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Thanks to Kristen, chair and CaptainHulk! I hope everyone enjoys this one.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Shannon took a deep breath and then knocked on the door.She only had to wait a few moments before Shane opened it.He smiled at the sight of her.“Well, this is a nice surprise.”He put his arms round her waist and went to kiss her but Shannon pulled away.

  “I’m not here for that,”she said sharply as she walked past him into the house.

  “Sorry.”There was a bemused, surprised tone to his voice but she sensed he meant it.

  “There’s something I need to tell you.It’s not exactly bad news but it’s not exactly good news either.” She was aware she was babbling.She took a moment to compose herself before announcing “I’m pregnant.”

  The smile seemed to fall off Shane’s face.He walked past her into the living area, standing with his back to her for a few moments.Even when he spoke, he only half turned to face her.“Is there a chance it could be Alex’s?”

  “No.He’s been gone three months, I’d have noticed before now if it was.”

  Shane nodded, accepting it.“Have you any idea what you’re going to do?I mean, are you going to keep it?”

  Shannon felt her hackles rising.“Oh, that’s what you want me to do, is it?Make everything easier?”

  Shane turned round and she could tell he was in danger of losing his temper as well.“I’m just trying to get my head around it, you’ve only just dumped this on me.”

  “Well, you dumped it in me.So if you ever get your head around it, you know where to find me.”There didn’t seem to be anything more to say.Shannon walked out.

***

If Shannon had wanted a moment to herself when she got home, she was to be disappointed.Michael and Pippa’s attention was on her as soon as she walked in the door.“Shannon, is everything all right?”Michael asked.

  Even though she didn’t fancy having the conversation again, Shannon knew she had few options.“I’m pregnant,”she told them,“And before you ask, it’s Shane’s.”She looked at them defiantly, as though daring them to say the wrong thing.

  They didn’t look angry, just disappointed.“Who else knows?”Pippa asked.

  “Just Shane and Sally.Sally was with me when I took the test and I’ve just been to tell Shane.”Shannon looked at Michael.“I suppose you want to hit him.”

  “Not hit him,”Michael replied,“I want to have a word with him…”

  “Maybe not just now,”Pippa suggested gently.

  Michael seemed to read something in the look she gave him and nodded.“Well, I’m sure I can find something to do around the caravan park.”

  Shannon watched him leave with a certain amount of cynicism.“Mother/daughter chat, eh?”She walked over to the sofa and plonked herself on it, hugging a cushion.“Bit late for that.”

  “Well, maybe not.”Pippa sat down on the arm of the sofa.

  Looking up at her, Shannon felt the defiance drain out of her.“God, I’m so stupid.The number of times we were told at school about sex and what can happen as a result.I even put that pull-out about it in the school magazine.”

  “And got sacked as editor,”Pippa noted.

  “Yeah, but that’s how important I thought it was.And now I’m here making the same mistakes.”She looked pleadingly at Pippa.“We were careful sometimes, you know?But then other times, we just got carried away…”She sighed.“I sound like such a cliché.”

  “It happens to a lot of girls,”Pippa told her.She looked awkward for a moment.“It happened to Sophie, a girl who lived with us before.Michael and I didn’t handle it very well, she didn’t feel she could rely on us and she ended up running away for a time.You’re not going to..?”

  “I’m not going to run away,”Shannon promised.

  “Well, I guess that’s one mistake we’ve learnt from.Adults get these things wrong too sometimes.How did Shane react?”

  “Asked if it was his, asked if I was going to get rid of it and told me he needed time to get his head around it.”

  “Like I said, not everyone gets it right straightaway.Give him time.”

***

Michael knew what Pippa had said.But if an opportunity came his way, he wasn’t going to ignore it.An opportunity like seeing Shane walking towards the house, which was exactly what he was seeing at the moment and not going to ignore.“You going to see Shannon?”he called over.

  Shane stopped, looking uncomfortable.“Yeah.Has she told you?”

  “About the baby, yeah.”

  “You must hate me right now, I guess.”

  What anger Michael had felt was fading at the sight of this awkward young man.But the disappointment remained.“I thought you were meant to be doing the right thing by her.”

  “I was, I am.I didn’t think any of this was going to happen.I mean, she’s a great…”Shane stopped himself.“I was going to call her a kid.She’s not though, is she?I mean, I certainly having been acting as though she is, so it’s a bit late now, now that she’s going to have to grow up a lot.”

  “We’ve all been thinking about how young Shannon is,”Michael noted,“I guess it’s easy to forget how young you are too.I mean, it’s just a couple of years since you were throwing teenage parties with Damian and getting into food fights with Jack.”

  Shane gave a rueful smile.“I guess marriage and kids age you.”

  “They do.And Shannon’s going to be a mother herself and she’s going to find that out.Look, you know she’s had a rough couple of years: Her adopted mum dying, me and Pippa having problems, remembering what her uncle did to her when she was young, getting obsessed with you and then the anorexia…It’s only in the last year that she’s really managed to straighten herself out.Pippa and I are going to do our best but she needs you to step up as well.”

  Shane nodded slowly.“Yeah, I will.”

  Michael nodded towards the house.“Okay, go on.”

***

Pippa looked round as Shane entered and got to her feet.“Well, I think Michael might need me outside.” She gave Shane a conciliatory smile as she walked out past him.

  “I don’t want you to get rid of the baby,”Shane told Shannon.

  “I think I knew that,”Shannon admitted.

  Shane came round and sat down next to her, but he didn’t look at her, looking straight ahead instead. “It’s not that long since this happened to me before, you know?Angel told me she was pregnant and I thought we were set up for life. And then…”

  Shannon moved closer to him.“Shane, I’m not going to say that nothing’s going to happen to me because we don’t know that.But, you know, the chances...”

  “Yeah, I know.Except ever since Angel died, I’ve had a hard time picturing any sort of future.Even with the kids, I’m just living day to day, giving them what they need at the moment.And you, neither of us were really thinking about the future, were we?And suddenly we’ve got to make plans because there’s a baby involved.”

  Shannon nodded slowly.“So…any ideas?”

  Shane turned slowly to face her.“I think we should move in together.”

  Shannon shook her head.“Come on, Shane, we’re not even really a couple.”

  “I didn’t mean…There is a spare room.”

  “Alex’s old room?”Shannon raised an eyebrow.“Because that’s not awkward.”

  “I know but…I want to be there for you and I can’t do that if you’re not there.If we dial back on the physical side of things and just concentrate on the fact we’re going to be parents for a bit, maybe we can work out how we’re going to do that.”

  Shannon thought about it.To be honest, having a partner or at least the child’s father by her side made being pregnant seem a bit less scary.She nodded and then she hugged him.“Thank you,”she said quietly.

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

CHAPTER TWELVE

Shannon zipped her case closed then turned to Pippa and Sally, who’d been standing in the bedroom watching her.“You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

  Pippa smiled kindly.“I wouldn’t go that far.”

  “I think it’s kind of romantic,”Sally noted, smiling dreamily.

  “I wouldn’t go that far either,”Pippa added.

  “There’s nothing romantic about it,”Shannon agreed,“We’re not together, we’re just moving in as friends.”

