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A Brit in the Bay

Guest AngelRose

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A Brit in the Bay

“Here you go ladies, Summer Bay Caravan Park.â€

Clara Newgate smiled at the cabbie, paid him plus a tip & with the help of her PA & best friend Tina, got out of the cab. The cabbie helped them take their bags as far as the door & said goodbye before driving off.

Clara turned to Tina & tried to smile: “Here goes nothing.†She said


Tina squeezed Clara’s shoulder supportively & at Clara’s nod, knocked on the

doorframe. A few seconds later the knock was answered by a pretty girl with

dark hair: “Hello, I’m Sally Fletcher. Welcome to the Caravan Park.â€

“Good morning Sally. I’m Clara Newgate & this is Tina Sims. We were looking

to rent a van for a little while.â€

“Of course, come in.†Sally’s voice was bright, as she registered what she

knew to be a British accent. “I think van 7 is free.

Tina pushed Clara’s wheelchair into the room & then went to get the bags.

That was when Sally realised. Her smile didn’t turn to a frown but it did

fade just a fraction: “Won't you come in; would you like a drink?â€

Clara heart sank like a stone; she knew what was coming: “The vans all have

steps, don’t they?â€

Sally’s heart went out to her. “Yes, I’m afraid so.â€

She could see the tears shining in Clara’s as the young woman asked Tina to

check their money & shook her head sadly: “Do you know any cheap hotels

around here? Can we call a cab?â€

Clara sighed.

“Why don’t you ladies just rest here a minute? Sally offered kindly. “Here,

have some squash & I’ll see what I can do; I won’t be a minute.†So saying

she got the drinks & left.

“I should have known!†Clara sighed heavily.

“Don’t give up yet Clara; Sally seems nice. I think she wants to help.†Tina

said comfortingly. “Here, take a sip of drink; you don’t want to dehydrate

before we get used to the heat.â€

“Don’t you mean IF we get used to the heat?!†Clara growled.

Tina sighed but bit back a smile all the same.

Upstairs, Sally knocked on Pippa’s bedroom door. “Come in.†came the call.

Sally did so & her beloved foster-mother, sitting as she was at the

dressing-table mirror, immediately saw the look on Sally’s face: “Ok, what’s


“There’s a couple downstairs who want to rent van 7.â€

Pippa looked puzzled: “You know 7’s free; I cleaned it this morning.â€

“It’s not that.†Sally sighed & went on to explain. “There must be SOMETHING

we can do; it’s not her fault she can't get in!†she cried.

“Hmm, you’re right; cheer up, we’ll think of something. Come on, you can

introduce me; I can’t remember the last time we had some English visitors!â€

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Clara moved uncomfortably in her wheelchair. It had been a long day & looked

set to get a lot longer. A few days ago some time on a quiet beach had

looked like just what they both needed to get over the remaining jet-lag,

now she wasn’t nearly so sure, but they couldn’t do much more today; she

wasn’t the only person who was tired, Tina looked pale too.

“Need to sit up?†Tina asked, ever observant.

“That would be good.†Clara admitted.

Tina helped out as gently as she could but still hear the gasp of pain that

Clara tried to hold in. Her heart stirred with empathy & she found herself

praying for about the millionth time in the past few weeks that they done

the right thing. Oh, but here was Sally again.

“Clara, Tina, this is my foster-mother Pippa Fletcher.†Sally smiled.

Pippa stepped forward: “Hello, nice to meet you both. Clara, Sally was just

telling me our vans are being awkward. Let’s see what we can do for you,


“It’s fine, we’ll just ring a cab, if you have a number?†Clara forced a


“I can give you the number, but it’s getting late; won’t you at least stay

for something to eat? Do you mind Sally?â€

Sometimes Pippa still forgot that the Caravan Park belonged to Sally now.

Sally grinned: “Course not. You’d be welcome; but I’d better warn you it’s

only pasta!â€

Too tired to try anymore Clara nodded: “Thanks, that’s great. I know this is

a cheek, but Sally, would you mind if I sat on the sofa for a while?â€

“Sure, no problem. Is there any way we can help?â€

“No we’ll be ok thanks.†Tina spoke up.

“Mind if I put your bags by the stairs for now?†Sally asked.

