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Bonds of Blood and Water


Red Ranger 1

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It's been the best part of a year since my last fiction on here but I suddenly felt inspired again.Hope you like!

Story Title: Bonds of Blood and Water
Type of story: Short/Medium fic
Main Characters: Maddy, Oscar, Isabelle, Evelyn, Matt, VJ, Roo, Alf and others
BTTB rating: T
Genre: Drama/Family
Does story include spoilers: Slight UK spoilers
Any warnings: Mild sexual content, possibly mild violence
Summary: Maddy's sister pays a visit, but then their lives take an unexpected turn.

CHAPTER ONE

The bus was late.That was what Maddy told herself, anyway.A quick look at her watch would have told her whether it was actually true or not but she preferred to maintain the illusion that the bus was simply taking longer to arrive than expected and that was why she was on edge.

  Oscar’s hand encircled hers, without any prompting, and she smiled at him gratefully.He always did have a knack for sensing her mood.“You nervous?”he asked.

  “Why should I be nervous?”she answered quickly,“I’ve known her all my life.”Oscar continued to look at her with that piercing gaze until she grimaced.“I am a bit nervous,”she admitted.

  “Well, that’s understandable,”he pointed out gently,“I mean you say you’ve known her all your life…”

  “…but that’s not really true for these last few years,”Maddy concluded,“We’ve exchanged e-mails but that’s it and… suddenly she wants to spend the holidays here?What’s that all about?”

  “Hey, I can’t work my own sister out.I’m not going to even try and work out yours.”

  Before Maddy could give the matter any further thought, she saw the bus approaching, and cursed that, ironically given her earlier thoughts, it suddenly seemed to have got there quickly.She and Oscar stood up and waited as the bus drew up and a string of people got off.Maddy picked out a blonde girl, smaller than herself, carrying a large rucksack, with a long brown coat around her body and a floppy hat on her head, and quickly grabbed her into a hug.“Isabelle!”

  Her sister detached herself quickly, her expression slightly strained.“I prefer Izzy these days… Madeleine.”

  “Yep, sure, sorry,”Maddy replied nervously.She paused for a long time before remembering her boyfriend was at her shoulder.“This is Oscar,”she continued.

  “Should I take your bag?”Oscar offered.

  Izzy handed it to him and he gasped slightly as he realised it weighed more than he’d expected.He grimaced at Maddy, who gave him a sympathetic look.

  “So,”Izzy declared,“show me what’s so great about this place that you won’t come home.”

  Maddy’s expression as she led her sister away was extremely pained.

***

“Everyone, this is Izzy,”Maddy announced to the crowd of caravan park house residents present on her return.She gestured to them in turn.“That’s Roo, Mr.Stewart, Evie, Matt and VJ.”

  “Welcome to Summer Bay, love,”Alf noted with a smile.Izzy gave him a brief smile in return.Maddy smiled as well.When Alf wanted to charm teenagers, he was surprisingly good at it.

  “Yeah, welcome,”Roo echoed, giving her an awkward hug,“We’ve put you in Maddy and Evie’s room, I hope that’s all right.”

  “Will there be room for us all?”Izzy asked uncertainly.

  Evelyn shrugged.“I’ll just spend more nights in Matt’s van.”

  “You will not,”Leah replied warningly, as she and Zac entered.

  Matt let out a theatrical sigh, before putting an arm round Evelyn’s shoulder and kissing her on the side of the head.“It was worth a try.”

  “Do you want us to show you up there?”VJ asked.

  Maddy couldn’t help noticing just how long Izzy’s gaze rested on VJ.She knew there was only a year between the two younger teens but she really wasn’t ready to think about her sister like that.Still, at least it made Izzy smile again.“Please.”

  VJ took her bag from Oscar and led her upstairs, Matt and Evelyn following more for something to do than anything else.The grown-ups decamped into the kitchen.Maddy let out a deep sigh and Oscar enveloped her in a comforting hug.“It’s going to be an interesting few weeks,”he remarked.

  Maddy couldn’t help but agree.

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Thank you for all the comments!Hope you keep enjoying.

CHAPTER TWO

It was a short time later that Maddy chose to venture upstairs.Izzy was alone in the bedroom, sitting on the makeshift camp bed that had been set up for her.Maddy considered sitting down on her own bed but eventually chose to sit next to her sister.“So, you settling in?”she asked awkwardly.

  Izzy gave a shrug.“S’pose.”

  There was a long silence.“I’m surprised you wanted to come here,”Maddy continued,“Didn’t Mum and Dad say you could go on their driving trip?”

  Izzy looked at her, sincere but with a trace of resentment in her eyes.“I wanted to see you.”The resentment built for a moment until she looked away.“And it’s not like you were going to come home.”

  Maddy hesitated.“You’re right, yeah, I should have come back and seen you all.It’s just…Mum, you know?”

  “I know.I’m the one that still lives with her, remember?The one you left behind.I saw Spencer, by the way.”

  Maddy nodded.“How is he?”

  “Back with his family.”There was an accusing tone to Izzy’s statement.“So, guess you two weren’t soul mates, after all?”

  “I loved him,”Maddy insisted,“Still do, in a way.But I guess you can spend so much time fighting for something sometimes that when you actually get it, it doesn’t turn out the way you expected.I guess by then we’d become more of a family than a couple.”

  “And Oscar?”

  “I love him.I really want it to last.I think it will.”Maddy patted her sister on the leg.“So, you coming down?”she asked with a smile.

  Izzy gave a scowl that Maddy had an awkward feeling was genetic.“In a minute.”

***

When Maddy came downstairs, she found not only the other four teens there but also Chris.In uniform. No-one was quite sure how Chris had ended up managing the gym, but with Kyle and Andy both having left town abruptly, Kyle bound for the outback with Tamara, Andy bound goodness only knows where, Ricky had been short of options and, to everyone’s surprise, Chris had managed to pass the trainer’s exam with flying colours.Apparently John’s training and torture sessions had helped.

