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A Much Needed Holiday

Guest Red Ranger 1

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Story Title: A Much Needed Holiday

Type of story: Short/Medium fic

Main Characters: Irene, Jai, Annie and a few others

BTTB rating: G

Genre: Drama would be closest I guess

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Sexual content:None.Language:None.Violence:Very mild.Not much else to worry about.

Summary: Irene just wanted a quiet holiday and Annie and Jai were the only ones willing to accompany her.But ttrouble with the locals and family problems meant it wasn't going to be as quiet as they hoped.


It was supposed to have been a family holiday, a chance for them all to get away together.But both Belle and Geoff had made their excuses, coming up with a long list of commitments that meant it wasn’t possible for them to leave Summer Bay at any time in the near future.Irene had eventually given in, letting them stay at home on condition that sleepovers(which probably applied more to Belle than Geoff)and wild parties (which probably applied more to Geoff than Belle, if someone started whispering in his ear)were kept to a minimum.

That had left Annie and she’d been reluctant to be separated from Jai for any lengthy stretch of time. Inviting him along as well had seemed the only way to settle the matter.Which was why the three of them were jammed into her car and on their way to their destination.The two teens had wanted to sit in the back but Irene had had visions of spotting them canoodling every time she looked in her rear view mirror and had insisted that Annie sat with her in the front.

She sneaked a glare at Jai as he leaned forward between their two seats for the umpteenth time.“If you’re about to say ‘Are we nearly there yet?’, you’ll be making the rest of this journey on foot.”

“Just wanted to get a better look,”Jai protested.

“Mmm.”Irene sneaked another glance at him to check exactly what he was looking at.She had a feeling his gaze was focused more on the passenger seat than the road ahead.

“Thanks for letting me come.”

“No problem, kiddo.Just don’t make me regret it.”

“Well, I’m glad you came,”Annie told Jai, glancing back at him.

“Thanks, Ann,”Jai answered, kissing her gently on the shoulder.

Irene gave a pointed cough.“Any more of that and I’ll be locking you in separate rooms.”

“We’re not allowed to touch?”Annie asked, sounding disappointed.

“Course you’re allowed to touch, darl.So long as there’s three other people in the room and you’re fully clothed at the time.Separate bedrooms, remember?That was the deal.”

Annie nodded, apparently not having recognised the warning.“We were lucky that there’s enough rooms for all of us.”

Irene had thought once that years of looking after teenagers had left her incapable of being surprised.Until she’d met Annie, someone who didn’t even seem to be aware of what the rules were, yet alone spend time working out how to safely break them.Her mood wasn’t improved by the sight of Jai in the back seat, a smirk on his face that left her with absolutely no doubt that he’d understood her meaning quite clearly.

Suddenly two weeks seemed like a long time.

“This is so cool,”Jai announced as he and Annie looked around the front room of their holiday cottage.

Annie nodded in agreement.“It’s nice and cosey.”

“And we’ve got all the woods around here to ourselves.”

“How far are we from town?”

“Half an hour’s walk.Quicker if we bike.”

Annie considered this.“We don’t have any bikes with us.”

“We could hire some.Important thing is there’s lots of room for us to be on our own.”

“We’re probably going to have to spend some time with Irene,”Annie pointed out,“And the others.”

Jai’s enthusiasm seemed to fade a bit at that.“Oh yeah.”

Annie looked at him reproachfully.“It was Irene that arranged all this.It’s important to her.”

“I know but…I came on holiday to be with you.”

Annie hugged him.“Well, I expect we’ll have a bit of time on our own.”

“Oh, hi there.”A blonde-haired woman who looked somewhere in her thirties had come out of the kitchen, prompting them to disentangle themselves hastily. “You two must be Annie and Jai, right?”

Annie nodded nervously, a bit uncomfortable in the presence of a stranger, even one whose face was familiar from photos.“Um, Irene’s just putting the car in the garage.”

Irene came through the door as if on cue, smiling at the woman.“Hi, love,”she greeted her, complimenting the sentiment with a warm hug,“You get here okay?”

“We arrived last night.The boys are out the back.”She nodded to Jai and Annie.“I was just introducing myself but seeing as you’re here…”

“I should do the honours, right?Gosh, where are my manners?”Irene looked at her two charges.“Annie, Jai, I want you to meet my daughter Fin.”

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Thank you for your comments, everyone.Focusing on the less popular characters you're always worried you're not going to find an audience.Hope you like this one.


Jai and Annie made their way out to the back of the cottage.There was no garden as such.There was no need for one, with the trees on every side.A small set of stone steps marked the end of the cottage property and the beginning of common ground and that was where they saw two boys sitting.Both of them were a few years younger than the pair;they knew from what Irene had told them that the older one was twelve, the younger one eleven.

The two boys had their backs to them, unaware they were there.Jai gestured for Annie to say something and she responded with an emphatic shake of her head, making it clear she really didn’t feel comfortable taking the lead.Jai looked at her pointedly and with great reluctance she raised her voice.“Um, hi there.”

The two boys turned round.The older one looked at them slightly sullenly.The younger one smiled at them, bright eyed.“Are you the girl that lives with Nan?”