“Go ahead please.†Clara sighed with relief as she was lifted out of her

chair. “This is very nice of you Sally; I hope we’re not imposing.â€

“Not at all; it’s a good excuse to get my husband Flynn to drop in at the

diner on the way home & pick up dessert.†She laughed. “I’ll call him.â€

Having moved the bags she went upstairs to do so.

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By the time Flynn entered the diner about 20 minutes later, his mind was

going 20 to the dozen; what were they going to do? It really wasn’t fair, &

besides they were missing out on a heck of a potential market-place by not

thinking of this any sooner! Irene turned to greet him:

“Hi Flynn; what’s up darl?†she asked, seeing the glum look

“Hey Irene, apparently we have unexpected guests for dinner; do you have any

peach cheesecake?â€

“Sure, Leah made it this morning; so who’s the guest? Oh no, it’s not the

Dept., is it?!â€

(Irene knew all about the Dept. of Children & Family Services, being a

foster-mother herself).

“No, nothing like that; we have to turn down visitors at the Caravan Park &

Sally hates that.†Flynn sighed.

Irene’s frown deepened: “It’s not Little Pippa is it?â€

“The baby’s fine; one of the visitors uses a wheelchair & can’t get into any

of the vans.

â€Irene stood & thought for a second with her hands on her hips; then she

went & called up the stairs: “Martha?!â€

Young Martha Macklin’s head appeared over the banister: “Hey Irene; what’s

up?†she asked puzzled.

“Get your Grandfather down here girlie; we’re having a ‘barn raising’!â€

Having lived until fairly recently in America, Martha knew about the Amish

tradition of the whole community getting together to help a farmer build

his barn in a day, but as for what Irene was on about, she had

“1, get your grandfather

down here pronto,

& 2, then go around the bay & tell as many people as you can to meet here

tomorrow night at 7 & keep the weekend free; tell them Sally & Flynn need

our help with the Caravan Park.

Well don’t just stand there looking like a shocked goldfish; go!â€

Martha may not have known exactly what Irene was talking about; but she did

know when Mrs Roberts was serious & so she went & did as she was asked.

Meanwhile, Irene called Colleen in as cover & quickly explaining to Flynn &

the newly appeared Alf Stewart, she grabbed the cheesecake & accompanied the

two men to the Caravan Park.

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Tina went upstairs to use the bathroom wondering what they were ever going to do now? Moving to Australia had seemed like such a good idea when Clara had come up with it; a chance for them both to start over, but now, well it looked like it was headed straight for disaster! Getting all their visas & Clara’s medical insurance had been bad enough & that was before they even left London; now they were headed for a crisis, no two ways about it! Clara hadn’t written anything in at least three months & it was getting to the point where if that didn’t start happening soon they’d both be getting a lot thinner! It wasn’t even as though Tina could get a second job; until Clara could afford a new electric wheelchair she (Tina), was needed more than ever. Only when she looked in the mirror did the former nurse realise she was crying.

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Downstairs, Pippa had taken over drinks duty. Both she & Clara watched over

the baby as they chatted.

So why Summer Bay; we’re a bit off the beaten track?†Pippa asked interestedly

as she picked up her baby grand-daughter to put her in her high-chair.

Clara watched on & smiled as the child met her eye. She thought carefully

for a moment about what to say in reply before speaking up:

“That was the point really; find somewhere to start over, a new ‘beaten

track’ I guess. I used to work in a school but I hated the job & I’ve always

wanted to write. Tina & I have friends since, well forever, I suppose, so

when her job ended (the hospital she worked at closed down), neither of us

had anyone to leave behind (our families are scattered all over the country

& both of us are single) so seeing as my writing muse had already apparently

moved ‘down under’ without me, it seemed logical for us both to follow.†She


“What kind of thing do you write?†Sally asked over her shoulder as she

stirred the pasta.

“Right now, whatever people will pay for; someday the great C21st novel,

same as every writer I suppose. It has to be fiction though, can’t write a

factual piece to save my life, ask Tina; she’ll tell you.â€

“What am I telling now?†Tina had reappeared at the family-room door.

“I was just explaining that written facts aren’t my strength.†Clara smiled

at her friend.

“Well, you do seem more comfortable with fiction.†Tina agreed, hoping her

worries didn’t come through in her voice.