  Sally gave her a knowing look.“Yeah and how long’s that going to last?”

  Shannon found she couldn’t really answer that.Was she hoping for more than friendship?It might be better for the baby if they were a couple, but if she was being truthful, that wasn’t the only reason she was hoping for it.She liked the way being with Shane made her feel.But she couldn’t have that sort of expectation.She had to just accept things as they were.

  Before she could think of anything else to say, Michael’s voice came up from downstairs.“Shannon! Curtis and Selina are here!”

  Shannon took a deep breath.“I guess this is it, then.”She gave Pippa a hug.“Thanks for giving me a family.”

  “Oh, you’re very welcome.And not that I’m saying you will or I want you to, but you know there’s always a home for you here if you need one, okay?”

  Shannon nodded, then turned to Sally.“Guess you’ve got the room to yourself now.”

  “It’ll be a bit quiet, that’s for sure,”Sally agreed.

  “Oh, I don’t know, you’ve still got Sam around.”Shannon gave her a brief hug.“See you.”

***

“So are we just here for the donkey work?”Curtis asked as he carried one of Shannon’s boxes into Shane’s house.

  Selina nodded in agreement.“Why aren’t you doing any of the heavy lifting?”

  “Hey, I’m meant to be taking it easy, remember?”Shannon returned,“You want me to explain to this baby that Uncle Curtis and Auntie Selina wouldn’t help us out?”

  Shane emerged from the kitchen.“Hey, you’re here!”He took the box Selina was carrying and then nodded to Shannon’s small bag.“You want me to take that too?”

  “Maybe come back for it,”Shannon suggested.

  Shane, his hands already full, saw the wisdom in that.He nodded to Curtis.“Come on, this way.”

  Alone with her best friend, Shannon let out a sigh.“Am I doing the right thing?”

  “Would you move out again if I said no?”Selina asked drily.

  “No.But I guess I need someone else to say that this isn’t madness.”

  “Look, the guy’s standing by you and wants to raise this baby with you.That’s more than Damian was willing to do for me when I was pregnant.”

  Shannon’s face was full of sympathy, recalling Selina’s miscarriage the previous year.“Sorry, I know this must be hard for you.”

  “Yeah, I didn’t expect back then that it’d be you becoming a mother and not me.But I’m kind of happy for you in a way.You seem like you’re looking forward to it.”

  “I am,”Shannon admitted,“In a weird way.I know the situation’s not ideal…”

  Selina nodded towards the bedroom.“You really like him, don’t you?”

  “Curtis?”Shannon joked.Selina’s pointed look made it clear she wasn’t going to leave it like that.“I don’t know, I’ve been spending so much time with Shane lately it was almost like we were living together already, and he’s such a great dad and…yeah, I really like him.”She lowered her voice before adding, “And the sex was great.”

  “Yeah, too much information there,”Selina noted.

  “But we’re not like that and I guess I have to get used to that.”

  Shane and Curtis appeared.“Right, we’re going,”Selina announced, grabbing Curtis’ arm and dragging him towards the door,“Give these housemates a chance to get used to each other.”

  “Er, bye!”Curtis managed to give a quick wave before being dragged from view.

  Shane took Shannon’s bag from her.“I’ll just put this in your room.”

  Left alone for a moment, Shannon found her gaze wandering towards the photo on top of the television set.She walked over and looked at it.Shane and Angel on their wedding day.She remembered being there to congratulate them, little knowing what was to come.

  Shane emerged from the bedroom behind her.“Sorry, is that being there a problem?”

  “No, no,”Shannon said quickly,“It’s right that it’s here, she was your wife, Dylan and Angel’s mum.” She sighed.“I was just remembering how jealous I was of you.Not just the way you felt about each other, the way you were a family.I think I wanted that for myself.”

  Shane hugged her from behind, putting his head on her shoulder.She felt comforted by the gesture…and a little tingly, which she tried to ignore.“They’re your family too now,”he said,“You’re a part of this.”

  “What’s going on?”demanded Dylan, who had apparently just emerged from a nap.

  The pair turned to face him.“Shannon’s moving in,”Shane explained.

  Dylan’s suspicions weren’t alleviated.“Why?”

  Shannon looked at Shane for agreement and he nodded.“Shane and I are having a baby,”she explained.

  “Another baby?”Dylan didn’t look too happy at the prospect.

  “’Fraid so, mate,”Shane confirmed,“But hey, maybe by the time this one comes along, Angel will be a bit bigger and you can complain about it together.”

  Dylan seemed to consider this.“Will I be its brother?”

  “Course you will,”Shannon said quickly, moving towards him and crouching slightly,“This baby will be Angel’s brother or sister, and you’re her big brother, so you’ll be this baby’s big brother too.”

  Dylan nodded and then hugged her.“Love you.”

  Holding him, and seeing Shane smiling at them, Shannon suddenly did feel like she was at home with her family.“Love you too.”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen, chair and CaptainHulk! I hope everyone enjoys this.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Shane put a scoop of baby Angel’s breakfast on her spoon and waved it invitingly in front of her mouth. “Come on, you must be hungry, babies are always hungry.”

  “Can Shannon take me to school?”Dylan asked.

  “I’m not sure, mate, you’ll have to ask her.”

  A voice came from the direction of the door.“I have go to my own school.”Shannon stepped into the room, wearing her Summer Bay High uniform.

  The sight stopped Shane in his tracks.He knew how old Shannon was, of course.But seeing her dressed like that brought it home that he’d got a schoolgirl pregnant and moved her into his house.

  Shannon obviously read his thoughts because she sighed deeply.“You’ve seen me in school uniform before, Shane.”

  “Yeah, course I have,”Shane confirmed,“Just not…”He struggled to think of a way of expressing it. “Not since you’ve been staying over,”he managed at last.

  “Is this going to be a problem?”Shannon asked.

  Shane paused, thinking.It wasn’t as if Shannon wouldn’t be out on the streets without him, of course.Michael and Pippa wouldn’t allow that.But it wasn’t up to them.It was his job to raise their child with her and he wanted to be part of the child’s life.And even if there wasn’t a baby, he had to admit he was pretty sure he didn’t want Shannon to no longer be a part of his life either.

  “No problem,”he confirmed.

  Shannon looked relieved.Perhaps she felt the same as him.She sat down at the breakfast table, pouring herself a bowl of corn flakes.“So, do you need me to take Dylan to school?”

  Shane shook his head.“It’s more my way than yours.”He saw Dylan’s disappointed look.“Maybe another morning, eh?”

***

Nothing stayed secret for long in Summer Bay.Or very little anyway.That was something Shannon had learned over and over in the two years she’d been living there.So she was acutely aware of the looks she was getting.It didn’t help that she was scheduled to have English with Mr.Fisher, probably the last teacher in the school she wanted to spend any time with.

  The lesson seemed to be going well.He was avoiding talking to her, she was avoiding talking to him.It was only when the bell went for the end of lesson and the class were preparing to leave that, without looking at her, he called “Shannon, could you stay behind please?”

  Shannon stopped in her tracks.Selina, who had been about to walk out with her, looked at her sympathetically.“Good luck,”she said quietly.

