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Perfectly Imperfect, But I Wouldn't Change A Thing

Guest Jen

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Story Title: Perfectly Imperfect, But I Wouldn’t Change A Thing

Type of story: Short/Medium fiction

Main Characters: Indi & Romeo, Dex [Casey as an OC]

BTTB rating: T

Genre: Romance/Angst

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Sexual content, Language, Violence/Death.

Summary: It was one night of recklessness, and suddenly the bonds that tie them together are beginning to fray and Indi doesn’t know how to fix it. And Dex watches too many animal documentaries.

A/N: So, this fic was started August 2010, so a lot has changed since then. A major one being, that this was written when Casey was a rumoured character name and we knew nothing about him, so if he seems a bit OOC, that’s why. But it does seem I was shipping Casey/Dex from the get go.

A/N #2: Chapters are all over 2000 words. So, sort of long. It’s just that I wanted it all to take place in a certain amount of time. So, there’s that.

A/N #3: I did barely any research, so if the birds and the bees don’t really match up, I apologise.

A/N #4: Jen, shut up!


perfectly imperfect, but i wouldn’t change a thing

Month One

Indi can still feel the champagne bubbles in her head. She’s not even sure how the bubbles got in there considering she only had like two ... or three, maybe four glasses at the wedding.

And now her dad is full on married. Like, Marilyn was wearing a white dress and carrying flowers and Indi was the bridesmaid and everything. It’s not like he hasn’t been married before obviously, because he was married to her mother at some point, before Indi was born. But it’s a bit strange to think of him as marrying someone else. Someone who isn’t her mother. But Indi is happy for her dad, really.

“Okay, I get. You’re happy for him.”

Romeo chuckles and Indi realises that she’s said all that stuff out loud. Maybe the champagne has affected her a bit more than she originally thought.

The wedding had finished with Sid and Marilyn driving off in a white limo to an exotic island for their honeymoon, while Romeo flagged down a taxi and practically pushed Indi in the back. Now he’s still got a hand on her shoulder, making sure she’s remaining upright, guiding her towards his lounge. She collapses into the cushions, now realising how tired she actually is. Indi’s attempting to kick off her heels with her feet, but struggling with the straps, while Romeo is pottering around somewhere behind her. She’s not really sure what he’s doing.

But then he appears again, with a steaming mug in each of his hands. He places them on the coffee table in front of her, and Indi gives an indignant grunt as he reaches down and hauls her feet into his lap. He’s dropping her shoes to the floor and Indi lets out a sigh as he begins to rub her feet.

They’ve always been affectionate around each other. It’s sort of just something they do. Indi messes up Romeo’s hair just after he’s spent hours in front of the bathroom mirror, styling it just so; Romeo asks her for the first dance at the wedding, having no issues with pulling her body close to his and twirling her around the floor. It’s what they do.

They’ve also been treading this thin tightrope of friends and something more. They go out for dinner at the Diner and she lets him pay, then when he drops her home at the end of the night she presses a kiss into his cheek and tells him that she loves him. It’s not like she doesn’t. She definitely loves him like a best friend who is completely comfortable around your nerdy younger brother, and like a guy she can ring crazy early in the morning when she’s just feeling lonely.

But now she’s looking at him as he delicately rubs at her toes, trailing is hand up her leg, and suddenly her face is flushing red, and it’s not just from the champagne. It’s like her heart is beating in double time as Romeo rubs at the back of her calf, slowly reaching up under her knee. She’s not ready for this.

It’s like a knee-jerk reaction. Even though she’s slightly tipsy and everything requires a bit more time and thinking to get done, she instantly pulls her legs out of his lap and brings them up to her chest. The room is spinning as she sits up quickly, so she closes her eyes, hoping that the humming inside her head and the hammering in her chest stops.

She can feel Romeo shift beside her, maybe moving closer to the other end of the lounge and she’s wishing she didn’t react like this. Indi opens her eyes one at a time, especially cautiously, and watches as Romeo leans down and grabs his mug from the table and takes a sip. He looks slightly hurt, but it’s kind of hard to tell whether he’s just tired from the long day and really wants to go to bed, or he’s like, devastated that she pulled away so violently.

“Sorry,” she says anyway, and it’s only now she hears how slurry her voice actually is. Maybe the alcohol is still accountable.

“Don’t sweat it, Indi,” Romeo replies with a shrug, taking another sip. “It’s been a long day.”

“Yeah,” she replies, voice suddenly quiet, and she’s not entirely sure why.

It’s just now dawning on her how huge today actually was. Her dad is married to Marilyn, and it’s not like she hasn’t been spending practically every night with them anyway, but now it’s official, and she’s going to move in with them. Like, she’s going to be there when Indi gets up in the morning and comes home late from going to parties with Romeo, and is going to have to put up Dex when he walks around the house spouting monologues about the latest girl who has rejected him. It’s not like she’s opposed to Marilyn in any way, she makes his dad happy, so that’s good. But it’s going to be different, is all. And Indi isn’t sure if she’s ready for that.

“You okay?” Indi hears Romeo ask.

“Hmm, yeah,” she replies. “Just thinking.”

“Well, don’t hurt yourself,” Romeo says with a chuckle and Indi reaches out to playfully slap his arm. Except she kind of misses and gets his chest. And then for some reason she’s not pulling her hand away.

“Everything is changing,” Indi hears herself saying. “Everything is changing and I’m not sure I want it to.”

“It’s been a big day, and you’re tired. Once you have a good night sleep --” Romeo replies, in a sort of placating way. He reaches out and takes her hand of his chest, placing it in his own. But then Indi continues, because Romeo is being all sorts of calm, and she doesn’t like it.

“No, I mean it. Everything is going to be different now. But I like things the way they are.”

“I thought you liked Marilyn?”

“I do,” Indi replies, adjusting her seating position. She moves closer to Romeo, liking the way his body feels warm against hers. She’s still in her bridesmaid dress, and it was fine when the sun was shining, but now it’s getting cold, and she can feel the goosebumps on her arms. “I do like Marilyn. But I’m worried things will be different now. With Dad and Dex.”

“Well, one thing you never have to worry about is me. Things don’t have to change between us. I’m always going to be here for y--” Romeo doesn’t get a chance to finish because Indi is pressing her mouth to his. She can feel Romeo stiffen under the weight of the kiss, but then he’s reaching up and placing his hands around her neck, tugging slightly at the hair at the nape of her neck. She sucks on his bottom lip, and can hear him moan from somewhere in the back of his throat. It’s a noise like she’s never heard, and it makes her want more. Want him more.

Indi pushes her body closer, liking the way her dress rides up as she presses herself into his shirt. She’s thankful that Romeo has ditched his jacket, (she doesn’t know when that happened) because now her fingers are trying to work his buttons open, but it’s requiring a lot more effort than it usually does.

Not that they normally do this sort of thing.

This is completely unchartered water. It’s just that Indi was craving some sort of familiarity, normalcy. And Romeo was her anchor to how things were before the wedding.

She’s lying on her back, Romeo on top, making out on his lounge. Indi feels Romeo’s hand move slowly up her leg, beginning to tug at the hem of her dress. He’s rubbing small circles with his thumb, and Indi pulls apart for a moment only to stare in his blue eyes. She feels like she knows every inch of his face. The way he can quirk one eyebrow when he’s asking if she’s serious, his broad smile that reaches his eyes when he’s just beaten her at pool, how his skin goes a bronze colour when he’s spent the whole day surfing.

Right now his lips are plump and swollen, eyes fluttering closed as he leans in again to kiss her. She lets him work his tongue along her bottom lip, arching her back, trying to pull their bodies closer. She hears Romeo’s sharp intake of breath as he becomes hard, breaking apart again.

Indi lets out a whimper. She really doesn’t want to keep stopping. But then Romeo is undoing the button of his pants and tossing them to the side. He is so hot, and Indi is so turned on that she catches his lips in another kiss, while his hands work efficiently at the zip on her dress. With his precision Indi would have been unable to tell that Romeo has never does this before.

When Indi opens her eyes some time later, she is under a blanket, smushed into Romeo’s side so they both fit on the narrow two-seater lounge. There are no lights on in the house, and it takes her a moment to realise that it’s the night after the wedding and she had sex with her best friend in the middle of his living room. Even though she’s probably committed seventeen different sins tonight, she’s praying that no one has seen them. She really doesn’t want to have to deal with the looks of Miles and Nicole and, oh God, Alf, if she is sitting at their breakfast table in the same clothes as the day before.

She finds herself running her fingers through his hair, liking the way it calms her erratic breathing and thumping heart. Romeo stirs, looking at her with his bleary eyes.

“Hey,” she whispers. “You okay?”

Romeo nods. Then he’s sitting up, grabbing his shirt from off the floor and putting it back on. Indi is left to avert her eyes while he stumbles in the dark and tries to put on his boxer shorts. She’s not sure why she’s not looking, because it’s not like she hasn’t seen it, given they just had sex and everything. But things seem to look a bit different in the dark of night, everything seeming a bit more suspicious and underhanded.

“You should go,” Romeo says and Indi nods dumbly, feeling a headache forming right behind her eyes.


There is a loud thumping and Indi buries her face in her pillow. Her head is pounding in time to the knocking and she wants to yell out to whoever it is, telling them to shut the hell up, but her throat is dry and tastes like she’s eaten carpet.

“Wake up! Get your ass out of bed!” Dex is hollering down the hall, bursting into her room. “Your boyfriend’s at the door!”

Indi sits up instantly, but then collapses back onto her pillow when the room spins and she feels like she’s going to throw up.

“Go away,” Indi says in a voice that sounds a lot like an old man.

“Urgh,” Dex replies in disgust. “What happened to you?”

Indi ignores him, turning over to face the wall, hoping that she can just close her eyes and go back to sleep. But now he’s pulling back her curtains and proclaiming it’s a beautiful day and Indi is contemplating getting up just so she can go and vomit in his favourite pair of shoes. It would serve him right.

“No, but, seriously. Romeo is at the door. I would let him in but he’s looking pretty shady and I don’t want him upchucking everywhere.” It’s like he can read her mind.

She hears the door slam shut and Indi pitifully replies, “He’s not my boyfriend,” like some stupid afterthought.

It’s about fifteen minutes later when she finally works up the courage to 1) get out of bed with the worst headache of all time, and 2) face Romeo. The second one took a lot more time to work up to. Indi changed out of her pink poodle pyjamas and into her cut-off denim shorts and tank top, and then went to the bathroom to brush her teeth, trying to get rid of the dead animal taste.

Finally, she opens the front door and Romeo looks up from where he is sitting on her porch step.

“Hi,” he replies, not really meeting her eye.


“How are you?”

“Fine.” She’s not sure why she’s lying. But Romeo has these dark circles under his eyes like he didn’t really sleep last night, and she doesn’t want to put any pressure on him. “You?”


It’s all kinds of awkward that Indi expected but still wasn’t ready for. It’s almost like she expects something to be there. Some sort of feeling in her chest that tells her that last night wasn’t a mistake and they are going to run away to be together forever. Instead, she’s inviting him in for coffee and he’s saying he’s got stuff to do, and she’s watching as he walks back to where he’s parked his rusty old truck.


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Month Two

The great thing about living on a farm that is outside the main periphery of Summer Bay is that it is perfect for hiding out and avoiding someone if necessary.

Not that Indi is avoiding Romeo exactly. It’s just that she keeps missing his phone calls and doesn’t have a lot of credit, so doesn’t reply to all his texts. She’s not avoiding him.

Except that she totally is, and even Dex has noticed that something has gone on, because he keeps staring at her while she’s flipping through the channels. But she’s not going to talk to her brother about how she had sex with Romeo but doesn’t want to be his girlfriend. Because that would be weird.

“Just pick one already,” Dex complains.

She settles for some sort of animal documentary because she knows Dex watches a lot of them when he’s home on Friday nights. She’s not sure why she’s being nice to him, but he’s had to put up with her weird moods for the last few weeks, and has had no buffer while Sid and Marilyn are still on their honeymoon. It’s been just the two of them in the house, so of course they have had their moments. Dex yells at Indi for using up all the hot water, and Indi screams at Dex for eating them out of house and home, and having a messy room, and being a general nuisance. So yeah, they’ve had their moments when they both want to tear each other limb from limb. But the house is still standing, so that’s a good thing.

“Did you know only 9% of all giraffe sex is heterosexual?” Dex says conversationally. Indi looks over at him in disgust, but he hasn’t even torn his eyes away from the screen. “Male giraffes are bisexual and if they want to mate with a female they have to nudge her in the --”

“Alright!” Indi declares, standing up. She’s heard more information than she ever needs to know. “What do you want for dinner?”

“Pasta,” Dex replies like he wasn’t just talking about giraffe mating habits.

Indi rolls her eyes, but goes to the fridge and pulls out some left over lasagne anyway.

But Indi has to face Romeo eventually, and that turns out to be when she goes back to school. His locker is directly opposite hers, so it’s virtually impossible for her to continue to hide from him. She sees him just after fourth period, stacking his calculus books away, while she puts her biology text book at the top of the stack. It’s not like she has memorised his timetable or anything, except he used to sometimes skip calculus to come watch her through the window of the biology lab every time she had a dissection. Because he knew how much she hated cutting up innocent little animals. Even the rats, that were more gross than cute. But just having him there, watching her through the window, giving her a thumbs up when she correctly identified the liver, made her feel less nauseous.

Just thinking about that is giving Indi this horrible sick feeling in her stomach. She gulps down some saliva, taking a couple of deep breaths before she turns around, knowing she can’t stall any longer.

Like expected Romeo is standing there, waiting for her.

“Hi,” he says. “I haven’t seen you around.”

“Yeah, I’ve had stuff to do,” Indi replies, trying to push down the rising bile from her stomach.

“Right,” Romeo replies, shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other. “But, we’re okay, right?”

The fact that Romeo has to ask that shows that things aren’t okay between the two of them, but Indi says what he wants to hear. “Of course.”

Indi just wants to get out of there. She’s feeling hot and dizzy, her hands going clammy, probably because she skipped breakfast this morning. Not to mention the fact that all her teachers are continually reminding them about their final exams, that are going to determine their whole futures. Like that’s not going make anyone feel sick. And now Romeo is looking at her like she’s a complete freak, but he just leans in and places his hand on her forehead.