It felt very strange to Annie to hear Irene called that.She’d known her as Irene for so long, it was odd to think of her as someone’s grandmother.But she gave the nod of confirmation anyway.“I’m Annie.This is my boyfriend Jai.”

“I’m Paul,”the older boy interceded, still not seeming particularly interested in the conversation but making it clear that, as the oldest, if anyone was going to be giving introductions it was going to be him.He jerked a thumb in the direction of his brother.“That’s Mark.”

“What have you been doing?”Jai asked, desperately trying to start up some sort of conversation.

Paul shrugged.“Just sitting around here.”

“We only arrived last night,”Mark added by way of explanation,“We haven’t had much time to explore.”

“Well, maybe we could explore together,”Annie suggested.

Jai gave her a look that suggested he’d rather it was just the two of them but he was too fond of her good nature to disagree.“Maybe we should walk into the village.”

“What’s going to be there?”Paul asked.

Jai’s tone was slightly tetchy as he answered.“I don’t know but there’s bound to be something.”

“Do you know the way?”Annie asked.

Mark gestured to the track at the front of the house.“Just follow the path.It’s further along.”

“Okay, let’s go,”Paul decided, still not seeming very interested in the prospect but probably thinking it was better than just sticking around.

The three boys began walking towards the path but Annie hung back slightly, gesturing into the cottage. “Um, shouldn’t we tell Irene and your mum where we’re going?”

Paul shrugged.“Mum won’t notice.”

Jai shot him a curious look before looking back at Annie.“Should we all go in?”

“No, I’ll handle it.You wait there.”

“Shame Barry couldn’t make it,”Irene commented as they both settled down with a cup of coffee.

“Well, someone’s got to look after the restaurant,”Fin pointed out.

“I thought Barry was your old boyfriend?”Annie asked as she stepped in through the back door.

Irene smiled slightly.“I guess us Roberts women just like the name.You been getting acquainted?”

“Yes, um, we were wondering if it’s all right for us to head down into the village?”

“Fine by me.Fin?”

Fin nodded.“So long as you’re back by six.I’m getting dinner ready for then.”

“Okay.Thanks.”Annie cheerily skipped out the door.

“You don’t think there’s any danger of her leading the boys into trouble?”Fin asked with wry amusement.

“That one wouldn’t know where to find trouble if she was looking for it,”Irene agreed,“Unless it was down a storm drain.”She held up a hand to forestall the question.“Don’t ask.”

“Well, it was a good idea of yours for us all to go away together.The boys’ll be pleased to see you.”

“I’ll be pleased to see them.They grown much?”

“Well, they start high school next year, Mum.”

Irene winced.“God save us, don’t tell me that, darl.I am not old enough to have grandchildren in high school.”

“Well, I’m not old enough to have children in high school.That’s what I keep telling myself anyway, whilst staying away from mirrors.”

“Nothing to worry about on that score, love.You look as young and beautiful as ever.”Irene was pleased to see her daughter smile at the compliment.She hadn’t given her that many over the years.There was a lot of catching up to do.“So come on then, fill me in on the goss.What have you been up to at home?”

Fin’s smile seemed to fade slightly, as though she was suddenly uncomfortable.“Actually, Mum, you know what?I really need to make a start on dinner.We’ll talk later, okay?”

As Irene watched her retreat into the kitchen, she had the oddest feeling that Fin had needed this holiday more than she was letting on.

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Thanks for your comments, hope you like this one.


Truth be told, the village wasn’t that much to write home about.A few shops, a few playing areas(plus the houses, of course).To Jai and Annie, growing up in Summer Bay, it was pretty much home without the beach.What Paul and Mark, used to the bright lights of the city, made of it was anyone’s guess…although Paul was doing his best to enlighten them.“Is this it?”he demanded.

“Well, it’s nice enough,”Annie, the eternal optimist, told him.

Even Mark seemed to have lost a bit of his spark.“But what are we going to do?”

“Well, the kids that live here must do something.”

“And how are we going to find out what?”Paul asked.

Jai’s gaze wandered over to a nearby green.Four boys mounted on bikes, about the same age as him and Annie, were gathered in the middle of it.“We could always ask them.”

Paul followed his gaze, as if trying to work out if he really was suggesting what he appeared to be, then shook his head.“That’s dumb.”

“Well, they can only tell us to clear off.”

“Come on, let’s go and ask them,”Annie agreed.She, Jai and Mark headed over to where the boys were gathered.Paul remained where he was, looking disgruntled.

One of the boys, a smooth-featured teen with close-cropped dark hair, smiled slightly as they approached. “Something you wanted?”

“Do you live here?”Jai asked.

“Well, not on this exact spot, no.But I do live in the village.”

Jai had a feeling this was going to be heavy going and was grateful when Annie took up the conversation. “We’re here on holiday.”

“You’re staying in the village?”

“No, we’ve got a cottage, over in that direction.”

The boy noted the direction she was pointing in and nodded his understanding.“Oh yeah, I know it.”His gaze wandered over to Paul, observing the conversation from a distance but showing no interest in taking part in it.“Who’s your friend?”

“That’s my brother, Paul,”Mark explained,“He’s a bit grumpy because…”He stopped suddenly.

“Because?”the boy prompted.

