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The Honeymoon's Over

Guest Red Ranger 1

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Well, as promised, with a week off coming up I managed to get the first chapter of this finished.Hope you enjoy.

Story Title: The Honeymoon's Over

Type of story: Long fic

Main Characters: Romeo, Ruby, Indigo, Xavier, Dexter, April, Ric, Matilda, Nicole, Casey and others

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Romance/Drama

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Moderate sexual content plus some death

Summary: When two couples return to Summer Bay, it's the start of a series of relationship traumas that see everyone's lives change. Sequel to "Where the Heart Lies".


Charlie had just finished getting changed out of her uniform after her shift at work when she heard the noise in the kitchen.At first she thought nothing of it, assuming it was just Leah coming home.Then a tentative voice asked “Mum?”

Charlie shot into the kitchen, gaping at the two people standing there.“Ruby?”She hugged her daughter impulsively, nearly knocking the girl’s breath away, and nearly hugged Romeo as well.Given the cloud that they’d both left under six months previous, when their secret relationship had become public, she hadn’t expected to see either of them back in Summer Bay any time soon.Then the initial euphoria wore off and was replaced with worry.“What happened to Perth, to uni?Nothing’s wrong, is it?”

“No, no, nothing’s wrong,”Ruby reassured her hastily.

“We’re just back for a visit,”Romeo added,“We were wondering if we could stay here for a bit?”

“I mean, we can find somewhere else if it’s going to be a problem,”Ruby put in.

Charlie shook her head.“No, no, of course not.Your old room’s still there and Romeo can sleep on the couch.”

Ruby rolled her eyes slightly and took Charlie by the shoulders.“I hate to break this to you, Mum, but Romeo and I have been living together in Perth for the past six months.Anything that we hadn’t done before we left, I think we’ve got around to it by now.”

Despite her natural aversion to the idea of her daughter sharing her room with a boy, Charlie had to acknowledge the logic of Ruby’s comment.“We’ll see how Leah feels about it,”she decided at last.She noticed the pair’s luggage for the first time.“In the meantime, you’d better put your bags in Ruby’s room.” She waited until Romeo had lifted up most of the cases and they were halfway to the bedroom before adding,“Unless Romeo wants to stop at Miles’ place..?”

Romeo looked round and gave an enigmatic smile.“Actually, I don’t think they’ll have the room.”

“Strike me roan, why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”Alf demanded as he gave his grandson a hug of welcome.He turned to Ric’s girlfriend Matilda, giving her an equally warm hug.“How have you both been keeping?”

“We’re fine, Grandad,”Ric assured him.

“We just had that sudden urge to come back here,”Matilda added,“You know how it is.”

“Well, I’m glad to see you, if a bit surprised.I thought you were quite settled in Perth.”Alf suddenly seemed to remember they weren’t alone.“Oh, er, you remember Miles, don’t you?”

Miles casually raised a hand in greeting.“Hi.”

“And I’m not sure if you ever met your Auntie Roo?”

“Don’t think we have, no,”Ric confirmed as Roo shook both their hands,“Heard a lot about you, though.”

“Likewise,”Roo agreed.

“Well, without meaning to get all family patriarch on you, what are you doing back here?”Miles asked,“I mean, last we heard you had a job at a garage and you were taking a law degree.”

“I quit,”Ric admitted,“I was hoping to find something down here.”

“And I’ve basically finished my lectures,”Matilda added,“I just need to take my finals and I can do that here.”

Before anyone could question the pair further, there was a sudden shout from the direction of the stairs. “Oh my god, Mattie?!”Nicole came bounding over to them and gave a somewhat bewildered Matilda a hug.“Come on, you must remember me, we were best friends for, like, a day.”

“Ah, Nicole, right?”Matilda asked,“We were at school together.”

“Yeah, I was the year below you, although weren’t you repeating, like Aden?Know all about that one.” She glanced at Ric.“Hey, ah, Dick, isn’t it?”

“Er, Ric.”

Nicole grinned.“Yeah, I know.Just messing.”

“So, er, how have you been?”Matilda asked.

“Well, if you want me to fill you in on the last four years of my life, you’d better sit down first.Come on, come and meet George.He’s having a nap upstairs but it’ll be okay if you’re quiet.”

“Yeah, I heard you’d had a kid, how is he?”Matilda asked as Nicole led them upstairs.

“Utterly adorable.It’s gonna be so much fun having you around here…”

Alf watched the trio until they were out of earshot before turning to Miles and Roo.“What do you make of that then?”

“Bit weird,”Miles admitted.

“I kinda get the feeling there’s something they’re not telling us,”Alf mused.

“Well, if there is, maybe we should just wait until they do?”Roo suggested.

Alf gave a resigned shrug.“Fair enough.”

Xavier and Indigo sat on the beach kissing, before glancing over at April and Dexter, who were doing the same a few feet away.“Ice cream?”Xavier asked them.

Dexter made a mumbling noise and a thumbs up sign to indicate his agreement.

Xavier turned to Indi.“Two strawberry, one vanilla, right?”She nodded and he glanced back at the others. “And, er, you two..?”

April managed to disentangle herself from her boyfriend.“I’ll come with you.”

Indi ignored the pointed looks Dexter was giving her until their respective partners were out of earshot, then glared at him.“What?!”

“He knows how you like your ice cream,”Dexter replied, the comment loaded with more meaning than it seemed to warrant.

“Well, yeah, he gets them every time we’re down here.”

“And you serve people in the Diner all the time.Do you remember how each and every one of them likes their coffee?”

“Most of them…”

“I bet you know how Xavier likes things though.”

Indi rolled her eyes.“So I suppose on Dexter World, that means we’re practically married?We’re just casual.”

“Yes.Right.Your casual boyfriend of seven months.Seven months of doing things with him and only him that a brother doesn’t want to think about.Except to pick up tips.I think to all the members of the human race that aren’t Indigo and Xavier, that’s known as going steady.Or don’t they call it that anymore?”

Indi sat back, ignoring his question.“We both agreed when we went into this that we weren’t after anything serious.”

“Well, maybe I should ask Xavier if he still think it’s casual…”

She fixed him with a steely gaze.“You do and I take your laptop’s hard drive and introduce it to a hammer.”

Ric peered out of the bedroom window.“Wow, I can see Auntie Colleen’s mobile home from here.There’s the beach, there’s the surf club, there’s a bunch of teenagers using a secluded spot for the same thing we used to use them for…”

“Like we’ve never been away,”Matilda commented from where she was sat on the bed.

Ric caught the unhappy tinge to her voice and looked at her with concern.“You are okay with coming back here, aren’t you?I mean, we could have stayed in Perth if you want…”

“What, just the two of us?We couldn’t have handled that.”Matilda favoured him with a smile.“Don’t worry, it’s just me being a grump.I’ll be okay.”

“I can stay with you if you want…”

She shook her head.“You go down and see your grandad and Miles.I’ll be okay on my own for a bit.”

Ric bent and kissed her softly.“See you in a bit.”

Matilda sat in silence for a few moments after he had gone, then she heard her phone vibrating next to her. She picked it up and smiled as she saw the caller ID, answering the call.“Ruby, hi!”

“Hey there,”her friend answered,“You made it here okay then?”

“Yeah, Ric and I are settling in.Feels strange being back here.”

“I know what you mean.Romeo and I have only been gone a few months and I’m still thinking ‘Did I really used to live here?’”Matilda could hear the awkwardness in Ruby’s voice as she asked,“Have you told them yet?”

“Not yet,”Matilda admitted,“What about you and your mum?”

“We’re going to tell her in the morning.”

Matilda hadn’t been sure.But Ruby’s comment helped her make her decision.“Same here.”

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Thank you for all the comments, been interesting hearing your ideas about what's going on.Hope this one doesn't disappoint!


Charlie had a feeling something was going on when she arrived in the kitchen the next morning to find Romeo and Ruby sat at the table, nervous expressions on their face.“You sleep all right?”she asked them.

“Er, yeah, we were good, thanks,”Romeo answered.

“Glad to hear it.”Charlie decided to pretend she hadn’t noticed anything, going to the fridge instead.

“Charlie, can we talk to you?”Ruby asked.

Charlie looked round, practising her nonchalant look.“Yeah, about what?”

Ruby hesitated.“Sit down,”she suggested at last.Charlie took the seat opposite them and waited patiently. Ruby gripped Romeo’s hand even more tightly and he gave her a reassuring smile.She took a deep breath. “I’m pregnant.”

“You’re what?”Alf demanded.

Matilda sighed, glancing at Ric who gave her a supportive look.“I’m pregnant,”she repeated.

“You’re going to be a great-grandad!”Ric interjected cheerfully.Alf fixed him with a steely look.“Which you might not find too crash hot…”

“Well, it’s a perfect way to make an old man feel even older,”Alf agreed.

“We get that it’s a shock,”Matilda admitted.She seemed about to say something more before lapsing into silence.

Roo broke the awkward moment by favouring the couple with a smile.“Congratulations.”

Matilda returned the smile gratefully.“Thanks, Roo.”

“Is this why you came back here?”Miles asked, from where he was stood nearby, a bowl of cereal having somehow appeared in his hand during the family conversation.

Ric nodded.“We thought about it and we looked at our finances and we figured we’d be better off coming back here.”

“Why here?”Alf asked.

Matilda looked awkward again.“Don’t know if you’ve noticed but we’re both orphans and all our other grandparents are dead.And I didn’t want to bother Scott or Kit by moving in on them, they’ve got enough problems of their own…”

Alf nodded.“Yeah, yeah, of course.I didn’t mean to seem like I wasn’t pleased to see you…”

“I think what he’s saying,”Miles interjected,“is ‘Mi casa es su casa.’Room’s there as long as you need it.”

“And the rest of us are all here for you as well,”Roo added.

“Yeah, of course,”Alf confirmed.He got up and held out his hand to Ric, who accepted it gratefully. “Congratulations, son.You too, Mattie.Nice to be able to welcome the next generation of Stewarts, hey?”

Matilda smiled.“Thanks for making us feel welcome.”

“Well, of course you’re welcome,”Charlie told them,“But…”She faltered, looking at Romeo.“Can you leave us alone for a moment, please?”

“I’m just as responsible for this as Ruby is,”Romeo pointed out.

“Yes, I know that.But I want a word with my daughter, please.”

