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Conjugal Charms

Guest mizziette

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Type of story: Long fic

Main Characters: Charlie, Bianca, Brax, Liam, Heath

BTTB rating: A

Genre: Romance.

Does story include spoilers: no

Any warnings: maybe sexual content

Summary: A sequel to Pregnant Proportions. Charlie and Bianca are settling into married life with their respective husbands and children. Mainly the day to day life of Charlie and Bianca. LOTS of romance.


Charlie whispered into Brax’ chest as she cuddled into him on the couch. The thunder roared and the hail poured outside. ‘I hate thunder storms.’

‘Don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe.’ Brax whispered into her hair and sensed her tension and worry. ‘Bianca’s going to be okay, you know. She’s one of the strong ones, just like you.’

‘She’s having a baby Brax.’ Charlie stroked his chest absentmindedly. ‘She’s having a baby right now and I promised her I’d be there when it happened. She needs me.’

The thunder roared frighteningly close and Charlie jumped and huddled even closer to her boyfriend. ‘I know but we can’t go there in this. We just have to wait it out.’

‘I hate waiting. I just wish there was something I could do.’

‘There is.’ Brax whispered cautiously. ‘You could tell me you’ll marry me.’

‘I just….Hang on, what?’ Charlie looked up in shock. It had taken a while for her mind to process what he’d just said. ‘What did you just say?’

‘I… I asked you to marry me.’ Brax now looked a little insecure and vulnerable. For some reason, he was so afraid she’d say no. Reaching into the end table drawer, he got a little ring box. He could feel the sweat as he waited anxiously. ‘What do you think?’

Charlie was speechless which only made it more unbearable for Brax but she was too in awe to notice. Finally, she whispered, scaring away all the doubt from Brax’ mind. ‘What do you think, Braxton? Yes. Yes, of course I’ll marry you.’

She grabbed his cheeks and planted a soft kiss on his lips for the first time as his fiancé.

ONE |present|

‘It’s been a great couple of years don’t you think?’ Bianca sipped her champagne as she gazed at the vast ocean. Everyone was having the time of their lives inside Angelo’s but the girls wanted some alone time.

‘It sure has.’ Charlie spoke from beside her. ‘I never thought my life would turn out like this.’

‘Don’t worry Charlie, neither did I.’ Ruby strolled up from behind them in a fun blue-grey lace dress. ‘I thought you’d be the old spinster cop living in my garage.’

‘Hey!’ Charlie mocked offence. ‘Watch your mouth young lady. I might have to make you wash it out.’

Rubes shrugged with a smile. ‘It’s a good thing you’re not a cop anymore. And after today, you won’t be a spinster either. Congratulations mum.’


‘Have you guys seen Drew?’ Charlie shook her head and Ruby kissed her mum on the cheek. ‘I’ll find him on my own. I always knew you’d do it, Charles. You look beautiful doing it too.’

‘Thanks.’ Charlie smiled. ‘I love you.’

‘Love you too.’ Once Ruby was gone, Charlie returned her gaze to the beautiful ocean glistened by the afternoon sun.

‘It’s beautiful isn’t it?’ Charlie whispered and linked arms with her friend. ‘The ocean, I mean. I can never get enough of it.’

‘It sure is. When I first came here, I thought I’d hate this place but now I can’t imagine leaving it.’ Bianca smoothed down her blue-grey lace dress; a more mature version of Ruby’s flirty young one.

‘Neither can I.’ Charlie ‘s eyes glistened. ‘I’m really happy, you know that.’

‘I know you are. You deserve this, Charles, your special day.’ Bianca tilted her head to the surf club behind them. ‘We should probably get back to your special day. Your guests are waiting.’

Charlie shook her head. ‘I think I’m just going to stay out here for a little longer. Enjoy the peace and quiet. You go ahead.’

‘Okay. See you soon.’ Bianca strolled away and looked backwards at her friend one last time. ‘Charlie?’

‘Yeah?’ Charlie turned her head.

‘Ruby’s right. You do look beautiful.’ The girls beamed at each other before Bianca went inside and Charlie admired the ocean, reminiscing about the happy times.


Brax stood behind an unaware Charlie as she stood watching the ocean in deep thought. She looked so beautiful just standing there so peacefully. In fact, she looked beautiful doing anything. Brax admired his bride in her gorgeous white strapless beach dress; the chiffon flying in the breeze.

Brax smiled as he wrapped his arms around from behind her and kissed her shoulder blade. ‘What’re you hiding away out here for?’

Charlie turned her head and leaned against him. ‘I was just thinking about how happy you make me.’

‘Well, that’s a very good thing to think about eh.’ Brax laughed.

‘Can you believe we’ve been married for three whole hours?’ Charlie swooned.

‘Three whole hours? The three best hours of my life, I’d say.’

‘Mine too.’

Brax complimented and noticed the ocean. ‘That’s a pretty good swell out there.’

‘Don’t even think about it!’ Charlie laughed. ‘You are not ditching our wedding reception to go surfing.’

‘Maybe we could ditch it to go to Vanuatu.’ Brax kissed her ear.

Charlie turned around in surprise at the words and held onto his strong arms. ‘Vanuatu?’

‘Well, where else are we going on our honeymoon?’ Brax grinned; he had been planning the perfect wedding present for weeks and it felt great to finally see her face light up as he told her.

‘I didn’t…I didn’t think we could afford a honeymoon…What about Aria? And work?’ Charlie was in shock.

‘All taken care off.’ Brax brushed away her concerns. ‘Two weeks in Vanuatu, Aria’s staying with Ruby, and the girls will join us the second week. You up for it?’

‘You’re not going to surfing all the time, are you?’ Charlie questioned humorously.

‘No. I don’t even plan on leaving the bungalow.’ Brax kissed her.

‘When do we go?’ Charlie laughed excitedly. Best wedding present ever.

Brax laughed with her. ‘The flight’s in four hours so we should leave about now to get to the city in time.’

‘But I haven’t even packed my bags!’ Charlie began mentally skimming through her closet, picking out what to take in her head. After all, she didn’t have much time. ‘You could’ve given me a little warning.’

Brax stroked her arms up and down unfazed. ‘No need. Ruby packed it for you while you were getting ready for the wedding at Bianca’s place.’

‘You really thought of everything didn’t you?’

‘All that’s missing is my gorgeous bride.’ Brax stepped back, his hand in hers and led her to the surf club. ‘Let’s go say good bye to everyone.’

Charlie couldn’t get rid of her grin as she was led away. She was madly, utterly and insanely in love with Darryl Braxton. With her husband, Darryl Braxton. Charlie couldn’t help but giggle as she thought of him as her husband.

Husband, there was a melodic ring to the word that made her heart tickle in her chest. She had a husband. Charlie Buckton had a husband, a living breathing husband. And she couldn’t get enough of him.

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Checking up on my best mate. Missing you. X.

Bianca texted as she watched her son crawl around and around the arm chair in circles. It had been two days since Charlie’s departure to Vanuatu and she felt lonely, unaware that 1500 miles away, her best friend was missing her just as much.

Charlie looked out at the reef from her bedroom balcony of their overwater bungalow and smiled. As much as she loved being alone with Brax, she missed home like crazy. Texting her back, she wrapped the silk blanket tighter to cover her bare body.

Missing my three fave girl’s too. Island’s to die for. X.

