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You're Not Alone


Guest RoRo90

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Title: You're Not Alone

Type of Story: Long Fic
Main Characters: Brax,Charlie, Ruby, Casey, Bianca and Heath
BTTB rating: T
Genre: Romance Drama
Spoilers: No spoilers
Any warning: (V/D)
Summary: Can something that brings such pain also change the course of their life's for the better? Crap summary but read if you want to know more

This is my latest fic. I am already twelve chapters in as I have been posting on fanfic.net for a while so will probably post one or two chapters a day (or when I have time) on here just so you guys can catch up to where I am at with this now. Only the first Chapter will be written in the first person.

CHAPTER ONE

Repeating after Elijah, his gaze locked against hers as he spoke

I take you, Charlotte Louise Buckton to be my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish form this day forward till death do us part

...

Two and a half years before

Charlie's POV

Sat in the back of the taxi, I watched and took in the view I had anticipated seeing again for so long. It felt like a life time ago since I had been here, since I had seen this road. I smiled lightly as we passed the welcome to Summer Bay sign. I could have sworn this place had gotten even more mesmerizing than it had been since I last laid my eyes on it. I felt my smile capture my face as the taxi turned into the street and stopped in front of the house.

"Got family waiting for you?" I removed my gaze from the house as the taxi driver addressed me through his rear view mirror

"Yea... yea I have" I smiled back

"Have a good day; I'm sure they'll be happy to see you"

"I hope so"

Opening the door I swung my rucksack onto my back as I passed him the cab fare. I watched as he shook his head denying my money

"No sweetie... the rides on the house" he smiled driving away before I could protest against his generosity. It wasn't one that I was unfamiliar with. People see you with this uniform and respected you off the bat; they looked at you as a hero someone to aspire to be like or admire. Knowing for me that was now all over and this would probably be the last few moments I would be suited in this attire, I felt a ting of sadness wash over me. But peering up at the house before me, the sadness I felt was overweighed with the joy I felt at seeing their faces again. Underestimating my own eagerness I found my feet pacing quickly towards the front door. I stopped momentarily in front of it wanting to savour every moment. Finally bringing my hand up I gave a gentle knock before quickly composing myself

The door swung open and her eyes instantly widened in surprise as she peered at me

"Oh my..."

My eyes blurred with tears as she brought her hand up to her mouth her eyes becoming cloudy

"Mum" she spoke again.

I smiled as she flung herself at me holding onto me for dear life.

"Hy baby... I missed you" I wrapped my arms around her as tightly as possible wondering how I had managed to leave her behind time and time again. As she always does she takes my rucksack from my shoulder and eagerly leads me into the house

Ruby's POV

I sat watching her every move, not believing how much I had missed her every time she went away and how many nights I found myself praying she was ok. But this time it was different, I would never have to go to sleep wondering if she was still alive

"I've missed you so much" I chuckled still in shock that she was actually here

She kept her eyes on me smiling

"You have no idea how much I have missed you too Rubes" She pulls me back into the embrace we had only just parted from since I sat her down on the couch

"I thought you still had two months left?" I asked as I backed away from her embrace slightly, looking over at her

"Why, you not happy to see me?" I laughed at the mocking look on her face

"You know I am but I had it all planned... Everyone wanted to be here when you got back"

She shook her head as she chuckled "Yea I figured as much so I told a little lie" She looked down at me sheepishly referring to the letter in which she had told me when she would be home "I just wanted it to me you, me and..." She stopped and took a look around

I instantly realised who she was searching for "He's at work... seeing as you didn't tell him you would be back today" She nudged me lightly as she looked down at me

"Well I guess you'll just have to do" She smiled

"I guess so" I replied. This was it; she was finally back. After having to watch her leave over and over again year after year she was finally back for good. Never would I have to hold back my tears as she departed from me again

Charlie's POV

I peered on with intensity as she smiled and laughed, I had missed every little thing about her even to the way she crinkled her nose when she laughed. It shocked me how much she seemed to have grown in the eight months that I had been away. She seemed so different but yet still the same

"What?" she asked as she caught me gazing down at her

I shook my head "Nothing... it's just you've grown so much" I held on tightly to the tears that threatened my eyes, knowing that if I let them fall there was no turning back. I refused to let my predicament take from this perfect moment. She smiled up at me as she pulled away from my embrace and stood to her feet

"I feel a bit selfish keeping you to myself, I know someone else who has been waiting anxiously for you to return"

I knew who she was referring to, along with Ruby he was the one constant thing in my life and I would forever be grateful for the way he has cared for her all the times I had been away

"How about I go get changed and we go and pay him a visit" I stood to my feet excited at the thought of seeing him after so long. Picking up my rucksack I made the all too familiar trip towards our room

...

The wind couldn't have felt better on my skin; it blew through my hair softly as I steadied my pace in no rush to leave the cool breeze

"I'm so glad you're back for good" Ruby clung onto my left arm as she spoke. My breath caught in my throat and once again I felt my tears brimming but I quickly sent them retracting as I gave her hand a light squeeze hoping that response would suffice

Angelo's POV

I sighed heavily as I made my way behind the bar. The lunch time rush had just died down and I was glad to get a little rest. These past few months have been such a blur, my mind was forever spinning with thoughts. I groaned as I heard the nearing footsteps, but as my head lay in my hands I had no energy to look up

"We're closed at the moment" I groaned

"Even for me"

My head shot up at the sound of her voice "Charlie" I looked on at her in shock

"I hope that look of surprise on your face is a good one"

She sent me that familiar grin "Of course it is" I rushed from behind the bar making my way over to her. Quickly wrapping my arms around her I lifted her off the floor holding her tightly before placing her back down. "You're back" the surprise in my voice sharp enough to be noticed by the both of them

She nodded her head "Yea... I wanted to surprise the both of you" she took a quick glance at Ruby before looking back up at me

I stared down at her, observing the sight of her widened smile as she looked at me

"Angelo how about..."

I turned my head at the other presence that had now entered the restaurant. I watched her as she stopped dead in her tracks the smile on her face fading as she glared at Charlie. I sighed as she quickly picked her smile back up

"Hy Charlie... you're back"

"Hy Nicole" Charlie smiled at the girl she knew as her daughters friend.

I stood nervously hoping Nicole could keep her cool

"It's really good to see you, I know these two have missed you like crazy"

I shut my eyes briefly in relief as she gave nothing away

"Yea I can tell" Charlie's hands still lay on my waist

"I err... I was just wondering if I could take off early, something's come up"

She looked up at me, and although she was trying to hide it I could see the hurt and guilt in her eyes. I nodded, glad that she wouldn't have to see me and Charlie together

"Yh sure" I gave her a small apologetic smile as she dropped her apron and made way for the stairs

"Nicole is everything ok?" asked Ruby causing Nicole to turn around.

I glared at her with nervous eyes hoping she would lie and say everything was just fine

"Yea" she took a quick glance at me before looking back at Ruby "Everything is fine"

She glanced at Charlie "I'm glad you're back" and with that she turned around

I knew there was a form of lie in her words, Charlie's unexpected return now made an already complicated situation even more complicated. Watching as Nicole walked down the stairs I pried my eyes away from the entrance and looked back down at Charlie; her smile still firmly placed towards me

"I've missed you" I wasn't lying I had missed her but still, so much had changed since the last time she had been in the bay

"I've missed you too" she flashd that smile I used to love so much before leaning onto her toes and placing her lips against mine

"Errr... daughter present"

Charlie pulled away as we both laughed at Ruby's words. I glanced at the both of them, the smiles on the faces lighting up the room. This was it, this was my family. Whatever had happened over the last six months had to be forgotten

Brax's POV

I've lost count of the amount of times I had sat in this very position with this same thought. The last three months had been the worst of my life and it was far from over. People say there is always light at the end of the tunnel but I had been walking this dark path all my life and yet still no light. Fate fooled me once; it gave me a glimpse of life in the light but took it away before I could even blink. I had finally got all three of us placed firmly on our feet, it felt good to be living the life I had always wanted but like always, fate seemed to have other plans for us. Every obstacle that had been thrown my way I had always faced it head on till I had defeated it. But not this time... this was too big for me to handle, this was out of my hands.

Picturing him sat there, his now pale skin, my eyes begin to burn but I refuse to let them fall, I refuse to let this defeat us. He was going to be ok, he had to be... there was no other acceptable option. I was snapped out of my thought as Heath's head poked through my room door

"We're set" he retracted as I lifted my head up off the bed. Standing to my feet I took another deep breath ready to face those four walls again.

I feel my eyes burn into him as I walked into the living room. Sometimes I almost couldn't recognise him, his newly found pale skin and his hairless head made it difficult to identify him as the cheeky teenage boy I knew three months ago.

"Case you ready?" he glanced up at me with the same smile he had been using for the last two of these three months

"Yea... I'm ready" his walk steadied as he made his way out the door. Out of instinct me and Heath were soon at his side but neither of us making contact with him knowing he would only insist he was fine to make the short journey to the car on his own"

...

Charlie's POV

I sat beside Angelo in a booth, not being able to phantom the last time I had been this happy. I watched the interaction between him and Ruby and couldn't help but smile. Gazing down my eye caught the ring that he had placed on my finger nine months ago. My simper enlargened as I recalled that day. The way he stammered as he tried to string his words together, the way he peered up at me as he lowered himself onto one knee, the way the ring felt as he slid it up to rest on my finger. I was so lost in my own thoughts that I hadn't realised Ruby had been calling my name

"Mum"

My head darted up as I gave her voice some recognition "Yea" I looked up at her as she shook her head and chuckled before looking down to where my eyes were previously fixated

"I can't wait for you guys to get married?" the smile on her face beaming loudly

"We have all the time in the world to plan for that"

Angelo smiled over at me, but his words only brought me pain. A month ago I would have agreed but now knowing what I knew, time was something I most likely didn't have much of . I smiled up at the two of them wanting to change the subject before I buckled under my own pressure. I wanted to enjoy this time, knowing that what I would soon have to tell them would change our world.

I peered up as Angelo stood from his seat and made his way to the entrance

"Where are you going?" I asked

"Closing up for the day, then we can all spend some time together" he turned back and continued on his way to the entrance

"Angelo you don't have to do that" I called after him

"I know" he gave me a smile as he continued down the stairs

...

It felt so unreal being in their presence, having Angelo beside me, getting to hear my daughter's laughter

"Remember new year's day" Ruby and Angelo both burst out laughing

"How could I forget" spoke Angelo "I have never seen Charlie so embarrassed"

I glared at the both of them "Yea ok, laugh at my expense... how was I supposed to know he wasn't the only one in the restaurant" Charlie felt herself blush as she thought back to that night

"I honestly wish I had been there to see your face...but only your face" Ruby spoke having finally settled her laughter

"Oh trust me you don't" Angelo smirked at me as I gave him a nudge

"Anyway off the embarrassing topic. How have you guys been?" I looked at the both of them as they simply shrugged "What nothing new... at all?"

Angelo's POV

"What nothing new... at all?"

Once again I shrugged at her words "No nothing... everything is pretty much the way you left it" I cringed at how easy it was for me to lie to her. In actual fact more than a lot had changed, I had changed, something in me had changed but voicing that wasn't an option. I was trying my best ot shake it but something in me knew I would find it hard to hide it

"You Rubes?" I snapped out of my thoughts as Charlie addressed Ruby

"No nothing new unfortunately... school, study and more school" Ruby rolled her eyes

"Good" Charlie replied her with a grin

I looked down at my phone as it vibrated against the table. Before they could both see the caller ID I had picked it up. Looking at the name on the phone I looked up at Ruby and Charlie

"Suppliers... I'll be right back" and there it was, another lie. I closed the office door behind me before picking up the call

"Nicole I can't talk right now?" I sighed into the phone

"What are we going to do?"

I couldn't see her face but I knew Charlie's arrival had rattled her as much as it had me. I didn't know the answer to this question. I have been asking myself that for the past Six months

"I don't know Nicole" it was the only thing I could think to say. The phone went silent and for a moment I thought she was gone but then she spoke

"You're going to stay with her aren't you?" I could hear the tremble in her voice. I felt my chest tighten against my lung at how scared and vulnerable she sounded. The answer came before I had a chance to even register it

"No" I sat at the edge of my desk as my own words took me by surprise. But I couldn't deny that it was probably the first time I had been truly honest with myself since Charlie returned. I wanted to do what was best by her and Ruby I really did, but I couldn't do it. Stting in there with them it felt so different, I felt so out of place. I knew staying away from Nicole would be impossible

"What? Her tone full of surprise at what I had said

"I can't stay with her, but I can't do it right now Nicole; I need time"

"Ok" her reply came soft as if she herself knew the predicament we had now found ourselves in was not going to be an easy one to come out of

"I'll speak to you later" and with that I hung up. What have I gotten myself into? How was I possibly going to fix this without breaking the two people that had once been my whole world? Quickly discarding of my thoughts I composed myself as I made my way out of the office

"Is everything ok?" asked Charlie as I made my way over to them

"Yea... Suppliers just stuffed up again nothing major" I looked at her as she smiled over at me; my guilt suddenly increasing at the thought of what I was going to have to do sometime soon

Brax's POV

In the space of three months these walls had unfortunately become almost like a second home, we sat and watched one another, we made small conversations between one another and sometimes when we allowed ourselves to forget even if for a few seconds we laughed. But when that would come to an end I found myself feeling guilty. How could it possibly be ok to laugh to feel any sort of happiness when my younger brother had been wrongly burdened with such a disease?

I felt my feet glide along the ground slower than it had been doing as we slowly approached the front desk. Casey needn't voice why he was here, everyone already knew. The nurse passed us a smile as she immediately walked around the desk leading us into the all too familiar room.

I watched as they performed the same ritual they had been doing for the past three months. I glanced away as the needle pricked into him, my eyes not being able to take the sight. Looking back I peered on as she proceeded to make sure everything was running smoothly before she left the room, passing me and Heath a smile in the same manner everyone in the hospital did.

My gaze remained upon Casey, as I leaned up on my chair. I knew he hated that I watched him with such intensity but I couldn't help it. My thoughts ran through my mind constantly at the possible outcomes but I chose to do nothing less than believe, it was the only thing keeping me sane

...

Charlie's POV

I opened my eyes as a breeze hit my bare skin. Turning to my side my gaze lay on Angelo still asleep. I couldn't help but study him, everything was the same but things felt so different I just couldn't quite place what it was. I stared down at the space that lay between the two of us; it was something I wasn't familiar with. I had always woken up pressed against him with his hand around my waist or lay across my body but not this morning; this morning I woke up cold feeling almost alone. Something had changed but maybe it was just me. Sighing I looked over him at the clock '5:15'. I shook my head knowing trying to get any sleep wasn't going to get me anywhere.

Slowly and quietly creeping out of the bed, I pulled out a vest and my sweats from the drawer before walking over to our wardrobe and picking my jogging shoes. Now suited up I crept out of the house my feet instantly picking up pace as I jogged down the road. Maybe this was a bad idea; I couldn't stop thinking, I had no one to draw me out of my own discomforting thoughts. The word played back and forth in my mind and my feet kept picking up pace, till I was moving so fast that stopping seemed like an impossible task. How was I going to tell them? I was I supposed to look my daughter in the eye and watch her tears fall from her eyes because of me? How was I supposed to tell the man that had given me so much love and devotion that his investment in me was a waste of his time?

My pace refused to stop even as the harsh rain greeted me with its presence. The rain hit harshly against my face but yet it was nothing compared to the pain I already felt. I didn't know how or when I got here but I was now running along the beach, my thoughts invading every part of my being. I came to an unexpected stop as I stumbled back trying hard to hold myself up. Finally regaining balance I peered up as the figure I had bumped into turned around to face me

"I'm so sorry" I looked over at him unsure of how I could have missed him standing there

"It's ok" he replied with neither a smile nor a frown. Tucking his surf board under his arm he turned away from me and made his way up the beach

I had never seen such a blank expression displayed upon a person's face before. I think it was safe to say he looked the way I felt; overpowered. He seemed unfazed as the rain hit against his bare chest. Removing my gaze from him I once again picked up my pace but this time I was going home. Running had always helped me relax and think rationally but not this time. All it did was give me time alone to dwell on my predicament and that was the last thing I wanted to do

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CHAPTER TWO

I had never seen such a blank expression displayed upon a person's face before. I think it was safe to say he looked the way I felt; overpowered. He seemed unfazed as the rain hit against his bare chest. Removing my gaze from him I once again picked up my pace but this time I was going home. Running had always helped me relax and think rationally but not this time. All it did was give me time alone to dwell on my predicament and that was the last thing I wanted to do
...

Charlie woke from her sleep unsure of when she had managed to dose off. Opening her eyes, an involuntary sigh left her lips as her gaze landed on the wall before her. Like the night before a cool breeze ran over her shoulder and she realised that she had once again sleep outside Angelo's embrace. Shaking the sleep that still remained in her eyes she turned over expecting Angelo to be lay there but… nothing. Her gaze remained on the unoccupied space for a while before she slowly edged further up the bed. Scanning the room she stopped on the door of the bathroom that had been left slightly ajar

"Angelo?" she waited for a response but nothing came. She glanced at the time before her gaze dropped to his side of the bed. Where could he be at eight in the morning? Deciding to see if he was in the living room she lifted the quilt cover only to stop as Ruby entered the room

"Morning" She smiled over at Charlie before walking over and tucking herself into the bed

"Morning" as Charlie did every morning; she placed a kiss on her temple. Charlie chuckled lightly as Ruby wound her arms around her stopping me from getting out of the bed

"Can we just stay here for a while?" Ruby murmured as she tucked her head into Charlie's chest.

Charlie smiled and nodded "Yea" pulling the quilt cover back up she wrapped her one arm around Ruby, stroking her hair with her free hand. This, Ruby in Charlie and Angelo's bed; it was something they always did whenever Charlie came home from a tour since Ruby was eight. Every morning Ruby would come in to Charlie and Angelo's room and both she and Charlie would lie like this for as long as they could. Even now at the age of eighteen it was a ritual they had yet to break.

"I've missed this" Charlie spoke, her hand still stroking Ruby's hair softly

Ruby nodded "So have I. Only this time you're here for good"

Charlie could tell she was smiling as she spoke. Feeling Ruby's words getting the better of her, she quickly changed the topic "As Angelo gone out?"

Once again Ruby nodded "I think I heard the front door shut not long ago"

"Right" Charlie sighed unsure of why she felt so uneasy about it. She tried to convince herself that it may have just been her mind trying to find problems or faults in every little thing but there was the bigger part of her that knew that it was the fact that although she had been back two days not once had he given her or instigated anything more than a kiss. Charlie shook her thoughts away as Ruby spoke again

"He has really missed you, you know"

"Really?" The surprise in Charlie's voice had already shown before she could retract it

Ruby lifted her head from Charlie's chest and looked up at her as she chuckling lightly "You sound surprised. Of course he as; he hardly ever makes it through a sentence without your name popping up"

Charlie couldn't but help the smile on her face at what Ruby had revealed "Good because I've missed him too" Ruby's words allowed Charlie dismiss her earlier thoughts. She told herself she was just reading too much into things.

A comforting silence fell on the both of them and after a while Charlie spoke again

"And I missed you too" Charlie smiled lightly knowing without looking down that Ruby had fallen asleep. She closed her eyes relishing in the moment of holding Ruby in my arms. Charlie had felt different types of love in her life but her love for her daughter exceeded all other.

"Brax please just for an hour or two" Casey begged him once more hoping he would change his mind

Brax let out a sigh before turning to face Casey again "Casey you need rest ok… I'm not risking you tiring yourself out"

Casey looked over at Heath as he spoke in his defense "The kid wants to go out for an hour or two… when was the last time he was strong enough to even make it to the bathroom on his own? I say let him have a little fun" Heath glanced at Casey before both their gaze shifted back to Brax.

Casey sighed in frustration as Brax shook his head "Look he should be saving all the energy he as not…."

Unable to withhold his frustration any longer Casey's voice rose a little more than he had intended "JUST STOP OK, STOP. I'm tired of you treating me like I'm already dead"

"Casey…" Brax went to speak but Casey wasn't about to stop

"No. you keep saying it's all going to be ok but you don't act like you believe it. Just one day…one day Brax I just want to be a normal eighteen year old. I'm not a kid… I'm old enough to make my own decision and I am going to the beach whether you like it or not" Picking himself up from the couch Casey made his way into his room not even giving Brax a chance to respond

"Case" Brax called after him but he had already closed his room door refusing to acknowledge Brax's calling. Burying his head in his hand Brax exhaled heavily as Heath spoke

"He's right you know. It's one day Brax, what's the worst that could happen?"

Brax lifted his head from his hands "Heath you know he gets tired easily… he's just going to wear himself out" Heath simply nodded at his words acknowledging the possibility

"Right and if that happens we'll bring him straight home. Don't ask him to stop living just because you have"

Brax shook his head at Heath's words surprised that he would say such a thing. Brax didn't think that was what he was doing, he was just trying to take care of Casey "I'm not asking him to stop living and I haven't stop living either"

Heath scoffed at Brax's words "Yes you have, you may not see it but everyone else does"

Once again Brax shook his head trying to deny Heath's words and once again Heath scoffed this time standing from his seat "When was the last time you did something for yourself?"

"I don't have time for that I have to take care…" Heath interjected

"No, you don't make time, there's a difference. This, you putting everything on hold only makes Casey feel guilty and he doesn't need that on top of everything else"

"And how would you know that?"

"Because he actually talks to me... something he can't seem to do with you anymore"

"What do you mean... of course he can talk to me"

Heath shook his head "When was the last time the both of you had a conversation that wasn't about his treatment or him having cancer?" Brax stared at Heath unable to answer his question "Yea that's what I thought" and with that he left Brax alone and entered his room.

Brax sighed burying his head back into his hands. Stopping Casey from living wasn't what he was trying to do. Everything he had done, everything he was doing was for Casey. Having Casey worrying about him or feeling guilty about his choices wasn't Brax's intention. But in that moment even Brax couldn't deny the truth in both Casey's and Heath's words. He knew when he was being over protective, he could even see that at times it aggravated Casey but it was like he couldn't stop it. He had slowly stopped living for himself but thinking back he couldn't pinpoint how this had happened or when

Removing his head from his hand at the sound of footsteps he looked up as both Casey and Heath walked out of their rooms both now wearing their board shorts.

"You coming?" Brax looked up at Casey as he spoke. His eyes almost pleading for Brax to forget for just that one afternoon. Brax sighed as he stood from the dining table glancing at Heath before looking over at Casey and giving a weak smile

"Give me two minutes" Casey and Heath both grinned lightly "But I'm driving us there and that's final" Brax shook his head as both Casey and Heath gave a salute, something which they had started doing when they were younger every time Brax gave them orders. Walking into his room Brax was determined for Casey's sake to try and forget or at least stop thinking even if only for a few hours

"You do know that regardless of everything I could probably still beat the both of you out there in the waves" Casey grinned over at Brax and Heath as he dug his board into the sand. Brax had to admit he looked better than he had done in a long while

Brax smiled as Heath chuckled and responded

"Still being able to beat us would imply you could do before and let's not lie to ourselves we all know I could bury the both of you out there"

"You wish" replied Casey as he dropped his shirt onto his towel before picking up his board "You coming in?" he looked at Brax who was seated on the sand

Brax gave him a weary look "You sure you're up to going out there" Casey gave an eye roll something which Brax had already predicted

"I said I'm fine ok"

Brax nodded "Fine but if you feel even a little…." Brax stopped as Casey spoke over him

"Yes Brax I know I will be straight out of the water and you will be the first to know. So are you coming or what?"

Brax sighed and nodded his head before standing to his feet. If Casey was adamant about going into the ocean then he was going too. He planned to be with Casey at all times. He may have agreed to them coming out for the day but he wasn't taking any risks

"Come on then boys… those waves aren't going to wait for us" Heath jogged down the beach followed by Brax and Casey who paced slowly behind him

Walking up the stairs of Angelo's Ruby smiled as she spotted Nicole walking out of the kitchen. To Ruby it seemed like they hadn't spent any time together in so long "Hy Nicole" Ruby walked over to her as Nicole turned at the call of her name

"Oh hy" Nicole returned a fair smile.

