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Breathe Me


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Chapter Four

Nic had been in the Bay for three days and so far she’d managed to isolate Irene somehow, found out that none of her friends were still around and that she could burn toast. And scrambled eggs. Not to mention that the only time she had a decent cup of coffee was when she braved going into the diner, which wasn’t that often.

Pulling up the car into the parking space outside the house she turned off the engine and leaned back against the seat. How was it that the place could look the same but seem so hostile? No one seemed to want to take the time to have a conversation. Angelo’s restaurant had been taken over by the Braxton’s, the oldest of the three brothers seemed to be dating Charlie and then the middle brother was dating Bianca. There had been some gossip about Liam stopping Bianca’s wedding to her first fiancé before they spilt up and he left the Bay.

She’d overheard that gossip whilst she’d been in Angelo’s picking up a pizza (for the second night in a row) and looking back on it now, hearing that the straight laced Charlie Buckton who’d been her Dad’s girlfriend at one time was now dating actually dating a petty criminal (according to the same gossip!). Not that she was any real judge considering some of the creeps she’d dated.

The real shock turned out to be finding a venue for the wedding, she’d been round the district to find somewhere and nothing had been available on the date she wanted it. Tomorrow she had one more call to make, regarding the Church on the headland and then, that was it she was out of options and would have to see if Stuart could change the date. She could easily blame him for the current crisis, she thought with a sigh before climbing out of her car and reaching into the back seat to collect the box containing the new microwave oven she’d bought, having decided that a third night having pizza would look like she was stalking one of the Braxton’s. Although they were hot, they weren’t as good as her Stuart, even if he wasn’t being more flexible about the time he could take off from work.

She staggered up the path with the microwave and her handbag precariously held in her arms before gasping in shock.

“What are you doing here?”

“A microwave?” He shot back obviously looking at the picture on the box in her arms.

“Yes,” Nic said glaring at her father.

“So nothing I taught you managed to stick in that head of yours,” he grinned at her.

“Daddy!” she protested before the microwave titled alarmingly in her arms and she almost lost her grip on it.

Roman dropped his bag to one side and took the microwave from her grasp smiling as she reclaimed her handbag and removed the keys from it before unlocking the door. She grinned as she preceded him into the house watching the emotions play across his face as he stepped over the threshold for the first time since he’d been sent to Jail.

“You want this in the kitchen?” He asked her.

Nic nodded looking him over as he strode into the other room. He was looking good, he kept his hair short these days, in keeping with the military protocol and the uniform suited him.

“I still can’t get used to you in that uniform,” she muttered with a pout.

“It’s part of the deal I made kiddo,” he said as he moved around the kitchen setting up the microwave. Pausing to check that it was where she wanted it he plugged it in and tested it before apparently being satisfied that it was working fine. “So anyway, tell me about being back here?”

“It’s certainly different. I don’t know anyone,” Nic told him as she began sorting out drinks, “Wait, so you are here now? Does this mean anything?”

“Well,” Roman began, “I’ve had my orders come through and I’m being deployed in 8 weeks so technically I won’t miss your wedding but….”

“No, you aren’t going to miss my wedding Daddy!” Nic panicked.

“I have to go, it’s my duty. But, I’ve spoken to my CO and they are going to give me a 48 hours pass for the wedding plus I have a week now.”

“They better do,” Nic scowled, “So is that why you came here?”

“No, I thought that ..”

“That?” Nic prompted.

“That maybe you’d need me to explain to the people around here just what I actually did so that…” Roman paused and swallowed, seeming to find it hard to get the words out, “so that you wouldn’t get a hard time of anybody.”

Before she could stop herself Nic muttered, “Great, bloody start with Irene.”

She tossed her hair back and strode into the lounge collapsing on to the long sofa, sinking back amongst the many cushions.

Roman followed in his daughter’s wake and perched on the sofa next to her.

“Come on tell me?”

“Geoff is back in town,” Nic finally said, “I didn’t think he would ever come back and here he is. I mean I love Stuart, deeply but it’s Geoff.” She said like that was explanation enough.

Roman nodded. Her Dad nodded. Like he understood exactly what was tumbling through her head. Geoff was the road not taken. The one. The boy she’d never gotten over and now, just when she thought her future safe and headed in one direction Geoff had turned up again.

“So back up, why is Irene giving you a hard time?”

Nic scowled, not at the remembrance of Irene’s hostility no, it was because her father knew exactly what she wanted to talk about and he was distracting her, which meant that he knew her thoughts and feelings too well.

