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The Empty Void

Guest mizziette

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Story Title: The Empty Void

Type of story: Long fic

Main Characters: Brax, Charlie, and others

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Drama.

Does story include spoilers: no

Any warnings: Sexual content, violence and drugs.

Summary: A tragic incident leaves the Braxtons and Bucktons distraught.


It was like time had stopped, or at least slowed down. Everything was in slow motion; the world around her started spinning and she lost all control of her senses. She glanced down to find a blood red waterfall sliding down her thighs, and pooling at her feet. The pain in her abdomen were like sharp stabs and all Charlie wanted as her mind began to shut down was for her suffering to end but she all too well it was only just beginning.


Brax stood there by the cliff at Deakin’s point. It had been a long day and he felt torn and exhausted. He looked down at the photograph in his hand and let out a deep sigh, as he remembered the person that he had grown to love so much in such a short time. Silent tears rolled down his face as he grieved for the loss of everything that mattered to him.

‘Hey man, how’d it go at court?’

Brax looked back at his car to find his brother Heath standing by the large grey car, scars running down his arm. They hadn’t seen each other in days, not since the accident. Anger consumed him and he grabbed him by the collar and pushed him against the car.

‘What’s your problem?’ Heath spit out in shock.

‘Shut up, just SHUT UP!’

‘What the hell is with you? You’ve been messed up ever since that night.’

The mention of that night made Brax shudder a little. That night; the night that had changed him forever, the worst night he had ever had to endure, the mere thought of it made him tremble. He looked at his brother, the man who had taken away everything he cared about and didn’t even know what he had done to him and felt only disgust.

‘Mate, come on. Let go.’

I am NOT your mate. I’m done, you hear me? I’m done with you. I am so sick of all your crap. You’re dead to me. I hope you get what’s coming to you.’

At that, Brax pushed Heath away from his car, before getting into it and driving off, leaving his shocked brother watching after him.


He saw her body lying lifelessly on the ground beside the warehouse as he drove past and his heart skipped a beat. Blood

pooled around her. There was so much blood. He couldn’t take his eyes of the horrifying scene beside him and stopped paying attention to where he was going.

‘Charlie.’ Brax’ voice was barely a whisper before the car crashed into a pile of rubble in front of him and everything went black.


‘Did they set a date for the official hearing?’ Constables Watson and Avery were at the station mulling over details of the Drug cultivation case.

‘No, Darryl got off on lack of evidence. The fact that he was at the scene of the crime is apparently not enough for a trial.’

‘Damn it.’ Georgina Watson was feeling the pressure. Not only was she now temporarily in charge of the entire station but she had to take control over the Braxton case as well. She had new respect for Charlie Buckton and the job she did. Her absence was felt by all the officers at the station.

‘Don’t worry. At least we’ve got most of his boys under lock-up, especially Heath.’

What’s happening with him?’

‘He’s out on bail, but I doubt any lawyer could spin what he did to the Sergeant. We got him.’

‘Hey, Watson, there’s a phone call for you from the hospital.’ Another officer interrupted.

‘Thanks.’ She took the handle from her colleague’s hand, hoping for good news.

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They’d hit a gold mine. She looked around the mountains of weed occupied in the warehouse and smiled. Her triumph was interrupted by a scream. Charlie. Looking up, Georgina found Charlie fighting off a man on the barn loft and reached for her holster.

‘Put your hands in the air!’ She screamed just as the shadowed man struck her partner in the abdomen with the blunt end of a shovel, sending her catapulting out of the two storey window. The man started running and without hesitation, Watson shot and hit him clean in the arm, and watched him fall off the ledge of the loft, landing at her feet.


Heath walked home from Deakin’s point confused and pissed off. He knew Brax was under pressure from the cops, they all were, but that didn’t give him the right to act out like that. No, there had to be more to the story. If anything, his older brother was the most loyal person he knew. The guy never let a mate down in all his thirty years. But when he had been in hospital no one had dropped by to check on him and Brax didn’t even pay his bail. He had had to call Cam himself.

None of this was his fault. It wasn’t Heath’s fault that Buckton had found their stash. How could he have known he was being followed? When she did show up, he did what he had to do to protect the boys. Surely Brax could understand that. It was all for the boys. It always has been. He reached home and went around to the back to find Brax outside the garage, which he’d converted to his room years ago.

‘Hey man, listen –‘

Brax banged the garage door shut with as much force as he could and then shoved past Heath with a small duffel bag, hitting his brother’s still sore arm, making him wince.

‘Going somewhere?’

‘Tell mum I won’t be home tonight.’

‘What are you so mad at mate? You’re not the only one in this mess, you know. We’re all in the same boat.’