A few minutes later Flynn’s car pulled up & Sally went to the door to greet

her husband & burst out laughing:

“Clara, Tina, unpack your things; the Cavalry’s arrived!â€

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Over on the other side of town a still very puzzled Martha knocked on the door to be greeted by a smiling Dan Baker who carried his step-son VJ on his hip:

“Hi Martha, come on in! How are you?â€

Martha grinned & spoke being careful to stay in VJ’s eye-line:

“Hi; I’m fine thanks. Hey VJ, how are you doing?â€

The small boy grinned at her:

“Ok; Mum’s in the bath. We’re building a castle, see?â€

She looked past him to see a large number of toy bricks scattered on the family-room rug.

“Looks like fun!†She smiled. “Dan, I can't stop, but Irene sent me round the bay with a cryptic message. She says everybody’s to meet at 7 o’clock tomorrow night at the Diner & to keep the weekend free to help Sally & Flynn at the Caravan Park. That’s all I know, all she said but she meant it; sure as you like.â€

“I wonder what’s up?†Dan frowned. “Leah didn’t mention anything when she got home.â€

“Beats me;†Martha shrugged. “But if I know Irene Roberts there’s only 1 way we’ll find out!â€

“You’ve got that right!†Dan giggled. “Ok, I guess we’ll see you there.â€

“Oh Mrs Roberts, we could never ask you to do that!†Clara cried stunned.

“Oh Gawd lovie, call me Irene. The only ‘Mrs Roberts I ever knew was my ex-mother-in-law & she made The Wicked Witch look like Snow White!â€

Here they were interrupted by Sally almost choking on some cheesecake. Flynn spoke up quickly to cover for his wife:

“You didn’t ask, we’re offering; besides, it’s good for Bay business, right Alf?â€

“Sure is; surprised we didn’t think of it sooner. It’s a great idea!â€

“Well in that case how can I refuse?!†Clara beamed, tears in her eyes.

“You can't!†Sally beamed. “No arguments, you’re staying with us, here in the house, rent free, until we’re done. Flynn & Rick can bring down a fold up bed after we eat.â€

Cassie & Rick, Sally & Flynn’s own foster children who’d arrived home just a few minutes after Flynn were sitting on the sofa with their plate’s perched on their laps. Rick turned his head at the mention of his name:

“Yeah, no problem.†He smiled.

Cassie (who also happened to be Rick’s girlfriend), squeezed his arm affectionately. He rewarded her with a peck on the cheek. Sally saw it out of the corner of her eye & smiled; they’d been so good, sticking to the House Rules she & Flynn had set for them, they deserved a treat. She’d have to think of something.

But now Clara was speaking again:

“But there must be something I can do.†She was saying.

“Well, someone will need to watch Little Pippa & you’ll need to guide us; show us what you need. You’ll be more than doing your bit!†Flynn assured her.

“Oh, that’s alright then. This could be fun!†Cassie laughed.

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By nine o’clock that evening most of the Bay was talking about Irene’s instruction & scratching it’s collective head.

What on earth was going on?! What was so urgent that it required a town meeting on less than 24 hours notice? As far as anyone knew no-one was missing, no-one was hurt & the Caravan Park seemed quiet.

The conversation between 2 of Martha’s friends, ‘husband & wife’ Robbie & Tasha, was typical:

“What do you think?†Robbie asked as they curled up on the sofa.

“Beats me. Martha said she wasn’t angry though.†Tasha sighed, pushing Robbie’s glasses gently up his nose.

“Well, no-one calls a town meeting for nothing; oh gosh, who’s birthday have we forgotten now?!â€

“Well, it can't be Irene’s, that’s not until June & anyway she’d hardly organise her own party! It could be Sally’s I suppose…†Tasha said doubtfully.

Robbie shook his head: “No, Rick told me that’s October; I just can't think what’s going on. There’s only 1 way we’ll find out; to go to the diner tomorrow night.â€

“Did Martha say we needed to bring anything?†Tasha asked.

“No just ourselves; how about a picnic breakfast on the beach tomorrow?â€

With that they changed tack.

At Pippa’s insistence she & Sally helped Clara to bed that night, letting Tina get some well-earned rest. At Cassie’s insistence she spent the night on the sofa not wanting Clara to be frightened should she wake up in a strange house during the night.

Flynn bent over Clara as she offered him a good night hug & shared 1 with Cassie too, before snapping off the light & creeping out to join his beloved wife on the back veranda.

“Clara’s out like a light. She was exhausted.†He said hugging Sally from behind.