“It’s all right,”Ruby told Romeo.He still seemed reluctant but her expression convinced him not to argue. He gave her a quick kiss before disappearing into the living room.Ruby looked awkwardly at Charlie.“So is this where you ask me how I could have been so stupid?”

“Ruby!”Charlie exclaimed as quietly as possible,“Weren’t you using protection?”

“Of course!”Ruby saw Charlie’s disbelieving look and her outraged expression changed to one of awkwardness.“Most of the time.Sometimes…I dunno, I guess we were in a bit too much of a hurry…”She saw Charlie shake her head in despair.“Okay, I know, it was stupid of us…”

“That’s one word for it,”Charlie agreed,“Did we forget the ‘Sex equals babies’ talk?”

“Trust me, soon as this pregnancy is over, I’m going straight on the Pill.”

Charlie paused.“So, you’re keeping it then?”

Ruby stuck her chin out defiantly, bracing herself for the argument.“Yes.”

Charlie nodded.“Okay.”

Ruby hadn’t felt so wrong-footed in a while.“That’s it?”

“Well, you’ve obviously made your mind up and…if you remember, I had a baby when I was a fair bit younger than you and didn’t have a boyfriend.And that turned out all right.”

Ruby smiled.“Thanks, Mum.”

Charlie raised her voice.“Romeo!”

Romeo came back in, nervously.“Yeah?”

“Make sure she gets a lot of looking after, okay?And…congratulations.”She got up, brushing her clothes down.“I think I’ll have my breakfast down at the Diner.”

Romeo looked after her in bemusement before turning to Ruby.“Did everything go okay?”

Ruby hugged him and kissed him gently.“I think it did.”

“So what do you make of that then?”Alf asked, once the three adults were alone in the house.

Miles shrugged in between sips of his mug of coffee.Somehow he always seemed to have food to hand when he was at home.“They’re hardly the first young couple to have an unplanned pregnancy.”

“Yeah but it’s just such a shame.Matilda was set to be a lawyer, Ric could have had his own business in a year or two…”

“And they still might,”Roo insisted,“They’re just going to need a lot more help from their supportive family, that’s all.”She saw he wasn’t convinced.“Come on, Dad, you don’t want another young woman making a decision she’ll regret, do you?”

Alf paused at that.He knew Roo regretted giving Martha up for adoption, just as Martha had regretted aborting her own child.And he couldn’t help thinking things could have turned out different if they’d both felt able to confide in him more.He held up his hands in surrender.“All right, all right.I’ll stop being an old fuddy duddy and acting like it’s still 1960.Anyway, I guess it’ll be nice to have another little one around the place.”

“So, is that why you were so weird around me and George yesterday?”Nicole asked as she sat on the porch with Ric and Matilda, George sat on her knee and squirming to grab hold of everything on the table in front of them.

“Yeah, sorry about that,”Matilda apologised.

“I guess we’re still getting our heads around the idea,”Ric admitted.

“I know it was difficult for me when I first found out I was expecting…”Nicole suddenly seemed to conclude she was being indiscreet.“But hey, you two have got each other so you should be okay.”

“Hey, everyone!”called Ruby as she and Romeo came up the path.

“Oh…my…god!”Nicole exclaimed in delight, jumping to her feet and placing George on the ground next to her.He tottered unsteadily on his feet for a moment before clambering up into the chair she’d vacated. Nicole hugged the pair of them.“Miles, look who’s here!”she called out.

Miles and Alf came hurrying out of the house, smiling as they saw the newcomers.“Stone the flaming crows!”Alf exclaimed,“This must be the day for old faces turning up.”

“Glad to see you made it down safely,”Matilda greeted them, giving Ruby a hug.

Nicole looked at them in surprise.“When did you two become best friends?”

“Well, we saw each other around uni and thought we knew each other,”Matilda explained,“Then we realised it was from Summer Bay.”

“And she introduced us to Romeo,”Ric added,“Who explained about you giving him my room.”

Miles shook his head.“Don’t be silly, we gave him Cassie’s old room.Nicole got your room.”

“That probably explains why we’re in a different room this time,”Matilda told her boyfriend.

“I had wondered why the bathroom had moved,”Ric mused.

“And what, you all decided to come back together?”Alf asked.

“Well, it means we can go to the same antenatal class,”Ruby noted, putting her arms round Matilda affectionately.

Nicole gaped in shock.“Wait up, are you saying you..?”

“Sure are,”Romeo agreed.

“Due four week after Mattie,”Ruby added.

“I am definitely going to Perth,”Miles decided,“They’re obviously putting fertility drugs in the water.”

“Well, congratulations, the pair of you!”Alf told them with a smile, shaking Romeo’s hand,“I guess you’re almost as much a part of the family as these two.”

“Although I have to say,”Miles put in,“given the way you left things, baby or no baby, I wasn’t expecting you back here.”

Ruby and Romeo both looked suddenly awkward, as the conversation drifted onto uncomfortable ground. “How is Indi?”Romeo asked.

“Still dating Xavier,”Nicole noted,“Which has surprised everyone.Still at uni…”

Ruby grimaced, looking at Romeo.“Didn’t think of that one.”

“What?”Alf asked, bemused.

“We’re transferring our courses to the local uni,”Romeo explained,“Guess we’re gonna see a lot of her around campus as well as around town.”

Nicole sighed.“And the awkwardness begins.”

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Don't expect me to be able to keep this up once I'm back at work but managed to get another chapter written today.Thanks to everyone for your continued comments and support!


Romeo paused at the edge of the beach, surfboard under his arm.Whilst the beaches in Perth had been good enough, he’d missed Summer Bay.He took a deep breath and ran towards the water.

“Be careful out there!”called the lifeguard on duty,“There’s been a few rips!”

Romeo stopped in his tracks at the voice.He turned and looked at the lifeguard.

Xavier looked back at him.

As his former friend approached, Romeo raised an awkward hand in greeting.“Hey.”

There was a scornful curl to Xavier’s lip as he stared back at him.“You’re back then, are you?”

“Yeah.”Romeo couldn’t think of anything to say other than that.


“She’s back too.We’re staying at Charlie’s.”Romeo wasn’t sure about breaking the next piece of news. “We’re having a baby.”

“Congratulations,”Xavier replied, in a tone completely devoid of sincerity.

Romeo sighed.“Look, I know you didn’t like the way we got together and the fact Indi and Casey got hurt because of it but that was last year.I mean, Nic told me you and Indi are still together.Isn’t she over it?”

“You stay away from her,”Xavier told him warningly.

“Or what?You’ll hit me again?”Romeo could feel himself losing his temper in the face of Xavier’s stubbornness.“Because don’t think I’m gonna give you another free punch.You’re dating my old girlfriend, you’re doing my old job, anything you want to tell me?”

For a second, Romeo wondered if he’d gone too far.But whatever anger Xavier had felt seemed to have gone.His dislike of Romeo remained, however.“Be careful out there,”he told him disdainfully,“I wouldn’t want to have to come and rescue you.”

Nicole parked her car in the uni car park and headed up to the quadrangle.There, she made out Indi and Dexter, engaged in an animated discussion at one of the tables.“Looking forward to another day of strict higher learning?”she asked them.

“Don’t know what you’re moaning about,”Dexter retorted,“I’m taking Physics, you’re taking Fashion.”

“Want to swap?”

Dexter considered this for a moment.“No,”he decided at last.

“What happened to you over the weekend?”Indi asked,“We didn’t see much of you.”

“No, we had some unexpected guests.”Nicole wasn’t sure about broaching the subject but she knew Indi wouldn’t be happy if she found out Nicole knew.“Actually, we’re going to have some new students here soon.”

“Oh, who?”Indi asked casually.

“Romeo and Ruby.”

The atmosphere suddenly seemed a lot more chilly but Indi managed to keep her tone casual.“What, they’re back in town, are they?”

“Yeah, they’re staying with Charlie.”

“I’d have thought they’d be staying with you,”Dexter suggested.

“Well, they might have done but we’ve got Mr.Stewart’s grandson and his girlfriend living with us now.” Nicole was grateful of the opportunity to change the subject.“I remember them a bit from when I first came to live here, they’re good to have around.”

“I’d have thought they wouldn’t have come back after they did the whole ‘Driving off into the sunset’ thing,”Dexter mused.

Nicole stared at him.“Ric and Mattie?”

“Romeo and Ruby.”

Nicole sighed.She obviously wasn’t going to be able to get away with keeping the second part of the news to herself.“Well…Ruby’s pregnant.”She glanced at Indi, worried about her reaction.

Indi’s expression gave a perhaps too studied air of not caring.“Good for them,”she said in a faux casual manner.She hefted her bag onto her shoulder.“Come on, we’d better get to class.”

Ruby sat on a stool at the bar, looking around what, confusingly, was still known as Angelo’s.“So how did you end up owning this place?”

Alf, on the other side of the bar, just shrugged.“I was getting a bit bored being semi-retired and this place became vacant so I thought, why not?”He gestured to one of the empty tables.“If you take a seat, I’ll make sure you get a decent feed.Eating for two now, remember?”

Ruby gave a rueful smile.“Yeah, I remember.”She slid off her stool and headed to one of the tables, perusing the menu.

A waitress appeared next to her.“Are you ready to order?”

“Er, just a minute…”It took Ruby a second to recognise the voice and stare up at the waitress in shock. “April?What are you doing here, I thought you’d be at uni, are you part-time?”

“No, I’m…kinda full time.”April glanced over to Alf at the bar.“And I can’t really talk if I want to keep this job.”

Ruby looked back at Alf, who was staring at them balefully.“We’re just talking about my order!”she called over to him.

Alf glanced around the restaurant, seeing there were only two customers other than Ruby and adequate staff to deal with them, and gave a reluctant wave of assent.April gratefully slid into the seat next to Ruby.

“So…how did you end up working here?”Ruby asked.

April sighed.“Well, you know I was after that veterinary degree?First day at uni was great, there were all these environmental groups I signed up for, I was doing real work at last.It’s just…somewhere along the way I forgot that you’re meant to do your assignments as well.So, at the end of the first semester, we mutually decided it wasn’t for me.”

Ruby winced.“Ouch.”

“It’s okay, I’m still a volunteer with the groups, doing the important stuff but…Irene and Bianca said if I wasn’t at college, I had to get a job, hence this.It’s not too bad, Xavier isn’t at college either, so we get to meet up on the beach during my break and chat about being the town losers.”

“Can’t see his mum being too happy about that.”

