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A Mother's Treasure Is Her Daughter

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Chapter 27

Charlie scooped up the last of the paper plates lying around the place and dumped them into the black plastic bag. Leah and Martha were kind enough to stay behind and help her do the bulk of the cleaning up. The surprise party had gone a treat with Ruby and everyone in the Bay was so happy to see her in such good spirits, all things considered. Alf even made one of his legendary speeches that managed to condense all his feelings down to a few short and sweet sentences. Ross took the opportunity to express his joy at how happy he was to see his daughter finally getting the chance to be a mother to the daughter she sheltered from the truth for sixteen years.

"Well I think that's the last of it", Martha said tying up the stuffed bin bag and placing it beside the others.

"I have to say it was really nice to see Ruby so upbeat. You must be happy to have her home?" Leah asked Charlie as she wrapped up the leftover food and placed it in the fridge.

"You know I actually can't believe how excited I am to have her here, at home, in OUR home", Charlie said, a smile on her face and a spark in her eye that had been missing for quite some time. "Buying this house and Ruby coming home, it finally feels like we're a proper family. I guess it just feels like there's so much I have to catch up on, sixteen years of catching up actually".

"Well from watching you care for Ruby as her sister, and seeing how you've coped with all of this, her diabetes and her injury, I think it's safe to say you are going to be a fantastic mum", Leah said as she gave her friend words of encouragement as she entered this new chapter in her life.

With one last wipe around, Martha and Leah bid Charlie goodnight and headed home. It had been a long day and Charlie could feel that she was dead on her feet as she sat on the couch and flicked on the t.v. The sound of an opening door caught her attention and she looked up to find Ruby coming out of her new bedroom, a look of tiredness evident as she wheeled up to the couch to where Charlie was sitting.

"Hey you, were'd you disappear to? Dad and Morag wanted to say goodbye to you before they headed back to the city", she asked her daughter as she leaned forward on the couch so she was closer to her.

"Oh sorry. I just felt a little claustrophobic so Nic took me for a walk around the block and when we got back I was tired so I went to my room for a lie down", Ruby said, but then she noticed her Charlie's expression had changed from happy to concerned. "I guess it's just coming from the hospital where I was used to having my own space to seeing everyone here all at once caught me by surprise", she said reassuring her mother that there was nothing to be worried about.

Charlie shook her head understandingly. She knew that it was going to take Ruby a while to adjust to normal life again. Well, as normal as things could be. Noticing that the t.v was still on she flicked it off and put the remote back down on the coffee table. She turned to Ruby and noticed the younger Buckton glancing around her, admiring her new surroundings. The look of awe in her eyes making the whole experience of buying and decorating a house worthwhile for Charlie.

"I can't believe you did this. I mean buying a house is a pretty big deal", Ruby said, as if making sure that Charlie felt like she hadn't made a big mistake.

"Hey, what I said in the hospital about me loving you and how precious you are to me. I meant it. I wanted to show you that. I want us to start a new chapter in our lives as a family and this house. It gives us that opportunity. Rubes I love you unconditionally and no disability is going to ever change that", she said looking for a reaction from her daughter.

Eventually, after Ruby had given it some time to digest Charlie's words, she acknowledged them with a smile. But then her mood suddenly became a little more tense and unsettled. She looked at the newspaper on the coffee table realising she had been out of touch with reality and then back up at Charlie. She swallowed hard as she tried to find the courage to ask the question she had been scared to ask at the hospital for the past few weeks. But she realised if she didn't do it now she never would. She though to herself...it's just like ripping off a band aid, the quicker you do it the less painful it is...and then she did.

"Mum, what happened to the guy who abducted me, Derrick??" she asked, dreading what was coming next.

Charlie sat up straight and let out a large breath of air as the words struck her like a tonne of bricks. She took a deep breath and then taking her daughters hands in her own she began to speak.

"Rubes, Derrick died in the crash. The coroners said he died on impact. He's gone", she said and then watched as Ruby let out a sigh of relief but then Charlie stiffened as she continued with what she hoped she never have to tell Ruby, at least not this soon. "But the other man, Derricks accomplice, he still hasn't been found, but they reckon that with Derrick out of the picture he won't be resurfacing anytime soon", she finished, realising that last piece of information was more than like not comforting in the slightest.

