Seven for a Secret.

A pale and watery sunlight crept across the valley as Flora made her way back to the dig site. It was really early in the morning and she hoped she hadn't been missed. Picking up the pace she watched her breath blossom in front of her, small dragon clouds that signalled winter was here once more. A sharp hoar frost had turned the grass to crystallised sugar that snapped beneath her feet. Flora couldn't help but marvel at he jewelled spider's webs glittering from every bush, turning the dull little path into a fairy grotto. Five years she'd lived in the valley and every season seemed more beautiful than the one before. It wasn't just the beauty of that place that had captured her heart it was the people that lived there too. Here they were accepted in a way she had not known for a long time. No one questioned, no one judged. If any of them were curious about Carter and herself it was contained. This was a valley of secrets; no one was what they appeared to be on the surface yet no one cared.

Most people had secrets. Some had small, gentle secrets but some had secrets some deep and profound that they ruled their entire lives. Flora had spent most of her adult life helping Carter live with his secrets. Now, however, she knew it was time for the secrets to stop. She also knew that there are some secrets that cannot be hidden for long. Flora's hand instinctively rested across her stomach in an age-old gesture. She could feel a butterfly flutter beneath her hand.

This child complicated things. Love complicated things.

When she was twelve her parents were killed and Carter had become her guardian. He'd roared into her life on the day of the funeral and swept her away from her safe life. She'd been awed by this huge, brilliant personality, everything about him seemed super sized, but, as time went on, she soon came to know the real Carter. The brash outer confidence hid a troubled man. He had a deeply rooted fear of failure, of rejection. When the work was going well the sun shone and all was wonderful but let the work flounder and the black dog of depression descended to destroy everything. Nothing was right. Carter would retreat from all contact. He'd abandon any work that had been done and just move on. At his worst he was capable of literally destroying everything they had work for.

It had terrified Flora the first time it happened but she'd quickly grown to recognise the signs. She'd learnt to organise their lives, to cover for him when things went wrong and to shield him from the dark days of his life. They'd moved so much that no one knew them well and they'd kept it that way. At first people had assumed she was his daughter, then his sister and finally his lover. None of this was true but Flora gave up enlightening anyone and, up till now, was happy to provide a convenient smokescreen for yet another complication in Carter's life. She'd had relationships since the age of fourteen. No, that wasn't correct, they were merely encounters, some sexual, some not but none of them delved deeply into her heart and she'd been glad to move on.

Then there was Jack.

Two years ago Jack had moved into the valley and she'd known, almost from the day they met, that this was somehow different. When he asked she answered, with no attempt at concealment. As friends became lovers the unthinkable happened and the finds at the site began to dry up. All the signs were there, Carter would move on any day now and, for once, she wasn't prepared to go with him. On the other hand she couldn't just abandon him either. \That was when she came up with her plan. She just needed time. Time for her love affair to become something more. Time for Carter to see where his real future lay. It had taken cunning and a certain amount of underhand deviousness but it had worked. They were still there.

"Flora, FLORA," Carter's excited voice snapped her out of her reverie as he came running down the path to meet her. " Ah, there you are. Come on girl," Without waiting for an answer he began back towards the dig. Enthusiasm radiated from his ebullient figure. " Notebooks, I need the notebooks. This is just so exciting! "

" I'm coming," Flora called back, quickening her pace.

" You can see that young farmer of yours later my girl, we've got work to do." He spun round and flung his arms wide. "Tonight we'll celebrate, drink the bar dry, make love and dance till dawn but this morning we work," With that he gave an exuberant skip and disappeared into the dig.

Flora snuggled closer into Jack's embrace as all around them the valley partied on. Everyone happily downed cocktails and nibbled on snacks as the music rang out. Muffy and Gustafa had clearly had too much and more than one person had suggested they get a room. Carter was stood at the bar with Cody, Daryll and the twins.

"Is everything O.K.?" Jack whispered in her ear as he nibbled at her ear lobe. The noise of the party enfolding them in a small island of privacy. People smiled knowingly as they passed.

" Yes, " Flora whispered back. " Everything went to plan and, you'll never guess, but he actually found a real tablet late this afternoon."

"No," Jack groaned. " I nearly broke my neck creeping in to plant Cody's tablet last night,"

Flora giggled and hid her face in Jack's neck. As If attracted by the sound Cody looked over and smiled. His arm was draped around Carter's shoulders and he gave Flora a thumbs up.

" It's going to be fine. In fact I'm sure it will."

" You'll have to tell him soon, love," Jack said, placing his hand over her little round stomach.

" I will, tomorrow for sure. " Flora placed her hand over his. Cody still had two or three blanks from the stash she'd found early on in case they needed them. " Do you think he'll be alright when everyone else knows about him and me?"

" Love look around you," Jack assured her " I think most people have already guessed and if they haven't they will after tonight. He'll be fine. We live in a valley with a mad scientist who sees mermaids and has a cow fixation, twins who blow up things, a couple with a son who quite obviously isn't theirs, an old woman who can't work out if she has a granddaughter or a niece, a punk from nowhere, a tramp who blatantly steals food and everyone pretends nothings happening and a hippy that disappears every time the police come round. I don't think anyone's going to give a damn what Carter and Cody get up to"

Flora sighed as she watched her beloved cousin down a large yellow drink. She'd had her misgivings about asking Cody to help her mock up some tablets but it was the only thing she could think of. It had been a wonderful surprise to find out he had his own reasons for keeping Carter in the valley. She'd planted three of them in all and had been terrified each time that she'd be found out but Carter had accepted each one at face value and it had bought her the time she needed. It had bought them all the time they needed.

Let's go," Jack suggested, helping her up.

"Yes," Flora took his hand and turned to leave. Carter saw her and waved.

" See you tomorrow, Flora," He called over, smiled at Cody and added. " Well, maybe later tomorrow."

" Bye," Flora called across.

" See," Jack whispered. " No more secrets."

" Well maybe just the one?" Flora suggested.

1" Never to be told," Jack whispered back.