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Smoke and Mirrors

Guest Red Ranger 1

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Well, this is a first:I've stolen scenes and ideas from my large list of unwritten sequels before but this is the first time I've adapted a whole subplot.Not something I've really tried before so I hope you like this.

Story Title: Smoke and Mirrors

Type of story: Short/Medium length

Main Characters: Nicole, Ruby, Annie, Charlie, Miles, Geoff, Jai, Aden, Xavier and others

BTTB rating: T

Genre: Drama/Romance

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Sexual content:Mild to moderate references.Violence:None.Language:None.

Summary: When Nicole finds herself the subjected of unwanted romantic interest, she comes up with a rather unusual plan for extricating herself.


“What are you doing in here?”

Ruby wasn’t entirely sure what she was doing in the classroom herself.Break time technically meant all students should be out of the building but she’d felt like finding somewhere quiet and so she’d ducked in there.She hadn’t expected to find Nicole already sat at one of the desks.

Nicole looked at her for a moment as if deciding whether to answer or not before eventually admitting, “Hiding.”

It wasn’t the answer Ruby had been expecting.“From who?”


Ruby was familiar with Nicole’s classmate and he wasn’t particularly high on her list of people she wanted to run into.Hiding from him seemed a bit extreme though.“Why?”

Nicole sighed.“He asked me to go to the formal with him.”

“Couldn’t you just say no?”

“I said no.I said definitely not.I said not if he was the last boy alive and the formal was being held in a plague pit and there was no chance of anyone I knew or was ever likely to meet seeing us together.”

“What did he say?”

“I think it was something along the lines of ‘So, what time should I pick you up then?’”

Ruby smiled slightly as she sat down at the desk next to her friend’s.“Guess some people have a hard time getting the message.”

“I think the only way I could have made it plainer was if I’d battered him to death with my textbooks.And that would probably get me expelled.”

“Hey, violence works sometimes.But I guess hiding works too.”

Nicole nodded her agreement before suddenly seeming to come to the realisation that her friend had settled in for the duration.“You don’t have to stay.”

“Hey, safety in numbers.If he turns up, we can take turns battering him.”

Nicole smiled gratefully.“Thanks.”

“I’ll even meet up with you after school if you like.”

“So did you see him again?”Ruby asked as Nicole approached her in the corridor.

“No, thank god, we didn’t have any classes together after lunch.”Nicole shot a quick glance around them. “Come on, let’s get out of here before…”

“Hey, Nicky!”The shout stopped both of them dead in their tracks as Gonk pushed his way through the crowd of escaping pupils towards them.

Nicole regarded him with a glare so icy it could have frozen him solid.“I prefer Nic.Or Nicole.Or in your case maybe Miss Franklin.”

“Yeah, Nicole.”Gonk nodded in a way that suggested he hadn’t really been listening.“So, this formal, do we need to co-ordinate outfits or..?”

“Graham,”Nicole stressed, pointedly using his real name,“we are not going to the formal together.”

“Yeah, I know you keep saying that but come on, girls always play hard to get.How about we cut to the chase and we just accept that you’re coming with me?”

“I’m not coming with you!”Nicole realised she’d spoken a bit too loudly and caused most of the students in the corridor to stare at them.“We are not going to the formal together,”she repeated in a slightly quieter voice.

“You’re going, I’m going, it’s not like you’ve got anyone else to go with…”

“Well, that’s where you’re wrong.”Inspiration suddenly struck Nicole, the perfect way to get this annoying boy off her back.“Because I’m seeing someone.It’s kind of recent but it’s going great so far.”

Gonk looked at her suspiciously, apparently not fooled by the performance.“Who?”

“It’s…”Nicole floundered for a moment before inspiration suddenly struck her again and she grasped her new made-up partner’s hand gratefully.“It’s Ruby.”

Ruby had remained silent throughout the discussion and from the look that suddenly crossed her face it seemed the power of speech had now deserted her completely.Gonk, for his part, looked slightly taken aback if not entirely disappointed by the news.“Wow.I didn’t know you two were…”

“It’s taken us both by surprise.”Nicole swung the hand that was encircling Ruby’s pointedly.“But we’re really happy about it.”

“Yes.”Ruby placed her other hand around Nicole’s, doing her best to look like someone in the first flushes of romance.“We’re really happy about it.”

Gonk nodded, seeming simultaneously amused and bemused by the sudden turn the conversation had taken.“Well, okay, good luck with it then.”

Nicole and Ruby left the school hand in hand, acutely aware that every set of eyes in the corridor was firmly fixed on them.

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Thanks for all your comments, hope you like this.


They made it to the beach before Ruby finally remembered to let go of Nicole’s hand.“What was that?”she demanded.

Nicole did her best to look nonchalant.In reality she didn’t really know what had come over her.“It worked, didn’t it?”she said at last.

“You just outted us!And we weren’t even…in in the first place!”

Nicole sighed.“Yeah, okay, sorry.I should have run it by you first.”

A reluctant smile spread across Ruby’s face as she shook her head in exasperation.“When did pretend lesbian replace violence as the last resort?”

“Well, it seemed likely to put him off.”

“Either that or have him suggest all three of us go together.You do realise that the whole school probably now thinks we’re an item, don’t you?”

“Probably not the whole school…”

“Did you see how many people were in that corridor?”Ruby paused, stealing a glance back towards the headland.“We’re being watched.”

Nicole glanced quickly in the same direction and caught sight of Gonk and a group of his friends stood there watching them.“Are they trying to suss us out?”