Ruby frowned; she had known Nicole for four years, long enough to know when something was wrong with her. Ruby had noticed that Nicole had been distant the last few months but Nicole had constantly refused to admit to anything bothering her every time Ruby questioned her. Deciding to dismiss questioning her in that moment Ruby perched herself up onto a stool

"I thought you weren't working today?"

Nicole glanced up at her before diverting her gaze back to the bottles she was clearing "Err Angelo just asked me to fill in for a few hours for one of the staff, but I'm finishing up now"

Nicole walked round Ruby placing the empty bottles behind the bar "Well in that case how about we go down to the beach? We hardly spend any time together anymore"

Nicole looked up and smiled at Ruby. She couldn't deny that she had spent little to no time with her as of late but the guilt only seemed to increase when she was around Ruby. Ruby talking about how much she and Angelo missed Charlie hadn't helped much either. Knowing she didn't have an excuse as to why she couldn't spend time with Ruby, Nicole reluctantly nodded "That would be nice. We're well over due a catch up" She gave her best smile "Just let me clear all this up and we can go"

"OK" Ruby smiled excitedly. Her gaze shifting as Angelo walked out of his office

"Hy Rubes" he smiled at the young girl his gaze quickly flicking to Nicole who walked past him with barely a recognition before he looked back over at Ruby "Your mum not with you?"

Ruby shook her head "No. Bianca came over so I left them to it. All the squealing was a little much for me so I bolted out of there. Figured I would hang out with Nicole for a while"

Angelo nodded and Nicole returned with her bag

"Right I'm ready" Nicole smiled over at Ruby but then turned to Angelo as he addressed her

"Thanks for today Nic"

She nodded lightly before turning back to Ruby "We best head off"

Not sensing the tension between Angelo and Nicole, Ruby stood from her seat "Oh Angelo, mum said to tell you to try and be home a little early tonight she's cooking"

"Yea I spoke to her already" Angelo smiled as Ruby and Nicole made their way out of the restaurant his gaze settled on Nicole who glanced back quickly before her feet took to the stairs.

"So?" Ruby glanced at Nicole "What's been going on with you?"

Nicole shrugged "Nothing just work and Uni"

"There has to be more I feel like I've not spoken to you in years… I've kind of missed you"

Nicole smiled over at Ruby she couldn't deny she had missed their friendship too "I know I've been a bit distant and I'm sorry, it's just Uni and the added stress of trying to juggle it with work. I hardly have time to think these days"

"And that's all it is?" Ruby asked with a raised eyebrow and Nicole nodded

"Yea of course"

"You sure? Because you can tell me anything you know. As your best friend offloading on me is what I am here for" Ruby gave an encouraging smile

Nicole chuckled "I know I just…" she paused unsure of what to say. Had it been anyone else Ruby would have been the first person she would have called but this was about Angelo, the man her best friend looked at as a father. How was she supposed to explain she had fallen in love with him?

Nicole's hesitancy was quickly picked up by Ruby "What is it?" Ruby stood still looking at Nicole hoping she would share whatever it was that was on her mind
Nicole peered at her tongue tied; more than anything she wanted Ruby's advice

"I err…" she scrapped her feet along the sand before setting herself down, Ruby slowly followed suit "How did I get myself in such a mess?" Nicole wasn't sure where it had come from but a tear fell from her eyes

Ruby instantly shuffled closer to Nicole "What it is Nicole?"

Nicole wiped away her tears and shook her head "I'm just being stupid ignore me"

"If it's enough to make you cry then it's not stupid. You never know, I might be able to help"

Nicole sighed. She knew sharing this with Ruby was selfish but she need to talk to someone "I've just made some bad choices lately"

"Like what?" asked Ruby

Nicole glanced at Ruby before fixing her gaze on the ocean ahead of them. If she looked at Ruby directly she might just break. "I err… I started seeing this guy" Nicole couldn't believe she was actually talking about this to Ruby

"What? Ruby was clearly surprised "When… and why didn't you say anything?"

"I haven't told anyone… you're the first person"

"Why?" Ruby looked at her friend confused "He's not a tool is he?"

Nicole shook her head "No, far from it. He is funny, kind and he makes me feel so special"

Ruby looked even more confused, unsure as to what was messy about that "I'm not sure I get what's bad about that. Isn't that what we all want in a guy?"

"Yea; but it would be a lot better if he wasn't with someone else?"

"Wait he's cheating on you?" Ruby asked shocked

Nicole slowly shook her head "No"

"So what do you mean?"

Nicole sighed "He's cheating on his fiancee with me" Nicole dared not look to see Ruby's reaction

"Wow" Ruby sat unsure of what to say

"I know, I'm a bad person" spoke Nicole

"Nicole you're not a bad person, far from it"

Nicole scoffed dismissively knowing if Ruby knew who she was talking about it would be a whole other story. However Nicole was taken aback by Ruby's next question

"This guy, do you love him?"

Looking down at her hands Nicole nodded

"Yea I do"

"And does he love you?"

Nicole smiled lightly "I think so, yes. But that doesn't change the fact that we're sneaking around behind someone's back"

Ruby sighed "I'll be honest with you it's not an ideal situation but you can't help who you fall in love with. A word of advice; if he really loves you he needs to call it off with this other girl it's not fair on her or you"

"That's the plan. But how am I supposed to be happy knowing that I broke their relationship"

Ruby sighed again "Whatever relationship he had with this girl broke the moment he got involved with you. And if he is able to fall in love with someone else while he is still with her then they obviously were never meant to be. But as your friend until he breaks things off with her you should probably stay clear of him. Like I said it's not fair on you or her"

Nicole nodded at Ruby. The one thing she valued in their friendship was their honesty to one another. Regardless of how bitter or hard the truth was they always gave each other honest advice. Nicole could hear it in Ruby's voice that she felt for whoever this other girl was; this only intensifying the height of her guilt. But she took solace in what Ruby had said 'You can't help who you fall in love with'. It was true she had tried to fight her attraction to Angelo till she was no longer able to fight it. She hadn't meant to but now it was done and there was no going back; she was in love with him

Nicole's head snapped up at Charlie's voice. Looking up Charlie was now closing in on both her and Ruby with Bianca by her side

"Hy" Bianca smiled down at Ruby and Nicole

"Hi Bianca" both girls greeted her

"I see you found her then" Charlie smiled at Ruby and Nicole

Nicole looked up confused as to what she meant. Seeing the look on her face Charlie quickly explained "She left the house stating she was going to track you down"

Nicole smiled and Ruby spoke "Yes she was working"

Charlie nodded "Well I hope Angelo isn't working you too hard" she smiled down at the young girl as she shook her head "Well good"

"Where you going?" asked Ruby

"I was just going to go see Angelo… and then figured me and Bianca could get some lunch. You can come as well if you want and you too Nicole"

Nicole quickly stood to her feet dusting herself off "Thanks but I can't, I have a pile of assignments I need to get started on so I should really get going"

"You sure?" Ruby looked up at Nicole. I could come with you if you want?"

Nicole shook her head "No it's fine really, but I do need to go. I'll see you later" Picking up her bag she turned to Charlie and Bianca "Bye" smiling lightly she walked away leaving Charlie and Bianca looking at Ruby questioningly

"Is she ok? She seemed bit tense?" asked Charlie

"Err yea. She just as a lot going on at the moment that's all"

Charlie and Bianca accepted her answer "So what do you say to lunch?... I could go say a quick Hi to Angelo then meet you and Bianca at the diner?" asked Charlie

"Yea why not" Picking herself up she followed Charlie and Bianca up the beach sighing lightly at the situation Nicole had found herself in.

"How you feeling?" asked Brax as he, Casey and Heath stuck their surf boards into the sand and picked up their towels. He tried to keep his tone nonchalant but Casey saw right through it

Giving a light chuckle Casey answered "Good a little tired but good considering… but I could do with a little something to eat"

Brax and Heath smiled glad that Casey actually wanted to eat. Since starting his treatment he never seemed to be able to keep anything down for long never mind actually wanting to eat something

"Ok well how about we go up there" Brax pointed at Angelo's

"Is the food nice?" asked Casey to which Brax shrugged

"I wouldn't know never been but we may as well give it a try"

"Wish I could join you guys but I've got to go home and get my car then pick Darcy up… promised I would have her this weekend" Heath flung his shirt and towel over his shoulder "I'll see you guys later"

Casey and Brax nodded in response as Heath made his way up the beach

"Come on then..." Brax went to pick up his board but was stopped by Casey

"Actually can I talk to you first… it won't take long" Casey looked over at his older brother.

Brax looked at him with a raised eyebrow as he nodded his head "Yea sure, what is it?"

Watching as Casey settled himself on the sand Brax lowered himself looking at Casey wondering what the topic of conversation was going to be

Casey exhaled heavily before removing his gaze from before him and looking at Brax "I haven't said it before so I want to say it now. Thank you" Brax looked at Casey unsure of what he was being praised for but Casey continued before he could ask "For these last three months for keeping us together"

"Case you don't have to thank me. You're my brother taking care of you is what I'm supposed to do"

"You've done more than taken care of me and Heath… I think it's safe to say you're the back bone of this family. And I know it may seem like I don't appreciate everything you do sometimes but I do. I just don't want your whole life to be about looking after me. I need to know that you're taking time out for yourself as well"

"I am" answered Brax

Casey chuckled in disagreement "No you're not" a moment of silence fell before Casey spoke again "Heath told me about the restaurant"

Brax sighed and shook his head "It's just too much hard work trying to get down to the city everyday… its better this way"

"It's never bothered you before... You love that place" Casey sighed he knew Brax selling the restaurant was so he could keep an eye on him at all times but voicing this would make no difference. Brax would just deny it

"What are you going to do now?"

Brax shrugged "I'll find something and the money from the restaurant is more than enough to keep us tied over for a while"

"I just need you to promise to make a little time for yourself… I don't want you worrying about me twenty four seven"

"I can't help worrying but I will try and tone down over protective Brax… a little" Brax grinned lightly at Casey at which he shook his head

"I guess I'll have to settle for that"

Brax nodded "Yea you will. So come on lets go get this food" he smiled as Casey picked himself up and the both of them walked up the beach. Brax smiled as Casey walked beside him, his strength hadn't seemed to waver even after the surf. Knowing he shouldn't but not being able to help himself, Brax let himself believe that this only proved that Casey would make it out of his predicament and their life's could go back to the way it used to be. As dysfunctional as it may have been it was the life they were used to; and compared to the fear they lived in now it was a damn good life.

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CHAPTER THREE

"I can't help worrying but I will try and tone down over protective Brax… a little" Brax grinned lightly at Casey at which he shook his head

"I guess I'll have to settle for that"

Brax nodded "Yea you will. So come on lets go get this food" he smiled as Casey picked himself up and the both of them walked up the beach. Brax smiled as Casey walked beside him, his strength hadn't seemed to waver even after the surf. Knowing he shouldn't but not being able to help himself, Brax let himself believe that this only proved that Casey would make it out of his predicament and their life's could go back to the way it used to be. As dysfunctional as it may have been it was the life they were used to; and compared to the fear they lived in now it was a damn good life.

...
Like every morning since Charlie had returned two weeks ago, she ran down the familiar path as she let the early morning wind gush through her hair and hit against her burning skin. She had tried to ignore her own thoughts but the more she tried to push them to the back of her mind; they hit back ten times harder. Every time it seemed she had plucked up enough courage to say it, to tell them, no words seemed to leave her lips. The clot that would form in her throat always brought her words to an end even before they had begun. Charlie didn't know what to do and even after two weeks she was now more conflicted than she had originally been. Every time she had left in the past; she saw the look in their eyes, they were thinking the same as she always did; was this the last time she would see them? But now she was supposed to be happy, she was finally with them. Ruby had the same beautiful smile on her face every morning when she woke up and saw Charlie in the kitchen. So how was she now supposed to tell her daughter that her fears of losing her may still come true?

Charlie tried to act as normal as possible and some days were proving more difficult than others. She smiled and laughed but nothing seemed to get past the screaming pained voice in her head. Angelo seemed to always be off in his own world, and she knew something was bothering him but the same reply always came when she asked if he was ok. Charlie had known him long enough to know when something was wrong but she didn't seem to have the energy to fight him on it.

She slowed her jog as her eyes fell on him again. Every morning he would be out there in the rough ocean surfing, he rode the waves almost as if his life depended on it. Sometimes like this morning he would just be sat on his board letting the water carry him as he glared out into space. Like most mornings she caught his eye. They never spoke but had now grown accustom to giving each other a slight nod. His eyes always bared the same blank expression as if he was too scared to show any emotion. Charlie found herself wondering if whatever brought him out here every morning was as damning as her own reason; she really hoped not. He peered at her for a moment before nodding his head slightly; she instantly mirrored his gesture before picking her pace up again.

Brax couldn't find the strength to go up against the waves this morning so he sat on the board but soon began regretting this decision as all the thoughts he tried to push back returned on cue. Anger, pain, fear, he couldn't bring himself to feel any of these emotions. It felt selfish to feel defeated when Casey was the one going through this ordeal; but he couldn't help it. Everything he had ever done all the mistakes he had made every right and wrong turn he had ever taken, it was always for them. He never took a step without considering how it would affect Casey or Heath. The both of them, no matter how difficult they could be, they were the only thing that truly mattered to him.

He felt his gaze shift slightly as she came into view. He didn't know who she was or what her name was; all he knew was that she had been jogging past this same place for the past two weeks. Even from a distant he knew her outer exterior did nothing to reflect whatever she was feeling inside. Every time he caught her eye they seemed dull and lifeless; it seemed she was fighting against something. In the same manner as they did every morning he gave a nod acknowledging her presence, one she immediately returned before her legs began moving further up the beach until she was no longer in his sight.

Even thinking this to himself felt stupid, but regardless of never having actually spoken to her since the day she bumped into him, her shortly lived presence every morning brought him some comfort. His life had become so unpredictable not knowing what news each day was going to bring but this felt like a routine, something he could almost be certain of; this he was grateful to have in his life at the moment. Paddling back towards dry land he stood to his feet ready to face another day, but all he could do was pray that the evening came soon. For Brax every passing day was hopefully another step closer to having the old Casey back

Stirring, Angelo flipped to the other side of the bed only to realise Charlie was gone again. He didn't know when his feeling had changed to such extent, but every morning he woke to the empty space beside him he felt relived. The person he had loved for so long was the person he now did his best to avoid. Angelo could tell that Charlie knew something was wrong, and her endless questions were only making this lie even harder. He couldn't do it anymore, he felt as if he couldn't breathe.

Climbing out of their bed Angelo made his way into the living room knowing she would be back soon. He sat with his head in his hand wondering if what he was about to do was a good idea. How would he start, how do you tell a person you have fallen out of love with them and are now in love with another?

His head shut up as she walked through the door. The look on her face made it clear she was surprised he was awake "Why you up so early?" she asked as she walked over to him "I didn't wake you when I was leaving did I?"

Angelo shook his head as she sat beside him "No you didn't wake me, I just couldn't sleep" he answered. He felt his heart racing against his chest at the thought of what he was about to do

"Are you ok?" she asked as she moved closer and placed her hand on his

"Err I err..." Angelo took a deep breath and shuffled slightly till he was facing her "Charlie there's something I need to tell you"

"Ok" she nodded her head slowly unaware that he was possibly about to break her heart

"When you left..." he stopped mid-sentence as his gaze darted to the voice that had now joined them

"Hy guys" Ruby peered over at the both of them "Everything ok?" she asked casually as she made her way into the kitchen

"Err yea... what you doing up so early?" Charlie asked her gaze also shifting to Ruby

Ruby shrugged "Been up for about thirty minutes so I just gave up on trying to get back to sleep... and it's not that early" she replied as she walked back into the living room. She must have noticed the strained look on Angelo's face "I didn't interrupt anything did I?" she glanced at the both of them

"Actually..." Charlie went to speak but Angelo quickly intervened deciding this wasn't the best time to follow through with the conversation

"No Rubes its cool" He turned to Charlie who was looking up at him unsure "It's nothing important, it can wait till later" he smiled over at her

"You sure?" she asked with a raised eyebrow

"Yea... you should probably jump in the shower. You're sending a bad whiff through this place" Angelo quickly tried to lighten the mood as he poked her lightly

"I was wondering what the smell was" added Ruby as she grinned over at Charlie

"Oi" bellowed Charlie as she gave Angelo a light punch in the arm before sending Ruby a mock hurt expression

"I'll have you know I smell pretty good" she said as she stood to her feet making her way over to Ruby casually

"If you say so" replied Ruby but as she finished up her sentence Charlie engulfed her in a hug and laughed "Ewww mum No" Ruby wriggled out of Charlie's embrace a little less than impressed "Now I'm going to have to have a shower" complained Ruby

"Aww poor you" Charlie grinned widely before walking down the hall and into their room

Angelo couldn't help but smile as he watched the both of them. Then there it was again, the guilt that had been eating away at him for so long.
...
Ruby smiled after Charlie as she walked away with that grin. She looked down at Angelo and returned his smile before making her way into the main bathroom. Ruby knew that to outsiders their life was probably different maybe even a little uncommon but to her it was the norm. Charlie had joined the army straight out of school. And although she had never actually said so, Ruby knew it was Charlie's way of dealing with what had happened to her. People would think after five years Charlie would have found a way of dealing with it but at the time it still lingered with her painfully. Then Ross died two yeas after Elise and Ruby guessed Charlie needed an escape. Ruby was only five when Charlie had told her she had to leave her with their Auntie Michelle. Ruby didn't understand, she remembered she kept asking where Charlie was going and when she would be back. But even with that, regardless of the many struggles Charlie had faced she had never failed to be the best mother she could be. Angelo had been in their lives since Ruby was ten, and they had been living together since she was thirteen. He seemed to be the glue that always kept Charlie together, he kept Ruby safe when Charlie went away and for that and so much more Ruby was grateful to him. Ruby knew her father wasn't the sort of person she wanted in her life but that didn't mattered much to her. She had her mum and she had Angelo, for Ruby that was more than enough. Ruby had beckoned for the day Charlie would complete her service and get to return to her and Angelo for good; now twelve years later she finally had her mother back.
...
"Charlie have you got any plans today?" Ruby asked as she walked out of her room to see Charlie sitting on one of the stools in the kitchen

"Err no not really, why?" Charlie turned back to face her

"Well I was thinking we could go into the city and make a day of it... maybe grab something to eat?"

Charlie smiled and nodded "Yea sure. I could go get dressed and we could leave now if you want?"

Ruby returned Charlie's smile "Ok" she turned around but then turned back to face Charlie again "How about if Angelo came too? We could make a proper day of it?"

"He can't, he's in the room getting dressed. He just got called into the restaurant not long ago... apparently someone's messed up the delivery orders so he has to go sort it out"

"Ok I'll go get dressed and we can head out" Ruby turned and walked into my room

Like every other day Brax found himself in this all too familiar position wishing time away. And like every day since this had begun, there that voice was again. The five minutes he had spent with her had somehow changed the course of his life. Her face he couldn't even picture, the only thing he still had memory of were her dark blue eyes and her words. It had been 17 years since she spoke those words and he had to admit he had almost forgotten that day till all this happened. But now, every so often he replayed the words that in some way made him the person he was today. His head tilted up gently as his door opened up

"Bro we should get going. Casey's going to be wondering where we are" Brax looked over at the clock before jumping up and grabbing his car keys. Time had passed him by unknowingly.

It was just him and Heath today, Casey was back at the hospital and had been there for over two days now. His composure and stamina had worsened, so the doctor had insisted he stay at the hospital for the time being making it easier for all three of us. Brax walked past Heath and Heath quickly followed his steps towards the car

Heath could have sworn that these days it was like Brax wasn't even here. Physically he was present but emotionally he just seemed so distant. Heath knew it was Brax's way of dealing with everything that was going on. He only hoped he doesn't fall apart if push came to shove. Heath needed him just as much as Casey did. He watched Brax as he sat static in the driver's seat, the only movement coming from him steering the wheel. Heath spoke up hoping to get a coherent response

"You ok?" Stupid question Heath knew, but he had to start from somewhere "You do know everything is going to work out fine... right?" Heath peered over at Brax but he said nothing, keeping his gaze firmly on the road they drove along. Heath sighed heavily not surprised by Brax's lack of response. But then his head quickly spun up at the sound of Brax's voice

"Yea I know it will... it has to"

As Heath peered at Brax his eyes never left the road. Although glad to see him finally respond with something other than a shrug, a grunt or a nod the uncertainty in Brax's voice was so strong. Just like Heath he was desperately trying to convince himself that there was truth in the words he had just spoke. Heath just hoped for both their sake that they were right and Casey would make it out of this

Ruby and Charlie had just had breakfast at the diner and where now making their way into the city. They were only ten minutes outside of Summer Bay when Charlie realised she had left her bag at the diner

"Ruby my bag, I forgot it" Charlie sighed realising they would have to go back

"Mum I swear you would forget your head if it wasn't screwed on" Ruby laughed at Charlie's never ending forgetful nature

"I'm not that bad" Charlie spoke as she turned the car around "And maybe we can check on Angelo and see if he's done at the restaurant, then he could come with us?"

Ruby nodded her head as they drove back to the diner "You go to Angelo's and I'll go get your bag"

Charlie nodded in response
...
"Hy is Angelo around?" Charlie asked one of the staff as she entered the restaurant

"Err no he actually left about fifteen minutes ago" the young boy answered her with a smile

"Did he say where he was going?" Charlie asked

"No sorry" the young boy replied "Just that he wouldn't be long

"Ok thanks" Charlie turned and walked out of the restaurant wondering where Angelo could be

Getting back to the car Ruby was already waiting for her

"Angelo not coming?" she asked noticing Charlie was alone

"He wasn't there, one of the staff said he left about fifteen minutes ago"

"Call him" suggested Ruby

Charlie took her bag from Ruby and rummaged through for her phone before looking up at her sheepishly. Ruby instantly caught on to what Charlie was about to say

"You forgot your phone at home didn't you?" Charlie nodded as she passed Ruby a grin

"Yea sure, not that bad" Ruby rolled her eyes playfully as she entered the car, Charlie following

"We'll just go get it and I promise we'll get going to the city" putting the key into the ignition Charlie made the short drive to the house

"Looks like Angelo came home" said Ruby as they parked up behind his car

"You wait here. I'll quickly grab the keys and Angelo and we can get going" Charlie jumped out of the car walking as quickly as possible.

Entering the house she instantly heard the shower from the main bathroom. She felt her eyebrows rise in surprise. Angelo always used the shower in their room unless Charlie was taking too long. Pushing the thought back she made her way down the hall walking towards the bathroom. Turning the handle she started to speak before she had even entered

"Angelo me and R..." Charlie staggered back as her stomach dropped and her chest shrunk and began suffocating her lungs. Her heart leaped rapidly against her chest trying to escape the sudden pain it had begun to feel. Her hand quickly searched for an object to balance her weight on as her legs started to give way. She felt the clouds form in her mind causing a cloudy mist over her eyes. She must have been mistaken. She quickly pressed her eyes together as they tried to discard of the image before them

"Charlie..." Her eyes flew open at the sound of his voice the image before her was till there, clear as day. He edged in front of Nicole as if trying to shield her from Charlie

"Charlie I..." Charlie glared at him dead in the eye. She wanted to run but she couldn't let go of the basin that was holding her up. It was just a bad dream, it had to be. He would never do this to her, he loves her. She kept her gaze on him as he quickly grabbed a towel for the both of them. She shook her head aggressively but the events before her wouldn't leave. Charlie heard his foot hit the tiles on the bathroom floor, his pleading gaze remaining on her

"Charlie I am so sorry" His voice low, almost afraid

It was as if Charlie had only just then realised that it wasn't her imagination, this was actually happening. Her gaze slowly shifted from Angelo till it landed on the figure that stood behind him. She hadn't even registered her own voice till she spoke

"N-Nicole..." her glaring eyes returned to Angelo. 'Her daughter's friend, her fiance was cheating on her with her daughter's best friend' the thought almost driving her crazy. "You and Nicole" the words felt so bitter in her mouth.