Brax just shook his head and walked away.


He stood with Brax at the now empty Angelo’s and frowned. He didn’t like losing money, never had, but he knew Brax was right. They had to get rid of the rest of the crop and end the whole operation before they got caught. The cops were too close already. Heath listened to Brax outline how they were going to do it.

‘Tomorrow night, at the warehouse.’ He said. The two brothers drank their scotch oblivious to the fact that Charlie was standing on the other side of the door listening to every word.


Ruby sat on the beach, staring aimlessly at the ocean and felt helpless. So much had happened the last few days and she couldn’t even begin to absorb what had happened. Charlie was always there for her when she was feeling like this and this only made her mother’s absence more painful.

‘Hey, Rubes, how are you feeling?’

She looked up to see her boyfriend Casey looking down at her with a sympathetic look on his face, which immediately cheered her up.

‘I don’t know. I just feel so helpless, you know. What’re you doing here?’

‘Things are a little tense at home with my brothers so I thought I’d get outta there. Everything’s going to be okay, rubes.

You’ll see.’ Casey put his arms around Ruby and pulled her towards him. They sat there in silence for a while.

‘I’m sorry.’ Casey broke the quietness.

‘For what?’ Ruby looked up surprised. ‘You have done nothing wrong.’

‘My brother-‘

‘Your brother, not you. Look, none of this is your fault, Casey. What happened to Charlie, you have nothing to do with it,


‘Yeah, I just wish your mum was okay.’

‘You and me both.’

Casey sighed and kissed his girlfriend, in that moment feeling so lucky to have found a girl who knew him for who he really was, and not for his brother’s transgressions.

Ruby’s phone started ringing and she looked at the caller id. It was the hospital. She took a deep breath and answered the phone.

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‘Hey, what’s taking so long?’ She whacked on the bathroom door. Inside she heard the faintest sobs and started to become concerned.

‘Charlie, is everything alright?’ Ruby asked her mum. She leaned her head on the closed door and knocked more softly. She wanted to know why her mum was so upset but there was no answer.

Inside the bathroom, Charlie was crying at her reflection in the mirror. She turned to the side and cupped her belly with her hands as gently and kindly as a mother would treat her child, overwhelmed with love, all the while her daughter stood outside worried.


Charlie opened her eyes and felt sore all over. There was not a single bone in her body that didn’t ache. Even breathing was physically painful and draining. Turning to the side, she saw Sid checking a monitor by her bedside and she realised she was in the hospital.

‘Hey, you’re awake. How’re you feeling?’

Charlie could only stare blankly at the ceiling. With uncertainty, her friend continued.

‘Charlie, I’m sorry but the blow to your stomach did more damage than we expected. We weren’t able to save the-‘

‘Don’t say it.’

Sid nodded sympathetically. ‘Well, your body’s been through quite a bit so I want to keep you here for at least a week just to

be safe. I’m sorry.’

More silence followed and Sid decided to leave his friend alone for a while. Charlie lay there for the next two hours just staring at the ceiling. Nurses came in and out with food, medicine and to check her vitals, but the grieving woman was completely unresponsive and dissociated from her surroundings. Ruby walked in not long after, and she was horrified to see the state her mother was in.

As Charlie lay there, with Ruby holding her hand, all she could do was reflect, which happened to be the one thing she didn’t want to do. She grieved the loss of the family she could’ve had and the man she couldn’t have. She was so overwhelmed with grief, she felt like crying but the tears wouldn’t come.


She could hear the man she loved calling after her but she kept walking. She knew she couldn’t see him, not after what she had overheard the day before at Angelo’s. He finally caught up with Charlie and grabbed her hand, making her stop.

‘What’s wrong? Have I done something to upset you?’ Brax lifted her chin up to make her look at him.

How could she possibly answer that? He had done everything to upset her. He had done everything wrong. He had to have known it would have never worked between them. She looked into the eyes of the man that she would have to arrest later that night and stroked his face.

‘I’m sorry. I can’t. It’s over.’ And she walked away.


Brax walked through the hallway of the hospital and felt awful. The last time he had been there was after he crashed his car at the warehouse, when his heart had been ripped out from inside his chest. As he walked past Charlie’s room, he was relieved to see her awake. He stood outside her door for a while just admiring her beautiful face. She looked so sad, all Brax wanted to do was hold her in his arms. He took a step forward to knock on the door but lost his nerve. He felt certain he was the last person she wanted to see.

‘Darryl Braxton?’ Sid interrupted Brax. ‘Why don’t you come with me and we can get your head checked out.’

Brax nodded and followed the doctor to a small examination room, reluctant to leave Charlie. He sat on the bed and put his bag beside him.

‘So, is there any pain, swelling, anything you’re concerned about?’