“Woah, Indi. You’re burning up.”

Indi tries to shrug it off, but her muscles feel tired, and Romeo’s hand is cold against her skin and she doesn’t want him to let go. But then she can feel the wave of nausea rising and she has to hold her hand to her mouth as she sprints to the nearest bathroom.

Indi grips the rim of the toilet as she empties the contents of her stomach, even though she hasn’t put anything in there since last night. She hears the door creak open on its hinges and she tries to calm her breathing, blinking back the tears in her eyes. The last thing Indi needs is some girl walking in on her and spreading it around the school that she’s bulimic or whatever.

There’s a knock on the door of her stall, but Indi doesn’t have the energy to do anything more than rest her head on cool concrete wall.

“Indi?” Even with her head in a post-vomiting haze, Indi recognises Romeo’s voice. He sounds small, cautious, and it’s only now she realises that he’s in the girls’ bathroom, seemingly unaware that anyone can walk in at any moment. “Indi, let me in.”

Reluctantly, Indi reaches up and turns the latch, allowing the door to swing into her.

Romeo sees Indi sitting on the floor, and crouches down beside her. “Are you okay?”

‘What does it look like?’ Indi wants to retort, but then she feels her stomach contracting and she’s leaning over the bowl again. Through all her spluttering and involuntary crying Romeo just stays there. He holds back her hair and rubs her back and tells her it’s going to be okay.

Finally, Indi is feeling a bit more like herself. She’s sitting on a bench outside, resting her head on the brick wall behind her. Romeo returns with a bottle of water and hands it to her, before sitting down beside her.

“Feeling better?” he asks. Indi nods in reply. “I still think you should go and see the school nurse or something.”

“Romeo, it’s fine. It’s not a big deal. It passes.” Indi takes a sip of water.

“Wait,” Romeo says, slowly. “How do you know it passes?” Indi can see his eyes widen. “Has this happened before?”

Indi bites down nervously on her bottom lip. “Yeah, but it’s not a big deal,” Indi reiterates. Maybe if she keeps saying it then she will convince herself of it too. “It’s probably just a stomach bug. You know how Nicole was sick a few weeks ago, it’s probably just that. Note to self: Don’t eat the donuts from the Yabbie Creek service station.”

“Stop joking about this,” Romeo replies. “I’m taking you home.”

“What? Romeo, no. I’ll be okay.”

“I’m not taking no for an answer,” Romeo says and then he’s tucking his arm around her waist and lifting Indi to her feet.

Romeo doesn’t leave until she’s lying on the lounge under a blanket, with a steaming bowl of chicken soup in front of her, and the tv humming in the background.

“I could never forgive myself if your dad and Marilyn came back and you were sick,” Romeo had said as he made sure she had enough fluids in her system.

Indi is just thankful to just have some time to herself. With all the planning for the wedding, and then catching up on school work, and living with Dex, it’s no wonder Indi has an upset stomach.

Flicking through the channels Indi can’t decide what she wants. There’s a teen drama with a whole bunch of beautiful girls making out with their hot boyfriends and Indi takes one look at them and keeps flicking. Even at her lowest point she isn’t prepared to project her problems onto those of fictional characters. A news broadcast in some other language which Indi doesn’t understand, no thank you. A music video of some scantily clad female singer grinding up against some guy who she probably doesn’t know, not interested. Rows of chefs at stainless steel benches are cooking up a storm, but there is one close-up of a chocolate pudding and Indi feels her stomach turn over on itself.

Indi is almost ready to ditch the tv idea altogether, but she pushes the button on the remote once more there is a shot of a woman, stomach pulling the fabric of her top tight, hand resting on her round belly, and Indi bolts upright. It’s a split second, a single frame that she wouldn’t even normally be paying attention to, except something strikes a chord. Or rather, Indi’s whole body decides to shut down. She’s completely frozen, eyes wide, staring at the screen even though the advertisement has moved on.

She’s just being paranoid, Indi decides. She only slept with Romeo the once, the probability of her actually being pregnant are slim, virtually zero. But there’s this gnawing in her stomach, a voice in the back of her head, telling her it’s possible.

It’s probably the most embarrassing thing Indi has ever had to do. But with Sid still away and Dex at school it is the only time Indi is going to have to find out once and for all. Indi takes the bus to Mangrove River, because she can’t even chance it that she’ll run into someone she knows in Summer Bay. She places the rectangular box on the counter and the young girl (who can’t be more than a few years older than Indi) glances from the product to Indi’s face. It’s unnerving, the look she gives her. One that is a mixture of sympathy, and worry, and curiosity; so much so, that Indi is forced to look away. Spend time fishing out the money from her purse before grabbing the box and virtually running from the store.

The bathroom door has a lock, thankfully, so at least that minimises the risk of someone walking in unannounced. It’s exactly like something Dex would do. However unintentional. But Indi can’t risk it. Can’t trust herself to hold it together, because her hands are shaking as she pulls out the white, plastic stick and moves away from the basin.

With a few deep breaths Indi takes the pregnancy test.

It is the most gruelling five minutes Indi has ever experienced. She’s sitting on the cold tiles of the bathroom floor, resting her head on the cement wall. The test is perched precariously on the edge of the basin above her head.

It is several more minutes later, when Indi finally forces herself to reach up and pull the stick into view. She’s staring at the little window, looking at what the symbols represent, but she can’t seem to take it in.

But there is no doubt about. With two little pink lines staring back, Indi is definitely pregnant.


Indi knows that Romeo won’t be able to stay away. As soon as school is out he will grab his bag and make the journey out to the farm to see if she’s alright. As far as Romeo is concerned, she has an upset stomach, maybe the start of the flu at worst, but he will still want to check on her.

But if Indi doesn’t actually seek him out then she’s not going to be able to do it. She knows she has to tell him at some point, but if she doesn’t see him straight away then she will chicken out. So Indi walks through the empty grounds, knowing exactly where Romeo will be.

It’s sixth period, and Indi has had Romeo’s timetable memorised since the second week of school, so she makes her way around the brick building to the rows of windows down the side. Besides, they normally have English together anyway.

Mr Copeland’s English class was always a chance to goof off. He wasn’t particularly strict, but still tough enough that you managed to finish off your essay at least the period before it was due. He was one of those teachers that everyone liked. With his casual button-down shirts and curly hair that sprouted all over the place, all the students did what he asked, because they didn’t want to let him down.

Indi spies Romeo through the window. In his usual spot at the back of the classroom, an empty desk to his right where Indi sits. He’s got his head down, scribbling something in his notebook, pen moving rapidly across the page. Then Indi notices the second piece of paper on his desk. Without even taking a breath, he begins to write again, and Indi knows he’s taking a second copy of the notes to give to her.

Maybe it’s a cop out to do it this way, but right now her heart seems to be so far in her throat that’s she’s not sure she can spit out the words she wants to say. So Indi pulls out her phone and opens a blank message.

To: Romeo

Ur taking notes 4 me rnt u?

From: Romeo

Of course :] Feeling any better?

To: Romeo

Do u wnt the good/bad news?

From: Romeo


To: Romeo

It’s not the flu.

From: Romeo

Awesome. R u okay? Wats the bad news?

To: Romeo

I’m pregnant.

Through the window Indi can see Romeo’s face fall. He drops his pen on his desk, phone still clasped in his hand. Romeo looks up, away from his desk, eyes wandering away from the page in front of him to the window on his left. All the colour in Romeo’s face seems to drain as he makes eye contact with Indi through the glass.

Indi feels like the worst person on the face of the planet. The most despicable human being that ever lived, because Romeo is staring at her in disbelief and all she can do is stare back.

A loud siren interrupts their silent exchange, and Romeo leaps from his chair before Miles has even had a chance to dismiss the class. Indi doesn’t even have time to figure out what she’s going to say, because within seconds Romeo is in front of her, panting slightly, still slightly pale, but definitely real and standing before her, waiting for an explanation. But Indi doesn’t have one.

“What?” Romeo finally blurts out.

“I’m sorry,” Indi says, because that’s the first thing that comes to mind. Her voice is small, and wavers as Romeo’s shoulders sag.

“Wha – how – how is this possible? I had never – We had never even - ?”

“It only takes the once,” Indi deadpans in reply.

“Indi, how can you be so calm about this?” Romeo is practically irate. He is breathing really heavily and keeps running his hands through the back of his hair, making it stick out. His eyes flick from Indi’s face to her stomach, to the ground between their feet, and back to her face.

“Trust me, I’m freaking out on the inside.”

“Indi!” Romeo practically shouts. “Do you not understand what this means?”

“Of course, I understand,” Indi bites back, ignoring the students who are staring at them as they walk past. “I’m the one who is going to grow to the size of a watermelon before she turns eighteen!”

“Will you keep your voice down?” Romeo hisses pulling her towards him, because apparently it’s okay for him to raise his voice, but not her. Or maybe he just doesn’t want anyone to find out, which, Indi supposes, is reasonable.

She snatches her wrist out of Romeo’s grasp, yanking it away as Romeo looks around hastily. A small group of girls wander past, but they don’t really seem to care that they are arguing in public. They are too busy talking to each other and simultaneously texting on their phones.

“So, you’re going to keep it?” Romeo finally asks in a small voice, once the girls have passed.

Indi finds herself nodding in reply.


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Month Three

When Sid and Marilyn return from their honeymoon they are tanned and smiling and totally still in love. And Indi is really happy for them, and she even considers just keeping this whole pregnancy thing a secret for a while, just so she won’t have to burst their bubble. She actually thinks about just not telling them so they can continue to bask in their post-wedding bliss, and not be brought back to earth by their irresponsible daughter. Yeah, that’s right. Indi belongs to both of them. Marilyn didn’t know she’d be signing up for this when she said yes, did she?

But then Sid and Marilyn have noticed that Indi isn’t really eating breakfast at all, and she’s always looking a bit pale first thing in the morning, and there are only so many times you can use the excuse that your stressed and tired, and it’s just school, Dad, don’t worry.

If she’s honest, Indi had hoped that Sid would have figured it out by himself. Like, he could have used his doctor senses to just tell. Or maybe Marilyn would have some sort of vision, that she was prone to having, and could predict that Indi was putting on weight and it wasn’t because she ate a whole pizza by herself. A mother’s instinct, at the very least.

But, no. Indi got nothing. No sidelong glances at the dining room table when they were having family meals, because Sid and Marilyn are too busy looking at each other. Which again, Indi is really happy for them.

So she has no choice but to walk into the lounge room after dinner one night, when Marilyn is snuggling into Sid, and Dex has already disappeared into his bedroom, and has to ask them to turn off the tv.

Marilyn reaches out and switches off the set, and Sid automatically sits up a bit straighter. Indi can read his face already. He’s probably listing off the things Indi could have possibly done. Got expelled from school, wants a tattoo and/or piercing, has a new biker boyfriend, is into hard-core drugs. Any of those really would probably be more ideal that what she is about to tell them.

“What’s the matter, Indi?” Sid asks.

“Uh, Dad,” Indi replies, and she can already feel the tears prickling up in her eyes, even though she promised herself that she wouldn’t cry. “I don’t really know how to tell you this.”

“Indi, sweetie, whatever it is, you can tell us,” Marilyn says.

Indi looks at Sid’s concerned face, Marilyn’s wide doe-eyes, and takes a deep breath, because like it or not, she has to tell them. Even if they scream and yell at her afterwards, it’s better than this. The limbo she is in right now.

“I’m pregnant.”

Silence. And it’s deafening.

Marilyn is darting her eyes from her husband sitting next to her, to her step-daughter standing awkwardly in front of them, and then back to her husband. Sid, on the other hand, Indi can see his eyes have gone out of focus. He’s kind of staring at absolutely nothing and Indi is worried that he might have actually stopped breathing from the shock.

“Can you say something? Please?” Indi lets the desperation seep into her tone.

“When did this happen?” Marilyn asks, her tone controlled and slightly hushed.

“The night of the wedding.” Indi stares at the floor. She can’t bear to look at their faces anymore.

Indi can hear the crickets chirping outside the window in the garden. She can hear Dex pacing about in his bedroom down the hall. The clock ticking on the wall, and the single creak of the house as it settles for the night. But all she wants is to hear the voice of her dad. Her single protector and hero, and for him to tell her to tell her everything is going to be okay.

“Can I ask who the father is?” Marilyn asks cautiously, like maybe Indi slept with some random she picked up off the side of the road and doesn’t remember his name. No, it’s much worse than that. Indi has to face him every day.


“Well, that’s something at least,” Marilyn replies.

Indi can’t say that she’s relieved, or can see the bright side in all of this. She’s still waiting for Sid to say something, anything. And she’s praying that he’s not going to kick her out of the house.

“Dad?” Indi asks timidly.

Slowly, Sid raises his head, eyes meeting his daughter’s stare. His face seems older somehow. Extra lines and creases under his eyes that weren’t there before.

“Indi,” Sid says. His voice is calm, even, but Indi can see the sadness behind his eyes. “I don’t know what to say.” He pauses, looking down at his hands. “I thought you were smarter than this.”

“I’m sorry, Dad,” Indi says, and she can hear the break in her voice. A single tear that has been welling up, finally spills over and down her cheek.

“I’m very disappointed in you,” Sid adds, and this feels worse to Indi than anything else.

Indi is in her bedroom, after having dismissed herself from the lounge room. She could hear Sid and Marilyn begin to talk to each other in hushed voices as soon as she left the room. But Indi kept walking, hoping she could close the door to her room before the tears overflowed.

Her pillow is wet from the crying, and she knows that her face is red and puffy. Not a very attractive look, but Indi isn’t really concerned with how she looks at this point. Especially not when in nine months time she’s going to be bigger than an inflatable beach ball. Indi can’t even picture that right now.

Hauling herself off her bed, Indi stands in front of her mirror. Lifting up her singlet top Indi just watches her stomach. She finds herself staring at her bellybutton, then turning on her side, but everything looks the same as it was before. If she hadn’t told them, then they wouldn’t have known.

There’s a single knock on her door, and Indi pulls down her top quickly. She rubs her cheeks, takes a couple of deep breath, and composes herself before answering.

“Come in.”

