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Hope you like this one.


“Yep, fine,”Nicole was saying down the telephone receiver,“Okay, we’ll sort out the details later.Thanks. Bye.”

“Something important?”Miles asked from his place on the couch.

“Just last minute school formal arrangements.Hard to believe it’s only in two days, it feels like we’ve been organising it for ages.”She sighed.“Course, the way things are going, I’m probably going to be doing the first dance with Mr.Bartlett.”

Jai came downstairs and paused, listening carefully.“Wow.Does anyone else think it’s quiet now Amy’s not here?”

“Yeah but she’s back with her dad now and her mum will be out of hospital soon,”Miles reminded him, “So that’s good.”

“What about you?I mean, you’ve only been out a week, are you feeling okay?”

Miles waved a hand dismissively.“Don’t worry about it.It only hurts when I breathe.”He looked at Nicole, an idea striking him.“Hey, I’ve got it!I could be your formal partner.”

“Miles, you can barely walk,”Nicole pointed out,“How are you going to be able to do the first dance with me?”

“We could improvise something.”

“No offence but it’s not exactly my dream.”

“Fair enough.”Miles helped himself to his feet.“I’d better get to the bathroom.I’m sure I’m going to need it by the time I get there.”

Jai waited until he’d gone before turning to Nicole.“You still haven’t got a partner?”

“No,”Nicole admitted,“And it’s getting to the stage where even the guys I wouldn’t be seen dead with have got dates.With girls I wouldn’t be seen dead with so I guess that kind of works out.”

“I was just thinking…maybe I could go with you?”Jai wasn’t sure how the invitation was going to be received.He wasn’t even sure what the state of play was between them, it was nearly a week since Nicole had taken Amy and moved back to her own room and she hadn’t come near his room since.“I mean, if I’m not what you wanted…”

Nicole smiled at him.“Actually, Jai, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with.”She kissed him gently and hugged him.“Thank you.”

“Annie, are you ready?”Ruby called up the stairs as she finished packing her school bag.

Annie came running down.“Nearly.”She grabbed a set of folders from the table then stopped and looked at Ruby, as though undecided about what she was going to say.“Ruby, can I ask you something?”


“Do you wish you hadn’t slept with Xavier?”

Ruby raised an eyebrow.“Bit early in the morning for that.”

“I just meant, what we were saying about…first times…”

“I don’t know, Annie.I guess if the first time with Geoff had been…well, the first time, it would have been more special but…I did love Xavier at the time and when it happened, it did feel like how I wanted it to feel.So I guess that’s the important thing.”She looked hard at Annie.“Do you wish you hadn’t slept with Jai?”

Annie sighed.“I always thought he’d be my first time.I pictured us getting married and…and having a wedding night.I thought it would be something epic and romantic, not…not what happened.”

Ruby couldn’t help shooting her a wicked grin.“You mean on a sofa with your family and friends just outside?”

Annie blushed slightly.“Yeah, that.”

“It’s not too late, Annie.”Annie looked at her bemused.“I mean, obviously it’s too late to change what happened but it doesn’t mean you have to let go of everything you’ve been dreaming about.Just…just talk to him, Annie.Tell him how you feel.”

“I seriously cannot believe she agreed to it,”Xavier exclaimed.

Jai was busy putting his things into his lockers but paused at the comment.“It’s not that big a deal.”

“Not that big a deal?Man, you are going to the senior formal.Do you even own any formal gear?”

Jai’s face creased in embarrassment.“Nicole’s taking me shopping.”

“Perfect.This is like a guaranteed ticket to cop off.Hey, has Nicole got a friend who’s looking for a date?”

“What are we talking about?”Ruby asked as she and Annie approached.

“Nothing,”Jai replied quickly.

Xavier patted him on the shoulder, apparently oblivious to the sudden tension in the air.“This one has only managed to get himself the role of Nicole’s escort for the formal.”

Ruby looking worriedly at Annie, who looked forlorn for a moment then quickly covered it up.“I hope you have a nice time,”she said at last before hurrying off to class.