"Charlie I never meant for this to happen... please you have to believe me" Angelo edged closer to Charlie.

Charlie hadn't even registered the approaching footsteps, neither of the three of them had

"Mum what's taking you so long?" Charlie heard Ruby gasp behind me. No one needed to explain the obvious of what had been going on here, it spoke for itself. With the little strength Charlie could find she edged away from Angelo and backed out of the bathroom

"Charlie please I..." in that moment the sound of his voice made her sick. She couldn't be there. Before she knew it she was running out the door trying to get as far away as possible from the house
...
He didn't mean for this to happen, it wasn't supposed to happen like this. Angelo paced after Charlie as she fled from the house but there was no use. He already knew she wouldn't turn back. His head flew back at the stinging sound that filled the house. Angelo turned around only to see Nicole stood by the bathroom door with her hand placed across her right cheek. Ruby stood before her glaring at her with angry eyes

"It was Angelo... the guy you was telling me about was Angelo" Ruby felt a tear leave her eyes "You're supposed to be my friend... how could you do this?"

"Ruby I am so sorry" Nicole's tears fell from her eyes but before she had even finished talking Ruby had paced away from her and now made her way towards Angelo heading for the front door. Angelo quickly stood in front of the door hoping she would give him a chance to explain

"Ru..." she stopped him even before he had began. Angelo had never seen such anger in her eyes before

"If you have any kind of decency left you will be gone before we get back" she glared at him before trying to get past him but Angelo refused to budge

"Rubes..." she once again shut him down

"DON'T CALL ME THAT. How could you do this to mum... to me?" she glared at him but it seemed he had no answer.

Angelo had been asking himself that very same question for so long "I'm sorry" the only words he could think of fell from his lips

"I hate you" Ruby spat her words at him with such bitterness before shoving past him and walking away leaving him standing ashamed at the hurt he had caused the both of them. Angelo looked up to see Nicole still had her hand over the cheek that Ruby had laid her slap. Her tears cascaded down her face as she stared at him

"What are we going to do?" 'how did she expect him to answer that question' thought Angelo. He had just managed to break what had been his family for so long. How was he supposed to fix this?

Nicole walked up to Angelo and stopping dead in front of him. He hated that his coward ways had hurt her too. Angelo pulled her into him and she instantly buried her head into his chest. He didn't know what he was going to do or how they were going to get through this but he couldn't leave her. He had fallen in love with the girl before him; he had to fight for them

Ruby had been looking for Charlie for over thirty minutes and still no sign of her anywhere. She tried to push the image back but she couldn't. Her friend, her best friend and Angelo, how could this be happening? They were happy. the three of them were a family and in a flash Angelo had ripped that away from them. Ruby felt her anger increase as she thought back to the amount of times Nicole had spent the night at their house, She had thought Nicole was there for her but it wasn't about her, it never had been.

Ruby paced along the beach searching her surrounding. Finally she spotted Charlie sat with her feet up against her chest. Ruby felt her heart break as the sun glistened against the tears that left her face. She quickened her walk and was by Charlie's side in no time. Ruby stood peering down at her

"Mum?" Charlie didn't answer, she didn't even seem to acknowledge Ruby "Mum" Ruby crouched down in front of her but she seemed to just look through her. Charlie's cascading tears hit her legs harshly and she finally brought her gaze to meet Ruby's

"How could he do this to me?"

Ruby felt her own tears fall at the fragile sound of her mother's voice. She had time and time again faced many troubles but she had always been able to hide her emotions from Ruby. But now here she was unable to hide the pain the one person she trusted above anyone had caused her

"We were supposed to get married... I was supposed to be his wife" Charlie shook her head as if still trying to deny what they had both seen. "Maybe it's me" Ruby instantly shook her head at Charlie's words. How could she even think that?

"This isn't your fault mum" at Ruby's words Charlie's cries got a little louder. Ruby slumped down beside her before pulling Charlie into her embrace. They sat in the same manner for several minutes. Charlie's cries had finally stopped but yet they sat watching the ocean lapping against the sand

"I'm so sorry" Charlie's voice broke the silence and Ruby looked at her "I didn't even think about you" Ruby knew what she meant

"This isn't about me right now" replied Ruby

"Yes it is... I'm sorry you had to see that" Charlie shook her head lightly as she spoke "How did we get here?" she asked as she leaned away from Ruby slightly the ocean holding her gaze

Ruby shook her head in return "I don't know" her eyes fixated on Charlie as she noticed her sway ever so slightly as if losing balance even while seated

"Mum are you ok?"

Charlie shut her eyes for a few seconds before opening them and looking at Ruby "Yea" that was her only reply but Ruby wasn't so sure. Ruby had only just noticed the unusual pale tone on her face. She watched as Charlie once again shut her eyes tightly before reopening them

"Mum?" Ruby looked on, worry starting to overcome her

"I just err... I need some water" Charlie stood to her feet but didn't stand for long. Ruby leapt to her side as Charlie almost immediately fainted and hit the sand below her feet

"MUM" Ruby shook her lightly but she didn't respond. 'What the hell was happening?' Ruby thought to herself

"SOMEONE HELP" Ruby yelled as she looked around frantically at the crowd that had started making their way to them

"Someone please call an ambulance... my mum" Ruby watched through her tears as a young lady quickly flung her phone to her ears. her gaze flew back down to her mother. Ruby shook her lightly but Charlie lay limp in her arms

"Mum please wake up please"

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CHAPTER FOUR

"Someone please call an ambulance... my mum" Ruby watched through her tears as a young lady quickly flung her phone to her ears. her gaze flew back down to her mother. Ruby shook her lightly but Charlie lay limp in her arms

"Mum please wake up please"

...


Ruby stood peering into the room Charlie was in as she waited for someone to tell her what the hell was going on. She felt her chest tighten against her lungs as the thought what could be wrong with Charlie became too much for her to bear. She paced, unable to stand still; she needed to know that her mum was ok. Ruby's feet paralysed to the spot as Sid walked towards her. She tried to read his expression but it gave nothing away, he approached her with a blank look only causing her imagination to once again get the best of her

"Sid is she ok?" Ruby glared at him as he stopped in front of her

He gave Ruby an unsure look before replying "Errr... Ruby, your mum is awake. Why don't you come inside with me, you both should probably be there for this" Ruby remained

"Why, she is ok right?"

Sid looked at Ruby and she could see he was contemplating whether he should speak. His lips finally parted "She is ok Ruby... for now. You should..."

Ruby stopped him as her mind fixated on his words. What did he mean for now; She needed her to be ok period "For now?" She questioned

"Ruby I really need to talk to your mum about this as well" he looked at Ruby hoping she would oblige to his request. Ruby nodded as she quickly walked into Charlie's room as the nurses left.

Charlie looked up at Ruby as soon as she walked into the room. Ruby's feet hurried her over to Charlie and she swung her arms around her "Never do that again" Ruby cried into her mother's chest thinking back to the fear that had taken over her when she fainted

"I'm sorry" Charlie spoke into Ruby's hair as she held onto her

"Charlie how are you felling?" the both of them looked up as Sid spoke

Ruby turned her attention back to Charlie waiting for her to reply him. Charlie gave him a weak smile "Ok I guess"

"That's good" Sid smile. Ruby noticed the look on his face and thought he had that look that you see in the films, when a person was about to deliver tragic news.

"Err Charlie... we ran some tests when you were brought in... I err, I pulled your medical records..." his lack of conclusion was beginning to frustrate Ruby. She looked down at Charlie whose gaze was placed firmly upon their hands that held onto one another. Ruby looked back up at Sid

"What is it?" Ruby asked wondering why Charlie hadn't beaten her to it

Sid shifted uncomfortably only adding to Ruby's heavy breathing

"I err..." Ruby watched as he gazed nervously at Charlie

"Don't" Ruby's gaze turned form Sid down to Charlie. 'What was she doing? They needed to know what was wrong' thought Ruby. Charlie finally brought her gaze up and Ruby had only just registered her teary eyes

"Charlie you..." Once again Charlie stopped Sid, her words only making Ruby more confused

"I already know what it says"

Ruby looked at Charlie then up at Sid then back down to Charlie unsure of what it was that everyone seemed to know but her "Know what?" Ruby asked as she peered down at Charlie waiting for a response. Charlie looked up at Ruby with pleading eyes; Ruby saw her mouth open but no words left

"Charlie you should have come straight here when you got back, this is serious" Ruby spun her head up to look at Sid "Charlie..." he called her name once more but still no words left her mouth

"What's serious?" Sid turned his attention to Ruby but spoke no words "I am freaking out so someone needs to tell me what's going on?" Ruby's gaze remained on Sid even as he looked over at Charlie almost as if asking her for approval. Ruby followed his gaze to Charlie but Charlie's tears only got louder and Ruby felt Charlie's grip tighten against her hand. Ruby felt a lump form in her throat. Charlie's tears' confirming that whatever it was that Ruby didn't know wasn't a small issue.

"Ruby I am so sorry" Charlie spoke through her tears

"Sorry for what... what is it?" Ruby felt herself holding onto her breath as she awaited the news

"I err..." Charlie exhaled deeply as she pursed her lips together trying to stop her tears "I err...I" Charlies breathe caught in her throat and refused to leave her lips. She looked up at Sid

"Ruby I'm sorry to say this but unfortunately your mum as Cancer. She has been diagnosed with pancreatic Cancer"

...

Casey still at times couldn't believe it; He would have thought three months would be more than enough time for him to get his head around what was happening but it wasn't. 'How did he possibly get here? Why him? Why was this happening to him? The past three month all seemed like a blur to him but regardless this was for now his unfortunalte life. He looked up at the time wondering where his brothers were but in all honesty he was glad they were not there yet, most especially Brax. Casey had seen a lot of things in Brax but this was new. He looked so lost and drained. Casey couldn't remember a time when Brax didnt have a solution to everything; He always had a way of fixing every problem that had come their way. But this, this was out of his hands and every time Casey looked at him all he could see was pain and anger evident within his eyes. And then there was Heath; never would Casey had thought there would be a day he would see Heath shed a single tear or show any sort of human emotion but that day proved Casey wrong. Casey remebered his gawking gaze as Heath's eyes instantly glazed over as the doctor said those words and then the tear that ran down Heath's cheek as his head buried itself into his hands. He recalled turning to Brax who's back instantly hit the wall and he sunk closer and closer to the floor till he finally had nowhere else to go. The tears on Brax's face although silent, picking up speed as he shook his head at the doctors revelation, his words piercing into all three of them like daggers

"I'm sorry but as we suspected Casey as cancer... he has Hodgkin lymphoma"

Brax continued to shake his head; Heath had now crouched down, his head still placed in his hands. Casey sat unsure of what to say or how to act. He wasn't even sure if it was real. Looking at both Heath and Brax he hated that he was causing them so much pain. He sat wishing there was something he could do to erase it. He wished just as much as the two of them that this wasn't happening.

Casey sighed heavily forcing a smile onto his face as the door opened and Heath and Brax walked in; pulling him from his memory"

Brax took his usual seat "Hy mate sorry we're late" Casey looked at him giving him his most convincing smile before replying

"It's fine. It's not like I was going anywhere" He pointed to the needle that had been attached to his skin almost ten minutes ago.

And so it starts again, their reoccurring routine. Heath talked endlessly like he did on most days to override the quietness that always filled the room. And Brax gawked at Casey unable to speak; he had already entered his now usual trance as his eyes became cloudy. Casey knew he wouldn't let his tears fall; he hadn't seen him shed a tear since the day they were told he had cancer. Casey hoped things would turn out ok, if not for his sake for the sake of both his brothers. Casey could see the cracks and he knew that the hope of him making it out of this was the only thing keeping those cracks together

...

It wasn't the first time She had heard that word and yet it seemed to stop every functioning organ in her body.

*Flashback*

"Charlie it err... Charlie I am sorry but it seems the reason for your lack of energy and the pains you have been getting isn't a bug... Charlie you have cancer"

Charlie thought she had been dreaming when he said those words, She had to be, in that moment there was no other logical explanation; But deep down she knew that this nightmare was now indeed her life. She choked back the tears as they rushed aggressively to the surface looking for a way to escape her. She opened her mouth to speak but no words were spoken. She tried again still to no avail. The tears in her eyes began to taunt her as they fought against the barrier she had created. Her heart had now began pounding rapidly against her chest and the rapid beating seemed to invade her surroundings.

She had spent the last twelve years of her life, praying to not get killed out there. Praying that she would one day be able to be with her daughter and Angelo and live a normal life. And she was about to get that, she was finally going home; it was only a matter of months, no longer would she have to see the tears in her daughters eyes when she had to leave her. But like always luck wasn't on her side. Fate had found another way to etch pain into her life.

*End of Flashback*

The words kept ringing in Charlie's mind but her gaze lay on Ruby as she stumbled back gawking at Sid. The expression on her face caused Charlie to sink deeper into the black hole that had started consuming her

"You must be mistaken, she can't have... You must have got it wrong"

Charlie lay looking over at her beautiful daughter as the life and colour drained from her face as she struggled to accept the news. That was all it took for Charlie's tears to once again start streaming down her face at an alarming rate.

"Ruby" Charlie held her hand and Ruby immediately gripped it tightly almost cutting off all blood circulation

She gazed down at Charlie, her big brown eyes peering at her pleadingly "Mum he got it wrong, it's not true" she shook her head vigorously "This can't be happening... you're ok, you're home; you're back for good"

Charlie's tears increased as she listened to Ruby's words. How could she make her see that there was no mistake in what she had heard and that fate decided to play a cruel trick on them? Charlie looked at Ruby, she had lost so much already; how was she going to get through this, the one person that Charlie had thought would be there to support Ruby had betrayed the both of them. Trying her best to compose herself, Charlie gave Ruby's hand a tight squeeze as she gazed directly into her eyes, her tears still refusing to cease.

"I'm sure we will be ok sweetie, people beat this..." Charlie stopped as Ruby spoke above her

"You... you said you knew" Ruby glared at her expectantly, almost as if she was waiting for Charlie to deny it but Charlie regrettably nodded her head

"I'm sorry Rubes... I just- I didn't know how to tell you"

"When?" Ruby's voice came in a broken whisper "When did you find out?"

Charlie knew she had to be honest with her "A err... a week before I came home" Ruby's eyes widened in shock at her words

"Why didn't you say something why didn't you tell me?"

"I tried Ruby I really did but you were so happy and I... I just wanted to enjoy being happy with you, before all this" Charlie spoke with desperation hoping Ruby would understand why she hadn't told her.

At once all the confusion that was evident on Ruby's face had suddenly turned to anger and she yanked her hand away from Charlie's and backed away from her

"Ruby please..." Charlie held her hand out hoping Ruby would take hold of it but Ruby shook her head as her tears hit the ground below her

"No, you... you had no right keeping this from me" Both Charlie and Sid had picked up on the anger in her voice.

"Ruby I..." Charie jumped slightly as Ruby's voice bellowed through the room

"YOU HAVE CANCER MUM...CANCER" Ruby's chest rose with aggression and her hands trembled by her side. The words stung harder than Charlie thought possible. Charlie edged up the bed trying to figure out a way to calm her down

"Ruby this means nothing... I'm going to be just fine. We have been through worse and we have always come out of it" Charlie hoped Ruby couldn't hear the doubt in her voice. But it seemed Charlie's words did nothing in comforting Ruby as she continued to back towards the door slowly

"Nothing? how can you say that. This isn't nothing...this is everything. Nothing could be worse than this"

"Ruby I will beat this"

"You don't know that for sure" Ruby's voice cracked as she gazed at Charlie "It's not fair... I only just got you back" and with that she was gone. She fled down the hallway her cries still heard from the room.

Charlie swung her legs down the side of the bed ready to chase after her but Sid was quick to her side "Charlie I think you should give her some time to get her head around this"

Charlie shook her head as she stood to her feet "No Sid I need to be there for her"

He placed his hand on her shoulder "Charlie you have had time to let this sink in... Ruby only just found out. You need to give her a little time"

Charlie glanced at him then back at the door. She sighed as she slowly sat on the edge of the bed. A few hours ago she was engaged and was going to spend some time with her daughter. And now she had lost Angelo, and her daughter was broken because of her. She sank deeper into the bed as she felt her stomach turn in knots. She looked up and for the first time she noticed the heavy dose of sympathy that Sid had plastered on his face. Charlie had a feeling this was a look she was going to have to get used to

...

Brax needed some air. He felt like the walls in this room were beginning to close in on him. He couldn't breathe

"I'll be back in a sec guys just gonna get some air" both Casey and Heath nodded as he stood quickly making his out of the room. Closing the door firmly behind him, he leaned heavily against it trying to stable himself. Watching him in there, what Brax wouldn't give to take his place. He was his baby brother, he was the calm gentle one, he was the one who always saw the brighter side in everything, he didn't deserve this, no one did, especially him. Brax remembered the day the doctor had spoken the word 'cancer'. He felt his whole being had been struck with a thousand bolts of lightening. 'Cancer' such a simple word, how could it bring so much destruction and heart ache? All the changes Brax had made all those years ago was for his brothers, now it seems it wasn't enough. As the urgent need for fresh air suddenly became unbearable, Brax carried his weight off the door and proceeded towards the entrance until he was stopped in his tracks

"I'm so sorry" Brax looked down at the girl that stood apologetically in front of him as her tears consumed her face. Before he could reply she disappeared just as quickly as she had bumped into him. He stood still as she dashed out the entrance, there was something familiar about her but he was sure he had never seen her before. Discarding of the thought he continued walking towards the entrance till the warm wind could be felt by his skin. Sitting down on the bench he momentarily closed his eyes trying to escape even if only for a few seconds

...

"Do you think he's ok?" Casey looked over at Heath

Heath just looked at him; Casey could tell he was unsure what answer to give "He will be once you're out of the woods"

'So in other he was saying no' thought Casey

Right at this point in time Casey knew Brax was far from ok. Casey had dealt with it in his own way; Heath had certainly dealt with it in his own way. Casey remembered all the drunken nights Heath had when they first found out and all the fights he got into. Heath had let his anger out, he had allowed himself deal with the pain. But Brax refused to break, typical Brax letting people see his cracks wasn't his style. That may have worked in the past but Casey and Heath knew it wasn't going to work for this, sooner or later he was going to have to let himself truly feel.

"Do you think he will cope if..." it was like Heath could read Casey's mind. He spoke before Casey could finish

"He's not going to have to cope... because this is going to work." Heaths voice was calm as he looked over at Casey. But Heath couldn't fool him, although he tried to hide the fear and doubt in his eyes, Casey could still see it clearly. Casey nodded deciding not to fight him on this.

"As mum called?" Casey shook his head unsure why he had asked. Of course she hadn't. She had upped and left two months ago saying Brax and Heath had this under control and she wasn't needed

Heath shook his head "Na too busy ripping the next guy off" Casey laughed lightly at Heath's words. He never had been one to beat around the bush, something Casey liked about him. Heath may have been unbearable to live with and sometimes being in the same room as him would prove to be difficult task but if there was one thing that was admirable about Heath, it was his honesty. He was nearly always honest, sometimes brutally honest but nine out of ten times it came from a good place. He seemed so different to the person he was before all this happened. Who would have thought it would have taken Casey being ill for him to get his act together.

"You know this now makes me the good most good looking one out of the three of us" Casey chuckled lightly knowing Heath wasn't finished yet "I mean this new hairdo of yours just emphasises how big your head is... and no girl likes a big headed guy" Casey couldn't help but laugh a little. Heath always had been one to make jokes even in the most awkward of situations... some thing which Casey lately found himself grateful for

"I will always be the good looking one Heath... hair or not" replied Casey

"Yea you keep telling yourself that" Heath chuckled as he looked at him. Casey sighed lightly even when Heath laughed he could still see the fear etched on his face.

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CHAPTER FIVE

"I will always be the good looking one Heath... hair or not" replied Casey

"Yea you keep telling yourself that" Heath chuckled as he looked at him. Casey sighed lightly even when Heath laughed he could still see the fear etched on his face.


...

Ruby leaned against the cold brick walls as her legs gave way sending her crashing to the ground. Her mum, her beautiful mother; all she could think was why, why her? She shook her head desperately trying to escape Sid's words and the knowing look in Charlie's eyes. Her heart felt as though it was screaming out as the words sent daggers surging right through it. Her lungs felt short of air and her chest began getting tighter almost restraining her ability to breathe. She had no choice, she had to get out of there.

Ruby thought back to the previous week, how they had been on the beach together. Her, Charlie and Angelo; it was a perfect day and it felt as if no force in the world could take nor tarnish their happiness. But in one day her family had been broken and now this. How could this be happening? how could this day have taken such a turn in a matter of hours.

This revelation had stolen every ounce of happiness and sucked out any joy that she once had. She couldn't lose Charlie, this wasn't how it was supposed to be, she had only just gotten her back. Ruby rested her head into her lap unable to fully grasp what had just happened. She thought back to all the times she had waited patiently in anticipation for Charlie to return home even if only for a short while. Her tears hit harshly against the ground below her as she once again shook her head; she needed her mum

Ruby thought of how Charlie had known all this while and she never said a word, she laughed like her normal self; her smile resembled the one Ruby had known as her own but yet she was walking around with such a burden. Ruby's thoughts travelled to Angelo and a rush of anger washed over her causing her tears to pick up speed. She had trusted him, they trusted him and he ripped their family apart with his selfish act. A wash of guilt came crashing down on Ruby as her thoughts were again returned back to her mother. She had been holding onto such pain and the person that was meant to be her rock had betrayed her. Ruby lifted her head from her lap and peered aimlessly ahead of her. Here she was thinking about how this affected her, completely over looking how her mother must be feeling. Slowly picking herself up she tried to smooth herself over as she dusted off any dirt she may have picked from the ground. She rubbed her hands against her face as she tried to discard of her tears.

'They had never had the most straight forward life and many a times they had had to overcome many obstacles. And that is all this was; another obstacle and like every other time they were going to get through it, they had to get through it' thought Ruby

Her steps paced slowly as she made her way back towards the hospital trying to keep her tears from falling. Ruby stopped as her attention was stolen by the man she had ran into earlier. She watched as he peered into the empty space before him. The expression sat upon his face resembled nothing less than what she was feeling. She watched the tear that ran down his cheek, but almost like it was a reflex his hand was quick to wipe the tear away, almost like it never happened. Ruby wondered what bad news he was dealing with. She directed her gaze back towards the entrance of the hospital, walking through the doors she hoped whatever he was dealing with wasn't as bad as what Charlie was now faced with. Never would she wish this feeling of helplessness on another

...

Casey was starting to get nauseated as the chemo started taking affect, he felt almost like he had already left his body. Looking over at Heath, Casey knew he could see this too. Heath hadn't said a word in the last five minutes; he just sat there staring at Casey almost like he was guarding him. Casey smiled at him, or at least he tried to. he wanted to reassure Heath that he was ok, that he was going to be ok. Although Casey lacked in faith he couldn't let it show. Casey turned his head slowly at the sound of the door creaking open and was met by Brax. He could instantly tell he had been crying. His eyes were slightly reddened and puffed up. He noted the brief look of despair on Brax's face as he studied him closely 'Wow did I look that bad' Casey thought to himself as Brax continued looked over at him. Brax walked over silently towards Casey taking a seat in his previous space. The chemo session lasted another ten minutes; it had to be the longest ten minutes of Casey's life as both his brothers sat before him gawking at him attentively. They seemed to have even stopped blinking, almost as if in that short space of time the little life left in Casey may decide to throw in the towel and slip away.

...