“Maybe they’re expecting a floor show.”

“They probably think we’re having a lovers’ tiff.”Nicole glanced back again worriedly.“Think we’ve got them convinced?”

Ruby gave a mischievous smile.“Well, there’s one way to convince them…”

Nicole looked at her in surprise.Given what Ruby had been saying a few minutes ago…“You don’t mind?”

Ruby put her arms round Nicole’s neck, inviting Nicole to hold her round the waist.“Well, at least it’s in a good cause.”Slowly, they started kissing each other.

The boys all looked on with interest.“Got to say, mate,”one of them said at last,“definitely looks like you’re not her type.”

“Yeah.”Gonk nodded sagely.“Do you know if Asia Barlow’s going with anyone?”

Further down the path, unseen by anyone else, Annie, Jai and Xavier had also stopped at the unusual sight below them.“I, er, guess the rumours were true then,”Annie said at last.

Jai glanced at Xavier, who seemed to have a scowl etched on his face.“You all right, mate?”

Xavier shook his head.“Let’s go.”

Unaware who else had seen them, Nicole and Ruby disengaged from the kiss.Ruby glanced over at where Gonk and his mates had been standing.The spot was now empty.“Guess we convinced them.”

Nicole looked at her friend with uncertainty, well aware that they still had their arms round each other.“It almost convinced me.”

Ruby had only just arrived home, having bid farewell to her not-at-all-girlfriend along the way, when Xavier came storming in through the back door.“So were you going to tell me?”he demanded.

“Tell you what?”Ruby asked, genuinely confused.

“That you’re gay!”

“I’m not…”Ruby winced.She should have seen this coming.“Nicole just said that so guys would stop pestering her.”

“So you’re not gay?”Xavier asked, confused himself now.

“No, no way, I mean, you should know that…”

“So why were you and Nicole on the beach snogging each other’s faces off?”

Ruby sighed.This was getting complicated.“We were just…trying to look convincing.”

“I’m going to be the laughing stock at school tomorrow!The guy whose girlfriend turned gay.”

“I haven’t turned…I was just trying to help Nicole.”

“So what, next time Jai’s got girl trouble I should stick my tongue down his throat?”

“I didn’t…”Ruby stopped as memories of the kiss came flooding back.“Okay, I did do that but…”

“First Freya and now you.Why is it my girlfriends seem to end up kissing Nicole in front of everyone?”

“I’m not like Freya,”Ruby insisted,“I didn’t mean to upset you, I just…I just didn’t think.”

Xavier nodded bitterly.“Says it all.”

Ruby tried to think of something else to say but nothing came to mind.The door slamming behind him pretty much put an end to the conversation.

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Thanks for all your comments, hope you like this one.


Nicole was on the sofa in the front room when Miles sat down next to her.He wasn’t the most collected person at the best of times but it seemed to her that he was even more flustered than usual.“You know you can talk to me, don’t you?”he asked.

Nicole shot him a bemused look.“I guess so.”

“You know, if there’s anything new going on in your life, if you’re feeling confused about anything.”

“I’ll be sure to remember that…”

Miles continued staring at her for several more seconds before blurting out,“Are you dating Ruby?”

Nicole rolled her eyes.“How exactly did that one reach you?”

“Jai came home and mentioned that he’d seen the two of you…pashing.”

“Oh great, guess it would be too much to hope he’d keep that one quiet…”

“Well, like I’m saying, you don’t have to keep it quiet, I mean, I get that this isn’t what you were expecting, it’s not really what I was expecting…”

“Miles, I’m not dating Ruby!”

Miles looked slightly befuddled.“But you were pashing her?”

“I…I was just trying to keep boys away.”

“Because you like girls?”

“I was trying to keep certain boys away!I like…other boys, okay, Miles?I’m not gay.”

“Well, good.”Miles corrected himself.“I mean, not good, there’d be nothing wrong with it if you were gay, but I’m glad that there’s not anything that you’re confused about.”He sighed.“That would just be me.”

Nicole smiled.“I thought Dad found this sort of thing embarrassing.”

Miles rolled his eyes.“I just hope Jai never decides he’s gay…But seriously, if there was anything like that, you wouldn’t have to keep it a secret here.”

Nicole patted him on the shoulder as she got to her feet.“If I ever have a sexuality crisis, I’ll make sure you’re the first person I tell about it.”

Ruby quickly picked out Xavier when she arrived at the Diner that lunchtime.Unfortunately, he quickly picked her out and immediately began heading in the opposite direction.“Xav, wait up!”she protested, grabbing hold of his arm.

Reluctantly, he let her turn him round to face her but his expression made it clear he didn’t want the conversation.“If you didn’t get the message yesterday, we’re not together anymore.”

“You can’t give up on us just because of one mistake!”

“There is no us, remember?You’re Nicole’s girlfriend now.”

“You know that’s not true.”

“As far as everyone at school’s concerned it is…so it might as well be.”He pulled away from her grip and headed out the door.


Ruby hadn’t even realised Charlie was there and was about as pleased to see her as Xavier had been to see her.“I really can’t deal with this right now.”

“You just…you look upset.”

“What is this, motherly concern?”

Charlie’s face crumpled slightly but the sympathetic expression remained in place.“It’s concern, Ruby, whatever label you want to put on it.”

“I don’t know what you’ve heard…”

“Pretty much what everyone else in this town’s heard.”

