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A Mother's Treasure Is Her Daughter

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Chapter 24

One Week Later

Ruby lay in the hospital bed staring at the ceiling. It was about the only thing she could do lying on her back. Every now and again a nurse would come in and help to turn her on her side so she wouldn't develope bed sores or blood clotting. It was a routine that occured every two hours. Rachel had explained that it was necessary, but it just made Ruby feel even more hopeless.

"So Aden suggested that we go for a walk along the beach, which started off great until some summer holiday kids came up and soaked us with water ballons", Nicole rambled on.

Charlie sat the other side of the bed and laughed at Nicole's story. It had been a while since she could remember laughing. Too long. She sat up and flicked a strand of hair behind her shoulder and looked at Ruby, who was still staring at the ceiling. She grabbed a hold of her hand and gave it gentle squeeze.

"Hey, are alright? Your awful quiet", she said. It was a stupid question to ask someone who had just been told that they may never walk again, but she knew she had to keep Ruby's spirits up.

Feeling the squeeze in her hand Ruby snapped out of her trance like state and looked down at Charlie. She wanted to tell her that she was fine. That everyting was fine, but it would be a lie. So she did what she though was necessary. She twisted the truth.

"Yeah I'm just nervous about this rehabilitation session is all", Ruby said, trying to convince both her mother and Nicole that she was fine.

A nurse walked into the room, carrying an insulin kit with her. She placed it down on the nurses worktop at the end of the room and then turned back towards the patient.

"Alright, why don't we get you changed into some workout gear for your rehab session today", the nurse said in her enthusiastic nurses tone.

Nicole looked at the nurse and then back at Ruby, realising that this was probably not something her friend would want her to see. She picked up the juice bottle she had brought in with her and her handbag and stood up.

"Ok, no offence Rubes, I love you and all but seeing you naked, not something I wanna see anytime soon", Nicole said sarcastically. Both girls laughed at the joke and Nicole bent down and gave Ruby a kiss on the cheek, waved goodbye to Charlie and left the room.

The nurse walked over to the far side of the bed and took the bed controls in her hand, pressing one of the buttons to shift Ruby into an upright position. Charlie stood up and walked over to where she had left Ruby's bag earlier that day and pulled clothes she thought were appropriate for a strenuous session. She made her back over to the bed and placed the clothing on the side railing next to Ruby. The nurse picked up the t-shirt and looked at Ruby.

"So do you want mum here to give you a hand?", she asked.

"Yeah..." Charlie begun.

"....No...!", Ruby said cutting her off.

Charlie looked down at Ruby when she heard her answer. She didn't understand the problem. Ruby never had a problem changing in front of Charlie before. They used to do it the whole tme when they were sisters and they tried on clothes. Maybe that was the problem, Charlie thought to herself. Maybe Ruby wasn't comfortable doing that kind of thing in front of her now that they were no longer sisters. Or was it something else.

"Alright, well what if mum waited outside until you're ready?", the nurse said trying to make the situation feel a little less uncomfortable.

Ruby didn't say anything, she just nodded her head at the nurse. She turned to Charlie who had a look of rejection on her face. She grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze to show her that it wasn't her that was the problem. In a way Charlie felt relieved when Ruby did it. But she hated that Ruby was pushing her away when all she wanted to do was help. She squeezed Ruby's had back and gave it a quick kiss.

"Ok, I'll be outside", she said smiling at Ruby and then leaving them to it.

Charlie walked outside and closed the door behind her. She let out a sigh and rubbed her hand across her forehead in a frustrated manner. She was trying to be supportive for Ruby but she just didn't know what exactly to do or what she could do. Sometimes it felt more like Ruby was helping her through this rather than it being the other way around. She tried to be a mother to her but at times, she felt more like a failure. Charlie waked across the corridor and sat on one of the empty chairs. She sat back and leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes.

"Hey", a quiet familiar voice said.