“I do think she wanted him to be a brain surgeon, yeah.Palmer’s happy about him working for the surf club though, so it evens out.Anyway…”-she managed a smile-“…what about you?Joining the dropouts?”

“No, I’m gonna be at Northern District.I just came back here because I needed to be near Charlie again.” She took a deep breath.She was getting used to saying it now.“Turns out I’m pregnant.”

April gave her a look of surprise.“What, really?I…I wouldn’t notice.”

“I’m nine weeks gone, I guess I’ll start showing soon.”

April nodded.“Hard to think of someone our age having a baby.”

“Yeah, well…Nicole’s had one, she’s not much older than us and Mr.Stewart’s grandson’s girlfriend, I met her in Perth, she’s having one as well.It’ll be you soon.”

April coughed slightly.“I don’t think so.”Ruby caught the faintly embarrassed tone of the comment.April looked at her awkwardly.“It’s just, Dexter and I, we haven’t…I mean, we don’t…”

“You still haven’t..?”Ruby didn’t try to hide her surprise.“But you’ve been going out over a year now, haven’t you?And didn’t you sleep with Xavier?”

“A few times but…Dexter and I don’t have that sort of relationship.I mean, we have that sort of relationship but…we’re letting things develop naturally.We’ve talked about it a few times, but neither of us wants to rush it.”

Ruby could see April was uncomfortable with the conversation so she turned her attention to the menu instead.“What’s the Carne Pizzaiola like?I can’t see Mr.Stewart being too well up on Italian food.”

April smiled.“He leaves all that to the chef.Bianca says it’s okay so consider it recommended.”

“Okay.One of those please, waitress.”

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I am so sorry, Red! You advertised this fic and I had intended to read it but I haven't been online because I've been ill.

Don't worry, Carina!I don't expect people to drag themselves out of their sick beds just because I'm writing a new fiction.But thanks to anyone that did and thanks to everyone for your comments.


Ric and Romeo might have thought twice about taking a trip to the Diner if they’d realised it would result in a lengthy catch-up with Irene, Colleen and Leah before getting served.But they’d finally managed to order their coffees and sandwiches and were waiting for them at the counter.“So, seriously, how does it feel being back in Summer Bay?”Romeo asked.

“Seriously?”Ric replied,“Like I’ve never been away.Which isn’t always a good thing since jobs are as hard to find as ever.”

“Yeah, I think I remember that.”

“Still, if I end up cleaning the toilets at the school again, I guess that’s what expectant fathers have to do.”

Romeo nodded thoughtfully about this.“How do you feel about that?”

Ric sighed.“I dunno.I guess I always thought Mattie and I would have a family one day.We were waiting until the time was right but things never quite seem to happen the way you expect, do they?”

“You can say that again,”Romeo confirmed.

“What about you and Ruby?”

Romeo sighed.“I dunno.I mean, I love her but…we’d only been going out a few months, we hadn’t really discussed anything…that serious.”

“It is scarily grown up, isn’t it?”Ric agreed.

Romeo nodded.“But I guess they’re relying on us now so…”

“Time to man up.”

Leah came out of the kitchen with a tray full of coffees and sandwiches.“Sorry, to keep you waiting,”she told them, placing the cups and plates in front of them.

“No problem,”Ric answered, handing her the money.

Xavier appeared next to them at the counter.“Two coffees to take away please, Leah,”he requested.Then he realised who he was standing next to.He gave Romeo an unfriendly look.“You’re still here then?”

“Yeah,”Romeo replied noncommittally.

Xavier looked at Ric.“You should be careful who you hang out with.”

“I…will,”Ric replied, somewhat bemused.He waited until Xavier had accepted the coffees, paid for them and headed outside before turning to Romeo quizzically.“Who was that?”


Ric struggled to place the name.“Tony’s nephew?”Romeo nodded.“So what’s the deal between you and him?”

Romeo took a deep breath.“Well, he used to go out with Ruby but she dumped him for someone else, then him and me were best friends but when he found out about me and Ruby cheating on Indi and Casey, one of his other friends, we fell out, and then he got together with Indi.”

Ric raised an eyebrow.“Summer Bay hasn’t changed a bit, has it?”

Indi was sat on one of the tables up on the headland, her feet resting on what should have the seat, looking out to sea.Xavier handed her her coffee and clambered up beside her.“I saw Romeo in the Diner,”he commented.

Indi rolled her eyes.“You didn’t do anything stupid, did you?”

“I was restrained!Well, as restrained as you can be with an ex-best mate.”

“Xav…it’s sweet that you want to look out for me but you don’t have to go around picking fights with Romeo all the time.If he wants to get Ruby pregnant, that’s his problem.”

Xavier accepted the assertion without comment.“Have you seen either of them yet?”

“No, I’m hoping to save that pleasure until next week when they start uni.”For a moment Indi seemed to be staring off into the distance, lost in thought, then she came to.“Are we really going to spend the whole afternoon worrying about what Romeo and Ruby are getting up to?”

Xavier took the invitation in her look and kissed her, softly but intimately.“Good point.”

April and Dexter sat on the sofa at her place, kissing.April pulled back slightly, resting her elbow on top of the sofa and looking slightly nervous.“Dexter…we’ve been going out a while now, right?”

Dexter seemed to pause and do a mental calculation.“A while, yeah,”he agreed at last.

“Well…do you think it’s time to take this relationship to the next level?”

Dexter stared at her blankly.“The next level?”

“The next level of our relationship…”April could see Dexter wasn’t getting it.“I think we should sleep together.Do…do you think we should do that?”

Dexter’s eyes flicked in the direction of her bedroom, his expression partway between not believing his luck and a rabbit caught in the headlights.“Now?”

April smiled.“No, not when we’ve got a spare half hour in our schedule but…soon.It’s something that I think we should be working towards, that I want to do.Have you thought about it?”

“I’m eighteen.I fantasise about sleeping with girls all the time.”He saw April raise an eyebrow slightly. “With you!”he corrected hastily,“Since we’ve been going out, I have been having fantasies about sleeping with you, 24/7.”He paused.“Did that sound more or less creepy?”

“Dexter, you’re my boyfriend and I love you and I want to sleep with you.Whether you sound creepy or not.”

Dexter considered this.“I think I can persuade Dad and Indi to let me have the place to myself Friday night.Do you fancy coming round for dinner and…dessert?”He added the last word tentatively.

April smiled and kissed him.“It’s a date.”

Nicole sat patiently on the edge of her bed, listening to the sound of vomiting coming from the direction of the bathroom.Eventually, they were replaced by the sound of the toilet flushing and a few minutes later Matilda returned, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.“Sorry,”she said, embarrassed, as she took a seat opposite Nicole.

“Hey, morning sickness is a perfectly natural part of having babies,”Nicole assured her,“Even at three o’clock in the afternoon.”

“At least it doesn’t last past the first trimester,”Matilda sighed.She looked at Nicole uncertainly.“Right?”

“Um…I think the answer is sometimes.”Nicole saw Matilda’s face crumple.“Usually!”she amended hastily,“The answer is usually.”

It wasn’t enough to stop Matilda bursting into tears.“I’m going to have this for nine months,”she complained,“I’m going to be sick and fat and my ankles are going to swell up and Ric’s going to see how ugly I am and run off with a rich widow…”

Nicole got up and put an arm round Matilda’s shoulders awkwardly, passing her a handkerchief.“You are going to be blossoming, Ric is going to see how beautiful you are and he’s going to feel privileged that someone as great as you is having his baby.”

Matilda blew her nose loudly.“Really?”

“Hey, would I lie to a fellow teenage mother?”

Matilda sniffed slightly.“I’m twenty-one.”

“Young mother.Fellow young mother.”

She was interrupted by a call from downstairs.“Anybody home?”

“Up here, Ruby!”Nicole called back.They heard footsteps on the stairs and then Ruby came in, looking at them quizzically.“Matilda’s just being hormonal,”Nicole explained.

Matilda glared at her.“Thanks.”

“Know all about that,”Ruby sighed as she dropped into a seat next to Mattie,“If I didn’t have Mum and Romeo to boost me up, I’d be a nervous wreck.”

Nicole felt it safe to return to her seat as Matilda wiped away the last of her tears.“You’re lucky,”Matilda told Ruby at last.

“You’ve got Ric,”Nicole pointed out.

“Yeah, but…”For a moment Nicole thought Matilda was going to burst into tears again but she managed to pull herself together.“I miss my mum,”she said at last,“I went to see my sister, Kit, and she was really good but…it’s not the same.”

“Well, you’re lucky too,”Nicole commented,“My mum’s hardly the maternal type, she’s barely seen George.And it’s not like I had a boyfriend to give me foot rubs either.”

“Can we not talk about that?”Ruby asked,“I’m feeling like enough of an old woman as it is.”

“All right, that does it,”Nicole decided.

Ruby looked at her, bemused.“What…does what?”

“Us three.We’re going out, Friday night.Girls’ night.Before we end up taking up knitting and complaining about varicose veins.”

“But…what about George?”Matilda asked.

There was a wicked grin on Nicole’s face.“I think I know where to find some babysitters.”

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Huge thanks for the many words of encouragement.Apologies for the big gap between updates:The DVD box sets I was meant to be watching on my week off finally started arriving on Thursday and I've been occupied ever since.Hope you like this one.


“‘The Mole had been working very hard all of the morning, spring-cleaning his little home’,”Ric began.He put down the copy of The Wind in the Willows and looked at George, who was sat on the bed looking a bit too awake.“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather I read you a footie mag or something?”George’s bottom lip quivered.“Everyone’s a critic.‘First with brooms, then with dusters, then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pale of whitewash, till he had dust in his throats and eyes and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur…’Look, are you sure we can’t just skip to the car chase?”

Romeo came hurrying in, a toy rabbit in his hand.“Hey, I found this!”He held it in front of George’s face, moving its arms about.“Is this your Mr.Rabbit?Is this your Mr.Rabbit?”George pushed it away, uninterested.

Ric rolled his eyes.“How old do you think he is, three months?”He glanced around the room, his eyes alighting on a toy fire engine in the corner.“Hey, bring that over.”Romeo passed it to him.Ric wound up the fire engine with a key.“Hey, George, look at this.”He placed it down on the bed and it trundled towards George, who burbled in delight.

“When’d you become the expert?”Romeo asked.