  Shannon waited until the rest of the class had filed out before approaching the teacher’s desk.“You wanted to speak to me, Mr.Fisher?”

  Donald still didn’t fully look up.“There are rumours flying around the school about a change in your personal situation.”

  Shannon didn’t see the point in trying to hide anything.“I’m pregnant,”she confirmed,“And it’s Shane’s. And I know you think that…”

  “I’m speaking as your high school principal,”Donald interrupted firmly,“Nothing else.I was wondering what your plans are with regards school.”

  Shannon had given it some thought of course, but she’d never really had to articulate it all out loud.“I want to stay in school and finish Year 12.I’m not sure about going on to uni.Maybe I’ll take a year out or maybe wait until the child’s a bit older.Do you think that’d be okay?”

  Donald actually met her gaze at that.“I think that finishing Year 12 is a very sensible idea.If you need any extra help, let me or another teacher know.”

  “Thank you.”Shannon hoped that was a dismissal.

  “Speaking personally,”Donald continued with a trace of irritation entering his voice,“I’m aware that you caused a great deal of upset for Angel while she was alive.I’m also aware that she forgave you and considered you a friend.So, I suppose I need to accept the situation as it is.”

***

“I hope you weren’t planning to keep this a secret,”Shannon noted when she got home,“Because the secret is well and truly out.”

  “Did anyone give you a hard time?”Shane asked worriedly.

  “Not really.Few whispered comments.And Mr.Fisher wanted a word.”

  Shane gave a slight chuckle.“What did Donny have to say for himself?”

  “Mainly to ask if I was staying in school, believe it or not.I told him I’d finish Year 12 and then maybe take a gap year before college.”Shannon noticed a cloud pass over Shane’s features.“What’s the matter?”

  “No, it’s just…”Shane looked awkward.“Angel took a year out when we got married.She never got to go back.”

  “I’m sorry,”Shannon said quietly, although she wasn’t entirely sure what she was apologising for.

  “Not exactly your fault.It’s good that you’re still doing what makes you happy.Are you going to be okay on your own for a while?”

  “I guess so, why?”

  “Well, if Donald’s spoken to you, I guess I’d better go and face the music as well.”

  “Defending my honour, eh?”Shannon asked jokingly.

  Shane laughed back.“Something like that.”

***

Don had welcomed Shane to the house without much comment and offered him a cup of tea.Shane warmed his hands on a mug as they stood in the kitchen:He still hadn’t got used to Don’s new house, purchased after the one where they and Angel had all lived together was destroyed in the bush fire the previous year.“So, I guess you’re disappointed in me, huh?”he remarked.

  Don looked at him mildly but with a hint of challenge.“Have I got a reason to be?”

  “Well…Angel’s only been dead five months and I’m having a baby with someone else.Someone I’m not married to.”

  “It certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice,”Don agreed.Then there was an aura of sadness over him, of a kind Shane had seen more frequently in recent years.“But in truth, your actions make me feel more ashamed of myself than you.”

  Shane hadn’t expected that.“Why?”he asked.

  Don spoke slowly and carefully.“Morag never told me when she was pregnant with Bobby.I like to think if she had done, I’d have been a part of her life for longer.Of course, the fact I was married to her sister and having a child with her as well probably played a part in her decision.”

  Shane didn’t hear Don speaking like this often.He remembered Don’s awkward confession to him and Angel about how Bobby had been conceived, shortly after she died.The whole thing had seemed quite a departure from his usual image.“Yeah, probably,”he remarked uncomfortably.

  “And then my marriage didn’t work out,”Don continued,“And so I didn’t play much of a role in the upbringing of mine and Barbara’s children either.”

  “You seem to get on with Rebecca now though?”Shane suggested, remembering her visit a couple of years earlier.

  “Yes, now,”Don agreed, with a trace of sadness,“But anyway, with all that in mind, I can’t really criticise you for standing by Shannon and being ready to raise your baby with her.”

  “We’re not…”There were some things Shane really really wasn’t comfortable discussing with Don and he tried to phrase it as discreetly as he could.“We’re in separate rooms.”

  A touch of Don’s old ironic attitude creeped in.“A bit late for that, isn’t it?”

  “We just thought it was too early to be living like that.”

  Don gave a smile that contained more than a hint of mischief.“Still you’re going to be a family, aren’t you?So, I suppose the polite thing would be to have you both over for dinner.Shall we say some time next week?”

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Thank you for the comments, chair, Kristen and Summer's Bay! I hope everyone likes this one.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Alf looked over the amount of produce on the counter and gave his customer a surprised look.“Bit more than your usual meal for one, isn’t it, Don?”

  “I’m having Shane and Shannon over for dinner,”Don explained simply.

  Alf let out a low whistle.“Rather you than me.”

  Donald’s tone was what those who knew him would describe as dangerously calm.“Oh?Why’s that?”

  “Well…bit of a rum do, if you ask me.The bloke’s wife has only been dead less than six months and here he is, shacking up with another sheila.And having a baby with her!”

  “You don’t think I should be having them over then?”

  “Well, I’m not saying that.I’m just saying the situation needs a bit of delicate handling, that’s all.Because of the way people might talk.”

  Don prepared to land the killer blow.“And, ah, how did you handle it when Roo became pregnant at that age?”

  The comment brought Alf up short.“I did my best to support Roo, you know that,”he snapped,“I wasn’t too happy about her lying about who the father was but I did everything I could to make her think she could keep that baby.”

  Don felt the need to back off slightly.“I suppose the behaviour of the father didn’t help.”

  “Yeah, yeah.Shane’s no Brett Macklin, that’s for sure.”Alf’s tone became wistful.“I do think about it sometimes, the fact that I’ve got a granddaughter out there I’m probably never going to see again.And Roo, I think she regrets it sometimes, all these years later she never got to be a mother again…”He let out a deep sigh.“Yeah, you’re right, Don.You support those young people.They’re probably going to need it.”

***

Shannon looked down at her outfit for what felt like the millionth time.Smart.She was going for smart. That was the sort of thing that would go down well tonight.

  “Stop worrying,”Shane told her,“You’re not going to be judged on fashion.”

  “I’m not aiming for fashionable,”Shannon replied,“I’m aiming for respectable.”

  Shane looked amused.“Respectable, eh?”

  “Well, yeah.That’s the sort of thing that appeals to Mr.Fisher, right?”

  “Guess I can’t argue with that.”Before Shane could say more, there was a knock on the door and he went to answer it.

  Marilyn came bustling in, all smiles.“Hi there!I hope I’m not too late, I had a last minute customer come in wanting a full facial.”She noticed Dylan watching her from the kitchen doorway.“Well, hello there! Why don’t you show your Auntie Marilyn what you’ve been doing?”She took his hand, shooting a look back over her shoulder at Shane and Shannon as she did so.“You two get along, we’ll all be fine.”

  Shannon lowered her voice.“Are you sure it’s a good idea to leave Marilyn in charge of them?”

  Shane shrugged.“Angel chose her to be Dylan’s godmother and she’s been all right with them so far.”