  His eyes lit up as he saw her.“Maddy.Mads.Madeleine.Good old Maddy.Girl of my dreams.”

  Everyone looked at him in bemusement, as they often did.“Do I need to challenge you to a fight or something?”Oscar asked.

  Chris glared at him.“No.”

  “You’re dating my aunt, should I tell her?”

  “It’s not a come-on, it’s a suck-up.”He turned back to Maddy.“I need you to work.I’ve had three casuals let me down.One of them claimed to have dengue fever.If she doesn’t have a sick note, I might not use her again.”

  Maddy groaned.“Come on, Chris, this was just meant to be a holiday job before I start uni.”

  “It’s still holidays.”Chris made to go down on his knees.“Do you want me to beg?”He stopped as Izzy entered and stared at her with a winning smile.“And who is this vision of loveliness?Do you fancy a job?”

  “We’ve already met,”Izzy told him.

  “This is my sister, Isabelle…Izzy,”Maddy explained.

  “You threw a party once when your parents were away,”Izzy continued,“Maddy wanted to see Spencer but she was meant to be babysitting so she brought me along.”

  Chris clicked his fingers in remembrance.“We spent the evening playing on my Xbox!”His face fell slightly.“You beat me.”

  Matt stared at him incredulously.“You threw a party in your parents’ house while they were away…and you spent it playing on the Xbox with a twelve-year-old?”

  Chris looked at him as if the answer was obvious.“Yea-ah.”

  VJ coughed.“Look, we were about to go down the beach.Why doesn’t Izzy come with us and then you can meet us down there after work?”

  Maddy wasn’t keen on the idea but she couldn’t see any better option.She looked at Izzy.“Do you mind?”Izzy just shrugged.“Okay, I’ll just get changed into my uniform.”

  “She looks hot in her uniform,”Oscar told Izzy conspiratorially.He noticed the looks he was getting.“Too much information?”

  “You still need to work on when to talk and when not to talk,”Evelyn confirmed.

  Maddy tried to keep Izzy’s gaze.“I won’t be long,”she promised.Izzy refused to look at her, and as she went upstairs she felt more than a little unhappy.

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Thank you so much for all the comments!Hope you like this one.

CHAPTER THREE

Maddy’s duties at the gym were often of the pedestrian variety.She occasionally got to instruct the gym users but mostly, as now, it was stacking towels and other tasks that were equally rivetting.

  Chris sidled over to her as she worked.“You’re doing that well.”

  Maddy raised an eyebrow.“Thanks,”she replied, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

  Chris, as was often the case with him, didn’t seem to notice.“You ever think about getting qualified?”

  “As a towel stacker?”

  “No-o.As a fitness trainer.”

  Maddy fell silent for a moment.“Sometimes,”she admitted,“I mean, it would be good background for my nursing course.I nearly took it when I was first working here, before I decided to go back to school.”

  “Well, why didn’t you say so?”Chris grinned broadly.“Think about it, Maddy, the two of us, working side by side, fighting the flab of Summer Bay.”

  “Okay, now you’re putting me off the idea.”

  Chris’ face fell.“Just thought it might be fun, okay?I kinda like having someone here I can actually have a conversation with.”

  Maddy gave a sympathetic smile.“Well, yeah, you’re right, it could be quite fun.It’s just with uni coming up, I’m not sure I’d be able to fit in working here with my study, let alone getting qualified.”

  Chris sighed in an exaggerated manner.“It’s okay, I’ll manage.”He seemed to relax a bit as he asked,“So, what about your sister being back?”

  Maddy grimaced slightly.“Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that she’s here, but…it’s just been so long, I’m worried we don’t have anything in common anymore.”

  Chris shrugged.“Not like I’ve got anything in common with Spence.We get on okay.”

  Maddy smiled slightly.“True.”

  Chris patted her on the shoulder.“You guys will work it out.”

***

Izzy was lying on her front on the beach, flicking through a magazine.She glanced at VJ, who was sat next to her, and produced a bottle of sun tan.“Rub this on my back?”VJ reddened slightly but complied.

  “That is so wrong,”sighed Oscar, who was sat nearby.VJ and Izzy followed his gaze to where Matt and Evelyn were frolicking in the sea.“I mean, it’s great that they’re happy but watching a guy pawing at your sister, there’s a genetic response there to want to punch his lights out.Except he’s my friend and he’s bigger than me and if he didn’t punch me back Evelyn would, so…you guys fancy a juice?”

  It took VJ a moment to realise he’d been asked a question.“Yeah, sure.”

  Oscar glanced at Izzy, who nodded.“Oh-kay!Back in a bit.”He scrambled away.

  Izzy sat up and put her arms round VJ’s neck.“Right!Finally alone.”She kissed him enthusiastically.

  VJ responded for a moment, then pulled away.“Iz…”

  Izzy looked at him, disappointed.“What’s up?Didn’t you want me to?”

  “Yeah, of course, it’s just…it’s a bit soon.”

  Izzy removed her arms, shooting him a sullen look.“So-rry.”She glanced around the beach and her eyes alighted on a group of boys.“Who’s that?”

  VJ followed her gaze.“Tyson Lee,”he said, his tone resentful,“He’s trouble.Got expelled last year.”

  “Really?What for?”

  “He left me tied up in the bush.”

  Izzy cocked her head slightly.“Sounds like someone I’d want to meet.”

***

Maddy had eventually finished her shift, managed to get away from Chris and headed down to the beach to join her friends.As she approached, though, she could hear raised voices.“How did you let that happen?”Evelyn was demanding loudly.