“No reason.He’s just grumpy.”

The boy nodded thoughtfully then started pedalling his bike the short distance to where Paul was waiting. Jai, Annie and Mark were nonplussed for a moment by the abrupt end to their talk, then turned to his friends.“So what do you do for fun around here?”Jai asked.

Their former co-conversant, meanwhile, had stopped by Paul.“You’re Paul, eh?I’m Adam.”

Paul glared at him.“Am I meant to care?”

“Well, that depends on whether you want to stay grumpy.Your brother’s word, not mine.”

“What do you want?”

Adam glanced across to where the others were still chatting.“Well for a start, what can you tell me about that cutie you’re with?”


“Well, I didn’t mean the other two.”

Paul shrugged.“Dunno, I’ve just met her.She lives with my nan.”He looked at Adam, interested in spite of himself.“So, you think you can stop this holiday from being dull?”

Adam patted him on the shoulder.“Stick with me, kid.I know how to stop things being dull.”

Irene made her way into the kitchen where Fin had been ever since the kids had left.She was bustling about, doing a dozen things to get the dinner ready, half of which, Irene suspected, she was only doing as an excuse to stay in there.“You need any help?”

Fin shook her head.“No, it’s okay, Mum, you wait through there.”

“Well, how about I wait in here so we can have a talk?”

“Seriously, Mum, you’ll just be in the way.”

“Fin, why won’t you talk to me?”

Fin looked at her, a slight nervous hint to her response.“What do you mean, Mum?I talk to you.I’m talking to you now, I was talking to you before.”

“Yeah, about the weather and how old the boys are.You’ve told me nothing about yourself, about your life, about how things have been lately.”

“Same old, same old, you know what it’s like.No major dramas.”

“Yeah, say that with a bit more conviction, will you?”Irene placed a hand on her daughter’s arm, forcing her to stop what she was doing.“Fin, what’s wrong?”

For a moment, she thought Fin might actually say something.Then Mark’s voice drifted through from by the front door.“Mum, Nan, we’re back!”

Fin’s gaze flickered in his direction.When she looked back at Irene, the shutters were back up.“Nothing’s wrong, Mum.Now go and sit down, I’ll be through in a bit.”

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Thanks for your comments again, sorry it's taken me a bit longer to update.


It was the following morning that Irene found Paul sitting on the steps out the back, where Annie and Jai had first encountered him.“You on your own, kiddo?”she asked.

Paul glanced back at her.“No.You’re here.”

Irene smiled slightly as she sat down next to him.“Oh well, guess that’s what I get for asking a silly question.”

There was a slight trace of guilt in Paul’s features.“Sorry.”

“That’s okay, love.So where are the others?”

“Mark’s gone into the village.”

“On his own?”

“He’s not a baby.”

“No, I suppose not,”Irene conceeded,“What about Jai and Annie?”

“They said they were going off somewhere on their own.They probably want to pash or something.”

Irene gave another smile at the bluntness of youth.“Probably.”

“Mum and Dad used to pash.”

Irene picked up on the use of the past tense.“Used to?You mean, they don’t anymore?”

“Well, they’re old now.”

“Oh, well, if they’re old, what am I?”

“You’re Nan.”

“Ah.Right.”Irene looked carefully at her grandson.She’d carried him around inside her for nine months but she hadn’t played as big a part in his life as she’d once hoped.She wished she could read his moods better, tell what he was thinking.“So everything’s all right at home?”

Paul shrugged.“Guess so.”

“Guess so?What does that mean?”

“It means that…Look, why are you asking me all these questions?”

Irene could see the barriers going up and knew she wasn’t going to get anything else from him.“It’s okay, Paul, I just want to know how you’re doing.”She placed a consoling hand on his shoulder.“And if there is anything you want to tell me, you know you can, right?”

He nodded.But she wasn’t expecting anything.

Jai and Annie were sitting back against a tree, a short way into the woods.He gave her a curious look. “Something up?”

“No,”Annie replied, somewhat lacking in conviction.She saw Jai’s unconvinced look and sighed.“I just… I don’t think we should have left Paul and Mark behind.”

“I think they can manage without us.They do normally.”

“Yeah, I know but…it just seemed a bit mean.”

“Look, I think we can manage a bit of time on our own.”Jai waited until Annie gave her nod of agreement then moved in and kissed her.

Annie accepted the kiss for a moment before pulling away slightly.“Irene said we shouldn’t do that without three other people around.”

“Yeah, I don’t think she meant that literally.”

“Probably not,”Annie conceeded,“But…”

“Don’t you want to?I mean, if you don’t…”

“No, no, I do,”Annie assured him,“It’s just I’m still not used to this.”

“Well, it’s not something I’ve done very often either.There weren’t many opportunities to meet girls in the children’s home.”

“Well, I haven’t met many boys either.I used to spend most of my time on the farm with Pop and Geoff.” Annie looked concerned suddenly.“You don’t think we’ve imprinted on each other, do you?”

Jai looked at her curiously.“What do you mean?”

“Well, Pop used to say that a newborn chick would get attached to the first person it saw.Maybe we’ve imprinted on each other and we only got together because you’re the first boy I’ve seen and I’m the first girl you’ve seen.”