The nurse had been and taken the needle out of Casey's arm and the doctor had thankfully told them he wouldn't have to spend the night at the hospital again. Casey slowly shifted his legs to the side of the bed before trying to stand to his feet as his legs struggled to support his deteriorating weight. Brax and Heath both plunged towards him ironically almost knocking him out in an attempt to stop him from falling as his weight shifted to the side. Casey smiled lightly before speaking

"What are you guys trying to do... swash me? I know I am extremely good looking but there truly isn't any need for violence" Casey sent them both his best effort at a cheeky grin causing them both to momentarily chuckle as they both held him up at either side before slowly placing him back onto the bed

"You really need to stop with this whole good looking thing because let's be honest you're no match for me... neither of you are" Casey chuckled as Heath spoke. Casey's gaze shifted to Brax as he lightly hit Heath across the head

"Hy what was that for?" Heath groaned clearly as confused as Casey was

"For telling lies. I think it's safe to say I copped all the good looks in this family" Brax looked over at Casey and Heath before a grin broke out on his face. All three brothers chuckled at one another. Casey missed this, the way they usually interacted and Brax and Heath's constant banter.

"Ready to go" asked Brax and Casey nodded his head in response

Brax kept a hold of Casey as Heath followed closely behind Casey as they made their way out of the hospital

...

In some way Charlie had been in denial hoping it would turn out they had got their information wrong but now there was no denying it. Sid had now confirmed what she already knew

"Cancer" Charlie spoke the word out loud finally grasping the full concept of the word Sid had just spoken to her and Ruby. How was she going to get through this? Her mum and dad had been gone for so long and now Angelo. Charlie quickly shook her head as the image of Angelo and Nicole reared its head. She couldn't deal with it now; she couldn't deal with both these things at the same time and right now there was no escaping this hospital and what it signified for her.

The one person besides Ruby that she had put all her trust in had taken her heart and broken it, he had broken their family and now here she and Ruby stood with no one but each other. It dawned on Charlie that she was now all Ruby had. How could life be so bitter? Charlie shut her eyes as her vision became cloudy courtesy of her tears. She had pleaded with Sid to give her some time alone and regardless of his protests insisting that they talk about what she was going to do; she had managed to convince him to let her be for a while. She needed a desperate escape as she sat staring at the blank wall before her. Her thoughts invaded her mind and for the first time in a really long time she heard his voice again, and only now did she understand the meaning behind the words he had spoken to her all those years ago. She didn't know his name, but his smile and his emerald green eyes was something that till this day she had never forgotten

"What if my best isn't good enough?" These were the words he had spoken that were now stuck in Charlie's mind. What if her best wasn't good enough and regardless of her efforts it wouldn't be enough to save her from this hell? What if all the good deeds she had ever done just weren't good enough to erase all the mistakes she had made along the way? Grateful for the intervention from her thoughts, her head shot up at the sound of Ruby's voice

"Mum" she looked down at Charlie as her tears fell freely from her eyes before she broke down. Ruby rushed to Charlie's side and wrapped her arms around her burying her head into her chest. Charlie held her tightly hoping to ease some of her pain

"I'm so s-sorry for running out like that...I" Charlie quickly interrupted her

"Ruby you have nothing to be sorry about... you have every right to be angry at me" If at all possible Charlie felt Ruby tighten her grip. Charlie's tears ran down her face finding ground on Ruby's shoulder

"I'm not angry I-I just can't lose you"

Charlie shook her head "It's going to be ok Ruby... I'm not going anywhere" Charlie felt Ruby nod her head against her chest her grip refusing to loosen on her and the sound of her cries still making way to her ears. Seeing Ruby so broken because of her only made the pain Charlie was feeling worse. Charlie knew she had to get through this for Ruby, leaving her wasn't an option. They stayed in each other's embrace for a while until the slight sound in the room alerted the both of them that they were no longer alone. Charlie peered up to see Sid had now returned. She sighed heavily knowing full well why he was here and what was about to happen. Before Sid could speak Ruby had beaten him to it

"What's going to happen now?" Ruby sniffed back her tears and backed away from Charlie's embrace but slid her hand into Charlie's as they both waited for Sid's reply

Sid gave an almost unnoticeable smile as he shifted his gaze between the both of them "After having a close look at your scans we think that the best option would be for you to have neo adjuvant chemotherapy. This would mean we would start with chemo in hopes of shrinking the cancer cells and then you would have to have surgery in order to remove the remaining cells given that the chemo doesn't get rid off all the cancer cells"

Charlie felt Ruby's grip on her hand tighten "Surgery" Ruby's voice was barely audiable as she questioned him. Sid nodded sympathetically but Charlie sat unable to say a word "Wouldn't the chemo be enough to get rid of the cancer?" Ruby's voice shook as she spoke

Sid sighed before speaking "Unfortunately in Charlie's case it is unlikely that the chemo alone will be enough to rid the cancer completely" Charlie watched as Sid shifted his gaze onto him "I know this is a lot for the both of you to take in but I must tell you Charlie the sooner we start the better your chances"

Charlie nodded her head buying herself some time to find her voice "W-When would I have to start with the errr... with the chemo?"

"We would like to get you started tomorrow"

Charlie nodded her head in response but within her, her whole being was screaming in pain. She closed her eyes briefly and opened them as Sid spoke again

"Charlie we can't afford to waste anytime"

Charlie nodded again "I know" it was all she could bring herself to say

"Right I'll go get everything sorted and book you in for a time" he spoke like it was just a normal doctor's appointment she was making. Charlie didn't respond as she watched him give her another sympathetic smile before retracted out of the room.

Charlie's silence spoke volumes to Ruby and she shifted closer to her "Mum" Charlie's stale gaze drifted in Ruby's direction. Charlie tried to give her a reassuring smile as she saw the fear etched on Ruby's face "You said it would be ok" Charie knew through her silence Ruby was crumpling so she quickly shook herself out of her speechless state

"I did... and I meant it" she struggled to hold back the tears that were brewing but she knew letting them fall would most likely break her the more

...

Sid had returned and after nearly twenty minutes of him explaining how Charlie's chemo sessions would work and answering what seemed like the hundredth question that Ruby had, they were now able to leave. But Charlie felt no relief in the thought of having to return the next day

Charlie and Ruby walked towards the exit as Ruby latched onto Charlie's arm. Their steps almost in sync until Ruby stopped in her tracks bringing Charlie to a halt. Charlie looked at Ruby confused before following her gaze. Charlie's questioning eyes were met by three male figures as they also made their way to the exit. Charlie shifted her eyes back to Ruby before once again turning to look at the three guys and studying them further. She focused uncontrollably at the young boy as he leaned against one of the guys as the other stood behind him almost as if guarding him. Charlie's throat dried up as she consumed his pale grey complexion. His body looked extremely fragile as he leaned heavily on who she could only assume was his brother for support. Her gaze was caught by his hairless head and suddenly it all added up. This young boy that had caught her daughter's attention was in the same predicament as she was. Charlie felt her body weighing her down as it hit her that the figure she was peering at was a mirror of who she was soon to become.

Charlie tightened her grip on Ruby's arms not sure if she was trying to comfort Ruby or herself. Charlie suddenly found herself unable to move as the guy holding the young boy up lifted his head up unexpectedly and caught her gaze with his. It was him, she had hardly ever seen him outside the water but looking at him now a few questions had already been answered. The reason why he was always out there alone and so early in the morning and the cause behind the helplessness she witnessed every morning in his eyes. She could tell by the way he looked at her that he had recognised her too but he broke the gaze as the youngest of the three leaned further into him almost as if struggling to put each feet ahead of him. Unable to look away Charlie watched as they walked out of the exit and disappeared into the distance.

"Mum are you ok?" Charlie quickly glanced down at Ruby before nodding and sending her the only smile she could manage

"Yh I'm fine...I-it's just..." Charlie paused as she followed the direction the young boy and the other two and gone in

"I know" Charlie turned back to Ruby slightly confused "I will be here so you can lean on me" Charlie smiled at Ruby, amazed that she was actually her daughter "We'll get through this together"

Charlie nodded "I know we will"

...

Angelo had returned to the house after unsuccessfully trying to track down Ruby and Charlie. He needed to speak to them; they needed to understand that he hadn't planned this. He couldn't even remember how it all happened; all he knew was that one day he found himself falling for someone that wasn't Charlie. He wasn't sure how long he had been pacing the living room for but his movements stopped as he heard a car stop outside the house. He didn't move, he just stood unsure of what to do. He listened as the footsteps closed in till they reached the front door

"Mum are you sure you don't want us to go somewhere else?...we could stay at Bianca's" Angelo heard Ruby's voice but no verbal response came from Charlie. Angelo guessed she had declined the offer as he heard the key turn in the lock and the door push open.

A lump formed in his throat at the look on both their faces when their gaze acknowledged his presence. By the look on Charlie's face it seemed in the time she had caught him and Nicole, to her returning things had only gotten worse. The tears she had been crying had left their mark on her cheeks, her eyes were filled with more pain than Angelo had ever seen. Charlie said nothing, she just stood glaring at him

"What are you doing here?" Angelo looked at Ruby who had nothing but anger sketched on her face. Her piercing eyes bore fire as they burned into him

"I need to explain..." Ruby scoffed at his words her angered glare still firmly placed

"You seriously want to justify cheating on mum with my best friend" Angelo had never seen such disgust in her eye as she addressed him

"You will never know how sorry I am..." and yet again Ruby spoke over him

Ruby stepped forward slightly "You're not sorry you cheated, you're sorry you got caught" Angelo sighed knowing there was nothing he could do or say to take from the anger Ruby was feeling towards him

He moved his gaze to Charlie as she had yet to speak one word. Unlike earlier there were no tears, she stared at him almost like she didn't recognise him. Angelo looked at her pleadingly "Charlie I didn't mean for any of this to happen"

Charlie's expression remained the same as she spoke "But it did" she had yet to move from the foot of the door

Angelo looked down at his feet in shame before looking back up at her "I swear you have to believe me when I say I never meant to hurt either of you"

"But that's exactly what you did" her voice so low Angelo only just barley picked up what she had said. He watched as her gaze lowered till it hit the ring he had placed on her finger nine months ago. Charlie's head slowly came back up

"Ruby could you give us a minute"

"Mum you..."

"Ruby please" Ruby sighed but reluctantly walked past Angelo and down the hall into her room

"Charlie I..." Angelo stopped at the sound of her voice overriding his

"Seven years" she shook her head lightly "Seven years and you do this" her eyes shut momentarily before her gaze met Angelo's again "How long?" she waited for him to respond but his silence only made her more determined "How long?" she asked again

Angelo closed his eyes briefly as he answered "Six months" Charlie let out a little gasp at his words. She tilted her head up slightly almost as if trying to will her tears not to fall

"Why?" she asked

'How could he answer that when he didn't know the answer' thought Angelo "I don't know" It was all he could think to say. It was the honest answer

Charlie shook her head in disappointment "You don't know. You have destroyed everything that we spent the last seven years building and you don't know"

Angelo couldn't deny the logic in what she had just said. He sighed unable to justify his actions without causing her more pain

"D-Do you... do you love her?" her glare changed as she spoke, it was almost as if her eyes were now pleading with him

"Charlie I..."

"Do you love her?" her voice firmer this time as she waited for a response

Angelo opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. he knew if he kept silent for any longer his unspoken words would speak for themselves but it seemed he couldn't find any words to respond her with. He knew the answer to her question but he dared not voice it. And at that her tears finally escaped as they travelled down her cheeks. Her hand swung to her mouth and Angelo knew she had already worked out what the answer was

"I'm so sorry... you were always away and then... "

She shook her head aggressively at his words as her tears hit roughly against the wooden floor below them "Don't you dare try to blame me for this"

Angelo shook his head lightly "That's not what I'm doing Charlie I would never…"

I-I said no" she spoke but Angelo was confused by her words "I kept knocking you back but you kept pursuing me. I told you to leave me alone but you refused. You knew what you were getting yourself into when you met me I never kept a thing from you" she shook her head once again "I told you no, but you said you would never hurt me... you let me put my trust in you and you-you..." Angelo felt torn with guilty as Charlie's pain rose to the surface and her hand flew to her chest.

He now knew what she was talking about. A little over seven years ago she had said no to dating him countless times and had given more than a few excuses, one being that she worked in the army which meant she was away a lot but he refused to listen. He kept his pursuit till she gave in and let him be a part of her life. He had promised to never hurt her but now he had done just that.

"I didn't want to but you made me love you...and this" she looked down at the engagement ring on her finger "Everything you said that day was all a lie"

Angelo shook his head at her words "No it wasn't Charlie, I meant every word of it" Angelo jumped slightly as her voice that had managed to remain calm finally tore through the air

"NO YOU DIDN'T" her hand flew to her finger as she pulled it off and flung it in his direction causing it to hit his chest before dropping to the floor.

Ruby soon rushed into the living room startled by Charlie's sudden rage "Mum are you ok?" Angelo heard her voice from behind him

"Get out" Charlie ignored Ruby her glare not moving from Angelo. He remained unmoved for a moment "GET OUT" Her voice echoed through the living room. Angelo caught Ruby out of the corner of his eye as she paced over to Charlie

"Mum" there was a look in Ruby's eyes that Angelo couldn't explain as she looked over at Charlie. Ruby quickly turned back to face him

"Will you just go... we don't need you" Angelo looked at the both of them apologetically before nodding his head and moving towards the door. Charlie instantly edged away as he closed the distance between them

"I am truly sorry" he bowed his head as he walked out of the house

Angelo hadn't reached the end of the drive way before he heard Charlie's heart retching cries fill the air. He sighed with guilty knowing that he couldn't do anything to take from her pain. He continued walking hoping that one day they would both find a way to forgive him

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Thanks JarlieFanEver for the comment :)

CHAPTER SIX

"I am truly sorry" he bowed his head as he walked out of the house

Angelo hadn't reached the end of the drive way before he heard Charlie's heart retching cries fill the air. He sighed with guilty knowing that he couldn't do anything to take from her pain. He continued walking hoping that one day they would both find a way to forgive him

...
Charlie couldn't hold it any longer; she didn't have the ability to be strong in that moment. As Angelo furthered down the drive way she finally crumbled as the day finally caught up with her. Her cries stripping her of her composure as she slowly lowered to the floor. Ruby was fast beside Charlie, her arms engulfing her. Though Charlie's cries were loud she could hear Ruby's quiet sobs as she held her. In just one day their world had come tumbling down. Her daughter's reality had been shattered and she didn't know how to fix it... this was beyond her

"It's been a long day we should go get some sleep" Charlie and Ruby had long ago moved onto the couch and Ruby sat wrapped in Charlie's arms. Ruby looked up at her unsure; as if afraid to leave her alone "Ruby you're clearly tired and so am I. And I have a feeling it's going to be a long day tomorrow" Charlie gave her a reassuring look which seemed to work as she nodded in agreement

"Do you want me to stay with you?" Ruby sat up looking at Charlie but she shook her head

"I'll be fine sweetie, I promise" Ruby looked at Charlie momentarily before leaning forward and placing a kiss on her cheek

"Good night mum"

"Good night sweetie" Charlie smiled up at her as she walked down the hall and into her room.

Now Ruby was out of sight, Charlie's smile faltered as she sighed heavily. Standing to her feet she was stopped by the object that lay aimlessly on the floor at the foot of the couch. Her eyes clouded over as she peered down at the engagement ring she had early thrown at Angelo. She contemplated leaving it there but unsure why; she picked it up and made her way into her room with it placed firmly in her hand.

Now sat at the edge of her bed she peered down at it. It looked so much more different than it had done the day before. Ever since Angelo placed it on her finger there had always been a certain glister to it. It always seemed so bright and most of all beautiful. But now it looked nothing like what it used to. It lay in her hand lifeless and she could no longer see the beauty she had once seen in it. All she could see was deceit and failure. Charlie registered her tears as a tear drop bounced off the single diamond that sat in the middle of the ring. Quickly wiping her tears away she placed the ring on her bed side drawer. Her eyes fell onto the empty space on the other side of bed that she knew was never going to be filled by him again. She needed him now more than ever but instead here she was with nothing but an empty bed
...
Charlie had been laid down for all of twenty minutes before the room door creaked open. She smiled as Ruby slid in bedside her and wrapped her arms around her from behind. Charlie instantly held Ruby's arm tightly both of them not saying a word as they tried to get some sleep

Walking into the hospital for her first round of chemo, Charlie felt a rush of nausea over take her. She could feel her legs begin to tremble as they struggled to find proper balance against the ground beneath her. She felt the pressure on her arm increase as Ruby tightened her grip on them. Charlie looked down at her but was only saddened by the look in her eyes. It was filled with so much anxiety and worry. Charlie brought her moving steps to a halt and turned to face Ruby and gently stroked her cheek with her free hand as Ruby refused to set free the one in her grip

"Ruby" Charlie brought Ruby's eye contact to hers "It's going to be fine... I'm going to be fine ok" Charlie hoped she believed in her words as she failed to find any comfort in them

Ruby pursed her lips together and nodded slowly as Charlie placed a kiss on her forehead. Bringing her gaze back up, Charlie immediately caught sight of Sid as he walked towards them his expression the same as the day before

"Charlie. How are you feeling today?"

Charlie looked at him unsure how to reply. 'How did he think she was feeling' she thought to herself. Deciding it was best to give a dishonest answer Charlie nodded slowly before replying

"Fine thanks"

Yet again he gave her another sympathetic smile as he directed them towards a room. Charlie sat in the cold Chair and she prepared herself for what was about to happen

Ruby sat beside Charlie watching as a nurse entered the room and began fussing around her. She weighed her, took her blood pressure and then recorded her temperature until finally everything was ready and the needle was slowly pushed into her skin. Watching Charlie as she winced, Ruby quickly grabbed hold of her hand making sure she knew she wasn't alone.

Charlie closed her eyes momentarily leaning her head back on her seat before looking back over at Ruby and sending her a weak smile.

As the nurse walked out of the room Ruby sighed and she once again returned to the topic She had tried to discuss with Charlie that morning "Mum are you sure you don't want to tell anyone… even Bianca."

But once again Charlie shook her head "No Ruby… I can't deal with that right now. Soon, I promise"

Ruby sighed and nodded her head quickly changing the topic.

It seemed they had been talking for what seemed like forever but in reality had been 30 minutes. Both trying to distract themselves from what was happening; they kept a dose of humour in their conversation

"Mum I'm just going to get something to drink, do you want anything?" Ruby stood to her feet looking at Charlie expectantly but she shook her head

"No thank you"

Ruby smiled weakly before she made her way out of the room and over to the coffee machine. Ruby came to a quick halt and she reversed slightly casting her gaze on the image that had caught her attention. The boy was smiling but it seemed so unnatural. She watched as he glanced at the guy that sat in front of him; and she instantly recognised him as the man she had bumped into the day before. Even in the young boys obvious weak state she could see the worry in his eyes as he watched who she could only assume was his brother. Unexpectedly a tear rolled down her cheek. She knew the boy must have been round about the same age as she was and yet life had dealt him such a cruel hand.

Lost in her thoughts Ruby failed to register him walking towards the door. The sudden noise of the door creaking caused her to jump as he stood before her peering down at her

"I'm… I'm sorry I didn't mean to intrude"

He didn't give an immediate reply instead he continued to stare down at her. Ruby noted how dull and colorless his face looked, almost resembling the young boys. She backed up slightly as he edged further out the door and finally spoke

"You didn't intrude" he continued to stare down at her almost as if searching for something.

As if unable to control herself Ruby spoke before she had realised it "He's got cancer" It sounded more like a statement than a question. Regretting her words as soon as they left her lips she did the only thing she could think of and apologized

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to… I mean it's none of my business… I just..." Ruby looked down sheepishly and embarrassed as she found herself unable to form a sentence. She looked back up at him slowly "I'm sorry" and she left it at that deciding that whatever she would say next would probably only make things worse if at all possible.

"It's fine, and yea he does have c…" She watched him attentively as he choked back the simple word. Noticing the pain in his eyes Ruby spoke up trying to comfort him in some way

"He looks strong, I'm sure he'll be just fine" she smiled at him before quickly walking away and over to the coffee machine as she felt her throat dry up as her thoughts returned to Charlie

Brax watched as she hurried away and over to the coffee machine. He was looked at her but his mind kept going back to yesterday, and the familiar woman that she was stood with. He had been out in the ocean that morning and for the first time in two weeks she hadn't appeared. He found himself out there longer than intended, waiting to see if she would show but she hadn't. Looking at Ruby he presumed they were sisters, they shared an un canning resemblance but it was her eyes that got to him. He remembered Charlie's eyes that had locked with his the day before; Apart from the glances they had shared every day for the past two weeks he found that there was something familiar about her eyes.

Taking a seat on the row of Chairs on the opposite of Casey's room, Brax watched Ruby as she made her way back towards him. Passing him a small smile, he spoke up before she walked past him

"So why are you here again?" Ruby looked over at him with a raised eyebrow "Well you were here yesterday and now today"

Ruby nodded having understood what Brax meant. He looked at her expectantly but was taken aback when he saw a tear roll down her cheek, her hand quickly wiping it away

"She as it too… Cancer" Ruby choked back her tears as she looked own at Brax

Brax wasn't sure what she could see in his expression; confusion as to who she was talking about or hope that it wasn't the woman he had seen her with the day before. Before he could reply Ruby clarified her words

"My mum, she as Cancer" the words felt so bitter to say out loud and confronting them only worsened Ruby's state. Unsure as to why; Ruby lowered herself onto the seat besides Brax burying her head in her hand as she tried to hide her tears.

Brax sat unsure what to do or say. Thinking the woman he saw her with the day before couldn't have been her mum, for some reason he felt a slight sense of relief. Thankfully her face soon resurfaced and she wiped away her tears "I'm sorry I shouldn't be laying this on you. You don't even know me and you have your own things to deal with" Ruby nodded her head towards Casey's room as she spoke

"You apologise way too often" said Brax

Ruby looked over at him and gave an almost unnoticeable smile "Only when I have something to apologise for"

"Then stop because you've done nothing wrong" Brax gave a smile.

Ruby nodded before her gaze stopped on a few doors away from Casey's room, the look in her eyes made it clear to Brax that was probably where her mum was.

Unable to fight his curiosity Brax spoke "Is your sister not with you today… or is she with your mum?"

Ruby looked up at him, confusion written all over her face as to who Brax was referring to. Noticing this Brax spoke again

"The woman I saw you with yesterday… isn't she your sister?" Brax watched as a knowing look crept up on Ruby's face

"Oh err… no she isn't my sister, she's my mum" Ruby pursed her lips together

Now it was Brax's turn to apologise "I'm sorry, I just assumed, because…" He paused unsure what he was trying to say "I'm sorry I didn't know" he felt a part of him deflate at the news

Ruby gave him a reassuring smile "It's fine, you're not the first person to make that assumption" and with that Ruby stood to her feet with her coffee in hand "I better get back in there, don't want her worrying about me on top of everything else"

Brax nodded and passed her a smile which she returned "My name is Ruby by the way"

"Brax" he replied

Nodding she walked towards Charlie's door before turning to face Brax "I hope everything works out for your brother… he is your brother right?" Ruby quickly realised she too had made an assumption

Brax nodded "Yea he's my brother and thanks. I hope everything works out for your mum too."

Giving him one final smile Ruby disappeared to the other side of the door. Brax sat for a while longer staring at the closed door as Charlie's face came to mind. He thought back to all those morning on the beach, the speed her legs seemed to move at, the dullness of her eyes when she looked at him. He didn't know her, but he found himself wanting to know more about her. Sighing he discarded of his thoughts before making his way back into Casey's room but for some reason he couldn't discard Charlie's image from his mind

Charlie found her eyes growing tired and closed them momentarily. Unsure why; a memory came back to her. She remembered that day she had woken up as someone's daughter but laid her head to rest as a daughter and a mother. She remembered the courage she had gained that day from a stranger's words. She no longer remembered his face but she had a somewhat distant memory of his eyes.

She opened her eyes and motioned her gaze towards the door as Ruby re-entered the room "Hy, I was beginning to think you had ran off on me" the corner of Charlie's lips turned

"Sorry" Ruby sat down "I just got caught up" She gave Charlie an apologetic look and Charlie shook her head

"I was joking Rubes" Charlie gave her a reassuring smile "So…" Charlie spoke curiously "You said you got caught up?" She looked at Ruby expectantly waiting for her to share

"Yea it was a guy I bumped into, he err… his brother is also ill" Ruby glanced into the plastic cup in her hand and Charlie instantly outstretched her hands and placed them on Ruby's

"Was this the guy from yesterday… the one we saw when we were leaving?"