Charlie's eyes sprung open to find Angelo standing in front of her. He was actually out of uniform which was strange. Charlie looked down and swallowed hard. She remembered waht she had said to him the last time they spke and she knew that she had been harsh. But she couldn't help it. She was angry with him and the feeling just wouldn't go away.

"What do you want?", she said, looking him straight in the eye with a face that was expressionless.

"How's Ruby?", he asked hoping to soften the conversation. Talking about Ruby usually softened any other conversation they had ever had.

"How's Ruby?", Charlie repeated, her voice getting high pitched. At that moment a patient wheeled past in a wheelchair and stopped at the nurses station. "Do you see that", Charlie said pointing at the patient, "That is Ruby's life from this point on, right there. No more running around the bay with her mates or attempting to go surfing with Geoff even though she can't surf. That's it for her and all because you wanted to play the knight in shining armour", she yelled at him. Grabbing the attention of the nurses standing at their station.

"Charlie, please. I was just trying to protect you and Ruby, I never thought this would happen", Angelo pleaded looking his girlfriend in the eye and trying to take hold of her hand. But Charlie backed away.

"Yeah well a lot of good that's done", Charlie lowered her head held her hand up wiping away a stray tear. She brushed past him and walked towards Ruby's room door. She stopped and turned back to look at Angelo who looked at her with hurt expression. "I will never forgive you for this Angelo", she said. With that she opened the door and entered.

Angelo stood there stunned. He couldn't believe what he had just heard. The one person left in the bay who didn't treat him like dirt now hated him. How could this have happened. One minute they were blissfully happy and now she couldn't bear to look at him. Angelo stood looking into the room. He watched as Charlie helped the nurse lift Ruby from the bed and into the wheelchair. The nurse grabbed the pillow off the bed and placed behind Ruby's back for comfort. Angelo couldn't bear to watch anymore. With one last glance at Charlie he walked down the corridor and left.

Charlie positioned the pillow in a way that felt right to Ruby. When it was okay, she crouched down to Ruby's level and place a comforting hand on her daughter's arm. Ruby looked down at the wheelchair. It was the first time she had ever sat in it and she felt very strange. She could feel herself getting emotional and the tears welled up in her eyes as she realised that this was real. Charlie looked up at her daughter and noticed the tear run down her cheek.

"Hey, it's going to be ok. I'll be right here every step of the way", she said. Charlie leaned forward and wrapped her arms around her daughter. Ruby latched onto her as if for dear life and let out the tears she had been holding back. She was about to realise how much of an adjustment her life was going to need.

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Chapter 25

Charlie walked back down to the rehabilitation unit in the southern end of the hospital. It had been two hours since Ruby went in for her first session and it felt like it had been going on forever. Ever since the the shooting, the kidnapping, even as far back as the whole Grant drama, Charlie had been having serious seperation anxiety issues with regards being more than a few feet away from Ruby.

With everything that had gone on Charlie now understood the challenges of actually being a mother. She realised that, although she tried to be a strong presence in Ruby's life as her sister, she really had no idea just how much worry a parent feels for their child. How much they would do for their child. Until now. Peering in through the glass panel outside the physical workout area, Charlie glanced at her daughter as she struggled through her first session with a determination Charlie had never witnessed in another human being before.

The physio who had been working on Ruby spotted Charlie watching from outside and gestured for her to come in, to which she more than oblidged. She walked in the door and walked across the room, glancing around at all the other patients who were in Ruby's position. When she got where Ruby was being worked on she sat down on one of the chairs that was right beside her. Watching the doctor lift Ruby's leg and press it to her chest, saw her daughter flinch slightly. She reached down and stroked Ruby's hand. Giving her an encouraging smile as she tried to breath through the pain in her lower back.

"Ms. Charlie Buckton?", a voice said from beside where Charlie was sitting.

Charlie turned in her seat and looked up to find a middle aged woman hovering over her with a file craddled in her arms. She released Ruby's hand from her grasp and stood up to greet the woman.

