Nicole had gone back to the hospital, if they’d heard what she told the police.But with a police officer standing close by, he didn’t think it was the right time to be drawing attention to himself.

Tessa stowed away the sample she’d taken from Aden and then moved on to Axel.He opened his mouth obediently and she ran the cotton bud along the inside, collecting the DNA.But before she could extract it, he moved his head sharply.Tessa lost her grip on the cotton bud which fell towards the floor.Axel caught it smartly.“Sorry about that.”

Tessa gave him a curt look and took the cotton bud he was holding out.She examined it carefully to make sure there was no contamination then placed it in the case with the others.Then she moved on to the next person in line.

When she had finished, Jack helped her pack up her things.Axel carefully reached into his pocket to make sure the cotton bud was still there, where he’d hidden it after he palmed it, the cotton bud laced with the DNA that could incriminate him.Whilst somewhere in Tessa’s case, labelled as being from Axel Hay, was the cotton bud he’d given her:the one coated with the sample he’d collected from VJ.

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Melody stood just inside the living room of her new home, Irene and Geoff standing behind her, uncertain how to proceed.They had picked her up from the hospital and then headed round to her old house to pick up some things-her father hadn’t been in, of course, he was always at work at this time.Then they had all headed back to the beach house.

“You’re through there, in Belle’s old room,”Irene explained, pointing to the corridor to Melody’s left.

Melody managed a polite smile.“Thank you, Mrs.Roberts.”

“Since you’re going to be living here, love, I think you’d better call me Irene.”She picked up Melody’s bags.“I’ll get these put away for you, give the two of you a chance to chat.”

Left alone with Geoff, Melody still looked nervous, unsure of herself.Geoff stepped forward in what he hoped was a reassuring way.“Hey, look, don’t worry.All of us living here, it’s gonna be great.”He went to take her hands but to his surprise and disappointment she pulled back, almost recoiling from him.“What’s wrong?”

“Geoff, I…we can’t just go back to the way things were.”

“I know I let you down…”

Melody shook her head.“It’s not that.You were right, it was stupid of us to be meeting in secret while my mother was acting like that.It’s what happened.It’s changed me, Geoff.Maybe for good.I can’t just go back to…us.”

“But, Melody, I love you.”

“You’ve no idea how much I’ve wanted to hear those words.There was a time when being your girlfriend was the thing I wanted most in the world.But I can’t give you what you want, Geoff.Not now.”

“I’m not gonna give up on you, Mel.I’ll always be here, waiting, in case there ever is a time when you’re ready.And until then…can we at least be friends?”

Melody nodded.“I’d like that.”She saw Irene coming back and headed past her towards her room.“I…I need to be on my own for a bit.”

Annie was sitting in front of one of the computers at the Den but in truth her eyes were so blurred with tears that she couldn’t see the screen.She had wanted to accompany Irene and Geoff to the hospital to pick up Melody but Irene hadn’t wanted to crowd her and so had suggested Annie spend some time by herself instead.But Annie hadn’t known what to do with this sudden free time:she had been spending most of the time when she wasn’t at school at the hospital with Melody, trying to put a brave face on for her troubled friend.Now, with no-one to put on an act for, the upset of the past few weeks seemed to be catching up with her.

“Excuse me,”said a voice next to her,“Are you using that computer?Only there’s some things I want to do.”

Annie turned at the voice and saw it belonged to the new boy at school, Jai, the one who had moved in to the caravan park.She didn’t answer him.Her tear-stained face seemed to make the point quite sufficiently.

“Why are you crying?”he asked.

“Because something terrible’s happened to my best friend and because she’s unhappy and I don’t know what to do to help her.”

“Oh.”Jai fumbled in his pocket for a moment and produced a handkerchief before passing it to her.Despite herself, she smiled at the gesture and dabbed at her eyes with it.Jai gestured to one of the tables.“I’ll be over there if you need to talk.”