It wasn’t long before Bianca texted back. She remembered her honeymoon; she and Liam had taken a weekend elopement package in a bush cottage. Cheap, secluded and no fuss. After the whole Vittorio debacle, she’d wanted simple. Who knew simple could be so romantic? But then again, so was Vanuatu.

Jealous! Have fun for me.

‘I will.’ Charlie spoke out loud as she read her screen. Looking into the room from the balcony sliding doors, she saw Brax opening his eyes as he lay flat on his stomach. He was finally waking up.

I will. Take care, see you soon. X Charlie.

While Charlie put her phone away and walked back to her stirring husband, Bianca found a little blond man tugging at her jeans begging his mama to pick him up. Placing her phone beside her, Bianca leant to pick up her baby and sat him on her lap.

‘You’re growing up, aren’t you gorgeous? My baby’s growing up.’ Bianca spoke into Valen’s hair adoringly.


‘Morning husband.’ Charlie sat on the bed, leaning over to kiss a sleepy Brax.

‘Morning.’ Brax yawned sleepily and rubbed his eyes awake. ‘Come here.’

Charlie lay next to him and cuddled into his arms. ‘So, hubby, are we going to actually get out of our little cocoon today?’

‘I wasn’t planning on it, no.’ Brax stroked her face. ‘We have all next week to do that.’

‘I’m in heaven, you know that hubby.’

‘You’re never going to stop calling me that, are you?’ He laughed adoringly.

‘Nope, never. So my husband better get used to it.’ Charlie shook her head gleefully.

‘I was afraid of that. I guess I’m going to have to be a little persuasive.’ Brax leaned up to kiss her but she playfully kept moving back. Smiling, he grabbed her and pulled her to him, kissing her fully on the lips. Soon they were intertwined.

‘I love you.’ Charlie whispered.

‘I love you.’

Out of nowhere, Charlie pulled away and stood up smiling cheekily. Facing a confused Brax, she walked backwards towards the balcony slowly.

‘Where are you going? I was a little busy there, in case you hadn’t noticed.’ Brax leaned up on his elbow, wondering what the hell she was up to.

‘Oh, I noticed.’ Charlie reached the sliding doors and let go of the silk blanket covering her to reveal her bare body, making Brax sit up a little more. ‘I thought we could go for a swim instead.’

Charlie walked to the right and Brax saw her descend down the stairs leading directly to the shallow water below them through the glass doors. Once she was out of sight, the poor man immediately began to miss her and followed her out.

Charlie felt hands grab her from behind and lifted her to the air and she squealed. When she was put down the newlyweds took the last two steps of the balcony staircase and slid themselves waist deep into the turquoise water. Charlie took Brax’ hands and strolled backwards through the water, leading him deeper into the reef.

‘You know, Sarge, you’re a real rebel for someone who prides herself on obeying the law.’ Brax held her by the waist. ‘Last I checked, skinny dipping was a little bit illegal. Not that I’m complaining.’

‘There’s no one for miles.’ The couple had by now gone deeper into the ocean until they were shoulder deep, the water covering their bare bodies fully. The fishes swam around them in an array of colours. Behind them on the island, the sand was whiter than snow and the thick jungle a dark green. They really were in the middle of nowhere. Charlie stroked his arm. ‘Just you, and me, and the fishes. And I don’t think the fishes care.’

Charlie pushed her feet off the sandy floor and floated backwards on her back. ‘Are you ever going to stop calling me Sarge? I’m not a Sergeant, something my husband would surely know by now.’

‘Well,’ Brax pulled her back to him. ‘It turns out your husband fell insanely in love with a Sarge a couple of years ago. She’ll always be Sarge to him.’

‘Oh, should I be jealous?’ Charlie played along.

Brax leaned in until their lips were almost touching. ‘Very. She’s the love of my life. There’s no one else like her.’

And just like that, Charlie fell in love with him all over again.

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‘He didn’t! Oh my god, that’s so cute!’ Charlie squealed into the phone and received a weird look from Brax who was driving for her outburst. ‘So cute!’

‘He did.’ Bianca grinned as he sat on the beach watching Valen play. ‘He said “Love you ma.” Just like that. Isn’t that just adorable?’

‘So adorable.’ Charlie was close to tears with joy which was a little overboard and Brax was still raising his eyebrows in amusement. ‘Oh Brax, he said “Love you ma”. Isn’t that adorable?’

‘Sure is.’ Brax rolled his eyes and focussed on the road. Everything little child related thing triggered her motherly instincts these days.

‘Brax thinks it’s adorable.’ Charlie reported back to Bianca. ‘I can’t believe little Val said his first three word sentence. Your baby’s such a genius.’

‘I know, isn’t he?’ Bianca fiddled with the creamy Summer Bay sand, wishing it was white and soft like the sand in Vanuatu her friends were at. ‘What’s that whirring sound in the back?’

‘Oh, we’re driving to the airport to pick up Ruby and Aria.’ Charlie looked around the mess of a car they had rented. ‘That’ll be the engine you’re hearing. It sounds like a dying rooster on loudspeaker.’

‘Yeah, I sent them off about four hours ago. They seemed really excited to be going on holiday with you.’

‘As amazing as it’s been with just me and Brax, I can’t wait to see my girls. I’ve missed them like crazy.’

‘Aria’s missed you too. Rubes told me she calls out for her mummy every night.’ Bianca looked at her own child and knew it must be killing Charlie to be away from hers for so long. She couldn’t imagine not being without her son after being together for two years.

‘It’s so hard being away from her. Thank god, reception over here sucks sometimes or Ruby would have gone crazy with me checking up on the little one all the time.’

‘Well, you’ll see her soon, so happy reunion.’ Bianca smiled.

Charlie laughed. ‘Thanks. We’re actually pulling into the airport now so talk to you later, okay?’

‘Yeah sure.’ Bianca reached to hold Valen’s hand as he was about to lose his balance and fall. ‘It’s Heath’s night with the little man anyway so I should go drop him off.’

‘Everything’s working out there?’

‘Yeah, he’s happy, I’m happy, every one’s happy.’ Bianca shrugged. ‘Bye. Give a kiss to my favourite god daughter for me.’

‘I will. See you.’ Charlie hung up the phone and looked at Brax with a smile on her face. Grabbing his hand, they parked the rotting stinking junk of a car to meet their kids.


Ruby explored the water bungalow with a huge grin on her face. As she walked on the dark wooden flooring around the fancy open plan living area, the wall wide windows, and the luxurious furniture. But of course, the best thing was the view with its rich greens, snow whites and crystal blues; a contrast amazing beyond compare.

‘You’ve been living here for the last week? This place is unbelievable.’ Ruby took in the breathtaking volcanic island in front of her from the lounge room balcony. ‘This is amazing, the…oh my god… everything!’

‘Yeah, Brax did pretty well, didn’t he?’ Charlie smiled, happy to see her daughter so happy. ‘If you think the view’s amazing from up here, you should the fish tank in my room.’

‘You have a fish tank in your room?’ Ruby began to go inside to see it but her mum stopped her.

‘Later. I’ve missed you this last week. How’ve you been holding up?’ The girls sat on the patio chairs and took in the humid air. ‘I heard you had a little trouble putting Aria to sleep.’