  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.It’s just Sally told me this story one time about how she set up a babysitting service once.”

  “Yeah, my brother Nick told me the same story,”Shane confirmed,“It was how they first met.She lost one of the children and reported it to the police.When they turned up she couldn’t remember the child’s name.Or what they looked like.Or whether it was a boy or a girl.”He paused, letting this sink in.“She’ll be all right with just two, won’t she?”

  Shannon smiled, took his hand and pulled him out the front door.

***

The meal seemed to be going well as far as Shannon could tell.By which she meant that they’d eaten and hadn’t had an argument.She wasn’t sure how long that was going to last when Don leaned over to her. “So, Shannon, have you given any thought as to what you’re going to do after school?”

  “Apart from being a mother, you mean?”Shannon couldn’t help asking.

  Don looked slightly embarrassed.“Ah, yes, apart from that.You said you were thinking of going on to college afterwards?”

  “Yeah, hopefully.Creative writing, I guess.”

  Don nodded.“Well, yes, you’ve certainly had experience of that.You’re not interested in studying literature?”

  “I can see the appeal but I’d rather write my own stuff than talk about someone else’s.”

  “Are you going to spend the whole evening asking her about school stuff?”Shane asked with a trace of amusement.

  “Headmaster’s privilege,”Don replied,“I’m afraid I tend to see people’s lives through the prism of my job.So…the baby, how’s that going?”

  “Seems to be okay so far,”Shannon answered.

  “We’ve got an appointment for the first scan next week,”Shane added.

  Don nodded.“Oh, well, that will be exciting.”

  “You going to tell us how they didn’t have them in your day?”Shane asked.

  “Well, yes, it was very different when Barbara and I had our two,”Don agreed,“But well, I hope I’m not so close-minded as to reject new things completely.So, yes, I hope it goes well.”

***

Shane and Shannon got into the car together and glanced back at the doorway of the house where Don was standing.They waved to him and he waved back.“So, you survived your first evening with Donny,” Shane commented.

  “What, is that some sort of right of passage?”Shannon asked.

  “Yep, you’re definitely part of the family now.”

  Shannon found she liked the sound of that.“He really is family to you, isn’t he?”

  “I guess he is, yeah.I didn’t really get on with my parents and Angel got on with hers even less.And he didn’t have to let me stay when I turned up looking for Nick…and I gave him plenty of reasons not to want me there in the early days.”He gave Shannon a sharp look.“Do not tell me you’ve heard those stories.”

  “Lips are sealed,”Shannon promised,“I guess it’s the same for me with Michael and Pippa.”

  “Sounds like we’ve got everyone’s approval now.”

  Shannon found the conversation rather odd.She wasn’t quite sure what they were seeking permission for.After all, she was already expecting a baby.What else was there?She forced herself to stop thinking about the question, even though she suspected she knew the answer.“I guess we only have to worry about pleasing ourselves now,”she suggested.

  Shane nodded.“I guess we do.”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen, Chair and CaptainHulk! I hope you enjoy this.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Sitting in a hospital corridor, Shannon nervously ran her fingers through the loose-fitting top and skirt she’d taken to wearing.Maternity wear was still a few weeks off but it would come.Shane, who was sitting next to her, shot her a look.“Are you okay?”

  “Yeah, just…never done this before.”Shannon suddenly realised she was being insensitive.“Sorry, I know that you…”

  “No, it’s okay,”Shane reassured her,“I get what you mean.”

  They heard the clicking of heels on floor as Kelly came down the corridor towards them.“Shane, Shannon?I asked to do the scan, if that’s okay with you?”

  Shannon looked at Shane, who nodded.She looked back at Kelly with a smile.“Yeah, it’ll be good to have a friendly face.”

  “Good.This way then.”Kelly led the way into the examination room.“Lie down on the bed.”

  Shannon did as instructed.Shane sat down next to her and took her hand.She hadn’t been sure if he was going to do that and found it surprisingly pleasing.She glanced at him and he gave her a reassuring smile.

  “Roll your top up,”Kelly instructed her.She rubbed the gel onto Shannon’s stomach and then applied the scanner.

  “Is everything okay?”Shannon asked nervously.She felt Shane grip her hand tighter, as if he was worried as well.

  “Just a minute.”Kelly’s face relaxed into a smile.“Everything’s fine.Take a look for yourself.”She turned the monitor round.

  At first, it looked like a blob in a snow storm.But then the details began to resolve themselves and Shannon gave a little gasp.“Is that..?”

  Kelly nodded.“That’s your baby there.”

  Shannon found herself unable to stop smiling.She looked at Shane and saw that he was smiling too: Maybe not as much as her but he looked happy.“That’s great,”he agreed.

  Kelly smiled too at their obvious delight.“Congratulations, both of you.”

***

Shannon was still smiling when they arrived back at the house.“That was unbelievable!”

  “Yeah, it was something all right,”Shane noted.

  Shannon hesitated.Shane’s mood didn’t seem entirely ecstatic, certainly not compared to hers.“You do still want this, don’t you?”

  “Well, it’s a bit late for me to say no now, isn’t it?”Shane’s comment was meant to be light-hearted but Shannon’s expression fell.He quickly checked himself.“Look, neither of us planned this.And if you’d told me a few months ago that we’d be having a baby together, I’d have said you were crazy.”Shannon wasn’t really hearing anything that made her feel reassured.Seeming to realise this, Shane took her hands. “But we are doing.And when that baby comes, we’re both going to love it.And I think you’re going to be a pretty amazing mother.”

  It was something Shannon had never really heard anyone say about her before.It pleased her.“You really think so?”

  “What, are you joking?I’ve seen how you are with Dylan and Angel, they adore you.It’ll be exactly the same with our child.”

  Shannon found herself smiling.Not the giddy smile she’d felt at seeing their baby but something more important.“Thank you.”

  Shane leaned forward and kissed her, softly but intimately.Shannon put her arms around his neck and felt him drawing her towards him.She pulled back from the kiss.“We aren’t supposed to be doing this.”

  “Well, we’ve done a lot of things we’re not supposed to.”He kissed her briefly and then held her gaze. She let him lead her towards the bedroom.

***

Shannon sat on the edge of the bed, doing up her top, while Shane stood next to her, pulling his shirt back on.“So, what does this mean?”she asked.

  “Well, I think it means you can stop sleeping in the spare room,”Shane remarked with a smile.

  The flippant comment didn’t exactly put her at ease.“Shane, this isn’t as simple as us just having sex when we feel like it.It’s got serious.We’ve got this baby to think about, and Angel and Dylan.I mean, if we’re co-parenting as friends, then things aren’t going to get messy.But if we’re sleeping together and things go wrong…you know?”

  “Well, no, not really.It’s only been Angel and you.”

  Shannon was confused by the comment.“What do you mean?”

  Shane sat down next to her and took her hand.“I mean…I was still a virgin when I got together with Angel.And for quite a while afterwards.So I took that step with her…and now with you.You’re the only two people.”

  Shannon hadn’t really thought about it but she found herself starting to smile again.“Well, it’s not like there’s been many people for me either.Just you and Alex really.”