Ruby looked at Jai in frustration.“Yeah, have a nice time, Jai,”she echoed.While gritting her teeth.

“I need your help.”

Irene looked round at the comment and saw Ruby had just arrived back at the house.“That’s nice, darl. Anything in particular?”

Ruby sighed.“Jai and Annie.I know they like each other, they know they like each other…well, they each know they like the other one, they’re just not sure if the other one likes them…”

“Love, are you sure you should be interfering in this?”

“Hey, too late to change the habit now.”

“Ruby, pushing two people together because you think they’d be good for each other can often lead to trouble.I’ve learned that one from bitter experience.”

Ruby struggled to explain.“But…they were happy together, right?”

“Yes, when they were together,”Irene agreed,“But that doesn’t mean if they got back together they’d be happy again.I mean, Jai’s had this thing going with Nicole, hasn’t he?I don’t think Annie’s ready for the type of relationship he’s used to.”Seeming to think she’d made her point, Irene headed through to the kitchen.

Ruby took a deep breath, unsure about the confidence she was going to break.In for a penny…“It’s a bit late for that.”

Irene spun round, a shocked expression on her face.Then she let out a long breath.“However did I miss out on that one, hey?”

“Please, Irene, this is the last chance.If it doesn’t work this time, then I guess they’re not meant to be but I really think if they just manage to get rid of all the other stuff and concentrate on each other…”

Irene held up a hand to stem the flow of comments.“Hold your horses, girl.What exactly have you got in mind?”

Ruby hoped fervently that Irene wouldn’t think she was crazy.“I’ve got a plan…”

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And a merry Christmas to all of you at home.Thank you for your comments and welcome to anyone who's just started reading this.Hope you enjoy this one.


“So what are you two doing this evening?”Irene asked.

Geoff and Annie looked at each other.“Nothing,”Annie admitted.

“Good.Because I’m going to need help with the refreshments at the school formal.”

It was hard to tell which of them looked more aghast.“Irene, I can’t be there serving food,”Geoff protested,“I would have been at that formal if I hadn’t dropped out!”

“And…and Jai and Nicole are going to be there,”Annie added,“I can’t see them!”

Irene looked at them both with a slight air of bemusement.“So, Geoff, you’re saying that you can’t help me out because you’re worried your pride will be hurt?”

“Well, I didn’t say that exactly…”

“And, Annie, it’s so hard for you seeing Jai with someone else that you’re going to avoid being in the same room as him, is that it?”

Annie bit her lip and sighed.“No,”she said quietly.

“Good.”Irene flashed them a broad grin.“So, there’s no reason why you can’t come along and help out, is there?”

“Hold it right there!”Miles called out as Jai and Nicole appeared in the living room doorway.

They both froze, suddenly feeling slightly self-conscious dressed in their formal outfits…even though, as a school chaperone, Miles was dressed equally formally.“What’s up?”Nicole asked.

Miles took out a camera.“Just need to capture the moment.”

Jai sighed.“Do you have to?”

“Hey, this is one for the album, right?In fact, I’m thinking that maybe we should put it on the mantelpiece with the others…”

Nicole shot him a warning look.“You dare…”

“I’m just embracing my inner father-slash-uncle-slash-guardian-of-non-specific-origin tendencies here. Come on, get closer together.”

Jai shot Nicole an apologetic look and put his arm round her.Both of them smiled as Miles took the photo.

“Have you done with the embarrassing father bits?”Nicole asked.

“Not quite.”Miles stepped forward and patted them both on the shoulders.“Just want you to know…I’m as proud of you as I would be if you were my own children.And I know your dad would say the same if he were here, Nic.Apart from the bit about if he was your dad, because he is, so it wouldn’t make sense.”He steered them both towards the door.“Come on, let’s get going before I start crying.”

“Ready!”Annie announced as she came out of the bathroom.

Irene and Ruby were both looking at her in a curious manner.“You’re going dressed like that?”Irene asked casually.

Annie glanced down at her clothes.She was dressed as she normally did, in a loose top and knee-length skirt.“Um, yeah.Why?”

Irene looked at her enigmatically.“Well, it’s just, you never know who you might bump into.”