Ruby nodded before looking up at Charlie "Yea the one that was wearing the black shirt. He err… he looked so broken" Charlie nodded in agreement

"Well I hope his brother gets better soon" said Charlie

"Yea, Brax says he hopes you do too" replied Ruby and Charlie cocked an eyebrow "That's his name Brax. I kind of told him about you and he just said he hopes everything works out for you"

Charlie sighed and gave her daughter a light smile, she may not have known this guy but she was glad Ruby had found someone to talk to

Stepping out of the car, Charlie and Ruby looked up to see Bianca walking down the drive way. Charlie sighed knowing she wouldn't be able to keep what had been happening in her life from Bianca for too long. Spotting the both of them Bianca instantly smiled

"I was about to give up. I've been calling both your phones all morning"

"Sorry I left my phone at home" replied Charlie

"And I forgot to charge mine last night" added Ruby

"It's fine you're here now. I figured I would pry you away from Angelo for a day" smiled Bianca but her smile faltered at the look on both Charlie and Ruby's face as she mentioned Angelo "is everything ok?" she asked "You guys haven't had a fight have you?"

Charlie exhaled deeply and Ruby gave a quick glance "How about we go inside" spoke Charlie

Glancing between Ruby and Charlie, Bianca nodded and followed them up the drive way and into the house. Closing the door she examined both Ruby and Charlie's composure before speaking again "Guys is everything ok?… I did go to Angelo's but the staff said he wasn't coming in today. I figured he would be with you"

Charlie turned to Bianca and shook her head before looking at Ruby as she spoke

"Everyone's going to find out sooner or later" Ruby looked at her mum pleadingly

Charlie sighed and sat on the couch "Rubes could you give us a few minutes" Ruby instantly obliged as she walked over to her mum and placed a kiss on her cheek before giving Bianca a smile and leaving for her room.

Charlie looked up at Bianca "You err… you might want to sit down for this"

Bianca frowned as she sat beside Charlie "Maybe I'm just being dramatic but you're scaring me a little"

Charlie took a deep breath "I err..." she pursued her lips together "Me and Rubes were at the hospital this morning"

"What?" Why? Is something wrong?" Bianca edged closer to Charlie

Charlie closed her eyes momentarily "I started my first round of chemo today"

Bianca's whole face seemed to drop and her eyed widened, her mouth slightly agape in shock "W-what?"

Charlie watched as her best friends eyes glazed over "I have cancer Bianca"

Bianca shook her head "No… you- you're fine. You can't have…"

Charlie shook her head "I found out a week before I got back…I err I wanted to tell you but…I'm sorry"

"Why didn't you say something?" a tear fell from Bianca's eyes "I'm your best friend I should have been there" Bianca moved closer and pulled Charlie into an embrace as her tears increased "I can't believe this is happening" spoke Bianca

Charlie held onto her best "You can be here for me now"

Finally pulling away Charlie looked at Bianca whose eyes were now red and puffy. Bianca tucked a strand hair behind her friends ears "I'm so sorry you're going through this"

Charlie shook her head "You have nothing to be sorry for, plus I have you and Rubes to look after me"

"And Angelo" spoke Bianca "Wait where is he? shouldn't he be here with you" at the look on Charlie's face Bianca frowned "Charlie where is he?"

"He isn't here" Charlie shook her head "We… we're not together anymore" spoke Charlie

Bianca's gaze widened "Why?" Bianca jumped to conclusions "He freaked out… don't tell me he bailed when you told him. How could he do that…"

"Bianca no. He doesn't know about the cancer" It seemed it was getting easier for Charlie to say the word

"I'm confused. Why wouldn't you tell him? And why are you not together?"

"He was here with Nicole yesterday" spoke Charlie as she tried to keep herself from rehashing the image of Nicole and Angelo together

Bianca looked at her confused unsure as to what that had to do with anything "Why's that an issue?"

Charlie sighed but she didn't feel the need to cry, it seemed she had no more tears left for him "We caught them together... in the shower"

Bianca's mouth dropped "Wait what? Angelo wouldn't do that" Bianca shook her head

"But he did. Apparently it's been going on for the past six months" Charlie shrugged feeling exhausted just talking about it

"Nicole?" Bianca questioned again "The Nicole that I live with?"

Charlie nodded "That's the one"

Bianca had reluctantly left Charlie's place and although Charlie had asked her not to make a scene on her behalf Bianca was fueled with too much anger to take heed to Charlie's request. Walking through the front door of the beach house she was met by Irene, April and Nicole.

"Hy darl" Irene looked up at Bianca but Bianca failed to take notice of her as she glared at Nicole

"How could you?" Bianca's voice filled with venom "How could you do that to her, how could you do that to your best friend?"

Nicole instantly knew what she was talking about and bowed her head and April and Irene looked at Bianca confused

"Bianca calm down" Irene stood from her seat "What's going on?"

Bianca looked at Nicole in disgust "You have destroyed that family you know that. You have no idea what they are going through"

"I'm sorry"

Bianca snorted in disgust "No, you're selfish that's what you are"

"Bianca" Irene scolded her but Bianca looked unfazed "Whats the problem?"

"She is, and there is no way I am sleeping in the same house as her. God only knows what I'll do"

"What could she have possibly done that's so bad" asked April as she walked over to her sister

"Why don't you ask her?" Bianca walked away from the three of them and up the stairs only to come down a few minutes later with a small bag

"Bianca where are you going?" asked April

"Like I said I'm not staying in the same house as her"

"We didn't mean for this to happen" spoke Nicole

At the use of her word 'we' Bianca felt her anger spill over. She wasn't sure if it was what Angelo and Nicole had done or Charlie's illness that was causing her to feel this way but she didn't care

"Stay away from the both of them… you got that"

"Bianca" April and Irene called after her but she refused to turn back as she made her way back to Charlie's place ready to support her friend

Irene and April turned to Nicole "Right, you will tell me what that was about right now" demanded Irene

Charlie chuckled lightly and sighed as she opened the front door "It seems that daughter of mine knows you better than I do"

"I know you said you were ok but you're clearly not and if I'm here then I can help Rubes look after you"

Charlie nodded "Ruby already set up the spare room for you. She said you would be back" Charlie smiled "And why do I get the feeling you didn't just pack and leave quietly" Charlie sat down on the couch and Bianca dropped her bag and followed

"Because I didn't; I just… I wanted to slap her so badly. I kept thinking of you and Rubes and then her with…" Bianca sighed "I don't regret it… if I had it my way I would have left my prints on her face"

Charlie chuckled and shook her head "You're a really good friend you know that"

Bianca smiled "I try" looking at Charlie she exhaled deeply and spoke again "So when is your next session?"

Charlie pulled at the sleeves of her top "Next Friday; I feel fine today but Sid did say I probably wouldn't start feeling the side effects till my third round"

Bianca nodded "Well I'm going to be here every step of the way"

Charlie tiled her head slightly "Thank you. Could we not tell anyone about this for now. I don't think I could handle the whole town at my doorstep"

Bianca nodded "Whatever you want"

It had been three days since Charlie's first chemo session and she hadn't left the house. Bianca and Ruby would head off to school and be back straight after.

"I feel to go out today. Maybe to the beach; I kind of miss the sand" spoke Charlie

Bianca smiled "You sure?" she glanced at Ruby before looking back at Charlie "We don't mind staying in"

Charlie shook her head "No let's go out, maybe even go get something to eat at the dinner" smiled Charlie. Charlie was well aware that Angelo and Nicole had gone public and the whole town now knew of his deception but she was determined to concentrate on herself and her health "I probably wont feel this good for much longer" she spoke referring to her chemo treatment "So I just want to enjoy it"

Bianca and Ruby nodded as they stood to their feet both aware of the truth in what she had said

Charlie inhaled "This is nice" she smiled as she, Bianca and Ruby walked along the beach. Looking up Bianca spotted Irene and turned back to Charlie

"I'll be back in second guys" she smiled as she walked up the beach

"You sure you're ok?" Ruby turned to face Charlie

She gave a nod and a smile "I'm ok"

Both Ruby and Charlie were well aware of the various eyes that had been peering in the direction and both knew too well it was due to the news of Angelo and Nicole. Looking up Charlie gave a smile to Irene who was looking over at her with a warm smile

"I best go say hi, can't avoid everyone forever" spoke Charlie

"Err I might just stay down here" replied Ruby

Sighing Charlie nodded as she made her way up the beach an over to Irene and Bianca

Ruby slowed her pace not wanting to leave Charlie and Bianca too far behind. Her feet stopped altogether as she saw the boy who was sat on the beach, she hadn't seen much of him but she recognised him straight away. Following his gaze she spotted Brax. The young boys head turned and met her. She stood unsure of what to do but felt herself ease when he gave her a little smile and turned back to the ocean. Sh felt her feet moving forward till she was stood not too far from him and like always she lunged herself into her words

"I was err… talking to your brother the other day at the hospital…" she paused "He seems nice" she gave a smile unsure why she was telling him this why she was even talking to him. He didn't even know her

Casey cocked his eyebrow curiously "Heath or Brax?"

"Brax" Ruby answered as she shuffled her feet against the sand. Her peering eye's roamed for his hairless head and examined his pale complexion

The surprised expression on Casey's face hadn't gone amiss by Ruby "How did you know he was my brother?" questioned Casey

"I err I saw him with you… in the room at the hospital"

Casey nodded aware that this meant she probably knew about his illness "How do you know him?"

Ruby shook her head "I don't. Well not really… we just spoke" she glanced at the ocean then back at Casey "I should go… I'm making too much of an habit of talking to people that probably just want to be left alone" she turned to walk away

"No it's fine" she turned to see Casey giving her a light smile "I mean I have been told to be aware of stranger danger but I'm sure you're harmless"

Ruby returned his light smile but it dropped at his question

"So why were you at the hospital?" Casey looked at her expectantly and noticed her tense up instantly "You don't have to answer that" he quickly added

Ruby blinked, looking back at Charlie who was stood with her back turned to her before she turned back to Casey "My mum… she was starting her first round of chemo"

Casey looked back at the figure she had been peering at and then back at Ruby "I'm sorry"

Ruby gave a weak smile "Don't be… it's not your fault" she looked back out at Brax and Heath "Do you surf?" she asked

Casey nodded "Yea, but not feeling my best today" he replied looking up at her and she nodded "You can sit you know" he nodded to the sand beside him and Ruby gratefully accepted

"Your brothers seem really good"

Once again Casey nodded "Yea they are but I literally had to blackmail Brax to go out there… if he had it his way he would be glued to me twenty four seven"

"He probably just wants to be there for you"

Casey noticed the sense of understanding that was laced in her voice "I know" he watched as Ruby's gaze darkened "Try and treat her like you always have, you may not think it helps much, but it does"

She looked at him and nodded "I'm trying but it's a little hard"

Both teens aware that although not knowing each other they seemed comfortable enough to talk in such a manner

"She probably knows that too" responded Casey as he looked up to see Brax and Heath walking out of the surf

Brax and Heath dug their surf boards into the sand as Brax peered down at Casey and Ruby. Heath looked down at Casey "Who's your friend?"

"Ruby" Brax spoke before Casey could and gave her a smile

"Hi" she returned his gesture and looked up at Heath and smiled before standing to her feet

"I should get back to my mum" she smiled at Brax and Heath before looking at Casey "Bye Casey"

"Bye" the young boy smiled as she walked away from the three brothers and up the beach

Brax watched Ruby as she approached Charlie who still had her back turned as she spoke with two women. As Ruby reached her, he watched as they exchanged dialogue before Charlie turned round and peered in their direction. He watched as her gaze travelled form Casey till it met his.

Both stood peering at each other for a few seconds no expression crossing their faces till Brax approached their usual manner of greeting and gave a nod with his head. The corner of her lip curled up weakly as she accepted his greeting and returned the gesture. They held each other's gaze for a moment longer before Irene's voice caught Charlie's attention and she broke away from his gaze

Charlie sat in the hospital hallway waiting to be led into her room to start another chemo session. Bianca wouldn't be there for at least another hour because of work but Ruby was done with school for the day so she was with her. Charlie had insisted that they would be too early but Ruby wouldn't budge and now thirty minutes early for her chemo session Charlie sat waiting while Ruby had gone to the cafeteria in the aid of suitable coffee. She sat with her eyes closed but they soon opened at the unrecognizable voice that had joined her

"Do you mind if I sit?"

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CHAPTER SEVEN

She sat with her eyes closed but they soon opened at the unrecognizable voice that had joined her

"Do you mind if I sit?"


Charlie's eye's shot open; taking a while to adjusted to the light and gets a proper view. There he stood before her. His face mirrored how she was feeling despite the smile he presented. She examined his plum red eyes telling her he had obviously been deprived of sleep. Charlie simply nodded her head allowing him slump down lifelessly on the seat to her right. Both sat silent for a while but Charlie could feel his eyes piercing into the side of her face.

"You're Ruby's mum" Charlie turned her head to him, sending him a small smile before replying

"Yes I am" She studied him for a while longer before she continued "and you're Brax" Brax looked at her almost surprised that she knew his name. Catching the look on his face Charlie spoke again "She told me about you… and your brother Casey"

Brax's surprised expression changed into recognition of what she had said "Yeah err… she told me about you too" he wasn't looking at her anymore. Instead he looked sternly at the door of the room Charlie was guessing he had emerged from. Charlie eyes examined Brax and she wasn't sure who she felt sorry for the most; the broken guy that sat next to her or his younger brother Casey. Charlie thought back to how Ruby had described Casey when she had seen him on the beach. Charlie was jolted out of her thoughts by Brax's voice

"Ruby is a great girl you know, she seems so strong and well… she seems better at this than I am" Charlie looked at him for a few moments unsure what to say

Brax shook his head "I should go… don't want to give you more stress than you need" he stood to his feet and Charlie quickly spoke

"No" she looked at him as he turned to face her "It's alright really" Charlie gave him a reassuring smile and watched as he hesitated a little before slowly placing himself back down into the seat beside her. Sensing he wasn't going to start another conversation Charlie spoke up "Yeah she is a great girl, don't think I could get through this without her" She paused and Brax gave an understanding nod "And for the record. From what Ruby as told me I don't think you're doing too badly yourself" Charlie gave a little shrug "All you can do is support him… and you're here right. Trust me you're probably helping him a lot more than you know"

Brax's face warmed to her and he gave a smile "Now I know where Ruby gets it from". Charlie looked at him confused as to what he meant. Seeing the confusion on her face he quickly added "She always seems to know what to say to make things…" Brax paused pondering on the right word to use.

Now grasping what he was trying to say, Charlie spoke "Better"

Brax nodded at her in agreement "Yeah better"

Silence came and they both sat for a while. As bad as it would sound to others Charlie felt almost comforted that there was someone out there who knew how she was feeling. Looking down at her phone in her hand Charlie sighed as she realised she still had fifteen minutes before her chemo session was due to start and Ruby had yet to return from the cafeteria. Charlie wasn't sure what had come over her but as if taken over by another force she got the sudden urge to do something and her lips spoke before her mind had processed the words.

"Can I see him?" Brax looked up at her wondering what she meant "Casey, can I see him?" Brax looked at her unsure causing her to speak again "Actually never mind. It was a stupid thing to ask, I know he probably wants his privacy" before she had even finished talking his voice over lapped hers

"No it's not that it's just… I just assumed you were here for…" Brax stopped

"Chemo?" Charlie looked at him and he simply nodded "Not for another fifteen minutes. Ruby was hell bent on getting here earlier than we needed to be"

Brax smiled lightly before replying "Yeah I do that too. I like to get here at least 20 minutes before hand although I'm not sure Casey appreciates it much" he looked back towards Casey's door

"Why?" asked Charlie

Brax looked back over at her "I guess it helps prepare me for the reason we come here. Gives me time to come to terms with this environment before we have to go into that room; stupid I know"

Charlie gave him a small smile as he confirmed what she had thought "No not stupid… not stupid at all". She watched as he stood to his feet and then turned and looked down at her

"Are you coming?" Brax nodded his head towards Casey's room.

Now unsure if she should, she asked "Are you sure he wouldn't mind? I don't want to intrude"

Brax shook his head "You won't be, plus it's only me with him today and I'm pretty sure he is getting tired of only having my ugly mug to look at" Charlie chuckled lightly at his comment "Not saying that you're ugly" he continued causing Charlie to chuckle again

"I know what you meant"

He smiled lightly as he moved towards the door before pushing it open. There he was; unsure why Charlie hsd imagined what Casey looked like close up going off the brief description Ruby had given of him when she had seen him on the beach. Casey smiled over at Charlie as she walked into the room but she noted how his hazel brow eyes held no light. His arms lay lifeless beside him as the chemo fought the disease. Charlie noticed him looking up at Brax and thought he was probably wondering who the crazy lady that was staring at him was

"Case this is Charlie, Ruby's mum"

The questioning look on Casey's face disappeared and was replaced with a genuine smile "Oh hi"

"Hi" Charlie wasn't sure what to say or do. She looked over at Brax who had now taken a seat; he motioned his head to the seat next to him. Charlie gratefully sat down and she looked back at Casey as his gaze followed her.

"How you holding up?" It was the only thing she could think to say but felt stupid as soon as the words left her lips. She scolded herself 'he as cancer Charlie how do you think he is holding up' she mentally kicked herself wishing she could take the words back

"Fine, considering" Casey pointed to the needle in his arm "But it doesn't help that I have to sit here looking at his face all afternoon" Charlie couldn't help but laugh at Casey's words and he soon joined in

Brax looked at Charlie "See I told you" Charlie smiled at Brax's reference to his earlier comment. Both Charlie and Brax turned to face Casey as he spoke

"Ruby told me you started chemo last week"

Charlie's throat dried up at the mention of her cancer but she gave a nod and swallowed to moisten her throat "Yea I did" she tried to give him a smile but knew she failed miserably. Thankfully Ruby's voice pulled them out of the situation

"Mum"

"In here Ruby" Charlie watched as Ruby slowly entered the room smiling at Casey and Brax before focusing her attention on her

"You had me worried" Ruby looked at Charlie and frowned

Charlie smiled lightly "Sorry. I was just getting to now your friends. I couldn't exactly have gone too far" Charlie pointed out to her

"Yea I know, I just…" Ruby stopped talking and looked at Casey and Brax "Hy Case, hy Brax" she gave a barley visible smile "No Heath today?" she asked Brax

"No he had to help sort something out in Brax's new restaurant" Ruby nodded as Casey answered for Brax

"You own a restaurant?" Ruby looked at Brax who nodded

"Just brought it"

"He did have one in the city but he closed it down"

Now Charlie spoke "Why?" she looked at Brax but he didn't answer

"He closed it after he found out about… well this" he pointed at the drip beside him "I keep telling him he's made a mistake but…"

Casey couldn't finish as Brax interrupted "And I keep telling you I have to be here with you and I can't do that and run a restaurant in the city" Brax fell back into his chair and his gaze moved for Casey to the ground.

Charlie looked at Brax, her gaze dipping to his hands as his fiddled with the ring on his finger

Thankfully Ruby quickly spoke and defused the awkward atmosphere "Case if I was you I would lap it up as much as possible, trust me once you get better you're gonna be begging for his attention"

Charlie chuckled as well as Casey. Looking over at Brax, Charlie caught him smiling over at Ruby; probably his way of thanking her

"You might be onto something. Do you think I could sweet talk him into buying me a car" Ruby and Charlie laughed as Casey looked over at Brax with a grin

"Yea in your dreams sweetheart"

At this Charlie and Ruby laughed lightly soon joined by Brax and Casey. It seemed for the first time in ages there were no hidden emotions behind their laughter; in those short moments all four seemed to forget long enough to let a little bit of happiness in. Charlie looked up at Ruby and smiled, noting that for a little while the same pained expression she had held since she found out about the cancer had slipped away and a little bit of her old self could be seen

Ruby's eye caught the clock behind Charlie causing her to speak "Mum we better go" She nodded her head at the clock as Charlie stood up

"See you guys later" Ruby smiled at both Casey and Brax as she made her way for the door

"Yea Cya" both guys replied simultaneously; Casey's voice much lower than Brax's

Charlie sighed as Ruby's expression returned to that of worry. Looking at Brax then at Casey, Charlie gave the both of them a smile

Casey smiled at Charlie "Nice to meet you Charlie"

Charlie nodded "You too Casey; Bye Brax" Charlie gave him another smile

"Bye" Brax responded with a warm smile as Charlie made her way towards the door. She stopped in her tracks as she thought of something that had always seemed to help her get through all obstacles in the past "Hy Casey" she turned to the young boy

"Yeah" Casey looked at her expectantly

"My dad used to always say to me 'Only you can make your own destiny no one else, you just have to believe in yourself hard enough to try" She gave him a warm smile and he returned the gesture.

Charlie turned back around and shut the door behind her a she too went to face her own fate. Charlie sat in the same room, in the same chair and she thought back to what she had said to Casey. She wasn't sure whose benefit her words were for; her or Casey but either way they both had little choice but to hold on to those words. The only other option was to let their predicament drown them until they no longer had the strength to fight against the furious tide. As the needle slid into her arm Charlie smiled as Ruby slipped her hand into hers; she closed her eyes looking for an escape from her body that had betrayed her
...
As Charlie spoke and left the room Brax's eyebrow shot up at her words; the words he recognized all to well. Thinking back to the girl he had met briefly all those years he looked back at the door then tried to rack his memory; trying to get a clear picture of the girl he had seen that day. Finally seeing her eyes, he saw Charlie's "No way" he muttered, but not low enough

"You ok?" Casey looked at his Brax wearily

Brax quickly nodded "Yeah... I just remembered something" Brax smiled at his brother before his gaze returned to the door Charlie had walked out of

The first hour and a half seemed to go on for ever and both Charlie and Ruby felt like they had been in that room for a life time. Charlie caught Ruby numerous times as she peered down at the needle in her arm with glazed over eyes but never once did a tear fall; instead Ruby would distract herself by starting a new topic of conversation

The door edged open slowly and both girls smiled as Bianca walked into the room

"Sorry I'm late Gina had a few things she wanted to talk to me about"

Charlie smiled at her as she looked at the stacks of magazines in her hand "Well as long as those are for me you are forgiven" her smile wavered slightly as she saw the look on Bianca face as she looked down at the needle probed into Charlie's arm

"Bianca" Charlie looked up at her best friend noticing the same look she had seen in Ruby's eyes

"I err…" Bianca's breath caught in her throat. It seemed saying Charlie was having chemo and actually seeing it with her eyes were two completely different thing "I'm sorry" she quickly wiped her eye before her tear could fall and sat on the available chair beside Ruby. "Yeah these are for you…don't want you missing out on the latest gossip" Bianca gave a weak smile as she handed Charlie one of the magazines

Charlie sighed "If the two of you are going to come to these things with me then I really need you to stop pretending you're ok"

Bianca shook her head "This is about you Charlie"

Charlie mimicked Bianca and shook her head as she looked at Ruby "You're my daughter" she then turned to Bianca "And you're my best friend. I don't want you hiding anything from me. If you feel like crying then cry, if you want to yell then yell, just please don't pretend; because I'm not going to. I'm going to keep you guys up some nights when I feel like balling my eyes out and I may even scream and shout at you and you'll just have to deal with it" she ended with a small smirk and a shrug

Bianca and Ruby chuckled

"Promise?" asked Ruby

"What, to cry and shout at you?"