  “Right.So…I guess neither of us are really into casual.We just told ourselves that because it meant we didn’t have to take things too seriously.But, now…”

  “Now what?”Shannon checked.

  Shane laughed awkwardly.“Well, I guess what I’m saying is…do you want to be my girlfriend?”

  Shannon laughed as well.“I would, yes.”She kissed him lightly and hugged him.“And I will definitely be moving my stuff in here.”

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Thank you for the comments, Chair and Kristen! I hope everyone enjoys this.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Donald came back into the living area of his home and handed Shane a glass of fruit juice.“Are you all right with that?I don’t really have anything stronger in the house, apart from a bottle of dry red.”

  “This will be fine, thanks,”Shane confirmed.

  “So...what did you want to talk to me about?”

  “Me and Shannon.”

  Donald let the comment hang in the air for a few moments.“Can I take it then that there is a ‘you and Shannon’?”

  “Yeah.I mean…”-Shane struggled with how to phrase it-“…she isn’t sleeping in the spare room anymore.”

  Donald raised an eyebrow.“An interesting way of putting it.Well, I think we’re past the point of you having to ask my permission to have a girl in your room.”

  “You never gave it,”Shane pointed out.

  “True.However, I did recognise when you were mature enough to take that step elsewhere.”

  Shane nodded slowly.“I guess I felt I owed it to you to let you know myself.I mean, I’m sure people around here will figure it out soon enough.But…I didn’t want you to think I was disrespecting Angel or something.I mean, she’s Dylan and Angel’s mother and I’ll make sure they never forget that…”

  “Shane, I do care about you as well as Angel’s memory,”Donald pointed out,“And as we’ve already established, given the circumstances, I think standing by Shannon is the right thing to do.Are you going to marry her?”

  Shane was somewhat thrown.“I hadn’t thought about it.”

  “Well, my instinct is to point out the correct order in which to do things.However, as you know, I am well aware that things don’t always happen in the correct order, if at all.I’m sure you’ll do the right thing.”

***

Shannon looked back and forth between Michael and Pippa.The three of them were sat around the dining table at the caravan park.It had seemed the best place to break the news but now she wasn’t so sure.“Say something,” she requested.

  “You and Shane are together?”Michael repeated.

  “As in together together?”Pippa checked.

  Shannon nodded.“Going steady, cohabiting, whatever you want to call it.”

  Michael seemed to be struggling to keep his emotions in check.“Well, I guess it’s to be expected.That set-up of yours wasn’t going to stay…separate for long.”

  “Love, are you happy about this?”Pippa asked.

  Shannon smiled.“Yeah, I am.I love Shane.”She caught herself.“I’m not sure I’ve ever said that before.”

  “But does he love you?”Pippa pressed.

  Shannon sighed.“I don’t know.I’m not pretending he’s going to love me as much as he does Angel but he’s chosen to be with me and I don’t think it’s just because of the baby.So that’s good, right?”

  Michael seemed to be choosing his words carefully.“Well, you know you can always come to us if you need to talk about anything or you need help?”

  “I know.”Shannon got up and gave them both quick hugs.“Thank you for being okay with this.”She left, somewhat quickly it had to be said.

  Michael looked at Pippa.“What do we make of that?”

  “I guess it’s good that he’s looking after her,”Pippa suggested,“And she could have chosen someone worse than Shane.”

  Michael nodded warily.“Guess we’re still just seeing how it plays out then.”

***

Shannon sat down next to Shane on the sofa.He put his arm round her and she leaned into him.“I think that went as well as can be expected,”she noted.

  “Yeah, Donald was almost supportive,”Shane agreed.

  “I was thinking…maybe we should have a few friends round, kind of announce ourselves as a couple?”

  “That’s a good idea, yeah,”Shane noted,“We should do that.But I think there’s someone else we need to tell first.”

  Shannon was somewhat confused.“Who?”

  Instead of answering her directly, Shane raised his voice.“Dylan?Can you come in here a minute?”

  Shannon sat up straight, not wanting to let her new stepson see her cuddling up to Shane too quickly. Dylan came running in and looked at them cautiously.“What?”

  “You know how Shannon’s living here now,”Shane explained cautiously,“and how we’re having a baby together?Well, because of that, and because we like each other, we’ve decided Shannon should be my girlfriend.So she’s going to be sleeping in my room all the time now.Like Mummy did.”

  Shannon wasn’t sure that she’d have added the last part but she felt she needed to say something.“But it won’t make any difference to you, okay?We still both love you and your sister.”

  Shane looked grateful but his gaze stayed on Dylan.“So, are you okay with that?”

  Dylan nodded.“Can I go back to playing in my room now?”

  “Sure, mate.”Shane watched Dylan run off then looked ruefully at Shannon.“I guess that went well too.”

***

Shane handed Travis a beer.The two of them were alone in the kitchen, with the others elsewhere in the house.They clinked cans.“Looks like it’s all coming together for you,”Travis commented.

  “Yeah, I guess so,”Shane agreed,“It’s not easy starting again.Especially when it feels like history’s repeating.Do you mind if I ask…you lost a girlfriend once, didn’t you?How did you manage?”

  “Well, it’s not exactly the same,”Travis commented,“I mean, the way I lost Kebiri out there isn’t likely to happen here.If you mean loving someone else after losing someone like that…I guess there just comes a time when you meet someone else that you want to be with.You don’t forget people but you move on.”

  Shane nodded.“Yeah.This thing with Shannon’s kind of crept up on me.I still don’t know how I feel about it but I know I don’t want to lose her.”

  Kelly came in.“Do I need to worry what you two are talking about?”

  Travis shot Shane a look.“She could help.”

  Shane accepted the advice.“I was just wondering…is there any way of finding out if there’s anything wrong with Shannon?”

  Kelly didn’t quite seem to be following.“Well, you’ve had the scan…”

  “Yeah, but that’s about the baby.I was wondering about Shannon.Is there any way to find out if she’s got an aneurysm or something?”

  “Well, I wouldn’t recommend a x-ray while she’s pregnant unless there’s a reason to suspect something.I know it’s hard, but what happened to Angel was a completely freak accident.Just try and enjoy this time, okay?”

  In the living area, Shannon leaned forward in her seat to gesture to the plate on the table.“Do you want another cheese roll?Or we’ve got beef paste?”

  Selina chuckled.“Look at you.Acting like the hostess in your own place, live-in boyfriend, stepkids, baby on the way…It’s like you’re a proper grown-up.”

  “A grown-up who’s still in school,”Shannon pointed out ruefully.

  “Well, that’s only for another month.Then you’ll be out in the big wide world.”

  “Mmm.Scary prospect.”

  Selina reached across and took Shannon’s hand.“Well, you’ll always have Auntie Selina to look out for you.”

  Sally dragged Curtis back in.“I really can’t believe all this is yours,”she remarked to Shannon.

  “Well, it’s not exactly mine,”Shannon pointed out,“I just live here.”

  “Hey, living the dream,”Curtis replied.

  Shane, Travis and Kelly came through and Shannon quickly went over to her boyfriend, giving him a quick kiss.Shane put his arm around her as he turned to the rest of the gathering.“Well, it’s been an odd journey getting here but Shannon and I want to thank you all for your support.”