Jai thought about this.“How long does it last for?”

“Well…for life usually.”

Jai smiled and kissed her.“Then I’ve definitely imprinted on you.”

Irene could hear Fin’s heated voice as she went back into the house.“Well, maybe I did mean it…I’m not getting into this now.”Irene stopped just outside the door and peered in, catching sight of Fin on the phone. “I’m not the one that needs to admit that there’s a problem…Can’t you just give me a few days peace?I said we’ll sort it out when I get home!”She ended the call angrily.

Irene stepped into sight.“Everything all right, love?”

The smile was back on Fin’s face, the one Irene had begun to recognise as false.“Fine, Mum.Just checking with Barry that everything’s all right.”

And for the second time that day, Irene knew that was the best she was going to get.

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Paul heard the sound of a bicycle screeching to a halt next to him.He’d been expecting Irene or Fin to come back out or maybe Jai and Annie or Mark to come back home.But when he heard that sound, he knew who it was and, in spite of everything, he found his mood lifting.

“So, you still looking for fun?”Adam asked.

“Looking for it and not finding it,”Paul agreed.

“Where are all the others?”

Paul shrugged.“Around somewhere.”

“You think they’d be interested in some fun too?”

Paul was a bit reluctant to share this strange new friend with the others but something told him their presence was a condition of the fun.“I guess so.”

“Can you get them to be here this time tomorrow?”

Paul glanced past him.“Maybe you could ask them yourself.”

Adam looked round and saw the other three youngsters coming up the path behind the house:Annie and Mark looking at him in a friendly manner, Jai in a slightly more suspicious one.“What are you doing here?” Jai asked.

“Just checking in on my new neighbours.”Adam clapped a friendly hand on Paul’s shoulder.“I was asking Paul here if you all want to hang out tomorrow.”

Jai looked uncertain.“Well, we were thinking of spending time on our own…”

“I’ve been on my own all morning,”complained Mark.

“We might as well be friendly,”Annie added, in a slightly quieter voice.

Jai looked at them both and sighed.“Yeah, okay.”

“Cool,”Adam replied, breaking into a grin,“I’ll come for you tomorrow then.”

“Is the food nearly ready?”Paul asked as they came into the kitchen.

“It’ll be another ten minutes,”Fin told him.

Paul looked at her disgruntled.“But I’m hungry now.”

“Yes and you’ll still be hungry in ten minutes.”

Paul didn’t seem entirely happy about the answer.He stole a quick glance at a pan in which Fin was making a chocolate sauce, then picked the spoon out of the pan and licked it free of its contents.

Fin snatched the spoon from him angrily, delivering a light slap to his arm as she did so.“I told you ten minutes.Any more of that nonsense and you won’t get any.”

Paul shot her a mutinous look for a moment then stormed out.The other youngsters had stood watching silently during the argument, too embarrassed to get involved.“Should I see if he’s all right?”Annie asked.

Fin looked at her without much interest.“You can try but I doubt it’ll do any good.”

Annie went out into the hallway anyway, finding Paul sat at the bottom of the stairs.“I don’t think your mum meant to upset you,”she said in as gentle a voice as she could.

Paul shrugged.“I know why she did it.”

“Well, yes, you should have done what she said.”

Paul shook his head.“She did it because she’s not my mum.Not the same way she’s Mark’s mum.”

Annie was puzzled by the comment.“What do you mean she’s not your mum?”

“She didn’t give birth to me.Nan did.”

The reply left Annie even more confused, desperately trying to understand what she’d just been told. “Irene’s your mum?”

“Not exactly.They put one of Mum’s eggs in her and she gave birth to me.”He could tell Annie wasn’t quite grasping it.“You know where babies come from, right?”

“Course I do,”Annie replied as she sat down next to him.She didn’t feel the need to add that she’d known for less than two years, since Irene had explained it to her.

“Well, Mum thought she couldn’t get pregnant so she and Dad made me and put me in Nan.But then she got pregnant with Mark so they ended up with both of us.”

“So Fin is your mum then?Sort of.”

Paul shook his head.“Don’t you get it?They only had me because they thought they couldn’t have Mark. I’m always going to be second choice.”

Jai had followed Mark into the sitting room, more through not having anywhere else to go than anything else.Annie was probably better than him at handling Paul and he didn’t want to get in the way.“Is your brother always this grumpy?”he asked.

Mark shot him an annoyed look.“He’s my brother.Only I’m allowed to call him grumpy.If you had a brother, you could call him grumpy.”

Jai felt a stirring of emotions he’d rather not be feeling.“I did have a brother,”he admitted,“But he died.”

“Oh.”Mark looked uncomfortable and Jai felt bad for bringing it up.Then, not having anything else to say, the younger boy shrugged it off.“Paul’s okay.”

“What about Adam?What do you make of him?”

Mark seemed to think about this.“Don’t know.He’s all right, I think.”

“Yeah…”Jai considered this uncertainly.“But there’s something about him, something familiar.He worries me a bit…”

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“Is Paul all right?”Irene asked once they’d finished cleaning up after breakfast,“He seemed a bit quiet this morning.”

“I think he’s just sulking,”Fin replied,“We had a bit of a row yesterday.”