  “She told me she’d changed her mind about the juice,”VJ protested,“I went to find Oscar and by the time we got back she’d gone.”

  “Gotta hand it to her,”Matt noted,“Kid’s got smarts.”

  Maddy finally got in sight of her four friends.“What’s going on?”she asked,“Where’s Izzy?”

  Oscar took a deep breath.“In my defence, I was getting juice.”

***

Izzy was lying on the bonnet of a car, sunning herself.Tyson and two friends, the owners of the car, were watching her from nearby.Eventually, Tyson sidled over.“So why haven’t I seen you around before?”he asked.

  “I’m new in town,”she answered,“Visiting my sister.”

  “That would explain it.Wouldn’t have missed you.”He offered her a bottle of beer.“You fancy some?”

  Izzy reached out to take it…and Maddy grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet.“What the hell are you doing here?”

  “What the hell are you doing?”Izzy retorted.

  “I said I’d meet you on the beach!”

  “Well, I got fed up hanging out with your friends and decided to make some of my own…Let go of me!”The last was in response to Maddy dragging her away.

  “Hey, we were just having fun!”Tyson protested as he made to move after them.

  Oscar stepped in front of him.“I think you need to stay here.”

  The burlier boy stared at him in contempt.“You think you could stop me if I wanted to leave?”

  Oscar’s expression didn’t flicker.“No, not exactly.But if you do stay here, we might not tell the police about you supplying a minor with alcohol.You going to do the smart thing?”

  Tyson took a step back.Oscar breathed an inward sigh of relief as he followed Maddy and a still protesting Izzy.The next bit could be even harder…

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Thank you again to everyone for the comments!

CHAPTER FOUR

Izzy stormed into the house, Maddy just behind her. “I can’t believe you did that to me!”Izzy shouted.

  “I can’t believe that you did that!”Maddy retorted,“What’s happened to you?”

  “Oh, you know, three years’ worth of stuff.”

  Maddy sighed.“I know I’ve missed out on a lot and I’m sorry about it.”

  “It’s too late now!”Izzy put a hand to her head in frustration.“You were my favourite sister, Maddy!You were the one person that made living in that household bearable.You know, I actually admired you for going off with Spencer, for being your own person instead of who Mum wanted you to be.But then I was left there and you were gone.And you never came back.And Mum, and even Dad…”Izzy faltered for a moment.“I think they thought I was their new hope.The star daughter.They expected so much of me and I couldn’t live up to it.And now you’re doing the same!”

  Maddy looked confused.“Me?”

  “You want me to come here and be the meek little sister you knew.Well, she’s gone.I came here because it was a chance to get away from Mum and Dad, to…to be myself for once!To have fun!But you don’t want me to have fun, do you?You just want me to be sweet old Isabelle.Well, I guess we’ve both been disappointed.”She stormed upstairs.

  Oscar had entered the house during the argument and stood in the doorway, looking at Maddy sympathetically.“Hug?”

  Maddy smiled.“Please.”She put her arms round him and relaxed into his embrace.“Any idea what I’m going to do now?”

  “You could try talking to her without all that yelling?”

  “And how do I do that?”Maddy gave a deep sigh.“She hates me.”

  Oscar continued to hold her close but pulled back from the hug so he could look at her face to face. “How could anyone hate you?”Maddy raised a wry eyebrow.“Okay, so some people have done that in the past.But hey, they’ve realised you’re a sweet person underneath.”

  “And maybe Izzy needs to learn that about me?”Maddy asked.Oscar continued looking at her meaningfully and she took his point.“And maybe I need to learn that about her.”

***

Maddy headed upstairs to find Izzy sitting on the bed in the room they were sharing with Evelyn.She paused in the doorway.“Are you going to talk to me?”

  Izzy gave her a sulky look.“Think I said everything I wanted to say.”

  “I do get it, you know?”Maddy leaned against the banister by the door, looking earnestly at Izzy.“I’ve done some dumb stuff in my time.I don’t handle break-ups well.Tend to throw myself at guys to get over it.Messed up a couple of friendships that way.And once I threw myself at a complete stranger and I could have got myself in trouble if a friend hadn’t pulled me out of there.”She paused, mulling this over.“Still ended up dating him for a bit though.”

  “The friend?”

  “The complete stranger.Point is, it might not have ended as well as that.Just like things might not have ended that well between you and Tyson.”

  Izzy hesitated.“I don’t think I even really liked him.I just…I wanted to do something different.Not be boring me all the time.”

  Maddy sat down on the bed next to her.“And VJ?”

  Izzy shrugged.“He’s cute.”

  “He might think the same about you.Just…try talking to him first next time, okay?”

  Izzy gave a reluctant smile.Maddy took it as the cue to hug her.

  At that moment, Roo entered.“Girls…”

  Maddy smiled.“It’s okay, we’re good.”Then she realised Roo wasn’t smiling.Her face was stricken and Maddy suddenly had a sinking feeling in her stomach.“What’s happened?”

  “We just got a phone call.Your family, their driving holiday.They were on a narrow road in the mountains when they hit a lorry coming the other way head on.”

  Maddy gripped Izzy’s hand but kept her eyes on Roo.“Are they okay?”

  Roo shook her head.“No.They didn’t make it.None of them.”

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Thank you for the comments, everyone! I hope you like this one.

CHAPTER FIVE

They’d gone to the city for the funeral.Not just Maddy and Izzy but their friends as well:Roo, Alf, Leah, Zac, Oscar, Evelyn, Matt and VJ.They stood by the grave as the coffins were lowered into it one by one, the priest intoning the words of internment.

  Maddy stood next to Izzy and took her sister’s hand.The priest finished and people began to disperse, heading back to their lives.The group from Summer Bay, standing behind the two sisters, began to leave as well.Maddy noticed that VJ was more reluctant to leave than most, having to be gently led away by Leah and Zac.Only Roo and Oscar remained.