Ruby nodded with a smile

"I think I can do that" replied Charlie

"Glad to know you're still as bossy as ever" said Bianca

Charlie leaned her head back resting it on the back of her chair "Like you would have me any other way"

Charlie, Bianca and Ruby walked down the hospital hallway, all three glad that another session was over. Ruby and Charlie stopped walking both surprised to see Brax walking back through the entrance

"I thought you guys would have left" spoke Ruby

Brax sighed lightly "He finished his session a while ago; he's not feeling too good, so Doc wants him to stay at the hospital"

Charlie and Ruby sighed but nodded. Looking at Bianca, Charlie turned to Brax "Bianca this is Brax, Brax this is Bianca my best friend"

"Hy" Brax nodded his head lightly

"Hi" Bianca replied

"I should get back to Case"

"Tell him we said bye" said Ruby

Brax gave the young girl a smile "Will do" looking up at Charlie and Bianca he gave a small smile before edging to the side and walking down the hall

"Who's that?" asked Bianca

"That's Brax. His brother Casey is the one Ruby was talking to on the beach; he had a chemo session today"

Bianca nodded haven remember Ruby talking about them. All three girls motioned to move before they stopped just short of the entrance at the calling of Charlie's name. Even before turning around both Bianca and Ruby's eyes deepened to a shade of red; filled with anger. They turned slowly only to come face to face with Angelo and Nicole

Charlie's eyes shifted between the two of them; and although she was adamant the side effects of the chemo hadn't started yet, she felt the sudden urge to kneel over and vomit her stomachs empty content. Her voice came a little strained than she had intended

"Angelo" her gaze moved from his face following his hand that was placed firmly on the small of Nicole's back. Charlie shifted uncomfortably as she tightly wound her cardigan around her body

"Mum lets go" Ruby looked at both Angelo and Nicole with the utmost disgust as she pulled gently on her mother's arm.

"Wait please" Angelo sighed and Bianca and Ruby glared at him "I don't want to leave things like this Charlie"

"Bianca scoffed "You should have thought about that before cheating on her"

Angelo sighed again "I didn't mean to hurt you Charlie or you Rubes"

"Don't call me that" Ruby's reply was quiet but laced with much anger "You don't get to call me that"

"Ruby please…" Nicole spoke but Ruby quickly interjected

"Don't ever talk to me… ever"

"Let's go" Charlie exhaled and went to turn from them until her eyes caught the object in Nicole's hand. She peered at it with concentration and Ruby and Bianca soon followed her line of sight.

Blinking a few times she slowly looked up at Nicole who stepped back realising what Charlie had seen. Charlie's eye's soon turned to Angelo and pain seeped through her in a way she didn't think possible "She's pregnant" It wasn't a question; it was an acknowledgment

Angelo looked down at the scan in Nicole's hand and shut his eyes briefly before opening them to meet Charlie's eyes "Charlie I…" He stopped at a loss of words to say to possibly make things any better

Bianca shook her head, aware of where they were she fought hard against her anger "You bastard"

"Bianca" Charlie spoke softly but she knew her best friend well enough to know nothing was going to stop her from saying what was on her mind

"No Charlie" Bianca's angry glare didn't move from Angelo's "She gave you everything, she trusted you" Bianca stepped forward a little "And you repay her by leaving her with the first slut you find" Bianca was sure to keep her voice low enough to not attract too many wondering eyes. She turned to Nicole in disgust "If I even so much as see you within a mile of her or Ruby…" she looked at Angelo "And that goes for the both of you; you will live to regret it"

"Bianca" Charlie placed her hand on her best friends arm before looking at both Angelo and Nicole "Let's go, they're not worth it"

"I'm sorry Charlie" Angelo looked at her pleadingly

"Stop saying that" Charlie tried to keep her voice down "I don't want you to be sorry I just want the both of you to leave me and my family alone"

"Bianca" Bianca, Charlie and Ruby turned at the sound of Irene's voice "What you doing here?" Irene looked at Nicole and Angelo briefly before looking back at Charlie

Charlie quickly spoke "I wasn't feeling too well and Ruby and Bianca insisted we come down here… but I'm fine" she tried to smile through her lie

"Oh ok. Well I was just bringing in the weekly round of cupcakes" Irene smiled wearily "You should probably go home and have lie down love, you look a bit pale"

Charlie nodded "That's the plan"

"Miss Buckton" Charlie turned at the call of her name as one of the nurses that had prepped her for her chemo sessions earlier on that day walked over to her "I nearly forgot doctor Walker asked me to give these to you" the nurse smiled sympathetically as she handed Charlie over the booklets in her hand and walked away

Charlie's eyes widened slightly as she looked down at the booklet right on top 'The emotional effects of cancer' she flipped the leaflet around hoping none of their three unexpected arrivals had seen what it had said. But as she looked up to meet Irene's eyes she knew she was hoping for too much.

Irene's gaze shifted between Bianca, Ruby and finally settled on Charlie "Why would you need those?" She could tell by Irene's voice that she had already figured it out. Charlie sighed and her gaze shifted to her left as she caught Angelo stood staring at her hands wide eyed

"Irene can we talk about this later?" Bianca pleaded knowing Charlie most likely wasn't ready for this

"Why would you need to know about the side effects of cancer" This time it was Angelo who spoke

"This is none of your business" Ruby spat at him but he ignored her words his gaze never leaving Charlie's

"Charlie, what's going on?"

Charlie's gaze lifted from her hands as she looked up at Irene then turned to Angelo

"Charlie you don't have to answer to him… you don't owe him anything"

Charlie looked at Bianca then at Ruby and finally she looked at Angelo and swallowed the lump in her throat "I err… I have pancreatic cancer"

She heard Irene gasp and felt both Bianca and Ruby tighten the grip on her arms. She watched as Angelo looked at her, his eyes widening the more as he shook his head. He stepped forward but Charlie immediately took a step away from him "Don't"

"Charlie I…" Angelo felt the breath rushing out of his lungs "How…I"

Charlie shook her head and turned to Bianca and Ruby "Can we go please" both girls nodded but they were stopped as Angelo placed his hand on Charlie's shoulder stopping her from moving.

"Charlie why didn't you tell me?"

Charlie shut her eyes as she felt her blood boil to a new level. Shrugging his hands away with force she turned to him "When would you have preferred I break the news to you?" she paused and when he didn't answer she continued "When I caught you with her in our home or just now when I found out she's pregnant for you?" she clenched her teeth "Which would have been better Angelo?" by now a few people had stopped to take note as Charlie raised her voice slightly

"Charlie"

"No" Charlie stopped Angelo and cringed at the sympathy laced on his face and the guilt in his voice "Don't you dare look at me like that. You don't get to feel sorry for me and I sure as hell won't let you pretend like you care about anybody but yourself. You chose Angelo, so please I beg you to just leave me alone. I won't let you use me to make you feel better about yourself"

Turning before he could reply she walked away from him and Nicole with Ruby and Bianca by her side. She stopped in front of Irene "I'm sorry I lied before I just…"

"It's ok love…" Irene pulled her into a hug before pulling away "I errr… I'm so sorry love"

Charlie gave a weak smile "I'll be ok. I don't have much of a choice or these two will have my head"

"Irene we're gonna take her home. I'll call the house later" said Bianca

Irene nodded and placed a kiss on Charlie's temple before the three girls made their way out of the hospital leaving Angelo and Nicole standing watching their retracting form.

Angelo ran his hand over his face "****" he shook his head in disbelief

"Babe this isn't your fault" said Nicole

"She as cancer Nicole and I…" Angelo shook his head "They're going to hate me forever"

"No they're not" Nicole rubbed his arm

"Yes they are. Ruby will never speak to me again, and Bianca already wants to skin me alive…"

Stood close enough to hear what Angelo was saying Irene sighed as she walked a little closer to the two of them "I'm not judging ok. God knows I'm not one to judge anyone, but just let me point out that all the points you just made were about how this affects you Angelo not Charlie" she shook her head disappointed as she walked away

Brax stood unsure what to make of the scene he had just witnessed. He watched as Irene placed a kiss on Charlie's temple before she made her way out of the entrance with Bianca and Ruby by her side. Brax was left looking at Angelo and Nicole as they stood for a few moments. He stood close enough to hear both Angelo's and Irene's words. He shook his head as Irene spoke what he was thinking. Brax was grateful when Angelo and Nicole finally made their way out the entrance without turning back. He recognised Angelo and sighed

He hadn't heard much but he had heard enough to know Angelo had hurt Charlie bad. Sighing he took one last look at the entrance before walking over to the coffee machine

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Thanks Danni and JarlieFanEver for the comments. Enjoy :)

CHAPTER EIGHT

He hadn't heard much but he had heard enough to know Angelo had hurt Charlie bad. Sighing he took one last look at the entrance before walking over to the coffee machine

No one discussed what had transpired early that day at the hospital. Neither Angelo nor Nicole's name had been mentioned and even Irene avoided the topic as she stocked up the kitchen with the food she had brought over. They had all talked a while, brushed a little on the topic of her chemo mostly for Irene's sake and the rest of the night was spent discusses idol things as they tried to keep the conversation on lighter topics

Time had seemed to fly by and it had now just gone past ten. Charlie watched as Irene stood to her feet and placed a kiss on Ruby's head before she stood to her feet

"Thanks for this Irene" Charlie smiled at the women who had brought over enough food to last them a week and then some, Irene had always been like a mother to her and Ruby and she was grateful for that

"I'll be back later on in the week and don't even try protesting" Irene stood by the door of Charlie's place her hand in hers

Charlie smiled "Wouldn't dream of it"

Irene sighed and she spoke softly giving Charlies hands a light squeeze "Doll you know everyone in this town will want to be there for you. We all care a great deal about you"

Charlie nodded she knew this and that's what scared her "Yeah I know I just, I guess I'm still taking it all in. I just need a little time to adjust to everything"

Irene nodded understandingly before thinking of Leah "You should at least let Leah know. She'll want to be there for you"

Charlie sighed knowing Irene was right, She didn't want Leah hearing it from someone else "I will do I promise and thank you again Irene for everything, it means a lot"

Irene pulled her into a hug "No problem darl" pulling away, Irene looked at Bianca and Ruby "I'll see you guys later too"

Bianca stood to her feet "I'll walk you Irene" she turned to Charlie "I won't be long"

As Bianca shut the door behind her, Charlie went and sat next to Ruby "You know you don't have to be home with me all the time...I dont want you copped up in this house all weekend" Charlie spoke softly as she placed a stray hair behind Ruby's ear

"I know but I want to. You've been away for so long and then…this" Ruby sighed

Charlie exhaled and pulled Ruby into her "We'll be fine you'll see, this time next year you'll be thinking of ways to get away from me"

Ruby chuckled lightly "I hope so"

Charlie sat, her mind drifting back to the scan that Nicole had held in her hand. She took a deep breath trying to clear away the grief that over took her at the reality of how much Angelo had betrayed her, how much he had betrayed their family.

Both hers and Ruby's head shut up at the sound coming from the other side of the door

"I just want to talk to her"Charlie instantly recognised Angelo's voice and she winced a little at the venom in her best friends voice as she replied him

"So help me God if you don't leave Angelo you will regret it" She heard Bianca footsteps stop outside the door

"Bianca why don't you let her decide if she wants to see me" Angelo sounded frustrated

Bianca scoffed loudly "Oh now you thinking about what she wants. Maybe you should have tried that before you knocked Nicole up. There is no way I am letting you anywhere near her or Ruby"

Charlie sighed; Bianca had always been this way since they were teenagers, since Charlie's life started crumbling around her. Bianca having watched all the challenges Charlie had faced now she had become a little protective of both Charlie and Ruby

Ruby stood to her feet "I can't believe he would come here" she moved towards the door but Charlie quickly stopped her

"Ruby don't" Charlie shook her head as Ruby ignored her pleas, removing her arm from Charlies hold and swinging the front door open

Bianca turned around and Angelo looked at Ruby "Rubes"

"Go away. Just go away and leave us alone" Ruby glared at him, her voice low but firm

"Rubes please"

"Stop calling me that" Ruby exhaled as she stepped forward slightly, she had so many thoughts that had been running through her mind and she refused to keep them to herself

"Were we not good enough? Did you never care?"

"Ruby, you guys meant everything to me you still do"

"We couldn't have"

"Ruby…" Angelo went to speak but she wouldn't allow it

"No. You have always banged on about honesty. You taught me to always tell the truth regardless of the consequences but it turns out you're too much of a coward to live by your own principles. You lied and cheated and honestly, never having to see your face again would only be a good thing"

Angelo stood unsure of what to say, he knew he had hurt her and her words were more than deserving but still it hurt. But she was right he was a coward

Pushing Ruby gently into the house Bianca stood by the door "You heard her… just leave Angelo"

"Wait" Bianca and Ruby turned to Charlie as she spoke "Just give us a second please"

"Mum" Ruby looked reluctant to leave Angelo alone with Charlie

"I promise I won't be long"

Bianca and Ruby sighed "Fine. Come on" Bianca gently pulled Ruby down the hall and into the guest room with her

Angelo hesitated before he stepped forward but he didn't enter the house. He peered at Charlie trying ot read her expression but she faced him with a blank and cold gaze, not giving anything away. Charlie walked towards the door and stood at the foot of the door clearly indicating that she had no intentions of inviting him in

Charlie exhaled trying to keep calm before she spoke her thoughts "I loved you. With everything I had I loved you and the thought of having you with me every day for the rest of my life really did make me happy. But now I look at you and I find it hard not to resent you, but that's not want I want" she shook her head shifting her gaze or a moment before looking at him again "So from now on you stay away from me and Ruby. You live your life and you let us live ours; that's the only way I can stop myself from hating you. I don't want to see you here at this house ever again, I don't want your help Angelo, and I sure as hell don't want your sympathy"

"Charlie please…"

"No Angelo, from now on you don't know me and I don't know you. You broke this… so now you have to live with it" not allowing him to speak she shut the door firmly. She exhaled as she turned and leaned against the door only to see Ruby and Bianca slowly retract out of Bianca's room "He won't come back again" Charlie was sure he had received the message loud and clear

It had been three days since Charlie had shut Angelo out of her life completely and by now she could feel the side effects of the chemo starting to kick in; the last couple of days she seemed to tire quicker than usual and her appetite came and went like a yo yo; however she had kept it to herself knowing Ruby and Bianca would only worry more if they knew... she wanted things to be normal for as long as possible.

It was now Monday and she had finally forced Ruby and Bianca out the front door to school. Deciding to get some air, she shut the front door behind her and slowly walked the path to the beach. She smiled as she slipped her thongs off and buried her feet between the smooth sand; it felt like a lifetime ago since she had been able to walk contently along the beach with the ocean enveloping her feet in greeting. She had been on the beach no longer than twenty minutes when she felt herself getting tired; she sighed in frustration at how quickly the chemo had started to affect her health. Knowing not to push herself to hard she slowly welcomed the sand below her as she sat down, her legs curled underneath her.

She had her eyes closed as she focused on the sound of the waves lapping against one another as they moved further up the sand. Her eyes fluttered open as she felt a presence around her. Looking up she squinted her gaze trying to avoid the sun as she meet his eyes

"Brax" her eyes roamed his face before she gave a light smile hoping he hadn't identified her slightly weakened state

Walking out of the surf club Brax had watched her from behind as she slowly lowered herself to the ground. To others she would seem like she just wanted to relax and enjoy the view of the ocean but experience had taught Brax exactly what her body language meant even without seeing her face. Slowly making his way down the beach, he waited for her to notice his closing footsteps but she didn't turn around. Reaching her to see her eyes were closed, he edged round her and stood in front of her but before he could speak she had opened her eyes. He smiled lightly as she called his name

"Charlie" he replied "Mind if I sit?"

Charlie smiled weakly "Are you going to ask me that every time we see each other?"

Brax shrugged and lowered to her side "Maybe" Brax peered at her "You ok?" he asked

Charlie knew by his voice that he could see what she had hoped he hadn't "If I say yes would you believe me?" she looked over at him

Brax chuckled "No, probably not"

Charlie sighed and tucked the hair that the small wind had blow to her face, behind her ears "I've only had two sessions and I'm already starting to feel like I have had ten" She tucked her hands into her folded legs "I felt perfectly fine last night but today…" she exhaled "I feel like I haven't slept in a week"

Brax nodded " That's normal"

"Is it" asked Charlie looking at him uncertainly but he nodded again

"Casey would have days where I actually found myself wondering if there was anything wrong with him, he would be pretty much his normal self and then a few days later even sometimes the same day he would change. He grew tired and sometimes food was a big no… he still has days like that. It's just what the treatment does to you" he reassured her

For the first time since he sat beside her Charlie gave his face a proper observation. It seemed the bags and dark circles she had seen under his eyes a few days before had only worsened; and then she remembered Casey and that Brax had said he had, had to stay at the hospital

"Casey" she spoke his name "How is he?"

She studied him with curiosity and noticed his left eye twitch at her question. He seemed to tense although he obviously tried to hide it. A moment of silence passed before he finally answered

"Still at the hospital"

Charlie swallowed trying to clear her now dry throat; she almost was too afraid to ask "Is he still not feeling well?"

Brax shook his head "He's a little better than he was on Friday but yea… he is far from a hundred per cent"

Charlie nodded with relief but still unsure of what to say, nothing could possibly stop him from worrying about Casey. She was grateful when Brax spoke

"What you said to him the other day about making your own destiny… thanks" Brax wanted to aad more, he wanted to ask, to know if she was the same girl who had spoken the words to him but he left it at that

Charlie looked at him and shook her head "I didn't do anything"

"You did more than you know. He has repeated that quote about a million times, apparently he thinks I should take to your advice as well"

Charlie smiled "Well I'm glad; it may sound stupid but that quote as helped me more than once"

Brax shook his head "No it doesn't sound stupid. I know exactly what you mean" he thought back to the changes he had started making to his own life after that day

Brax watched Charlie intake a deep breath and a bead of sweat form on the upper part of her left eyebrow

"You hot?"

Charlie nodded "Aren't you?"

It wasn't a particularly cold morning but it wasn't boiling either. And with the little layer that Charlie had on there was no reason for her to be sweating apart from one thing. Brax had a feeling he knew what was happening

"On a scale of one to ten how hot do you feel?"

"A definite twenty" Charlie shifted feeling uncomfortable in her own skin

"Did you drive down here? He asked her

She shook her head

"How far away is your place?"

Charlie looked at him confused as to why he was asking these questions but answered him anyway "About 20 minutes on foot" she exhaled as she felt her body heat up a little too quickly "Seriously you're not hot?" she asked him as if he was crazy not to be

Standing to his feet Brax slowly pulled her to her feet "We have to get you home. Come on I'll drive you"

Charlie shook her head "No I can walk its fine. I feel fine now"

Brax sighed "Trust me I really should drive you"

Charlie looked up at him quizzingly and then it dawned on her. She swallowed the growing lump in her throat before she spoke "It's the chemo isn't it?" She hadn't expected to start feeling any side effects so quickly and she knew her face now fully expressed how terrified she was

Brax placed his hands on either side of her arms "It's most likely just a passing hot flash. You might not even get one again. Casey only got them a couple of times and that was age ago" he watched the colour rising from her neck towards her cheek indicating the hot flush was getting worse. Looking back at the restaurant he sighed not wanting to have to take her to the restaurant after what he had seen at the hospital but knowing he needed to get her water straight away. "Follow me"

Charlie felt her skin prick with heat as she let Brax guide her up the beach. His hands still on her arms; she let him lead her into the surf club but stopped as they came to the steps that led up to Angelo's.

"I can't go up there" She didn't want Angelo seeing her at her best never mind as she was in that moment. before she had barley finished speaking Brax spoke

"He's not up there" Brax replied and Charlie turned her now reddened with heat face to Brax causing him to worry as to why the hot flash had yet to pass.

Charlie opened her mouth to ask how Brax knew of Angelo but Brax simply peered at the stairs as he gave her a gentle nudge up the first step

"You really need to drink some water Charlie" he practically pushed her up the rest of the steps her feet scrapping each step in protest but yet following his lead

Sure enough upon entering the restaurant it was completely empty. Brax led Charlie to a shaded booth before pacing into the kitchen. Charlie let out a deep sigh as her skin stopped its prickling heat and her body seemed to slowly return to normal temperature. Brax was in and out of the kitchen in a flash and she widened her eyes slightly as he placed the huge mug in front of her

"Drink this" Brax let out a breath has he noticed her once redden face and neck had begun returning to its normal tanned shade

"I err… I feel fine now"

"Yea but you still need to drink it"

By the pointed look he was giving her she knew he wouldn't take no for an answer. Picking up the mug she placed it to her lips and took several gulps. She couldn't lie, the cold liquid felt good. Finally placing the still half full mug down Charlie looked up at Brax who's gaze seemed to have never left hers

Did it help?" asked Brax

Charlie nodded "Yea…Thanks" she chuckled lightly causing one of Brax's eyebrows to raise

"What's funny?" he asked he remained standing in front of her

Charlie looked down at the mug then back up at Brax "You couldn't find anything smaller to bring me water in?" she smiled up at him

Brax shrugged with a small smile "All the glasses where to small and you looked like you needed a lot… I actually considered filling up on of the pots"

Charlie chuckled lightly "I think the mug did the job" her gaze shifted from Brax and she once again registered where she was. She couldn't help but stiffen slightly; her gaze roamed around the place but it felt different in a way, looking at the chairs she noticed the colours had changed from the original plain white to a nice shade of red, the layout of the tables where also different. She couldn't deny it looked a lot better; but she then remembered what Brax had said before he led her up the steps; looking back over at him she asked

"When you said he wasn't here, who was you referring to?"

Brax had been watching her as her eyes roamed around the restaurant and he had been waiting for her to ask "Angelo" he answered

He heard her sigh "I should have figured you would know. Nothing ever stays quick in this town"

Brax nodded in agreement not wanting to tell her what he had seen at the hospital the week before "Yea I guess"

Charlie wondered how he was able to just walk into the restaurant with nobody else there, she remembered Casey saying he now had his own restaurant in the bay so that ruled out the possibility of him working at Angelo's.

"How do you know Angelo?"

The questioning look on her face make it clear to Brax that Charlie had no idea what was going on. He thought of a way around it but came up short

"I err… I brought this place off him" he watched her eyes widen slightly before she blinked

"Angelo sold the restaurant?"

Brax wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement so he remained quiet waiting to see if she was going to say anything else

"Why would he do that?" she asked no looking directly at him

That was a question Brax knew the answer to but there was no way he would be the one to tell her. He may not know much about Charlie's and Angelo's situation but he knew enough to know that Angelo should be the one to tell her' he should have told her by now

"You'll have to ask him"

And as if on cue footsteps were heard entering the restaurant. It was obvious Angelo had yet to notice Charlie as he held his phone to his ears

"Love you too and pip" the smile could be heard in his voice and although Charlie had her back turned to him, his words stung her sharply.

Dropping the phone Angelo looked up at Brax with a smile "I was hoping you would be here, I…" now close enough he stopped talking as he saw Charlie

For a moment or two Charlie refused to look up at him. She hated how he affected her and she refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing how hurt she really was. Rearranging her expression she slowly lifted her gaze to meet his

Brax stood awkwardly glancing between both Angelo and Charlie. He had felt a small burst of anger when Angelo had been on the phone and Charlie's eyes clouded before she quickly lowered them to the table and out of his sight. He couldn't understand how Angelo could have hurt he as much as even he could see and yet still find no shame in smiling.

"Charlie" Angelo spoke first, he looked down at her then up at Brax then back down to her "I didn't know you would be here, I…"

"I didn't come to see you" she spoke over his words

Angelo looked back up at Brax then again back down at Charlie he hadn't known that the both of them knew each other. Rubbing the back of his neck with his right hand he nodded "Right err… how are you feeling?"

Charlie shook her head "That's none of your business" She cringed at her tone and words. She hated that she was being so hostile to him but she couldn't help it… and his words on the phone a few minutes before had only made matters worse

"You sold the restaurant?" she asked her gaze never wavering from his, she refused to show any weakness

Angelo exhaled shifting his gaze in a guilty manner "Yea…I did"

Brax shuffled on his feet "I err…I've got some things to do" he nodded to behind the bar but before he could move Charlie spoke

"Actually Brax I'm going to head off" she glanced back at Angelo "You don't owe me an explanation"

"You said you didn't want to see me again so I figured this was the best thing to do" spoke Angelo

"How does your selling the restaurant help that?"