Irene nodded sympathetically.“Yeah, kids can be a bit of a handful sometimes, can’t they?”

“You’re not joking.I thought when the boys got older things would get easier.But these past couple of months, Paul just seems to be getting moodier, lying to us, not telling us where he’s going.”

“Sounds like he’s just turning into a teenager, love.”

“Is there any way to stop it?”Fin asked, seemingly only half joking.

Irene smiled slightly.“Afraid not.”

“I’m just not sure I can be dealing with it right now, not with everything else.”

Irene caught the comment, one of those comments Fin seemed to make a lot these days in an unguarded moment.“Everything else?”

Fin shook her head.“You know, just normal everyday stuff.”

Irene could see Fin trying to avoid her gaze.She turned her daughter round to face her.“Fin, you know, if anything’s wrong…”

“Why do you keep expecting there to be something wrong?”Fin demanded,“It’s almost as though you want there to be something for you to fix.”

“Love, I know when something’s up and something is up.”

“What’s that, mother’s intuition?It’s too late for you to be playing mother to me, Mum.Twenty-five years too late.”

Irene searched Fin’s face for any sign that the comment wasn’t meant, that she was just saying it to hurt her.But there wasn’t any.Fin meant it.Not even attempting to stop the hurt and shock from reaching her face, she silently released her and let her walk away without another word.

Adam had led the others, Jai, Annie, Paul and Mark, deeper into the words, towards a particular tree.There was a rope dangling from one of the high branches, about ten feet long and ending about six feet off the ground.“There you are,”he told them proudly.

“What are we meant to do with that?”Paul asked.

“Climb it, of course.”

“Did you remember to bring a stepladder?”Jai asked sarcastically.

Adam shot him a withering look.“Climb down it.We climb up the tree, down the rope.”


“’Cos it’s fun!”

Paul’s mood had brightened with the explanation.“Looks dangerous,”he noted, seeming pretty pleased at the prospect.

“Course it’s dangerous,”Adam agreed,“That’s where the fun part comes in.”

“Don’t you think we should have an adult around before we do this?”Jai asked.

“How old do you think we are, five?”

Jai looked at Mark, as though hoping he’d bring a touch of sanity to the proceedings, but the young boy was grinning with excitement.“Come on, Paul, I’ll race you,”he shouted as he and his brother ran to the tree and started climbing.

Annie spoke quietly to Jai.“You’d better go with them.Keep an eye on them.”

Jai sighed.“Okay.”He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek then hurried after the other two.

Annie glanced over at Adam, who had remained where he was, his gaze fixed on her.“Aren’t you going to go with them?”

“No, I’ve done it before.Thought I’d stay here and watch.”

It was obvious to Annie that his attention wasn’t focused on the boys.“They’re over there,”she pointed out.

“Didn’t say I wanted to watch them.”

Jai had made it up to the branch where the rope was attached just after the two younger boys.“Okay, let’s do this safely,”he told them,“One at a time.Paul, you go first.I’ll hold the rope steady.”

Paul gave a reluctant nod of agreement and swung himself over the side of the branch, taking a firm hold on the rope.Slowly, he began to climb down.Jai kept a close watch on him all the way, aware how much trouble he’d get in if Paul were to fall and break his neck.But he couldn’t help making the occasional glance over to where Annie and Adam were still stood talking.

“Anyone ever told you you’re gorgeous?”Adam was asking.

Annie seemed to seriously consider the question.“Guys don’t tend to notice me much.”

“Well, I’m noticing you.”

Annie wasn’t entirely sure how to react to the conversation.She had to admit a tiny part of her liked a guy talking to her in that manner.“Well, it’s nice of you to say so…”

“I can do more than say if you like.”And then he kissed her.

Annie was completely shocked by the move.No-one had kissed her like that apart from Jai.So she just stood there, accepting the kiss.

Jai stared at them in astonishment for a second.He glanced down, saw Paul jump off the end of the rope, and began descending himself, as fast as he could, risking rope burns to his hands.He jumped down and ran towards the pair, grabbing hold of Adam’s shoulder and pushing him to the ground.“What are you doing?”

Adam laughed as he scrambled to his feet.“Hey, man, if you need me to explain it to you…”

Jai gave him a look of scorn before turning to Annie.“Are you all right?”

Annie nodded, still not entirely sure how to react.“Er, yeah, I’m fine.”

Adam smiled.“See?She’s not complaining.”Jai took a step towards him and he backed away, hands held up placatingly but the smug smile not leaving his face.“Okay, okay, I get the idea.You’re defending your territory.”He gave a mock salute.“See you later, kids.”

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Jai and Annie sat at the bottom of the stairs that evening, both of them quiet.“Are you angry with me?” Annie asked at last.

Jai glanced sideways at her.“Actually, I was wondering if you were angry with me.”

“No.Although I don’t think you should have pushed Adam like that.”

“The guy’s a jerk.”

“He’s a jerk because he kissed me?”

“He’s a jerk because he kissed you when you’re going out with me.”

Annie thought about this.“Well maybe he didn’t know?”

Jai smiled at her.“You always like to see the best in people, don’t you?”

“Well, I like to think that most people are nice.And I think Adam’s nice, deep down.”