  Roo took a step forward and gently touched Izzy on the shoulder.“Come on, let’s get you back to the house.”

  Izzy shook the hand off, letting go of Maddy’s hand in the process, and marched after the others without a word.Maddy shot Roo an apologetic look before they all followed her.

***

Izzy was the first into the house, with Maddy, Alf, Roo and Oscar trailing her.She walked to the other side of the living room and then stopped, staring at the far wall.Roo came up behind her and rubbed her arm gently.“Why don’t you go and have a lie down before dinner, eh?”

  Izzy shook her off again but didn’t turn round.“This isn’t my home.”

  “I know, love, but it can be.”

  Izzy turned on her, angrily.“I don’t want it to be!This isn’t my home, you’re not my mum.”She glared angrily at Maddy.“This is your home and now I’m stuck here!”She stormed away upstairs.

  “I’ll talk to her,”Maddy told Roo before following her sister out.

  Roo made to go after them but Alf stopped her gently.“Leave it, love.Maddy’s the best person to talk to her right now.”

  “I just want her to know she’s welcome here.”

  “I know, love, but right now that’s not what she wants to hear.”

***

Maddy walked cautiously into the bedroom.Izzy was standing with her back to her again.Maddy bit her lip nervously, wondering what to say.“I am here, you know,”she said at last.

  “I heard you come in,”Izzy replied, still not looking round.

  Maddy sighed.“I didn’t mean the room.”She took a few tentative steps forward, stopping just outside touching distance of Izzy.“I mean…I’m still your sister.I know I haven’t been good at that these last few years but I want to make up for it now.And this is a good place to live.Really.I know you miss Mum and Dad and the others, I do too and I haven’t seen nearly as much of them as you recently.But…I’m here, okay?If you need me.”

  Izzy turned round.For a moment, Maddy didn’t know what she was going to do.Then she just crumbled, breaking down in tears.Maddy put her arms around her and hugged her.

***

When Maddy went downstairs, Oscar was the only one there.“Where’s Roo and Mr.Stewart?”she asked.

  “Mr.Stewart’s taken Roo to test bait.”Oscar got up from the sofa and walked round to where Maddy was, before opening his arms awkwardly.“Do you need..?”

  Maddy accepted the embrace gratefully.“It’s just…being strong for Izzy.”

  “Kind of need someone to be strong for you?Well…I’ll do my best.”

  “And then there’s everything we had planned.We were meant to be moving into our own place before college.”

  Oscar tensed up slightly, even though he tried to hide it.“Do you not want to?”

  Maddy disentangled herself from the hug enough to look at him.“I do, I really do.It’s just…with Izzy here, I’m not sure I can leave her on her own, she doesn’t know Roo or the others…I’m sorry.”

  Oscar tried to hide his disappointment.“It’s okay.What happens happens.”

  Maddy rested her forehead against his and kissed him softly.“I want to be with you tonight,”she said quietly.

  Oscar was slightly thrown.“As in..?”

  “As in I need you to make love to me.”

  Oscar processed this.“Is that appropriate?”

  “Probably not,”Maddy admitted,“But I really don’t care at the moment.”

  When they kissed again, it was with more intensity.

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Thank you for the comments, JosieTash, Jarliefan and Romeo&Indi Forever!

CHAPTER SIX

Maddy and Oscar woke up in each other’s arms the next morning, their bodies entangled.Slowly they made their way back to consciousness.“How did you sleep?”Oscar asked.

  “Bit cramped,”Maddy admitted.

  Oscar nodded.“The bed wasn’t exactly made for two.”He gave a sheepish smile.“We’re lucky VJ was staying at a friend’s or the room would have been even more cramped.”

  Maddy gave him a look of mock shock.“Way to spoil the mood!”

  “Sorry, couldn’t resist it.”His mood became more serious.“How are you feeling?Not just about the night.”

  Maddy was silent for a moment.“Confused,”she admitted at last,“And scared.I want to be there for Izzy but I don’t know how.”

  “What about you?They were your family too.”

  “I know but…”Maddy bit her lip.“I’m going to sound like an awful person here.I loved Mum and Dad but…I don’t think I loved them as much as I love my family here.I mean, I miss them.It hurts like hell what happened.But Izzy…she hasn’t got anyone else.”

  “Except you,”Oscar pointed out.

  Maddy raised an eyebrow.“Lucky her,”she said deprecatingly.

  Oscar paused for a moment.“Do you remember what Evie was like when our mum died?”

  “Well, I didn’t really know her then, but you’ve told me.”

  “I tried to help her through it but…she needed to work things through herself.I guess we all just need to be there for Izzy.”

***

Izzy was in the kitchen when Maddy went downstairs.Maddy went over to her.“Are you all right?”she asked quietly.

  Izzy shot her a brief look.“It’s all right, I haven’t told anyone.”

  Maddy was puzzled.“Told them what?”

  “About where you were last night.”

  Maddy sighed.“That’s not what I want to talk about.I’m worried about you.”

  “So worried you left Evie watching me while you went and had fun with her brother.”

  “Izzy, that’s not…”Maddy broke off as Roo approached.

  “Izzy, I need to get a uniform sorted out for you at some point,”Roo explained,“If you’re going to Summer Bay High…”

  Izzy banged her breakfast plates down on the kitchen counter and stormed out.

  Roo turned to Maddy, looking pained.“I’m sorry.”

  Maddy put a comforting arm round her surrogate mother.“It’s okay.It’s not you.”

***

Izzy walked along the beach, not knowing where she was going.A male voice hailed her.“Hey, Izzy, wait up!”She looked up and saw VJ racing towards her.She considered turning round and heading back the other way but in the end she let him guide her to sit near the headland.“What’s up?”he asked.