‘Alright then, that wound on your forehead looks okay. I’ll just take off those stitches. I still want you to be careful for the next couple of weeks. Stay clear of water, we don’t want any infections.’ Sid’s pager beeped. ‘Excuse me, I have to go, I’ll send someone to take care of those stitches.

Ten minutes later, a female doctor in pink scrubs walked in and Brax recognised her instantly.

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He sat on the stairwell, head in his hands. His head was bleeding but he didn’t care. The door opened and he looked at the woman in pink scrubs holding a small bundle in her arms, on her way to the hospital morgue.

‘Can I hold him?’ Brax whispered. ‘He’s my son.’

The doctor nodded and handed him the baby, wrapped up in a blanket. He was so small, no bigger than Brax’ hand. The little angel in his hand looked so frail and innocent; he couldn’t understand how the world could be so cruel. The fragile child looked like he would break with his tiny little hands and feet and the heartbroken father kissed his son’s forehead, saying goodbye.


Sid found Ruby sitting by Charlie’s bedside and quietly beckoned her outside into the hall.

‘Is she going to be okay?’ Ruby asked. ‘She hasn’t said a single word since I’ve got here. I’m worried.’

‘It’s always traumatic when there’s a miscarriage, more so in this case, when it was the result of violence. It’s best to give her time and be there for her.’

‘I can’t believe she kept this a secret from me. I didn’t even know she was seeing someone.’

Given what he knew, Sid didn’t know how to reply to that. It wasn’t his place to tell Ruby something like that. He changed the

turn of conversation.

‘I got the results back from the last scan. It seems the swelling in your mum’s brain has significantly cleared but we should keep an eye on it for a few days before discharging her. I wanted to warn you, her recovery will be very hard on her. She not only lost a baby, but she lost a lot of blood from haemorrhaging, so she’ll be extra weak. She’s going to need all the support she can get.

‘Sid, Ruby, how’s Charlie doing? I came as soon as I got the call that she was awake.’


He looked through the window in the door and saw the happy couple in the ultrasound room. The doctor was guiding the probe across the woman’s belly as they looked eagerly at the monitor. A beating sound filled the room.

‘That’s your baby’s heartbeat. 14 weeks and healthy as a horse. Would you like to know the sex?’

Charlie and Brax looked at each other lovingly and smiled. ‘Yes.’ Brax said. ‘We would.’

Sid was shocked at what he was seeing but quickly straightened and returned to work. After all, it was really none of his business.


Watson, Sid and Ruby stood around the bed where Charlie still lay detached from her surroundings.

‘Hey Sergeant, how are you feeling? Do you feel up to answering some questions?’ Charlie didn’t answer her colleague.

‘Maybe you should come back another time.’ Sid filled the silence.

Constable Watson nodded and left.

‘I think I might go home too. I’ll drop by before school in the morning.’ Ruby followed her mum’s friend out the door, leaving behind an awkward silence.

After a while, Sid spoke. ‘You know, Brax came in toda-‘

Charlie turned away from Sid and covered her ear with the pillow, groaning at the pain the sudden movements caused her.

Sid understood her body language and decided to drop the subject.

‘Um, okay then, I – I’ll come and check on you in a little while.’

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She saw her boss walk in through the door with a determined look on her face. She followed her to her office and shut the door behind her. Looking at Charlie up close, she couldn’t decide whether she was satisfied or upset but she chose not to read too much into it and asked what was going on.

‘I’ve got a lead on the Braxton brothers.’ She said. ‘Tomorrow night at a warehouse off the Old Yabby Creek Road.’

Luckily for Charlie, Georgina was so thrilled by the words that she didn’t hear her colleague’s heart break as she said them.


It was a busy day in the diner and Leah was flooded with orders in the kitchen. She was full of stress lately; her best friend was in hospital, the diner was busier than ever, she had to look after Ruby and her son had his first girlfriend which was probably the most stressful thing of all. Sure, she loved Lily but she was just amazed and unnerved by how fast her little boy was growing up.

‘Horrible what happened to that lovely Sergeant Buckton isn’t it? Being bludgeoned by that awful Braxton boy.’ Leah rolled her eyes as Colleen started sobbing her heart out to yet another customer, a couple in their teens. ‘I always liked her, you know. She will be missed, I’m sure.’

Leah decided to intervene and gently nudged her hysterical colleague’s arm, but the chatty woman still persisted. ‘It’s those horrible river boys. Coming here and causing havoc, one of them abducted me from my very own home. Sergeant Buckton was there to save me of course. Who knows what could’ve happened if she hadn’t –‘

‘Where are those lovely children disappearing to?’ Colleen wondered as the two teenagers smiled apologetically and walked away after receiving their change.