Jai shrugged.“Maybe.Which doesn’t mean I’m happy about him cracking onto my girlfriend.”

Annie linked her arm with his.“Well he doesn’t stand a chance, you know that.”

“What was it like?Him kissing you?”

“Not as nice as you kissing me.”

Jai smiled and kissed her gently.“I can live with that.”

Irene had made her way cautiously down the back steps, picking out Paul sitting in his usual spot.“Isn’t it a bit dark for you to be out here?”she asked.

Paul shrugged.“It’s what I do at home.”

“And your mum and dad don’t mind?”

“They don’t care what I do.”

Irene sat down beside him.“Now, I’m sure that’s not true.”

“No, it is,”Paul insisted, his casual tone seemingly hiding any hurt he might have been feeling,“They don’t really want me around.”He paused before asking,“Can I come and live with you?Like Annie does?”

Irene looked at him in surprise.“Why would you want to do that?”

“Mum and Dad don’t want me around and you do.Don’t you?”

“Well, I like seeing you, yeah, but your place is with your parents.”

“But they don’t want me.They’re always angry with me.They’d be much happier if I wasn’t around and I’d be much happier if I was with you.So, can I?”

“We need to talk,”Irene told Fin.

Fin refused to meet her gaze as usual.“Mum, I’ve told you, there’s nothing for us to talk about.”

“Not even the fact that Paul just asked to come and live with me?”

Fin looked at her then, her eyes cold.“Congratulations.You’ve got what you wanted.”

“Sweetheart, that is not what I wanted.”

“Don’t pretend, Mum, we both know you wanted him for yourself.Remember how you ordered me out of town when he went missing?”

It was Irene’s turn to avert her gaze, more painful memories bubbling to the surface.“Okay, maybe I did do that.But I’d just given birth, I was confused.Right now, I just want to help stop your family falling apart.”

“I know how to look after my family!I’m not going to make the same mistakes you did!”

Irene caught her daughter’s arms and glared at her, her tone firm, uncompromising.“Now you listen to me, Finlay.I know I wasn’t much cop when it came to being a mother to you.I’ve apologised for that and I’ll go on apologising if that’s what it takes.But you’re my daughter and those kids are my grandchildren and if there’s anything that’s making you unhappy, then I want to know about it.Now tell me what’s going on.”

Fin seemed to sag in her arms, letting out a deep sigh of regret.Irene released her and she took a step back. “It’s the restaurant.There’s a good chance it’s going to go under.We’ve been battling against it for a while now, we haven’t turned a profit in six months.It’s made things hard at home, Barry and I have been arguing, every little thing gets turned into a major disagreement.”

“Do the boys know about this?”

“No but they’ve been suffering because of it, I know that.Watching their father and me tearing lumps out of each other.We’ve been taking it out on them, I know that, I’ve been snapping at them more than usual.”

“And that phone call the other night, the one I heard to Barry?”

“Just before we left we had another row, a massive one.And I told him that if things didn’t change, I wouldn’t come back.”

Irene breathed a sigh of relief.“Is that all?”

Fin looked at her in astonishment.“All?My business is failing, my marriage is breaking up and you say is that all?”

“Well, yeah, sure, all those are pretty heavy things.But you can’t lose your family over something as meaningless as money troubles.Look, I’ve picked a few wrong ’uns in my time…”

“Yes, I remember Dad.”

“Hmm.”Her late and not particularly lamented husband was another memory Irene could have done without dredging up.“But I can tell that Barry’s one of the good ones.”

“But what I said to him…”

“Did you mean it?”

Fin sighed.“No.I’ve been sat here these past few days regretting it, scared I’ve ruined everything.”

“Then for God’s sake, pick up that phone and tell him that!”

“You really think I should?”

“Love, he’s probably sat at the end of that phone just as scared as you are.Do it.”

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Thanks for the comment.Sorry this one's a bit short, hopefully I'll get a longer one up tomorrow.


Irene was late to rise that morning.She’d heard the kids banging about, getting up and having breakfast, and she’d decided to wait until they were out of the way.That way Fin would have no excuse not to talk.

“So have you done it yet?”she asked when she came down.

Fin seemed to have slipped back into evasive mode, refusing to meet her gaze.“I haven’t had time.”

Irene sighed.“Love, I agreed to let you wait until this morning.And that’s now.Ring him.”

There was genuine concern on Fin’s face when looked at her.“But what if he doesn’t want to speak to me?”

“Well, you won’t know that until you pick up the phone, will you?”

Fin didn’t seem entirely convinced by the argument.“I just…I don’t think I can handle it if he won’t forgive me.”

“Love, so far as I can tell, you’re not handling it now.”Irene picked up the receiver and held it out to her. “Go on.Make the call.”

“So, what you all up to today?”

All four of them-Jai, Annie, Paul and Mark-turned round at the voice.Adam had come round the side of the house, that same grin on his face.

“You have got to be joking,”Jai complained,“What are you doing here?”

“Just interested in showing the holidaymakers a good time.”

“Yeah, we got a look at you having a good time yesterday.”

Adam shrugged, the grin still in place.“Yeah, sorry about cracking onto your girlfriend like that.But you’ve got to admit she’s pretty hot.”