The handle turns and slowly the door creaks open. Sid pokes his head in first, before taking a step into the room. He closes the door behind him and crosses the room before engulfing Indi in a hug. It is the most sure and safe Indi has felt in a long time. She lets herself cry again, and Sid doesn’t say anything. He just rubs her back and kisses the top of her head, while Indi presses her body into his solid frame.

Indi doesn’t know how long they stand like that. Sid, a rock, while Indi lets herself fall apart. Finally, Indi pulls away, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand, and sniffling back the final tears. Sid is looking down at her, still his daughter, and pushes her fridge back off her forehead.

“I know it must feel like the end of the world right now. But it’s not. We will find a way to get through this,” Sid says, and Indi almost wants to cry again.

“I’m sorry, Dad,” Indi says, because that’s all she can think right now. Just how much she has messed everything up.

“Me too, Indi,” he replies.”But no matter what happens, I still love you.” Indi looks up at her dad as he gives her a sad smile. “Does Romeo know?”

Indi nods again, picturing Romeo’s confused face as she told him the news. But she doesn’t have time to dwell on it because within hours she is at the hospital, “Just to make sure,” Sid had said, like it’s possible that Indi had made this entire this up. But also because now she has a due date, and Marilyn is organising pre-natal vitamins and it’s a lot to take in all at once. She feels like she’s finding out for the first time all over again.

Of course they have to tell Dex too. And Indi doesn’t want to have that conversation. But Dex seems surprisingly calm as Sid sits him down at the dinner table, with Marilyn on one side and Indi on the other and breaks the news. Dex looks at Indi very sincerely.

“Just be glad you’re not a lemming,” he says. “Because when the population gets too big they jump off the edge of a cliff and commit suicide.”

“Dex!” Sid snaps and Marilyn gasps, but Indi can’t help but break into a smile. Because she’s glad that things haven’t changed in that regard.


Indi still has to do homework, which isn’t fun, but she doesn’t complain too much. Except for the fact that she had hoped to have at least one night off. But Sid points out that even though Indi did something really irresponsible she still has to live the consequences, which Indi thought was what she was doing with the whole getting pregnant thing, but that apparently also includes completing her HSC.

She creeps out of her room an hour or so later, just after she has heard the door click closed on Sid and Marilyn’s room. To her surprise, the light in the lounge room is off, but there is still some sort of visible glow coming from the room. She walks slowly, trying to muffle her footsteps on the wooden floor, and peeks around the corner.

Dex is lying on the lounge, eyes glued to the screen, but he spots her anyway and sits up. It’s enough of an invitation that Indi joins him.

They’ve been through a lot together. Growing up Indi just saw Dex as a complete pain. But then Sid started not coming home, while their mother would go out by herself, and they would be the ones left by themselves. Affairs, divorces, moving house, Indi realises that Dex has always been there. Making snide comments and unnecessary pop-culture references, Dex was the one dependable person in her life, even when everyone else seemed to have kicked her to the curb. Nursing broken hearts and bad dreams, even on the worst of days, Dex was the one who could always manage to make her smile.

Not that Indi has ever told Dex these things. While Dex readily admits that their family is anything but normal, they don’t really talk about this kind of thing. It was a spontaneous decision to move back to the Bay with Sid, rather than go overseas with their mum. No discussion, just throwing their bags over their shoulders and jumping on the first train that would get them there.

Maybe it’s already the baby hormones, some sort of chemical change in Indi’s brain, because she suddenly wants to tell him. Indi wants to tell Dex she likes having him around, that he’s not as annoying as he used to be, that she appreciates his ability to diffuse any tense situation (even when it’s not called for). It’s as close to an “I love you” as she would ever give him.

Dex is staring at her, not looking at the weird fish on the tv, and Indi opens her mouth to say it, because it seems like this is the day for telling the truth.

“You’re not going to cry again, are you?” Dex asks, unable to hide the slight weariness in his voice.

“What? No,” Indi mutters, using the back of her hand to wipe her cheeks, where a single tear may have escaped. But in the darkness, if anyone asked, Indi would deny it.

Indi grabs the folded blanket off the arm of the lounge and drapes it over both of their bodies before Dex can say any more.

“Do you want a boy or a girl?” Dex asks after a while.

The question catches Indi off-guard. She didn’t think Dex would be the one to bring this up. She herself, hasn’t been able to get her head around the fact that she now has an actual baby growing inside her. And when that baby is born it is going to be a person. As stupid as that sounds. It’s something that Indi is still getting used to.

“Hadn’t thought about it?” Dex supplies. He’s doing that eerie thing again where he’s figuring out her thoughts before she does. “It’s just if you want a boy you need to keep the egg under 27 degrees, but if you want a girl then go stand out in front of the oven and warm the sucker up.”


“That’s how it works for turtles, at least,” Dex replies with a shrug. Like, he didn’t just suggest that Indi expose herself to super hot temperatures to get a baby girl. Even in her limited experience in being a mother, she is fairly certain that it’s not how it works.

“Thanks for the advice, Dex.”


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Month Four

Romeo really wants to do the right thing, Indi can’t be mad at him for that.

There was that extremely awkward conversation that Sid had to have with them both and Miles and Marilyn around the table. Sid put on his Doctor Voice and talked to them about being ‘sexually active’ and making sure they were using protection. Which, thanks Sid, it’s a bit late for that now.

But Romeo sits through it all, with his head down, avoiding Sid’s eye, nodding in all the right places and occasionally shooting Indi reassuring glances. Much to Indi’s embarrassment, Romeo makes a verbal promise in front of them all.

“I’m really sorry this is happening, Dr Walker,” Romeo says, “And I know apologising isn’t going to make a difference, but I’m going to be there for Indi. I’m taking responsibility for my actions, and won’t let Indi go through this alone.”

“Well, that’s all very well and good, Romeo,” Sid replies. “But we’re not just talking about the next few months. What happens after the baby comes? That’s a commitment for the next eighteen years of your life. Are you ready for that?”

Dad,” Indi hisses. Because if anything, it’s not Romeo’s fault they are in this position. It was Indi’s advances that caused this to happen. Romeo was just too nice to say no.

“Indi, this needs to be discussed,” Sid replies.

“No, it doesn’t,” Indi snaps. “We’re done.” And with that Indi stands and walks out, avoiding the looks Romeo is shooting her.

“We’ll be in touch,” Indi hears Sid says as he follows her out.

Romeo is keeping his word. First of all, he seems as keen to tell everyone about this as Indi is. So, at least they are on a united front in that respect. No one else needs to know. He’s also been doing research it seems. He turns up at the farm with pages he’s obviously printed straight from a website for first time mothers. He’s mumbling things about pre-natal vitamins, and not standing in front of the microwave, and handing her a tub of coconut butter to rub on her belly once she starts to show so she won’t get stretch marks.

He’s also perfectly okay with Indi calling him at ridiculous times of the day or night asking him to pick up things to get her through her cravings.

“Is everything okay?” is how Romeo is answering the phone now.

“Everything is fine, Romeo,” Indi replies. Just like she does every time she calls him. “I’m kind of stuck at home, though, so I was wondering -”

“Sure,” Romeo interrupts. “What do you need?”

“A big tub of double chocolate chip ice cream and pickles.”

“... You’re not going to eat those together, are you?”

Indi just hangs up on him, because she’s not getting any less hungry.

Romeo turns up on her doorstep in 27 minutes. A new record. Indi is quite impressed. He hands her the tub of ice cream and jar of salty pickles. Indi takes them with a smile, while Romeo hovers awkwardly on the doorstep.

“Was there anything else?” Romeo asks, eyeing Indi up and down. It’s almost like he’s trying to see through her shirt to her stomach underneath.

“Nope,” Indi replies, stepping back into the house, preparing to shut the door. Romeo sticks out his hand, stopping the door from closing. “Romeo.”

“Can I come in?” Romeo asks.

“Uh, why?”

“Because I thought we could hang out.”

“Oh, sure,” Indi replies, stepping out of the doorway to let Romeo pass.

It’s not that Indi doesn’t want to spend time with Romeo; it’s that she’s been spending too much time with Romeo. They see each other at school, and then go to the Diner after school where Indi dips her fries in her milkshake and then Romeo offers to help her with English homework, which Indi always turns down. She’s pregnant, not dumb. And then, obviously, he’s running around after her strange cravings, so Indi is seeing a lot of Romeo recently.

But now he’s perched himself on edge of the lounge, waiting for Indi to sit next to him.

“Do you want a drink or something?” Indi asks.

Romeo shakes his head. Indi nods and makes her way slowly into the lounge room. She sits in one of the armchairs. Romeo notices her deliberate move as she sets down her food on the coffee table. Suddenly, with Romeo here, at her house, sitting on her lounge, she doesn’t feel hungry any more.

“So, Indi,” Romeo begins. “How’re you feeling?”

Indi resists the urge to roll her eyes. It’s an innocent enough question, and she knows Romeo doesn’t mean anything by it. But she’s been asked that question every morning when she gets out of bed by her dad, and every night when she gets home by Marilyn, and Dexter says it just to p*ss her off. So, she’s kind of sick of it.

“Fine, Romeo,” Indi replies, unable to hide the strain in her voice.

Romeo nods solemnly. He folds his hands, and then unfolds them. He stares pointlessly around the room.

“Was there something in particular you wanted to talk about?” Indi asks.

“Uh, no,” Romeo replies, but he’s doing that thing where he’s not really looking at Indi’s face, so she knows he’s lying.


“I just wanted to see how you were going. Is that so wrong?”

“It’s not wrong, Romeo,” Indi replies. “It’s just that, we see each other at school, and after school, and when you bring me food. Nothing is going to change in that short amount of time.”

“I’m just trying my best here,” Romeo says, a hint of desperation in his voice.

“I know, I know. I just -- I don’t need you all the time.” As soon as she says it, Indi regrets it. It’s not Romeo’s fault that Indi is knocked up and now has hormones racing through of bloodstream telling her things she doesn’t mean.

Romeo stands without a word. “I should go.”

“Romeo, wait,” Indi says, but it’s too late. Romeo is pulling open the front door and leaving.


But Indi knows Romeo won’t stay mad at her for long.

So when she rounds the corner, she isn’t all that surprised to see Romeo waiting for her outside her locker. She looks over her shoulder, making sure no one is around, before she drops her binder, which Indi had been strategically holding over her stomach, and strides up to Romeo.

“I’m sorry,” Indi blurts out. “I didn’t mean what I said. About not needing you. It’s just that I’ve already screwed things up so much. I didn’t want things to change between us. I still want us to be friends.” And then Indi can feel the tears welling up. She doesn’t want to cry. She’s done enough of that recently to last a lifetime. But Indi can’t stop her voice from shaking as she says, “I need a best friend right now. Not a boyfriend or a body guard or a doctor.”

Romeo is fiddling with something in his hand. Indi can see what appears to be a little velvet box in between his fingers, but he quickly covers it in a fist and shoves it into his pocket, so Indi can’t be certain.

Then Romeo is reaching out and pulling Indi into a hug. He’s holding on to her so tightly, all the oxygen seems to have been squeezed out of her lungs. But it feels so good, that Indi doesn’t want him to let go.

“Best friends,” Romeo says with a nod.


The hospital room smells like disinfectant. Indi wrinkles her nose at the white washed walls, spotless linoleum floor and stainless steel instruments. Indi’s lying back on the bed with her top up, her belly exposed, while Sid stands in the corner. He’s chatting with the ultrasound technician, striking up a conversation like they’re old friends. Which wouldn’t surprise Indi greatly, considering they are at the Northern Districts Hospital, where Sid works. When he’s not running around after his irresponsible daughter, that is.

Indi hadn’t deliberately not told Romeo about the appointment. It’s just that things were finally back on track with their friendship. And asking Romeo whether he wanted to come to the hospital with her would have, in Indi’s mind, crossed the friendship line.

The technician is a woman, probably around thirty and smiles curtly at Indi as she sits down on her stool. Her eyes flick down to Indi’s stomach and suddenly Indi just wants to run. She doesn’t want to be here, with her dad and some unknown lady judging the size of her belly. But before Indi can protest something cold and slimy and green is being squirted around her belly button.

“This will feel a bit cool,” the technician says with a practiced smile.

Indi bites her tongue and just lets the woman -- who is, according to her hospital name tag, called Nancy -- do her job. She takes the handheld device and places it against Indi’s skin. Nancy doesn’t say anything for a few moments, just glances from the device in her hand to the computer screen, occasionally changing the position of the scanner.

Sid is hovering by Indi’s head, watching the screen intently. She wants to tell him to stop being so weird, so freaking normal about this whole situation. But then Nancy is speaking and she doesn’t have a chance.

“Everything looks good. No visible abnormalities. You can see the head and legs and arms. There’s the spine in its early stages of development.”

There’s a small gasp and Indi looks up at her dad. Sid is staring at the screen, his eyes wide, and she can see his cheeks glistening under the fluorescent lights.

“Dad, why are you crying?” Indi asks slowly.

“Sorry, Indi,” Sid replies, “I just forgot what this was like. I was with your mother for all of her ultrasounds for both you and Dex, but it’s been a while.”

Something inside Indi’s chest shifts, and she finds that she has to concentrate on breathing. It’s the first time anyone has mentioned Indi’s mother. She doesn’t know about any of this. Indi assumes Sid might have thought about telling her, trying to get in contact with his ex-wife. But, he’s got Marilyn now. Why would he bother?


Indi forces herself to look at the display when her father says her name. At first it’s all a blur. Just black and white lines and squiggles. But then Nancy is hovering the cursor of the machine over something oval, and Indi sees it -- the outline of a head. It’s massive in comparison to the rest of the body. Like some sort of weird sea creature Indi would expect to see at an aquarium. But that’s a baby. Her baby.


“Have you got enough food there?”


Dex nods down at Indi’s plate where she’s piled four pancakes on top of one another. She was beginning to drown them in maple syrup when Dex opened his mouth.

“I’m just saying, you are getting a little ... convex,” Dex replies, before sidestepping Indi’s attempt at thumping him in the shoulder. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Yeah, it looks like a sea monkey.” Dex says, pointing at the black and white photograph that is stuck on the fridge. It’s already lopsided, because Indi was dead set against it -- putting it up for anyone to walk in and see -- but Marilyn got all teary when Sid showed her and had campaigned heavily for it to be shown off. Dex had just laughed as he handed Marilyn the double-sided sticky tape. “And by the way, are you sure you and Romeo did the dirty, because female sea monkeys can fertilise their own eggs, you know.”