“I don’t know. I’ve been nice, I haven’t …” Nic frowned and lifted her hand to the small area on her forehead where her face creased up when she was worrying about something and she massaged there.

“I’ll go and talk to her,” Roman murmured.

“Great, and whilst you are at it, you can help me get a venue sorted,” she murmured and suddenly gave him a grin, “and well there is dinner to cook.”

She watched as Roman rolled his eyes at her before standing and heading into the kitchen.

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Chapter Five

“Aden Jefferies, as I live and breathe,” Irene murmured her voice registering her shock, “What are you doing back in the Bay?”

Aden glanced around the diner, noticing that the décor had changed and probably not for the first time either, in his absence and smiled because despite this he had a sense of homecoming. The air even smelt exactly the same as when he left, the tang of salt air smelt so strong he could almost taste the salt on his tongue.

“Irene Roberts, still serving the best coffee in the Bay?” he murmured in response moving to perch on a stool in front of the counter. He picked up one of the pristine menus and glanced down the list seeing the very best the diner had to offer before deciding on a latte and a sandwich. He ordered from her before glancing around and taking into account the various changes in the place. He felt a jolt of nostalgia when he saw a bunch of schoolkids sitting over the other side of the room; some were wearing the same uniform he’d once been in, jeans, white shirt and tie. They hustled out of the diner when the clock ticked over, obviously hurrying back to school after lunch and that made him grin.

“Here’s your order,” Irene said slowly placing the food and drink in front of him.

He met her gaze and smiled at the unspoken question in her eyes.

“How are you Irene? You never seem to answer my letters,” he said softly.

“I’m kept plenty busy with this place and… well, it’s easier if ..” she stopped and looked to the doorway as though she was expecting someone else to walk in.

“If some people keep away?” Aden finished for her.

“Yes,” she said bluntly.

“Darl,” Aden drawled, mimicking her, “I’m ok, I still miss Belle but things, well they aren’t so screwed up anymore.”

Irene sighed, “I suppose you know that Nic is back in town.”

“I did hear that from Geoff,” Aden answered.

“Yeah, well that is a whole different story,” Irene moved back into the kitchen as though to avoid finishing a difficult conversation. Aden looked at the space where the woman had been standing just seconds before and smiled slowly. He picked up his cup and took a long drink waiting for the older woman to come back because he gathered from her tone that there was more going on than he’d realised from his chats with Geoff. Maybe the Bible Boy wasn’t telling the whole truth he mused before taking a long drink from his cup.

He’d finished his sandwich and there were only dregs left in his cup when she returned to his table and sat down opposite him. He was surprised how much looking at her familiar face made him homesick for Summer Bay. The nostalgia was almost overpowering and he smiled at the feelings running through him.

“So come on Irene, what’s the goss? I know Colleen isn’t here anymore so you are my only source,” he shot her a grin as he spoke.

“No gossip. Been very quiet since you left,” she said with a slow smile removing the sting from her words.

True, he thought sardonically, he’d made his fair share of mistakes that had been fodder for the whole of Summer Bay at one time or another, kidnapping Rachel Armstrong on the eve of her wedding to Tony Holden, marrying Belle and losing her seemingly only moments later, the fishing trawler.

“Nicole being back, must have raised some eyebrows?”

“I don’t know why she would come back here,” Irene began.

“It’s not that she’s back, come on Irene I’ve never known you to hold a grudge, well for this long anyway,” he grinned as she blushed at his words.

“It’s Geoff, well, that boy, he still has a thing for her. When he came back he was different. You’ll see that for yourself,” she glanced behind her as if to check that she wasn’t being overheard, “He was quieter and would just seem to disappear. What he did say about his time doing missionary work we could tell that it really affected him. I don’t want.”

Aden nodded even though Irene didn’t finish the sentence it was obvious that she really cared for Geoff.

“But what if Nic feels the same about Geoff?” he broached after a while.

“Then why is she flashing a ring on a certain finger that could buy and sell this place a dozen times? No it’s best if that missy just stays away from our Geoff and lets sleeping dogs lie,” Irene finished standing up from her seat and looking at him for a moment before she walked away into the kitchen.

Aden sat lost in thought for a long time before he collected himself and he too stood. Walking away from the table he waved at her before he left the place and headed over to the beach. He wanted to walk for a while before meeting up with Geoff. Suddenly he had a lot to think over.

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