“Hey, I was around when Pippa was growing up.Plus I saw Nicole doing it earlier.”

Romeo nodded.“How did we get lumbered with this, anyway?”

“Well, I guess we need the practice.”

“True,”Romeo conceeded.

“Plus, you’re not looking at the bigger picture.Three months’ time, when they’re too big to go out, we can remind them of this and have a lads’ night out!”George gave an indignant burble, apparently having decided he’d been ignored long enough.“Keep quiet about it and you can come too,”Ric told him.

Dexter ushered April into the house.“Ah, may I take your jacket?”he asked.

“Oh, thanks.”April let him slide the thin jacket from her shoulders and hang it up in the hall.She entered the living area and saw the table set with tall wine glasses and a set of candles in the centre.“You didn’t have to go to all this trouble!”she gasped.

“This?”Dexter waved a hand airily.“No trouble at all.”He held out her seat for her, then, once she was seated, took out a lighter and made to light the candles.No flame appeared.“Hold on a sec,”he told her, rooting in a drawer for some matches.

“So, are we sure we’re not going to be disturbed?”April asked as Dexter managed to get the candles alight.

“No, Dad’s taken Roo to Angelo’s and Indi’s round Xavier’s having alone time, so we have the place to ourselves.”

“How did you manage that?”

“Bribery, mostly.Let’s say these hands will be doing a lot of washing up.”He went to the oven and took out two plates.

“What are we having?”April asked.

Dexter placed the plate in front of her.“Meat pie and chips.I was planning to make something cool but… then I remembered I don’t know how.”He took a bottle of orange juice and filled up their wine glasses.He took his seat and clinked his glass against hers.“To us,”he toasted, rather grandly.Then he paused and gestured to the two glasses.“Should I have used something stronger?”

April smiled at him.“This is perfect.”

Nicole placed the drinks down in front of her two friends.“Your round next,”she told Ruby.

Matilda looked at their order with a sigh.“Three mineral waters.We sure know how to live it up.”

“You can drink if you like,”Ruby told Nicole.

Nicole shook her head.“Sisterly solidarity.Plus I don’t want to be caught drunk in charge of a pushchair tomorrow.”

“Do you think the guys will be okay looking after George?”Matilda asked.

“Well, it’s only a few hours, I don’t think they can mess things up too badly.And I hope you two are going to leave them alone with your babies when they come.”

“I’ve told Ric I want two nights a week to myself,”Matilda agreed.

“Romeo left alone in charge of a baby,”Ruby mused,“That’s kind of a frightening thought when you think about it.”

“Well, time to train him up then,”Nicole told her.She checked her watch.“Another couple of hours should be enough to break him in.”The club’s DJ started up an upbeat track and Nicole grabbed the others by the wrists.“Come on, let’s dance!”

“Are you sure?”Matilda asked,“I don’t want to end up in premature labour or something.”

“Trust me, in a few months time, you’ll be crying out for the days when you could dance.Let’s make the most of it.”

“I’m up for it,”Ruby decided, draining her mineral water.

“Yeah, that doesn’t exactly fill me with encouragement,”Matilda mused.Nicole and Ruby grabbed her by the arms and pulled her towards the floor.“Okay, okay!Let’s boogie.”

April finished the last few mouthfuls of her meal and put her cutlery back on the plate.“Has madame had enough?”Dexter asked.

April smiled at him.“I’m definitely satisfied, good sir.”

“Right!”Dexter scooped their plates off the table and carried them over to the sink.“Just get these washed and then we’ve got the rest of the evening for…other stuff.”

April came up behind him, standing close to him.She put her arms round his neck and turned him round before giving him the most intense, passionate kiss he’d ever had.“I don’t think I can wait much longer,” she told him quietly.

Dexter stared at her and gulped slightly.“Well, ah, I guess an amendment to the schedule wouldn’t be entirely out of the question.”

They kissed again and headed for his bedroom.

“‘When their infants were fractious and quite beyond control, they would quiet them by telling how, if they didn't hush and not fret, the terrible grey badger would up and get them.This was a base libel on Badger, who, though he cared little about society, was rather fond of children.But it never failed to have its full effect.’”Ric carefully closed the book and pulled the covers up over the sleeping George.

Romeo was loitering outside the door when Ric came out.“Is he asleep?”

“Yeah, I think he’s tired out.”Ric sighed.“Me too.I don’t think I’ve read that much in years.”

“It’s been a…”Romeo realised he was still holding the toy rabbit and hastily placed it on a nearby shelf. “It’s been a pretty big night.”

“With many more to come,”Ric agreed.

“Yeah.Do you think we’re crazy, not running for the hills?”

Ric looked at him in surprise.“You’d do that?”

“Well, no, but…I guess it’s tempting.”

“It’s just I love Mattie and I thought you felt the same about Ruby.And I’ve done a pretty good job of messing things up between us in the past, I don’t want to do that again.I…I dunno.I wanna marry her.”

Romeo stared at him.“Seriously?”

“Yeah.Do you want to marry Ruby?”

“I guess we’ve never really thought about it.”

Ric put an arm round his shoulder.“Trust me, she’s thought about it.She’s probably decided what wedding dress she’d wear, what songs she wants for the reception, that’s what girls do.”He looked less certain.“At least, that’s what their friends always tell me.”

“What, has Mattie decided all that?”

“Probably.She tried on Leah’s wedding dress once, it was before we got together, and…”He paused, realising how close they were to the door George was asleep behind.“I’ll tell you downstairs.”

April sat on the edge of the bed, buttoning her blouse back up over her underwear.Dexter was sitting up in the bed behind her, leaning back against the board, totally relaxed.“Well, ah, I don’t think that went too badly for a first attempt, do you?”he asked.

April looked back over her shoulder at him and gave a flirtatious smile.“No, not bad at all.”

“And if there were any small imperfections, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

“Oh, why’s that?”

Dexter leaned forward.“Because practice makes perfect.”

He started kissing her and she knew what he wanted, her to get back under the covers with him and make love to him again.Instead she pulled away.“As good as that sounds, if your dad comes home and finds us in bed together and a pile of dirty dishes in the kitchen…”

“I’ll be sleeping in the barn, good point.”Dexter swung himself out of bed and began retrieving his clothes.“Ah well.Guess that’s the problem of skipping straight to the good part.”

As April pulled her skirt back on, she looked over at her boyfriend.Dexter was whistling to himself, getting dressed in a half-dancing way that managed to be cool and dorky at the same time.He looked happy. As happy as she’d ever seen him.

April wondered why she never felt happy anymore.

George was in the middle of attempting to slot a series of coloured blocks into the right shaped holes.“No, no, you had it right last time,”Romeo was telling him,“Just twist it round a bit so it fits.”

“Hey, less coaching from the sidelines!”Ric warned him.

“I’m just giving him some encouragement.”Romeo watched as George gave up on the hole and started trying another one.“He’s never going to get them all, is he?”

“Well, maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll fall asleep first.”

“What is he still doing up?”demanded a horrified Nicole as she arrived back with Matilda and Ruby.

“Well, we got him to bed,”Romeo explained,“and we got him off to sleep…”

“And then he woke up,”Ric concluded,“So we had to start again.”

“So how was your night out?”Romeo asked.Ruby gave him an enthusiastic kiss in answer.“Oh right, that good?”He looked at her grinning face worriedly.“You weren’t drinking, were you?”

“Nope, just high on life!”She kissed him again.“How about taking me home and reminding me how I got pregnant?”

Romeo looked half embarrassed, half eager.“Erm, see you all tomorrow!”he told the others as Ruby dragged him out.

“Ah, young love,”Ric sighed.

“What, we’re past it, are we?”Matilda asked.

Ric looked at her, noticing the flirtatious expression in her eyes.“Ah, I think we might turn in,”he decided at last,“Yeah?”Matilda nodded.“Yeah.Night, Nic.”They headed upstairs, trying to look as innocent as possible.

Nicole looked at George, who was staring up at her as if suddenly aware he was no longer the centre of attention.“Looks like it’s just you and me, George,”she commented, lifting her son up,“Come on, let’s see if you’re tired enough now.”

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Ruby was holding the map of campus in every conceivable orientation as Romeo parked the car.“Which way’s north?”she asked.

“Do I look like a compass?”

“Well, which direction’s the sea?And where did the sun rise?”She saw his bewildered expression.“Okay, so I don’t know either.But I’m pregnant and you’re meant to be looking after me.”She checked the map again.“Okay, that must be the main quadrangle there so it’ll be off there.”

The pair climbed out of the car and headed in the direction Ruby had indicated.It was only when they reached the quadrangle that they realised Nicole, Indi and Dexter were sat around a table in front of them.

Romeo gently wrapped Ruby’s hand in his.She smiled at him.“Let’s go and say hello,”she suggested.

The trio stopped whatever conversation they were having as the couple approached.Nicole gave them an awkward smile.Dexter looked in pretty much every direction apart from at them, as though unsure how to react.Indi looked at them in a controlled but frosty manner.“I heard you were starting here today,”she commented in a forced attempt at casual conversation.

“Ah, yeah, lectures start at half past,”Romeo confirmed.

Indi’s gaze flickered over Ruby.“Heard you’re pregnant as well.”

Ruby felt Romeo squeeze her hand tighter and was glad of his presence.“Yeah, that’s right,”she confirmed.

“Well, I suppose it had to happen one day.”

Ruby felt stung.“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Indi didn’t answer.Instead she turned to Nicole.“We need to get to lectures.Coming?”

“Ah, yeah,”Nicole confirmed.Indi was already halfway across the quadrangle.Nicole looked at Romeo and Ruby awkwardly.“Our lecture rooms are near each other,”she explained before heading off after Indi.

Dexter was left sitting alone at the table.He hesitated for a few moments then turned and headed towards one of the nearby buildings.“Dexter, wait!”Ruby called.He stopped but seemed eager to leave as soon as possible, constantly shifting from one foot to the other.“Do you know where Room 218 of Peters Building is?”

“And Room 204?”Romeo added.

Dexter took hold of the map that was still in Ruby’s hand.“We’re here, that path there is over there, building on the right, second floor.”He paused.“Bye.”He hurried off in the direction he was going in before.

“Could have gone worse,”Romeo commented.

“Yeah,”Ruby agreed.

He put his arm around her and they headed off in the direction Dexter had indicated.