Ruby rolled her eyes, ready to get started on her rant. ‘She missed you too much. You have no idea how hard it is taking care of a two year old. I don’t know how but that sister of mine has some serious lung power.’

‘It wasn’t too much asking you to look after her while we were honeymooning was it?’ Charlie looked worried. ‘Because if it was…’

‘No, no, it was fine. I loved hanging out with my baby sister. Don’t worry; it was just hard work, that’s all.’ Ruby reassured her. ‘If anything it just made me realise I don’t want kids til I’m like way old. I am so not ready.’

‘Oh, believe me; you’re not giving me grandkids til I’m way old.’ Charlie shook her head adamantly. ‘Ruby Buckton, remember this, you better not make me a grandmother in my thirties or you’ll be in serious trouble. I am way too young.’

‘You have nothing to worry about. I want to be a successful music producer first.’

‘Well, managing the new record studio at the surf club is a great start Rubes. I’m proud of you.’ Charlie gleamed with pride.

‘Yeah, it’s so amazing. Liam’s getting back into music and he booked the studio for when we get back so I’m going to be working with him.’ Ruby seemed excited. At nearly twenty one years old, her life was heading in exciting directions.

‘Although it is a shame the studio’s replacing the gym. I loved that place.’ Charlie remembered all those times she’d gone to the gym to exercise her Darryl Braxton urges away. Luckily for her, it hadn’t worked.

‘Yeah, too bad no one else loved it as much as you do. Business was too slow in the end.’ Ruby shrugged and smiled. ‘All the better for me though. I get a cool new job. Enough about me, how’s your honeymoon been so far?’

Charlie’s eyes sparkled at the word. ‘Well, my husband and I have been having the most amazing honeymoon.’

‘Did you go anywhere? What have you been doing?’ Ruby was eager to know what awaited her in Vanuatu.

‘Oh, you just honeymoon stuff.’ Charlie thought to spare her daughter the details and be vague but the smart girl understood the implication.

‘Gross. Forget I asked.’ Ruby put her hand up in protest. No child wanted to know that part of their parent’s lives.

‘I’m glad you’re here Rubes. It means a lot that you’re here.’ Charlie giggled and stood up, giving her hand to Ruby. ‘Come on, let’s go in and see what havoc Brax and Aria are up to.’

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More family fun! :D


‘Aria and I are checking out Nemo, aren’t we baby?’ Charlie sat with her daughter on her lap on top of the window in her bedroom floor, revealing the array of colourful fishes swimming under their bungalow. Including Nemo. Bianca was on speaker phone.

‘Nemo.’ Aria tapped the glass happily waving hello to the clown fishes.

‘Yes, Nemo.’ Charlie agreed and returned her attention to Bianca on the line. ‘Oh Bianca, we are having the best time. It’s been amazing, if I didn’t miss home so much, I’d never want to leave.’

‘If I was there, I wouldn’t miss home at all.’ Bianca grinned as she sat at the hospital waiting for April to finish her work placement shift for university.

‘How is home anyway? Anything interesting on your end?’ Charlie asked.

‘No, nothing much. Just your average boring small town where nothing ever happens.’ Bianca clucked.

‘You and I both know Summer Bay is the one place everything happens no matter what.’ Charlie caught her out.

‘I’m serious, things are normal around here, April’s doing well in her medical internship, Liam’s doing well with his music, and Irene’s working at the diner.’

‘Let’s just hope things stay normal.’ Charlie played with her daughter who was in awe of the fishes swimming under their floor.

‘Shouldn’t you be doing something right about now? Like enjoying your honeymoon maybe?’ Bianca asked.

‘I am enjoying my honeymoon. It’s amazing.’ Charlie smiled. ‘I’m hanging out with my baby girl. Brax and Ruby went surfing on another beach. They’ll be back soon and we’re going into town for dinner.’

April came over pulling back her greasy hair and gestured to her sister tiredly. ‘Hey Charlie, April’s here, I should go. Get out of that little bungalow, okay?’

‘I’ll try. Love you.’ Charlie hit the end call button and returned her attention to her daughter who was still patting the glass window in awe. The mother pointed enthusiastically at the window. ‘Wow, who’s that Aria? Look, its Nemo’s friend. What’s her name? Do you remember, baby?’

‘Dory. Wow, Dory.’ Aria beamed with joy; she was having the time of her life. Who would’ve thought the little girl would actually get to meet the real life Nemo and Dory. She was star struck, living in a dream world where cartoon characters came to life. Or so she thought.


‘We’re back!’ Ruby barged in and Aria yelped in glee to see her favourite big sister, lifting her arms in the air.

‘Rube’ Aria squealed and waved as Ruby picked her up. ‘Hi Rube’

‘Hi Ari.’ Ruby waved back. ‘You should’ve come with us. Daddy and I could’ve taught you how to surf.’

‘Isn’t it a little early, she’s only two.’ Charlie said worriedly. ‘She can barely swim.’

‘Yeah, that’s why we bought these on the way back.’ Brax held up two pink inflatable arm bands with excitement.

‘NO.’ Charlie frowned protectively. She wasn’t ready to let go.

‘Charlie, I learnt to swim when I was younger than her. I’ll take care of her, I promise.’ Brax knelt and kissed her pouting lips. ‘It’ll just be out in the shallow end.’

Charlie reluctantly nodded and sighed as Ruby squealed and took her sister to her room to dress her in her favourite polka dot swim gear. Before long, they were outside the bungalow in the water, with the worried mother sitting on the staircase leading into the water.

‘See, she loves it.’ Ruby gleamed and reassured her mum as Brax stayed close to his daughter who didn’t even look scared. She really was a Braxton; born to be in the ocean.

Aria yelped in delight as she floated on the crystal clear water in her new pink rings and her red polka dot swim suit. The fishes swam around her in the water and she pointed at them excitedly. ‘Look Nemo! NEMO!’

‘Yes. I can see.’ Brax laughed and rippled the water with his fingers making the fishes disperse and disappear. Aria looked up at him. ‘Where did all the fishes go?’

Aria looked at her mum and then Ruby before placing her eyes back on her dad. Then she looked at the water intently, wondering where daddy sent the fishes. Then suddenly, a little orange thing moved in the distance towards her and she pointed with delight. ‘Nemo!’

The adults clapped and Ruby whistled. ‘Yay! You found him.’

‘Come here.’ Brax moved back and gestured for her to go to him in an attempt to teach her to swim. ‘Swim to me.’

Aria looked confused and Ruby nudged her forward with a gentle push. The little girl paddled hard and fast but didn’t seem to get anywhere so her big sister nudged her on a little more. After a while, she was squealing as her father lifted her into the air.

‘You did it!’ Charlie congratulated her daughter on the swimming success. She had to admit, there was no reason for worry. Aria was a natural. She watched as her family splashed each other in the water, wondering how she had possibly gotten so lucky.

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‘Okay, you cannot be on a volcano right now.’ Bianca shook her head on the other end of the line. ‘Now you’re just rubbing it in my face. I am so jealous!’

‘You better be. Because it is incredible here.’ Charlie spoke into the phone with her hand protectively on her youngest. ‘Problem is I can’t relax enough to enjoy it. I keep thinking Aria’s going to fall into it. There is lava literally spitting out, it’s enough to give me a heart attack.’

‘But you’re far away, right? Then you have nothing to worry about.’ Bianca assured her.