Irene was alone in the kitchen.Geoff had gone out a while ago, saying he was going for a walk, and Melody still hadn’t emerged from her room.Irene wasn’t sure what to do about that-she didn’t want to put pressure on the girl or drag her out but sitting on her own wallowing was unlikely to do her any good.

There was a knock at the back door and Edward stuck his head round.“Afternoon, Mrs.Roberts.Did Melody get here all right?”

“Yep, we picked her up first thing.She’s in her room now.”

“Is it all right if I speak to her?It’s just I’ve got something important to tell her.”

“I’ll just go and see.”Irene went to the door of what was now Melody’s room and rapped on it.“Melody love?Your dad’s here to see you.”

Melody came out.She still looked very fragile, hugging herself as though providing some sort of self-comfort.She gave Edward one of her polite smiles.“Hello, Dad.”

“Hi, honey.So, er, how are you liking it here?”

The question was an odd one, since Melody had only been there a few hours, but she nodded anyway. “Everyone’s very nice.”

“Good.The thing is I’ve had some good news at work.They’ve offered me a promotion, to the head office in the city.It’s good money, more responsibility, but the thing is it’ll mean moving there, so I can be close to work.”

Irene was bewildered by the announcement.“They’ve picked a hell of a time, haven’t they?”

“Well, yes, it could have been better but it’s something I’ve been working towards for a long time.I’m sorry about this, Melody, but you’ll be all right here, won’t you?Maybe Mrs.Roberts could even bring you to see me at weekends.”

“It’s all right, Dad,”Melody replied,“I know your work is important.I’ll be all right here.”

“Good girl.”Edward went over to Melody and gave her a quick half-hug, kissing her on the top of the head.“I’ll speak to you again before I leave.”He left without looking back.

Irene looked at Melody in astonishment.“Love, are you sure you’re all right with this?I mean, with your mum gone as well…”

“It’s all right, Mrs.Roberts…Irene.We never really saw much of Dad while he was working so I don’t think it’ll be that different.Is it all right if I go back to my room now?”

“Of course, love, go where you like.I’ll give you a call when dinner’s ready.”Irene watched Melody traipse back to her room and wished that the girl wasn’t so alone.

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Well, after an enforced slight hiatus you finally get to read...


Geoff and Annie had turned up at the Diner early, so they were already there when Belle arrived.She ordered breakfast for all three of them before taking her seat.“So, what are you hiding out here for?Is there something wrong at home?”

Geoff and Annie looked at each other, as though neither of them wanted to be the one to say it.“It’s Melody,”Annie said at last,“I thought once she came to live with us, everything would be all right.But it’s not.Half the time it’s like she’s not even there.”

“She just stays in her room all the time,”Geoff continued,“We go in and speak to her, so does Irene.We ask her if she wants to go out or do something with us but she says she’s all right on her own.”

“Maybe it’s just her way of coping,”Belle suggested.

“But it’s been nearly two weeks now since she came out of hospital,”Geoff protested,“How long’s she going to stay in there for?”

“I dunno.I guess we all just need to give her a bit more time.”

“Maybe we could try spending more time with her,”Annie suggested,“If she gets used to being around people again maybe she’ll feel braver about going out.”

“Can’t do any harm.It’s good that you want to help her but there’s no point forcing her.She’ll come out when she’s ready.”

“I hope you’re right,”Geoff sighed.

“From what I’ve seen of Melody, she’s a brave girl.She’ll stop hiding eventually.”She noticed their faces had perked up a little.“Feeling better?”

“A little,”Annie replied,“Thanks.”

“Hey, just because we’re not living together anymore doesn’t mean I’m going to give up playing big sister.Anytime you need someone to talk to, you can come here.And that goes for Melody as well.”

Axel headed into Noah’s and quickly picked out Aden at one of the tables.“You been here long?”he asked as he came over.

“Nah,”Aden answered,“You want a drink?”

“Yeah, er…just get me an orange juice.”Axel noticed Aden’s surprised look.“Hey, I’ve got an assignment to do later.I need to keep a clear head.”

Aden ordered the drink without any further comment.“Haven’t seen you around for a couple of days.”