“Yeah, well, if you hear of anything else can you let me know?”Ric’s expression as he listened to the response over the telephone was completely despondent.“Okay, thanks.Bye.”He put the receiver down and sank onto the sofa next to Mattie.

“Was that Carson’s?”she asked.

Ric nodded.“Every garage in the area.‘Thank you for sending us your resumè, Mr.Dalby, but we have no suitable positions at present.’”

Matilda put her arms around him in a reassuring hug.He responded by slipping an arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder.“I’m sorry,”she said quietly.

“It’s not your fault.”

“You had a good job in Perth before I wanted to come back here.”

“And I’ll get one again.It just might take a bit longer and I might need to find something else to do in the meantime.”

“I could always get a job too, that would help us.”

“You need to concentrate on getting qualified,”Ric insisted,“It’s okay, I’ll ask around town.They’ve got to need someone to hand out towels at the gym or something.”

“It’s just so unfair though,”Matilda complained,“You worked hard to get your apprenticeship, you should be able to use it.”

Neither of them had noticed Roo entering the house behind them during their conversation.She hesitated, wondering whether she should say anything, before heading out onto the porch instead.

Alf was sipping a beer in the middle of the caravan park when Roo tracked him down.“I just heard Ric and Mattie talking,”she noted,“Ric’s having trouble finding a job.”

“Well, he doesn’t need one of those, he’s quite all right staying here.Miles is hardly gonna chuck him out.”

“He’s a proud person, Dad, he wants to support his family, not sponge off you and Miles.And it can’t be much fun for Matilda either, feeling like she’s dumped all this on us.”

Alf considered her words for a while.“Well, I guess I could give him a job at the restaurant, make him bar manager or something.”

“He’s not gonna be fooled by that.He’s a mechanic, he’s got skills, he should be using them.”

“I know that, love, but if none of the garages in Yabbie Creek and what-have-you can find him a mechanic’s job, what can we do?”

Roo had a crafty look on her face.“Well…there is something.”

Xavier noticed April walking down the beach from the direction of the restaurant and waved over to one of the other lifeguards on duty.“Hey, Glen!I’m taking my break now!”Glen gave him a returning wave of acknowledgement.

Xavier headed up the beach to where April was waiting, two papers bags in her hand.“So what hasn’t been selling today then?”he asked her.

She handed him one of the bags, containing a lukewarm slice of pizza.“Onion and pineapple.”

“Really?And I always thought that was a great combination.”They sat down on the sand together, devouring the leftovers.“So, anything interesting happen in the restaurant today?”

April thought for a second.“Not unless you count someone getting onion rings instead of garlic bread. What about here?”

“We thought we saw a capsizing dinghy at one point but it turned out to be a bollard.”They sat in silence for a few moments.“So, how did your evening with Dexter go last week?”

April stiffened slightly at the comment.Had Dexter been saying something?“How do you know about that?”

“Indi and I do actually talk, you know, even if we’re not like you and Dex.She mentioned you were round there.”

April relaxed slightly but something in Xavier’s comment bothered her.“Why do you always act like you and Indi are nohing special?You’re just as much a couple as me and Dex.”

Xavier shook his head.“No, we’re not.”

“You don’t go out with anyone else but her, she doesn’t go out with anyone else but you, you spend most of your spare time together…Sounds like a couple to me.”

“Well, yeah, we’re together now but that’s not gonna last.I mean, you and Dexter are made for each other, everyone says so.You’ve got that weird quirky-sense-of-humour-that-no-one-else-gets thing going on. Whereas Indi’s smart and at college and I’m…here.”

April’s head seemed to drop slightly.“Dexter’s at college and I’m here as well,”she pointed out.

“Yeah but…I’m here because I’m no good at that college stuff.You’re not in college because you’ve got more important things to do, like your environmental groups, right?”

“Right,”April replied.But her tone didn’t seem entirely convinced.

Xavier looked at her in concern.Even though it was a while since they broke up, he still felt he knew her. And at the moment, there seemed to be a profound sense of sadness hanging over her.

“Look, what’s this all about, Grandad?”Ric asked as he and Mattie followed Alf and Roo on a seemingly endless walk along Summer Bay’s coastal path.

“You’ll see in a minute,”Alf told him once again.

Ric and Mattie exchanged a frustrated glance.“Do we have to walk much further, Mr.Stewart?”Mattie asked,“’Cos I think my ankles are swelling up.”

“Okay, okay,”Alf conceeded,“Now, Ric, you’ve been ringing up every garage in the area asking for work, right?”

“Right,”Ric confirmed.

“What about the garage in Summer Bay?”

Ric and Mattie both looked confused.“There isn’t a garage in Summer Bay,”Ric pointed out at last.

“Ah, but what if there was?”Alf asked enigmatically.He gestured to the building that had just come into view ahead of them.“Ta-da!”

Ric had an uncomfortable idea where the conversation was going.Looking at the small building which seemed to have been abandoned by every previous owner it had ever had, he wasn’t exactly filled with confidence.

Roo caught his mood.“Just wait until you see inside,”she suggested.

Ric and Mattie followed Alf and Roo in.The inside was still untidy but there were a few tools and pieces of garage equipment scattered about.“We didn’t have time to do much in a few hours,”Roo admitted,“But it gives you the idea.”

“Grandad, what have you done?”Ric asked.

“Put a down payment on this place,”Alf replied,“And I can help you with the start up costs, get all the equipment you need.I reckon with a decent mechanic managing it and a decent business head to give him advice…”

“You?”Ric asked.

“Me,”Roo corrected.

“…and an old man with nothing to do with his cash but make his family happy,”Alf continued,“this place could work as a decent garage.And who knows, in a few months you might be earning enough to get some help in.What do you think?”

Ric looked questioningly at Mattie, who smiled.“I think you should go for it,”she told him.

Ric looked back at Alf and smiled.“The boss has spoken.”

Alf grinned.“Now you’re learning how this works.”

Ric gave the pair a hug.“Thanks, Grandad.Thanks, Auntie Roo.”He gave Matilda an even more enthusiastic hug, lifting her off her feet and twirling her around.“Just need to get you sorted and we really will be set up.”

“Actually,”Roo put in,“we’ve had an idea about that as well.”

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Thank you to anyone I haven't thanked yet, hope you enjoy this.


Morag looked over her glasses across the desk.“So.Miss Hunter.Why do you think I should give you a job as my assistant?”

Matilda had dressed in her most professional looking outfit, her hair tied back in a bun, a folder with her resumè in under her arm.She felt like a child wearing grown up clothes.“I’m in my last year of a law degree, I take my finals in a month’s time.All my tutors say I’m one of the best in the class, I can show you my marks.And working with you will help me in future.”

Morag pretended to look at the paper in front of her.“I see that you’re pregnant?”

“Yes, that’s right.”Matilda decided not to mention the fact that Morag was the baby’s great-great aunt.

“So your appointment here would be purely a short term arrangement?”

“I’m hoping I can go back to work when the baby’s old enough and it’ll really help me if I can say I’ve had experience working in a law office.”Matilda realised she wasn’t exactly selling herself.“But it’ll be really worth your while, I promise, Mrs.Bellingham.I’ll be a real asset to you.”

Morag gestured to the folder.“May I?”Matilda handed it over and Morag scanned the contents.“You’re right, these are good marks.”She looked up.“My brother and my niece, and probably my great-nephew as well, seem to think I should give you a job out of some sense of family loyalty.”

“I’m not asking you to give me any special treatment, Mrs.Bellingham,”Matilda offered.

“Good.Because I assure you I will work you as hard as any other articled clerk I’ve had in my employ. And I hope you will prove to be as much of an asset as you claim to be.”Morag handed the folder back. “See you on Monday.”

Matilda stared hard at Morag, who seemed to have shifted her attention to some papers on her desk.“Is that it?”

Morag looked up, affecting an air of bemusement.“Was there something else?”

“No, no.”Matilda stood up hastily.“See you on Monday.”She got to her feet, backing towards the door. “Thank you, Mrs.Bellingham.”

Morag favoured her with a smile.“My pleasure, Miss Hunter.”

April headed up to the next table, pen poised over her notepad.“What can I get you?”

“A slice of anchovy and some quality time with the hot waitress, please.”

April looked up from her pad and saw who the customer was.“Dex!What are you doing here?”

“I think we pretty much covered that with the last question.The two things every virile young man wants: Food and lurve.”

April glanced around the restaurant.Although it wasn’t full, there were still several customers about.“I can’t really talk now.Never mind the other stuff.”

“It just feels like we’ve hardly seen each other this past couple of weeks.And I kinda got the feeling that we’d, you know, got closer.”

“We…we had,”April agreed,“I’ve just been really busy lately.”

“Well, what time do you finish tonight?”

“Um, seven.But I’m gonna be too tired to do anything after that and I’ve got another shift tomorrow…”

Dexter held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.“Okay, okay, I get it.I guess I’ll just have to settle for the pizza then.”

April sighed.“I’m sorry, Dex.You’re a really nice guy, I’m not being fair on you.”

“It’s okay,”he told her,“There’ll be other nights, once I’m rich and successful and I can afford to take you away from all this.”

April managed a smile.“I’ll get your order.”

“How did you go?”Ric asked as soon as Mattie got home.

She gave him a broad smile.“You are looking at the new articled clerk of the Morag Bellingham law office.”

Ric gave a cheer of delight, hugging her and lifting her off her feet and then kissing her.“We have got to go out and celebrate.”

“Burgers at the Diner?”

“Maybe.Or…do you remember that restaurant in Yabbie Creek, Masseti’s?Well, it’s still there.”

Matilda shook her head.“We’ll never get a booking.”

“It’s a good job I’ve already booked then, isn’t it?”

Matilda looked at him in delight.“You have?”

Ric shrugged nonchalantly.“I knew you’d ace it.”

“What if I didn’t?”

“I dunno, guess I’d have written it off as a ‘Cheering you up’ dinner.”

Matilda looked suddenly worried.“Can we afford it?”

“With your pay packets and my new business?I reckon we can splash out just this once.”

Romeo and Ruby were snuggled up on the couch when Charlie came through.“I’m just off to work,”she told them,“I’ll see you later.”

“Bye, Mum!”Ruby called, raising her head just enough to holler.

“You’re quiet tonight,”Romeo noted once Charlie had gone.

Ruby was avoiding his gaze.“Am I?”

“Yeah.Is something up?”

Ruby sat up straight, looking uncomfortable.“It’s…it’s college, I guess.I haven’t really made any friends in my class.”