‘Right. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about.’ Charlie took a deep breath, trying to convince herself. A burst of lava spit out from the crater and she jumped up, nearly dropping her phone. Aria was excited about the burst of flame and began running toward it but luckily Brax got her and lifted her up in time. ‘Nothing to worry about.’

‘Exactly. Nothing at all. Just take a deep breath. In and out.’ Bianca was a plane ride away and didn’t realise what had just happened. She laughed as she sat on the arm chair watching Valen take a deep breath solemnly thinking his mum was instructing him instead of his aunt.

Charlie breathed deeply and sat on the volcanic rock while the other tourists milled around her on the rim of the crater. ‘Okay, I think I’m a little better. Distract me. Got any cute godson stories for me?’

‘Well, since you asked, Valen caught his first fish yesterday. He was so proud of himself, wouldn’t stop talking about it all day. Heath took him fishing on the pier.’ Bianca beamed.

‘Wow, Rubes and Brax are teaching Ari to swim on this end. She’s having such a great time, it’s really a shame she won’t remember it when she’s older.’

The little boy in Bianca’s lap yawned and cuddled into his mum. ‘Val bed.’

‘Hey, it’s bed time in Summer Bay. I should go.’ Bianca smiled. ‘You take care and stop worrying okay? And I’ll see you when you get back tomorrow.’

‘Bye.’ Charlie agreed and put down her phone. She looked over at Brax holding Aria as they watched the fire and wondered how she was supposed to not worry. As long as Aria Braxton was her daughter, she would always worry about her, no matter what. She was her mother, and that was her job; whether it was voluntary or not.


The Braxton family drove back from the volcano in the morning after spending the night in the jungle. Brax drove the beaten down hire car with care as if it would malfunction at any second while Ruby had her iPod blaring in the back seat.

‘Ruby, you’re going to go deaf with all that noise in your ear.’ Charlie called out to her daughter who had the music so loud she couldn’t even realise she was being spoken to. Her mother rolled her eyes and smiled at Brax.

‘I wish we didn’t have to leave tonight.’ Charlie admitted. ‘It’s been so amazing these last two weeks; I don’t want it to end.’

‘We have a life to get back to.’ Brax grinned at his wife. The car suddenly grunted and wheezed like a sick cow. ‘That doesn’t sound good.’

The car came to an abrupt stop. Every one stepped out and Charlie got Aria and her inseparable teddy out of the back seat while Brax checked out the hood. Ruby took her head phones off and rolled her eyes when she saw the fuel meter. ‘Brax, when was the last time you put fuel in this thing?’

Charlie glared at Brax. They were in the middle of the jungle and might probably get mauled by wild hogs. Brax tried to reassure the girls. ‘It’s okay. We’ll just find a village or something and see if they have fuel.’

‘And if they don’t?’ Charlie asked as she put Aria on the ground to walk. ‘This place is primitive.’

‘Let’s just hope they do.’ The four of them walked down the road for about half an hour. It was hot and humid; the jungle air refreshing and peaceful. Lugging their bags around, they finally found a village.

‘Oh thank you, civilisation.’ Ruby thanked the stars dramatically. The tribal men looked confused. ‘Hi.’

‘Hello.’ The chief walked up and greeted them. ‘Welcome.’

‘Hi.’ Brax greeted him back.

Aria smiled as she held her teddy and walked up a two year old girl in a grass skirt shyly. All the women wore grass skirts and the men grass sheaths. Aria waved shyly at her new friend. ‘Hi.’

The tribal girl waved back. They couldn’t understand each other but before long, Aria was fitting in with the village toddlers and showing the awed kids her teddy bear.

They ended up staying in the village for most of the day. Brax got the fuel from the chief and the family ate pig which Brax had helped hunt with the other guys and they learnt how to dance. In return, the teenagers got to listen excitedly to Ruby’s iPod and the toddlers got to play with Aria. Charlie walked over to Brax who was watching their daughter play with her new friends.

‘This has been the best honeymoon.’ Charlie sat next to her husband. ‘Thank you.’

‘Anything for you.’ Brax smiled and put his arm around her. ‘I am looking forward to going home though.’

‘So am I.’

‘Yeah, I just hope my restaurant’s in one piece when I get back. I’ve never left Heath in charge alone for this long. I don’t mind if he fishes with his son as long as my livelihood stays open.’

‘He’s been working there for two years. I think he’s got the hang of it.’ Charlie whispered.

‘I hope so.’ Brax stood up and held out his hand to her. ‘Come on, it’s getting late. Let’s go home.’

‘Yes, let’s.’ Charlie took his hand and stood up. ‘Let’s go home to Summer Bay.’

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‘Aria! Oh, baby girl, how I’ve missed you!’ Bianca gleamed and trapped the giggling girl dramatically in a bear hug, planting kisses all over her. She held back and looked at her cheekily. ‘Look at you, were you this tall a week ago? I think you’ve grown. Did you miss me?’

Aria pondered mischievously and shook her head. Bianca mock-gasped and looked up at an amused Charlie and back at her smiling daughter. ‘No! Did you hear that, mamma? She doesn’t miss me. Not even if Aunt B gave you a big piece of chocolate cake? Would you miss me then?’

‘Cake.’ Aria grinned immediately and nodded her head. Then noticing her favourite cousin hiding behind Bianca, she got out of her embrace and ran over to Valen to hug hello. ‘Val’s here.’

Bianca stood up and finally greeted the adult. ‘I hope you missed me. Or do I have to bribe you with chocolate cake too?’

‘What can is I say? Like mother like daughter. I think you just might.’ Charlie joked, eager to know if this mysterious cake really existed. After the airplane food, she craved something moist and sweet. She hugged her friend. ‘Come here, of course I missed you.’

‘I missed you too. Come on sit, you have to tell me everything!’ The girls sat on the beach side bench while the kids babbled away incoherently to each other at their feet. ‘Any exciting vacation stories?’

‘Nothing much happened exciting. It was mostly peaceful and relaxing.’ Charlie confessed and the girls heard the cute little tribal ankle rattle jiggling on Aria’s leg as she chased Valen around the bench. Charlie explained. ‘Ari made friends with some tribal kids when we ran out of fuel in the middle of the jungle. They gave it to her as a present. It’s supposed to make noise when you dance.’

‘Nothing exciting happened huh?’ Bianca joked disbelievingly. ‘You go on volcanoes, dance with indigenous tribes while lost in a jungle and possibly have a bungalow with the best view ever and nothing happened. Okay, Charlie, I believe you.’

Charlie rolled her eyes. ‘We weren’t lost. And anyway, none of that mattered. I just had fun with my family, that’s all.’

‘Well, I had fun too.’ Bianca looked at her friend knowingly. ‘Guess who was at Heath’s apartment when I went to pick up Valen this morning?’

‘Who?’ Charlie smiled. ‘And don’t tell me it’s April again? Look how great that turned out the last time.’

‘No, it’s not April. Thank god that got nipped in the butt.’ Bianca shuddered before continuing. ‘No, Cheryl was there.’

‘She’s his mum. How is that gossip?’

‘Because…’ Bianca impatiently continued. ‘She was totally getting it on with Keith.’

‘Colleen’s Keith?’ Charlie smiled. ‘I guess it was about time the woman found someone in her life.’

‘Yeah, but can you imagine Colleen’s face if they strolled into the diner together?’