“I’m not surprised; they’ve travelled a long way. I’m glad Pip is here, Tina’s washed out, she needs a complete rest.†Sally sighed. “Now that they are here I’m amazed we didn’t see the problem earlier.â€

“Hmm,… but at least Irene had the solution.†Flynn agreed thoughtfully. “We shouldn’t take any fresh bookings for the weekend & we’ll have to warn the other guests in the morning. We won't charge them for Saturday.â€

Sally agreed with a kiss & careful not to wake Clara & Cassie they tip-toed upstairs to bed.

The next morning when Tina came down the stairs it was to find Cassie helping Clara with her morning cup of tea:

“Morning!†she said cheerfully

“Morning.†Both answered in unison.

“Jinx!†Cassie giggled.

“Sleep well?†Clara asked.

“Like a log. Morning Cassie, alright? Where’s Sally?â€

“She went into the school to do some paperwork; both Pippa’s have gone for a walk. Flynn & Rick are cleaning out van 7, ready.†She smiled

“I can still hardly believe it!â€

“Oh believe it alright;…†Cassie assured Clara. “There’s nowhere quite like Summer Bay!

Van 7 looked like the proverbial hurricane had hit it, but Flynn & Rick worked cheerfully together. Flynn hummed tunelessly but loudly along to the radio until a well aimed cushion to the stomach winded him:

“Hey, I’m not THAT bad!†he protested.

Rick raised an eye-brow: “Want a bet? I may be deaf in 1 ear, but even I can tell a strangled cat when I hear it!â€

Flynn rounded on his foster-son with a look of fake hurt on his face & a ready-loaded sponge in his hand:

“Right! This is war!â€

20 minutes later, it was a good job they were meant to be tearing the van apart for not a surface remained dry & the boys themselves looked like they’d just been through a spin-cycle!

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Clara sat by the back door of Summer Bay house & tried to process everything that had happened in the last 2 weeks.

She remembered how excited & tired she had felt as the plane touched down on Australian soil. It had been a long few months even to get to that point, but she knew that was just the beginning. Spending that first night recovering at the airport hotel may have been by far the most sensible idea, but it certainly hadn’t been the cheapest & money seemed to be running through her fingers ever since.

That was just one of the reasons they picked the small town of Summer Bay whilst looking at the map over breakfast a couple of days ago.

It was close enough to the city for there to be magazines she might be able to write for, yet far enough away to keep their costs of living something close to realistic. Clara wondered if Sally realised just how much she’d helped out by letting them stay for free until things were fixed; not least it meant that Clara could pay Tina for just a little while longer.

That was Clara’s major worry for now, but before the fear could swamp her again Tina appeared, rubbing her hair from the shower:

“Ok?†she asked.

“Fine.†Clara sighed.

If Tina was disbelieving, she was kind enough not to mention it. Instead she sat down beside her friend/boss:

“I was thinking we could use a beach chair to let you have a shower in the shower block later.†She suggested.

“Sounds good.†Clara agreed. “Have you had a chance to ask Flynn about the laptop yet?â€

“Oh yeah, he says he thinks it’ll be fine but get an adapter just in case; he also says you can use the printer whenever you like.†#

Tina smiled.

“Huh, I should be so darn lucky!†Clara sighed grumpily.

Tina stood up, frowning: “You know I never listen to self-pity. I offered to lend Cassie a book, I’ll go find her & come back when you’re being sensible.â€

With that she left, leaving Clara feeling lost & more than a little guilty.

Still carrying the small child as they walked along the beach, Alf was concerned at the frown on his old friend’s face:

“What’s up Pippa?†he asked.

“I was just thinking if the buggy sank without a trace, Clara’s wheelchair wouldn’t stand a chance; it’s a shame for her to miss the beach, it’s sort of the point of the Bay.â€

By now they’d reached the steps to the roadway again. Alf handed Little Pippa back with a grin:

“Yes, & there’s these.†He tapped the step rider with his foot.

He stood still & thought for a second:

“I think, Pip, it’s time to rally the troops again!†he grinned.

“I think you might be right! I’ll make some calls when I get back home.†Pippa chuckled.

With that they went their separate ways, promising to meet later at the Diner gathering. Pippa took a detour via the school to walk Sally home, use her mobile & talk tactics.

Having been volunteered into helping with the baking for the meeting, Martha sighed as she stepped around a plate-carrying Leah for the third time in an hour:

“Sorry. This is nuts & I don’t even know why I’m baking!†she cried.