Ruby stared into the distance. Feelings of anger and upset over John Doe out there leaving her with a deep rooted feeling of injustice. She bowed her head and closed her eyes until finally a tear came pouring out. She wiped away the tear with her hand and then removed the other form her mothers grasp.

"I'm tired, I'm going to go to bed", Ruby said almost as if trying to completely ignore what she had jsut heard.

Charlie watched as Ruby battled against her feelings and edged away from the couch and towards the corridor. It made her angry to think how unjust this situation was. But she sure as hell knew one thing. She would not rest until John Doe was brought down and her daughter was finally safe once and for all. She called after Ruby before she was all the way out of the living room.

"Hey, do you want me to help you?", she asked. although in the back of Charlie's mid she didn't care whether or not Ruby did, she was going to anyways.

Ruby, however nodded and waited for Charlie to catch up with her before continuing en route to her bedroom. Once they got inside, Charlie removed Ruby's night wear form the wardrobe and placed them on the bed. She stood over Ruby and helped her remove her top and put on her white t-shirt. Then lifting Ruby onto the bed she helped her to remove her bottoms, careful not to brush against Ruby's healing lower back wound. After putting on Ruby's pj bottoms, she helped Ruby lay on the bed and placed the duvet up around her chest. She then planted a kiss on Ruby's forhead.

Just as she was preparing to leave the room, she felt a tug on her wrist and turned to find a tearful Ruby staring up at her.

"Please stay, I don't want to be alone", Ruby pleaded.

Charlie's heart melted at Ruby's pleas. She coldn't believe Ruby felt like she had to beg her mother to stay with her. All she had to do was say the word and Charlie would do so.

"Ok", Charlie replied squeezing her daughters hand.

She removed her gold sandals and kicked them under the bed. She walked around to the far side and climbed in pulling the duvet up around her and snuggling up beside her daughter. As if by instinct she put her arm across Ruby's chest in a protective manner and engulfed her daughter in an embrace that nobody could tear her from. As Ruby lay there, safe in Charlie's arms she felt herself getting drowsy. She turned her head towards her mother and looked at her before resting her head against her mothers and falling to sleep. Charlie lay there with her arm around her daughter watching her sleep until she finally drifted off. Holding onto the one thing she never wanted to let go of.

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Chapter 28

Knock, knock. Charlie's eyes sprang open at the sound of the knocking on the front door. She turned her head around to look at the clock and read the time. It was 7:30. She turned back around to check and see if the knocking had woken Ruby. To her surprise, considering the loud echo through the house, her daughter was still sleeping peacefully in her arms. Again she heard the knocking and not wanting Ruby to be disturbed, she gently removed her arm from under her daughter and edged out of the bed as quietly as she could.

Opening the bedroom door she walked out into the hallway and close the door over to drown out outside noises from the bedroom. As she made her way down the hall she stretched her stiffened arms and shook out her hair. Yawning as she finally got to the door. Just as she was about to open it the knocking started again.

"Alright, alright....", she said, trailing off when she saw who was standing at her front door.

Angelo stood looking in the doorway at Charlie, noticing the unhappy expression on her face. He removed his hands from his pockets and was about to speak when he was topped dead in his tracks.

"Don't say anything just leave", she said coldly.

"Charlie, Charlie please we need to talk", he pleaded as he put his hand against the door to stop her from shutting it. "Please, just give me ten minutes, that's all I'm asking".

Charlie stood at the door, her arms crossed. When she realised he wasn't going anywhere, she gave in, gesturing for him to enter into the living room. With a seconds hesitation, Angelo walked into the house and into the living room. He stood there and waited for Charlie to join him and when she sat down on the couch we sat down in the chair across from her. He sat on the edge so he was close to her but sat back slightly when he saw her move further back on the couch.

"Go on, say whatever it is you came here to say", Charlie ordered as she floded her arms across her chest and pulled one leg up under her.

"Look, Charlie. I never meant for Ruby to get hurt like she did. Alright when I saw Derrick speeding off I just....reacted. I thought if we got close enough to him we could force him into stopping", he explained with a nervous tone to his voice.

In her room, Ruby was awoken by the sound of voices coming from somewhere in the house. When she looked around she realised Charlie was no longer sleeping beside her. Curiosity getting the better of her, Ruby grabbed a hold of the pulley above her bed and used it to help lift herself into an upright position. Struggling with the lack of upper body strength she had, she eventually managed to pull herself up and lean against the headboard.