“Been busy.”In fact, Axel had been keeping his head down ever since he’d heard Melody was out of hospital.If he bumped into her in the street, he wasn’t sure how either of them would react.“Did you hear back from the police about those DNA tests?”He inwardly cursed himself for bringing up the subject but it was hard to think about anything else.

“Got the official notification last week.”

Axel nodded.“Me too.Guess we’re both off the list of suspects.”

“Haven’t heard about anyone being arrested so they must have all come back negative.Must have been someone from out of town that did it.Which means he’s gonna get away with it.”A thought suddenly seemed to occur to him.“Hey, you were upstairs round about that time.Did you see anything?”

“No, man, I was in…Roman’s room.Didn’t hear anything coming from yours.I was a bit out of it at the time, remember?”

“Pity.If you’d seen the guy that would’ve really helped nail him.”

“You believe something happened then?”

Aden gave him a cold look.“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know, party, girl does something in the heat of the moment that she regrets later.I mean, who’s to say the whole thing hasn’t been blown out of proportion?”

There was such barely contained fury in Aden’s eyes that for a moment Axel was actually scared of him. “I don’t ever want to hear you talking like that again.I saw her afterwards.I know what happened to her. You hear me?I know.No-one deserves that.The guy that did that to her is scum and he’d better be praying real hard that I never find out who he is because when I do…”

“All right, Aden, all right!Just…trying to keep an open mind, you know?”Axel mentally put aside any plans to use Aden as a confidante.“So have you any idea what’s happened to her?I haven’t seen her since the party.”

Aden had thought about going round to see Melody, to talk about that night, but him taking an interest would raise too many questions that he really didn’t want people asking.He knew Nicole had been to see her a couple of times since she’d been let out of hospital but Melody hadn’t been in the mood for talking and eventually she’d given up, getting updates from Geoff and Annie instead.“I’m not sure.I heard she’s staying with that Mrs.Roberts that runs the Diner.Hasn’t poked her head out the door since she came out of hospital.”

“Right.Well, you wouldn’t want to rush her, would you?Let her stay in as long as she wants.”

Irene was in the kitchen, clearing up after lunch, when she heard Melody’s bedroom door.It wasn’t a sound she’d become accustomed to hearing, since Melody only seemed to come out when it was meal time. Melody nervously walked into view.“Irene?”

“Hi, Melody love.Was there something you wanted?”

“Um, yes.I, er, I want to see my mum.”

Christine Jones had been found at a motel in the city a week after leaving Summer Bay.The manager had suddenly realised he hadn’t seen her since she’d checked in and gone to investigate, at which point he’d found her sitting on the bed, rocking to and fro and muttering to himself.The hospital had diagnosed a complete nervous breakdown and, unable to do anything for her, had her transferred to a care home.

Irene and Geoff had accompanied Melody to the home but she’d asked them to stay in reception.She’d wanted to speak to her mother alone.A member of the staff had shown her to a large sitting room where people of various ages were sat around.Some were reading or doing jigsaws but most were just sat there.

Melody picked out Christine and made her way over.She pulled a nearby chair round so that she was sitting at right angles to her mother and leaned forward nervously.“Mum?”There was no reaction.“Mum? It’s Melody.”

Christine seemed to react to the name but when she looked at Melody there was no recognition in her eyes.“Melody.Yes, I knew a Melody once.”

“You knew me, Mum.It’s me, your daughter.”

“Yes, Melody was my daughter.Such a pretty name.Such a pretty girl.She was so good when she was little.Always did what she was told.Kept away from the bad children.”

“That was me, Mum.I’m your daughter.”

Christine shook her head.“No, no, Melody’s gone.She’s been gone a long while.I tried my best with her.I tried to teach her what was right and wrong.Tried to show her the truth of the world, not the nasty lies that everyone spreads these days.But I failed.She’s gone now.Lost.”

“I’m here, Mum!I’m here with you now!You can still be a mother to me!”Melody was close to tears. “Why could you never be a mother to me?”