Irene chuckled: “You’ll find out soon enough! Alf said we could use some of the stock & cold space at the Surf Club; why don’t you go down there & get some drinks? Oh & while you’re there, make a list of what your Granddad will need to order for the weekend, can you?†Irene asked.

With that Irene saw that Martha was about to ask about the weekend & stopped her in her tracks: “Oh no you don’t girlie, ask me once more & I swear I’ll tell your Auntie Morag…â€

“Tell her Auntie Morag what exactly?

(Morag Bellingham, lawyer, former judge, Alf’s sister & town razor-wit had appeared from the flat above the diner she now shared with her brother & great-niece).

“Nothing Auntie Morag.†Martha smiled sweetly & disappeared before she could be interrogated.

Morag shrugged & turned to Irene: “Well, you just cost me a very expensive lunch, but the plans will be checked if I fax them through today. I took the liberty of adding the shower-block too.â€

Irene beamed: “Great idea!â€

“Yes, well, it won't be if that fish-mad brother of mine doesn’t get back here & draw them up!†she sighed, brushing off doing her bit with characteristic brusqueness.

“Alright Morag, keep your shirt on, I’m here!†Alf said making his way around the counter. “Is there any way we can add something?â€

Seeing an explosion coming, Leah chose now to go & pick VJ up from Halley who was baby-sitting; despite her curiosity, even Colleen saw the wisdom of going out front to serve the customers.

Half an hour, having escaped Morag’s evil eye, Alf’s next task was to call Sally:

“Oh hey Mr. Stewart! How’s it going? Yeah, we’ll all be there, 6:45pm sharp! Of course, Rick’s just here; I’ll get him.†Sally set down the phone on the table & tapped Rick who was at the fridge on the shoulder: “Rick, your Granddad wants you.â€

“Thanks.†He grinned. A second later he was on the line: “Hi Granddad. Fine. Ok, I’ll get Robbie, Scott, Kim & Jessie down there as soon as possible. Yeah, I know I won’t tell them. We’ll see you at the Diner when we’re ready. Bye.â€

He turned to Sally:

“The plan needs my help; Granddad needs us at the boat shed. We’ll meet you at the Diner, ok?â€

“Fine, but take your mobile phone. I’ll have Cassie save you all a table. See you there.†Sally grinned.


Meanwhile Cassie, arms full of towels was heading for the shower-block. They’d set the place up as best they could, but it was all too clear that Tina helping Clara have a shower was going to be something of an ‘adventure’. She gave Clara what she hoped was a supportive smile as she went past. Clara however, looked nervous:

“What should I wear? I don’t know, will tonight be formal or what?†she asked.

“Formal? No, it’ll be fun! Tell you what; how about that nice polo shirt I took out last night? I’ll go get it for you while you’re in the shower if you like?†Cassie grinned.

Clara smiled despite her nerves. This Cassie was an observant one alright; that was her all-time favourite & the symbol on it meant everything to her.

“That’s great Cassie. Can you bring me the pink & silver zip-up bag under the coffee table to please?â€

“No worries; I’ll bring some jeans & stuff & leave them outside the cubicle. Sal said we’re to shut the block ‘til your ready.â€

With that Tina appeared, dressed in a swimming costume:

“Ready Clara: let’s get this done, ok?â€

“Ok.†Clara nodded. “See you in a bit Cassie.â€

“Yep.†Cassie smiled.

Down at the boat-shed, Jessie was the first to arrive having had a call from Alf & driven down there. He met the older man as Mr. Stewart unlocked the door:

“Hi Alf. What’s up?†Jess smiled.

“Jesse. I need your help to get some of the wood from the old ‘Nancy’ down to the Caravan Park & some down to the West Key Steps.â€

“Any use asking you why yet?†the personal trainer asked.

“We’re helping out Sally & Flynn with an emergency guest problem at the Caravan Park. I gave my word I wouldn’t say any more until tonight. You’ll just have to trust me.†Alf grinned, enjoying keeping his friend in the dark.

“This is legal though, right?†Jess asked warily.

“Jesse, I LIVE with Morag Bellingham!†Alf laughed.

“Good point!†Jesse chuckled. “Here are Scott & Robbie; what do you say we get started?â€

Alf nodded.

It was Sally who opened the door for Clara & Tina on their return to the house:

“Very smart†she smiled as Clara went past.