"Yes, I'm Charlie. And you are?" Charlie asked shaking the woman's hand.

"I'm Dr. Jameson, I'm a phsychiatrist here at the hospital. I talk to patients who have been through traumatic ordeals and who have life altering injuries and conditions", she explained. "Basically I talk to patients before their first session. Somewhat of a cleansing of the soul session to free their mind of anything that may be blurring their vision and preventing them from moving forward and accepting their circumstances, which I conducted with Ruby today".

Charlie looked at the woman in confusion. What was she trying to say? That Ruby needed phsychological help? In a way Charlie felt slightly insulted that a trained professional felt the need to talk to Charlie about her own daughter. But at the same time their was a part of her, deep down, more upset than anything because she couldn't bear the though of Ruby opening up to a stranger and not to her.

"Right. So is there anything I should be worried about?", Charlie said trying not to sound to eager to get the information out of the woman.

"That's the thing", Dr. Jameson said taking a seat next to Charlie. "Ruby wouldn't communicate with me on a personal level. She felt uncomfortable which is very natural in these cases. She does however feel she can open up to you and it's in Ruby's best interests that she does so I would ask you to encourage her to confide in you", the doctor finished.

Charlie nodded at the doctor and gave her a quick smile. She watched the woman stand up and leave as she sat there digesting the information of the conversation that had just taken place. When she turned back around the physio had just placed Ruby back into her wheel chair and was praising her for a good first session to which Ruby gave him a half hearted smile. Charlie stood up and walked over to her daughter and gave her shoulders a gentle squeeze before wheeling her out of the rehab center and down the corridor.

The five minute trek from the center to Ruby's room was quiet. Neither said a word to each other. Both just remained lost in thought. Charlie thinking about having a serious heart to heart with Ruby and Ruby thinking about confiding in Charlie. Both knew that the thinking part was the easiest part. It was the follow through that would be the difficult part. Finally they reached Ruby's room and within seconds two nurses had arrived to help Ruby into her bed which was positioned in a way that Ruby was sitting upright as opposed to lying flat on her back which she had grown tired of.

With one quick check of Ruby's blood sugar levels, the nurse recorded the data and reconnected Ruby's IV line and both nurses left the two women by themselves. Charlie walked over to Ruby and sat herself firmly by her daughters side on the bed. She looked her in the eye and she could tell that Ruby knew what was coming. So she decided to take the plunge and just start the conversation.

"So Rubes, you know you can talk to me about anything right? Anything at all.." Charlie was about to continue when Ruby suddenly intervened.

"Mum, I know the phychiatrist told you what I said in the therapy session", she said. Ruby looked down at her hands nervously as she tried to find the words so she could tell her mother how she was feeling.

"Hey it's ok, come on you can tell me", Charlie said Ruby's face in her hands and then dropping them and taking a hold of Ruby's hands.

"It's just when I found out I was paralysed I just felt so angry and I couldn't stop thinking about how my life was ruined", Ruby said, her voice shaking with emotion as a tear slid down her cheek. "But then today when I heard you and Angelo fighting, I realised, that this is ruining your life too. I'M, ruining your life....", she said trailing off.

"What? Rubes no...", Charlie said in state of shock horror, but she was cut off by Ruby who continued on.

"....which is why I'm going to go to the rehabilitation programme in the city. I can work on adjusting to this and you can carry on with you life without being weighed down by me", she stated.

Charlie stiffened as she listened to what Ruby was saying, heart breaking as she watched her daughter unravel before her.

"Ruby you are NOT weighing me down. What's brought this on?" Charlie asked squeezing her daughters hands to try and stop them from shaking.

"Who'd want to live with a diabetic, paraplegic rape concieved teenager? I wouldn't be surprised if you felt disgusted by me, ashamed even....." Ruby said as she began to sob uncontollably.

The tension in the room was servere. Charlie looked at her daughter with a look of unbelieveable shock. How on earth could Ruby think so such a thing. She loved her more than life itself.