But whatever small amount of lucidity Christine had found was gone.She was just staring into space again, seemingly oblivious to Melody’s presence.

Melody looked around the room, at all the people whose existence was just sitting and eating, and wondered if she’d been doing the same thing these last two weeks, retreating from a world that she could no longer stand to be a part of.She was certain of one thing.Whatever it was she needed, it wasn’t here. Perhaps it never had been.

She gently touched the hand of the woman who had tried to be her mother but failed so miserably at the task.“Goodbye, Mum.”

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Yay, we've turned orange!Sorry.If you're not gonna blow your trumpet...Although as always, thanks to everyone that's been saying nice things about this story.


When Irene saw Melody coming out of her room wearing her old Summer Bay High school uniform, the arguments she’d made the previous day came flooding back to her.“Melody love, are you sure this is what you want?”

“You’ve re-enrolled me, haven’t you?”

“Yes but Mr.Bartlett said you can take as much time off as you want.There’s no need to rush into things.”

“Irene, I’ve been out of hospital for three weeks.I can’t stay shut up forever.I need to get things back to normal.To see people again.”

Irene could see she wasn’t going to win the argument.She turned to Geoff and Annie, who had emerged from their own rooms during the discussion.“Well, you two make sure you keep an eye on her, you hear me?”

“Of course we will,”Annie replied,“Come on, Melody, we can all walk in together.”

Melody looked suddenly nervous.“We…don’t have to leave just yet, do we?”

“Well, we said we’d meet some friends,”Geoff explained.

Melody looked to Irene for help.Irene just shrugged.“You said you wanted to see people again.Seems like a good place to start.”

Melody nodded.“All right.I’m ready now.”

Axel was on his way to first lesson when Aden came hurrying up and tapped him on the shoulder.“Hey, man, you gonna come and see the game tonight?”

“Round yours?”

“Yeah.”Aden nodded eagerly.“Few mates, few beers.Roman’s at work and I’m sure I can talk him into letting us.”

“Okay, I’ll be there.Think I’ll stay on the soft stuff though.Turning up to school with a hangover gives the wrong impression.”

Like everyone else in the hallway, they suddenly stopped their conversation.Melody had just come through the door.Surrounding her was her support group:Geoff, Annie, Nicole, even Jai had walk her in with her.

It was the first time Axel had seen Melody since the night of the party and he was horrified at what he saw.She looked so…young.Had he really…done what he’d done…to her?He tried to remember how she’d looked that night, with the dress and the make-up, but all he could see was a small, pale girl in a school uniform.Melody had noticed him too, her eyes fixed on him.There was such fear and loathing in them that he couldn’t bear to look at them any longer.He nudged Aden.“Come on, man, she doesn’t need us staring at her.Let’s get to class.”

But as they beat a retreat, Axel’s mind was racing.When he’d seen that look in her eyes, he’d finally got his answer.She knew.She hadn’t told the police or anyone else, for reasons he didn’t fully understand, but she knew he was the one that had attacked her.And in that moment, he saw that going to the same school, seeing each other every day, was going to be impossible.If she was going to react like that every time she saw him, then either she would crack and blurt out the truth or someone would notice and start asking questions.And that meant there was only one course of action open to him.

Martin Bartlett, the school principal, stared at Axel across his desk.“Say that again.”

“I wanna leave school.I’m eighteen, I can if I want.”

“Yes, I’m very well aware of your rights, Mr.Hay.But you’re partway through your HSC course.Surely, having come this far…”

“I’m leaving, sir.”

Martin sighed.“Very well.If you wait until the end of the week, I can collate your test scores and provide some sort of reference for you.It won’t be much…”

Axel shook his head.“No, I’m not staying til the end of the week.I’m not even staying til the end of the day.I’m leaving now.I just thought you ought to know.”

Martin looked at him, astonished.“Axel, if you do that you will be leaving school with no qualifications whatsoever.”

Axel was aware of that and the thought faintly terrified him.But the thought of prison terrified him more. “Guess that’s what’ll happen then.”