“Well, I’m sure they’ll love you once they get to know you.”

“Not if they’ve heard the rumours.You know, that I’m the town skank who cheated on her boyfriend with her friend’s boyfriend and got pregnant.”

Romeo looked worried.“Do you think Indi’s said something?”

“I dunno.Word gets around anyway.”Ruby shrugged.“I guess we knew it wouldn’t be easy, we’ll just have to ride it out.Not much we can do about it.”

“We could get married.”

Ruby blinked.“What?”

Romeo looked her in the eye, sincere.“Marry me.”

Ruby stared at him hard for a long moment.When she finally answered, it wasn’t the answer he was expecting.“Romeo, are you crazy?!”

Romeo was stunned.“Um, possibly…”

“You just ask me to marry you, just like that, out of the blue?Have you even thought about what it means? Or is this just some brainless way of cheering me up?’Cos if you haven’t noticed…didn’t work.”She got up and stormed into the bedroom.

Romeo was left sitting there, nonplussed.“Thanks for the advice, Ric,”he said at last.

Xavier knocked lightly on the back door of the beach house, not entirely sure what he was doing there. He could see April in the lounge and she looked in his direction at the sound.“Come in!”

Xavier cautiously made his way inside.“I got your call,”he said by way of explanation.

April sat down on the sofa and patted the space next to her.“Have a seat.”Xavier did as she instructed. April took a deep breath.“Xavier, do you ever think about you and me?I mean, when we were together.We were happy, weren’t we?”

“Yeah, I guess we were,”Xavier agreed.

Then, suddenly, she was kissing him, with an intensity that stunned him.He responded to the kiss, feeling the familiarity of her touch.Then she started unbuttoning his shirt and the reality of the situation hit him.He backed out of the kiss, gently but firmly taking hold of her wrists and holding her away from him.“I’m with Indi now,”he told her.

April looked shocked.“But…but you said it’s not serious…”

“It doesn’t matter, I’m still with her.You saw how cut up she was when Romeo cheated on her, do you think I’d do that?”He saw the shame in April’s eyes and released her so she could sink back into her seat. “And what about Dexter?How do you think he’d feel?”

“Dexter…”April sighed.“Dexter’s kind and funny, he’s my best friend, he probably understands me better than anyone.And I guess I love him.But I don’t feel the same way with him as I felt with you.I think I made a mistake getting together with him.”

Xavier didn’t really know how to respond.This sudden outpouring of emotion, the sadness and regret behind April’s words…it wasn’t what he’d been expecting.“Well, if you feel like that, you should tell him,” he said at last,“But come on, April, we broke up a year and a half ago.We can’t just pretend that never happened.”

April nodded.“You’re right.I shouldn’t have asked you round.You should probably go.”

Xavier got up, looking at her with concern.“Are you all right?”he asked.

“Just go, Xavier,”she told him,“You can’t help me.No-one can.”

He didn’t know what else to say to that.So he did what she said.And left.

Matilda put her cutlery back on her plate with a sigh of satisfaction.She noticed the amused look Ric was giving her and glared at him.“What?”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it,”he commented.

Matilda noticed that Ric’s plate was still half full.“Hey, eating for two here,”she reminded him.She looked around the restaurant.She’d enjoyed the chance to go out and get dressed up.Ric had been right to suggest it.“Thanks for doing this for me,”she said.

Ric coughed slightly.“Well…I did kind of have an ulterior motive.”

Matilda looked at him cautiously.“What?”

“Well, it seemed like the perfect place to give you this.”He took a jewellery box out of his pocket and placed it on the table, opening it to reveal an engagement ring.“Trying to be as discreet as possible here in case you say no but…Matilda Hunter, will you marry me?”

Matilda stared at the ring in shock, not sure how to react.She looked back at Ric.“Are you asking me to marry you because I’m pregnant and you think you have to?”she asked.

“No, I’m asking you to marry me because we’ve been together six years, because you’re the best friend I’ve ever had and because I can’t really imagine living without you.It’s taken me six months to save up for this thing and I’d be proposing to you even if you weren’t pregnant.But…I guess that is another reason for us getting married, yes.”He paused, waiting for an answer.“I’m so glad I didn’t go down on one knee, I’d have got cramp by now.”

Matilda looked from Ric to the ring, from the ring to Ric.She thought about wearing that ring, about being his wife.“Yes,”she said quietly.

Ric looked at her cautiously.“Yes I’d have got cramp by now?”

She smiled at him.“Yes…I will marry you.”

She saw the look of delight spreading across Ric’s face and then he gave a whoop of joy, jumping to his feet and lifting her up and kissing her, much to the astonishment of the other diners.“You’ve been doing that a lot lately,”she commented.

“I’m making the most of it before you’re too big for me to lift you.”Before Matilda could respond to the comment, Ric scooped the ring out of the box and placed it on her finger.

They both looked at it.And smiled.

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Thank you for all your comments.

Warning: Some readers may find the end of this chapter upsetting.


Ric and Matilda were struggling to move as they were smothered by a succession of hugs and back slaps. “About time you two got your act together!”Alf proclaimed.

“Aww, I’m feeling really emotional,”Miles noted.

“Ooh, let me see the ring, let me see the ring!”Roo demanded.Matilda showed her and she gave Ric an approving look.“Very impressive.You obviously don’t get your taste from the Stewart side of the family.”

“Have you done mocking our family’s heritage?”Alf asked.

“It’s okay, Grandad,”Ric reassured him,“I think some of the Stewart side has taught me a few lessons about how to have a happy marriage.”

Alf smiled at him.“Son, if anyone deserves a happy marriage, it’s you two.”

“Have you thought about a date?”Roo asked.

“Well…I guess it’ll have to be soon,”Mattie noted,“Otherwise I’ll either be too big to fit into a wedding dress or pushing a pram down the aisle with me.”

Ric considered this.“Do you think we can get a wedding organised in a month?”

“In Summer Bay?”Alf asked,“No problem.”

“Where’s Nicole?”Mattie asked.

“She turned in as soon as she put George down,”Miles explained,“Think all the bedtime rituals tired her out.”

“I, ah, reckon we should turn in as well,”Ric decided,“We can tell everyone else in the morning.”

“Course, son,”Alf agreed,“You’ve had a tiring day.We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I’m not tired,”Matilda protested quietly, as Ric bustled her into the hallway.

“No,”he agreed,“But we’ve only got another month of pre-marital sex so I think we should get as much in as we can.”

Matilda put her arms round his neck and smiled.“Mr.Dalby, I like your thinking.”She kissed him enthusiastically.“Do you reckon it’ll be any different now we’re engaged?”

“Get upstairs and we’ll find out.”

Xavier squinted in the early morning sunlight.He sighed contently and leaned back in bed.Then jolted awake again as he remember the events of the previous evening.

April calling him round and kissing him.Those few seconds when he’d been enjoying it, when he’d probably have slept with her.The way he felt guilty afterwards, guilty enough to head round to see Indi and try to find a way to make up for the infidelity she hadn’t known about.

Which is how he’d ended up waking up at the Walker farm.In Indi’s bed.With Indi.

Xavier shot up out of bed and began rummaging around for his clothes.Indi stirred next to him.“What’s going on?”she asked.

“We fell asleep,”he explained,“And woke up.At seven o’clock.About an hour and a half before my shift starts, about half an hour before Mum realises I didn’t come home last night and starts practising reading me the riot act and about ten minutes before your dad comes in here with a horse whip.”He managed to find his jeans and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling them on.

Indi climbed out of bed.Xavier looked at her bed outfit, the one that barely covered anything at either end, and had to look away before he became even more tempted to stay with her.“I think Dad’s figured out that we’ve done a few things by now,”she remarked.

“Yeah but there’s knowing about them and being in denial about it and there’s being presented with proof positive of it.Kind of like how you know your parents must have done something for you to come along but you don’t want to think about it.”

“Thanks for that image.”She leaned over and kissed him and he remembered how good it felt to make love to her and felt even worse about cheating on her, however momentarily.Then she pulled back and handed him his shirt.“Come on.”

They crept out of her room, down the hallway to the door.And then they were interrupted by a pointed “Harrumph!” from the kitchen.

Sid was stood there, sipping an early morning cup of tea.The expression on his face was halfway between nostalgic recollections of sneaking out of girls’ rooms and idly wondering where he could get his hands on a shotgun.

Xavier hastily pulled his shirt back on.“I was just going,”he explained.

“Don’t let me keep you,”Sid replied with a forced casual tone.

Xavier took the hint.

Indi stood staring at her father for a few seconds more before giving an awkward cough.“I’m going in the shower,”she announced, making a quick exit.

Romeo had decided to loiter in the kitchen, neutral territory seeming the best place to try and spark up a conversation with Ruby.She seemed to be taking her time coming in for breakfast but just as he was about to give up, she appeared, virtually ignoring him and going straight for the fridge.

“You were asleep when I got to bed last night,”Romeo commented.

Ruby reluctantly looked at him.“That was kind of what I wanted you to think.”

Romeo had suspected as much but he didn’t press it.“Why?”

“To try and avoid a conversation like this!”

“Rube, we’ve got to talk about it some time.”


“Because…because I asked you to marry me and you…you didn’t even say ‘No’, it was more like ‘Get lost.’”

Ruby sighed.“Well, what did you expect me to say?”

“I dunno, I guess…I thought you might find it romantic.”

Ruby raised an eyebrow.“Romantic?”

“Well, okay, it wasn’t the most romantic proposal ever done but…”-he took her hands in his-“…Ruby, it was a big deal, me asking that and I thought it would bring us closer together and instead it just seems to have made us argue.”

Ruby looked into his eyes, saw the love for her there.“Romeo…”

Ric and Mattie came bustling in the back door.“Guess what?”Ric asked cheerfully.

“We’re getting married!”Mattie squealed, proffering the hand with the ring on it.

Ruby gave a yell of frustration and stormed out.

Romeo glared at their two friends.“Great timing, guys.”

Xavier checked his watch again.He’d made it home, grabbed a change of clothes and fed his mother a line about falling asleep on the beach, which happened often enough for her to be unsure whether it was true or not.But although he’d made it to the surf club in good time, he’d been left waiting so long that it was nearly time for him to head down the beach for his shift.

He was just wondering if April wasn’t rostered on at the restaurant when he saw her approaching and raised a hand to attract her attention.“April!”