‘Wouldn’t be the first to pull in their ears round you, love. Maybe you should stop harassing the customers and try working for a change. Charlie’s one of the strong ones. She’ll come through in time.’ Irene thrust a box of tissues and a plate with a salad to the blubbering woman. ‘While we’re waiting, you can clean up the waterworks and take this to Table 4.’


‘I can’t believe we’re really doing this.’ She watched from the kitchen window as Charlie sat on the deck and spoke into the phone. She was holding a small photograph in her hand but she couldn’t see it from the distance. ‘He looks so amazing, doesn’t he?’

Leah frowned in confusion. She was clearly intrigued by the conversation and she wanted to know more.

‘I want to tell Ruby first before we tell everyone else. She deserves to hear it from me.’

‘Tell her what?’ Leah thought, but before she could find out, Charlie was already saying her goodbyes to the mystery person on the other end of the line.


It had been five days since Charlie had woken up from her coma and Ruby’s concern only continued to increase. She pulled the top over her mum’s head and started to put her arms through the sleeves, as she sat there blankly on the bed. It had been like this all week and the pressure of taking care of Charlie was beginning to frustrate her. She felt like a full-time carer doing everything for her and she prayed for everything to return to normal.

‘Alright, let’s put you shoes on and then Leah and I can get you home.’ Ruby bent down and held Charlie’s foot while she placed it into the simple black sandal.

‘Hey, I filled out the discharge papers.’ Leah came in. Ruby quickly put the other sandal on and stood up beckoning Charlie to stand too. Leah grabbed the bags and the three women walked out the room together.

They walked down the hallway in the prenatal ward for a while until Charlie suddenly stopped. She walked over to the large window and her eyes glazed as she put her hand against the window. The babies inside the room were all shapes and sizes, each one of them as beautiful and precious as the next.

Ruby and Leah glanced at each other before Ruby held her from behind and kissed her head just below the bandaged wound left from surgery. The sound of crying babies filled the hall and Charlie’s swollen breasts started leaking milk as natural motherly instinct kicked in. Ruby and her mum stood there in each other’s arms and for the first time since she woke up, Charlie cried.

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‘Honey?’ She looked at her wide eyed boyfriend. ‘Just breathe. Slow breaths, in and out.’

‘Damn it, Charlie, I know how to breathe.’ Brax gasped. ‘I’ve been doing it for 30 years.’

‘Well, you’re not doing it now. Just let it all out. You look like you’re going to faint.’

Brax managed to exhale and relieved the pressure on his lungs. He looked at the beautiful woman in front of him, still in shock. ‘How did this happen?’

Charlie’s eyes glimmered in amusement at his awed reaction. ‘I think that’s pretty obvious, don’t you?’ She took his hand in hers and looked into his eyes. ‘We’re having a baby.’

6 weeks after…

‘Come on, Charlie,’ Ruby put a spoon in her mum’s hand. ‘Eat your breakfast.’ Ruby was running late for school and stuffed a piece of toast in her mouth while packing her schoolbag. She looked up at the clock; there was no doubt about it now. She was definitely going to be late. That would make it the third time this week.

‘Leah, I’m leaving.’ She called out to the bedroom where Leah was getting ready for her shift. She looked at Charlie who still hadn’t started eating and nudged her hand up. ‘Go on,’ she coaxed one last time before running out the door. ‘Take a bite.’

Charlie lifted the spoon to her mouth and started munching on her cereal half-heartedly. Her appetite had dramatically decreased the last few weeks and the weight on her already petite figure had fallen off till she was reduced to almost nothing. Ruby worried that she looked too frail; her sunken eyes and pale skin looked unnatural on the natural beauty that was Charlie Buckton.

Leah walked in to the room freshly showered and glanced at her roommate. ‘Good, you finished eating. I’m going to work, okay?’

‘Can I come?’ Leah nodded and before they left, Charlie picked up her pocket journal which sat next to the alphabet block shaped urn on the fireplace, engraved with the letter C.


He looked at her as she slept soundly in the motel. She looked so peaceful and beautiful lying there. He stroked her hair and kissed her gently on the forehead. 'I love you. Both of you.' Brax whispered into her ear.

Charlie opened her eyes and stroked his face gently. She smiled inside out and kissed him passionately. 'I love you too, handsome.' she replied seductively before pulling him towards her.


Charlie’s hands moved across the page in quick, refined gestures. The lines flowed as her charcoal pencil transformed her thoughts into skilled, heartfelt pictures. She focussed as the image took the shapes she envisioned in her mind; a woman, crouched naked with her head in her hands – broken and damaged. Yes, that was how she felt. Broken. She put her pencil down and admired her artwork. Her journal was nearly filled with similar drawings. It was therapeutic expression.