“You are so dead,” Indi bites out, plonking her plate of pancakes on the kitchen table and lunging for her brother. At that moment, Sid walks in and has to catch Indi as she runs straight into him.

“Whoa! What’s going on?” Sid asks as Indi grapples for her footing. Dex is bouncing happily on the balls of his feet from the other side of their father.

“Indi can’t handle the fact that she’s got an ugly baby. Which is ironic considering how much time she spends in front of the mirror,” Dex supplies.

Indi makes grabbing hands at Dex’s face, but Sid catches her wrists. Damn him and his paternal instincts. Why can’t he just let her rip him to shreds like she wants?

“Indi, settle. Dex, apologise to your sister,” Sid warns.

“Sorry, Indi,” Dex replies with zero sincerity and a roll of his eyes. Indi pokes her tongue out at him for good measure. “Sorry your baby is at the developmental equivalent of an amphibian.”

“Dex!” Sid barks. Dex just shrugs it off and waltzes back into the kitchen, picking up Indi’s plate of pancakes as he goes. Sid finally lets go of Indi, when he is relatively sure she isn’t going to run after Dex, who has now locked himself in his bedroom. Sid is still placating Indi as he puts on the kettle, making himself a coffee. “You shouldn’t attack him like that.”

“What? So this is somehow my fault?” Indi demands, crossing her arms over her chest.

“You know what Dex is like. He likes to get a rise. He also doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.” Sid is shaking his head slowly from side to side. “He’s dealing with the situation as best he can. We all are.”

The room falls eerily quiet. Indi knew things were going to be tough. Ever since she found out she was pregnant Indi knows how difficult things have been. Marilyn and Sid have been alternating taking Indi to doctors appointments and making arrangements in their free time. She knew all of this was going on, but never really thought about it. It’s the same with Romeo. He’s running around after her, making sure she’s eating right and not stressing out too much, while all Indi has been thinking about is that she can still layer sweaters over the top of her shirts so her small bump isn’t noticeable. Suddenly, Indi is feeling extremely guilty. Not about attacking Dex, because he totally had that coming, but about Romeo and distancing herself from him. She now understands why he’s wanted to be so involved. So, he doesn’t have to go through it all alone.

Indi crosses the kitchen and leans up and kisses Sid on the cheek.

“What was that for?” Sid looks up from his coffee and asks in surprise.

“Just -- Thanks,” Indi replies cryptically. “I’m going to see Romeo.”

Romeo looks surprised to see Indi standing in front of him when he pulls open the door. But he smiles when she holds up the bag of microwave popcorn in one hand and movie in the other. He lets her in without question -- He always will.


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Month Five

“Careful,” Dex says. “She’s in one of her weird pregnant moods.” Indi may be going insane, but that doesn’t mean she’s lost her hearing.

“I heard that!” Indi yells back.

Dex rolls his eyes in response and disappears down the hall. Romeo appears in the doorway a moment later.

“Should I ask?” Romeo looks around the room cautiously. All four walls are still standing. For the moment.

Indi lets out a long, strained sigh, and collapses into the lounge. Romeo dutifully takes his seat beside her.

He raises an eyebrow quizzically in her direction and waits for Indi to start.

“I’m sick and tired of everyone telling me what to do,” Indi complains. “Why does everyone feel like they have to have an opinion? This is my life, and I’m fine by myself. I don’t need them constantly on my back about every single little thing. Dad’s asking questions about the colour of my pee, and Marilyn is always going on and on about iron intake. I’m just sick of it. And if anyone tells me it’s going to be fine one more time I think I’m going to ... to...” The words tumble out of Indi’s mouth at a rapid pace and she barely pauses for breath. But by the time she gets to the end her venom peters out. She lets her shoulders sag and she leans over and uses Romeo’s body to keep her from face-planting into the cushions.

Indi can feel the muscles of Romeo’s arm through his shirt. As if on instinct Romeo wraps his arms around her body.

“You know I’m here for you, Indi,” Romeo says quietly, calmly. Indi nods. “If you need anything. Let me know.”

Indi sits herself upright. “What I need is a father who isn’t so overprotective. What I need is to be able to smell seafood without wanting to hurl. What I need is to feel like I belong again.”

It’s not fair, Indi knows that. Dumping all this on Romeo, when none of it has anything to do with him. If anything, he’s the only one who’s always been there for her. Perfect even. He lets her rant and rave, and doesn’t interrupt. It’s almost too good to be true.

Maybe it’s because, to him, Indi is a part time job. He sees her at school, and comes by once on weekends, but ultimately at the end of the day he can go home, put up his feet and forget that Indi’s pants are getting tighter and belly getting bigger with every passing day.

“Indi,” Romeo says in a placating way. He uses his finger to tilt Indi’s chin up towards his face, so she’s looking at him. Indi is gazing into the face of the boy who was -- is – her best friend. They have no secrets between them. At least, that’s what Indi used to think.

Now, when Indi looks into his blue eyes she doesn’t just see Romeo, her closest friend. Indi sees the guy who is now the father of her unborn child, when neither of them are really in any position to be fulltime parents. She sees endless sleepless nights, growing up and into adulthood, with Romeo hovering over her shoulder. A constant shadow in every aspect of her life, and when she looks at Romeo in the future there is this slither of darkness, resentment that follows him wherever he goes. And because Romeo is so perfect, he will never tell her.


Indi can’t hide it any longer. Even if she wanted to, it’s impossible to hide the way her belly has swelled into an impossibly round sphere.

It’s not like it happened overnight, obviously. Just gradually, like someone was slowly inflating a balloon. And just like the rubber of a balloon stretches thinner with every breath, Indi’s uniform has slowly tightened around her stomach. Each day it takes a little more effort to get the zip done all the way up, and she can’t continue to wear a jumper over the top now that it’s hit October.

“Indi! You’re going to be late if you don’t move it!” she hears Sid call from the lounge room. “Romeo’s waiting!”

Indi is becoming more irate by the second. She has clothes thrown all over her bedroom. Jeans and skirts cover the floor, while most of her shirts and tops cascade off the edge of her bed. She’s got her uniform hiked up over her stomach, but there is no way she can do it up. Indi lets it drop to her feet, kicking it to the side.

Avoiding her own reflection in the mirror Indi reaches for her favourite pair of jeans. They’ve been washed so many times they have that comfortable, well-worn feel. They aren’t her best pair, or even the tightest, but as long as they fit, Indi will be content.

There’s a ferocious knock on Indi’s bedroom door as she struggles with the button. Her pregnant belly is seemingly mocking her as the material refuses to stretch an inch more and cover her body. Romeo is then bursting in.

“Indi, what is possibly taking so lo -?” He then sees the tornado of clothes that has hit the room. Eyes wandering over all the clothes-covered surfaces in disbelief. “What happened?”

Indi refuses to turn around and face him. She can’t. She’s just frozen on the spot. Her jeans pulled up, but not buttoned. Her belly overhanging and poking out from where her top comes up too short.

“Nothing fits,” Indi finally whispers. She hears the wobble in her voice.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Indi refuses to let her pregnant hormones take control. She’s not going to cry. She’s not going to get worked up about this. It’s not the end of the world, she continues to tell herself. Except one single tear escapes down her cheek and she’s sucking in a determined breath and spinning around to show Romeo.

“Hey, that’s okay,” Romeo is saying as Indi turns, because he doesn’t seem to get it. She can try and convince herself that this doesn’t matter, that there are bigger, more important things to stress over, but right now this -- this sense of not feeling like yourself -- is the worst feeling in the world.

“No, it’s not!” Indi yells. She’s beyond caring how ridiculous she looks. Romeo can try as hard as he wants to be there for her, and pretend things aren’t changing at such a rapid pace that Indi can’t keep up, but he will never understand how she feels. “Nothing is okay!”

Romeo is standing in the doorway, completely dazed. He hasn’t even let go of the doorknob. Now he’s gripping onto it for dear life.

“Go to school, Romeo,” Indi bites out. “Go back to your life. Because I don’t want you in mine.”

“Indi, c’mon,” Romeo reasons. “Look, I don’t know what I said, or did. But I don’t want to leave without you. There’s - there’s got to be something you can wear. No one will care if we’re late.”

“I care,” Indi replies. She takes a shaky, deep breath and is staring at him, right in the eye when she says, “I want you to leave.”

Romeo seems taken aback. His mouth is still kind of hanging open as he backs out of her bedroom. She can hear the voices of Sid and Marilyn talking fast as Romeo fills them in. He doesn’t really talk much, but Indi makes out the words “clothes” and “leaving”. Indi sinks down onto her bed, letting her shoulders sag. She can’t believe how far she has fallen. And right now it appears she’s hit rock bottom.

When Indi looks up again Marilyn is standing in her doorway. She doesn’t even look around the room. She’s just watching Indi, and smiles softly, compassionately when Indi meets her eye.

“Looks like we need to go shopping,” Marilyn says, and Indi nods.

Marilyn takes a couple of cautious steps into the room. One of her heels catching on the hem of one of Indi’s denim minis. She shakes her head before placing it back into Indi’s chest of drawers. Indi wants to speak up, tell Marilyn she doesn’t have to do this, or be this nice. But Marilyn is quietly and methodically picking up each article of clothing, folding and placing it back into Indi’s drawers.

Mere minutes later Marilyn is handing Indi a pair of sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt she must have found at the back of her wardrobe and telling her to put them on. She doesn’t even leave the room as Indi slips on the clothes, relief washing over her as the pants sit on her hips (and stay up) while the shirt covers her stomach. It’s an outfit Indi never would have been caught dead in before, but right now she is grateful for small mercies.

“This is the sort of thing a mother is useful for,” Marilyn says. “I hope I’ll do in this case.”

Indi lets herself smile, nodding as Marilyn takes her hand and leads her out of the bedroom.

By the end of the day Indi is changed again. This time wearing a baby doll dress that flutters to her knees. She also has half a wardrobe full of other garments that actually fit. Marilyn insisted on paying, and also reminding Indi to keep in mind that she’s only going to get bigger. Something which Indi would prefer to forget.

It was a pleasant afternoon, Indi decides. Walking through Yabbie Creek with Marilyn, talking about fashion and food and other meaningless topics. Romeo was very much absent from all conversations.

She only has to face him when she arrives at school the following day.

Indi has a note in her hand from Sid, giving her written permission to be out of uniform, and right now she is holding onto it so tightly she should be concerned it might turn to liquid and run through her fingers. But at the moment it seems like she’s in the middle of the ocean, sharks circling her, and it’s her only life raft.

Every single pair of eyes is on her as she goes to her locker. Indi deliberately avoids any and all eye contact, but she can hear the whispers. The murmurs of ”Oh my God” and ”She’s huge”. The occasional sting of words like ”Slut” and “Whore” also reach her ears. It takes all of Indi’s will power to just ignore it, just pretend you didn’t hear, don’t look at them.

Romeo is standing off to the side. She can see him out of the corner of her eye as she fiddles with the combination on her locker. He’s watching her too, but doesn’t say a word.

The bell rings and students slowly disappear. But even up to the last second, before the doors to classrooms are being closed and teachers are starting lessons, Indi can feel them watching her. But finally, finally Indi looks around and she is the last one left in the hallway. She pulls out her English text book and slams her locker shut with a satisfying clang.

Indi hovers outside the door for several moments before she works up the nerve to just turn the handle.

“Nice of you to join us, Indigo,” Mr Copeland says, without even turning around from the blackboard.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Indi mumbles in reply. She keeps her head down as she reaches her seat.

“She’s probably been out shopping for elastic to put in the front of her jeans,” a brunette mock-whispers. She’s not exactly being discreet, so it’s no surprise when there’s a collective giggle from all of her friends.

Mr Copeland is apparently too caught up in scribbling across the board to hear. Indi rolls her eyes, because really, it’s not that original. She flips open her note book and takes out her pen, thinking that if she doesn’t respond then they will just get bored and slither back into whatever hole they crawled out of.

“Yeah, Indi. Maybe you should cut back on the burgers. You’re getting huuuge.” A blonde with a high pitched voice drags out the vowel, and Indi can feel her ears burning red. Again, another round of giggling.

“Are you sure you’re pregnant? Maybe you’re just fat.”

It’s like something snaps. Indi is on her feet in an instant. It’s such a knee-jerk reaction that it even catches her off-guard. Her hands are bundled into fists and she can hear her heart pounding hard. Indi has her eyes locked to the brunette.

At the sound of Indi’s chair tipping back on the linoleum floor Mr Copeland whirls around to face the class, and the laughing ceases. He’s taking his time, eyeballing every single one of the students in turn, before coming to rest on Indi, who is still fuming.

“Indi,” Mr Copeland says. It takes all of Indi’s might to tear her eyes away from the girl. The brunette is smirking, sitting up perfectly straight in her seat, looking the epitome of innocence.

Indi can feel every single pair of eyes on her now. If her aim was to draw as little attention to herself as possible, then this is a definite failure.

Indi isn’t really thinking when she lets her eyes flick over to Romeo. Even with everything that has happened he is still dutifully sitting one desk over, but at this moment he’s got his head down, eyes firmly on the page in front of him. Indi doesn’t know what she expected. Does she want him to stand up, to defend her? Just acknowledge that she exists?

Mr Copeland is clearing his throat and Indi doesn’t wait a second longer. She picks up her books and leaves.


Marilyn has obviously spoken to Sid when Indi wasn’t around because later that evening he suggests dinner at the Diner. She’s apparently given him the ‘How To Be A Supportive Parent’ lecture, because when they arrive he doesn’t ask her how school is going, or the baby, he just tells them all that he’s paying and they should order what they want.

Usually Indi would be all for her dad paying for dinner, especially in light of recent events that make her eat like she’s a bottomless pit, but Indi can’t muster much enthusiasm over the menu.

Sid and Marilyn seem to hold most of the dinner conversation. Small talk is centred on Sid’s day at the hospital and Marilyn’s day at home. Dex seems just as disinterested. He’s constantly sneaking his phone out of his pocket and hastily texting away before stopping abruptly and shoving it back in his pants.