  Izzy shrugged.“Nowhere to go, no-one who wants me.”

  “There’s a bunch of people back at the house who want you.”

  “Well, maybe I don’t want them.”

  VJ paused, considering what to say.“Okay, don’t take this the wrong way, I know it hurts but…maybe we can be your family.”

  Izzy gave him a sarcastic look.“What, you want to be my big brother even though you made out with me?”

  VJ reddened slightly.“It’s weird but it works,”he offered.

  “Next thing you’ll be telling me your parents are dead too.”

  “My dad is.I don’t remember him, I was only a baby when I last saw him.”

  Izzy looked slightly embarrassed.“I’m sorry.”

  “It’s okay.I’m not trying to compete.It’s just, I’ve got a new family now and they can be your family too if you want them.”VJ got up and held out his hand.“Come back to the house?”

  Izzy let him pull her to her feet.

***

“Hey, Oscar!”

  Oscar had been sat outside the house, lost in thought, and was startled by the call.He was even more startled to see that Izzy was the one who’d made it and that she was with VJ, Matt and Evelyn.She’d begun to smile more in the fortnight since the funeral.Maybe she was finally beginning to accept the place.

  “What’s up?”he called back.

  “You want to come down the beach?”

  Oscar was about to answer in the affirmative when he saw Maddy coming up the path.She’d gone out early and was now clutching a small, white paper bag.She had a serious expression on her face.“Maybe later!”he called.He waited until the others had gone before asking Maddy “What’s up?”

  Maddy held out the bag.He opened it, peered at the contents and felt his stomach lurch.“A pregnancy test?”

  “I’m late,”said Maddy awkwardly.

  Oscar processed this.“How long..?”

  “Since before the night after the funeral.”She tried to smile but didn’t quite manage it.“I mean, it might be nothing, might be a bad diet or stress or something.I just thought…”

  “…we’d better take the test,”Oscar concluded.

***

They sat on Maddy’s bed, Maddy turning the test over and over in her hand, Oscar with his arm around her shoulder.They’d done what they had to, it was just a matter of waiting now.

  Maddy glanced over at the clock, looked down at the test and then wordlessly showed it to Oscar.

  It read Positive.

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Thank you for the comments, Jarliefan, Romeo&Indi Forever and JosieTash!

CHAPTER SEVEN

They sat on the bed for a long time after that, just staring at the test.“What are you thinking?”Oscar asked.

  When Maddy spoke, it was slow and deliberate.“I think we need to get an ultrasound done.”

  “Well, I guess you’re being practical.”

  “Actually…I was thinking about what happened the last time one of these came up positive.”

  That pulled Oscar up short.He looked at her with a large amount of concern.“You think the cancer might be back?”

  Maddy shrugged.“I don’t know.But…it’s always at the back of my mind.I got so carried away last time with the idea of a baby, thinking it was Josh’s and then that it might be yours…I didn’t do what I should have done so…I don’t want to make that mistake again.”

  Oscar processed this.“Well, if it is cancer then we’ll deal with it.And if it’s a baby..?”He looked at her quizzically.

  “We’ll deal with that too, I guess.”

  Oscar nodded.“How?”

  Maddy managed a smile.“No idea.Same way we always do, I guess.”

  Oscar smiled back, then became more serious.“So…ultrasound?”

***

Nate entered the hospital room where the young couple were waiting, Maddy lying on the bed, Oscar sat beside her, holding her hand.“I hear you’ve got some worries?”he asked.

  “I took a pregnancy test,”Maddy explained,“It was positive.”

  Nate understood the implication.“And you’re worried it’s the cancer again?”

  Maddy nodded slowly.“I just want to be sure.”

  “No, no, you were right to come in.Hopefully we’ll get some answer for you in a minute.”Nate adjusted the ultrasound machine, waving the sensor over Maddy’s abdomen and examining the monitor closely.

  “What can you see?”Oscar asked.

  A smile slowly spread across Nate’s face.“It looks like a heartbeat.”He turned the monitor round to face them.

  There wasn’t much to see.Just a small blob, pulsating rhythmically.But what it represented brought an involuntary smile to both their faces.“Is that..?”Oscar asked, as he and Maddy alternately looked at each other and at the monitor.

  Nate smiled.“You’re pregnant.Congratulations.”

  The smiles remained on their faces.

***

Until they got home.

  They paused just outside the house and looked at each other, taking a deep breath.“Are you ready?” Maddy asked.

  “As I’ll ever be,”Oscar confirmed.

  They linked hands and walked inside.

  As if it had been planned, the rest of the household were there:Alf, Roo, Zac, Leah, VJ, Izzy, Evelyn and Matt.Alf was the first to notice them and the expressions on their faces.“Something you two want to share?”he asked.

  Maddy and Oscar exchanged a look.“We’ve got something to tell you,”Oscar began.

  “You’re not getting married, are you?”asked Izzy.

  “No,”Oscar answered.Then he looked, confused, at Maddy.“Are we?”

  “One thing at a time.”

  Oscar nodded.“We’re going to have a baby!”he announced, trying to put as much enthusiasm into it as possible.

  “We’ve had an ultrasound,”Maddy added, hoping that relieving their fears quickly might get rid of any bad feeling about the news.

  It didn’t work with Izzy.She looked at them both in disgust and horror.“Are you serious?”She stormed out of the house.

  Oscar looked at Evelyn but her reaction didn’t seem any better.“How could you be so stupid?”she demanded before following Izzy out.

  There was an awkward silence, broken, inevitably, by Matt.“Good on you, man!”he declared, punching Oscar on the arm and following it up by giving Maddy a tight hug.

  The ice was broken. “Yeah, congratulations,”VJ agreed, shaking Oscar’s hand.