Looking out the window of the diner, she saw the clear blue ocean and even clearer sky. Inspired, she put her journal behind the counter and ventured out onto the beach. The cool August breeze calmed and soothed as her feet entombed themselves into the refreshing sand with each step. She looked up letting the sun soak into her face as she walked, letting go of everything. For just that single moment, it was like time had disappeared and Charlie strolled absentmindedly with content.

Suddenly, a familiar presence jolted the young woman back to reality and she felt a pang of fear. For the first time in 6 weeks, she looked into the face of the man she loved, and equally blamed. She tried to turn away but was too conflicted with pain and longing. Charlie walked slowly in the distance, praying he wouldn’t notice her as all the love she had been repressing for the last month rushed back into her.

She watched as he walked out of the ocean with his surfboard, water dripping from his torso. She remembered how her hands had felt on that chest as he held her in his arms. He walked up the beach to his clothes and planted his board firmly into the sand, bending over to check his messages before picking up the towel. Standing again, Brax wiped the salt water of his face, closing his eyes in the process.

Opening his eyes; Brax looked straight at Charlie for the first time in 6 weeks. His heart skipped a beat and the two heartbroken lovers held each other’s gaze for what seemed like a lifetime. Brax took a step forward towards her, breaking their bond. Charlie looked down at the sand in front of her and took a deep breath before turning away and walking back to the diner, leaving Brax dumbfounded.

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4 weeks ago

He walked into the kitchen and past his brother to the refrigerator. Taking out the leftover macaroni, he heated in the microwave. The seconds it took for the food to heat were excruciatingly awkward for Heath as he stood there making himself a sandwich. The estranged brothers stood wordlessly in the kitchen and when his food was ready, Brax brushed past Heath again, returning to his room.


Brax was still reeling from seeing Charlie earlier that day. The whole event was so surreal and he couldn’t believe it had happened. Looking into her gorgeous green eyes, and now sitting in their motel room, memories flooded back of their time together. He had been spending most of his nights in this motel room, not only because of the tension at home but because of the presence of Charlie. As he lay on the bed, sometimes, he pretended he could smell her on the sheets and in the air, but he knew it was only wishful thinking.

The phone rang and he looked at the caller id. It was his mum, probably reminding him about Heath’s court hearing this afternoon so he let it go to voicemail. Before he knew it, he found himself looking through his contacts list and lingering on Charlie’s name. Would she answer if he called? Brax wondered.

Looking at the time, he realised it had only half an hour to get to court. He didn’t really know why he was going and he didn’t really know what he wanted to get out of it, but he knew he had to go. If not for Heath, then for mum and although he found it hard to admit, for himself. He couldn’t go on hating him forever. You can’t choose your family, and his brothers and mum were the only one he had, and he couldn’t let that go without a fight.

Putting Charlie to the back of his mind for the moment, Brax straightened his shirt and walked out of the motel room to his car.

3 weeks ago

‘Alright, what’s the deal?’ He blocked the door of the restaurant to try and force an explanation for the recent hostility. Brax just looked squarely at his brother and calmly told him to move out of the way.

‘No. Not only until you tell me what I did to you that is making you so insane.’ Heath folded his arms determined to get the truth.

‘You really want to know what you did to me Heath.’ Brax took a deep breath and closed his eyes. ‘You killed my son.’ Then he pushed his shocked brother away from the door and walked out.


Heath sat at the defence table, sweating with nerves. This unfamiliar environment was uncomfortable and he fiddled with the tie that was choking him. He wasn’t cut out for jail and he knew it. He’d never been in for more than a couple of nights. There was no way he’d make it inside for so long. He looked back at his mum sitting in the front row and felt a pang of guilt as he saw the worry on her face and realised what he was doing to her.

The judge walked in and everyone stood up. After seating again, the bailiff read out the charges; cultivation and distribution of marijuana, assault, and grievous bodily harm. Heath looked back at his older brother at the mention of the last charge and saw him flinch.

The trial itself was a blur for the nervous defendant. He watched as people came and went from the witness stand and knew that it wouldn’t matter what they said about him. He had already come to terms with the facts. He was going to go to jail.

After what seemed like forever, the jury reached their verdict. Guilty of all charges. The judge gave him 10 years with parole. Heath ducked his head as he heard his mum gasp. The bailiff handcuffed him and as he was being escorted to the holding cell, he saw Brax and Casey trying to comfort mum, and gulped. This was going to be a long ten years.

3 weeks ago

She looked up from her drawing to find him looming over her and felt numb with shock. She tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come so she just watched the man who hurt her from her position on the back porch.

