Stevie sat with a beer in her hand. Only one beer. She didn't want anyone thinking she was drunk. It seemed somehow important that people think she was of sound mind.
It also seemed important that people realise this wasn't an act of defeat. She wasn't admitting she was guilty. Quite the opposite, it would almost be tolerable to go to jail for a crime she actually comitted. That thought was what made her rummage through her room for a pen and paper. One last pathetic attempt to declare her innocence.
It wasn't actually the prospect of jail that frightened her most. She could have dealt with that. Probably. It was Alex. Losing Alex.
During the last week he had become so much more distant. He hadn't even been at the trial this week. He promised her that he would stand by her side every step of the way. But that was a promise easily broken. She supposed he was busy with his wife. Or perhaps he was still mad at her for not telling him about the fake pregnancy. How was she supposed to know what was going throught his mind when she never saw him, and when she did he rarley spoke, and when he spoke, he couldnt stand to look her in the eyes anymore. She supposed she could have called him, and asked him what was up. But deep down she feared what his answer would be. So she didnt.
Then there was the letter from Rose. As if her daughter didnt hate her enough already after finding out she had been lied to all those years. Now that her mother was in the paper and on the TV on trial for Harry Ryan's murder, Rose's anger burned even more fiercely. Words from the letter sprang to mind...havent you hurt me enough?...yes she had hurt Rose enough. And what was once the dream that kept her going through every obstacle, every hard time, every seemingly impossible situation, that dream was now shattered. Completly.
She found a pen, and a small piece of paper. She would have to be concise. Not that there was a lot left to say. All her affairs were in order. Everything would go to Rose, not that she owned anything of value but for Drovers. And if Rose didnt want it, Stevie was sure Michelle would sell it. Michelle would take care of Rose, just like she had done for the last 15 years.
She looked down at the paper, uncertain where to start.
I did not kill Harry Ryan.
It was short and to the point. She almost left it there. She wanted to leave a little something for everyone, but hesitated, not wanting to leave anoyone or anything out. But there were things that needed to be said. And this was a now or never kind of thing.
Rose, i love you, i have always loved you. I know you dont want to hear it, but its true. I am so sorry. For everything. I hope one day you will understand.
Michelle, I never really thanked you for everything you did for Rose, so, Thanks.
Jodi- you have grown up so much from that spolied brat who played her music too loud and never did any work. You are a true Mcleod, and I know Claire would be so proud of you.
Kate- We talked already. You did what you thought was right at the time. I dont hate you for that. I am not guilty, and I think now you know that. Don't blame yourself for this. It really isnt your fault. This is one last thing in the long long line of things I screwed up in my life. You are a great farmer, and a great person, and I know you will make a success of your life.
Regan- You've been a true friend to me since coming to Drovers, and an incredible support. I know you will go on to find your place at home here.
Tess- Maybe you wont read this, so far away in Argentina. You gave me a chance to prove myself, to invest and be a part owner of Drovers, and I failed you. I am so sorry. But I thank you for having the faith in me to give me the chance. We had a lot of good times here on Drovers, and i miss you.
Alex- You are my best mate.
She hesitated here, uncertain what to say, then, figuring she wouldnt ever have to face him again, or anyone else for that matter, she continued..
...I love you more than i've ever loved anyone. I never told you, because I was scared what your reaction would be. Thank you for everything you brought to my life.
She left it there. Short and sweet, she didn't want to leave a novel. There wasn't much point in that. She briefly added at the end
I love you all, and I know you dont understand. I'm sorry.
She folded the note and left it on the kitchen table.
Now the next problem was how. A gun would be quick and easily accessible. But it would leave quite a mess for some poor person to clean up. There was always her ute...but that would just be too "Claire" and she didn't have the heart to do that to anyone. Pills would have been good if she had any, hanging would do if she had a rope. For someone so decided to end her life, she was very uncertain just how she was going to do it.
Then it hit her, the perfect way. And she left her note on the table and headed out of the house.