“Are you sure?†Clara asked nervously. “Your friends won't be expecting a dress or anything?â€

“Whatever you feel comfortable in is fine. We’ll be going in about ½ an hour, ok?â€

Clara tried to smile but wasn’t sure she succeeded.

Leah, Dan & VJ were the first to arrive at the Diner that evening. After being pestered by VJ for a drink Leah gave her young son some orange juice on the condition that he sat down at a table. He did so obediently whilst Dan put some music on the jukebox & helped set out the coffee cups:

“For the hundredth time Dan, I only know what you’ve told me! Now will Peter be here?†Leah asked.

Dan shook his head: “No, he’s seeing Claire; he’ll be back for whatever’s going on at the weekend.â€

(Peter Baker, Dan’s brother was a detective & due to his last big case had moved to the Bay & therefore sort of become the town cop by default. His girlfriend however was still in the city.)

They worked in silence for a few minutes & then VJ saw someone at the door & ran to alert his mother to it.

“Who is it VJ?†Leah asked, keen to encourage her son with the thing he still found most difficult, names.

“Ippa.†The small boy replied.

“You mean Pippa darling?â€

The child smiled & nodded: “P, Pippa!†he struggled trying to please his Mum.

He was rewarded with a kiss from Leah & ruffled hair from Dan.

“Come on mate, you can help me with the door.†Dan smiled

VJ hurried after the man he had grown to love.

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Down at the boat-shed, the team of guys worked together like a well-oiled machine. Jesse & Kim broke up the wood, Scott & his brother Robbie sorted the wood into piles for each job, Alf numbered the lumber in accordance with his newly cleared plans & Rick loaded the wood onto a van to be taken where it was needed.

They worked with the help of a cheerful radio station to keep the tempo up. To their pleasure & surprise, they were soon joined by not only by Irene’s partner, Kim’s father Barry but also Blake Dean, Pippa’s foster-son whom she & Sally had called earlier in the day.

Barry drove the first batch of wood over to the Caravan Park, while everyone else got cleaned up & headed for the diner.

Leah appeared behind the counter just as the new arrivals got settled. Pippa, Sally, Cassie & two strangers had appeared. Leah greeted them all with a smile: “Hi, what can I get everyone?†she asked

Having already thought to ask everyone Pippa answered: A coffee for me, a lemon tea for Sally, & 3 cappuccinos. How did you say you liked yours Clara?â€

“In a take-out cup with a straw & a splash of cold milk if that’s ok?â€

“Sure; no problem. On the house, Irene’s orders.â€

She turned away hurrying to get the order before the rest of the town arrived & they were swamped.

Thankfully though Dan had also heard the order & was already working on Sally’s lemon tea. Leah smiled at him but was pulled up short as she saw the uncertainty in his eyes:

“What’s up?†she asked puzzled.

“Who’s that with Pippa & Sal? The girl holding Cassie’s hand?â€

“I don’t know, why; have you seen her before?†Leah asked.

“No. it’s just that… well she’s dis, er, I mean different.â€

“Yeah, that’s a foreign accent, I think. Here, take these out. A guest at the park I suppose.â€

Too busy to really think of anything other than preparing for the imminent rush, she handed him the tray of coffees.

“Er Leah,…†his voice was almost a whisper: “can't you go?â€

“What, why?†Leah was startled.

Her husband remained silent, but put down the tray. Leah blinked at him but before she could compute what was happening, Martha came hurrying down the stairs, followed by Morag:

“Careful child, you’ll break your neck!†she scolded.

“Sorry Auntie Morag. But I HAVE to see Cassie, find out what’s happening. Oh hi Leah! Is that for them?â€

Leah nodded mutely. Martha took the tray, smiled at Dan & hurried past. Morag followed her but not without deciding that now was not a good time to ask about numbers who might attend the meeting.

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“Hi Cassie, Sally, Pippa. Hi.â€

Martha smiled at Clara & Tina. “Cassie what in the world is going on?! The town’s buzzing.â€

It was Sally who spoke up: “Tina & Clara here,…†she smiled at them “… have made us realise we have to drag the Caravan Park into the 21st Century!â€

“Now I’m REALLY curious! Nice to meet you.â€

By now Cassie was grinning from ear to ear: “Clara, Tina, this is one of my best friends, Martha.â€

She leant closer to Clara to add: “She’s also Rick’s cousin, but don’t let that put you off!â€

Everyone giggled.