Their plates are clean and Colleen is hovering nearby ready to bring over their coffees and hot chocolates. This is also the moment when Dex drops his news.

“I have a date,” he announces.


“Well, that’s great.” Sid begins slowly. “How -?”

“I know what you’re going to say, Dad,” Dex says, holding up a hand to silence Sid. “Casey is my age. I promise.”

Sid nods, content. Marilyn perks up, even more than usual -- if that was possible. She’s grinning like a Cheshire cat, practically beaming, while all Indi can think is that it’s so typical that Dex gets his love life sorted out before she does. She hasn’t spoken to Romeo at all, and doesn’t really want to, and none of the other guys at school want to touch her with a six foot pole because of her “current condition” (as Sid puts it).

“So, tell us all about Casey,” Marilyn says excitedly. “What is she like?”

“Casey is great,” Dex begins, and suddenly he’s turning red. “But, actually, she is a he.”

It takes a full five seconds for Indi to recognise what Dex has just said. Clearly, Sid thinks he misheard as well because he’s saying, “I’m sorry. Dex, what?”

“Casey is a boy,” Dex repeats, this time with more certainty.

Suddenly, Marilyn is averting her eyes, and Sid is lowering his voice, hissing at Dex from across the table. “We’ll talk about this at home.”

“Why, dad?” Dex is asking, suddenly full of confidence. “Do you have a problem with me going on a date with Casey? Who is a boy. The same as me.”

“Dex, I don’t know what kind of stunt this is,” Sid is sternly whispering, “But this is not the place to discuss it. We’re going home.” Sid is standing and Marilyn is doing the same. Colleen is shuffling towards the both of them, mouth hanging open, already asking questions -- Did I hear right? What’s this about a boy? I always knew he was a little different, but this? They say it comes from the parents, not that I blame you Marilyn -- while Indi just kind of sits there. Dex just shrugs and gets up, seemingly unphased by the spectacle he’s caused.

By the time Indi arrives at school the next day, it seems ‘Dexter Walker is Gay’ is the hottest rumour going around.

Indi makes it to her locker uninterrupted. She slips into first period unnoticed. Indi does go looking for Dex at lunch, but he’s missing, which Indi can’t decide if it’s a relief or adds to her worry that some bullies have caught up with him.

Although she doesn’t say it, or show it very often, Indi does love her brother. So, while she still might be struggling to get her head around the idea that Dex may be dating a boy, she cares about him. That isn’t going to change if he decides that he is, in fact, gay. The problem it seems, is everyone else.

Summer Bay is a small town with very little to keep it occupied. It seems to survive on gossip and rumours only, which Indi can attest to. It was only days ago when she was the centre of all the small talk. Dex knows this too. He may be a little strange at times, but he’s not stupid. He had to know what revealing that kind of information would do. Especially in a public place like the Diner. It’s almost like he planned it.

As if on cue Indi’s phone is vibrating in her pocket. She retrieves it and reads the message from Dex.

From: Dex

Hangin w Casey. Be home late. Dont tell dad.

Indi finally finishes working on her maths homework and stands up from her desk. Suddenly craving something sweet, Indi ventures out of her room to the kitchen.

The house is in darkness, Marilyn and Sid already retired for the evening, except for a dull yellow light coming from the lounge room. As Indi approaches she can hear the low hum of the tv. She sees Dex on the lounge, feet tucked up under him, head on the plush armrest, blanket covering his body. Indi suddenly remembers when she would look at him as a baby. Nothing but a chubby face amid piles of blue blankets, staring up at her from his crib. And it’s like she’s back there, when she wants to help her mother tuck him into bed, and sit on her father’s lap while he reads them both bedtime stories.

Dex stirs from his cosy position on the lounge, looking up slightly as Indi walks in.

“I didn’t think you’d be up,” he says.

“Homework,” Indi says by way of reply. She crosses to the kitchen, pulling opening the fridge and retrieving a block of chocolate. “How was your night?” She can’t resist asking, but only does so when her head is hidden by the fridge door.


Indi lets herself breathe a small sigh of relief. When she returns to the lounge, Dex’s eyes are glued to the screen again. He looks okay, Indi assesses. She’s trying to be subtle about it. Looking her younger brother up and down she can’t see any visible signs of bruising, but that doesn’t mean a couple of the seniors haven’t taken it upon themselves to rough him up a bit. Shove him into lockers, threaten to flush his head down the toilet, write slanderous things across the bathroom stalls. But Dex looks fine.

Indi breaks off a piece of chocolate and pops it in her mouth. The sweetness is exactly what she was craving, and immediately she sits back in the lounge, settling her eyes on the tv. It’s a blur of yellow and oranges and a great expanse of desert, seemingly baron.

There’s a British voice over as the man describes the habitat, listing scientific names of animals Indi doesn’t understand. In one sweeping shot of the area Indi thinks she spots a lion, or a tiger, something like a big cat without the mane.

Indi breaks off another square of chocolate and hands one to Dex. He takes it without a word.

“I know what you did,” Indi says into the darkness.

Dex doesn’t appear to hear her. She can see him chewing on the chocolate, but his eyes never waver from the screen where a series of insects are being filmed.

“I know why you said that stuff about your date in the Diner. You knew everyone would talk. It was the perfect distraction.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dex replies, still not looking at Indi.

Indi sighs, smiling to herself. “You took the spotlight from me. Or for me, really.”

Dex doesn’t respond. But she can see his eyes cloud over for a moment, like he’s not really watching the animals bounding across the desert.

“I guess I just wanted to say thanks.”

Dex isn’t going to acknowledge what he did. How much of himself he sacrificed so Indi wouldn’t be the centre of all the unwanted attention. Not that Indi is questioning the authenticity of Dex’s story. Dex has been on his phone non-stop since Tuesday night, and there is talk about a new family having recently moved to town with a son around Dex’s age. But Dex is never going to admit that he did something nice, something unselfish for Indi. Because that would be admitting that he actually cared about her. Like, he wasn’t completely ashamed that they were related.

“You’d think it’d be pretty straight forward being a drone bee. But their testicles explode and snap off inside the queen.”

Dex may be questioning his sexuality, but he is still her brother.


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Month Six

The November heat must be getting to Indi. She’s battened down the hatches, as it were. Locking herself in her bedroom because her exams are only a couple of weeks away. The exams, which are supposed to determine what Indi does with the rest of her life. At least, that’s how she thought about them before.

It seems strange how Indi’s life has been divided into Before and After. But that’s how it appears. There was life Before Indi Slept With Romeo, in which her only aim was to pass year twelve, get into a university course that she didn’t hate, and figure the rest out from there. Now there is life After Indi Slept With Romeo, in which the amount of studying Indi does is proportionate to the size Indi’s bladder (which seems to be decreasing with every passing day), and university options are limited to which offer the best child care facilities. These exams are no longer the one deciding factor of Indi’s future. If anything, they seem like one big hassle that Indi could do without.

But the sun keeps streaming through her window. Even with the blinds closed, Indi’s bedroom feels like a sauna. She’s sweating through her sun dress, unable to sit still for longer than fifteen minutes at a time because her back is hurting and knees are aching and nothing she does seems to be helping.

It appears Sid, Marilyn and Dex are having a very animated discussion in the kitchen. She occasionally hears words like “paint” and “nursery”. Unable to deal with reading the same page in her history book any longer, Indi gets up and follows the voices.

As Indi suspected, her family are seated around the kitchen table, in deep discussion. Sid looks up as Indi walks in.

“How are you feeling, sweetie?” Marilyn asks.

Indi lets out her frustrated grown. “I’m so sick of being pregnant.”

“Just be thankful you’re not an elephant,” Dex adds. “They have a gestation period of 22 months.”

“Gee, thanks Dex,” Indi dead pans. “That makes me feel so much better.”

“Just trying to help,” Dex replies with a shrug.

“Time will pass by fast enough,” Sid comments.

“We were just talking about the nursery,” Marilyn adds, a bright smile plastered across her face.

“Yes,” Sid says with a nod. “We’ll turn my study into the baby’s room. It’ll need a coat of paint, and obviously we’ll have to go shopping -”

“Shopping?” Indi’s ears perk up.

“Shopping for things for the baby,” Sid emphasises. “Not the ten different pairs of shoes you want, Indi.”

“Dad, really. My feet are already swelling, so it’s not like I can fit into any of my favourites right now,” Indi replies.

“No, shoes,” Sid says with a definite nod. Indi pouts and considers going back into her bedroom to study. It’s got to be better than this.

But even with the prospect of getting a new pair of shoes shut down, Indi finds herself agreeing when Marilyn suggests they take a trip into Yabbie Creek. Dex reluctantly drags himself along, because apparently Casey is spending the day with his family, so Dex has nothing better to do.

Marilyn and Sid end up doing everything Indi has labelled “The Boring Stuff”. Stuff like looking at change tables, cabinets, and bassinets, and figuring out which of the fifty-two different prams are the safest. Indi on the other hand automatically gravitates towards the toys, since Sid put a ban on going anywhere near the shoes.

She picks up various teddy bears and stuffed animals, stroking their fur, wondering whether the baby is a boy or a girl. At her last ultrasound the technician said they knew the sex, but Indi said she wanted it to be a surprise. Now, she’s wondering why she thought that was a good idea.

Indi is petting a particularly cuddly dolphin toy when Dex creeps up behind her.

When he speaks, Indi jumps. “Did you know the flipper on a dolphin has a retractable penis?”

Indi drops the toy like a hot potato. “Gross, Dex. You really need a different hobby.”

Dex waltzes off down one of the nearby aisles, unphased. Indi rolls her eyes and follows.

They end up down an aisle with different paint swatches and decorating ideas. Indi spends most of her time debating whether there is a difference between the colours canary and cheesecake.

“Don’t tell me you’re thinking of painting the room yellow?” Dex asks.

“It’s a gender-neutral colour,” Indi comments.

“I’ve never seen a boy with a yellow shirt,” Dex replies.

“Dex,” Indi says with a roll of her eyes. “You own a yellow shirt. Two, I believe.”

“Exactly,” Dex replies with a smile. “Do you really want your kid to turn out like me?”

“Speaking of,” Indi says, unable to keep this stupid grin off her face. “When do I get to meet the infamous Casey?”

Dex goes uncharacteristically shy. “You -- you want to meet him?”

“Of course. Why? Are you embarrassed by me?” Indi could totally understand that. If Dex wanted to keep his boyfriend – wow, that’s a little weird to think -- away from their dysfunctional family. Although it might have something to do with the fact that Sid is still flatly refusing to acknowledge that Casey even exists, let alone that Dex is spending so much time with him, that any normal person would constitute them as dating.

“No,” Dex replies with a laugh. “I just -- I didn’t know whether it would be weird.” His face is sincere, looking straight into Indi’s eyes, like he’s trying to work out whether she’s just pretending to be interested. But Indi is. Interested, that is.

“I’m serious, Dex,” Indi replies, nudging him with her elbow as they walk away from the paints and animal motifs. They need to find Sid and Marilyn. “I want to meet the boy who is apparently patient enough to put up with you.” Dex huffs, like maybe he’s offended by that accusation, but he’s smiling too.

After all that effort of walking through shops, looking at displays and cabinets and toys, Indi is exhausted. And also disappointed. Because, after all that time, they didn’t end up buying anything.

Marilyn suggests stopping at the Surf Club for something cold and refreshing, and Indi is the first to agree.

Indi excuses herself to use the bathroom. While she’s up, she wanders aimlessly around outside. Being inside all day has caught up with her. Indi breathes in deeply, taking in the salty air. She finds herself rubbing her tummy, something she hasn’t caught herself doing before.

It’s a strange sensation. Like, her stomach isn’t really attached to the rest of the body. It’s there, Indi can definitely see that. But, it’s just ... weird, Indi concludes.

The sun is still warm, but the breeze has picked up, cooling down her face and shoulders. Indi turns away from the ocean, on her way back towards the Surf Club. Out of the corner of her eye, Indi spots a figure.

Sid was talking in the car ride home. Indi zoned most of what he was saying out, but he kept mentioning “The Future”. He didn’t mention Romeo’s name specifically, but Indi knows what he was hinting. How much does Indi want Romeo involved? Indi honestly didn’t know. Regardless of what happened, Indi still considered him a friend. Her best friend. She doesn’t know if he still feels the same way. The best way of avoiding rejection, Indi has discovered, is ignorance. So by Romeo not speaking to Indi, and Indi not going looking for Romeo, Indi could keep pretending that whatever they had, still existed. That is wasn’t in tatters and may never be able to be repaired.

“Hey,” Indi says as she approaches Romeo.

He’s looking dishevelled. Hair sticking up at the back, like he’s run his hand through it multiple times. His shirt is crumpled, while his hands are shoved deep in his pockets.

“How are you?” Indi finally asks, when she realises Romeo is staring at her, but he’s not going to be the first talk.

“Look, Indi,” Romeo says. His voice is surprisingly strong, deliberate. “Is there something you wanted?”

“Uh, Romeo, I –” Indi hadn’t thought about what she was actually going to say. She had hoped that it would come to her, in a moment of passion or thoughtfulness or -- something.

Romeo is looking at her quizzically, like maybe he’s considering that the baby hormones have started affecting her brain. Which, Indi can’t say for certain that they haven’t.

Indi is preparing to just apologise for everything. Because right now sorry is the only word that keeps spinning around her head. Indi is sorry for having sex with him. She’s sorry for making him run after her. For stringing him along, like she expected him to be there. For yelling at him for no apparent reason, like this was all somehow inadvertently Romeo’s fault.

But then a voice is calling. “Juno! Let’s go!”

Dex is waving at Indi from the car. He’s got an ice cream cone in his left hand, holding it up above his head, swaying it precariously from one side to the other, while texting with his right.

Indi lets out a small sigh of defeat before ducking her head down and heading towards Dex.


Indi just wants it all to be over.

She’s been busting to use the bathroom since half-past two, but she has already asked the invigilator twice to be escorted out. The elderly woman with beady eyes keeps peering over the rim of her glasses at Indi, because she is convinced all these trips to the toilet are some giant ploy to cheat on her English exam. She probably thinks Indi is faking the whole pregnancy thing too.