“So what did you want to do?”Paul asked before Jai could reply.

“Well, how about I show you somewhere else I like to go?Definitely not the sort of place your parents would want you hanging out.”

“Um, why’s that?”Annie asked nervously.

“Because it’s dangerous.”

“Well, if it’s dangerous, shouldn’t we keep away?”

“And where’s the fun in that?”

“Forget it,”Jai insisted,“We are not getting involved with…”

“I’ll go,”Paul interrupted.

“Me too,”Mark added, quickly stepping to his big brother’s side.

Before Jai could say anything else, Annie had spoken up.“Yeah, I’ll go as well.”

“Cool.”Adam looked at Jai.“Guess you’re the odd one out.

“No I’m not,”Jai replied, meeting his gaze evenly,“I’m coming too.”

“All right then.Follow me.”

As Paul and Mark fell into step behind Adam, Jai took Annie by the arm.“Um, do you want to tell me what all that was about?”

“Well, they’re going to go with him anyway.What else can we do?”

“Tell Irene and Fin?”

“But they’ll be gone by then.Least this way we can keep an eye on them.”

Jai sighed.Unfortunately Annie’s argument did make a sort of sense.But that still didn’t mean he had to like it.“Following Adam to somewhere dangerous.Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

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Thanks for your comments.


“I know, I’m sorry.Yeah, me too.”

Irene listened to Fin’s side of the conversation.A part of her had been slightly worried about what Barry’s reaction to the call would be.But the smile on her daughter’s face and the happy tone in her voice told her it had been the right decision.

“That’s what I want as well.Yeah, soon as I get back.Love you.”She ended the call, relief coursing out of her body.

“Sounds like that went well,”Irene commented.

Fin shook her head.“I just can’t believe I’ve been worrying about nothing all this time.”

“It wasn’t nothing, love, it just wasn’t as much as you thought it was.You just needed to step back and get some perspective.See what was important.”

Fin nodded.“Barry and I are going to have a long talk when we get back, see if we can sort this out.We might still lose the restaurant but we can deal with that.So long as we’ve got the boys and each other.”

“Sweetheart, you don’t know how relieved I am to hear that.”

Fin looked at her, embarrassed.“Mum, all that stuff I said to you before, I didn’t mean it.”

“I wish I could believe that, love,”Irene sighed,“But I kinda think you did.”

If anything, Fin managed to look even more embarrassed.“Maybe…maybe I did but I don’t want to mean it.I know that you’re not the same person that you were back then and I really do want to let go of everything that happened.”

“Maybe if I’d spent more time with you these last few years we’d be closer.Guess we’ll just have to make this a regular thing, hey?”

Fin smiled.“Guess we will.”Her face fell again.“I’ve been taking it out on the boys as well, especially Paul.I should apologise to them.”

“Well, soon as they come back, that’s what you’ll have to do.”

Fin nodded before looking puzzled.“Where have they gone anyway?”

“Remind me again why we’re doing this,”Jai complained quietly.The four of them were still following Adam, a state of affairs that Jai still considered a very bad idea.

Annie shrugged.“Well, we can’t let them go off on their own.”

“Oh right.So we’re left babysitting because they fancy hanging out with the local dropkick.”

“Here we are,”Adam announced suddenly, stopping and facing them, his arms spread out dramatically.

He had led them to the outskirts of the village, to what barely qualified as waste ground.There were scattered heaps of bricks and pieces of wood all over, some of them higher than a person.Even Paul seemed unimpressed at the sight.“Is this it?”he asked.

Adam nodded, still looking proud of his reveal.“Yep.”

“What exactly is this place?”Annie asked.

“Building site.Well, demolition site.I hear they knocked it down then ran out of money and weren’t able to build anything.So they just left it here.Everyone always says stay away, it’s dangerous.”

“And that’s why you wanted to come here?”

“Oh, I come here all the time.There’s no danger, it’s just something people say.”

“I don’t think Mum and Nan would like us being here,”Mark said nervously.He seemed to be regretting his decision to join them.

Unfortunately, the comment seemed to have the opposite effect on Paul.“Don’t be such a baby,”he snapped at him,“Why should we do what Mum wants?”

“Everyone needs to get away from their mums once in a while,”Adam agreed,“Here, have a look at this.” He jumped onto the nearest heap of bricks and then off again, onto another one, jumping from pile to pile until he was high up.“See?”he called after them,“No danger.”

As Paul started towards the first pile, Jai caught hold of his arm.“Hold on, what are you doing?”

“Going after him.”

“Are you stupid?It’s dangerous, whatever he says.”

“So?I can do it.I’ll show you.”Paul pulled free and leapt onto the pile.

The others watched him nervously as he jumped from the first pile to the second to the third…and then it happened.Whatever the spot he landed on, it was obviously different from where Adam had landed.The bricks, barely supported at that point, collapsed underneath him.He slid down the side of the pile, bumping along as he did so, right to the bottom.

Jai was the first to reach him, Annie and Mark close behind.“How is he?”Annie asked anxiously.

Jai had crouched by Paul, giving him a quick check over.“He’s not moving.”He glanced up at where Adam was watching them, horror struck.“Adam, help us!”he shouted.Adam stared at them for a moment…and then he ran.“Adam!Adam!”Jai shouted after him angrily.