  The older members of the household gave them hugs as well.“You know if there’s anything you need to talk about,”Zac offered.

  “From both of us,”Leah added.

  Alf gave Maddy a reassuring smile.“Well done, love.”

  Only Roo’s expression contained a touch of mild admonishment.“We’ll talk later.”

***

It was some time later that Maddy was sat at the table on the porch.Roo came out and sat down next to her.Maddy gave her a look that was half-amused, half-apprehensive.“Okay.”

  “What?”Roo asked.

  “Just…let me know what you’re thinking.And be gentle.”

  Roo smiled.“Maddy, you know I only want what’s best for you.”

  “Yes,”Maddy accepted.

  “And you know I’m fond of Oscar.But is this really the best thing for you at this time?”

  Maddy gave an ironic laugh.“No.But what’s that got to do with it?It’s happened.We’ll deal with it.”

  “You do have other options.”

  Maddy shook her head.“I was going to keep the baby when I thought I was pregnant before, and I didn’t even have a boyfriend then.Oscar was just a friend, Josh…would have been there for us but he didn’t love me anymore.This time…”

  “This time you’re about to go to uni,”Roo pointed out,“You’ve got a future planned.”

  “And I guess now there’s a baby in it.We’ll can deal with that, can’t we?You can babysit sometimes?”

  Roo smiled ruefully.“Well…being a grandmother does kind of appeal.”

  “So we’ll be okay?”There was a hopeful tinge to Maddy’s question.

  Roo squeezed her hand.“Yes, Maddy, we will.I’m just not so sure about your sister…”

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Thank you for all the comments!Given Maddy's history, I felt the cancer thing needed a mention.

CHAPTER EIGHT

Maddy found Izzy at the Diner, nursing a milkshake without showing much enthusiasm about drinking it. She sat down opposite her.“Can we talk?”

  Izzy glanced up at her sullenly.“You usually get what you want.”

  It wasn’t going to be an easy conversation.“Izzy, I get that this is a shock.It’s a shock for me too.But… why are you so bothered about it?”

  “Because you’re all I’ve got.And now I haven’t even got you.”

  “You’ve still got me, Izzy.I’m not going anywhere.”

  “Yes, you are.”Izzy fixed her with a piercing gaze.“You’ve got Oscar and you’ve got the baby.You’re not going to want your little sister hanging about.”

  “Of course I will.You’re going to be the baby’s auntie, I’m going to want your help.”

  “No.You might think that now but no.You’re not going to want me living with you, getting in the way. Maybe you’ll see me sometimes, maybe not.You haven’t exactly been going out of your way so far.”

  “Izzy, that’s not true.”

  “Isn’t it?Sooner or later, you and Oscar and the baby are going to want your own place.And when that happens, you won’t want me moving in with you.”She looked at her challengingly.“Go on.Tell me you’re wrong.”

  Maddy was silent.Izzy got up and walked away.

***

Oscar stood looking down at the beach.Matt and Evelyn were walking in his direction.He stepped into their path as they approached.“Evie, can we talk?”

  The smile that had been on Evie’s face abruptly vanished.“What’s there to talk about?”

  “Well, you know, what we said before.”

  “You mean the fact that you’re going to have a baby with Maddy?Big whoop, congratulations.You want to mess your lives up, that’s up to you.Just don’t expect me to make a big fuss about it, I’ve got problems of my own.”She kissed Matt on the cheek.“I’ll see you later,”she told him before storming off.

  Oscar watched her go for a moment before turning to Matt.“Is it me or is she totally overreacting?”

  “She’s kind of intense, yeah.”

  “Could you talk to her?”

  Matt held up his hands in a gesture of surrender.“Hey, I know better than to interrupt Evie when she’s in full flow.”

  Oscar sighed.“So up to me then?”

  “Pretty much, yeah.”

***

When Oscar arrived home, Zac was the only one in the kitchen.“Have you seen any sign of Evelyn?” Oscar asked.

  “Disappeared up to her room about five minutes ago,”Zac answered.

  “How did she look?”

  “Like she wanted to punch someone.”

  Oscar considered this.“Better give her a while then.”

  “Might be an idea.”

  Oscar went to stand next to his uncle, leaning against the kitchen surface.“What do you think about all this?Me and Maddy and the pregnancy.”

  Zac was silent for a moment.“I’m taking it that this pregnancy was unplanned?”

  “Yeah,”Oscar confirmed,“I mean, I’m not saying we don’t want it but…”

  “Yeah, I get it.”Zac sighed.“Given that my own experience of fatherhood wasn’t great, I’m not sure I can really advise you.”

  “You haven’t done too badly with us.”

  “No, maybe not.Look, you and Maddy are smart enough and strong enough to handle this.And if you do need any help, we’re here.”

  Oscar smiled.“Thanks, Uncle Zac.”He looked round and saw Maddy arriving back.“How did things go with Izzy?”

  “Not good.What about you and Evie?”

  “The same.She’s currently upstairs avoiding everyone.”

  Maddy shook her head.“This is crazy.I’m going to go and talk to her.”

  Oscar steped into her path.“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

  “No, but maybe I’ll have better luck with your sister than mine.”She kissed him on the cheek.“Wish me luck.”

***

Maddy was almost put off by the look Evelyn gave her when she entered their room.The dark-haired girl made to push past her but Maddy stepped in her way.“I think we need to talk.”

  “No, we don’t,”Evelyn insisted,“What you and my brother get up to is nothing to do with me.”

  “It kind of is.Especially if you’re going to act like this.”

  “Oh, I’m sorry.I’ll just pretend I’m happy you’re wrecking your lives, shall I?”