So Indi bites down on her lip and tries to read over her answer one final time.

Finally the woman, who appears to be permanently scowling, tells them all to put down their pens.

There is a unanimous sigh of relief as the class is told to silently leave the room. As soon as Indi is out the door, there is a hand on her shoulder. She spins around to see Romeo looking down at her. He has this dazed kind of smile on his lips. He opens his mouth speak, but Indi cuts him off, because right now there is this almighty pressure on her bladder that Indi isn’t sure she can control for much longer.

“Sorry, can’t talk. Bathroom,” Indi says hurriedly, before turning on her heel and walking as fast as her pregnant legs will take her.

When Indi emerges from the girls’ bathroom, the halls are practically empty, and Romeo is definitely not still there.

Not that she really expected him to stick around.

But when Indi arrives home she also discovers something that she didn’t expect. There is a series of loud bangs, all in quick succession, followed by a dull thud. At first Indi thinks she might have arrived home in the middle of a burglary. But then there are voices, and they aren’t exactly menacing as Indi wanders down the hallway to the study-soon-to-be-nursery room.

The door is ajar, and Indi can see the shadows of two figures pacing back and forward.

Indi nudges the door open, peering around the corner at the state of the room.

The bookshelves that used to line the walls have been taken down, books stacked away into boxes and piled up along one wall. Sheets have been placed on the floor, while a tin of paint is unopened and a clean roller is lying next to it. There are also various pieces of wood and screws strewn across the ground, among large pieces of paper that appear to have elaborate diagrams on them.

“You’re not supposed to be home yet,” Dex is saying. He’s standing among the mess, hands on his hips, brow furrowed like Indi has inadvertently done something wrong. Indi isn’t sure what that is, mind.

“What’s going on?” Indi asks slowly, eyes still taking in the haphazardness of the room.

“It was going to be a surprise.” This is a voice Indi doesn’t recognise. Appearing from nowhere, Indi sees the other boy. He’s got short brown hair is wearing a plaid button-down shirt open, revealing a plain white tee, and he’s dusting his hands off on his torn jeans.

“Yeah, we wanted to get it finished before you got done with your exams. But then there was a whole bunch of stuff to move out first before we could even get started, and then the delivery arrived, so we started on that and --”

“Dex,” the other boy says, laying a hand on Dex’s shoulder. Dex immediately closes his mouth.

“So, wait,” Indi says, finally taking a complete step into the room. “What exactly are you doing?”

“We were going to paint the nursery,” Dex replies.

The walls are still the same cream colour as they were before, that hasn’t changed. Dex appears to see that as well, because he’s laughing and the other boy is nudging him playfully in the ribs.

“We do have something to show you,” the other boy says, and he steps aside to reveal what they have been working on.

It’s a white crib with sculpted bars around the side. It’s standing, on four wooden legs, and Dex is beaming. Indi can’t believe it.

“What -- what do you think?” Dex asks after a moment’s silence.

“I love it,” Indi replies in nothing more than a whisper. If anyone asks, it was the hormones that were making her emotional. She can hear the slight wobble in her voice as she glances from the crib to the boys who are standing side by side. Dex still looks nervous, maybe it’s because he can sense that Indi is on the verge of tears. “Seriously, it’s amazing. But how -?”

Dex seems to understand. “Dad ordered it, but it was going to be my present. To the baby. Casey helped.”

Indi’s eyes flick from her brother to the other boy. He’s smiling affectionately at Dex, as he brings up a hand to brush at his dishevelled hair, he lets his fingers trail up Dex’s side. Casey chuckles. “And by helped he means, did all the heavy lifting.”

“Hey! Someone had to delegate,” Dex replies, with a cocky smile.

“Thanks. Both of you,” Indi says, stepping forward and engulfing both of the boys in a hug. It’s a bit difficult with her pregnant belly between them, but they manage. “So, you’re Casey, huh?” Indi asks when they pull away.

“Nice to meet you,” Casey replies, sticking out a hand for Indi to shake. Considering Indi just hugged him, it’s seems like a redundant formality. But Dex is flicking his eyes from Casey to Indi frantically, so Indi shakes it anyway. Indi can see Dex let out a little breath he was holding.

“I guess I owe you,” Indi says, with a shrug. Casey looks momentarily confused. “For putting up the crib. And for keeping my brother out of mischief.”

“Happy to help,” Casey replies. “On both accounts.” Dex pretends to be wounded, clutching at his chest dramatically. Indi rolls her eyes and Casey takes the opportunity to poke him in the ribs.

“Okay, that’s not fair,” Dex says indignantly. “You can’t both gang up on me.”

“That’s how it works,” Casey says. “Right, Indi?”

“Right,” Indi replies with a laugh.

So, maybe Indi still has to get used to the idea that Dex has a boyfriend. But he seems nice, so there’s that. Since Sid is working the late shift they spend the remainder of the afternoon on the porch with cold drinks talking and laughing. Dex hadn’t told Casey about the time he accidentally flushed his own goldfish down the toilet, so Indi obliges.

For the first time in months, Indi thinks that everything might have a way of working itself out.


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Month Seven

When Marilyn dies, everything seems to stall. It’s like the prospect of time and forward planning just ceased to exist. Indi is only concerned with just making sure there aren’t any dirty dishes in the sink and Dex has made his bed, because those are the only sorts of things Indi can manage.

It’s not like it was completely unexpected. Sid and Marilyn were always very open with both Indi and Dex about the prospect that Marilyn might not live to see another Christmas. At the time Indi kind of just dismissed it, because Marilyn was very much alive and seemingly well, right in front of her. She wasn’t some old, sick person who looked as though they might kick the bucket at any moment. Marilyn was still bright and bubbly and pestering Indi about leaving her shoes in the hallway and asking whether she could rearrange the lounge room so the energy flow was better, or something.

But when Indi walks in the door, she can sense that something is wrong, and it takes her more than a moment to work out what that might be. At first her thoughts go to Dex. That he might have finally had enough of the town gossip, of the teasing, having the word “fag” follow him around wherever he went. Indi panics, hearing her heart start to thump. She finds herself rushing down the hallway to Dex’s room, pushing his door open, letting the handle fly out of her hands. Indi glances around the room frantically, searching for any sign that he had been home, or that he was still there. And Indi is already thinking about trying to find Casey’s number and calling him -- because if Dex was anywhere, then he would be with him -- when she finds Dex’s bedroom empty.

So, Indi is pacing in the kitchen, back and forth by the fridge when she finally pulls herself out of her downward spiral of panic long enough to look up and see a note stuck to the fridge, on top of Indi’s most recent ultrasound picture.

It’s Sid haphazard scrawl, that Indi still has a hard time deciphering, but she can read this perfectly clearly.

Taken Marilyn to hospital. Will call.

There’s no time, or any other information. Indi is forced to just sit beside the phone and wait.

Dex comes home some time later. He’s chatting animatedly on his phone as he walks through the door, but immediately ends the call when he sees Indi’s face.

When the phone rings Indi almost jumps out of her skin. She grapples with the handset, pressing it tightly to her ear. Her voice comes out raspy and quiet, and there is a moment’s silence on the other end of the line.


“Dad. What’s happened?”

“Is your brother there?” Sid sounds distant, like he’s standing far away. Indi is struggling to hear him. She glances across at Dex. He’s staring at her, brow furrowed, as Indi talks.


“Can you – uh, I don’t –”

“Dad, what’s going on? Is Marilyn okay?”

There is another long moment of silence as Sid seems to collect himself. “Marilyn had a stroke. I’m at the hospital with her now.”

“Is she going to be alright?”

Indi hears her father let out a long and strangled sigh. He’s barely keeping it together. “You and Dexter need to come and say your goodbyes.”

Neither of them say much after that. Indi sits in stunned silence, while Sid gives a room number, that he knows Indi isn’t going to remember. She hands off the phone to Dex, who says about one syllable before hanging up.

“We need to go,” Dex says first. Indi nods and stands, before stopping. They have no way of getting to the hospital. The sun has gone down and Indi is trying to wrack her brain for the time of the last bus to Northern Districts. With seemingly no other options, Indi pulls out her mobile and hits call before she can change her mind.

Romeo is in the driveway waiting for them in fifteen minutes. Indi gets into the passenger seat, while Dex crawls in the back, in silence.

Indi hasn’t seen Romeo since they day of their final exams. And even then she hasn’t heard him speak to her face since that day near the Surf Club, but that wasn’t really a proper conversation.

Maybe it was unfair to call Romeo out to the farm tonight. Indi is sure that if she called Alf or Leah or anyone else they would have been more than willing and able to give them a lift to the hospital. But for some reason, when Dex was looking across at her with his blank expression, Romeo was the first person she thought of.

The car ride is tense, Indi focussing her eyes on the whirl of buildings and nature out the window. Romeo doesn’t say anything, just keeps his gaze on the road. Indi occasionally hears him clear his throat, and she thinks he might say something. But then he just keeps on driving. For that Indi is grateful, because she wouldn’t know what to say if he did talk to her.

They pull into the hospital parking lot, Indi muttering a quiet, “Thanks”, as she opens the passenger door and gets out.

“Indi, wait!“ Indi hears Romeo call out after she’s already started walking away. She stops, turning, to see Romeo leaning across from the driver’s side.

Indi takes a moment to look over to Dex, who has been uncharacteristically quiet since they received the news. Dex just shrugs, as Indi silently asks him to wait. She watches as he wanders away towards the grey building, pulling out his phone as he goes.

Now, Indi takes a deep breath and makes her way back to Romeo’s vehicle. His eyes are flitting away from Indi’s face, not really looking her in the eye, and she thinks he might have lost his nerve.

Indi just waits.

“Just -- If you need anything. Let me know,” Romeo says.

And there it is again. This offer of help that Indi has become used to turning down. She pushed Romeo away all those months ago, and no matter how much she wants (desires) to fling open the door and say yes to Romeo now, and every time in the future, Indi can’t. Because if she says yes to him this one time, there is nothing to stop her from saying yes, and always yes to Romeo.

It was a mistake to call Romeo tonight, because it looks like Indi needs him. Indi needs him to always be there for her, to always be her one comfort when the nights are a bit too dark, or the shadows a bit too scary. But now that she’s seen him, up close, she can’t shake this feeling of longing. This little ache in her chest because he’s around. Because he seems so close and yet so far away.

Sadly, Indi shakes her head and walks away.


Indi feels empty as she walks the hospital corridors. She can hear her feet on the linoleum floor, the beating of her heart in her chest, can see the bustle of nurses rushing past her, but she doesn’t feel anything.

Sid finds them as they stand near the nurses’ station. His face is blank, expressionless, but Indi can see the dark circles under his eyes.

“Dad?” Dex questions as Sid approaches. Indi can hear the slight hopefulness in his voice, the inflection, like maybe there has been a mistake. That Sid is going to tell them to turn around and head home because Marilyn is fine and it is nothing.

Sid just shakes his head.

“She looks like she’s sleeping,” Dex whispers when they walk into the room.

Indi finds herself nodding although she can’t tear her eyes away from the beeping machines that stand beside Marilyn’s bed. The machines that are keeping her alive.

“She can hear you,” Indi hears Sid say.

Indi wants to believe. Wants to believe that Marilyn knows that they are there, standing around her bed, waiting for her to wake up. When the reality is that she isn’t going to open her eyes again.

“Marilyn,” Dex steps forward, reaching out a hand and taking one of Marilyn’s. “I’m ... I’m sorry ... I’m sorry for being annoying and for not appreciating you. For not telling you that I’m glad you were around, for making my dad happy, and for not telling you that I loved you when I had the chance.” Indi watches as the tears trickly down Dex’s face, but his voice remains unwavering. He uses his free hand to wipe the tears haphazardly from his cheeks, blinking quickly before letting go and stepping back into the corner of the room.


Indi pulls herself away from watching Dex and glances across at her dad. Sid nods towards the bed, and Indi steps up.

She doesn’t know what to say. How to tell Marilyn everything she wants her to know, because she feels like she’s lost her chance. She wonders whether it is ever possible to sum up a person’s life in a few quick sentences. To do everything from apologising to thanking to saying goodbye.

Indi doesn’t even realise she’s crying until she tastes the salt on her lips. She bites down on her lip, finally feeling the sadness that’s been threatening to spill over since that afternoon. She’s been tired and numb and empty inside, but now Indi just hurts, because Marilyn shouldn’t be lying here, and they shouldn’t have to say goodbye.

Leaning over Indi places her lips near Marilyn’s ear, whispering, “I’ll miss you,” before retreating out of the room. She doesn’t think she can actually be there when Sid has to turn off the machines.

Indi just continues to let herself cry, her palms pressed into her eyes, chest heaving erratically as she sits on the floor outside Marilyn’s room. She hears the door open and close, and feels someone sit beside her. It isn’t until she runs out of tears that Indi looks over and sees Dex sitting silently there.

Dex keeps turning his phone over in his hands. Back, front, back, front. It must be nice to have something to with his hands. Indi has nothing. She crosses them in front of her chest, then unfolds them. She laces her fingers together and twirls her thumbs, then thinks better of it. Finally, Indi gives up on trying to do anything and just rests her hands flat over her rounding stomach.

Her skin is tight beneath her dress, forming a perfect semicircle. Every time a nurse walks past they smile down at her. A mothering smile like, ‘You should be so proud’, laced with disappointment, ‘You had your whole future ahead of you’. But Indi doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her.

Right now, Indi doesn’t even want to think about the future, let alone face it. She hasn’t seen her dad in hours, and Indi doesn’t have the energy to go searching for him. Sid’s locked himself in Marilyn’s room, because in there the future of living without his wife doesn’t exist. It isn’t real until he walks out of this hospital, knowing he can’t turn back. While Sid can still see Marilyn, while it looks like she’s only sleeping, he can keep going. It’s when he closes the door that he has to walk by himself.

The future is too big, too intangible, too spontaneous to tackle it alone.

Sid wanted his future to be with Marilyn. Indi had grown to think about her future with Marilyn too. When the baby arrived Marilyn would tear up and get pure joy from co-ordinating outfits for them to wear. She would knit blankets and booties and be there when he or she took her first steps or when they wouldn’t stop crying. Marilyn would know what to do. Marilyn would take on the role that Indi’s mother abandoned.