“So, what?You wanted to give me the benefit of your experience on what it’s like to be a temporary lesbian?”Ruby didn’t mean to be cruel but the frustration was just pouring out of her.

“I know that it’s easy to get confused sometimes.”

“How many people do I have to say this to?I’m not confused and Nicole’s not my girlfriend.I was just doing her a favour.I’m not gay, Charlie.”She wondered why her tone sounded so defensive.“I’m not.”

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Thank you all so much for your encouragement, hope you like this one.


“Hey, Nic!”

Nicole wanted to ignore Aden’s shout.On the one hand she was glad to see the broad grin on his face, after all, he hadn’t been grinning a lot lately.But she had an uncomfortable feeling she knew what he was grinning about.“Something I can help you with?”she asked, eyebrow raised.

He stopped in front of her.“Two questions.Firstly…is it true that you kissed Ruby?”

She sighed.“Yes, Aden…”

“Secondly and most importantly of all…is there any photographic evidence?”

She gave him a look of disgust that was only partly faked.“No, Aden, there isn’t.”

“What?”He shook his head in bewilderment.“I don’t know what they’re teaching them these days.In my day, if we’d seen two girls doing that, we’d have got our camera phones out straightaway.”

Nicole rolled her eyes.“Okay, well, if you’re done celebrating the fact that your best friend kisses other girls…”

“All right, seriously.”He fell into step next to her as she continued on her way to school.“Are you really into that sort of stuff now or..?”

“I’m not going to be filling you in on details of my lesbian exploits if that’s what you’re hoping for.It was a one-off, we were…”She sighed.“You know what?I keep explaining this and every time I do it makes less sense.There was a boy and he kept asking me out and so I wanted to convince him I was gay.”

Aden seemed to mull this over.“It’s a plan, I guess.”

“And now Ruby and I are being nominated as Summer Bay’s newest hot couple.”

“Well, you’ve never been one to complain about being the centre of attention before.”

“True.So, you think I should just run with it?”

“Could do worse.”

Ruby was taking her things out of her locker as quickly as possible, aware of the attention she was getting. She’d made it through the morning classes with most of the other students behaving themselves but there was a large group of girls, most of them a year or two older than her, who were standing a bit too close and looking at her in a none too friendly way.

A few seconds later, they were standing even closer, crowding in around her.“What are you doing after school?”one of them asked.

“Why?”Ruby asked nervously.

“Just wondering if you’re up for a bit of fun.”

Another of the girls ran a finger through Ruby’s hair mockingly.“We hear you like the queer stuff.”

Ruby knocked the girl’s hand away, annoyed.“Trust me, you’re really not my type.”

Jai, Annie and Xavier were passing the other end of the hallway when they noticed the commotion.“Do you think we should do something to help her?”Jai asked.

Xavier shrugged.“She got herself into it.”He headed for the exit.

Jai looked at Annie for support but she seemed to avoid his gaze and follow Xavier.Reluctantly, he went with them.

One of the girls pushed Ruby back into the locker.“What’s the matter?We not good enough for you?”

Ruby was aware the situation was about to get out of hand.“Look, I just want to go and have my lunch…”

“What’s going on here?”Nicole pushed her way through the girls and stood in front of Ruby, glaring hard at the ringleader.“Well?”

“Just asking your girlfriend here if she feels like showing us a good time.”

“I hardly think she’d be interested.”

“What have you got that we haven’t?”

Nicole looked the girl upside down and gave her an unimpressed look.“Well, I’d give you some hair and make-up tips but frankly you’re a lost cause.”She grabbed Ruby’s hand and led her back through the crowd before the troublemaker recovered her wits.“Come on, Rube, let’s go.”

“I just made things ten times worse, didn’t I?”Nicole sighed.She and Ruby had made it to the Diner but unfortunately they’d been followed.Most of the girls they’d run into earlier had taken up camp at a table within easy reach of them and were shooting them hostile looks.

“They are looking a bit restless,”Ruby agreed.

“Sorry I came up with this.”

“Well, I was the one that suggested the kiss.”Ruby stole a glance at their not-so-friendly audience.“We must be the only people who have to deal with homophobia when we’re not even gay.”

Nicole thought for a moment.“Maybe that’s it.”


“Phobia.I mean, if they can’t handle the fact that they think we’re gay, maybe we should give them something they really can’t handle.”

Ruby gave her a sceptical look.“You really think that’s going to help?”

“Well, can’t hurt.I mean, if you’re willing..?”

Nicole leaned her head forward invitingly.Ruby followed suit and their lips touched, gently massaging each other.The kiss only lasted a few seconds but when they looked back at the table of girls they had all suddenly become a lot more interested in their lunch.

Unfortunately, it also caused Colleen to come storming over to their table.“Excuse me, we’ll have none of that in here.”

Nicole shot her an innocent look.“I’m sorry, I don’t recall you ever objecting to us kissing anyone in here before.”

“Yes, well, I never have been happy about what you young people get up to but at least that’s what nature intended.But for you to be flaunting your deviations in front of everyone…In my day, young ladies knew how to behave!”

Nicole patted Colleen on the arm in mock comfort.“I’m sorry you got left out, Mrs.Smart, but it’s not too late.I’m sure Irene would give you a kiss if you asked her nicely.”

Colleen turned away huffily and stormed back into the kitchen.Ruby smiled at Nicole.“You enjoyed that way too much.”

“What, telling Colleen where to go?”

“No, the kiss.”

Nicole smiled back.“I’m sorry, I think you were getting into that a lot more than I was.”

“Was not.”