Charlie laughed at the image as Bianca filled her in on the goings on of Summer Bay. It was good to be home.


Charlie sat at the familiar diner with a smile on her face. All the familiar faces were a welcome change. She greeted Marilyn as she gave her the moist piece of chocolate cake. ‘I didn’t order any cake.’

‘Oh, I know.’ Marilyn chirped. ‘It’s courtesy of Bianca. She paid for it when she came in a little earlier. What was it she said? That she owes you the biggest piece of chocolate cake ever? Something along those lines.’

Charlie grinned as she remembered the reunion yesterday when Bianca bribed Aria with cake. She had kept her promise. ‘Thanks Marilyn.’

‘Any time. Welcome back. Look at you, nice and vibrant from your little trip.’ Marilyn hovered, eager for conversation. She bent down to Aria’s eye level. ‘Oh, look at you, you gorgeous thing. Did you have fun too? You really are a gorgeous thing, you know that?’

‘Corchus.’ Aria blushed and bit her lip playfully, liking the new word. ‘Ye, Ari corchus.’

‘And modest too, surely.’ The adults exchanged knowing smiles and Marilyn went back to work. Charlie got the fork and took a small cut of the cake.

‘Alright does my corchus girl want cake?’ Aria nodded eagerly, her mouth drooling as her mum put the fork closer and closer to her mouth. ‘Bianca got this for you, you know. Because you said you missed her. You remember that?’

The girls shared their cake between each other. Aria broke off pieces from the plate and placed them scrumptiously in her mouth, putting icing on her cheeks in the process. ‘Well, aren’t we being indulgent today.’ A voice interrupted their feast.

Charlie put another forkful in her mouth as she looked up to see her step-mum. Aria grinned excitedly with chocolate icing in her teeth as she held up her hands for her grandma to hug her. ‘Nana Moregg!’

‘We can hug later darling.’ Morag sat next to the little girl and tried to deter the chocolate hands from touching her white shirt. ‘Are you letting her play with her food?’

‘No.’ Charlie smiled at the loving criticism and realised she had missed the snipe comments. ‘I’m letting her eat by herself. She won’t let me feed her anymore. Says she’s a big girl.’

‘Yes, a big girl who has chocolate all over her.’ Morag admired fondly as Aria spooned another handful of cake in her hand and smudged it into her mouth with a grin, almost as if she knew it was irritating the adults to watch her make a mess. In the little girl’s mind, Bianca was an angel, giving her the greatest food on earth.

‘Well, she’s two. What do you expect?’ Charlie took a tissue and wiped a chocolate piece off her daughter’s face. The hands could wait til she was done eating. She smiled up at Morag. ‘What’re you doing in town? I thought you’d be back in the city after the wedding.’

‘Oh, you know me, always popping in and out.’ Morag did not approve of Charlie’s relationship but she would support her no matter what. And after all, after knowing Darryl Braxton for three years, even she had to admit that the man had some redeeming qualities. Like the unconditional love he had for her daughter. ‘How was your honeymoon?’

‘Amazing.’ Charlie gleamed and Aria agreed, nodding sincerely while slamming her little cake filled hand to her mouth again. She looked up as Charlie took another bite from her fork and sighed. What was it with grownups and spoons? Eating with your hands was so much more fun.

‘I’m glad. You deserve to be happy.’ Morag placed her hands on the table and eyed the chocolate cake.

‘I am happy. Deliriously happy, if I’m being honest.’ Charlie admitted. ‘I never thought it’d be this easy to commit and have a family after everything I’ve been through with…’

‘I’m proud of you Charlie.’ Morag interrupted, wanting to keep her happy instead of taking a trip down bad memory lane. The poor woman had had a freighter full of problems over her lifetime but she was one of the strong ones. ‘I know I’ve never really warmed up to Brax but if he makes you happy that’s all that matters.’

‘Thanks.’ Charlie appreciated the sentiment but something was still missing from her happy existence. ‘I just wish Dad could’ve walked me down the aisle. Then my wedding day could really have been perfect.’

‘He was there. In your heart.’ Morag smiled and held Charlie’s hand, eying the cake between them.

Aria noticed and took an extra big handful, holding it out to Morag sincerely. ‘Cake?’

‘No thank you sweetheart.’ Morag adored the consideration.

Aria urged her arm forward a little longer and then gave in and ate it instead. She had tried. Charlie grinned as she watched her step mum. She put her fork in her mouth and sucked it clean as she took it out. ‘Are you sure, Morag?’ She flicked the fork out of her mouth in her hand and enticed her. ‘It’s full of chocolaty goodness. So chocolaty.’

‘Yup Nana Moregg. Chocolaty Wocolaty.’ Aria nodded in agreement and Morag shook her head at both their cheekiness.

‘Yes, I’m sure.’ But the girls saw the doubt in her eyes. Charlie gestured for Marilyn. They were going to need an extra fork.

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‘I’m going to need you to step away from the stove.’ Bianca warned her friend.

Charlie turned around in her kitchen, her finger on the stove knobs. ‘What?’

‘I’m deadly serious. Charlie Buckton, you touch that stove I’ll set my baby on you.’ Bianca mocked. ‘And he can bite. You promised me you wouldn’t cook after the grave spaghetti incident of 2012.’

‘How was I supposed to know you needed to boil the spaghetti in water?’ Charlie moped and exited the kitchen in defeat. Sitting down on the couch, she curled up.

‘I bet Darcy even knows that.’ Bianca raised her eyebrows, walked to the kitchen and began picking out ingredients. ‘Honey, I know you wanted to cook dinner but we can’t have you setting off the smoke alarm again okay? You just let me cook instead.’

Charlie sighed. ‘I suppose you’re right. So, how’s school?’

‘Okay, I guess. It feels weird without April there. Been helping Sasha with her HSC prep. Nothing much. The resort opens pretty soon. You excited about it?’

‘Yeah, I’m nearly done putting in the final touches on the security features and equipment.’ Charlie was settling in well at her new job managing the resort security department. ‘The place looks really amazing. I can’t wait for you to see it. It’s kid friendly too. The biggest jungle gym you’ve ever seen. Valen would love it.’

‘We’ll have to go there sometime then.’ Bianca started pouring water into the pot for the spaghetti. Unlike Charlie, she wouldn’t let it burn out dry. ‘It’s a little expensive though, isn’t it?’

‘It’s a lot expensive. It’s a good thing I get an employ discount right?’ Charlie smiled as she walked up to the kitchen and popped a mini wafer biscuit in her mouth. She held out one to her friend. ‘Want one?’

‘Thanks.’ Bianca swallowed it and continued stirring the pasta. ‘You ever think of getting cooking lessons?’

‘I’ve never had reason to. Before I lived with a chef and now I live with a restaurant owner who brings home free food every night. I’m set for life.’

‘Yes, I’m sure a lifetime supply of hot pizza is every girl’s dream.’ Bianca smiled.

‘No.’ Charlie assured. ‘But a lifetime supply of hot pizza boy definitely is.’

Brax walked in the house through the front door and Bianca winked and whispered. ‘Well Charlie, it seems your dreams have been fulfilled. One hot pizza boy heading your way.’


Ruby sat in the control room listening to Liam record and looked up when the door opened and Charlie entered the room quietly. ‘Hey.’

‘This place is great.’ Charlie whispered and stood behind her daughter’s swivelling chair. ‘So is Liam. He sounds great.’