"Because I'm leaving the bay… I figured it was the right thing to do"

That was more than enough to erase all train of thought from Charlie's mind. Angelo winced inwardly at the anger now displayed on her face

"How did I never see you for who you are?" Charlie glared at him "I know for a fact Brax had already brought this place off you before you came round on Friday and yet you stand there claiming you did it because I said I I never wanted to see you again. You really have this whole lying this down don't you"

"Charlie it's not like that"

"Ruby was right, you are a coward. You did this for you Angelo… everything you have done as been about nobody but yourself so just stop using me as an excuse"

"Charlie I care about you…"

That was it, somehow those five words and been the last straw "I have to get out of here" Charlie stood abruptly to her feet but she felt the room suddenly fuzz around her as she staggered. She felt a pair of arms around her and they lowered her with care into her seat. She shut her eyes and gave herself a moment before she re opened them and was met by Brax's gaze

"You ok?" his eyes searched her face and she took a deep breath

"Yea… I, I don't know what happened"

"You need to rest that's what happened" she sensed the tone of care in the voice of the man she barely knew. She could have sworn Angelo was closer to her and yet it was Brax who had caught her. Shifting her gaze from Brax she looked up at Angelo who stood almost as if he was frozen to the spot

"I'm sorry I should have caught you, I…" Angelo wasn't sure why he hadn't leapt forward he just seemed glued to the spot

Charlie ignored his words and turned to Brax "I should get home. I think you were right I need to rest"

Brax nodded not even haven acknowledged Angelo's words "Do you still think you can walk it or are you going to take me up on my offer to drive you now" he smiled at her warmly almost cheekily and Charlie couldn't help but be thankful he was there

"I think a lift sounds great" She stood to her feet with his help and lifted her gaze to Angelo "I hope you're happy wherever you go" and with that she proceeded towards the stairs

Brax turned to Angelo "Can we discuss whatever you wanted to talk about over the phone"

Angelo simply nodded and Brax followed closely behind Charlie

"You ok?" Brax glanced at Charlie as he followed the direction she had given him

Charlie looked at him "As ok as I can be" she found it somehow a little difficult to lie to Brax; his eyes always seemed so honest and even though they hardly knew each other he had gone out of his way to help her

No other words were spoken until they finally reached her front door. Brax turned the ignition off and quickly made his way to her side of the car and opened the door helping her out

Charlie smiled at him "I'm feeling a lot better now"

"Yeah well I don't wanna risk it. I have a feeling Ruby is the type of girl who would hunt me down if you even so much as broke a nail in my presence"

"Is she that obvious" Charlie chuckled lightly as he walked her to the door

Reaching for her keys she jumped as the door swung open with force and Ruby threw herself at her "Hy…hy" Charlie pulled back to look at Ruby "You ok?"

"Oh thank God" Charlie looked turned around to find Bianca almost pacing up the path towards the door "Where have you been?" Bianca let out a sigh of relief as she spoke

Charlie glanced back at Ruby then back at Bianca "I just went for a walk… why what's wrong?"

"You not picking your phone that's what's wrong" answered Ruby "We've been calling you all morning. You didn't pick and then you weren't picking the land line"

"So we kind of may have panicked a little" finished Bianca

A guilty look settled on Charlie's face knowing the sort of thoughts that would have been running through their heads "I'm sorry… I just wanted some fresh air… and shouldn't you guys be in school"

"Well after the hundredth call I had to come and check on you and well… your daughter is as persistent as you are; plus she wouldn't have stopped worrying if she didn't come with me. Don't worry Gina understood"

"I was only out for a little while"

Bianca cocked an eyebrow "Charlie we've been trying your phone and the land line for nearly an hour"

Charlie glanced through the opened door and at the clock on the wall. She couldn't believe the time she had been out for almost an hour and a half"

"I'm sorry. I promise to keep my phone with me at all times"

It seemed both Ruby and Bianca were now calm enough to register Brax's presence

"Hy Brax" Ruby greeted him with a confused gaze

"Hy Ruby" he smiled at her and then at Bianca before turning to Charlie "I err I should get going… need to close up the restaurant and then go see Case… you should get some rest" he smiled at all three girls before looking at Ruby as she spoke

"Is he still at the hospital?"

Brax nodded "Yea" shifting his gaze from hers "He's better, but they're just being cautions I guess"

Ruby nodded "Do you know when he'll be out?"

Brax shook his head "No, but for the sack of his sanity hopefully soon; the only people he's seen are the doctors, a few nurses and me and Heath" Brax smiled "I'll see you guys later"

Ruby glanced at Charlie before speaking "Brax?"

Brax turned around to look at her "Err do you think he would mind if I went to visit… maybe tomorrow? I don't really think it's fair he as only you and Heath to look at all day" Ruby smiled and Brax grinned up at her

"I can't argue with you there" he nodded "I think he would be more than happy for you to come visit" he turned to Charlie "If that's ok with you?"

Charlie nodded "Yea of course it is"

"Right I will see you guys later" giving them a final smile and a nod of the head, Brax walked away towards his car. Once he had driven off the girls entered the house

"Err aren't you guys going back to school?" Charlie asked as Bianca and Ruby sat down on the couch

Both girls shook their heads "Gina said to have the rest of the day off don't worry April's gonna bring Ruby any work she missed today"

Charlie sighed "Guys that's not unnecessary, you've found me now and I'm fine"

"Why did Brax drop you off home and why did he tell you to get some rest?" asked Ruby

Charlie hadn't expected that question and she wasn't about to tell them what had happened that morning " I bumped into him on the beach and he offered to give me a ride back and I guess he just knows how things can be. You know with Casey and all, so he probably just thinks I should take things easy "

Bianca and Ruby nodded haven brought her excuse "Well I agree with him" added Ruby and Bianca nodded

"How about we have a bit of a lazy day, movies, ice cream the works?" Bianca looked up at Charlie

Lacking any energy to argue against them not returning to school Charlie sat between Bianca and Ruby "Fine but I get to pick the first film"

"Deal" Bianca and Ruby replied simultaneously before Ruby went into the kitchen and Bianca raided through their DVD collection

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CHAPTER NINE

"How about we have a bit of a lazy day, movies, ice cream the works?" Bianca looked up at Charlie

Lacking any energy to argue against them not returning to school Charlie sat between Bianca and Ruby "Fine but I get to pick the first film"

"Deal" Bianca and Ruby replied simultaneously before Ruby went into the kitchen and Bianca raided through their DVD collection

...
Walking through the hospital doors Ruby walked down the hallway till she came to a stop outside his room. Curling her fingers she rapped her knuckles against the door gently before slowly pushing it open. She watched him as he turned his head up till his eyes met hers

"Hy" she smiled moving further into the room.

Casey looked at her and gave a mocking smile "Usually when people knock they wait for someone to ask them to come up"

Ruby looked around sheepishly "I could go if you like"

Casey shook his head "I was just joking I'm glad you're here" he smiled at her as she now stood rooted to the spot "You gonna sit down or…" he paused and chuckled lightly as she nodded and took a seat on the left hand side to him

"I err…I did ask Brax if you wouldn't mind if I came to say hi"

Casey nodded "He told me yesterday. He's actually just stepped out and Heath will be here soon"

Ruby nodded in reply "You look better" she remembered how he had looked the last time she and Charlie had seen him. Although the paleness to his skin hadn't changed much he somehow seemed to have the slightest bit of colour to him

Casey chuckled "If this is me looking better I don't even want to know how bad I looked before"

"No I'm not saying you looked bad before I just…"

"Ruby I know what you meant and yeah I feel a lot better too"

"Good" replied Ruby before she bent down opening up her school bag and began rooting through it. Casey watched her wondering what she was doing till she straightened up with a box in hand. He cocked an eyebrow lazily looking from the board to her face

Ruby gave a hesitant smile before placing the box on her lap "When I go all crazy during exams mum whips out board games, it's the only thing that seems to get my mind of all the stress." She glanced down at the board game on her lap before looking back up at him "I know it's not the same I mean exams and chemo are totally different but I don't know…I figured it wouldn't hurt to try. It might give you something else to concentrate on"

The uncertainty in her face was visible to Casey and he shook his head as she spoke again "if you don't want to that's fine, it's a silly logic really…" he quickly interjected

"No I think it's worth a try…I want to play. I was just wondering what you brought with you… really hope it's something I can beat you at"

Ruby scoffed and her face visible soften "I've got monopoly or scrabble but it really doesn't matter which one you pick because you won't win"

Casey gave a lazy smile "You seem sure about that"

"I am" replied Ruby "So… which one?"

"Scrabble" replied Casey

"Uh" Ruby sounded surprised

"What?"

"I was so sure you would pick monopoly… guys usually do"

"Well I figured the harder I have to work to beat you the more chances of it distracting me from this" Casey pointed at the needle pressed into the skin on his right arm

"Point taken" replied Ruby as she dug the scrabble box out of her bag and placed the monopoly box back

"But I actually like scrabble… Heath and Brax are definitely monopoly material. We used to play it when we were younger and it didn't matter that it was fake money Heath would always get overly excited when he won"

Ruby chuckled "Mum's the same… she always does this silly dance every time she wins or if I landed on something she had brought"

The door opened and they both looked up to see Brax walk into the room with Heath not too far behind

"Hy Ruby" Brax smiled at her as Heath closed the door

"Hi Brax, Hi Heath" she smiled up at the both of them

"Hy" replied Heath before he sat on the opposite side and Brax sat on the seat next to Ruby

"What've you got there?" asked Heath as he looked down at the box on Ruby's lap

"Scrabble… I err brought it with me for Casey"

"Yeah and I'm just about getting ready to beat her too"

Ruby scoffed "Not going to happen"

"We'll see" replied Casey

Looking back at Heath and then at Brax Ruby spoke "Do you guys wanna play?" she started laying the board game down on the small table between her and Casey

"I'll pass thanks if I can't win any money during a game I don't see the point" Heath smirked

Casey and Brax rolled their eyes and Ruby chuckled

"How's your mum doing?" asked Brax

"Sorry I completely forgot to ask" added Casey

"Its ok" replied Ruby "She's fine, she's not started feeling any of the chemo's side effects yet... so that's something"

Casey and Heath frowned as Brax shifted on his seat but the action had gone un-noticed by Ruby. Realising no one had said anything Casey quickly spoke

"That's good I guess"

The corners of Ruby's lips turned up "Yea it is. So we gonna get started" she pointed don to the game "You playing Brax?"

Casey watched as he shook his head "No. Would rather just watch you kick his butt"

Hearing the front door close Charlie quickly rinsed her mouth, taking a look around the toilet making sure nothing looked out of place. Taking one final glance at herself in the mirror she ran her hand over her top and pulled her cardigan tightly around her before walking out of the bathroom

"Charlie" She heard Bianca's voice

"Coming" Charlie emerged from the hallway and walked into the kitchen to find Bianca sorting through a brown paper bag

"Hy" Bianca smiled up at Charlie "How you feeling?"

Charlie smiled and answered the question the same way she did everyday "Good thanks" She looked down at all the food and treats laid out on the dining table "What's all this?" She stepped forward as Bianca turned around and looked up at her

"Well…" she seemed hesitant "I know one of the side effects of chemo is loss of appetite so I figured before all that starts we should indulge in some junk food"

"Err I'm not really hungry right now, maybe later" replied Charlie. She had woken up feeling nauseated and even on a nearly empty stomach she had thrown up twice that afternoon

Bianca frowned as she studied Charlie closely "Are you sure you're ok. you never pass up on food…ever"

Charlie chuckled buying herself some time to think something up "I went to the diner earlier and I may have over done it with the cheesecake"

"Oh ok… well we can save these for later… Ruby can help us get through all these. But I am done at school for the day so me and you can kick back and watch any movie of your choice preferably with sexy under dressed men"

"Sound like a plan" Charlie exhaled as she walked out of the kitchen and into the living room and began rooting through the DVD's.
...
Bianca laughed but Charlie hadn't seemed to notice what was going on, on the screen. The film had been on for about thirty minutes and Charlie hadn't made a sound. Peering at her from the corner of her eye, Bianca sighed at the expression on her best friends face. Charlie may have been looking at the screen but it was clear to Bianca she wasn't watching the film. Sighing lightly, Bianca leaned forward picking up the remote and pausing the film; still Charlie sat staring at the screen not noticing the film was no longer playing

Turing to face Charlie Bianca placed her hand on her arm "Charlie"

"Uh" Charlie finally snapped out of her trance. She looked at the screen then back at Bianca "What happened?"

"I paused it but you weren't even watching to notice" Bianca moved a little closer "What's wrong?"

Charlie sighed "Nothing I guess I'm just tired" she gave her best smile

"Is it the chemo?" asked Bianca

Charlie shook her head "No like I said I'm just tired"

"And that may be true but it's not what's got you distracted" Bianca gave her a knowing look "I don't want you trying to deal with this on your own Charlie"

Charlie sighed lightly "I'm not It's just… I thought things would be different. If someone had told me this time last year that this is what my life would turn out like… I would have laughed in their face...or hit them" Charlie smiled and Bianca chuckled but her expression soon grew serious

"You know you can talk to me about anything right?"

Charlie nodded "I know I just. I thought I would finish my tour and then come home and maybe look for a job, spend some time with Ruby and you, planning my wedding" a sad smile passed her face as she ran her thumb against the finger that had previously been occupied by her engagement ring

"I'm really sorry about what he did to you"

Charlie shook her head dismissively "You don't have nothing to be sorry for… and I'm getting over it…I think"

Bianca looked at her tentatively "You still love him?"

Charlie sighed "He's all I've known for over seven years, I thought that was it that he was it so in a way yes I do still love him, I cant just turn that off but... I don't feel as lost without him as I thought I would be and I definitely don't want him in my life"

Bianca nodded in understanding "I'm just sorry you have to still see him around when we go out and Nicole"

Charlie scoffed "Not for much longer"

A confused frown crossed Bianca's face "What do you mean?"

"He's moving away… they both are" Charlie spoke with little emotion

"Moving? Where?" asked Bianca

Charlie shrugged "I don't know, I didn't ask"

"Who told you this?" asked Bianca

"Angelo" answered Charlie

Bianca cocked an eyebrow "You spoke to Angelo?"

"Trust me not by choice. I was at the restaurant with Brax and he walked in and ended up telling me he was moving away" Charlie cleared her throat as she remembered hearing him as he spoke to Nicole just as he walked into the restaurant

"Wait I don't get it, why was you at the restaurant with Brax?"

"Angelo sold the restaurant to him"

"Wow" Bianca looked slightly wide eyed

"Yeah wow. Could we try with the film again I really don't want to waste any time talking about Angelo. It's a good thing they're leaving now I can get on with things"

Bianca nodded "Ok" pressing play on the remote she leaned back into the couch. Charlie smiled as Bianca rested her head on her shoulder

Brax watched as Casey laughed lightly him and Ruby teasing each other as the game drew to an end. No matter what he did he found his thoughts occasionally travelling back to Charlie. Yesterday was proof that she had indeed started suffering from the side effects of the chemo yet Ruby knew nothing about it. He was pulled out of his thoughts as Ruby clapped her hands

"And I win" Ruby grinned as they finished up the game

"That wasn't a fair game I should get a few extra points for not being well"

Casey smiled as Ruby laughed "Sorry but I'm not even going to let you play that Card"

"Well I let you win" replied Casey causing both Brax and Heath to chuckled

"Oh now you let me win?" Ruby asked with a raised eyebrow

"Yep" Casey gave his best grin

"You keep telling yourself that" Ruby grinned up at him "Maybe next time you can let me win at monopoly"

"Definitely"

"So did it help? distract you I mean" asked Ruby as she began packing up the board game

Casey nodded "Yeah" Casey chuckled almost surprised "It actually did"

I still can't believe mellifluous is a word" spoke Heath as he shook his head

Casey and Ruby chuckled

"Yeah mum taught it to me" replied Ruby her gaze landing on the clock on the wall "I should go" she stood to her feet as she zipped up her bag

"I'll give you a lift" said Brax as he stood to his feet

Ruby shook her head "No its fine it's not late I can get the bus"

"It's not late but I'm still going to give you a lift"

"Don't bother arguing with him" added Heath and Ruby smiled

"Thanks. I just need to go to the toilet quickly" Ruby stood to her feet and left the room

Casey remained quiet till he was sure Ruby was clearly out of ear shot "What do you know that Ruby doesn't?"

Brax narrowed his eyebrows "What are you talking about?"

"You were literally squirming in your seat when she mentioned about her mum not suffering form any side effects, so we're guessing you know something she doesn't" added Heath

Brax glanced at the door "Look it's not my place to say and I don't want either of you to even so much as indicate anything"

"Gotcha" replied Heath and Casey nodded Just as Ruby walked back into the room

"You ready?" Brax stood to his feet

"Yeah" Ruby picked up her bag "Bye Heath, bye Case"

"See ya" Heath winked at her and Brax rolled his eyes

"Thanks for today" Casey smiled at her

"It's fine, it worked as a distraction for me too, so really I was just using you"

Casey chuckled "Good to know"

"I'll see you soon" added Ruby

"Yeah" Casey smiled at her before her and Brax made their way to the door

"I won't be long" said Brax as he followed behind Ruby
...
Five days later

Another round of chemo was to take place today and Charlie wasn't sure if she could take anymore. she was sure she had kept the difference in her composure from Bianca and Ruby but it was getting harder. Hiding her now frequent loss of appetite, her hot flashes and neausea was becoming somewhat a task. She smiled like always as Ruby walked into her room

"You ready?"

Charlie sighed and looked up at the time. My chemo session wasn't for another hour and a half but I stood and nodded "Yeah I'm ready"

Arriving at the hospital Charlie almost immediately spotted Brax but she frowned at the look on his face. The corners of his mouth were lined aggressively with a frown. His back was slouched and he stood in front of the coffee machine paying little attention to it. Walking over to the reception Charlie sighed in before both she and Ruby made their way over to Brax

"Brax" Ruby called his name

Her voice got his attention and he looked up at them. Running his hands over his face Brax shut his eyes briefly before paying them greater attention "Sorry I was Miles away"

"You ok?" asked Charlie. A frown of its own settling on her face

"Yeah just tired"

"I didn't know Casey had chemo today" said Ruby with a questioning look

Brax shook his head and Charlie noticed the way his left eye reddened and glazed over "He doesn't"

Ruby frowned at his words as she searched his face "Is he ok?"

"He will be" Brax answered before turning on his heals leaving both girls watching him as he walked down the hall and into Casey's room

"He's not ok is he?" Ruby thought back to the last time she saw Casey, he seemed better; she couldn't understand what could have gone wrong since then

Charlie watched Brax, her eyes unable to look elsewhere; in the little time she had known him she had seen him in many forms but this one was new to her. He seemed disconnected

"What if he…" Ruby paused and Charlie turned to her

"Hy I'm sure he's gonna be fine…ok. It's probably just because of the chemo" Charlie sighed as she and Ruby walked over to the plastic chairs and took a seat. Both their eyes flickering over to Casey's room but after how Brax had been either of the two dared go anywhere near the door

Charlie found herself hoping Brax would come out of the room again. He had been there to help her and she wanted to do the same for him.

Twenty minutes had passed and Charlie felt her eyes flicking between the time and Casey's room. Her gaze turned as Heath came down the hall. He stopped as he spotted both Charlie and Ruby

"Hy" he smiled down at Ruby and nodded at Charlie

"Hi" both Ruby and Charlie replied

"You err… you got a session today?"

Charlie nodded "Yeah but we still got a while"

"Right" Heath nodded and turned to Ruby "You seen Case today?"

"Err…" Ruby glanced at Charlie then looked back up at Heath "I didn't think it was a good idea"

"Why?"

"Brax seemed a little…" Ruby paused and began again "I didn't want to disturb Casey if he isn't feeling too good"

"You're his friend he would be more than happy to see you, don't let Brax put you off."

Just as he spoke the door opened and Brax walked out; he stopped for a brief moment looking at them before he walked out of sight

"He's been practically living here for the past four days so he's a little grumpy. So you coming to say hi?" he looked at Ruby as he spoke

She looked up at him unsure "Err…"

"Come on" Heath prompted as he walked towards the door

"You sure?" Ruby slowly stood to her feet

"If you want to see him then yeah I'm sure…. Err same for you" he looked over at Charlie but her concentration was still placed on Brax

"Ruby go in I'll come see him in a minute" She watched as Heath and Ruby entered the room before slowly getting up and following Brax's path

She walked out of the entrance her eyes searching for him till they found him. She couldn't see his face but she knew it was him. She walked slowly till she stood at the passenger side of the car. He sat in his car, his head buried in his steering wheel. Charlie looked over t his whitened knuckles from the grip he had on the steering wheel. She flinched slightly as he unexpectedly slammed his palm against the steering wheel; his gaze now laced with anger

Charlie hesitantly brought her left hand up and tapped on the window lightly. Brax turned to her his angry gaze slowly dissolving to that of an exhausted expression. He shook his head and turned away from her. Charlie exhaled hoping she wasn't pushing it as she once again tapped on the window. She watched and waited for him to respond to her. She sighed with what she could only assume was relief when he wound the window down

"Haven't you got a session today? He didn't turn to look at her

"Not for a while"

Brax simply nodded in response and Charlie spoke again

"You want to talk about it?" she offered

Brax shook his head "You should probably get back to Ruby"

"She's with Heath… and Casey" replied Charlie. Chewing on the inside of her lip she looked at the entrance then back at Brax "I thought you might want someone to talk to or not" she waited for a response but nothing "I can go if you want?" still no reply. Charlie sighed defeated "I'll go" turning to leave she stopped as she heard the locks click on the car. Looking back Brax was now looking at her. Not wanting to give him a chance to change his mind she pulled on the handle of the car and stepped in. Closing the door she sat, neither of them speaking for several seconds till Brax spoke

"I'm sorry about before… just walking off on you and Ruby like that"

Charlie dismissed it "its fine… I don't think Ruby took any offence"

"And you?" asked Brax

"Neither did I"

Brax nodded and fell silent for another moment before speaking again

"I don't know what's going on anymore. He just… he seems to be getting worse" Brax shook his head "One day it seems he's getting better and then this"

Charlie peered at him "How long as he been in?"

"For about four days. We had to bring him back in the day after his chemo session last week. He just went from bad to worse"

"I'm really sorry Brax I'm sure it's just the chemo… he's bound to have his bad days"

"That's what the doc said but…" Brax paused and ran his hand over his face "I'm supposed to take care of him but I can't do anything for him"

"I think I told you this before but I'm going to say it again. You might not believe it but speaking from experience I know that you just being there with him is help enough. To you it may not seem like much but to him I know having you and Heath there probably means everything"

Brax looked at her with a slight curl to the corner of his lips "Thanks"

Charlie shrugged "It' the truth"

Brax nodded "Thanks all the same" he placed his head back on the head rest "I just can't wait for everything to go back to the way it was"

"I know how you feel" replied Charlie

Brax turned his head and studied her for a second "How you feeling?" he watched her closely taking note of the way she stiffened almost un-noticeably

"Good" Charlie gave a stiff smile

"You sure about that?"

"Is this your way of saying I look rough?"

Brax chuckled "No definitely not, but I do have a bit of experience with Case. So I know when good means good and when it means something completely different. Plus I know you didn't tell Ruby about the incident on the beach the day I brought you home"

Charlie sighed "It was nothing… there's no point in getting her all worked up over something little"

"Don't worry I won't say anything, but from experience… if she picks up on it before you tell her, she may just kick the over protective daughter thing up three to four notches. Just ask Casey"

Charlie chuckled slightly at a slightly grinning Brax "I know I should tell her and Bianca but they worry enough as it is... they don't need anything adding to that"

"Worrying about you is the only thing they can do. They can't fix it so I say let them worry. It may sound weird but them being able to worry about you is their way of showing you they care. I think you should let them have that… It's probably keeping them sane"

Brax narrowed his eyebrows as Charlie looked at him with concentration "What?"

"You're a lot smarter than you look" she gave him a grin and Brax shook his head and chuckled slightly

"Well thanks… probably the nicest thing anyone as ever said to me"

"You're welcome. So you coming back inside?" asked Charlie

Brax looked at the entrance then back at her "Yeah, come on then"

Two days Later

Ruby had just been to see Casey again and she was pleased he seemed much better than he had done a couple of days ago. Walking into the house she placed her bag down on the floor

"Hy Mum" she smiled as she walked over to the couch and took a seat besides Charlie

"Hy how was school and Casey?"