“Was too.”

Ruby grinned at her friend.And wondered exactly why she seemed to have butterflies in her stomach.

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Thanks for all your comments, I wasn't entirely sure how this would be received so I'm glad people seem to like it.


“I’m sorry I didn’t stick up for you yesterday,”Jai noted in embarrassment as he and Ruby collected their things from their lockers.

“Yeah, why didn’t you?”

Jai shrugged.“I’m Xavier’s friend too and he’s been taking this pretty hard.”

Ruby sighed.“Yeah, it’s all got a bit messy.”

“At least those girls aren’t giving you a hard time anymore.”

Ruby nodded.“Looks like Nicole was right.It’s easier for them to make fun of someone who’s hiding being gay than someone who’s being open about it.”

Jai looked at her, confused.“But…I thought you weren’t gay.”

“Yeah but they don’t know that.”

Jai seemed to consider this for a moment.“So, you’re being open but actually you’re lying…”

But Ruby was distracted by the sight of someone at the other end of the corridor.“Hold that thought,”she told him before dashing off.“Annie!Hey, Annie!”

Annie stopped and turned to her.Her smile was polite enough but seemed to be lacking her usual friendliness.“Hey, Ruby.”

Ruby looked at her in confusion.“Is there something wrong?”

“No, I just needed to get to class…”

“Annie, you’re avoiding me.”

For a moment, she thought Annie was going to deny it.Then she asked her,“Why are you doing this thing with Nicole?”

“I…I don’t know, we’re not doing any harm, are we?”

Annie looked at her in bewilderment.“You’re doing loads of harm!Xavier’s angry all the time, you’re being picked on…nothing’s the same anymore.”

“Look, Annie, I’m still the same person.”The words sounded strange, even to Ruby herself.What exactly was she talking about here?

“Well, maybe that’s it, maybe you’ve always been that sort of person.You rushed into sleeping with Xavier…”

“We’d been going out for months!”

“…and now you’ve got everyone thinking you’re gay.Why can’t you just stop and think?”

“Just because you acted like a little kid and wouldn’t let Jai touch you doesn’t mean the rest of us have to stop having fun.”Ruby bit her lip slightly, seeing the hurt in Annie’s face, but before she could work out what to say next Annie was walking away from her.And she had an uncomfortable feeling she was taking their friendship with her.

“You on your own?”

Nicole glanced up at Geoff’s voice.She’d come down to the beach at lunchtime, looking for a bit of peace and quiet, but she didn’t mind the interruption.“Looks like it.”She gave a nod of invitation to the spot next to her.

Geoff sat down and looked out to the sea in silence for a moment.“I guess…a lot of people are asking you about a certain rumour.”

“If you’re talking about the fact I kissed Ruby, twice…then it’s not just a rumour.But it’s not what a lot of people think it is.”

He looked sideways at her.“Are you happy, Nic?”

She shrugged.“Some of the time.”

He nodded.“Guess that’s the best we can hope for.”

“You’re not going to give me a lecture on how girls are meant to behave or how I’m going against God’s teaching?”

“I think I’m past telling you how to live your life.”

“Or how everyone thinks you turned me gay?”

Geoff looked at her in surprise.“Did I?”

“No but…that’s what people might think.”

He thought about this.“You had boyfriends after me.”

“Yeah,”she conceeded,“and I guess one of them trying to blow me up would be more likely to put me off guys than anything you did.”She smiled at him.“I’m glad we can still talk like this.”

He nodded.“Me too.”

“Ruby?”Charlie looked in surprise at the sight of her standing in the doorway.She knew it was Ruby’s lunch break but she hadn’t been expecting her to turn up at the house.“Was there something you wanted?”

“The benefit of your experience of being a temporary lesbian?”

Charlie looked at Ruby carefully.She wasn’t being entirely serious but…she certainly wasn’t being cruel or sarcastic either.“Sit down,”she invited, gesturing towards the table.

Ruby took the invitation.“How did you know?”she asked after a moment.

“Know what?”

“That you liked girls…well, one girl, anyway.”

Charlie smiled slightly.“How do you know you like anyone?The way your heart beats faster when you see them, the way you keep wanting to look at them, even when you know you’re not supposed to, the way you find yourself thinking about them whenever you’ve got a quiet moment, the way you find yourself doing things you wouldn’t normally do to try and make them like you…”

“It’s really that simple?”Ruby suddenly looked very young, like…like a child looking for guidance, Charlie realised with a start.“You just find yourself thinking about a girl the way you normally think about a guy?”

“It can be.I mean, I spent a long time telling myself it wasn’t happening, that I only liked Joey as a friend but…I was attracted to her.To another woman.It hadn’t happened before, I don’t know if it’ll happen again, but I know it was real.”She looked at her evenly.“Ruby…has something happened?”

“Me and Nicole…it’s just pretend.I know that.We’re friends.We’ve kissed a couple of times but we didn’t mean it, it was just acting.And now Xavier’s upset and Annie’s upset and…”She broke off.

Charlie waited for a moment, not wanting to push the boundaries of their fragile relationship.“Ruby, if you don’t feel comfortable…”

“I liked it.I liked…”She sighed.“I don’t know how to say it.”

“You kissed a girl and you liked it?”Charlie suggested.She caught Ruby’s exasperated look and gave an apologetic shrug.“Sorry, couldn’t resist.”