“Help him,”Mark insisted desperately, dragging Jai’s attention back to the boy lying in front of him.He nodded to Annie, who kept a firm grip on Mark, trying to keep him calm.

Jai took out his mobile and quickly thumbed the number for the emergency services.“Ambulance.”

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Hope everyone likes this one.


Irene and Fin both burst through the hospital doors, to the sight of a shell-shocked Annie, Jai and Mark waiting for them.“How is he?”Fin asked anxiously.

Annie pointed nervously towards the examination room.“He’s in there.The doctors are still with him.”

“What on earth were you doing messing about on a building site?”Irene asked them.

“We didn’t know where we were going,”Mark protested,“Adam just took us there.”

“Oh and where’s Adam now?”

Jai shrugged.“He just ran.”

Before any more questions could be asked, the doctor emerged from the examination room.“Mrs. Newman?”she asked.

Fin stepped forward, her anxiousness unabated.“Yes, that’s me.”

The doctor smiled.“Good news, Mrs.Newman.Your son’s going to be all right.He’s got a broken arm and a twisted ankle but they’ll heal soon enough.He had a nasty bump to the head and he still hasn’t come round but we’re confident there’ll be no permanent damage.You can sit with him if you like.”

Fin nodded gratefully.“Thank you, I’ll be through in a minute.”She put her arm round Mark comfortingly as the doctor left them before turning to Jai and Annie.“Do you know where Adam lives?”

Annie shrugged.“Not really.”

“You must have some idea.”

“Those boys he was with when we first met him might know,”Jai suggested.

Fin nodded at this.“Right, take me to them.”

Irene stopped in front of her, blocking her way to the door.“Hold your horses, girlie, where do you think you’re going?”

“To find out why this boy thought he could take a twelve-year-old to a building site.”

“Let me deal with that.”

“He’s my son,”Fin snapped.

Irene wasn’t even phased by the outburst.“That’s right, he is.So who do you think he’s going to want to see when he opens his eyes?”Fin was silent, realising the truth of her words.“You look after the boys and leave sorting out this idiot to me, all right?”

Fin nodded.“I’m sorry, Mum,”she said, something she seemed to be saying a bit too often lately.She put her arm round Mark and led him towards Paul’s room.

Irene turned to Jai and Annie.“Right.Show me where these boys are then.”

Jai and Annie led Irene back to the green where they’d first encountered Adam.The three boys they’d met before were there, seated on their bikes in the middle of the green again.Jai led the way over to the trio and picked out one whose name he could remember.“Simon?”

The boy looked confused for a moment then his face cleared.“Oh, you’re the kids from the holiday cottage, right?Jay?”


“Um, we were looking for Adam?”Annie put in,“Do you know where he lives?”

Simon looked at them suspiciously.“Why do you want to know?”

“We just do, okay?”Irene told him in a tone which didn’t invite argument.

Simon looked at her nervously for a moment then nodded.“That street there,”he told them, pointing,“First left, no.22.”

“Pleasure talking with you.”

There was something different about Adam when he opened the door.Annie noticed it straightaway.He seemed smaller somehow, as though some part of him was missing.The way he opened the door suggested he’d been expecting someone but the emotions that crossed his face when he saw them, shock, fear, maybe even a little anger, indicated it wasn’t them he’d been expecting.“What are you doing here?”he asked, sounding almost desperate to be rid of them.

“We thought you might like to know how my grandson’s doing,”Irene told him sharply.

Adam nodded guiltily.“Um, yeah, course…”

“He’s going to be okay, no thanks to you.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry I ran off like that but I had to get back…”

“Oh?Does your mum know what you were up to?”Annie didn’t quite understand Adam’s reaction to Irene’s question but it was pretty obvious she didn’t.“Well, maybe we should hear what she has to say about you taking a couple of kids into a dangerous place, hey?”

“What?No, you can’t!”Adam really was desperate now but it didn’t stop Irene pushing past him, Jai and Annie following.

“Is she in here?”Irene asked, pushing the door to the front room open.She got the answer to the question immediately.There was a camp bed set up in the front room, a woman about the right age to be Adam’s mum lying in it, her eyes closed.The sight seemed to take some of the wind out of Irene’s sails.She glanced back at Adam.“Is she all right?”

Adam didn’t answer.But in that moment, they knew, all three of them knew.They looked back at the woman in the bed.She was so still.So still and silent.No sound at all.No sound of breathing…

Annie was the first to find her voice.“Is she..?”

There was a sound behind them then, a man coming through the door, middle aged with grey thinning hair and a moustache.There was a briefcase in his hand.A doctor’s briefcase, Annie realised.He took Adam’s hand.“I’m sorry, I came as soon as I could.”

Adam nodded.“It happened just after I got home.”

The doctor, for there was no doubt that was what he was, walked past the other three in the room, not bothering to ask who they were.Perhaps it didn’t matter to him.Irene, Jai and Annie watched him silently as he gave the woman a cursory examination, feeling as though they’d just walked into some strange new world and no-one had explained the rules to them.The doctor checked his watch and took out a notebook. “Death confirmed at 1302.”

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