‘I know I’m probably the last person you want to talk to right now but please, just here me out.’ Charlie just stared at him, lost for words.

‘I wanted to apologize for what I did.’ After his confrontation with Brax at Angelo’s, Heath felt like he had to make amends somehow. ‘I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m sorry for hurting your baby. My nephew. I hope you can forgive me.


VJ watched Charlie as she stared blankly at the TV. He and Ruby were doing their homework at the table but he couldn’t concentrate. Things had changed in the Buckton-Patterson household and although no one really talked about it with the young boy, he noticed more than adults gave him credit for sometimes. He looked at the miniature urn on the fireplace and felt sad for Charlie. She and Ruby were as much his family as his mum, and he hated to see them hurting.

Casey walked in and kissed Ruby on the lips before sitting next to her. ‘How did it go?’’ Ruby asked.

‘Ten years.’ Casey replied. ‘Mum hasn’t stopped crying since the verdict. She’s a mess. Brax is with her now.’

VJ looked at Charlie’s expression as Casey spoke but she didn’t flinch once. She got up calmly and walked out of the room to the back porch as the three teenagers watched her go.

Sitting on the back deck, Charlie tried to process the information. Was ten years long enough? She hadn’t wanted to go to the hearing for fear of seeing Brax. That and she didn’t know if she wanted to see Heath again. She believed he was genuinely sorry but that didn’t excuse what he did. That wasn’t going to give her little boy the life he had deserved.

She wondered how Brax was feeling about everything. Seeing him at the beach that morning brought so many feelings to the surface. She looked at the phone in her hand. As she sat there, a tear fell down her cheek as her fingers unconsciously moved towards the dial button and she brought the phone to her ear.

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3 weeks ago

‘I had no idea.’ He looked at Heath by leaning on his bedroom door and put his book down. ‘I never meant to- I mean you and Buckton- who’d have guessed. I just- what I’m trying to say is I’m sorry.’

Brax sat up on his bed and put his legs over the side. He paused for a second before answering. ‘Sorry isn’t going to bring my

kid back. It won’t fix what you did. You’re my brother but- I don’t know.’ He put his head in his hands, confused and conflicted.

Heath nodded and sat down on the armchair beside the bed.


‘Hi.’ The voice on the phone was so fragile and strained. ‘I don’t- I don’t really know why I’m calling, I just, I guess-.’ There was a long pause as Charlie tried to fight away her tears. ‘I’m so lost.’ Her voice caught in her throat and the words strained to get out. ‘I should go. I’m sorry. Goodbye. Bye.’

Brax replayed Charlie’s voicemail message over and over again. She seemed so sad and empty. Nothing like the fiery woman he remembered. Looking down at his phone, he wondered why she had called. The message gave him a slightest bit of hope. Surely it meant she still cared about him. He needed to see her, if only for closure and nothing else. He got up from the beach and started heading towards her house.

Walking into the familiar backyard, he found Charlie sitting on the porch crying. Every bone in his body told him to comfort her but he didn’t know how welcome it would be. She looked up and wiped her tears away as soon as she saw him.

‘Hi.’ She whispered.

‘Hi.’ There was an awkward silence. ‘How are you?’ She looked down at her feet at the question and Brax felt guilty for asking the question. Of course she wasn’t alright. He sat on the deck and tried to put his arms around her but she pushed him away. They sat together in silence for a while.

‘How’s Heath?’ Charlie finally whispered her eyes still on the ground in front of her.

‘I didn’t think you’d care.’

‘I don’t. But I care about you. And he’s your brother. So I’m asking.’

‘We don’t really talk much anymore. But, I think he’s scared.’

‘Does he know? About-’

‘Know what?’ he looked at Charlie. ‘That he hurt my son. Yeah.’ More silence.

‘You promised you’d never do anything to hurt me. You lied to me.’

‘I never wanted to, I just- I didn’t think I had any other choice. You have no idea how hard it was for me to lie to you, Charlie. I love you, and I knew you’d want nothing to do with me if you thought I was dodgy. I was trying to go straight.’

‘I’m just so torn and confused. You let me trust you and love you and want to have a baby with you and -‘ Silence consumed them again. They could hear Casey and VJ playing Wii inside with Ruby cheering on. She knew they might come outside but didn’t care.

‘His name is Joel. Our baby.’ Charlie broke the stillness.

‘Joel. I like that. Joel.’

‘He’s inside. On the fireplace. Do you want to see him?’

Brax didn’t quite understand what she meant by that but nodded. She went inside and returned a few seconds later with a baby blue alphabet block. She sat down and handed him the urn.

‘Joel Buckton.’ Brax opened the urn and saw the small mound of ashes inside.

