Chapter Thirty

It was two months later and Charlie was definitely feeling better about things and about herself. She had continued to do nice things for Joey but it was more because she wanted to than because she felt she owed her something. And she felt like things had definitely got better between them. They had fallen back into a happy routine of domestic bliss and Ruby seemed to be doing well in all areas of her life. She had started dating a local boy called Dexter, she'd passed her driving test and was doing well at school. They had dinner as a family most evenings and shared the chores. Charlie was happier than she had ever been in her life before.

That evening, with Ruby out on a date, Charlie and Joey were watching television together and enjoying a glass of wine or two. Taking a deep breath, Charlie braced herself to ask the question she had wanted to for a long time. While she knew she was likely to get rejected, Joey's words about making her wants and needs clear were ringing in her ears. She studied Joey's perfect face and smiled. Realising she was being watched, Joey turned to eye her curiously.

"What's up?" she asked.

"Nothing," Charlie said. "It's just, uh... well, um... I wanted to ask if... uh..."

Joey smiled at how nervous and clumsy Charlie was being. She found it adorable. She found everything Charlie did adorable and that was increasing with each and every day.

"Okay, do you remember a couple of months ago?" Charlie ventured. "You told me that I deserved to be happy."

Joey nodded, reiterating what she had said.

"Well, um... okay, I know this is totally unlikely and it's absolutely fine if you say no. I'm not really expecting you to say yes but... well, I was just wondering if... if maybe..."

She stuttered and stumbled over how to phrase what she wanted to.

"If, well, if you would, um..."

Charlie swallowed several times, feeling flustered.

"Just say it," Joey coaxed.

"I was wondering if I could take you out on a date sometime," Charlie said in a rush.

Joey looked surprised. Charlie took it as a bad sign and immediately began to backtrack.

"Sorry," she said quickly. "I shouldn't have asked. I know you don't want to be with anyone, and least of all me. I mean, why would you...?"

"I'd love to go on a date with you," Joey said quickly.

Charlie's mouth hung open in surprise.

"You would?"

"I would," Joey confirmed.

The following evening, with both of them having got dressed up and ready, Charlie and Joey headed out of town. They'd decided on a simple dinner date where they could really talk and so far, everything was going well. They'd arrived via taxi so they could share a bottle of wine and eaten a delicious starter each. Now they were working their way through their main course.

"Thank you for agreeing to this date," Charlie said. "I was really nervous about asking."

Joey grinned.

"Really?" she teased. "I couldn't tell!"

Charlie poked her tongue out.

"I didn't think you'd say yes," she admitted. "But... okay, well, I'll lay all my cards out on the table. I love you, Joey. And if I'm allowed to, I really want to be with you. So, I figured if I didn't ask then I'd never know if I stood a chance with you."

She glanced shyly at Joey and smiled. Joey smiled back.

"I love you too," the younger girl admitted.

Charlie grinned.

"Well, even if we have nowhere to go from here, I'm glad to know that," she said.

Joey smiled back at her.

"What about the whole 'I'm never dating anyone ever again' thing?" Charlie asked.

She was still unsure as to where they stood. Joey sipped her wine, deep in thought. Finally, she looked back up at her date.

"That was the right thing for me to do for that time," she said, hoping she would be able to explain herself properly. "I needed to protect myself and it was a good way of doing it. But a lot of things have changed over these last few months and I guess I don't feel so vulnerable anymore. I was happy while I was away but I'm also happy now and I'm open to the dating thing. I'm open to dating you."

She blushed a little. Charlie couldn't help smiling.

"I'm attracted to you," Joey said. "Obviously."

She continued to blush and accepted when Charlie reached across the table to hold her hand.

"I was besotted from the moment I met you and then, well, we both know what happened a couple of months ago."

They both had flashes of memory.

"I wouldn't... I wouldn't want it to be like that again," Joey ventured. "But I hope that you and I might be able to make something work now. We're attracted to each other... Right?"

She momentarily panicked that she was on the wrong track.

"Right!" Charlie confirmed happily.

"We're attracted to each other," Joey continued. "We get on really well. I mean, living with you is an absolutely dream. And we love each other. So, maybe if we're both on the same page and we're willing to take it slowly and gently..."

"I don't want to rush into anything either," Charlie assured her. "I've made so many mistakes in my life but I just... I want to get things right this time."

"So do I," Joey confirmed.

Having finished their dessert and caught a taxi back to Summer Bay, Charlie and Joey stopped at the beach and walked across the sand hand in hand. Charlie admired how beautiful Joey looked in the moonlight.

"Are we really doing this?" she wondered aloud.

Joey stopped and turned to her, holding Charlie's other hand as well and gazing into her eyes. She smiled.

"We really are," she said.

"And you're happy?" Charlie checked.

"I'm ecstatic," Joey admitted. "How about you?"

"I feel like the happiest woman in the world," Charlie replied honestly. "You make my world complete."

She leant in and kissed her.

And our girls finally get their happy ending. Thanks for reading and reviewing this story. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here's hoping that 2011 with bring back Charlie's self esteem in the show, and of course, the lovely Joey Collins! Love, IJKS xxx