"School was… well it was school and Casey was a lot better. He might get to go home tomorrow and he only has two rounds of chemo left"

Charlie smiled weakly "That's really good"

Ruby frowned "You ok mum"

Charlie had remembered what Brax had said and decided to be honest, they would pick oup on it soon "I err Just feel a little nauseated" she saw the frown on Ruby's face deepen

"The chemo" spoke Ruby

Charlie nodded "Yea but it's normal... so don't look so worried"

"Do you want me to get you anything… I shouldn't have gone to the hospital I should have come straight home" Ruby expression deepened with guilt

Charlie shook her head "Hy no no, Casey is your friend and you wanted to check on him there's nothing wrong with that. Plus I get you to myself for the rest of the day and Bianca will be home soon so I'll have both of you fussing over me"

"Well tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it" said Ruby

"You could sit here with me for a moment, I'm feeling a little clingy" Charlie smiled

"I can do that" Ruby curled into Charlie as Charlie wrapped her arms around her

"When I get better we can go away somewhere with loads and loads of sun"

Ruby nodded "and loads of boys"

"Err I don't think so misses, I might just take you to an all woman's retreat"

Ruby laughed "I think you would be more bored than me"

"Good point. But you will be wearing a kaftan… for the whole trip"

Ruby giggled "If you wear one I'll wear one"

"No can do, I burn easily a kaftan won't help that" Charlie grinned

"Well all the same, I can't wait for this holiday"

Charlie tightened her hold on Ruby "neither can I"

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CHAPTER TEN

One Month later

The three brothers remained silent as they waited for the doctor to see to Casey. It was his last round of chemo today and to say him, Brax and Heath were anxious would have been a mare understatement. The last month had not only tested Casey's strength but also Brax and Heath's faith.

Neither of the three would ever admit to it but each one had at some point found themselves imagining what things would be like if the worst outcome was to happen. Brax found his blood run cold at the thought and a shiver of fear course through him each time the thought settled. Heath found his body go numb and his head begin to pulse uncontrollably at the thought and Casey… Casey found his body ache more for his brothers than it did for himself.

They had barely managed to overcome the things life had thrown at them before but Casey wasn't sure his brothers would overcome this. His thoughts always led him back to their mother. He loved her the way a son should, they all did regardless of whether the people around them thought she deserved it. They had all given her the love every child should have for their parent but it seemed the joke was on them. The one time they needed her… the one time he truly needed her to step up and comfort him like a mother should she fled. Just like their father she put herself before him, before his brothers and left them to try and mend the broken pieces. Casey found himself often wondering which of his parent's people would regard as the worse; a father who abandoned his whole family, leaving them penniless and practically homeless to fend for themselves knowing they had nowhere and no one to turn to or a mother who stuck around till her son got cancer then decided she was no longer needed.

A heavy breath escaped his lips and Casey discarded of his thoughts; what good would it do him or his brothers thinking about their parents, they were gone and no amount of thought would change that

The door creaked open and the three brothers' turned their heads simultaneously. This could be it… this could be the last time they had to sit in this room, this could be the last time they all watched the clock as the hours ticking by slowly. This could be the start of their new beginning but somehow Heath found himself wishing Brax had needed a few extra hands setting up the final arrangements for restaurant that day if only to have an excuse not to be there, Brax found himself wishing he had taken a few shots of bourbon that morning if only to calm his nerves and Casey closed his eyes wishing he had been able to go to the beach that morning. Because all three knew that after this the only thing left to do was wait. Wait to find out if the chemo had worked, wait to be told if life had finally shown them compassion and handed them an olive branch to pull them out of the storm. So as the doctor walked into the room, they each held their breath in prayer

"Morning Casey" The doctor smiled at Casey before looking over at Brax and Heath

"Brax, Heath" he gave a nod of the head as he stood with his hands in the pocket of his white overcoat. Dr Williams was in his late 30's and had been Casey's doctor since Casey was first brought into the hospital over five months ago.

"It's been quite a year so far hasn't it" He had been the one that had broken the unfortunate news to them and he had been the one to answer all the questions they had had during the last five months. He had been the one to explain Casey's diagnosis to them and talk the three of them through the process of his treatment. "I know the three of you must be anxious about today, but Casey" he turned to look at Casey "You have come really far"

"Err…" Heath rubbed his hand against the back of his neck and sat forward in his seat. He glanced at Casey before looked back up at the doctor "How will you know if it's worked properly… the chemo?"

Doctor Williams nodded it wasn't a question he hadn't been asked before "Well if you remember when we first found the cancer we found three lymph node regions all on the same side if Casey's diaphragm. Well after this session Casey will need to come back in a couple of weeks and we will do a scan of the affected areas. This way we will see if the lymph node regions are gone and it will also allow us to make sure that the cancer hasn't progressed into any other areas"

"Progressed?" Brax questioned "What do you mean progressed?"

Doctor Williams sighed "In the unlikely case that the chemo hasn't worked, the cancer could have progressed into stage three or further along"

"So not only is there a chance that the chemo may not have worked but the cancer could be worse than it was five months ago" Heath spoke almost through gritted teeth

"That is the worst possible outcome. It's best we focus on what's on hand"

Casey sat unspoken Listening to the conversation unfold before him. At Heaths last words his gaze travelled to Brax who bore such pain in his face he felt himself grimace. He knew the chemo not getting rid of all the cancer had crossed all their minds but he knew neither of the three of them had taken time to think 'What if the cancer had only progressed'. Casey could almost see the wheels turning in Brax's head and knew they were both thinking the same thing. This last month up until about a week ago had been the worse since he started the chemo. He lacked any energy and his appetite had deteriorated to nothing; the amount of weight he had lost was beyond worrying. He had thought it was just because of the chemo, all these side effects were to be expected right? But what if he was wrong, what if it was because the cancer was spreading? Casey clamped his eyes shut trying to distance himself from the room and only finally opening his eyes again as he heard Doctor Williams words

"I'll get the nurse to come and prep him. I'll be back before the end of his session" Giving the three brothers a crooked smile he retracted out of the door

Her head lay weakly against the pillow, she closed her eyes as she tried to ignore the constant nauseous feeling that had enveloped her stomach and chest. She wrapped the duvet tightly around her body as she felt her head pounding with pain she wasn't aware existed. From the moment she had woken up that morning her strength had gone from a little to none existent and both Ruby and Bianca had protested against leaving her alone. Although after much begging and guilt tripping she managed to get Ruby to go to school but Bianca had already called in saying she wouldn't be in that day.

Charlie's eyes flickered open as her room door croaked, she gave the only smile she had strength to muster as Bianca walked into the room

"Hy" Bianca smiled down at Charlie sadly as she sat on the edge of the bed and stroked the hair from Charlie's face.

"Hy" replied Charlie. The worry on Bianca's face told Charlie she looked just as bad as she was feeling. She knew she was a lot paler in contrast to her usual olive skin and although never haven been a big girl, to say she had lost weight in the last month was somewhat an understatement. She could feel her collar bone press slightly against her skin with each move she made.

"I made you some fruit salad… You up to eating?" asked Bianca. Charlie hadn't been able to hold anything down since her chemo session the previous morning.

"Maybe later" replied Charlie. She wanted to try and eat even if only to ease Ruby and Bianca's fusing and worrying but the way she felt in that moment; there was no way she could stomach anything

"Well at least drink this" Bianca picked up the glass of water she had placed on the tray

Knowing even if she could eat it was important for her to keep hydrated she nodded and with the help of Bianca pulled herself up and rested her head on the headrest. Taking the glass from Bianca she drank as much as she could and was surprised as to how thirsty she had been. Smiling as Bianca took the almost empty glass from her hand, Charlie let out a light sigh "Thank you… didn't even know I was thirsty"

Bianca smiled at her and placed the cup on the bed side table. She sat contemplating what to do with the letter in her back pocket that had been addressed to Charlie, knowing to well who it was most likely from. They knew to well that today was the day Angelo and Nicole were finally leaving the bay. Bianca was more than happy to finally see the back of them and she had hoped they would leave quietly but it seemed Angelo had other ideas

Charlie must have sensed that something was off as she placed her right hand over Bianca's "I can't possibly look that bad can I? Charlie tried to lighten the mood and Bianca smiled and shook her head

"It's not that" She sighed knowing she couldn't keep it from Charlie "It's this" digging into her back pocket, she produced the letter "I err…I think it's from Angelo" Bianca placed the letter on Charlie bed side table. "You don't have to read it Charlie; you don't owe him anything"

Looking down at the letter Charlie nodded at Bianca's words before looking up at her "I know" She looked back down at the letter. She hadn't so much as spoken to Angelo since that day at the restaurant

"I'll leave you to get some rest" said Bianca, aware that her best friend wouldn't want an audience if she decided to read the letter. Standing to her feet she gave Charlie's hand a light squeeze before leaving the room.

Charlie's gaze travelled back to the letter. Knowing Angelo and Nicole were leaving that day she had been trying her best not to think about it but it had unfortunately been on her mind since she woke that morning. Slowly picking up the letter she looked down and recognised Angelo's hand writing that had scribbled her name on the white envelope. In honesty to herself Charlie wasn't sure what she felt for him or about him anymore. She had been so adamant to keep him from her thoughts that when she did think of him, she could no longer recognise how she truly felt… or maybe she just didn't want to. Exhaling as a small wave of nausea hit her, she gently tore the envelope open taking the letter from it. Unfolding it she began to read his words

Charlie

I know I'm the last person you want to hear from but this was the only way I could think of to truly apologise to both you and Ruby. You have no reason to believe me but I did truly love you Charlie and although it may not be the same I still do love you, both you and Ruby.

I don't know when everything changed, I don't know when I changed but I'm sorry for everything I have put both you and Ruby through and one of my biggest regrets will always be that I'm not able to be there for you when you need me most.

I need you and Ruby to know that I will never stop caring about you. I understand that you may feel different but to me you will always be family.

For the pain I have caused I'm sorry. I never meant for things to turn out this way but I promise you when I gave you that ring Charlie I meant every word of what I said to you that day... but somewhere along the line my feelings changed. I really hope that although I don't deserve it you will find a way to forgive me one day; both you and Ruby. You're one of the strongest people I know and I know you'll be just fine. Please let Ruby know that I will always love her and she will always be like a daughter to me

I wish you all the best Charlie

Angelo


Charlie peered down at the words on the paper and they felt like pricked against her skin. Her eye's hovered over the words 'Like a daughter'. Charlie fought back the urge to scoff at his words. In the last six years of the seven they had been together, Angelo had always referred to Ruby as his daughter not 'like a daughter'. He may have been trying to be sincere but his words only proved to emphasis all that had changed in their life's. 'I wish you all the best Charlie' such a formal way to address someone you had shared a bed with for so long, someone's who's happiness had once been your main priority. But this is what he had made of them…nothing more than mere acquaintances even if that. And he was wrong, she didn't need him, those that she needed and most especially those that she wanted were still with her. Charlie waited for that same pang of betrayal to hit her, she waited for the same pain she had felt the day she caught him with Nicole to resurface, for the jealous of what Nicole now had and what she had lost to rear its head but nothing… she felt nothing. Maybe it was that her body was to overwhelmed with the effects of the chemo to feel anything else, but none the less his words evoked no emotion from her. No jealousy, no self-pity, and no anger. Folding the letter back up, she placed it back into the envelope and dropped it on the floor beside her bed. Everything in that letter was a past, something she had no room for in her life.

Ruby paced with eagerness to get home. Having missed a fair bit of school, she hadn't been able to leave at lunch to check on Charlie as she had been instructed to stay back and catch up on some work; something she was told she would have to do till she caught up on missed assignments. Calling Bianca at every chance she had got had been all she had done that day.

She placed her feet with thuds against the ground. Turing down the path just before the beach she glanced back as she heard her name being called. Seeing who it was she somehow picked up pace now not only wanting to get home to Charlie but also wanting to get away from the approaching figure

"Ruby please wait" Nicole moved faster "please"

Ruby gritted her teeth but none the less slowed till she came to a stop. She heard a sigh of relief leave Nicole's lips before turning around to glare at her "What do you want Nicole?"

Nicole shuffled from one foot to the other, her cream maxi dress sweeping the ground. "I don't want to leave things like this Ruby" She looked at Ruby pleadingly "You're my best friend and I…" She stopped as Ruby interrupted and shook her head

"No, no I was your best friend but you; you were never mine"

"That's not true" Nicole's eyes filled with remorse

"A best friend could never do what you did… just go. The sooner you both leave the better"

"Ruby I'm so sorry, If I could change the way I feel"

Ruby scoffed her eye's full of disgust and impatience. "Don't you ever get tired of saying you're sorry. It means nothing Nicole, you mean nothing" Ruby was now sneering at her "I was there for you whenever you needed, my mum has helped you countless times and the only way you could think to repay that was to sleep with Angelo" Ruby shook her head "I'm not sure which I'm more disgusted at, the thought of you and Angelo sneaking around behind mums back or having to see the both of you shamelessly playing happy families"

"I'll do anything Ruby please" Nicole's eyes had long glazed over with her tears

"There's nothing you can do to fix this Nicole… it's broken, you broke it and that's that"

Nicole shook her head "There must be something… I just want my best friend back"

"How about I start sneaking around with your dad and then get pregnant for him" Ruby searched Nicole's dumbfounded face "Not such a pleasant thought is it"

Nicole blinked her tears away and pursed her lips together, it was clear she had lost this battle, she had lost Ruby

"I only hope I never have to see you again…the both of you. That's something you can do for me" and with that Ruby turned and left the person she had once though of as her best friend standing, staring at her disappearing figure

Two weeks later

Her body shock violently as the pain began consuming her till her muscles felt limp. The darkness continued to consume her till she could barely see a thing. Her helpless body now lay limp on the soiled ground… yet no blood. Her uniform looked different, almost discoloured. There was no visible wound yet she could feel life itself slipping away from her. Her closing eyes sluggishly roamed her surroundings. She could see the other soldiers armed as they ran towards her but they didn't stop, They carried on past her as if she wasn't there. She opened her mouth to speak or shout against the sound of people screaming and the gun shots but her voice had long left her. She couldn't hold on anymore, her eyes closed shut as all sound began to fade

"Charlie…Charlie"

Her eyes sprung open at the desperate calling of her name. She felt her chest rising at an alarming rate. She could feel the sweat dripping heavily from her head. Her gaze flickered around but she could no longer feel the rough ground below her. The soiled ground, the soldiers, the frantic cries; they were all gone. Trying to steady the beat of her heart, she finally focused on the figure that called her name

"Charlie" She expected to see Ruby or Bianca but it was Brax. She frowned in confusion as she once again checked her surroundings almost as if unsure where she was. Brax must have seen the confused expression on her face

"You're at home Charlie"

Charlie's gaze returned back to him and she simply nodded her head. Her chest was still rising heavily. She closed her eyes trying to regulate her deep breathing. Feeling the pressure that was caused by Brax's presence on the couch subside she opened her eyes and found he was no longer sitting beside her. 'Had he left' she looked at the front door and it remained closed and she hadn't heard him walk out. Her thoughts stopped as she heard the tap running in the kitchen. Before she could lift herself up, Brax came walking back into the living room

Brax placed the bucket down on the coffee table and picked up the cloth on his lap. Dipping it into the lukewarm water he rinsed the excess water out before turning to her. Neither of the two spoke as he gently ran the cloth over her forehead, brushing her hair back from her face. Dipping the cloth back into the water he repeated the same process before bringing it to her cheek and neck; taking all the evidence of her nightmare away from her face

Charlie watched him as he once again stood to his feet and journeyed back into the kitchen. Her breathing had by now returned back to somewhat a regular speed. Brax was soon back and he once again sat on the edge of the couch in front of her. His gaze was intense as he searched her face

"Are you ok?" He shook his head as he spoke thinking how stupid his question was

"Thank you" was the reply he received from Charlie

A corner of his lips lifted as he replied "You really shouldn't leave your front door wide open, anyone could walk in"

Charlie frowned her face momentarily in confusion before she remembered that she had left the front door open before climbing onto the couch. The house had felt too warm so she welcomed the gentle breeze from the wind

"I didn't mean to fall asleep, it was really hot; I figured I would just leave it open for a little while" Brax nodded and she once again spoke "What are you doing here?" her voice wasn't defensive or harsh, he could see she was still slightly dazed most probably about whatever it was she had been dreaming about that had gotten her so worked up.

"I overheard that re headed lady, Irene I think her name is. She said she had just come from your place, she seemed really worried about you" Brax's gaze never wavered once from her as he spoke "I was almost done at the restaurant so I figured I would take a break and just pop round and see how you were doing. From what she said it seems you were home alone"

Charlie blinked slowly and nodded her head "Bianca's at work and Ruby as school. Irene's been with me all day but Bianca and Ruby will be back soon so I told her she could go… I just wanted a little time alone" She gave him a light smile "But thank you for coming round, you probably have a lot on at the moment"

Brax shook his head "You have nothing to thank me for, we're friends right" and they were. In the last month they had become friends, Ruby had become a close friend to Casey and both Charlie and Brax had somehow been able to talk to one another about the things they felt they couldn't tell others. But still Brax refrained from asking her what she had been dreaming about, if there was one thing he had learned about Charlie is when she wanted to open up she would do it willingly.

Charlie's nostrails flared as she registered the smell in the room and turned her gaze towards the brown paper bag on the table. Brax followed her gaze. Leaning forward he opened up the bag

"I also heard Irene saying she hadn't been able to get you to eat anything, so I figured I would bring you this"

Before he had even taken the content out of the bag Charlie was shaking her head "Thanks but I'm not really hungry, plus I can't seem to keep anything down"

Brax seemed to ignore Charlie as he placed the content onto the table followed by what seemed like a strawberry shake.

"If you haven't eaten all day then you have to try and get something down you. I brought butternut squash soup, this was one of the few things Casey could keep down during his chemo" not waiting for her to reply he stood to his feet and made his way to the kitchen with the soup in hand.

Charlie could hear him opening up a few drawers and cupboards. Slowly lifting her head from the arm of the couch, she brought her legs down allowing them hit the ground below her. Just as she was about to stand to her feet she stopped as Brax walked back into the living room, tray in hand. She watched him as he sat beside her before he placed the tray onto her lap. She looked down into the bowl of soup in front of her and then back up at Brax

"Just because you don't feel like you are hungry doesn't mean you shouldn't eat. Even if it's just a few spoons and if you don't like the soup you have my full permission to throw abusive insults at me" he gave a grin and for what seemed like the first time Charlie noticed the dimple's that pierced his cheeks.

Brax picked up the spoon from the side of the tray and pointed it at her. Looking down she sighed and took the spoon from him "Thank you" she inhaled as she dug the spoon into the soup. Placing it into her mouth she waited or that same nauseous feeling to come… but nothing. The rich creamy soup settled in her stomach informing her of how hungry she actually was. Digging the spoon into the soup she took a few more bits before looked up at Brax

"Where did you get this from?" She asked as she dug the spoon in again

"What makes you think I brought it?" asked Brax

Charlie's spoon stopped midway to her mouth, her eyebrow knitted together "Did you make it?"

Brax nodded "Yea"

"You sure?" Charlie asked unconvinced

Brax chuckled "Pretty sure…why?"

Charlie finally placed the spoon in her mouth and withdrew it "It's just this soup is really really bad" She smiled at him before placing another spoon full of soup in her mouth

Brax chuckled "I can tell" he looked at her glad to see she was eating something

Both their heads turned up towards the door as it opened

Brax smiled at Ruby "Hy"

"Hi I thought that was your car outside" Ruby looked from Brax to Charlie "Hi mum" Her gaze fell on the bowl of soup in front of Charlie "You're eating" She sounded surprised and relieved

Charlie nodded "Yep. But it's not nice; I just don't want to hurt Brax's feelings"

Ruby looked at her confused and Brax chuckled as he stood to his feet

"I should get going"

"No stay" said Ruby as she dropped her bag on the floor

Brax shook his head "I still have one or two things to do back at the restaurant so I really should be getting back"

Ruby nodded her head and Brax looked down at Charlie as she spoke "Thanks for coming round and for this" She nodded down at the soup

Brax smiled "No problem. I'll see you guys later" he said as he walked through the door

"Bye" said Charlie "And Brax will you give my best to Casey" Charlie had grown quiet fond of the young boy

Brax nodded "Will do" he turned and walked out the door

"Brax" Brax stopped just outside the door as Ruby stopped him

"Yea"

"Thank you…for that" Ruby nodded back at the door

"It's nothing, really. I left a strawberry shake on the table she probably won't feel like eating anything after the soup so you can give her the shake later it'll help give her a bit of energy"

Ruby nodded "Well given she has hardly eaten anything since her last round of chemo on Tuesday, the fact that you got her eating means a lot"

Brax smiled "You're a pretty strong girl you know that"

Ruby sighed "I'm not so sure about that"

"You are, Casey seems to think so too"

Ruby smiled in response

Giving her a final smile Brax turned and walked to his car

Closing the door behind her, Ruby watched as Charlie continued eating the soup "That soup must be really bad, you don't look like you're enjoying it at all" She mocked with a smile and walked around her school bag and sat next to Charlie

"Umm" Charlie swallowed "I was just messing with him, it's really good" Charlie held the spoon up and gave some to Ruby

"That is good" Ruby smiled "I'm just glad to see you eating something" Looking down at the shake on the table, Ruby picked it up and went to place it in the fridge where she saw a plastic container with more of the soup Charlie was eating. Smiling she walked back into the living room to find Charlie's bowl now practically empty as she downed the glass of water Brax had placed in the tray

"I think I need to ask him where he got the soup from" said Ruby and Charlie shook her head

"He made it"

"He made you soup?"

Charlie shook her head "I don't think he made it specially for me. He mentioned that Casey liked it, so he must have made some for Casey and they had some let over I guess"

Ruby nodded and took the tray from Charlie's lap into the kitchen.

The Next day

His palms were sweaty and noise around him seemed to have drained out. Casey tapped his feet against the ground as they waited for the results. The scan, the blood test, all the hoops he had been made to jump through the previous week had been leading them to this moment. Brax and Heath at either side of him both their feet's copying Casey's but tapping against the floor more feverishly. No words had been spoken since they had been led into the office. The same office where all this had started and now with hope, the office were it would end. Every sound had all three heads jolting towards the door waiting in anticipation for doctor Williams to make an entrance. This felt even more unbearable than when they had been sat waiting to find out what was wrong with Casey six months ago.

Finally the door opened and all three brothers seemed to straighten up stiffly as they watched doctor Williams close the door.

"Sorry to keep you guys waiting" he walked around the desk and sat in his chair "I was attending to a patient" neither of the three brothers spoke each one staring at him pleading for him to just get it over and done with

Casey's last round of chemo may have been a couple of weeks ago but he felt far from a hundred per cent. He still lacked energy, his appetite hadn't picked up much and he still had days he couldn't seem to muster up the strength to do a thing. But doctor Williams had assured them that just because the chemo had ended didn't mean Casey's health wouldn't still be affected or a short while. It could take weeks even months to get back to health and maybe even more to regain his previous healthy state. So Casey hoped that was all it was

Three pairs of eyes roamed all over Doctor Williams's seemingly unreadable face an expression Brax disliked. They never gave anything away and usual that was a bad thing but what did he know… they had only ever received bad news since the day they brought Casey to this hospital

Heath wanted to scream at the Doctor at the momentary silence that filled the office, screaming in a way no noise could. They had been waiting months for this moment he wasn't sure he could wait another minute; his nervous were getting the better of him as the tapping of his feet against the floor stopped along with his brothers

All three pairs of eyes fell to the table as Doctor Williams placed what seemed to be Casey's results onto the desk. Casey couldn't take it anymore

"Can you just please tell us" His eyes filled with worry and hope

Doctor Williams nodded and opened his mouth in order to deliver the much anticipated news

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