‘No, Braxton.’ Charlie caressed his arm. ‘The hospital cremated him but I didn’t know where to put him to rest.’

‘You know, when it’s just me and the ocean out there on my board, there’s nothing like it. When you’re out there, there’s nowhere else you’d rather be, nowhere else that makes you feel so connected and free. It’s the most peaceful place I know.’

‘The ocean. I think he’d like the ocean.’

‘We could take a boat out, if you like.’ Charlie nodded and stood up.

An hour later, Charlie and Brax were sitting in a small row boat in the ocean, about 20 metres offshore. Brax gave her the urn and she opened the box and together, they emptied their son’s remains into the vast blue sea. As she did, Charlie breathed in the calm sea breeze and shed a tear.

They sat there holding each other in the row boat for ages watching and admiring the orange sky of the sunset.

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3 weeks Before

‘Do you love her?’ He asked his brother, who gave him an affirming look.

‘It’s messed up, eh? A cop and a crim.’

‘Nah.’ Brax looked at him quizzically. ‘Well, yeah, I guess it kind of is.’

‘You know, you got to give me time to get over this. I can’t just forgive you like that.’ Heath knew all too well but was glad his brother was willing to try.


Brax walked Charlie home to her backdoor. ‘Bye.’

‘Bye’ Charlie turned to open the door but he grabbed her arm. ‘ I know you can’t trust me right now or might never trust me again but I want you to know that I’ll always love you, Charlie. No matter what, I’m going to be here. Goodnight.’

As Brax walked off, she clutched the door handle as tightly as possible before taking a deep breath and going inside. Inside she found, Ruby standing in the kitchen with a glass of water in her hand.

‘Hey, where’d you disappear to? I saw you talking to Brax on the deck before. What did he want?’ Charlie didn’t answer.

‘Are you okay, Charlie?’ she nodded in response but Ruby saw the tears spilling down her face and didn’t buy it. She put her glass down and held her mum in her arms and the two young women sat on the dark kitchen floor.

Ruby woke up the next morning to find Charlie in her bed. She looked at her sleeping face and wondered what had happened the night before. She knew she had witnessed an intimate moment between her mum and her boyfriend’s brother but she couldn’t understand why. It had always seemed to her like they couldn’t stand each other yet Charlie had connected more with Brax last night on the deck than with anyone else since the miscarriage.

Charlie opened her eyes to find her daughter in deep thought. Ruby smiled at her and kissed her on the forehead before sitting up. ‘Morning.’ She decided that it was best to not press her mum to talk about Brax while she was so emotional.

‘How’re you feeling?’

Charlie shed a tear in response.

6 weeks ago

She followed the nurse down to the morgue. They had offered to bring him upstairs but she wanted to see where her son was being kept. They went deeper and deeper into the basement where it was dark and sterile. ‘Here he is.’ The nurse said opening a compartment labelled ‘Baby boy Buckton.’

‘His name’s Joel.’ Charlie whispered as she looked into her son’s eyes for the first time.


She walked into a crowded Angelo’s and walked up to the bar where Brax was serving a customer. He looked up from his work to see the beautiful woman and smiled. Her dress was too big on her frail body, and she looked worn and tired, but

Charlie was still able to turn heads with her undeniable beauty. ‘Can we talk?’ she asked.

Brax guided her to the table beside the kitchen doors and they sat down. ’I’ll order us some pizza.’ When the waiter had walked away with their order, Charlie spoke.

‘I wanted to thank you for last night. I couldn’t have done it without you.’

‘I couldn’t have done it without you.’ He put his hand on top of Charlie’s but she pulled away.

‘You know, sometimes I blame you for what happened to Joel. You put me in danger, you shouldn’t have gotten involved with me.

‘I know.’ He paused. ‘I’m sorry. I knew I shouldn’t but I just couldn’t bear not being without you.’

‘We both knew, I guess. These last few weeks without you have made me realise how much I really need you in my life. I’ve never felt like this about anyone else.’

‘But you still don’t trust me, do you?’


At that moment, the pizza arrived and Charlie and Brax began eating as they rekindled their friendship oblivious to the shocked couple watching them by the entrance.

6 weeks ago

She sat at her desk, looking over the case files. It had been a long week, but she was thrilled with the outcome, at least for the most part. The river boys were in jail and their drug business dismantled but there was still one factor missing. Darryl Braxton. Charlie was in no emotional state to testify on what she heard at the restaurant and they were out of other leads. He was still running free and Watson was determined to get him; she vowed to do whatever humanely possible to put him behind bars.


Casey and Ruby sat in the surf club after school trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. They had just witnessed his brother and her mother having an intimate lunch upstairs and they were very confused.

