Ronnie sat at the bar of the Vic, her hands palm down on the bar top, her body perfectly still. Her mind reeling. Jack had left half an hour ago. She had given him the gun on the condition that he would leave, would let her do whatever it was she needed to.
And she had done it. She had finished it. It was done now.
She could leave, get on with the rest of her life. But she stayed there, stuck in a moment of pure silence. Her thoughts stilled and her mind became numb, even her breaths became more shallow and silent.
Several minutes passed with Ronnie just sitting there and staring at the rows of liquor that lined the wall. Eventually, she turned her head and her eyes fell on the lifeless body of her father.
"Veronica?" Archie's voice cut through Ronnie's thoughts like a knife to her skin. She had been sitting on a bar stool for the past few minutes, completely motionless. Her eyes were trained on the picture of herself and Roxy that Peggy had proudly placed there years before.
Two years. That's all it had been. Two years.
Ronnie closed her eyes. If she kept them closed for long enough, maybe she could go back to then. Back to when her biggest problem had been how to get rid of Damien.
"Jack's right, you shouldn't be here."
"Why not? This was my home long before it became your love nest. Speaking of which, where is the child bride?" The sneer in Ronnie's voice was unmistakable."Honeymoon period already over, is it?"
Archie let out an exasperated sigh. "Why are you here, Veronica?"
"I would have thought that was obvious."
"You came here to kill me." Ronnie looked at him, refusing to blink. "Well, there's a slight fault in your plan – you sent Jack home with the gun."
She shrugged in reply. "There's more than one way to skin a cat . . . you should know that." Her expression was steely, her eyes giving nothing away.
Archie simply raised an eyebrow and stepped behind the bar. He picked up a clean glass and filled it with a double shot of vodka before pushing it towards his daughter.
Ronnie shook her head. "I can't mix alcohol and . . ." she stopped, the weight of her grief pressing down on her chest like a boulder. But the emotional pain suddenly turned physical as a searing ache shot through her abdomen. Ronnie groaned and gripped her stomach.
"Ronnie?" Her father asked panicked, rushing out from behind.
"Stay away from me!" She demanded through gritted teeth as she tried to breathe through the agony.
"Let me help you, V-"
"Help?! You did this!" Ronnie screamed at him, putting up her free arm to create a physical barrier between herself and her father. "I'm miscarrying and you did this. How can you possibly help?!"
Ronnie's screams stunned him into silence and Archie stood in the middle of the pub, an aghast expression painted across his face. Simply watching as his eldest daughter struggled alone in pain. She was in pain, but she refused his comfort. She would rather suffer than have his help.
'She hates me that much.'
"I didn't mean to-" Archie began, but Ronnie cut him off.
"Didn't mean what? You didn't mean to rip my daughter from my arms? You didn't mean to lie to me about her being dead? You didn't mean to make out that she was lying when she came to me with the truth? You didn't mean to get her killed? You didn't mean to shack up with your granddaughter's murderer? You didn't mean to kill her sister? Which part didn't you mean?!" Ronnie's fury rolled off of her in waves, each word doused in a white hot fire that burned whatever was left of her father's soul.
"Danielle wasn't my fault. You signed those papers, nobody forced you to do that." Ronnie scoffed. "You can scoff all you like, but that was your doing. You gave her up and she was better for it – what kind of mother would you have made at fifteen years old, eh? What could you have possibly given her? A life? A future? No child could do that."
"So you took her away. You took her and then you kept her from me!" Archie flinched at her words, Ronnie's bitterness like a physical blow.
A mirthless laugh bubbled in her throat and erupted in manic tones. "D'you want to know what's funny? What's really funny? This'll tickle you, this. If you'd have just told me you'd lied and that she was alive, if you'd just given her back to me – I wouldn't have cared. I would have been angry with you for a few months, but I would have my daughter and I wouldn't have cared . . ." She shook her head, the blonde locks falling across her face.
A soft sigh hissed through her parted lips and she gingerly got down from the bar stool.
"Veronica? Where are you going?"
"I hope you live a very long time, dad. I hope your life is drawn out until the end and I hope you die alone, with nobody there. Because let's face it, none of us want you in our lives – you're poison and you contaminate every part of this family. Aunty Peggy's divorced you, mum's gone, Roxy doesn't want to know you and she sure as hell doesn't want you around Amy. So who's left, dad?" Ronnie lifted her shoulders in a shrug.
She turned around, heading for the back door. But Archie lurched forward and grabbed hold of her arm, pulling her back towards him. "Veronica! I'm still your father, don't you dare walk away from me!"
"You're mistaken; my dad died twenty years ago; the night my daughter was born. I don't know what you are, but you're not my dad." Ronnie twisted her arm out of her father's grip and began to leave the pub.
"No! Veronica! I'm still your father! I am your father and I am ordering you to come back here! Come back, Veronica. Ronnie! No! Don't leave m-" Archie cried out, clutching his chest with his right hand.
Ronnie turned at the sound of her father dropping to his knees. Her blue eyes watching as his face scrunched up in pain. Her feet moved of their own accord and Ronnie found herself kneeling on the floor next to him.
"V," he gasped out, his left hand searching for hers. "I'm . .sorry."
"Sorry for what?" Ronnie asked, her grief as wide and as deep as an ocean. "They're just words. If you won't tell me what you're sorry for, they're just words – they don't mean anything." She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat. "What are you sorry for, dad?"
"I'm . .sorry."
His face relaxed and his hand went limp.
But Ronnie didn't let go.
She held on.
Ronnie stepped down from the bar stool and began to walk to the back entrance of the vic. She stopped as she passed the Christmas tree that had been put in the corner, her eyes instantly drawn to the glass angel that stood atop it. A breath caught in her throat for a moment, but she dragged her eyes away and slipped out of the pub.
"Jack," Ronnie said in surprise, practically bumping into him as she walked through the alleyway. "What're you-?"
"I can't leave you, Ron," Jack replied.
Ronnie nodded. "He's dead." Bewilderment crossed her delicate features and before she could force herself to shut down, tears flowed down Ronnie's cheek like a river that had broken its banks. "He's dead."
Jack pulled Ronnie into a tight embrace, holding onto her to stop her free falling. "Shh, shh," he whispered, stroking the back of her head as he did so. "You're all right, you're all right. It's okay," Jack murmured as Ronnie clung to him, her chest heaving as she wept with wild abandonment for the father that she had lost and the man he had never been.