  “Is this because it’s me?”Maddy asked.Evelyn looked at her non-plussed so she went on.“I mean, when I thought I was pregnant before, you weren’t too happy about it.Okay, that was mainly because you thought it was Josh’s…”

  “Will you get over yourself?”Evelyn snapped,“This isn’t about you.If I didn’t want you and Oscar together, I’d have said so a long time ago.This is about you being stupid enough to get yourselves pregnant.”

  Maddy was on the verge of abandoning any pretense of politeness.“Oh, because you’re too smart to get pregnant, I suppose?”

  “No,”Evelyn replied,“I wasn’t.”

  Maddy was suddenly confused.“What do you mean?”

  “I mean I wasn’t.”Evelyn looked at her defiantly, even though her voice cracked slightly.“I’m pregnant too.”

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Thank you for the comments, everyone!

CHAPTER NINE

Maddy and Evelyn were sat on the bed, both of them digesting the bombshell Evelyn had dropped.“Sorry about all that before,”Evelyn said at last.

  “That’s okay.”Maddy paused before asking,“What was that, transference or something?”

  Evelyn gave an ironic laugh.“Probably.Bit rich of me to accuse you of messing your life up when I’ve done an even worse job with mine.”

  “It might not be that bad,”Maddy suggested,“Have you told Matt, how does he feel about it?”

  Evelyn pursed her lips.“It’s not Matt’s.”

  Maddy paused and thought.“Josh?”

  “No.”

  Maddy was silent for a long time again.“If I keep on guessing and being wrong…”

  “It’s Andy’s.”

  Maddy wasn’t sure what she’d been expecting but it wasn’t that.“You and Andy?”

  Evie looked embarrassed.“It was just the once.”She sighed wearily.“In the gym.We were both newly single, feeling down, we shared our sorrows and…one thing led to another.It would have been okay but then Josh found out.”

  Maddy winced.She could imagine that conversation.“He got mad?”

  “Like you wouldn’t believe.Do you remember that Jake guy that killed Casey?How someone turned off his life support?”

  Maddy nodded.She might have been more than a little preoccupied with her own issues at the time, but Casey had been a friend.She’d paid attention.

  “Turns out it was Andy.Josh gave him an alibi.Except when he found out about us, he went to the police and changed his statement, saying Andy had admitted it to him.”

  “And that’s why Andy suddenly skipped town,”Maddy realised.

  Evelyn nodded.“And then when Josh got into uni, he decided to leave town straightaway and head down there early.So here I am!Pregnant, with no-one.”

  Maddy gave her an awkward smile.“You’ve got us,”she pointed out.Evelyn didn’t seem particularly moved so Maddy became serious again.“Can I tell Oscar?”

  Evelyn waited for a moment and then nodded.

***

Oscar was still downstairs when Maddy reappeared.“How did it go?”he asked.

  “It was…interesting.”Maddy looked around.“Is Zac still here?”

  “No, he went to school to do some marking.”

  “Leah?Roo?Anyone?”

  “Not as far as I can see.”

  Maddy took a deep breath.“Evie’s pregnant.”

  Oscar’s eyes widened.“Okay, that’s a bit out of the blue.”

  “And it’s not Matt’s.It’s Andy’s.”

  “That’s…even more out of the blue.”

  “Don’t ask me to say any more.”

  Oscar nodded slowly.“Should I go and talk to her?”

  “She might appreciate it.”

***

Oscar had taken Maddy’s place sat on the bed with Evie, who had filled him in on the rest of the story. “Have you thought about tracking them down?”he asked,“Andy and Josh?”

  “I’ve thought about it,”she admitted,“Not much point.Andy’ll go to jail if they find him and Josh…well, he might try and help but he’s got his own life now.”She sighed.“I love Matt.”

  Oscar looked at her in silence for a moment.“Okay,”he said at last.

  “I wish it was his.And when he finds out it isn’t…”She shrugged helplessly.

  “He might surprise you.”

  Evelyn stared into the distance…or at least at the far wall.“I miss Denny,”she sighed.

  Oscar gave a sad smile.“Me too.”

  “If she was here, she’d be sorting us both out, telling us what to do.Instead…”

  “You’re suddenly the big sister again?”

  “Right.”

  Oscar thought for a moment before breaking into a bewildered grin.“We’re going to be parents.Us two. Can you believe that?”

  Evelyn couldn’t help copying the grin.“No.”

  He put his arm round her and she leaned into him.“We’ll be okay.”

***

Maddy found Izzy sitting in a corner of the caravan park and went to join her.“What are you doing?”

  Izzy shrugged.“Thinking.”

  “So, you want to go down the Diner or something?”

  Izzy gave her a look which conveyed a world of hurt.“Don’t.”

  Maddy was slightly confused.“Don’t what?”

  “Don’t make me think you’re going to be here.Don’t make me get used to you being around when you’re just going to go off again.”

  Maddy tried to take her sister’s hand but the younger girl pulled away.“Izzy, I’m here, okay?I’m not going anywhere.”

  “But you will!You might not think so but you will!”Izzy stared at her with sorrowful eyes.“I love you, Maddy, and I hope things are all right for you and the baby.But I can’t let myself get close to you. Everyone I get close to leaves.”

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Thank you, all of you, for the comments! Hope you like this.

CHAPTER TEN

Maddy and Oscar had ended up sat on a bench overlooking the beach.“I just don’t know how to get through to her,”Maddy admitted.

  “Just give her time,”Oscar suggested.

  Maddy gave him a sceptical look.“Thanks, that’s a great help.”

  “No, I mean it.Do you remember my first day at Summer Bay High?”

  Maddy thought back, giving a slight smile.“You managed to pick the day that a busload of students from Mangrove River turned up.”

  “Right.And I was the one they chose to kick up and down the corridors to make themselves feel at home.I ended up sat on the beach there.And you came and sat down next to me and told me that if I went back things would be okay.”

  Maddy brought the memory to mind.“You didn’t stay long, as I recall.”