“I don’t feel gay, I’ve always liked boys, I’ve dated them, I’ve kissed them, I even slept with one of them. And I enjoyed that.But…I want Nicole to like me.And I don’t know if it’s as a friend or as something else. And…sometimes I think it’d be nice to kiss her again.”

Charlie was uncomfortably aware that Ruby had paused, expecting a response.“I wish I could give you answers, Rube, but I don’t know.”

“Some advice would be good.”

“I guess…just be careful you don’t rush into anything.Because sometimes, when you open a door, it can be hard to come back.”

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“I’m not being hard on her, am I?”Annie asked.

“She was with me and she kissed someone else,”Xavier reminded her,“So no, you’re not.”

The two of them had somehow ended up having lunch together at the Diner.They didn’t tend to spend that much time alone but neither of them was talking to Ruby and Jai was proving reluctant to play favourites so it had ended up being their only option.

It was bad luck that Ruby turned up when they were halfway through their meal.She shot a look over at them, as though wanting them to invite her over.Xavier looked away, carrying on with his lunch as though she wasn’t there.Annie looked back at her sadly, remembering a time when they’d been good friends.But she didn’t say anything.

Ruby ordered a takeaway lunch at the counter, leaving as soon as possible.And it was then that Geoff came over to the table and lent on it, giving Annie a look that suggested he wasn’t in the mood for argument.“Can I talk to you?”

Geoff led Annie out of the Diner towards the beach, pausing on the headland.“What was that all about?”he asked.

“What?”Annie replied.

“Not asking Ruby to sit with you.”

“She’s broken up with Xavier, it wouldn’t have been right.”

“But you two, you’re still friends, aren’t you?”Annie didn’t answer, shuffling uncomfortably.Geoff looked at her pointedly.“Annie?”

“Do you know what she did?”Annie asked at last.

“Yeah, I spoke to Nic about it.”

“And you’re okay with that?”Before Geoff could answer, she asked,“What if it had been me?”

Geoff looked at her, puzzled.“What if what had been you?”

“What if Nicole had asked me to kiss her in front of everyone?Would you have been all right with that?”

“You wouldn’t have done it,”Geoff replied.

Annie nodded, her point made.“But Ruby would.It’s just made me think…maybe we’re just too different to be friends.”

Geoff sighed.He turned and leaned against the fence, staring out to sea.After a moment, Annie joined him. “You know that people here weren’t brought up the same way we were,”he said at last.

“So, what?You’re saying that they’re right and we’re wrong?”

“No…I’m saying that sometimes they do things that we wouldn’t do.And that doesn’t always mean they’re wrong.”

“So what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know.But I just think…maybe Ruby needs a friend about now.Maybe she’s not handling this as well as she thought she would.”

It was the end of the school day when Nicole saw Ruby coming down the corridor.She was looking upset, as though she’d been having a bad day.“Is something wrong?”

Ruby sighed.“You mean apart from the fact most of my friends hate me?”

“I’m sure they don’t hate you…”

“Yeah, they do.”

Nicole looked at her in sympathy.She knew she’d dragged Ruby into this and hadn’t really thought about the effect it would have on her.“I’m sorry, I don’t know what to do.”She smiled cheekily.“Apart from kiss it better.”

Ruby looked distracted.“What?”

Nicole glanced around.There were a fair number of people in the corridor.“Well, we’ve got a decent enough audience.”She pressed her lips against Ruby’s, kissing her, just for a few seconds.

She’d expected it to put a smile on Ruby’s face.But instead it just seemed to make her more upset.“Why do you keep doing that?”she asked before rushing out of school.

“Looks like you can’t keep the girls happy either, Franklin,”quipped one of the girls who had been watching.

Nicole gave her a look of scorn.“Just shut up,”she told her before rushing out.She caught up with Ruby just outside the school gates and took hold of her arm, turning her round.“What did I do?”

“You were only kissing me because you wanted to get a reaction out of those people.”

Nicole didn’t really understand Ruby’s reaction.“Why else would I kiss you?It’s just pretend.”

“Exactly,”Ruby replied as though expecting that to explain everything,“It’s all just pretend, I’m just someone who you kiss to get a reaction.It’s not about me at all.I’m worth more than just being someone’s pretend girlfriend, Nicole.”

As she stalked off again, Nicole just stood there, watching her, having a feeling that she’d missed something very vital.

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Thank you, everyone, for your comments, glad you're liking it.


“So what did you say exactly?”Charlie asked, once Ruby looked in a decent enough shape to talk.

Ruby had sat herself down at the kitchen table, elbows resting in front of her, face buried in her hands. She lifted her head.“Nothing too incriminating.”

Charlie just sat there in silence.Less is more, she told herself.Don’t ask pointless questions.If Ruby wants to say more, let her do it in her own time.

“It’s just…it feels like I’m being used,”Ruby said at last,“Nicole doesn’t want me as a girlfriend, she just wants to kiss me in front of everyone so she can show how daring she is and then get rid of me as soon as we’re on our own.”

“Do you really think it’s as simple as that?”Charlie asked quietly.

Ruby sighed.“No.She thinks I’m a friend and the kisses don’t mean anything to her and she thinks I’m the same.But they do mean something to me and I really want them to mean something to her too.And when they don’t, when I realise she just sees it as a game or a joke, I just end up feeling worthless.”She looked at Charlie beseechingly.“What do you think I should do?”

In truth, Charlie didn’t know what to say.She didn’t know what was best for Ruby but her daughter was coming to her for advice and that was something that didn’t happen very often, especially recently.“Have you thought about telling Nicole all this?”