April saw him but didn’t slow down, walking straight past him.“Mr.Stewart won’t like it if I’m late,”she fired at him as she passed.

Xavier didn’t give up, falling into step next to her.“April, slow down.We need to talk about what happened last night.”

“We both know what happened.I made a pass at you and you turned me down.”April stopped and looked at him, realising avoiding the conversation was futile.“I’m sorry, okay?It was stupid and it was selfish and I shouldn’t have done it.I should have known it wouldn’t be any use, we can’t go back.Things are never gonna be the same.”

Although her depressed tone of voice worried him, Xavier knew what he had to say.“What about Dexter? You said last night…”

April sighed.“I really wish he could have made me happy.He helped me so much, he was always there for me, even when no-one else was…He doesn’t deserve this.”

“I know but…you need to be honest with him.”

A look of fear crossed April’s face.“You can’t tell him what I did, it would hurt him too much.”

“You can’t keep stringing him along…”

“Xavier, promise me you’ll never tell Dexter about last night!”April interrupted desperately,“This time tomorrow, Dexter and I will be over but he must never know!”

Xavier was shocked by her sudden intensity.“Okay, okay, I promise.So long as you sort it.”

April nodded.“I will.”

“I just don’t get it,”Romeo complained.He’d turned up at the caravan park house and poured out the story of his failed proposal to Nicole and was now hanging around the kitchen looking lost.

Nicole had been heating up an orange drink for George and tested the beaker on her arm to see if it had cooled enough.“Well, what do you want me to do?”she asked.

“I dunno, I guess I was kinda looking for some big sisterly advice.”

“I am not your big sister.”

“Well, I wouldn’t ask Mink for advice.You’re the next best thing.”He sighed.“I don’t get it.Ruby and I were going great, asking her to marry me seemed like a perfect idea but she acted like I’d asked her to donate a kidney or something.”

Nicole offered the drink to George, helping him sip it.“How exactly did you propose to her?”

“I said ‘Marry me.’”

Nicole waited for more, then realised nothing was coming.“That’s it?No big speech?No candlelit dinner? No getting down on one knee?Did you even have a ring?”

“I…had my arm round her.A bit.”

Nicole sighed.“Romeo, a guy asking you to marry him is one of those things girls dream about.Literally dream about.Write bad poetry about.It’s meant to be one of the most important things that ever happens to you, not something that’s casually tossed out there.”

Romeo considered this.“So, if I do all that other stuff, she might say yes?”

Nicole hesitated.“Maybe,”she said at last,“Romeo, why do you wanna marry her?”

“Because I love her, I guess.”

“Okay, that’s a good start.But have you really thought about this?About what being married means?”

Romeo shrugged.“I dunno.I don’t know how we’ll live, where we’ll live, how we’ll look after Junior.I just…I just know I’ve never felt this way about anyone before, I’ve never been this certain that we could have a future together.”

Nicole smiled.“Have you thought about telling Ruby all this, instead of your stand-in big sister?”

“Do you think she’d say yes if I did?”

Nicole patted him on the shoulder.“At the very least…she’ll say no in a nicer way.”

“Are you sure, love?”Irene asked as she and Bianca approached the back door of the beach house.

“It’s what Alf said,”Bianca replied,“April went off on her lunch break and he hasn’t seen her since.”

“Hmm, that’s not like her.Hope she’s all right.”

“April!”Bianca called out as they entered the house, receiving no answer.“I’ll check if she’s in her room, she might have fallen asleep.”

“I’ll try her mobile again,”Irene agreed.She was partway through keying in the number when she heard Bianca’s shriek from the bedroom:“Irene!!!

Irene rushed to the doorway and found Bianca sat on the bed, tears streaming down her face, April’s prone body lying in her arms.Next to April’s outstretched hand was an empty pill bottle.

For a moment, Irene just stared at the scene in horror.Then she remembered the phone in her hand.“I’ll call an ambulance.”


The utter despair in Bianca’s reply caused Irene to pause and look again at April.She touched the girl’s hand and felt how cold it was, realised how long she must have been lying there.She put an arm round Bianca’s shoulder, comforting the younger woman in her grief.“Oh, Bianca, I…I’m so sorry.”

Her eyes alighted on the note resting next to the pill bottle, the simple words scribbled in April’s handwriting.“I’m sorry.It’s the only way.

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Thanks for all your comments, hope the last chapter didn't upset anyone too much.Advance warning:I'm on holiday for a week from Saturday so if I don't have another chapter for you before then, see you when I get back.Hope you like this one.


Irene and Bianca sat in the office at the hospital.Bianca was just staring into space, not a flicker of emotion, as if the massive outpouring of grief when she’d found April’s body had completely drained her.Irene shot her concerned looks but said nothing, knowing Bianca would talk when she was ready.

Sid came back in, the empty pill bottle in his hand.He sat down on the other side of the desk, placing the bottle in front of them.“I’ve spoken to April’s doctor and he’s agreed I should tell you everything.These are anti-depressants.April’s been on them for the past three months.She picked up this prescription last week.”

“And she killed herself with them?”Bianca asked.

Sid looked uncomfortable.“If Doctor Yates had suspected there was any risk of suicide, I’m sure he wouldn’t have given her them.”

“How did April end up on anti-depressants?”Irene asked,“I know she had all that trouble last year but she got over that, right?”

“She did.But she came in soon after her dismissal from college and started seeing one of the other doctors here.”Sid held up a tape.“I have a video of her last counselling session.It might give you some insight into how she was feeling.”

Irene looked at Bianca, who nodded.She gave a wave of her hand to echo the consent.

Sid slotted the tape into the machine and the image of April sitting in a consultancy room appeared.They heard the voice of her doctor from out of view.“You were telling me about when you first came to Summer Bay?”

April nodded.“I thought it was my chance at a fresh start.All I ever got from Mum and Dad was disappointment.I was going to be staying with my big sister, I had a chance to go to one school, make some friends instead of travelling around all the time.”She smiled sadly.“And I met Xavier.Soon as I started speaking to him, I knew he was a bit of an idiot but…somehow I just couldn’t stay away from him.I was so full of ideas, I thought I was going to change the world.”

“It sounds like a happy time.”

“It was.But then Mum took me back to Europe and…when I came back here, everything had changed.I made a mess of things with Xavier, I messed up at school, I messed up trying to get things changed.Dex was the only person I really felt close to and he made me happy.I thought I loved him but I think that…that really I just needed someone to understand me.And I thought he did but…but now I don’t know.And then when we went to college and I made a mess of that too…”

“You said you wanted to concentrate on your activist groups?”

“I know but we’re not doing anything.We write letters, we organise protests, nothing changes.I can’t do anything, I never feel satisfied about anything.I’m messing Dexter about, Bianca and Irene are disappointed that I’m just a waitress, Xav and my other friends have got their own lives…It wouldn’t make any difference if I wasn’t here.”

Sid pressed a button and the screen went blank.Bianca looked at Irene, tears in her eyes, as the older woman put an arm round her shoulder.“Why didn’t she just talk to us?”

As they were walking out of the office, Dexter appeared at the other end of the corridor.“Hey, Dad, I got your call, what’s up?”He suddenly seemed to notice the trio’s subdued demeanour and fell silent, looking at them with unease.

Sid called to one of the nurses.“Julie, could you take Irene and Bianca to Room 302, please?Dex, my office.”

Once the two Walker men were alone, Sid shut the door.Dexter took a seat while Sid remained standing. “What’s going on, Dad?”Dexter asked,“Is everything all right?”

Sid sighed.“No, Dex.It’s not.It’s April.”

“April?”There was concern etched on Dexter’s features.“What’s happened?”

“She took an overdose earlier today.By the time anyone found her, it was too late.”Sid looked at his son with sympathy.“She’s dead, Dex.”

Dexter struggled to understand.“Are you saying…April killed herself?”

Sid nodded.“Apparently she’d been unhappy for some time.She was seeing a counsellor.”

Dexter stared at him, dumbfounded.“Why didn’t I notice?”

“There were a lot of people who could have picked up on this, Dex, people who were older and knew more than you.It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.Are you clear on that?”

Dexter nodded slowly.“Yes, Dad.”

“Irene and Bianca are with her now.You can see her afterwards if you want?”

“Do you…do you mind if I don’t?It’s just…going and seeing April lying dead, it feels kind of creepy.”

Sid gave him a reassuring smile.“Of course.”

Dexter’s expression was that of a lost child, unable to fathom the grown-up situation he’d found himself in.“If it’s okay, I’d like to go home now.”

Sid patted him on the shoulder.“I’ll get someone to cover the rest of my shift, then I’ll take you.”

Ruby was rummaging in the fridge when Romeo got home and seemed to suddenly decide she needed to be in the lounge room when she saw him.“Ruby, wait!”he called.She stopped and turned to face him.“I’m sorry,”he told her,“I’m sorry I made a mess of proposing to you.”He walked over to her and took her hands. “I love you, okay?”

“Is that meant to make everything better?”

“No, but I thought it was a good start.”

Ruby smiled despite herself.“All right, carry on.”

“You were right, I did just blurt it out without thinking.But I’ve thought about it now and I still want to marry you.Because you’re amazing.Because I want us to grow old together and I want us and this baby to be a family.And if you’re not ready, that’s fine.But I’m going to ask again one day.”

Ruby smiled at him, her cheeks flushing slightly at the compliments.“I hope you do.I might say yes.”She paused.“Why exactly did you do it, anyway?”

“Well, Ric was saying that girls have their whole wedding planned out.”

“Romeo, I’ve had my whole wedding planned out since I was eight, that doesn’t mean someone should have proposed to me then.”She gave a shy smile.“But…I do picture you as the groom nowadays.”

Romeo smiled.“Who did you picture when you were eight?”

“Depends.Sometimes it was Stefan from the year above.Sometimes it was Prince William.”She noticed his amused look.“Hey, I quite fancied being a princess, okay?You don’t have to worry, I’m well and truly over him by now.And he married someone else.”Ruby turned as she realised someone had appeared at the door.“Nic, hey!”Then she noticed Nicole’s puffy eyes and realised she’d been crying.“Nic?What’s wrong?”

“I was just talking to Indi,”Nicole explained,“Her dad and Dex are at the hospital.”

Both Romeo and Ruby began to have a sinking feeling in their stomachs.“Are they all right?”Ruby asked.

They are,”Nicole replied,“It’s April.”