Axel waited out of sight by the school gates as everyone streamed out at the end of the day.He didn’t fancy bumping into Melody or any of her friends so he made sure he was hidden until he noticed the person he was after.“Aden!”he called out.

Aden grinned as he saw him.“Hey there, mate.I hear you escaped from the gulag.”

“Yeah.Might not be the smartest thing I’ve ever done…”

“No, man, I hear you.Trust me, soon as I’ve got something out of this place I’m outta here as well.Any idea what you’re gonna do now?”

Axel hadn’t had any idea when he’d spoken to Bartlett that morning but a thought had occurred to him over the course of the day.That was one of the reasons he’d been waiting for Aden.“That Roman bloke you live with.He owns the Diner, doesn’t he?Don’t suppose you could put in a good word, could you?”

“A week’s trial,”Roman said after Aden and Axel had explained the situation to him.Then he handed Axel a pinny and pointed him in the direction of the dishes.

Axel was halfway through the pile when he realised someone had entered the kitchen behind him.He turned round to find Nicole standing there.“Hmm, a new galley slave.So what did you do to deserve this?”

Axel shrugged.“Got fed up of teachers bossing me about.Thought I might as well make someone pay for the privilege.”

Nicole looked him up and down in a vaguely predatory fashion.“I can work with that.You know, I think this could be very interesting…”

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Geoff tentatively approached the bench where Ric Dalby was sitting.For one reason or another, he’d never really had much to do with Ric but he needed someone to talk to.He didn’t want to raise the subject with Irene or Belle and when he’d poked his head into the gym Tony had seemed busy.Besides, from what he’d heard Ric was probably the best person to help him.

“Ric?”He gestured to the space next to him.“Do you mind if I sit down for a moment?”

“Yeah, sure, man,”Ric replied, seeming surprised at the request.

“It’s just…I need to ask your advice about something.”Geoff sat awkwardly.“It’s about Melody.”

“Yeah, it’s usually about a girl.”

“Since…what happened to her, she doesn’t want me near her.I mean, she’s happy being friends but…”

“But you want more than that, right?”

“Exactly.I…I heard you went through something similar with Cassie when she was first here.”

Ric suddenly looked just as awkward as Geoff.“Well, that wasn’t exactly the same, I mean, what happened to Cassie, that was long before I met her.”

“Yeah, I know, but…how did you manage to win her round?”

Ric shook his head.“If you’re looking to win her round, then you’re going about this the wrong way from the start.The most important thing you have to remember is it’s not about you.It’s about her, it’s about what she feels comfortable with.I made that mistake with Cass and that was the beginning of the end for us.”

Geoff looked confused.“So…what exactly are you saying?That I should do nothing?”

“Not nothing exactly.You can let her know how you feel, that she’s got the option there if she wants it.But you can’t try and push her into it.If you’re not prepared to wait until she’s ready…”

“I am.I’ll…I’ll wait as long as it takes.”

“Good man.And, if you need more advice, I’m always here.”


“Only…next time can you make sure it’s about football or something?”

Axel was running a cloth across the counter, wiping it clean.Nicole was standing at the other end of the Diner, doing the same to one of the tables, but she kept stopping and giving him that same look she’d given him when she’d first found him working there.Axel nodded politely and headed back into the kitchen where Aden was working.“Aden?”

“Yeah, mate, what’s up?”

“You and Nicole.What’s the score?Is there anything going on between you?”

“No, man.I mean, yeah, she’s hot and everything but she’s kind of like an annoying little sister, you know?”At least that was all she was now, Aden thought, after the way he’d reacted the last time she tried to take things further.

“So, if someone else, a mate, say, fancied asking her out…you wouldn’t mind?”

Aden grinned at him.“You fancy your chances, do you?”

“It’s just…she’s looking at me in this kind of ‘I’m interested’ way.”

“Hate to burst your bubble, mate, but she looks at almost everyone like that.”

“Yeah but have any of them had the guts to ask her out?”

Aden clapped him on the shoulder.“Look, if it’s my permission you’re after, go right ahead.But watch yourself, yeah?She can be a handful.”