Before Annie could ask Irene what she was talking about, Ruby had grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her towards the stairs.“Come on, Ann, I’ll show you what we mean.”

Martin began pushing his way through the crowd of students as Jai and Nicole arrived.“Miss Franklin, thank goodness.I was worried you weren’t going to make it.”He suddenly seemed to notice who her partner was.“Mr.Fernandez.”He looked for a moment as though he was going to make a comment, then he just shrugged.“Would you both care to take your places with the other captain?We’re ready for the first dance.”

Jai took his place with Nicole.They put their arms round each other as the song started, dancing slowly in time to the music.He was aware of the attention focused on them and he didn’t mind it.He wondered how many of the other boys in his year would have liked to have been there, at the senior formal, with Nicole. He was glad it was him, he was glad he was with her but…he had to admit it wasn’t what he really dreamed about.

He heard the song come to an end and other couples started moving onto the floor, ready for the next dance.Nicole stepped back from him and smiled.“Thanks, Jai.”

He looked at her, confused.“For what?”

“For coming here with me.For being a friend.For making this a night to remember and for making sure I didn’t look like a total loser.But we both know I’m not the person you really want to be dancing with.”She let go of his hands and walked away from him through the crowd.

Jai was left standing there on the dance floor, wondering what he was supposed to do next.Then he heard a nervous voice ask,“Jai?”

He turned round and caught his breath.She looked like the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, even more beautiful than usual.She was dressed in a long formal dress, her hair worn loose, cascading around her neck and shoulders in its natural curls.“I didn’t know you had any clothes like that.”

Annie looked slightly embarrassed.“Ruby bought it for me.She wanted to do something with my hair but she didn’t have time.”

“It looks great.I mean, you look great.”Jai had a feeling there was something he should be saying.Then it struck him.“Do you want to dance?”

She smiled and took his hands.He drew her close to him, feeling her head resting against his shoulder, and knew exactly what it was he’d been dreaming of.

Nicole watched them from a distance with mixed emotions.Anyone could see they cared about each other and she was happy for them.But that didn’t change the fact she was alone.

“Um, do you fancy a dance?”

Nicole turned at the voice.“Geoff?”He was standing there, dressed in his best shirt and trousers.“What are you doing here?And, um, what about Ruby?”

“Actually, this was her idea.I think she felt a bit guilty about you losing a dance partner so…”

She smiled.“She lent me you for the night?Well, I guess if she couldn’t find Orlando Bloom…”She took Geoff’s hand and let him lead her onto the dance floor.

“I’m sorry,”Jai whispered quietly, hoping Annie could hear him above the music.

She lifted her head from his shoulder, looking him straight in the eye.“What for?”

“I don’t know.Whatever I need to be sorry for.”

“I’m sorry I ran away from you.”

“I’m sorry I rushed you.”

She shook her head.“Maybe I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was but…I love you, Jai.”

“I love you too.”

“Why did we break up?”

He shrugged.“I don’t know.”

“Well, can we get back together?”

He hesitated for a moment.And then he kissed her.For a moment, she was aware of the large number of people around them.And then she forgot they were there.

Irene watched the pair with a certain amount of satisfaction.“Nothing like it when a plan comes together,” she murmured.

Miles stepped to her side, taking in the scene.“Should we be worried about that?”

Irene patted him on the shoulder.“Love, one thing I’ve learnt about teenagers is they’re going to do what they’re going to do.You just have to make sure you’re there for them when they need you.”She smiled. “And occasionally give them a push in the right direction.”

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Not-so-interesting historical sidebar:This is the first fiction I've written on here that's come in shorter than the outline chapter-wise.I had 24 chapters plotted out, then as I got near the end I looked at Chapter 23 and thought "Don't need that."So I chucked it out, except for one bit, and Chapter 24 became Chapter 23.

Which is a roundabout way of saying this is the last chapter.Thanks to everyone who's been reading, hope you enjoy this.


Jai opened his eyes and saw Annie facing him.Not looking at him:her eyes were still closed, the morning light shining down on her.They’d fallen asleep looking at each other.A happy smile spread across his face as memories of the previous evening came flooding back.