  “No.But that’s not the point.The point is I knew you were there for me and that meant something.And eventually I found myself gravitating back towards you.”

  “You think Izzy will do the same?”

  “I’m hoping so.”

  Maddy took this in before asking “What about your sister anyway?”

  “She’s planning to tell Matt first, then Zac, Leah and Hannah.”

  “I don’t envy her that.”

***

“So, I guess you’ll be after time off eventually then?”Chris asked later that day, as he and Maddy tidied the gym.

  Maddy paused and looked at him.“You heard.”

  “Word gets around.Plus, I am kinda going to be the kid’s great-uncle.”

  Maddy mulled the point over.“Okay, that’s just weird.”

  “You’re telling me.So, how are you and Oscar handling the idea of having a little rugrat running around demanding all your attention?Not that I’m trying to put you off the idea.”

  “Well, it’s going to be hard.Especially with Evie…”She broke off and winced.

  Chris looked hard at her for a moment then it dawned on him.“Evie’s pregnant too?Evie’s pregnant too!”

  Maddy shushed him.“You can’t tell anyone.Not even Hannah.Evie hasn’t told her yet.”

  Chris mimed zipping his mouth.“All sealed.So long as you promise to make both your kids gym members as soon as they’re old enough.”

  “Evie’s should be an honorary member, what with being conceived…”Maddy noticed Chris’ interested look and sucked in a breath.“Never mind.”

  Chris leapt on an older topic.“But you and Evie are still going to be living in the same house?Aren’t you and Oscar going to get a place of your own?”

  “I thought about that but there’s Izzy…”

  “Do you remember why I came here?”

  “First time was to try and split me and Spencer up, second time was because you wanted to get in Indi’s…”

  “The important word in that is Spencer,”Chris interrupted,“But he’s moved on and I’m still here and we’re both fine with that.Can’t put your life on hold, Mads.”

***

Evelyn knocked once on the door of Matt’s caravan and went inside.He smiled when he saw who it was. “Hey, Evie!”He put his arms round her but she quietly pulled away.

  “Can you sit down?”she asked.Matt did as she instructed.She took a deep breath.“I’m pregnant.”

  Matt blinked in surprise.“Oh, okay.Well, we…”

  “It’s not yours.I had an ultrasound, checked the dates, I must have been pregnant when we got together.I didn’t know, though, I swear I didn’t.”

  Matt’s expression had hardened during the speech.“Whose is it then?”

  “Does it matter?”

  “Yeah, it kinda does.Given that I’m here and he isn’t.”

  “It’s Andy’s.”

  Matt looked at her incredulously.“Andy Barrett?”

  “Yes and it was just the once and that’s not important now.”

  Matt looked at her incredulously.“What do you expect me to say here, Evie?It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, we’ll stick together?I’m 18, Evie!I’m too young to be playing daddy.”

  “And what about me?I don’t have a choice in this, Matt!I thought you loved me.When you thought it was yours…”

  “I was going to do the right thing, bring up my kid.But bring up Andy Barrett’s?”He sighed.“Can you just go?”

***

Oscar found Evelyn sitting outside the house.“How’d it go?”he asked her.

  “Well, I told everyone,”she replied,“Leah and Zac are still digesting it but they’re being supportive.I think Hannah’s still getting over the fact that I slept with her ex-boyfriend…”

  “Must be weird,”Oscar agreed.He waited for her to go on but she didn’t.“And Matt?”he prompted.

  Evelyn sighed.“I think he dumped me.”

  “You think?”Oscar asked after a pause.

  “It was hard to tell but…he’s not too keen on the idea of being dad to someone else’s kid…Oscar, wait!”

  Oscar had marched off in the direction of the caravan park, just in time to see Matt crossing towards his van.“Hey, Page!”he called out angrily.

  Matt stopped and sighed.“What do you want, MacGuire?”

  “I want to know what the hell you think you’re doing with my sister.”

  Matt rolled his eyes.“She told you, huh?”

  “She told me you’re not going to be there for her.”

  “This isn’t what I signed up for!”Matt protested,“What if Maddy was having someone else’s kid?”

  “I’d be there for her.”

  “Yeah, easy for you to say.So maybe you’ve got the great romance.Me and Evie…we’re new and… Look, I can’t be that person, okay?I can’t be the perfect boyfriend who does the right thing.”

  Oscar shook his head.“You don’t deserve her,”he said bluntly, and walked away.

***

When Oscar arrived at the gym, he was greeted at the door by Chris.The gym manager clapped him on the shoulder.“Hey, Oscar, my man!Congratulations!”

  Oscar looked at him with a certain amount of bemusement.“Thanks.”

  “And if you’re looking for a godfather…”Chris gestured to himself in a flamboyant manner.Oscar continued to looked at him blankly.“Just throwing it out there.”Chris headed off in the direction of the gelato bar.

  “Apparently the news is all around town,”Maddy explained.

  Oscar considered this.“That’s okay, isn’t it?”

  “Well, I guess they would’ve noticed sooner or later.How’s things with Evie?”

  “Good with the folks, not so good with Matt.Looks like it’s over between them.”

  Maddy sighed.“Poor Evie.”

  “Yeah.At least she’s got us, huh?”

  “I think we should move out.”

  Oscar looked confused.“Not quite the response I expected.”

  “I’m not saying we won’t be there for Evie or Izzy, but we can’t put our lives on hold.”

  “Who says?”

  “Chris.”Maddy saw Oscar’s sceptical look.“Doesn’t mean he’s not right.I think we should do what we planned, get our own place close to uni.It won’t be quite the same as we’d planned…”

  “Need extra room for a cot for a start…”

  “But I think we need to go for it.What do you think?”

  Oscar smiled and hugged her.“I think that sounds like a good idea.”

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