  “Which we’ll be needing a lot of in the future,”Shannon added.

  “Right.So I think that’s probably what we should be toasting.To the future!”

  “To the future!”the others echoed.

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

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Shannon examined herself in the mirror.She wished she was able to wear a proper dress but it was getting to the point where every tight-fitting outfit she owned was a little too tight-fitting.Instead, she wore a blouse and jacket with a loose skirt.

  Shane put his head round the bedroom door.“Are you ready yet?”

  Shannon sighed.“You don’t have to do this, you know?”

  “Shannon, I’ve got you pregnant and moved in with you without taking you on a single date.I think I need to put that right.”

  “You know I don’t mind.”

  “Yeah, well…maybe I mind.”

  Shannon gave in.They’d had the argument quite a few times anyway and she knew she wasn’t going to win it.“Okay, you have my permission to try and show me a good time.”She saw Shane’s cheeky expression and swatted his arm lightly.“Different from the ones you’ve already shown me that is!”They went through into the living area where Sally and Curtis were curled up on the sofa.“You two sure you’re going to be all right to babysit?”

  Curtis shot a distracted look back over his shoulder.“Yeah, sure, we’ll be fine.”

  “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

  “I’m not sure we could think of anything,”replied Sally, avoiding meeting her eyes.

  Shannon gave up and took Shane’s hand.“Come on, let’s get going.”

***

The restaurant Shane had taken them to was one of the most impressive Shannon had seen.So much so that she felt even more underdressed.Still, he’d shown her to the table, held out her chair for her and treated her in a pretty gentlemanly manner so as dates went, so it seemed to be going well so far.

  The maitre d’ came over to the table and shot Shane a suspicious look.Shane took a roll of notes out of his pocket and waved it at the man who suddenly smiled.“The menus will be with you shortly.I hope you enjoy your meal.”

  “What was that about?”Shannon asked.

  “I think he recognised me,”Shane admitted.

  “Recognised you?”A lot of thoughts flashed through Shannon’s mind, not many of them good.“Did you come here with Angel?”

  Shane flushed slightly.“Er, sort of.”

  “What do you mean, sort of?”

  “Well…there was a bet.I was meant to have a meal here without paying for it.She and Damian came along to make sure I actually did it.”

  “Did you?”

  “Sort of.I did a runner.”Shane nodded in the direction of the departed maitre d’.“Unfortunately, he worked out they were with me and they ended up having to find the money.”

  “I hope you’re not planning to do a runner tonight.I’m not sure how fast I can move at the moment.”

  A waitress came over and handed them the menus with a smile.Shane scanned the contents.“I’ll let you know.”

***

Curtis and Sally were kissing on the couch.They broke and Curtis nodded in the direction of the other rooms.“Do you want to..?”

  Sally looked uncertain.“Shane and Shannon’s room?I’m not sure they’d like that.”

  “The spare room’s made up.”Curtis looked somewhat sheepish.“I checked earlier.”

  “Oh, did you now?”Sally’s wry response quickly gave way to more uncertainty.“We are meant to be keeping an eye on Dylan and the baby.”

  “Well, we can hear them just as easily from in there as out here.We can even check on them now, if you like.”

  Sally shook her head.“No, that’s fine.”She took Curtis’ hand and let him lead her to the spare room.They started kissing and slowly lay down on the bed, where he removed her jacket.“Have you got any..?”

  Curtis nodded.“Don’t worry.”He continued kissing and caressing her.

  “I think I should go on the pill.”

  Curtis stopped kissing her but didn’t shift position, continuing to stroke her face lightly.“Are you sure?”

  “Well…if this is going to be a regular thing…”

  “Sounds good to me.”

  “…then I don’t want to have any accidents like Shannon did.So, I’ll make an appointment with the doctor in the morning?”

  “Yeah.Um, did you want me to come with you?”

  Sally smiled.“I think I can manage.”

  “Good.And, er, until then?”

  “We’ll make do with whatever’s to hand, yeah.”

  Curtis smiled and started kissing her again.

***

“How’s your meal?”Shane asked.It was the first thing he’d said in nearly five minutes.

  “It’s good, yeah,”Shannon confirmed.They lapsed into silence again.

  Then Shane laughed.“Sorry,”he said when he caught her surprised look.“It’s just I’m not really sure what we’re supposed to do.I mean, normally on a first date we’d be getting to know each other…”

  “But we’ve known each other two years and we live together,”Shannon finished.

  “Right.This is kind of like a normal evening.”

  “Well…we usually manage to talk on those?”Shannon offered.

  “True.But at the moment I feel a bit like maybe we should do a runner after all to make it memorable.”

  “Either that or end up doing the washing up.”Shannon took his hand across the table.“Shane, I really don’t mind that this isn’t exciting or fun.Being with you is quite enough.”

  “I guess I’ll have to remember that in future.”

  “As is the fact you thought enough of me or us to take me here in the first place.”

  “Yeah.”Shane thought this over.“I mean, we kind of have to make this work, don’t we?For Dylan and Angel and the new baby.We’re all going to be a family together.Heck, we already are.”

  “Are you okay with that?”Shannon asked cautiously.

  “Yeah.More than I thought I could be.”

  “Then I guess we’re getting to know each other.”

***

“Hey!”Sally greeted them as they arrived back at the house,“Good night?”

  Shannon looked at Shane with a smile.“Pretty good, yeah.How were things for you here?”She noticed Sally flush slightly.“Um, Shane, do you and Curtis need to..?”

  “Yeah, probably.”Shane took Curtis by the arm.“Come on, let’s go in the kitchen and talk motorbikes.”

  Shannon took Sally’s arm and drew her closer to the door.“Did you have sex in our bed?”

  “Spare room,”Sally managed to mumble.

  “Well, remind me not to let anyone sleep in there until I’ve cleaned it.Was it worth it?”

  Sally gave an awkward smile.“I guess so.”

  “So at least the evening wasn’t a complete waste for you.”

  “I’m sorry.”The endearing thing was Sally actually looked as though she meant it.“We did keep an eye on Dylan and Angel as well.”

  “Okay, you’re forgiven.”Shannon raised her voice.“Curtis, you can walk Sally home now!”

  Curtis and Shane emerged from the kitchen.“Thanks,”Curtis said awkwardly,“See you tomorrow.”He put an arm round Sally’s shoulder and led her out.

  “So I’m guessing they had a really good night?”Shane asked.

  Shannon nodded.“Someone needs to change the spare bed.”

  She made as if to do it but Shane put his arms around her.“Doesn’t have to be done just yet.You don’t want that room to be the only one that sees some action tonight, do you?”

  Shannon surrendered to his kiss and let him lead her towards their room.

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Thank you for the comments, chair and Kristen. I hope everyone like this one.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Shannon looked at the textbooks laid out on the table in front of her.The final exams weren’t too far away but that meant studying.Studying had been difficult back living with Pippa and Michael, but at least then she’d had other people to corral Sam or Christopher out of the way when they were at their most boisterous.Now, suddenly, she was meant to be one of the grown-ups.