But suddenly, Marilyn isn’t going to be there for those moments. She’s not going to be the one holding Indi’s hand in the delivery room. Indi pictures her family and there is a space where Marilyn should be.


Dex drags his gaze away from the phone. “Yeah?” His voice is quiet, timid almost.

“Do you -- Do you think people belong together?”

“What do you mean?” Dex furrows his brow, watching Indi intently.

“I mean, like, two people belonging together. Going through everything together. Like, forever. Two people being together forever. Do you believe that’s possible?”

“Like mating for life?”Dex asks.

Indi nods.

“I don’t know,” Dex admits. His head drops down, and he goes back to turning the phone methodically over in his hands. Indi thinks that’s the end of it, but then Dex is taking a breath and continuing. “Research has shown that very few animals mate for life. But some do. Some types of lobsters and vultures. In the case of black vultures they are so dedicated to their mates that males are attacked if they are caught philandering.” Dex raises a questioning eyebrow in Indi’s direction. “Although, I don’t know how relevant this is since you and Romeo have already got the mating part covered. Do you want Romeo to be attacked by vultures?”

“No, Dex,” Indi replies with a shake of her head. “I don’t want Romeo to be attacked by vultures. I just, I was thinking about dad and Marilyn, how they seemed perfect for each other. How they should be allowed to have that forever, deserve it, and now it’s never going to happen. And if someone as optimistic as Marilyn doesn’t get that, then what hope do the rest of us have?”

Dex nods solemnly. “I guess it’s something you can’t predict. Science can’t tell you how long something is going to last. That’s where faith comes in. Having the courage to just ... believe.”

Indi has to really focus, remembering that this is her little brother she’s talking to. Dex no longer seems like the unsure, awkward teenager who didn’t really have any friends. He’s this focused, insightful boy who seems to have a better grip on life than Indi could ever manage. Is this because of Casey? Something else entirely? Indi would never have the confidence to ask him something that personal, but she likes how put-together Dex appears. It suits him. Even if he’s only doing it for her benefit.

“I don’t know about you and Romeo. Or me and Casey,” Dex is saying, “Sometimes I feel like I don’t know anything.” He shakes his head. “So I start somewhere simple, the things I do know, and work from there. For example,” Dex sits up a little and clears his throat. “For example, I’m Dexter Walker. My sister is Indigo. She is sitting beside me right now and I know that she’s always going to be there for me. Regardless of who comes and in and out of both of our lives.”

Indi lets a small smile creep across her lips. She reaches out and places her hand over Dex’s. He switches his phone into his right hand and presses his open palm into Indi’s, so they’re now properly holding hands.

They’ve never really done the whole public displays of affection thing. Indi was always older and too cool for that, while Dex was the one who was begging for the attention. But in the last seven months Indi feels as though she has only just scratched the surface on what kind of person her brother is, and could be. And maybe Dex wasn’t always the one who needed her. Maybe it was the other way around.

“I’m Indi. My brother is Dex. And right now there is no one else I need.”

“For the record, though.” Indi raises her eyebrows in Dex’s direction. “Romeo is still out there. Probably listening to some sad love song on the radio, looking through text messages he saved from you, or something equally dramatic and pathetically romantic. You could do a lot worse.”

Something in Indi’s heart clenches. It’s familiar. But now is not the time to be running through an empty hospital carpark at night. (Not that Indi can actually right run now. She might manage a steady waddle, but still). She’s been keeping him at arms length for so long, it’s become second nature. One more night is not going to hurt. But Indi nods like she understands, and hopes that Dex can’t hear the pitter-patter of her heart.

Indi and Dex continue to hold hands well into the night.

When Sid finally returns from Marilyn’s room his eyes are bloodshot, his face pale. Indi and Dex stand silently and Sid takes them both into his arms.

“She’s gone,” Indi hears Sid whisper.

And while Indi leans into her father’s chest, her belly keeping them slightly apart, a corner of her mind is occupied by the thought of a teenage boy, sitting in his car, listening to the radio, waiting for her return.


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Month Eight

Romeo dutifully attends the funeral. And the wake back at the farm.

He’s dressed in a simple black suit, with a black shirt, and he is politely helpful in passing around plates of sandwiches which Leah and Irene have prepared. Although, Indi can’t help but notice that while he’s standing near Miles and Nicole, he keeps glancing across the room, catching Indi’s eye.

The Walker living room is crowded, with most of Summer Bay coming to pay their respects. Everyone has been perfectly civil, and Indi has accepted hugs and messages of condolences from everyone there. Everyone except Romeo. He’s just perfectly content to stare at her from a distance. It hurts, because Indi was so sure after that night at the hospital that things were about to -- not go back to normal, but just -- something. Anything.

Sid is quiet, making small talk with Alf, while Dex is sitting in the corner staring at his phone. Indi was walking passed Dex’s bedroom earlier in the day when she overheard him talking. It seemed that Casey hadn’t wanted to come to the funeral, and Dex was at the point of begging.

“But I want you there!”


“I don’t care if people will talk. If you’re there it won’t matter. Aren’t you the one that’s always telling me that they are just a bunch of small minded hicks?”


“Okay, so maybe I’ll just avoid you at school from now on too!”


“Maybe I do mean it.”

Indi recalls the way Dex had hung up ferociously and thrown his phone across the room. Now, she steps passed Xavier and April and makes her way over to him.

“You should talk to him.”

Dex looks up with a hint of suspicion on his face. “How do you know about that?”

“I heard you this morning.” Dex’s face falls, he goes back to staring at his phone. “Sitting here moping isn’t going to fix things with Casey.”

“It’s a funeral, I’m supposed to be moping,” Dex replies bitterly. “And besides, maybe you should take your own advice before you start dishing it out.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Indi says, but she’s not fooling anyone, least of all Dex.

“Romeo. He’s been staring at you all day. He’s looks like a kicked puppy. I think it’s fairly obvious he’s not going to make the first move.”

“I will if you will,” Indi says, and Dex lets the corners of his mouth twitch upwards. He sighs dramatically and stands up. He scans the room over Indi’s shoulder, and then he freezes for a moment.

“You’d better hurry.” Indi spins around on her heel , eyes searching the room for whatever caught Dex’s eye, and sees a tuft of blonde hair disappear out into the hall.

For a moment Indi thinks about just retreating. She’s had so many opportunities to talk to Romeo. The surf club, school, numerous others, and each and every time something stops her. Maybe this is the universe’s way to telling her to let it go. But then Dex is saying, “I swear Indi, if you don’t go out there and talk to him I’m going to do it myself. And I’ll spare all the niceties. You’re attracted to him like a moth to his flame, that if you weren’t pregnant you’d want to jump him and make tons more babies.” Dex lists these off with rapid ease and that’s all the convincing Indi needs.

“Shut up, Dex,” Indi replies, but her heart’s not in it. Instead, Indi is making her way across the room and out the front door.

Romeo is already halfway down the driveway when Indi calls after him. He turns back, face blank and unreadable. He waits as Indi waddles down the front steps, hand firmly on the small, wooden side rail before following the gravel towards Romeo.

It’s been a long summer. The ground is dusty and dirty, the little grass bordering the driveway has wilted and yellowed from too many days in the sun. There is no breeze to drive away the smell of burning, just grey clouds sitting low in the sky, as another day passes without rain.

“So, you’re just going to leave?” Indi’s voice carries, and Romeo looks a bit stunned. “Without even saying one word to me, you’re going to get in your car and drive away?”

Romeo’s shoulders seem to sag. He shakes his head slowly. “Look, Indi. I’ve tried to do the right thing. I’ve tried to be there for you -- as a boyfriend, best friend, or just a friend -- and you’ve pushed me away. I’m doing what you wanted.”

“I don’t know what I want!” Indi exclaims, like it’s some big revelation. And for what it’s worth, it kind of is. “I haven’t known what I wanted for almost nine months.”

Indi can feel the heat of the sun through the thick clouds. In her black dress, she’s hot and irritable, and is wishing that she was making more sense. But all Indi can think about is Romeo standing in front of her, wanting to do the right thing by her, and remembering that ache in her chest whenever she saw him.

As if on cue Indi feels a deliberate kick and she puts her hand to her belly on reflex. Indi tries to hide her flinching, but the baby has started playing football with her insides. Romeo’s eyes go wide, and Indi thinks it might be his turn to do the running away. But instead she sees him taking a step closer.

“Are you okay?” Romeo asks cautiously.

“Yeah,” Indi replies with a grimace as she feels a foot right near her belly button. “Just kicking, is all.”

Romeo hesitates, opening his mouth, with nothing coming out. He swallows, and tries a second time. “Kicking -- I uh, -- Can I, um, feel?”

Without even hesitating, Indi reaches out and takes Romeo’s hand placing it on her stomach. Indi hears Romeo’s sharp intake of breath, followed by a noise that sounds a lot like a soft, “Oh.”

And this, this is exactly what Indi has been wanting all along. The feeling of Romeo’s palm, even through the material of her dress, Indi can feel his warmth. Slowly, she rests her hand on top of his, allowing herself to finally be close to him again. It feels ... good, right, natural.

Romeo’s eyes are the size of saucers, but he tears them away from their hands and meets Indi’s gaze. His expression is no longer guarded, unmarked, but open, and in awe. Suddenly, the heat of a never ending summer doesn’t matter, the tension dissolves into the muggy air and Indi sees Romeo smile.

“I’ve wanted this for so long,” Romeo says, voice low and quiet. He’s being careful, Indi knows. Like maybe Indi is going to freak and run off again. But not this time. This time, Indi nods and lets the corners of her mouth turn up into a smile.

It seems wrong almost, to be smiling again. Particularly on a day when Indi shouldn’t be thinking about anything but Marilyn, and the grief that is etched in every line of her father’s face. But then again, Indi feels like she’s entitled to something going her way for a change.

Suddenly there is a loud bang, and Indi jerks around quickly, thinking someone has burst through the front door, letting it slam. But, then there is a second bang and a drop of water lands on Indi’s bare shoulder. Looking up, Indi sees the grey clouds for only a moment before another droplet is hitting her cheek.

The rain begins to pour. Heavy drops are beginning to wet Indi’s hair and she looks over at Romeo who is also looking up in amazement. There is another loud bang of thunder, followed by a bright flash of lightning and Indi jumps. Before Indi can do anything, Romeo is grabbing her hand and dragging her back towards the house just as the downpour begins.

They are standing under the patio of the farm house, Romeo shaking his head from side to side, trying to rid himself of excess water, and inadvertently wetting Indi further. Indi lets out an indignant, “Hey!”

“Sorry,” Romeo apologises.

The ground is getting drenched, the rain pelting down heavily on the iron roof of the patio. Indi is soaked through, arms covered in drops, and she can feel the material of her dress sticking to her body. Indi thinks she should say something, anything, but the rain is heavy and loud so anything she says will be made redundant by the noise. But looking across Romeo is smiling at her, and Indi can’t help but smile back.

Then, the door behind the two of them is flying open and Dex has sprinted out. Without any hesitation he’s running past Indi and Romeo under the patio and into the rain.

“Where are you going?” Indi calls out after Dex.

Dex doesn’t stop running, not even bothering to look over his shoulder. Indi just hears something that sounds like, “Going out!”

Indi watches as her brother sprints down the driveway, letting himself get soaked. Romeo is watching, with an expression that is somewhere between horror and disbelief.

“Is he going to be okay?” Romeo asks.

“Yeah,” Indi replies with a nod. “He knows what he’s doing.”


Indi is pacing -- which is both difficult and exhausting -- but Indi keeps walking back and forth along the front porch, one hand placed firmly over her belly, the other supporting her back. She knows she could probably wait just as effectively if she was sitting, but Indi is certain she would also go stir crazy if she forced herself to actually sit still. So instead, rather than sitting, and dwelling on all the ‘what if’s’ and ‘but then’s’ Indi is pacing.

It’s another five agonising minutes before Indi begins to hear the low hum. She watches, as a speck at the end of the long gravel driveway comes into focus, and Indi can see the fluorescent yellow of the mailman’s shirt, clashing horribly with his orange motor bike. He comes to a grinding halt, kicking up some gravel underneath his tire.

Indi hobbles down the wooden stairs and makes her way to the bike. Indi watches as he leans over and pulls out a pile of envelopes and hands them to her.

“Waiting for something special?” he asks. Indi can see him peering at her pregnant belly through the visor of his helmet.

“Sort of,” Indi replies, trying to calm her nerves that seem to have manifested in her chest as she holds the mail.

With a simple curt nod, the mailman revs the engine of his bike and speeds off down the driveway.

Indi begins shuffling through the assorted envelopes in her hands right there, at the end of the driveway. She knows she should go inside, put up her feet, get a glass of water, do all the responsible things first, but her mind is suddenly blank and the only thing she recognises is her name on the front of a single crisp white envelope.

As she reads the text, Indi doesn’t know what to feel. Happy? Relieved? Disappointed? Anxious? She can’t decide. The only thing she can settle on is that Romeo needs to know.

After an excruciatingly uncomfortable bus trip into town, Indi finally gets to the caravan park. Romeo is pulling open the door of the house before Indi has even sorted out her emotions; let alone what she has decided.

“Hi,” Romeo says, and Indi is trying desperately to read his face. But then again, if she had been good at that, she probably could have saved herself a lot of unneeded stress these past months. “Come in.”

Indi makes a beeline for the couch and lowers herself into the cushions. It’s a welcome relief. Her feet are swollen, her lower back strained, all the while the baby’s kicking has gone into overdrive. Indi didn’t realise how exhausting the trip to the caravan park was until she now has a minute to catch her breath. She only now thinks that Sid would kill her if he knew she was out of the house. He had got strangely overprotective since the wake, insisting Indi stay home during the day, call him if she needed anything, but Indi assumed some of it was to fill the hole left by Marilyn. Indi feels bad that Sid might come home to an empty house, but then Romeo is perching on the other end of the lounge and handing Indi a glass of water.

Indi takes three gulps in rapid succession before speaking. “I got in.” She looks across at Romeo. His lips are pressed into a thin line. “I don’t know how, but I got into uni.” Indi hears the disbelief in her own voice. She shakes her head and rubs her stomach, waiting.