‘That’s because it is great. I think this record might put Liam back into the music world’s radar.’ Ruby told her.

‘And put you in their radar as well, I’m sure. You can’t forget the incredible producer.’

‘I don’t know about incredible…’

‘I do.’ Charlie rubbed Ruby’s shoulders. ‘Incredibly talented, incredibly beautiful, incredibly incredible.’

‘You’re my mum, you have to say that.’ Ruby grinned at the compliment.

‘Yes. But I mean it.’ She kissed the back of her hair and stroked it. ‘I thought we could go to Angelo’s for lunch when you finish.’

‘Yeah, that’d be great.’ Ruby leaned forward and pressed the speaker button so Liam could hear from the other side of the viewing glass. ‘Hey Liam, how about a lunch break?’

‘Sounds great to me.’ Liam replied and began packing up his guitar. While he did that, the front door opened again and Bianca dropped in with Valen in tow.

Valen ran to Rubes and tried to climb onto her lap. ‘Hey, you came to see Liam, did you?’

‘Yup.’ Bianca held up a diner take out bag. ‘I thought he could use some lunch.’

‘Just in time.’ Liam stepped into the control room and smiled. Valen saw his stepdad and grinned happily, running into his leg excitedly.

‘Papa! Papa up!’ He held up his arms high and Liam lifted him up and carried him.

‘Hey mate.’ Liam nuzzled his little boy. He wasn’t biologically related but still loved him with all his heart. And the feeling was mutual. ‘Did you come to see papa sing?’

‘Yes.’ Bianca smiled. ‘I had a free period at school so I thought I’d pick up the little guy from Daddy’s house and come over here.’

‘Daddy has girlfriend.’ Valen tattled cheekily.

Ruby looked at Bianca. ‘Really?’

‘No. Can you really imagine Heath settling down?’ Bianca smirked. ‘Teagan was over watching the game, that’s all.’

‘Well, they did have something before.’ Charlie pondered.

‘Tummy Rumbly.’ Valen rubbed his tummy complaining about his hunger.

‘Right, I guess Rubes and I should leave you to feed the kid.’ Charlie hugged her friend. ‘We’re going to go upstairs for lunch.’

‘Okay,’ Bianca went to sit but then remembered something she meant to talk to Charlie about. ‘Oh Charlie?’

‘Yeah?’ Charlie turned around with her hand on the door knob.

‘I signed us up for some cooking classes. I thought I’d take the initiative since you kind of suck at it.’ Bianca grinned as the look on her face went into panic.

Ruby went into a mock panic mode. ‘You’re not serious? She’s a health hazard, you know that right?’

‘It’s true. I am. You said it yourself.’ Charlie’s eyes widened in alarm. ‘I’m a hazard in the kitchen.’

‘Well, it’s time you stop being one.’ Bianca started unpacking the take out bag. ‘I’ll pick you up on Saturday for our first class.’

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Re: Darcy. Wait and see :) She'll be back before you know it.

Here's a little more to lift the spirits


‘Bianca?’ Bianca turned around at the sound of her name as the teacher walked up to her after class. ‘I just wanted to tell you that you have a real knack for cooking. I don’t get a lot of beginners who pick up things so easily. Keep it up.’

‘Thanks.’ Bianca said good bye and left the room with Charlie in tow. ‘Did you hear that?’

‘Yeah, I heard.’ Charlie complained playfully. ‘For someone who’s not a beginner in the skill, you’re doing a great job at a beginner’s cooking course. You should be proud.’

‘Oh don’t be snide.’ Bianca carried her perfectly rounded batch of cookies. ‘You did okay too.’

Charlie looked down at her own batch which was charred in parts and toasty in others. ‘Yeah, I think my cookies look a little edible. I mean, if you’re stuck all alone on a deserted island with no natural resources and had no other options for nutrition, you’d totally eat this right?’

Bianca sheepishly looked down and pretended to look for her keys in her bag even though she knew where they were. Taking out her keys, she went to the car and slid in. ‘Come on, I’ll give you a ride home.’

Charlie shrugged and slid into the passenger seat with her cookies on her lap. ‘So do you think you’ll be too busy next week?’

‘And miss little Ruby’s twenty first? No way.’ Bianca started the car and began driving onto the road. ‘I’m going to be the first one there. You’ll see.’

‘Not if I beat you first.’ Charlie joked. ‘I am the mother after all.’

‘Yes, I suppose you outrank me.’ Bianca nodded. ‘We’re still on for Friday night though, right? You found a baby sitter?’

‘Cheryl.’ Charlie nodded. ‘I booked her grandma services for the night so we’re good.’

‘Grandmothers are useful aren’t they? They offer free babysitting anytime anywhere. You got to love them.’

‘Yep.’ Charlie agreed. ‘You sure do. Even Cheryl Braxton has her moments.’

‘Girl’s night, here we come.’


‘Mummy corchus!’ Aria exclaimed as her mum entered the house after her cooking class and ran up and hugged her leg.

‘Oh thank you baby. Ari corchus too.’ Charlie cooed and hugged her back with the container of cookies in the other. Aria finally noticed the container.

‘Cookie?’ She asked politely with an innocent look on her face and held out one hand. Charlie looked reluctant. Glancing down at her batch she looked at her daughter nervously.

‘I’m sorry.’ Aria’s face dropped and she immediately felt guilty. ‘Are you sure honey?’ The little girl patiently nodded. Hesitantly, Charlie lifted the container lid and put It down to her eye level.

Aria peered curiously and saw the burnt batch of cookies. Staring up at her mummy, she scrunched up her face and ran away uninterestedly to find something else to do. Charlie sighed. ‘Yeah, that’s what I thought.’

As Charlie went into the kitchen to dispose all evidence of her failure, Brax walked out from the bedroom and smiled as he saw the container. ‘You made cookies!’ As he reached inside and lifted a black cookie up, he immediately put it back in again with a weird look. No way.

Charlie opened the bin and poured the contents into the bin. Putting the empty container in the sink, she kissed her husband lightly before going into the lounge with a smile. ‘It’s really great that you have such great confidence in me, you know that?’

‘What can I say?’ Brax grinned cheekily. ‘There’s only so much I can do.’

Charlie smiled back as she curled up on the couch with Aria kneeling at the coffee table with her colouring book. ‘How was work?’

‘I don’t know. It hasn’t finished yet.’ Brax sat at the dinner table with a stack of papers. ‘Business has been picking up lately and as great as that is for our bank account; it means more work for me.’

‘Too bad. I take it you don’t want me to put my newly honed cooking skills to thee test tonight?’ Charlie pouted and grabbed a magazine to flick through.

‘You know, I think it’s time to indulge the kid with some old fashioned take out.’ Brax suggested sensitively as he crunched numbers. ‘I’m sure you’re sick of being in the kitchen after all the time you already spent in it today anyway.’

Charlie loved him for his consideration. ‘Yeah, I’ll go out in an hour or so.’

For a while, the family did their own thing in silence. Brax worked, Charlie read and Aria coloured. The young girl pondered and scrutinised her master piece before placing the crayon down determinedly and getting up. Running up to her mum with her prize winning creation, she gleamed with pride.

‘Look Mama! Corchus!’ She tugged excitedly as she held it up inches from her mum’s face. ‘Look, Corchus! Corchus!’