  Dylan came wandering in from the front door, as he had done twice already.“Will you play Snap with me?”

  Shannon sighed.As much as she loved Dylan, at that moment she wished he was somewhere else. “Later, okay?Just go back in there and watch your programme.”

  Dylan looked crestfallen and didn’t seem as if he was going to move any time soon.As if by magic, Shane appeared at the back door.“Hey, Dylan!How about you come out here and help me with the gardening?Maybe you could kick your ball about?”

  Dylan smiled and ran for the back garden.“Thank you,”Shannon said quietly.

  Shane grinned at her.“No problem.I think I can keep him busy for half an hour.”

  “That’d be great.”Shannon turned back to her books, grappling with whatever aspects of history Mr. Fisher had chosen to inflict on the students this year.She managed twenty minutes before there was a knock at the front door.

  Shannon went to open it and found a rather prim and proper woman standing there.“Is Shane at home?” she asked.

  “He’s in the back garden,”Shannon offered.

  The woman nodded.“May I come in?”

  Shannon stood aside and let the woman in.“I’m Shannon, by the way.”

  “Yes.I recognise the name.You’re the girl who hid Dylan when Paul tried to take him.”

  It was a rather odd direction for the conversation to take.“Sorry, who are you?”

  Shannon’s answer was a loud shout of “Gran!!!!”, coming from Dylan as he ran forward and hugged the woman.

  Shane followed him in.“Mrs.Harris,”he greeted the woman rather formally.He turned to Shannon.“This is Dylan’s grandmother.”

***

“Would you like some more tea, Mrs.Harris?”Shannon was aware that the woman must have a first name but calling her by it didn’t really seem appropriate.She seemed to remember hearing that Pippa had met her, back when Angel had first got in touch with Dylan.She hoped she’d made a favourable impression.

  Mrs.Harris was sat on the sofa with Dylan and her gaze didn’t leave him.“No thank you, I’m fine.”

  “Dylan, can you go and play in your room for a bit?”Shane asked.

  Dylan looked up at his grandmother who nodded.She waited until the boy had left the room before turning towards Shannon.“So, you’re living here now?”

  “Er, yes, that’s right…”

  “I’m guessing you already knew that,”Shane noted.

  Mrs.Harris nodded.“I’d heard rumours, yes.”

  “You know we’re having a baby together?”Shannon asked.She wondered if she should have said it but Mrs.Harris showed no sign of surprise.

  “I do.That’s why I came here.I’m worried about Dylan.”

  “There’s no reason to be,”Shane said sharply.

  “I wasn’t entirely in favour of Dylan coming to live with you and Angel in the first place.”

  “You’d rather have him living with Paul?”

  “I know that’s not an option at the moment.But I was worried enough about you and Angel having a baby of your own.Now it’s you and this girl…”

  “Shannon,”Shane amended.

  “Yes, Shannon,”Mrs Harris accepted before going on,“Neither of you are Dylan’s parents and you’re going to have a baby of your own that doesn’t have any connection to him either.”

  “Shannon loves Dylan,”Shane insisted,“And he loves her.”

  Shannon had been silent throughout the verbal ping pong but now she spoke up.“I do.Really, Mrs.Harris, I do.There’s no difference for us.Dylan is baby Angel’s brother and as far as we’re concerned he’s going to be this baby’s brother as well.We’re a family.”

  The speech seemed to have caught Mrs.Harris’ attention.“I believe you mean that, but Dylan has to be my priority.”

  “He’s happy here,”Shane insisted.

  “And you can see he’s well looked after,”Shannon added.

  Mrs.Harris raised her voice.“Dylan, can you come in here?”

  Dylan came running in.Shannon held out a hand and he ran over to her.She lifted him onto her lap.It was one way of proving a point.

  Mrs.Harris seemed to hesitate at the sight.“Dylan, are you happy living here with Shane and Shannon?”

  “Yes,”Dylan said simply.

  Mrs.Harris nodded.“Then I suppose that’s the final word.For now.”

  “Maybe you could show your gran what we were doing out the back,”Shane suggested.

  “Yes, I think I have time for that.”Mrs.Harris took Dylan’s hand and followed him out.

  Shane helped Shannon to her feet and hugged her.“I love you,”he said.

  Shannon pulled away in surprise.“I love you too.But I wasn’t expecting you to say it.”

  “What, because I loved Angel?”Shane sighed.“Look, I’m not a big thinker.I’m not going to go in for comparisons or what could have been.All I know is…here, now, the four of us in this house…”

  “Five of us,”Shannon corrected, amused.

  “…I love you.”

  Shannon smiled and let him pull her back into a hug.

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Thank you for the comments, chair, CaptainHulk and Kristen! I hope everyone enjoys this one.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

Shannon found waiting in the school corridor almost intolerable.She just wanted it to be over.And it nearly was, of course.School felt almost like another world, different from the one she shared with Shane and the children.She wanted to do well at her exams but she felt there was a life waiting for her when it was over.

  “Last exam then, huh?”Selina asked.She was obviously in the mood for talking.“Maths.”

  “Shame about Steven leaving in the middle of the year.”Shannon caught Selina’s expression and remembered her friend had more than one reason to regret it.“Sorry, I didn’t mean…”

  “Nah, it’s okay.You’re right, things would have been better if he’d been around.But I guess some things aren’t meant to be.”

  Shannon leaned back against the wall.“So, you any idea what you want to do when all this is done?”

  “I guess you mean other than the big party I’ve got planned?Actually…I’ve applied to a nursing course.”

  Shannon completely failed to hide her surprise.“You?”

  “Yeah, I guess you dragging me along to all those hospital visits had an impact after all.You think I’m crazy?”

  “I think if you can last a year as school captain, you can do anything.”

  Selina nodded.“It’s been a pretty eventful year all told, hasn’t it?”

  “You can say that again.”Shannon caught Selina’s playful expression.“But don’t,”she added warningly.

  “My lips are sealed.”

  Donald opened the door.“Year 12 Maths, in here please.”

***

Exams were something of a paradox, in that while you were taking them, time seemed to both drag and fly by.You seemed to be in there forever and yet there never seemed time to do everything you wanted to.“Right, time’s up,”Donald announced,“Leave your papers on the desk and leave the room quietly.”

  Shannon did as instructed.Selina fell into step with her as they exited.Shannon was about to say something to her but her attention was immediately taken by the sight of someone waiting in the corridor. “Shane!What are you doing here?”

  “Well…meeting you, of course.Wanted to be the first to congratulate you on finishing your exams.”

  “Isn’t it bringing back bad memories?”

  “What, being in the school?”Shane looked embarrassed.“Well, if you remember, I never actually sat my exams here.”

  Shannon thought back two years and remembered the muck-up day prank that had resulted in Shane, Angel and Damian being forced to sit their exams elsewhere.“Ah yes, the sheep.”

  “Pretty much my Summer Bay High career summed up.”

  Donald emerged from the exam room and stopped, surprised.“Shane.Were we expecting you?”

  “Just picking Shannon up, Mr.Fisher.”

  Donald glanced at Shannon as though he’d forgotten she was there.“Ah, yes, of course.Well, don’t take too long about it.”He headed off in the direction of the office.