‘I saw them talking at my house yesterday too, when I was getting us some drinks from the kitchen. What do you think’s going on with them.’

‘Maybe they’re doing it.’ Ruby looked at her boyfriend, shocked at the very suggestion.

‘No. No. No, they wouldn’t. Right? I don’t see it happening. After all the fuss she made about you, she wouldn’t start something with your brother. That would just be totally and completely hypocritical of her, not to mention she wouldn’t compromise her job like that by sleeping with a suspect, even if she is on long term leave. No.’

‘Relax, I was joking. But, you got to admit, they do have a lot in common. They both like to take charge of things, Charlie’s got you, and Brax is practically my dad, so they have that in common. In theory, they're perfect for each other. Who knows?’

‘I do. There’s no way that would ever happen. That would be too weird. You said it yourself; they’re always at each other’s throats. Plus, that would make you like my step-uncle or something.’ They both shuddered at the thought.

‘Just saying. Maybe they really are at each other’s throats, just not in the way we think.’ Casey raised his shake in a toast before taking a sip.

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She looked at her roommate apologetically and bit her lip. ‘I am so sorry, Leah.’ She tried to stifle a laugh unsuccessfully. ‘I don’t know. It doesn’t look so bad. Maybe you could go for a bob. It might suit you.’

Leah gave her a deadly stare through the mirror as she freaked out over her burnt hair. ‘You want to cut my hair?’ she squeaked, her voice both deathly and worried.

Charlie grabbed the scissors and snipped it through the air twice. ‘It’s the only way.’


Brax looked at the young woman beside her with love and saw the faintest glimmer in her eye. After their meal, he had walked Charlie home and they sat on the porch drinking wine.

‘I’m hungry.’ She said.

‘Do you want me to make you something?’

Charlie raised her eyebrows. ‘You cook? I never knew that.’

‘I learnt when Case was a kid. He got sick of getting take out every night, so I grabbed one of Gran’s cookbooks. He reckons I make a mean bowl of noodles.’

‘I love noodles.’ They walked into the house with their glasses as the sun began to set. ‘If I wasn’t living with a chef, I’d probably starve to death. I couldn’t cook if my life depended on it.’

‘I could teach you, if you like.’ Charlie looked at him sceptically. ‘Come on, come here, you can help me.’

‘I don’t know. I’m not the best student. Just ask Leah. She tried to teach me once and I set her hair on fire.’

‘It’s a good thing I don’t have long hair then. I’m not taking no for an answer.’ He grabbed her hand and guided her towards the stove.

2 weeks ago

Looking out onto the horizon at Stewart’s Point, she felt a sense of discontent. The air was calm, the sky was clear and the sea was still as death. She couldn’t understand how the world could be so pleasant and beautiful while her inner world was falling apart. She wanted the universe to feel her grief and recognise her suffering, but it was everything was moving on and Charlie was standing still.


Casey walked in through the back door of the Buckton house with his arms around Ruby and both were surprised at the scene in the kitchen. Brax was standing behind Charlie, guiding Charlie’s hand as she stirred the pot on the stove, his other hand around her waist. The teenagers glanced knowingly at each other before speaking.

‘Hey guys. How’s it going?’ Ruby interrupted and Brax discretely let go of her mum and the two adults faced their wards.

Brax looked at Charlie who was as quiet as always. ‘Well- I-I was just teaching Charlie how to make noodles. Right? Right. Um, so, uh, did you guys want some?’ He scratched his head unsure.

‘Yeah.’ Casey held back a smirk. ‘Um, we’re going to watch a movie. In there.’ He pointed to the living room. ‘So, we’re going to go. And you know. Leave you kids to it.’

The kids trampled into the living room. ‘What’d I tell you?’ He whispered in his girlfriend’s ear as he walked with his arms around her. Ruby slapped him on the chest playfully in disapproval, trying to stifle a laugh.

Ruby and Casey put the movie on and sat on the couch together but couldn’t concentrate. They were too curious about what

was happening in the kitchen. Ruby went to get them sodas from the fridge, and Casey went to get an apple, all in the name of spying but to their disappointment, all they found was two people preparing dinner.

Brax and Charlie were a little unnerved by the unexpected company but decided to play along with it. They were very aware of the teenagers’ curiosity and constant excuses to enter the kitchen, and it was somewhat amusing. When the noodles had cooked, Charlie grabbed four plates and filled them, before they carried them to the living room, two bowls each. After giving the kids their dinner, they sat with them to watch the movie, Charlie on the couch and Brax on the armchair. As they watched Ferris Bueller’s antics on screen, the four ate their dinner and glanced inconspicuously at each other; Ruby and Casey at their parental figures, Brax and Charlie at each other.

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