Ruby stared at her, open-mouthed.“Are you serious?Do you know how she’d react?”

“Worst case scenario?She’s disgusted and she doesn’t want anything to do with you.But do you think Nicole’s the sort of person to do that?”

Ruby thought about it for a moment.“No,”she admitted at last,“But…things wouldn’t be the same.”

“At least then she’d know where you’re coming from.And if she really is your friend, then I think she’d be sensitive about it.”

“But how exactly do you go up to another girl and tell them you’ve got the hots for them?”

“Trust me, it’s easier than it seems.”

Jai seemed to be sitting on the couch, doing some reading for homework and looking as though he didn’t want to be disturbed.Which was tough.Nicole sat down next to him.“You’re friends with Ruby, right?”

Jai shot her a curious sideways look, seemingly bemused by the line of questioning.“Guess so.”

“So what does she say about me?”

“Not a lot…”

“You don’t…ask her what it’s like kissing me?”

Jai was looking at her in that curious nonchalant way which made it hard to work out what he was thinking.“Is this a come on?”

“What?No!”Nicole rolled her eyes.“I kissed Ruby at school earlier.”

“Oh yeah, I heard about that.”Jai began pulling his phone out of his pocket.“Simon sent me this great shot…”

Nicole stopped him.“Yeah, show it to Aden.Thing is…Ruby didn’t seem to like it.”

“I thought you two were only pretending?”

“We are but we don’t usually…not like it.I mean, I am not used to people running away from me screaming when I kiss them.I’m just wondering whether she’s angry with me over this whole thing.I mean, she and Xavier broke up, she’s getting a hard time at school, I was just wondering if she’s said anything to you about it…”

Jai thought for a moment.“No,”he said at last.

Nicole sighed.“You’re a big help.”


They both scrambled to their feet when they saw Ruby in the doorway.“Hi, Rube,”Jai greeted her,“We were just talking about you.”

“Jai,”Nicole said firmly without looking at him,“scram.”

“Okay.”Jai pointed in the direction of the kitchen door.“I’ll just go and feed the ducks.”

Ruby took a step into the house.“Do you mind if we sit down?”

Nicole gestured for Ruby to take the place next to her that Jai had vacated.“I’m sorry if I upset you at school,”she said at last,“If you don’t like me kissing you…”

“That’s just it,”Ruby replied,“I do like kissing you.”

Nicole froze slightly, feeling there was something about the simple declaration that she hadn’t quite grasped.“Okay, that’s good.I mean, I’ve got quite a reputation for these things…”

“Nicole, I like you,”Ruby said, interrupting again.

“Well, yeah, I like you too…”

“No, I mean, I really like you.Like everyone at school already thinks I do.I’ve stopped pretending, Nic. When I said I didn’t want to be your pretend girlfriend any longer, I meant I want to be your real girlfriend.”

Nicole stared at her.It hadn’t even crossed her mind…“Ruby, this might sound strange coming from someone who’s spent a fair bit of time kissing you recently but…I don’t think I’m gay.”

“I don’t know if I am,”Ruby replied,“I’ve always liked boys.It’s just I end up lying awake at night thinking about what it’s like kissing you and wondering if I’m going to get to do it again.”

“Wow…I don’t know what to say.”

Ruby gave an embarrassed smile but didn’t seem to be able to bring herself to look Nicole in the eye. “Guess you could say I can kiss you now.”

And for some reason, Nicole found herself saying “Okay then.”

Ruby looked stunned then a smile spread across her features.She gently took hold of the back of Nicole’s head and moved it towards her, starting to kiss her tentatively.At first Nicole didn’t respond, then she began kissing her back.She felt Ruby’s fingers stroking her hair and tracing the spine of her back and found herself copying the gestures.The kiss became more intense and she felt the unfamiliar sensation of Ruby’s chest pressing against her own.And all she could think was I’m kissing another girl.This wasn’t for anyone else’s benefit, this wasn’t pretend or a show.The only possible explanation she could think of for them kissing was that they meant it.

This had definitely not been part of the plan.

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Thank you, as ever, for all your comments.


Living with teenagers taught you to expect many things.You could never be quite sure what you were going to find when you walked into the house.But Nicole and Ruby kissing on the sofa…that, Miles had to admit, was a new one.

“Is this the bit where I’m supposed to cough?”he asked at last.

Nicole and Ruby disengaged and turned round to look at him, hastily pulling their clothing back into some semblance of its usual shape.“Miles, hi!”Nicole gave him a broad grin that spoke of acute embarassment. “We didn’t see you there.”

“Yeah, that’s okay, I could see you were busy…”

“I should probably better get off,”Ruby decided,“You two need to catch up.”She gently kissed Nicole on the lips.“I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, later,”Nicole agreed.

Miles waited until Ruby had left before taking a deep breath.“Okay.Easy question first.Was that just practice?”

Nicole looked at him, uncomprehending.“Practice?”

“Yeah, you know, this whole pretend lesbian thing you two have got going on.You were seeing if you could make it look convincing for the next time you two kiss in public.Which, I have to say, it did.”

“It wasn’t practice.”Nicole turned away, sitting back down on the sofa properly.“That was…me being confused.”

“Ah.”Miles moved round the sofa, sat down next to her.“Confused how?”

“Confused because my pretend girlfriend just told me she wants to be my actual girlfriend and my response was to tell her to kiss me.”

“Which she did,”Miles pointed out.

“Which she did,”Nicole confirmed.

“And, not that I was watching for long, but it didn’t seem entirely one-sided.”