  Selina looked from Shane to Shannon.“So, I’m guessing you two are going to be too busy to celebrate.”

  “Oh, I dunno,”Shane mused,“I don’t want to stand in the way of a big school’s out celebration and the kids are being looked after so…how about I shout us all milkshakes at the Diner?”

  “Ah-ah, you two are the ones with a family to support,”Selina replied,“I’ll get the milkshakes.”

  Shane grinned.“All the better.”

***

“Thanks for that,”Shannon noted as she and Shane headed up the drive to the house.

  “What, the free milkshake?”Shane asked,“I think you’ve got Selina to thank for that.”

  “No, I mean…making an effort.Hanging out with my friends.”

  “I like your friends.”Shane was holding her hand and suddenly stopped, yanking her to a halt.“And I like you.”He kissed her.

  The kiss broke and Shannon smiled.“How long until the kids are home again?”

  They headed up the path at a brisker pace but stopped short before they got there.There was a girl about Shannon’s age sat on the doorstep, a bag slung over her shoulder.She had a slightly alternative look to her, mainly down to the fact her hair was coloured a subtle shade of purple.She stood up as she saw them and looked Shane straight in the eye.It almost felt like a challenge.“I was wondering when you’d show up.”

  “Frankie,”Shane responded politely,“Long time no see.”He turned to his girlfriend.“Shannon, this is Frankie.Angel’s sister.”

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Thank you for the comments, I hope everyone enjoys this chapter!

CHAPTER TWENTY

Shane felt more than a little uncomfortable as he unlocked the door and led the way into the house.If Mrs.Harris had been an unexpected visitor, this was even more unexpected.After all, he hadn’t seen his sister-in-law in two years.He’d almost forgotten she existed.

  Behind him, Shannon was doing her best to catch up.“Hey, it’s good to see you, I don’t think we ever really met before, I arrived in town just as you were leaving.I think you met my adopted brother, Curtis?I arrived around the same time as him.”

  “Yeah, I think I vaguely remember,”Frankie replied,“You lived with Jack, right?”

  “Er, right.”Shannon looked a bit awkward.“Don’t hold that against me.”

  Shane almost smiled at the memory of how Jack got caught two-timing Frankie.Or rather, three-timing. But he was still uncertain about what was going on.“A lot’s changed since then,”he noted.

  Shannon looked down at her school uniform, seeming somewhat self-conscious.“Talking of changing, I’d better get out of this.Don’t go away.”She headed off to the bedroom.

  Shane was suddenly alone with Frankie.Part of him wanted to welcome her:It was what Angel would have wanted, after all.But another part was still deeply suspicious.“What’s with the surprise visit?”

  “What, I can’t want to see my nephew and niece?”

  “Of course you can, but you never have before.You didn’t come back for the wedding or Angel’s funeral.”

  “It wasn’t always eager to get away from my parents.”

  Shane was unconvinced.“That’s not an excuse.”

  “Isn’t it?”Frankie retorted,“Angel ended up on the streets because she didn’t do what they wanted.They weren’t happy about me visiting her and they were even less keen for me to come again.I didn’t want to end up like that.”

  Knowing what he did about Angel’s history with her family, Shane had to admit that was plausible.But a few questions remained unanswered.“So what’s changed now?”

  “I’m not living with them anymore.I got a flat in the city with a friend.”

  Shannon chose that moment to reappear, having changed into a loose dress.“Hey, sorry about that.”She nodded towards Frankie’s bag.“You’re staying?”

  “I was hoping to,”Frankie answered,“For a few days at least.”

  “Well, we’ve got a spare room, haven’t we, Shane?”

  Frankie still didn’t smile.“Because you two are sharing a room now, right?”

  Shane felt suspicious again.“You know about that?”

  “Word gets around.Mrs.Harris isn’t exactly quiet about it.Congratulations on the baby, by the way.So, okay for me to have the spare room?”

  Shane wasn’t sure it was okay at all but he nodded all the same.“Sure.”

***

“Who’s she?”Dylan asked when he got home.

  “This is your Auntie Frankie,”Shane replied.

  Frankie crouched down beside him.“I’m your mummy’s sister.I’m sorry I haven’t seen you before now but maybe you could show me your things?”

  A short time later, Frankie and Dylan were playing quite happily on the carpet.Baby Angel was sat up, watching them with a studied interest.

  Shane and Shannon watched them too, through the serving hatch from the kitchen.“What do you make of this?”Shane asked.

  Shannon shrugged.“Dylan seems to like her.And it’s good for him to have some of Angel’s family around.”

  “I guess so.”Shane suspected he sounded as unsure as he felt.“I just can’t help wondering why now.”

  “Maybe it’s like she said to you.It’s the first time she’s been able to go against her parents.”

  “I suppose if any of Angel’s family were going to turn up it was going to be her.Angel seemed to get on even worse with her parents than I did with mine.”

  “Mmm, they can be tricky,”Shannon agreed.

  Shane gave her a curious look.“I thought you got on okay with your mother?”

  “Oh, did I never tell you..?I ran into my birth mother a few months back.Long story short, it answered a few questions but I don’t think either of us really want to meet again.”She nodded towards Frankie.“You want me to try and get to know her?”

  “It might help.”

  Shannon went through into the living area, Shane just behind her.“Er, Frankie, I’m about to meet some friends at the Diner.Kind of an end of school thing.You want to come along?”

  Frankie hesitated and then nodded.“Yeah, okay, might be good.”

***

They talked a bit on the way to the Diner but it was mostly just idle chit-chat.When they got there, Shannon led the way to a table.“Hey, guys, Frankie turned up this afternoon.Frankie, you know Selina, Curtis and Sally?”

  Frankie smiled at Selina.“Sure do.We shared a boyfriend for a bit.”

  “That was definitely a bonding experience,”Selina agreed.

  “We were on the same netball team,”Sally offered,“Well, kind of.You took my place when I got hurt.”

  Frankie nodded.“Yeah, that sounds about right.”

  “Well, since we’re all here, I’ll get the drinks in,”Curtis decided.

  Shannon watched him go then nodded to Selina.“You want to help me pick something from the jukebox?”

  Selina was a bit confused but agreed.“Yeah, sure.”She saw Shannon nodding energetically at Sally as they moved away from the table.“What gives?”she asked quietly.

  “Hopefully, Sally can find out something about her.”

  “Sally might have her good points but she’s not the best at being sneaky.”

  “I don’t need sneaky.She’s got an honest face, maybe Frankie will open up.”

  Back at the table, Sally was doing her best to strike up a conversation with Frankie.“So, why have you been away for so long?”

  “Lots of reasons,”Frankie answered,“But I thought someone needed to check on Dylan.And his new mum.”

  “She’s not exactly his new mum,”Sally argued.

  “He might not be calling her that but she’s the one looking after him.What is it with her and Shane?”

  Sally shrugged.“It was a bit weird at first, after he’d been with Angel for so long, but I do think they really love each other.”

  Frankie nodded slowly.“Yeah, I think you might be right.But whether they love Dylan…well, that’s something I’m going to find out.”

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