“Indi.” Romeo’s face breaks into a grin, teeth and all, and Indi can’t remember the last time she saw him this happen. It almost seems a shame to have to bring him. “That’s amazing. It’s going to be so awesome, you and me. I knew everything would work out and we could --”

“Romeo, stop.” Romeo’s mouth hangs open slightly mid-sentence. Indi bites down on her bottom lip before taking a deep breath. “I’m going to turn it down.”

“What? Turn it down. Why?”

Romeo has this deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on his face. His eyes are wide and its almost like he’s the one that’s done something wrong.

“We’re -- I’m having a baby, Romeo. It’s taken me this long to realise how much things are going to change.”

“But this is what we wanted all along. You and me, and going to uni together. Even before the baby, this is how it was supposed to be.” Romeo’s voice is strained, like he’s trying to keep the slight whine out. Indi hears it anyway.

“But everything’s different now,” Indi replies. “I can’t go to uni and study and be a mum at the same time. It wouldn’t be fair on the baby. Our baby.” With a deliberate nod Indi adds, “So, I’ll defer and consider going next year.”

Silence. Romeo won’t look at Indi. His gaze is out of focus, and with every passing moment his eyebrows knit tighter together.

“Then, I’ll do the same. I’ll give up uni.”

“No, Romeo. You don’t have to do that.” Indi shakes her head ferociously.

“I want to be there for you and the baby. We’re in this together.” Romeo reaches out and takes Indi’s hand. His palms are big and warm and cover Indi’s easily.

“This is your future,” Indi insists.

“You are my future,” Romeo replies and there is no hint of sarcasm or insincerity in his voice. The fact that Romeo is so certain about this makes Indi’s heart swell. She can feel the tears prickling in her eyes, but she’s determined to get through this without crying.

“But can you look me in the eye and tell me that in one month, or one year, or ten years, you’re not going to resent me for it.”

Indi is staring at Romeo, and Romeo is staring back at Indi. His mouth is open like he wants to reply, and there is this moment of hesitation where Romeo’s eyes flick down to Indi’s belly and back up again. It’s enough.

Indi hears Romeo let out a sigh, and his eyes fall close.

“I’m sorry,” Romeo whispers.

Indi scoots across the lounge so they are now side by side. Legs are touching legs, fingers intertwined on top of Indi’s pregnant belly.

Indi’s voice is hushed when she speaks again. “You’re going to go to uni, and you’re going to study hard, and then in a year or two, I’ll meet you there.” Indi lets a single tear escape and roll down her cheek.

Romeo’s eyes flutter open. They look red and watery, like he’s been holding back tears of his own. “You’re going to make an amazing mum.”


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Month Nine

“Is this too cheesy?”

“Probably.” Indi lets out a laugh, pulling her eyes away from Romeo and back to the tv. “You’ve got all the clichés covered.” Romeo pretends to be offended, gasping loudly.

“Hey, I went to a lot of effort for this!”

“I can see that,” Indi replies.

It was Romeo’s idea to spend Valentine’s Day on the couch at Romeo’s house, watching movies and gorging on food. Romeo had even got one of those large hampers from the Diner, the remains of which now cover the coffee table in front of them. Romeo basically forced Indi to wear a nice dress, the soft fabric fluttering to her knees, but the effect is kind of ruined because Indi is resting a plate of strawberries on her belly like a table.

“Anyone would think we were actually a couple,” Indi says, catching Romeo’s eye.

They haven’t talked about it -- what they actually are. Indi thinks it’s a bit redundant really, because she isn’t going to force Romeo to make a commitment to her (and the baby), not when so much changes so quickly. But this is nice. Comfortable; spending this time together.

“Yeah,” Romeo replies sheepishly, like maybe there’s more he actually wants to say.


“It’s nothing,” Romeo says, flicking his eyes back to the tv, focussing on the dinosaurs, rather than Indi’s face.

“Seriously. We’ve been through this. Just tell me.”

Romeo sighs, sort of resigned. But then he stands and walks out of the room, and Indi is thoroughly confused. Even when Romeo comes back and places a small velvet box in her hand, Indi still has no idea what’s going on.

“What’s this?” Indi asks.

“Open it,” Romeo says with a slight shrug.

Indi takes the plate off her stomach and uses both hands to force herself upright, in a more seated position. Then she cracks open the lid of the box.

“Oh,” is what Indi says as she stares down at the glittering ring.

There is this moment of silence as Indi stares -- at the ring, at Romeo -- and Romeo kind of just watches.

“I got it ages ago,” he says finally, by way of an explanation. “I wanted to do the right thing. Back when you first told me you were pregnant. I’ve only ever wanted to do the right thing by you Indi. I’m not -- I'm not proposing or anything, not now. I just -- I wanted you to know that I would have, if it meant that it would make things easier.”

Romeo glances over at Indi, who still hasn’t said anything, and he’s beginning to think that telling her about the ring was the dumbest idea ever, but Indi has her hand over stomach, eyes cast down at the expanding wet place on her dress. “Indi, um. You okay?”

“Romeo,” she says, breathlessly, “I think my water just broke.”


Indi spends Valentine’s Day, gripping tightly to Romeo’s hand, panting and swearing and gritting her way through contractions that are getting stronger by the minute.

Sid and Dex meet them at the hospital, Dex complaining very loudly about the fact that he had to leave Casey to watch his sister pace the hallway looking like a beetroot, “and nothing is even happening.” Sid sent Dex on a coffee run after that, while Indi bit her way through another contraction.

Romeo looks like he’s going to drop dead on his feet any minute. But he doesn’t say anything, only offers his hand to Indi, and doesn’t even complain when she digs her nails in so far that she draws blood. Indi thinks this is his way of making himself feel less guilty about the whole situation.

It’s just before midnight when Indi loses it. One minute she’s grunting and hissing through pursed lips and the next she’s crying. “I can’t do this.”

Romeo uses his one free hand to wipe Indi’s fringe out of her face. She looks up at him through her flushed cheeks and wide eyes, tears streaming down her already wet face. “I can’t, Romeo. I’m not ready and I’m tired, and God, it just hurts,” she cries as another burst of pain runs through her body. She closes her eyes and bites down on her lip, and Romeo feels even worse. But he leans down and reminds her to keep breathing and it’ll all be over soon.

Soon ends up being another hour and a half, before Indi is pushing and Sid and Dex are all crowded around the bed as a nurse wraps the little flash of pink skin in a blue blanket and places him in Indi’s arms.

“You did good, kid,” Sid says affectionately.

“Thanks, dad,” Indi replies wearily.

“Well, it looks like it has two arms and legs, so that’s a good start,” Dex says, but he’s smiling too.

Indi looks up at Romeo, whose eyes are wet as well, a faint trace of an exhausted smile on his lips. “You haven’t said anything.”

Sid clears his throat. “We’ll give you two a moment alone. Come on, Dex.”

“What if I wanted to stay and watch The Awkward Show?” Dex counters, but follows Sid out anyway, and Indi thinks she might hear him already tapping away on his phone before the door is closed behind them.

“So,” Indi says, and it’s awfully inadequate, but she’s tired and hormonal and relieved and it’s a bit too hard to be dealing with complex feelings right now.

Romeo nods. “Yeah.” He’s breathless and quiet, timid almost.

The baby squirms in Indi’s arms, and although she is daunted by the whole thing, Indi finds herself pressing her lips to the top of the baby’s head and beginning to whisper sweet nothings until he falls to sleep.

“He needs a name,” Romeo says finally. He’s sitting on the edge of Indi’s bed, just watching, silently observing. “I know we never talked about it. But it’s your call.”

Indi gives him a small smile. Then she glances back at baby boy, at his little tuft of blonde hair, long eyelashes and rosy cheeks and says, “Gabe” and it’s settled.


Indi had no idea how she was going to do this mother thing. In reality, she’s still a teenager, living at home with her dad and brother, and is normally used to people leaving -- so she put up walls and rarely let people in. But now, there’s this little person who has edged his way in and now has a firm stake on Indi’s heart and emotions, more than she knew was possible.

So, ready or not, Indi is doing this mother thing.

A few days later, Indi bundles Gabe in blankets and places him in his carrier. Romeo hovers by her shoulder, and picks up the carrier with extreme caution, adjusting the blue beanie on Gabe’s head.


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Some Time Later

It’s one of those nights when Gabe won’t settle and Indi is about ready to drop dead on her feet.

Sid is working a late shift at the hospital, his third in a row, because he’s taken to being home during the day so he can mind Gabe while Indi takes intermittent naps. Dex helps out where he can but he’s started back at school, and being his HSC year the teachers are already taking no prisoners. Indi remembers what that was like -- Was it really only a year ago?

Regardless of what Indi was worried about back then, Indi’s main priority right now is getting Gabe to sleep, or at least stop him crying long enough so that she can close her eyes for longer than half an hour. But she’s been rocking him and singing soft lullabies, she’s fed him and burped him. She’s checked his nappy and made sure all his favourite teddies are lined up along his pillow, but Gabe is continuing to cry.

Gabe has his little cheeks puffed out, eyes squeezed shut, while his tiny hands are bundled into fists and he wails against Indi’s chest. Indi feels like crying herself. She’s surviving on very little sleep, and constantly smells like baby powder, and she doesn’t even remember the last time she did anything just for herself, but she’s trying to hold it together. Indi just continues to pace the room, back and forth, and Gabe cries.

Sometime after three in the morning Indi is ready to lose it. Against her better judgement she places Gabe in his basinet and finds her phone (which permanently lives next to the change table).

Indi knows Romeo will be asleep. He would have come home from uni exhausted, another full day of lectures, and been sitting up at his laptop typing out his notes when he’ll end up putting his head down on his desk and dozing off. Indi scrolls until she finds Romeo’s name, and her thumb hovers over the button, a second of hesitation, but then Gabe lets out an especially loud squeal, and Indi thinks ’To hell with it,’ and she presses call.

“Huh? Indi?” Romeo mumbles. Indi can hear the sleep in his tone, and can picture him kneading his fist into his eyes, as he blearily blinks himself awake.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Indi says in a hushed voice.

“Hey, no, it’s okay.”

This is where Indi breaks down. She doesn’t mean to unload. It’s just that she can hear Romeo’s breathing on the end of the line, exhaustion still evident, and she feels tired from being up all night with Gabe, and guilty for getting Romeo involved, and she just wants to sleep and not feel bad about it because she knows she should be doing laundry or a million other chores.

Romeo doesn’t say anything. He just lets Indi sniff back tears and whimper into the phone, while Gabe’s own distress acts as a soundtrack. When Indi is finally taking a couple of long, heaving breaths and beginning to pull herself together, it is only then that Romeo says, “I’ll be right there.”

Romeo uses the key Indi gave him, the one she handed to him on the day they brought Gabe home from the hospital, and treads down the wooden passage to Gabe’s bedroom. The door is ajar, a warm yellow light leaking out. Slowly, Romeo pushes the door open, and peers into the room.

Indi is sitting in a wooden chair in the corner of the room. She’s got the bedside lamp on but her eyes are closed, Gabe resting peacefully in her arms. Romeo can’t help the smile that ghosts over his lips as he steps into the baby’s room.

Even at this movement Indi stirs, opening her eyes and staring groggily up at Romeo. Without a second thought Romeo reaches down and takes Gabe out of Indi’s arms and places him back into his crib, making sure he is tucked in tightly.

“He fell asleep after I got off the phone with you,” Indi says in a whisper.

“He must have known I was coming,” Romeo replies with a tired smile. “You should get some sleep too.”

“What if he wakes up again?” Indi asks, and Romeo already can see that she’s winding herself up at the thought of having to get up again through the night.

“I’ll stay,” Romeo says with a determined nod. He peers over the edge of the crib, smoothing out the blanket at the edges.

Indi protests in a whisper, insisting that she’ll be fine and was just being overly emotional and Romeo doesn’t need to stay, but she’s so exhausted that once Indi reaches her bedroom she’s given up.

“I love you,” Indi mumbles as she closes her eyes, and Romeo isn’t sure whether she is talking to him or her pillow.

Indi wakes when it’s still dark. She doesn’t know how long she’s been asleep, but the first thing Indi recognises is that the house is quiet. She lets out a sigh of relief before she remembers Romeo and the irrational phone call she made earlier.

Still feeling guilty, Indi gets out of bed and tip-toes down the hall to Gabe’s bedroom. When Indi walks in the first thing she sees is Romeo, legs tucked up underneath him, curled up under one of Gabe’s baby blankets as he sleeps uncomfortably on the wooden chair, which he’s pulled up next to the crib. The blanket has yellow ducks on it, and is far too small to cover all of Romeo, so his elbows stick out and his head is at an odd angle, blanket pulled up to his chin. It’s adorable, but Indi knows Romeo will regret it when he wakes up with a massive crick in his neck.

Carefully Indi strokes her hand across Romeo’s forehead, pushing his hair back. Romeo hums a little, attempting to turn over in his very confined space. He’s unsuccessful and Indi allows herself to chuckle quietly.

“Romeo,” Indi hisses. She can see a faint smile on Romeo’s lips as she whispers his name, until she finally yanks the blanket away from his body. Romeo sits up with a start, eyes wide and slightly panicked, and maybe Indi has to pretend like she didn’t enjoy doing it.

Indi holds a finger to her lips before pointing at the crib. Romeo nods in understanding before standing and stretching. There is this moment where they hover around each other. Gabe is fast asleep but could wake up at any moment, and neither of them has had very much sleep, so anything they do would be inconsequential. But they don’t.

Instead, Indi holds out her hand and without hesitation Romeo links their fingers while Indi leads them out of the room. Romeo leaves the door open slightly so they can still hear if Gabe does decide to wake up when they reach Indi’s room.

Without a word Indi slips into bed first, Romeo carefully sliding down beside her, wrapping his arms around her body and pulling her close. They haven’t been like this in a year, and it’s almost startling to Indi at how familiar it is. How easily they fit back together again after all this time.

When Indi closes her eyes and lets herself fall asleep, it’s to Romeo’s warm breath on her neck, a faint “I love you,” murmured into the night and the vision of a pair of otters framed in a picture above Gabe’s cot. It was a present from Dex after the birth, a symbol of their family. Because when otters fall asleep they hold hands so they don’t float away.



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