“Yes, okay, fine, I just kissed another girl, I’m a sexual deviant or whatever it is Colleen calls us.You got any advice for that?”

“Well, I could try and say something profound but I guess only you know how you’re feeling.”

“That’s just it, I don’t know how I’m feeling.I’ve never looked at Ruby or any other girl like that.And sure, kissing her was nice but…What, suddenly I’m gay?Where did that come from?”

“Does it make you happy?”

Nicole shrugged.“A bit.”

“Well, I guess you’ve got a lot of thinking to do and a lot of difficult choices to make.But if you’re happy, then I guess that’s the important thing.”

Charlie was also discovering that you could never predict what teenagers were going to do.She’d been all ready with tea and sympathy and instead Ruby had practically danced into the house, a big smile on her face, singing some wordless upbeat tune.“Do you mind?”she asked, placing a hand on the fridge door.

“Help yourself,”Charlie responded.

Ruby took out a carton of orange juice and for a moment looked like she was going to take a swig from the bottle before getting herself a glass.“Sorry, I’m just…”

“Everything went well?”

Ruby turned to her, the smile getting even wider if anything.“It was amazing, Charlie.I really didn’t think I could feel like this.”

Charlie still wasn’t quite understanding what had put Ruby in this mood.“You spoke to Nicole?”

Ruby nodded.“She feels the same way.”

“She said that?”

“Not exactly.I told her I wanted to be her girlfriend and that I wanted to kiss her…and she told me that I could.”

“You and Nicole kissed?”

“And it was great.”

“But you talked things through afterwards, right?”

“No, we didn’t get a chance, Mr.Copeland came in so I left them to talk.”

Charlie didn’t want to spoil her daughter’s good mood but she couldn’t help feeling worried.“Ruby, you know that if you’re happy then I’m happy but I really don’t want you getting your hopes up if…”

Ruby gently took hold of Charlie’s arms.“Charlie, I know you’re only looking out for me and I love you for it.But seriously…it’s all good.”

“If you laugh or smirk, then I am out of here.”

Aden looked at Nicole, standing on his doorstep, her slight form bristling with pent-up frustration.“Okay,” he said at last,“Come in.”

Nicole accepted the invitation, heading straight to the sofa and dropping into it.“I think I just became a lesbian.”

Aden followed her into the room, slightly bemused.“Why do you think that?”

“Because I was just making out with Ruby on the sofa.”She saw Aden open his mouth.“If you ask for photographs, I will kill you.”He closed his mouth.“How did I get myself into this?”

He sat down next to her.“I don’t know, how did you get into this?”

Nicole shrugged.“I just thought we were friends who occasionally kissed each other.”She sighed.“You know, that sounds weirder every time I say it.”

“And now it’s more than that?”

“She told me she likes me.I just had no idea she felt that way.And then like a doofus I ended up kissing her.God, it’s all such a mess.”

“Must be if you’re asking me for relationship advice.”

She shrugged.“Just thought you’d kissed more girls than me.Might have some insights.”

“Yeah, I don’t think it quite works like that.”He shot her a sympathetic look.“What are you going to do?”

“Not sure I need to do anything.I think as far as Ruby’s concerned we’re going out so…”

“So you’re just going to go along with it?”His expression looked far from convinced.“Nic, if this is just about wanting someone to like you…”

“Well, I’ve dated way uglier than Ruby and so what if she’s got a few bits I’m not used to?”Nicole could see he was still worried.“It’s okay, Aden.I know what I’m doing.”But she wondered if that was actually true.

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Nicole made it back to their towels first and flopped down onto hers, exhausted.“Made it!”

Ruby came puffing up the beach behind her and sank onto her own towel.“I think you cheated.”

“And how do you make that out?”

Ruby shrugged.“You’ve got longer legs than me.”

Nicole checked out Ruby’s legs and then her own.“Not a lot in it, I think.”

“They’re pretty nice though.”

Nicole smiled at her.“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”

Ruby gave her a cheeky grin.“So, you won.Want your reward?”

She bent over Nicole and started kissing her, moving so she was lying on top of her.The position made Nicole feel slightly uncomfortable so she changed it, gently rolling them both so they were lying side by side.

The kiss broke and Ruby ran a finger through Nicole’s hair.“Didn’t imagine we’d end up like this.”

“Neither did I,”Nicole agreed, hoping Ruby didn’t notice the slight catch in her voice.

“Guess you just struck lucky.”

Nicole raised an eyebrow.“Lucky?”

“Come on, you’ve got to admit I’m hot.”

Nicole couldn’t help but smile.“Yes, Ruby, you’re hot.”

“Guess that’s something we’ve got in common then.”Ruby planted another light kiss on Nicole’s lips and then dragged her to her feet.“Come on, let’s go for a drink.”

Annie wasn’t sure if Ruby and Nicole had noticed them or not.They’d just gone up to the counter and ordered a couple of cold drinks to take out, leaving as soon as they were ready.Maybe they really hadn’t noticed, they’d only seemed to have eyes for each other.As if they enjoyed being together.

Either way, the incident was enough to make Annie regret inviting Geoff to join her and Xavier for lunch. “You two still haven’t made up?”he asked.

Annie shrugged.“There hasn’t been that much of a chance.”

“Annie, it’s been weeks!”

“So?”She was aware her voice sounded petulant but she couldn’t help that.“It’s not that easy to talk about.”