She pulled her wheelchair closer to her bed and grabbing the pulley, pulled herself up off the bed and manouvered herself into her chair, lifting her legs up on to the foot rest. Wheeling herself towards the door she began to recognise the voices outside. Angelo, she thought to herself. Ruby opened the door and wheeled out into the hallway and followed the sound of the voices down towards the living room.

Angelo stopped mid sentence when he saw Ruby wheel into the living room and he stiffened. Noticing Angelo trail off, Charlie turned around to find what had caught his attention and sat upright.

"Ruby", she said as she watched her daughter make her way from the edge of the room over towards the coffee table so she was closer to the conversation taking place.

"Hey....how, how are you doing?", Angelo finally managed, stumbling over his own words.

Ruby watched him as he sat in the chair shifting nervously, trying desperately not to stare down at the wheelchair. He finally realised he couldn't and bowed his head. Focusing his gaze on the floor until he recieved an answer. Charlie turned back towards Angelo and saw him staring at the ground.

"How does it look like she's doing Angelo? Go on look at her, get a good look", Charlie shouted at him as she felt the tears welling up in her eyes.

"Mum, stop", Ruby said from behind as she wheeled up behind Charlie taking a hold of her hand. Charlie squeezed Ruby's hand and then turned away, unable to look at Angelo.

Realising Ruby was now closer to him than before Angelo looked up to face Ruby in the eye. He knew that his brash actions were the cause of her misery and he hated himself for it. He hated that he put Ruby in that chair and he hated the fact that he hurt the one thing in Charlie's life that she held high above everything else. It made him remember the conversation he'd had with Charlie when they first stated seeing each other again. How he promised her he would never let anything happen to her or to Ruby. It was then he realised he had failed.

"I promise, I will do whatever it takes to catch this John Doe guy", Angelo finally said, looking Ruby straight in the eye.

Looking into his eyes, Ruby remembered the last time she had ever looked him in the eye like that. It was after the crash and Angelo was after pulling her out of the wreckage, fear in his eyes and a realisation that he had made a huge life altering mistake. Angelo had that same look in his eyes at that moment. But, no matter how much Ruby thought about it, she couldn't help but feel anything else but emptiness.

"Angelo, it doesn't matter whether or not you catch him. Fact of the matter is I'm still not going to walk", Ruby stated, looking at the disappointment that spread across his face. "I know you didn't me for this to happen and for mum's sake I wish I could tell you that it doesn't matter and that we could all just move on. But I can't do it. Not now anyways".

Charlie having taken in all that Ruby had said, was amazed at how honest Ruby was being with him. She walked up behind her daughter and placed her hands on her shoulders and giving them a gentle squeeze. Although she wished she had something to say she was relieved to find Angelo was standing up to leave. He looked at Ruby and nodded in acknowledgement of what she had said to him. Taking in one last glance at Charlie, he lowered his head and made his way over to the front door. Leaving the Buckton women alone.

Ruby pushed on one of the wheels to turn herself so she was facing her mother who was hovering over. She looked up at Charlie and saw her staring at the front door. A tear falling down her cheek. Ruby grabbed a hold of both Charlie's hands and squeezed them looking disappointed.

"I'm sorry mum", Ruby said, breaking the silence in the room.

"Hey, you have nothing to be sorry for. My feelings about Angelo are my issue. Don't you dare blame yourself for this alright", Charlie said, releasing one of her hands from Ruby's grip and placing it under her chin to lift her head so that she and Ruby were making eye contact.

Charlie stroked Ruby's hair and then placed a strand of blonde streaked wavy hair behind her daughter's ear. Checking the time on the clock hanging on the wall she thought about making breakfast but soon banished the thougth to the back of her mind when she had a better idea.

"Hey what do you say we have breakie at the diner today? It's a beautiful day, we can go for a stroll round the bay?", Charlie asked. hoping to have a relaxing day. The first in a long, long time.

"Yeah, sounds great", Ruby said a smile appearing on her face.

"Great", Charlie said. "Ok well it's only 7:50, so why don't you go check your levels and take your shot while I take out the garbage bags".

"Yes mother", Ruby said sarcastically as she wheeled away down the corridor.