"No, no, NO!", Charlie exclaimed. She grabbed a hold of Ruby's shoulders and looked her straight in the eye. "Rubes you are THE most precious thing in my life. I love you so much it hurts. I don't care how you were concieved or where you came from, that doesn't matter to me. I'm not disgusted by you or ashamed. I am incredibly proud of you and I don't want you to ever think or feel otherwise. You are my daughter, my flesh blood. You're everything to me and I could care less whether or not you can walk. Because I love you. I've always loved and I always will and nothing, I mean nothing will change that. I am going to be here for you no matter how hard or how difficult this gets, do you hear me?" she said wiping the tears from Ruby's face.

Charlie took one last glance at Ruby's pained expression and then pulled her into her embrace. Holding onto her for what felt like an eternity. It was at that moment that Charlie understood just how powerful a mothers unconditional love for her chil was. Because at that moment while Charlie sat their holding her daughter in her arms, she felt the rest of the world fade away.


Can Ruby adjust to her condition in the real world away from the hospital?

Will Angelo's attempts of a reconciliation be welcomed by Charlie?

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Chapter 26

Returning from the hospital canteen with a hot cup of coffee, Charlie found herself yawning uncontollably for what seemed like the hundreth time that day. She'd been staying most nights working on a surprise for Ruby with the help of Ross, Morag, Leah and almost everyone else in the bay. It had been weeks since the accident and with the progress Ruby had been making in physio, her doctors decided that she could continue her recovery in the comfort of her own home and was being discharged that evening. Charlie reached Ruby's room door but stopped outside when she heard Geoff and Ruby talking inside.

"I can't say I'm surprised. I always had a thought in the back of my mind that you would eventually follow this path. I just wished it would be further down the track", Ruby said sounding disheartened.

"Rubes, it's nothing to do with you. Being a missionary, it's something I've always thought about doing and seeing all you've gone through, it's made me realise that there are a lot of people out there who need help who aren't getting it and I want to be the one who they can turn to", Geoff stated matter of factly. "Ruby I love you, and I wish the circumstances had been different, but this is something I need to do".

"I know, I want you to do this, if it's what makes you happy. Who know's, maybe one day we'll be reunited", Ruby said through a nervous tear filled laugh as if what she was saying only lived in fairytales.

Charlie's heart broke for her daughter as she listened outside the room. But at the same time she was incredibly proud of how dignified Ruby was being about the whole situation. Just then Geoff opened the door and walked out into the corridor looking upset but at the same time relieved at how well Ruby had taken it. Charlie smiled at him, and he smiled back. She was disappointed that he and Ruby had broken up, but at the same time she realised he was doing it for reasons she couldn't argue with. Geoff was a good man and she was grateful Ruby had been blessed to have had him in her life. Even if it was brief.

As she watched Geoff disappear down the corridor she took a swig of her coffee and walked into Ruby's room and looked at Ruby as she wiped away the last of her tears. Picking up the tissue box on the table at the end of the bed she handed a tissue to Ruby and sat on the edge of her bed stroking her arm. Ruby looked up at Charlie and gave her mother a reassuring smile that she was okay. Charlie responded by smilin back.

"You seem at peace with the decision", she said cupping Ruby's hand in hers.

"I am. I'll admit I didn't want Geoff to leave. But this is something he has to do you know, and I don't want to stand, or wheel, in his way", Ruby said with a mock laugh, "He deserves to be happy and maybe it'll give me the opportunity to focus on myself and my recovery".

"I'm really proud of you, you know that", Charlie said giving her daughter a comforting hug. "Hey, this should be a happy day, you're finally breaking out of here", she said sarcastically.

"Oh God, I know. I can't wait to get home to my own bed. Even just being home with you and hanging out with Xav, Nic and Annie. You know I never realised how much I could miss that", Ruby said matter of factly.