Xavier heard Gina on the phone as he arrived at the house, her tone subdued.“Yes, of course, Irene, I’ll tell him.Thank you for letting me know.Goodbye.”She put the receiver down and then she seemed to notice him.“Xavier.”Something in the way she said it set alarm bells ringing.

“What’s the matter?”he asked,“What’s going on?”

Gina hesitated.“Sit down.”

“Just tell me!”he demanded.

“It’s April.Irene and Bianca found her in her room this afternoon.She’d taken an overdose.She was already dead when they found her.”

“What?”Xavier shook his head.“No, that’s impossible, I saw her this morning, she was fine when…when I left her.”He stopped, feeling a sinking sensation.“I left her…”

“You couldn’t have known,”Gina tried to reassure him,“No-one realised how unhappy she was.Sit down and I’ll get you something to eat.”

“No, I’ll be all right in my room.”Xavier left the room hurriedly, making it out of her sight before the tears started to fall, his body wracked with silent sobs.

Romeo and Ruby were on the sofa, his arm around her shoulder as she rested her head against him.“Why did she do it?”she asked.

Romeo shrugged helplessly.“I don’t know.”

“She had so much to live for, so many people that cared about her.She was smart, she was beautiful, she had a boyfriend that adored her…Didn’t she realise that?”

“I guess…things just got on top of her and she couldn’t cope.”

“I’ve barely spoken to her since we got back,”Ruby realised,“She was one of the few people that didn’t judge us when we got together and…I wasn’t there for her when she needed me.”

“Hey, don’t go blaming yourself,”Romeo told her firmly,“What’s happened to April…it’s terrible but it’s not because you didn’t talk to her enough.Okay?”

Ruby pulled his head down to hers and kissed him, softly but intimately.“Make love to me,”she said in a quiet voice.

Romeo blinked.“Are you sure?”

“No.It’s probably completely inappropriate.But I just want to stop feeling this emptiness.I want to feel loved.”

Romeo kissed her.Then, without a word, he helped her to her feet and led her to their room.

Indi cautiously pushed the bedroom door open, revealing Dexter lying propped up on the bed, throwing a tennis ball against the wall in a rhythmic manner, even though half the time he seemed to fumble the catch. She held up a bowl.“I thought you might want some chicken soup.”

Dexter raised an eyebrow slightly.“When have I ever wanted chicken soup?”

“Okay, so as excuses to come and check on you go, it wasn’t that smart.”She placed the bowl next to the bed and sat down on the quilt cross-legged.“How are you doing?”

“Is there a manual on what to do when your girlfriend kills herself?Because I seriously have no idea how I’m supposed to act.”

Indi wasn’t sure if she’d ever seen him look so lost before.“However you want, I guess.”

“I just feel like I should be, I dunno, bawling my eyes out or picking a fight with someone or driving a fast car in a dangerous manner.Not sitting in my bedroom being a wuss.”

Indi touched his shoulder gently.“Well, you wouldn’t be you if you did all that.”

“She was my first proper girlfriend, I should be doing more than this.”

“What do you mean, proper girlfriend?”Dexter looked at her and Indi’s eyes widened.“Oh!You mean, you..?When?”

“Two weeks ago.”Dexter gave an ironic grin.“Your little brother’s no longer a virgin!I kinda thought it meant something.Obviously not.”

“I doubt that April…that what she did had anything to do with anything you did.”

“No.”Dexter threw the tennis ball against the wall again.“Wasn’t worth staying alive for, though, was I?”

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Just managed to get this finished before going on holiday, my dad's currently fidgeting on my sofa waiting to give me a lift.See you all when I get back!


Morag looked over her checklist.“April’s passport will need to be sent off to be cancelled, along with a copy of the death certificate.”She passed the item across the desk.“And, since she died intestate, you’d better send e-mails to her parents to discuss the distribution of her assets.”She paused, realising her assistant didn’t seem to be in a hurry to complete the jobs she’d just given her.“Ah, Matilda?”

“I’m sorry,”Matilda apologised,“But…it just seems so clinical.She was even younger than me and…and we’re talking about dividing up her assets?Which are what, a three figure bank account and a few stuffed toys?”

With a sigh, Morag got up and walked to the other side of her desk, reducing the physical and emotional distance between them.“It is a very tragic set of circumstances, I agree with you.But living in a civilised, which is to say bureaucratic, society such as we do, there are things that need to be done and there’s no getting away from it.”

“I’m just thinking about…about her family.About her sister.About how I’d feel if it was Kit or Robbie or Henry or Scott.How I should be doing something for her.”

“We are doing something for her.By setting April’s affairs in order the way we are, we’re lifting the burden of having to cope with all these details from her.”She could see her words weren’t entirely getting through and sighed.“Matilda, as a solicitor you will often find yourself having to deal with cases that you may find emotional or painful.But, if you think this is too much or too close to home, I can handle this while you work on other cases.”

Matilda shook her head.“No, you’re right.I want to help.I’ll get those e-mails sent off straightaway.”

Xavier was lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling, when he heard the knock at his door.Indi pushed it open.“Your mum let me in,”she explained.

“Is she here?”

“No, she’s just gone out.”Indi sat down on the bed.“How are you?”

Xavier shrugged.“About how you’d expect, I guess.”

“It’s just, I’ve been spending all this time with Dex lately, I kind of forgot you’d be upset as well.”

Xavier sighed.Part of him didn’t walk to talk about it, part of him felt relieved to finally be able to open up.“She called me over to her place.The night before it happened.”

Indi thought for a moment.“You were with me the night before it happened.”

“Yeah, this was earlier.She told me she wanted to get back together.”

Indi felt a sudden cold shock at the remark.“She did what?What did you say?”

Xavier suddenly remembered who he was talking to and sat up sharply.“You can’t tell Dexter, okay?He doesn’t deserve that.”

“Okay, I won’t tell Dexter, but what did you say?”

“I said no.”Xavier hesitated.Somehow the half truth didn’t sit right with him.“After I kissed her.”

Indi stood up abruptly, taking a step back from the bed.“You kissed her?”

“She kissed me and I kissed her back.But then I stopped it and I told her we couldn’t take it any further.”

“Do you wish you had now?”There was an accusing tone to Indi’s question.

“Well, if I had done she might still be alive, so yeah, I wish I’d done things different.”

“Do you still love her?”

“Yes, okay?”Xavier snapped,“I still love her!And I wish I could have done something to stop her doing what she did!”

Indi was silent for a few seconds.“Well, I guess we always knew this thing between us was only casual. Best we draw a line under it now, before it gets too serious.”

Xavier nodded, subdued again.“Yeah, probably for the best.”

“I’ll see myself out.”

She left quietly.Xavier lay back down on the bed.Somewhere, deep down, he had the feeling that he’d just made a mistake.

Romeo could hear Ric on the phone as he arrived at the garage.“Yeah, it’s okay, mate.Thanks for letting me know.Talk to you soon.Bye.”

“Problem?”Romeo asked.

“That was Lucas, who was going to be my best man?Lives in the States now.He’s just been given this big writing assignment so he can’t get back.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.”

“Yeah but I guess I can probably find another friend somewhere.”

Romeo sat down one of the work surfaces.“Guess we’ve got the funeral to come first.”

“Yeah.”Ric looked at him awkwardly.“Did you know her well?”

“Not that well.She was going out with Xavier when we were friends and then she was going out with Indi’s brother when we were together, so I hung out with her a bit.I kind of feel like I should be there for them but…”

“Not easy, is it?I remember after Cassie and I broke up, I was never really sure how involved I should be or how much I should support her.”

“Still that hard?”

“No, actually we manage to handle the ‘just friends’ things quite well these days.There was this time when I split up with Mattie and Cass was having problems and I guess it kind of brought us closer together in a different way.So, hope for you yet.”Ric paused.“Was there a reason you came here or are you just distracting me from work?”

“At a bit of a loose end,”Romeo admitted,“Got the day off from college and Ruby’s going to see Nic so…”

“You know anything about cars?”

“Well, I’ve tried to fix a boat a few times…”

“Close enough.Grab some overalls from over there.”

Romeo look nonplussed.“What?”

“You’ve got yourself half a day’s work.Might even be able to take you on part-time, if you want it.”

Romeo was no less confused.“Dude, why are you doing this?”

“Look, you’ve got a kid on the way, I’ve got a kid on the way, you need the money.Let me help you out.I think the garage can just about afford it.”

Romeo grinned gratefully.“Thanks, mate.”

Nicole was gently stroking Indi’s hair.Her friend had turned up at her place in tears and was only just beginning to recover her composure.“God, I’m so pathetic,”she complained.

“Hey, we’ve all been there,”Nicole reassured her.

“Yeah but everything that’s going on, April’s dead, Dexter’s struggling…and I’m getting upset over Xavier?It’s not even like we were that serious.”She caught Nicole’s knowing look.“What?”

“Well, you two might have insisted you were just casual but maybe you were more serious than you’re willing to admit?I mean, he was a part of your life for quite a while, whether you like it or not.”

“Maybe…Oh look, I dunno.I just know I can’t be thinking about this right now.”

“Ah.”They both turned round at the noise to find Ruby standing awkwardly in the doorway.“You’re busy. I’ll come back later.”

To the shock of both Ruby and Nicole, Indi got up, walked over to Ruby and hugged her.“I’m sorry for being such a cow to you.”

Ruby looked at her in shock.“Well, you did have reason, I did run off with your boyfriend after all.”

“Yeah but with everything that’s going on, it just all feels kind of petty now.It’s not even like I want Romeo anymore.”

“Well, apology accepted.And I’m sorry too.”

“Sit down, Indi, I’ll make you some tea,”Nicole offered.

“Yeah, I’ll help,”Ruby added, following her into the kitchen.She looked back towards Indi in bewilderment.“Did you see that?”

“Yeah, bit of a shocker.She’s just broken up with Xav, I think she’s feeling a bit emotional.”

“Seeing the two of you there, I was kind of having flashbacks to when I was helping you over your break-ups.”

Nicole nodded.“Feels like a lifetime ago.”

“You miss it?The dating game, I mean?There hasn’t been really been anyone since Penn.”

Nicole shrugged.“I miss having someone there sometimes but I’ve got George and most of my relationships tend to be a bit disastrous anyway.”She noticed Ruby’s concerned look and smiled.“Hey, we can’t all be like you and Romeo.I’m fine.”

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