‘Wow you’re so right. That is gorgeous.’ Charlie gleamed equally with pride although she had no idea what it was. ‘Would you like to tell me about it?’

Aria placed it proudly on Charlie’s lap and pointed to the various scribbles and described each. ‘Mummy, Daddy, Ari, Rube.’

‘Wow, is that a family picture? You’re so clever!’ Charlie cooed as she finally understood. ‘You want to go show daddy too?’

Aria confidently took her artwork and ran up to her daddy who had heard the little conversation and waiting expectantly for it. ‘Daddy! Corchus!’

‘Wow, my gorgeous girl’s the next Picasso, eh?’ Brax leant on his knees as he looked down.

‘Ari corchus!’ Aria nodded and agreed. Now bored with the attention, she ran away back to the coffee table to create the next big thing in art.

Charlie and Brax looked at each other and smiled. They really were the luckiest parents in the world to have such a cute kid. Rolling her eyes adoringly, Charlie went back to her magazine with a smile in her eye and Brax returned to his occupation in a similar manner. It was just another day in paradise.

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‘Hi corchus’ Aria looked up and waved cutely at the newcomer and returned to her drawing on the coffee table.

Bianca put her handbag on the end table as she entered the house and ran up to hug her god daughter dramatically, making her squirm. ‘Hi right back at you! What are you doing?’

‘She’s going through a drawing phase.’ Charlie stood sipping her hot coffee and cuddled into the couch.

‘Is that right little one? Are you my little artist?’ Bianca got up to sit on the couch as well after kissing Aria once more. Aria grinned and hummed as she scribbled away. ‘So Charlie, are you ready to have some grown up fun tonight?’

‘Is that a trick question?’ Charlie grinned. She’d been waiting for girl’s night all week and now it was almost here. ‘I packed Aria’s play date bag and picked out my dress days ago. I can’t wait for some adult company.’

‘Me neither.’ Bianca agreed. ‘I told Liam not to expect me home until late so get ready for a long night.’

At that very moment, Aria got bored of her artwork and climbed up onto her mum’s lap. Charlie helped her up and cuddled her as the little one smelt the coffee cup out of curiosity. ‘Bee corchus’

‘Thanks lovely.’ Bianca smiled and leaned across to ruffle her long brown locks before focussing back on her friend. ‘Brax is still picking her up from his mum’s right?’

‘Yeah’ Charlie squinted as Aria reached up and tried to play with her face. Scrunching up her face lovingly, she put her daughter’s away. ‘It’s…’

‘Corchus’ Aria interrupted her before she could say more and stood up on Charlie’s lap to kiss her cheek and hang on her neck clingy. ‘Corchus,’

‘Okay, I get it.’ Charlie laughed and tried to get the child to settle while maintaining a conversation with Bianca. She leaned over so she could see her properly past her daughter’s antics on her face. ‘Like I was saying, it’s all settled. I just wish she’d settle too.’

Charlie lifted Aria up and sat her down on her lap but she wasn’t interested in sitting. Instead she crawled out of her mum’s arms and stood up on Bianca’s lap, playing with her blonde locks curiously. ‘Corchus’

‘I wish she was little again and couldn’t walk. Things were so much easier back then when I didn’t have to chase her around and deter her wandering hands all the time.’ Charlie sighed as Bianca watched her hair to make sure the toddler didn’t pull on it.

‘Bee?’ Aria looked up at Bianca innocently while still playing with her hair. ‘Bee what corchus mean?’

The women looked at each other and shook their hands in amazement. Charlie reached over and grabbed the girl back onto

her lap, tickling her silly. Cuddling the giggling girl, she kissed the back of her forehead. ‘Are you telling me you’ve been annoying us with that word for weeks and you don’t know what it means?’

Aria giggled some more as her mum cuddled her close. Charlie bent down to her ear and rested her chin on her shoulder. ‘You really want to know what gorgeous is?’ Aria nodded and Charlie pointed to her. ‘It means beautiful and pretty and sweet, just like you!’

Aria blushed and hid her face in Charlie’s arm pit. After a second, she struggled out of the embrace and made her way down back to her drawings.

Charlie laughed and admired Aria as she drew in front of them. ‘I just hope she’ll be alright without me.’

‘Relax. It’s just one night. Cheryl will take good care of her.’

‘So you wouldn’t miss Valen even a tiny little bit?’ Charlie questioned.

Bianca bit her lip. ‘Well, maybe a little. But still, you shouldn’t worry. You worry way too much about her. Sometimes it’s good to relax. Let’s make a pact. No irrational worrying tonight, just you, me, a bottle of tequila and the dance floor.’

The girls shook on it. It was a done deal. A night out without the kids; easier said than done.


Charlie and Bianca walked into Angelo’s happily dressed in their finest party wear. It had been a while since they’d been out like this and they planned to enjoy every second of it.

‘Wow!’ Brax exclaimed and nearly dropped the plates he was clearing from an empty table. His wife looked amazing in her shimmery grey tier dress which showed off her endless legs perfectly.

‘That’s exactly what I was going for.’ Charlie smiled and pecked him on the cheek. ‘You like?’

‘Like’s an understatement.’ Brax couldn’t take his eyes off her. ‘I thought you were going to the club in Yabee Creek?’

‘We’ll head there after some drinks.’ Bianca felt a little like the third wheel and interrupted their admiration. Smiling, the girls went to the bar as Brax went back to work reluctantly. ‘I take it married life is treating you well.’

Charlie put her clutch on the bar and settled on the stool. ‘It’s treating me just fine.’

‘How very vague of you.’

‘Some things don’t need any elaboration.’ Charlie gestured to the waiter for drinks. ‘Two martinis, thanks Tim.’

Bianca pushed a blonde strand from her face. ‘That’s true. One only has to look at your face to see how you’re feeling. Any idiot could tell you’re happy.’

Charlie just sighed. The waiter returned with the drinks and she sipped hers graciously.

Bianca put her glass down and looked at her friend. ‘Uh oh!’


‘You’re missing and worrying, aren’t you?’ Bianca glanced knowingly.

‘No.’ Charlie lied and looked away. She put her hands on her glass and finally looked up. ‘Maybe, yes, just a little.’

‘Yeah, me too.’ Bianca admitted and took a long sip from her glass as she looked in front of her. ‘You know technically we’re not at the club yet so it wouldn’t really be breaking our pact if we called Cheryl for a little check-up would it?’

‘No, it’s really only a little check-up.’ Charlie pondered, really wanting to know if Aria was settling in okay at her grandma’s. The little one had always had trouble keeping to her schedule in other’s houses and made a fuss without mummy to tuck her in. ‘Plus it wouldn’t really be worrying if we called would it? I mean, really, we’re just checking up on Cheryl. She must have it hard with two toddlers.’

Bianca agreed with all her friend’s justifications. If they were being technical about it, a little call wouldn’t hurt. She knew well that Cheryl wasn’t the one she was worried about – the woman had had Brax and Heath near each other with no problem- but if they were keeping to their pact, then they were definitely concerned for Cheryl and NOT their kids.

Bianca dialled the phone and before long, Cheryl picked up. ‘Didn’t I just see you half an hour ago?’

‘Yes Cheryl. We just wanted to see how you were doing.’ Bianca put the phone on speaker.