She glanced at Xavier, hoping he’d help her out, but he just shrugged.“Look, I know Ruby wasn’t all that fair with me but, I dunno, she and Nicole seem happy together.There’s no reason for you two to stop being friends.”

Annie glanced back at Geoff who seemed to be looking at her triumphantly.“If the opportunity comes up, I’ll speak to her,”she said at last.Geoff didn’t look too happy at the promise.“Best I can offer.”

Jai noticed Nicole searching through the fridge and took a quick look around the front room.“Is Ruby hiding under the couch or something?”

“No, she’s gone home.”

“Oh, it’s just you two seem to be joined at the hip these days.Or do I mean the lip?”

Nicole glanced over her shoulder at him.“She talk about me?”

“Just that she’s happy with the way things are going.Won’t tell me anything more, no matter how much I beg her.But hey, if you want to fill me in on any details…”

Nicole could feel tears beginning to well up in her eyes, for reasons she didn’t really understand.“Why do all the guys in this town act as though me and Ruby being together is some sort of colossal joke?This is our lives!”

She looked away, letting silence hang in the air after her outburst.Then she heard Jai’s voice, quiet and concerned.“Are you all right?”

She let the fridge door slam shut and turned round, resting her back against it.“It’s just…this is not my life, this is not who I am.I’m Nicole Franklin, I date guys, I…I don’t do girls.I don’t know how any of this happened.”

“But…are you happy about it?”

She gathered herself together.She’d promised herself she wasn’t going to talk about any of this.“Course I am, I mean, Ruby’s great, I like hanging out with her.”

“Yeah but I like hanging out with her too.Doesn’t mean I want to pash her.That often.If you only like her as a friend…”

“I like her as…”Nicole broke off.“I like her, okay?That’s the most important thing.Everything else, I’ll just take it as it comes.”

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Thanks for your comments, hope you like this one.


They were on a date.It had been Ruby’s idea, of course, on the grounds that that was what couples do.Not that there was any obvious sign that it was a date.Most of the people watching probably thought that they were just two friends having a pizza together.

“So, you nervous about tomorrow?”Ruby asked.

Nicole buried her head in her hands for a moment.“Urgh.Exams.”

“You’ll ace them.”

“Yeah, because I’ve been doing so much study.”

Ruby looked worried.“Did I choose the wrong night for this?”

Nicole shook her head quickly.“No, no, of course not.I’m glad to be able to get out and have fun.”

“Well, don’t worry, I’m not planning a late one.I’ll have you tucked up in bed before too long.”Ruby’s words hung in the air for a moment and she suddenly felt uncomfortable.That was one conversation they’d never really got around to having.“I mean, I’ll get you home and you can go to bed on your own.”

“Yeah.”Nicole nodded.“I knew that was what you meant.”They lapsed back into uncomfortable silence for a moment then she gestured to Ruby’s slice of pizza.“You eating that?”

Ruby lifted the slice up and held it out invitingly.Nicole smiled and took a bite.

“I thought I was offering to take you home,”Ruby pointed out as they made their way up the path behind the beach house.

“Hey, if I don’t get you here safely I’ll have Charlie and Irene on my back,”Nicole replied,“And that’s a scary thought.”

“But what if you don’t get home safely?”

Nicole shrugged.“Let’s just pretend I’m the butch one in this relationship and I can take care of myself.”

Ruby paused by the door.“This is my stop.I guess I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Oh, probably.Assuming my head doesn’t explode halfway through my first exam.”She gave her a light kiss.“Night, Ruby.”

Ruby watched her walk back down the path before turning back into the house.She hadn’t expected anyone else to be about so it was a surprise to find Annie standing there.“Hi, Ruby.”

Ruby’s good mood evaporated immediately.“Annie,”she greeted her without warmth,“What are you still doing up?”

“I was just wondering if you wanted to hang out or something.We haven’t done that much lately.”

Ruby still wasn’t convinced by the turnaround.“And Nicole?”

“Well…yeah, she can hang out with us too if she wants.I just thought you two would want to be alone together.”

Ruby sighed and headed for her room.“Good night, Annie.”

“Ruby!”Annie looked hurt.“I’m trying to make an effort here.”

“And what?You expect me to be grateful because you’re no longer embarrassed to be seen with me?” Ruby held Annie’s gaze for a moment, noting the look of shame in the other girl’s eyes, before turning away again.“See you in the morning.”

Nicole had ordered a strong black coffee and then just collapsed at the table.She should probably be home revising for the next exam but she just needed a rest.And she wasn’t sure if Geoff’s smiling face appearing next to her was a good thing or a bad.“How do you think you went?”

“If I went as badly as I think I did, then when I leave school my job is going to involve asking ‘Do you want fries with that?’”

“It probably didn’t.”

“You’re probably right.”She sighed deeply.“There’s another two weeks of this!”

“Yeah but…when it’s over, you’ll be able to do what you want.”

“So they keep telling me.What about you, you got any plans for next year?”

Geoff shrugged.“I was thinking about college at one point but…I dunno, I guess a part of me just wants to get out there and see the world.”

Nicole looked at him in surprise.“You’d leave Summer Bay?”

“Wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know, I mean, I’ve thought about college but I always figured I’d go to the city, keep living here.”

“Yeah but you’ve got Ruby to think about.”

“Yeah.”The comment brought Nicole up sharp.She actually hadn’t even thought about Ruby in her plans for next year, it hadn’t even occurred to her that they might still be together then.

“What does she think about this?”

Nicole realised she had absolutely no idea.“She agrees with me,”she said at last.

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