Charlie laughed at her daughter as he shifted herself from the couch and down to the kitchen. She went to the fridge and pulled out a new bottle of glucagon and made her way to Ruby's room to give her the bottle. She walked in to find Ruby at her dressing table pricking her finger and dabing her finger on a strip and checking her results.

"You know I don't think I'm ever going to get used to this pricking my finger or sticking needles in myself", Ruby said looking at Charlie in her mirror.

"Oh stop being such a cry baby it's only a little needle", Charlie said jokingly.

"Oh yeah, well let's see how you like it", Ruby said as she pretended to try and jab her mother with a syringe.

Charlie laughed at her daughters attempts and got up from the bed and ran out of the room, Ruby hot on her heels as she chased after her.

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Chapter 29

Walking home from the diner, the Buckton women reminisced about old times as they strolled down their new street, Charlie pushing Ruby's chair as they laughed about old school memories, bad haircuts and the mischief they got up to as youngsters. The relaxing day Charlie had been hoping for had been even better than what she could have imagined. In fact some would call it perfect.

"I've done stupid stuff. Rubes what about the time when you were five years old and you wanted to go swimming so you went into the bathroom and filled up the bath tube, forgot to turn off the tap, left the room and practically flooded the whole house", Charlie said through tears of laughter.

Charlie remembered that day as if it were only yesterday. Whenever she thought about it she could picture her parents faces when they walked into a seeping wet house. They tried giving Ruby the stern parental approach. But when they saw Charlie laughing at her little sister/daughters shenanigans, they could help but laugh at the mess themselves.

"Ok, I really wanted to go swimming that day and we all know that when I get an idea in my head I have to follow through with it. And besides you can't blame me for that, I was five and you were supposed to be watching me if I remember correctly", Ruby said, trying to think of a story that involved Charlie getting into trouble.

The two Bucktons continued on thinking back on all times all the way down the street. When they arrived at their home, they decided to catch up on a couple of episodes of America's Next Top Model, but after some complaints from Ruby about how it promotes a distorted body image to young girls, Charlie decided maybe it would be better if they watched something more fun and entertaining. So they found themselves engrossed in Australia's Got Talent.

"Hey mum, was it Dannii or Kylie Minogue that was on that show about a beach side town before she became a big star?", Ruby asked as she remained engrossed in the talent search.

"Em, Dannii I think. Kylie was on Neighbours or something like that", Charlie said as she placed the popcorn bowl on the coffee table.

"Oh", Ruby replied as she began to yawn. "I think I'm gonna go to bed", she said as she lifted herself from the couch into her chair with the support of the armrest on the couch and Charlie's firm grip of her hand.

"Ok. Do you want me to sleep with you tonight?, I know you've been having those nightmares again" Charlie said as she stroked her daughters hand.

"Do you mind? I mean you've hardly slept in your room since I came home and I don't want you to have to keep staying in with me cause of some stupid nightmare", Ruby said as she gripped her mothers hand.

"Hey, it's not stupid. You've been through a lot, it's completely understandable. Anyways, I couldn't sleep if I knew you were in the next room tossing and turning all night", Charlie said as she got up from the couch.

She turned the t.v off and placed the remote on the table. Putting the cushions back into their place neatly, Charlie picked up her phone and then made her way down the corridor into Ruby's room. As her daughter checked her blood sugar levels, Charlie informed her daughter she would be back in a sec before she retreated out of the room and entered into her own bedroom. Walking over to her bedside locker, she opened the drawer and removed her police issued pistol, putting on the safety.

Since John Doe had taken it upon himself to disappear, Charlie felt insecure about keeping her guard down. Whenever she heard her police collegues talk about his case she got the same feeling of disgust and fear she felt when Grant came to town. Only difference was, this time it wasn't her life she was fighting for the right to, it was her daughters. Charlie was not going to let her family slip through her fingers.

Tucking the gun into the back waist of her trousers she returned to Ruby's room to find that her daughter had already changed and gotten into bed and was already beginning to drift into a deep sleep. Removing the gun from her waist she opened the drawer in Ruby's bedside locker and placed the gun inside and then closed it. Charlie then proceeded to change into her nightware. After removing the last of her hair clips, she pulled back the duvet. Climbing into the bed she lifted Ruby's arm from out of her way and then lay down, placing her daughter's arm over her, stroking it as she watched Ruby sleep.