“What is it Dan? You’re usually great with customers. It was just a coffee order.â€

“But what do I say to her?!†Dan faltered

“How about ‘Hi, here’s your coffee?’ Or just ‘Hi Pippa, what’s going on?’ Wait a minute! Is this about Clara?â€

Dan nodded. Leah looked stunned.

“I never know what to say.†He blushed. “Ever since I saw a soldier with no legs as a boy; Peter asked questions, I ran & away & hid behind Mum.â€

Leah smiled up at her husband: “But honey, you live with VJ. You can handle this.†She touched his face affectionately.

“But VJ, you can’t, you know, see.â€

Leah sighed: “True, but how about we finish the order together? Ok?†she led him out of the kitchen by the hand: “Ok?â€

He nodded & tried to smile.

The first car-load of men to arrive at the Diner was Scott, Robbie & Rick. Cassie moved to another table with the boys but was careful to stay in the terrified-looking Clara’s line of sight.

Scott & Robbie peppered the other 2 with questions but they obediently stayed silent on the subject of the meeting.

Next to arrive were Tasha & Irene. Sending Tasha to join the newly formed table she sat on the edge of the booth nearest Clara so they could talk: “How’s it going then girlie?†she asked brightly.

“Don’t! I’m so nervous; are you sure this is a good idea?†Clara asked timidly.

“Good idea? It’s a great idea, even if I do say so myself. It’s about time we dragged Summer Bay into the C20th, never mind the C21st!â€

She sat back as Dan & Leah arrived with the drinks.

Clara would never know that Leah deliberately left her drink for Dan to hand over.

Clara took the drink from him with a smile: “Thanks; is there any sugar in it?â€

“Er…, no.†Dan stammered nervously.

Leah caught his eye & smiled supportively as if to say ‘Go on, you’re doing great’.

“Not yet. How, how many would you like?†he asked quietly.

“2, please,…â€

“Dan.†He supplied helpfully, seeing to the request, but not looking Clara in the eye.

“Dan.†Clara said committing the name to memory with a slight smile.

Irene smiled: “I’ll make a note of that. Anything else you need done in a certain way, speak up alright?â€

Clara smiled, but by now she had been distracted by the sight of some new arrivals. Jesse, Alf, Kim & Blake had just walked thorough the door, followed a few seconds later by Flynn, Hailey & Colleen.

Clara’s heart beat began to thump & her head began to spin. Who on earth was THAT?! He was drop dead gorgeous whoever he was! She decided then & there that money & earning power permitting she & Tina were staying in the Bay at least for a while.

She took a drink of coffee with Tina offering a steadying hand, grateful that she’d already been nervous so that Tina wouldn’t notice any difference.

Reluctantly, Clara tore her eyes from HIM & watched at Pippa & Sally first greeted warmly & then introduced Blake.

“Nice to meet you Blake.†Clara grinned. “Thank you for your help.â€

“No worries; I should be thanking you. Any chance to come home is always welcome.†He turned to his foster-sister: “That reminds me Sal, if it’s alright with you, Sophie & the kids have invited themselves down for the weekend?â€

“Great!†Sally beamed, “Hear that Flynn? Sophie, Tamara & David are joining the ‘barn raising’!†she called across to the counter where Flynn, Jesse & Kim were waiting to be served. Flynn answered with a thumbs up but didn’t get to speak as just then Alf Stewart raised his hand for silence:

“Alright folks! If everybody can settle down, we’ll get started; Leah & Colleen will bring your orders around.â€

Silence fell & Tina put an arm around Clara’s shoulder.

“Ladies & Gents, as you know we in Summer Bay think of ourselves as a very friendly town, but last night Irene informed me that although our people ARE welcoming, some of our places however are not. Just today, Little Pippa nearly sank without a trace & we can’t have that; Sally also mentioned last night that she can't sort out a van & watch Little Pippa because she can't get the buggy into a van. Now, not only is this making life tricky for Sally & Flynn, but our new friends Clara & Tina can't enjoy a van either, yet.â€

By now Clara knew all eyes were on her & she squirmed uncomfortably; but just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, she realised that all eyes meant HIS too, & turned bright scarlet. But by now Mr Stewart was speaking again:

“Now it doesn’t take a genius to see that this is just not on, so…†Here he looked at Hailey who helpfully uncovered the flip-chart she was sitting next to, “welcome to ‘Operation Update’.â€

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