“Thanks, mate.”Axel went back to the counter where he could see Nicole.A normal relationship with a hot girl.Just what he needed right now.

Maybe then he could convince himself that what happened with Melody was just an aberration.

Melody came into the house through the back door and stopped dead.Annie and Jai were kissing on the sofa.After several seconds, they noticed her and sprang to their feet, looking embarassed.“Melody, hi!” Annie babbled,“We were just…I mean, we were…You know Jai, don’t you?”

“I was just leaving,”Jai added.

“Yes, he was.”Annie took Jai’s hand and led him towards the door.He paused for a moment, as though unsure what he was supposed to do next, then gave her a quick kiss on the lips before heading out.

As soon as they were alone, Melody looked at Annie in horror.“Annie, what are you doing?”

“We were just kissing.You…won’t tell Irene, will you?”

“I don’t mean that, I mean…how could you do that?You know what happened to me.”

Annie didn’t understand Melody’s concern.“What do you mean?Jai’s not gonna hurt me.”

“I didn’t think that guy would hurt me.”

“But you didn’t know him.I do know Jai.”

It was at least partly true, Melody hadn’t really known Axel.But she felt the need to argue anyway.“You have to be careful, Annie.Things can happen.”

“Mel, not every guy’s like the one that attacked you.Geoff, for instance.”

Melody wasn’t happy with the way the conversation was going.“What do you mean?”

“He really cares about you, Melody.He loves you, he wants to help you through this.If you’d just let him near you…”

“Why does everyone have to keep going on about me and Geoff?Don’t they understand?I don’t want it!I don’t want anyone touching me like that ever again!”With tears in her eyes, Melody stormed out.

“Melody, I’m sorry!”Annie called after her desperately.But her only answer was the sound of Melody’s bedroom door slamming.

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Good chapter. Good to see Ric helping Geoff out.

Glad you liked that bit, I was determined to give those two a scene together-it's something I think they did once and then forgot about.

Hope everyone enjoys this next chapter.


Geoff was making his breakfast the next morning when Melody came out of her room, school bag on her shoulder.“Morning, Melody, do you want some..?”He broke off.Melody had walked straight through the kitchen and out through the back door without acknowledging anyone.He looked at Annie, who was sat at the table eating.

“We kind of argued last night,”Annie admitted.

“What about?”

“Well, you actually.I told her that you cared about her and wanted to help her and she didn’t really like me saying that.”

Geoff groaned.“Annie!We need to give her some space, not crowd her out!She needs time to sort things out on her own.”

“I know, I’m sorry.”Annie noticed Geoff picking up his bags.“Where are you going?”

“To see if she’ll still talk to me.You can have my toast.”

“Mel!Mel, wait up!”

Melody was tempted to pretend she hadn’t heard Geoff’s shout but since he could run faster than her it seemed pretty pointless.She stopped and turned as he ran up to her.“What is it, Geoff?”

“Annie told me what she said.I’m sorry, I didn’t want her to say all that.”

“You mean it’s not true?”

“No, I…I do care about you.And I’m not going to pretend that I wouldn’t like to be more than friends.But it’s about what you want.And if you just need a friend right now, that’s what I want to be.”He reached out to touch her shoulder but she flinched away from him.He lowered his hand.“Sorry.”

Melody could tell that she’d hurt him and she didn’t want to do that but she couldn’t help the way she reacted.But there was one thing she thought she could handle.She nodded towards the Diner.“You want to buy a friend breakfast?”

Nicole was taking orders when Geoff and Melody came in.“Well, it’s nice to see you in here again,”she greeted them,“Table for two, is it?”

But Melody had frozen the moment she’d looked into the kitchen.Axel was in there!He had his back to her and seemed to be preparing the food.Melody knew he’d left school, for which she was grateful, but she hadn’t realised he was here.“Geoff, I want to go somewhere else.”

“Hey, my dad owns this place!”Nicole protested.