‘Me?’ Cheryl squawked. ‘Why on earth would you check on me for? Am I dying or something?’

‘No, nothing like that. Are we not allowed to make sure the grandmother of our children is bearing well?’ Charlie leaned in close so she was heard among the restaurant noise.

‘No. Not when it’s you two and certainly not when you hate me more than a bad hair day.’ Cheryl complained.

Charlie and Bianca looked at each other. ‘So you and the kids are getting along fine are you?’

‘Ah, so that’s why you’re bothering me.’ Suddenly it was all very clear. ‘Love, me and the kids have been getting along swimmingly for the last two years. I should’ve learnt my lesson about babysitting for you two a long time ago. I forgot how clingy you get, calling every five minutes.’

‘When have we called every five minutes?’ Charlie gasped.

‘When haven’t you?’ Cheryl moaned. ‘Look the kids ate dinner; they’re watching the lion king and when it’s over, I’ll tuck them into bed with warm glasses of milk, got that? And if I get any calls before they go to sleep, I’ll disconnect my phone.’

‘We were just asking.’ Bianca whined.

‘If this is how you react when they’re with me for three hours I’d hate to see the phone bill you get when they go to school for six whole ones.’ Charlie gasped out loud and sheepishly collected herself when Bianca looked at her strangely.

‘She’ll have to go to school, won’t she?’ Charlie pouted at the realisation. She couldn’t imagine how much she’d miss Aria when that would happen. Maybe she could stay at home and home school her.

‘Look, you know full well I’ll call if you’re needed so quit the missing. You need to get used to it. Good night.’ Cheryl took charge. ‘And I mean have a good night. Or else.’

When Cheryl hung up the phone, the girls were left to their own thoughts. It was hopeless. The women were in love. In love with their children. Charlie smiled hopefully and held up her glass in a toast. ‘Here’s to a good night.’

The glasses clinked against each other. Now it was time to have some much needed fun.

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‘Look at them. They look so cute together.’ Charlie swooned admiringly as the tiny cousins lay on Brax’ childhood bed in Cheryl’s house. Aria and Valen held hands as they slept peacefully after a long night running rings around their grandma.

‘Come on, let’s get them home.’ Taking her sleeping son in her arms, Bianca went out to the car followed by Charlie and Aria. It was still early in the morning and the sky still had a greyish tinge to it. The night had been great for both the mothers and the kids who had slept over at Grandma Cheryl’s place.

Soon they were on the road back out of Mangrove River. ‘Did you get any sleep when you got home last night?’

‘No.’ Bianca answered as she drove her silver mini-van. ‘I was just too pumped and awake.’

‘Same.’ Charlie tied up her messy primped waves into a pony tail. She was ready for a run after dropping Aria at home. ‘I’m glad we did that. It was fun.’

‘I know. I haven’t had that much fun in forever.’ Bianca agreed. Behind the girls, Aria was just starting to come to and yawned. ‘Morning angel.’

‘No.’ Aria shook her head tiredly and rubbed her eyes.

‘Not a morning person, is she?’ Bianca smiled. ‘She must get it from her mum.’

‘No, I’m a morning person.’ Charlie yawned heavily as she said it. ‘I am most of the time anyway.’

‘Well, you’re going to have to wake up soon because you and I have a birthday party to get ready for.’

‘We do?’ Charlie was still half asleep and momentarily forgot. ‘Oh right, we do. It’s not for four days.’

‘You’re the one who’s been all worried about the details.’ Bianca wondered. ‘You’ve been excited about this for ages.’

‘I know. I still am.’ Charlie clarified. ‘It’s just… my little girl’s turning twenty one. I’m going to have a twenty one year old daughter. I just want to condense her until she’s tiny and cute and still needed me again.’

‘I’m sure Ruby still needs you.’

‘I hope so.’ Charlie sighed and glanced out the window. ‘Bianca?’


‘You just missed our turn.’ Charlie smiled and shook her head.

‘Of course I did.’ Bianca rolled her eyes and proceeded to do a U-turn as Aria sneezed awake again.


The wind blew hot outside as Charlie walked into her house after a long day at work and shut the door behind her. It had been gruelling, especially with the heat. The silk top tucked into her skinny leg trousers were clinging to her skin like glue. Pulling her hair up from her sticky neck, Charlie went into the hallway.

‘Any one home?’ Charlie walked along and opened Casey’s old room and then Darcy’s old room. She lingered there for a minute as she took in the bare room. With a sigh, she delicately closed that door before going into Aria’s room.

‘Mama!’ Aria looked up from her artwork happily with a siren red crayon in her hand. Crayons were adorned over the floor and she had rainbow marks all over her clothes and skin.

The sight before her was enough to give any mother a heart attack. With a gasp, Charlie rushed over to get the red crayon out of her daughter’s hand before any more damage was done. ‘Aria, what have you done?’

Pulling her away from the wreckage, she felt a head ache coming from just looking at it. The once pristine white wall was now decorated in bright scribbles and make-believe shapes. It was a huge mess.

‘No like?’ Aria pouted as her mum carried her with a pained expression.

‘No honey. I don’t like.’ Charlie sighed and carried her out of the room before setting her down. Getting on her knees, she proceeding in a strict but understanding voice. ‘You draw on paper not walls. I’ve told you before. It’s wrong to draw on walls. You made quite a mess today.’

‘No.’ Aria bit her lip and shook her head cheekily.

‘Yes.’ Charlie sighed. So much for hoping she’d skipped the terrible twos. ‘Yes you did. Aria, I’ve had a really hard day at work. Please behave.’ She got up on her feet. ‘Now, I’m going to go and get some sponges and you can help me clean this up, okay? I think that’s only fair.’

‘No.’ Aria tried to push her boundaries. Her mother just sighed and walked to the kitchen.

Charlie got to the kitchen and wet the sponges at the sink. Brax got out of their room yawning. ‘You’re home. I must’ve fallen asleep. Why is Aria standing out in the hall doing nothing?’

‘You know what your daughter’s been up to while you were sleeping?’ The heat, the work load and the daughter were all giving her a headache. ‘Drawing.’

‘So?’ Brax rubbed his eyes awake as he leaned against the counter shirtless in his dark boxers. ‘She’s always drawing these days?’

Charlie filled a large bowl with water and began carrying it off. ‘But on the walls?’

Leaving Brax in the kitchen, Charlie got to the hall to find Aria gone. Going into the young girl’s room, she took an impatient gulp of air as she stood in the doorway.

‘Oh Aria, what am I going to do with you?’ Charlie walked over and grabbed the green crayon out of Aria’s hand as she stood drawing on the wall but she put up a fight.

‘No! No! Mine!’ Aria didn’t want to give up her crayons a second time and ran away to the other side of the room.

‘Aria, give me the crayon please.’ Charlie level headedly held out her palm even thought she was screaming with impatience inside. ‘You know you’re not allowed to do this. Now you’re just being cheeky with me. Please.’

Aria just stood there staring and pondering. She looked up at her mother and then glanced down at the crayon in her little hand, as if she couldn’t decide what to do. Give in or give nothing. ‘No! It’s mine!’ She finally declared.

Charlie rubbed her temples and got on her feet again. It was bad enough she was sweaty and exhausted; now she had to deal with this. Suddenly it became quite clear. There was a reason they called it the terrible twos. Even the cutest of tiny tots could push one to the limit sometimes.

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