They stood in the living room as he gently kissed her.No-one else was in the house:They’d left Miles and Nicole behind at the formal, Alf was still away.What they did next was up to them.

“Are you sure?”he asked.

Annie hesitated.“No.”

“Well, if you’re not, then…then we don’t have to.I mean, we’ve only just got back together, I don’t want to mess it up again…”

“I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not.But…maybe we should try it and then afterwards we can talk about how we think it went?”

Jai nodded.“Yeah, that could work.”

“And if we didn’t like it, then we don’t have to do it again.I mean, not for years, anyway.”

She’d smiled at him, leaving him unsure whether she was joking or not.He’d smiled back uncertainly and kissed her lightly, then led her upstairs…

He stroked her hair gently and felt her stir.She opened her eyes and looked at him, giving him a shy smile as she remembered as well.

“Morning,”he said quietly.

“Morning,”she whispered back.

“How are you feeling?”

She seemed to think about it for a long time.“Strange,”she said at last,“But also kind of special.”

“Any regrets?”he asked.

She hesitated.“Not many,”she said at last,“I guess it’s different for you, I mean, you’ve done it more often…”

“I know,”he conceeded,“And Nicole was great but…she never made me feel the way you do.This…this does feel kind of special.”

He kissed her gently.She smiled and cuddled up to him.And he lay there, with her in his arms, neither of them wanting to be anywhere else.

Ruby came hurrying downstairs.“Well, Annie didn’t come home.So that’s good.”

“Is it?”Geoff asked uncertainly.

“Well, if she was with Jai, it’s good.I guess if she was abducted by Colombian drug barons that’s not so good.If we haven’t heard from her by midday, start worrying.”

“In the meantime…can we not talk about what my sister may or may not have been doing?”

“Okay.”Ruby squatted down on the sofa next to him, putting her arm round his shoulder.“So tell me about the formal last night.You and Nicole have a good time?”

Geoff considered a safe response.“If I say that I’d have preferred it to have been you, would that be right?”

“Spot on, Geoff.”Ruby grinned.“Next time you talk to the bloke upstairs, tell him I’m expecting a truckload of karma to come my way for this one.”

They stood kissing just inside the door again.Annie was wearing her formal dress again, since it was all she’d brought with her, only slightly crumpled from the way it had been discarded the previous night.The kiss broke and Jai smiled at her.“You sure you don’t want me to walk you home?”

Annie shook her head.“Irene said she’d pick me up at the top of the path.”She checked her watch.“She’s probably waiting for me now.”

“She can wait a bit longer,”Jai replied, pulling her back into a kiss.

They heard footsteps behind them and turned round to see Nicole had just come downstairs.“Sorry,”she said awkwardly,“I’ll just be out the back.”

They watched as she headed out the door.“You should talk to her,”Annie said.

“Yeah,”Jai agreed.

She pecked him on the lips before heading for the door.

“I’ll call you,”he called after her.

Annie turned and smiled.“You’d better.”

Nicole was sat on the porch when Jai came outside.“So, looks like the good ship Jai and Annie’s sailing again,”she commented,“Does this mean your bedroom’s off limits to me from now on?”

Jai sat down beside her.“Sorry.”

She gave him an indulgent smile.“No offence, Jai, but I think I’ll get over you.”

“Yeah but…if you think I was messing you around…”

“Hey, who’s to say I wasn’t messing you around?”She suddenly looked serious.“Actually, I think this whole business has taught me something.”

“What’s that?”

“I think it’s finally dawned on me that for the first time in my life I’ve actually got proper friends, not people who hang out with me because they want to be part of the in crowd.You and Geoff…I don’t have to keep doing daft stuff to keep you interested.”


“So from now on, friends are just friends.At least…unless one of them starts looking at me the way you and Annie look at each other.That’d be nice.”She forced the smile back onto her face.“You’ve got something good there, Jai.Make sure you hang onto it this time.”

“I will,”he agreed before patting her on the arm,“And I’ll make sure I hang onto my friends as well.”


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