"No, no, please, let me go", Ruby said as she began to toss about in her sleep.

Charlie watched as Ruby began shifting about. Instinctively, she kept a firm hold on Ruby's arm and with her free hand, stroked Ruby's hair to sooth her through her nightmare.

"Shhhhh, Rubes it's ok,, it's ok, shhhh" Charlie said as she hoped Ruby would begin to settle. "It's ok, I'm here".

As if by magic Ruby began to settle down, relaxing back into her mother's embrace. Charlie continued to sooth her until she was sure she was alright. Just then Ruby began to talk in her sleep again.

"I'm scared, don't let them hurt me again, please", Ruby mumbled.

Her arms wrapped firmly around her daughter, Charlie kissed the top of Ruby's head.

"I won't let them hurt you again....I promise", she said as she pulled the duvet up around them and craddled Ruby in her arms and then she too fell asleep.

It didn't take long before Charlie slipped into a deep slumber. As she slept she entered into a dream. Just like she had the last time she feared for her daughter's life.

Walking through the cemetery, Charlie looked around at all the people dressed in black as she made her way down the path. They all stood there, sad faces lined with tears and a look of sympathy as they watched Charlie glance around at them all. Recognising a couple of them she tried to register what was going on and when she realised everyone was dressed in black it suddenly hit her.

She followed the path all the way down to the end, dead leaves crunching under her footsteps as she moved with pace, ducking under tree branches and trying to get to the place she was being led. When she turned around she saw Angelo standing next to a fellow police officer, his hands cuffed, and then he spoke to her.

"I never meant for this to happen", he said as he was then led away in the opposite direction.

Charlie felt her heart beginning to pound out of her chest. What was going on? Why was she there? With Angelo out of sight she found herself being gazed at by her friends and towns people, a gloomy feeling take over. She turned around back in the direction she was heading in and was startled by the sudden appearance of her father standing in front of her. An expression that was ful of sorrow and pain as he placed a hand on his daughters shoulder.

"I'm so sorry Charlie", he said as he stepped out of her way and walked down the path to the other watchers on.

Finally unable to take it any longer, Charlie began to run, and kept running right until she was stopped dead in her tracks by a heartbreaking scene before her. Under a dark, lifeless tree stood a headstone, covered in dead black roses and withered wreaths. Charlie walked up to it and crashed to her knees with a thud, unable to stop the flow of tears she found herself shedding. Reaching out, she wiped away the overgrown weeds.

Reading the headstone, Charlie felt her heart stop for what felt like an eternity.

In loving memory of

Ruby Buckton


Beloved Daughter, Granddaughter and Friend

Forever In Our Hearts

"Your Love Will Light My Way, Your Memory Will Ever Be With Me "

Love Mum

Charlie lowered her head and let out the tears, and wrapped her arms around herself as a cool wind picked up and the leaves began to circle around. Dredging up a feeling of anxiety in Charlie until she finally looked back up. She felt herself heave as she looked into the eyes of the person staring back at her. His wavy brown hair slicked back, his brown eyes piercing through her, his evil grin widening at her disomfort and upset.

"Don't worry Charlie, I'll take care of OUR precious daughter", Grant said as he began laughing in a sinster, twisted manner.

Feeling sick, Charlie found herself rising to her feet and running. To where she didn't know but once she started, she couldn't stop. Her flickered in the wind. The blank faces of her friends and family watched on as she raced down the cemetary path and out of the gate. Just then she was halted by the sound of a bang.

Charlie eyes shot open and she snapped upright in the bed. A noise from somewhere in the house startling her and sending her police instinct into overdrive. Reaching over to the bedside locker, Charlie opened the top drawer and removed the pistol she had placed in there earlier. She closed the drawer over quietly as not to startle the intruder. Turning around she laced Ruby's arm from around her waist onto the bed beside her. Pulling the duvet back up around her daughter's shoulders she stroked her hair and then walked towards the door. Preparing herself for a stand off.

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Wow, great chapter.

I loved all the stuff at the beginning. :)

Then omg at Charlie's dream. I dont like the sound of that! :(

And then the ending! :o I'm thinking John is in the house... :unsure:

I hope nothing happens to Charlie or Ruby!

Update soon.

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