Charlie smiled as Ruby thought of all she missed while she'd been confined to the hospital. This was the longest she'd ever been in and she could safely say she never wanted to see another hospital in such a serious basis for the rest of her life. Ruby looked up at her mother who had a big grin on her face and she noticed the twinkle in her eye. She knew that look, it ususally meant Charlie was hiding a something.

"Well I'm glad your looking forward to going home so much because.......I have a surprise for you", Charlie said excitedly.

Ruby's eyes lit up. She could feel the curiosity building inside her and she was just about to beg Charlie to spill when Rachel walked into the room holding Ruby's discharge.

"Good news, I've talked to your cardiologist and all the physio has excellerated your recovery from your heart operation, your physio is overjoyed with your progress and the dietician is very happy with how you're managing your diet for your diabetes. In all I'd say you've been a star patient" Rachel said as she checked off Ruby's medical chart. "Now if mum here will would sign on the dotty line you are free to go".

Charlie took the discharge form from Rachel and signed the bottom of the page smiling at Ruby when she was done. She could see her daughter almost bursting with joy when she realised that she was now officially free. Rachel laughed as Ruby let a small "yes" and gestured out the door for the male nurse to come and help Ruby. Within seconds the nurse walked in with Ruby's new custom wheelchair.

The new wheelchair offered Ruby a more comfortable seat and better back support. The bars were purple one of Ruby's favourite colours and there were no arm rests in the way of Ruby pushing the wheels. The chair also provided a smaller set of back wheels connected to the back which would allow Ruby to lean back and manage steps with less hassle. It also in Ruby's opinion made it easier to rate a boys rear end for a different angle.

The nurse lifted Ruby into his arms and placed her in the chair, adjusting the foot rest to match her her height for comfort. Charlie smiled at Rachel and thanked her and walked down the corridor after Ruby who was in a rush to get out of there and find out what her surprise was. When they got to the car Charlie opened the passenger door and watched in awe as Ruby, using the door frame and the passenger seat, lifted herself into the car and placed her legs one after the other into the car. Charlie meanwhile folded up her chair and put it in the backseat and then climbed into the driver's seat.

"Soooooo, what's my surprise?", Ruby asked before Charlie had a chance to draw breath.

"You'll just have to wait until we get home to find out", Charlie said, her smile growing as Ruby looked at her with a pleading look.

Ruby couldn't contain her excitement. She was dying to know what her surprise was and no matter what she did she couldn't get the answer out of Charlie. Ruby was lost in her own little world as she stared out the window. But she was snapped out of her trance when she noticed Charlie had taken a different route and driven down a street she had only ever been down a couple of times all the while she had been living in Summer Bay, but it was a street she remembered liking because of it's proximity to the beach and homely feel.

Charlie pulled the car up into the drive of one of the houses, a white house. Ruby turned and looked at her in confusion. Charlie smiled back at her and then got out of the car and removed Ruby's wheelchair form the backseat and walked around to the passeneger side and unfolded the chair placing it beside the car and opened the door helping Ruby into the chair. Once Ruby was in it, Charlie closed the door and proceeded to push Ruby's chair up to the front door and then fondled the keys until she found the key she was looking for.

"Mum, what are we doing here?", Ruby asked looking at her, really confused.

Charlie opened the door and pushed Ruby inside....

"SURPRISE!!", everyone shouted when they seen Ruby enter the living room.

Ruby looked up in shock and looked around the room. It was completely decorated with new furniture and and photo frames dotted around of Charlie, Ruby, friends and family as well as portraits on the walls and a plasma screen television. Charlie watched her daughter look at everyone, including Ross and Morag, and everything in shock. Then she pushed Ruby from the living room down the corridor and stopped outside a door with 'Ruby's Room' on it. She opened the door and gestured for Ruby to go in.

After looking at everyone, Ruby wheeled herself into the room, which could only be described as shabby chic, and began to cry tears of joy. Charlie walked into the room and kneeled down in front of her daughter and smiled at her.

"Welcome home baby girl", she said as the two Buckton women engulfed each other in a tight embrace.

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