“And Irene,”Geoff added,“Come on, Mel, you don’t want to take her custom away, do you?”

Melody could feel the panic rising up inside her.“I don’t want to be here!The surf club, I want to go to the surf club.”

Geoff looked confused and concerned.“All right.Okay.We’ll go to the surf club.”He looked apologetically at Nicole before following Melody out.

Geoff and Melody’s exit barely registered with those outside.Irene was sitting at a table, treating herself to a pre-shift cup of coffee.Treating was probably the wrong word, though, since she had hardly touched it. Leah and Belle near the door, watching her with concern.“She looks like she could use a friend,” Leah commented.

“She looks like she could use two,”Belle replied.She noticed Leah’s reluctant look.“Come on, I can’t do the agony aunt thing on my own.Axel’s in the kitchen, Nicole’s helping him.I’m sure they can look after things for a bit.”

The two women went over to Irene’s table.“Do you mind if we sit with you?”Leah asked.

Irene waved vaguely to the other seats.“Sure, love, help yourself.”

There was an uncomfortable pause after they’d sat.“You look as though you’ve got something on your mind,”Belle noted,“And I’m gonna take a wild guess that it’s Melody.”

Irene sighed.“What else?That poor love, she’s hurting so badly.And I can’t help feeling that she needs something that I’m not giving her.”

“We all feel like that,”Leah told her,“It’s hard to know what to say.”

“I know everyone’s saying we need to give her time,”Belle sighed,“but maybe it’s right, maybe she really can work through this on her own.”

“Yeah but how much time?”Irene asked,“It’s been six weeks and she can still hardly bear to let anyone near her.”

“She’s back at school, she’s spending time with her friends.I think she’s stronger than we give her credit for at times.”

“Oh, I hope you’re right, love.Because that girl doesn’t deserve to have her life ruined like this.”

Aden had started walking across the school yard towards where Melody was sitting before he even knew that was what he was going to do.She looked as though she was waiting for someone-probably Geoff or Annie and he didn’t really fancy speaking to either of them.Normally he wouldn’t speak to Melody either; as much as he sympathised with her, he didn’t really understand her.But ever since she’d been back at school, he felt he needed to say something.“Melody?”he asked as he got close.

Melody looked up from her lunch, seeming surprised that he’d talked to her.“Aden.Did you want something?”

“Yeah.I, um, wanted to say sorry.”

Melody looked confused.“What for?”

Aden was astounded.Surely she knew?“The party.What happened.I was there, I was right there in the house and I didn’t do anything, I didn’t stop what happened to you.And I’m sorry about that.”

Melody smiled at him sadly.“You’re blaming yourself, Geoff’s blaming himself.There’s only one person who should be blaming himself and it doesn’t look as though he is.Were you the only person at that party, Aden?There were dozens of people that could have helped me if they’d known what was happening.”

“I know but…”

“It’s all right, Aden.I don’t blame you.”

Aden nodded.“I’ll, er, let you get on.”As he walked away, he didn’t know what surprised him most.The fact that he’d been thinking the same as Geoff or the fact that what Melody had said had actually made him feel a bit better.

Nicole and Axel walked up the path towards her front door.“So, you enjoy the movie?”Axel asked.

“Hmm.Bunch of guys beating each other up, explosions, a dialogue rate of one word every five minutes-yeah, it was a real blast.”Nicole’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.“At least you didn’t take me to one of those awful chick flick films like most guys that are trying to impress me.I don’t know who invented the phrase chick flick but it wasn’t any chick I know.”

“So what sort of films do you like?”

“Doesn’t really matter.So long as there’s enough cute guys in it.”

Axel gave her a look of mock outrage.“Oh, so I take you out so you can drool over other guys, is that it?”

They had reached the front door by now.Nicole pushed it open but then paused and turned back to face him.“No.You took me out so you could do this.”And then she kissed him.He grinned and made to follow her inside but she stopped him.“Better not.My dad used to be in the SAS.See you tomorrow.”

She closed the front door firmly in his face.But his grin barely faltered.This was better than being back to normal.

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