Alex pulled into the driveway of Drovers Run. He had known for weeks that Fiona had framed Stevie for Harry's murder. What he hadn't known, or more to the point couldn't prove, was that Fiona had actually killed Harry. So he kept silent his information. Each night he went home to Fiona, pretending to love her, pretending to trust her, but silently digging for information that might reveal the truth about his father's death. It was tonight he finally found that truth. And it wasn't a moment too soon. He had the proof that Stevie had been framed for weeks now, and he should have come forward, or at least let her know. But he couldn't risk Fiona suspecting, he owed it to Harry to bring his killer to justice. So he kept quiet. He never would have let Stevie go to jail for something she didn't do. But he realized she may not see it that way when she found out that he could have saved her all this misery of the murder trial.
As he pulled up to the house the others were just returning from the stables. They were all there, all but for Stevie. They saw him pull up, but ignored him and entered into the house. He realized he wasn't exactly Mr popularity at the moment. He hoped when they found out the truth they might understand. If they didn't, he'd get over it. It was Stevie that he wanted to understand. It was Stevie he needed to explain it to.
They didn't even look up at him as he entered the kitchen.
"Is Stevie around?" He asked.
"What's it to you?" Regan responded.
He knew he deserved this treatment from them. He hadn't been around for weeks, hadn't shown up at the trial. To Stevie it must seem that he just didn't care. Or maybe she thought Alex blamed her for Harry's death. Alex wasn't sure which thought he hated more. But tonight he would explain everything to her, and hope to hell she would understand.
He had stayed away from the trial for two reasons. Firstly he wound't have been able to keep the truth from her that Fiona had set her up. He wouldn't have been able to stand to see the suffering in her eyes, and know he could do something to take it away. But he couldn't afford to let Fiona get away with murder. The second reason he stayed away was because he wanted to convince Fiona that he could be trusted. He wanted Fiona to think he blamed Stevie for Harry's murder. It was the only chance he would have to get her to open up or slip up somewhere and admit something. It had worked, and it seemed worth it. And not a minute too soon.
Fiona had confessed everything to the police when she realized Alex knew. She broke down begging forgiveness and pathetically promising it was an accident, and it wouldn't happen again. Words he had heard and believed so many times before, fool that he was.
Alex cast his mind back to a day soon after he and Fiona had returned home. He was talking with Stevie about her. Stevie hadn't offered her opinion, Alex asked for it. She told him it didn't matter what she thought. But he wouldn't let it go. She told him he was making a mistake. And he told her he wasn't as stupid as she and Jarred had been. How wrong could he be?
It was Stevie who always stood by his side. She had been right about Fiona. And he didn't look forward to hearing "I told you so". But it must be done. One thing he was looking forward to was telling her that she was off the hook for Harry's murder. He only hoped she would understand why he kept it from her for so long. He wanted to tell Stevie first about all this, but he could see that the others weren't going to tell him where she was unless he said something.
"They found Harry's real killer." He blurted out "And I need to tell Stevie"
The other looked to him, shocked. They all questioned him, What? Who? How? Kate ran up the stairs to find Stevie but came back downstairs alone, finding her room empty.
Alex could see he wasn't going to get away without telling more information. Regan, Jodi and Kate would have tackled him to the ground to get the full story.
"It was Fiona" He told them "She killed Harry and she framed Stevie, and I have to tell Stevie."
The others were shocked. Not shocked that Stevie was innocent because they had known it all along,. Shocked that Fiona could have done this.
"Do the police know?" Kate asked
"Yes. Fiona has been arrested. It's over." He replied. He wanted to tell all this to Stevie, not to the others.
"I think you should just go Alex, we will sort everything out from here." Regan told him.
He tone told him he wasn't welcome here. So he turned and walked out the door.
Kate quickly grabbed the phone to call the police to make sure it was all above board what Alex had said before telling Stevie. Stevie didn't need another disappointment. Once it was confirmed that this was really happening, they set off to find Stevie, not even noticing the piece of paper that they knocked off the table on to the floor.
Alex hadn't wanted to leave, but those three girls were not going to take no for an answer. He had no right to be here really. But he needed to explain. He waited until they left the house. He had no intention of going home before he had the chance to speak to Stevie. He owed her that much, an explanation. He couldn't stand the thought of her thinking that he had just abandoned her, that he didn't care. She might be angry, but he needed for her to know the truth. He waited all this time to be able to tell her, and he would tell her everything tonight. He went back into the kitchen, deciding to wait until the girls returned to the house. It was then he saw the piece of paper on the floor, and reached down to pick it up.