This is my latest idea- about the trials and tribulations Ben goes through, raising their daughter without Melissa around. I'm not sure how old little Ellie Rafter will be when this story ends... I have an idea, but that shall have to wait. Please read and review!
His younger brother's watery eyes told him that the news he had just received was not sick joke, like he had hoped. The blue eyes that all four Rafter siblings shared were brimming with tears, but he refused to let his own fall. He saw his family- they were crying, but yet he couldn't let his own tears fall.
His wife was dead.
Not only was she a beloved daughter, sister, wife... she was a mother. Their daughter was only a baby- that night was their night, the first time away from their little girl. She was left in the completely capable hands of his brother, best friend and best friend's girlfriend, in their own castle. His parents, sisters, sister's boyfriend and grandfather were right next door, should anything go wrong.
But nothing was going to go wrong. It was their night.
He should have known someone's bubble was going to burst. Life was too smooth.
"Ben", his father Dave said gently, as he just stared at the empty shell of his wife. Ice cold to touch, he knew that she was gone. But he couldn't tear his eyes away, even though he knew the image would haunt his dreams.
"You can't go home tonight, darling", his mother Julie choked out.
"You can have my room", his older sister volunteered through her tears. "I can stay at Jake's".
He was quiet the entire ride back to their street. He saw the streetlights outside his house- the one he had shared with his best mate and his wife. She was his best friend- they shared everything. Everything down to a little girl they called theirs.
"Where's Ellie?" he wanted to know, shaking his head to rid the clouds. He hadn't seen the infant since he had kissed her goodnight, leaving her in the arms of his brother Nathan.
"With Retta and Jake". Carbo's eyes were red. He and Ben had argued over Melissa when she first moved in, but he had stepped aside when he saw the love radiating between the two.
"I'll get her", his grandfather spoke up. "Ruby's in bed".
"I'll check on her", Rachel mumbled, hurrying out of the kitchen, towards the little girl's bedroom.
Moments later, Retta, Jake and Ted entered the house, the infant in Jake's arms. He scooped the little girl up, holding her close.
The only thing little Eloise Rafter had inherited from her father were his piercing blue eyes. She was Melissa all over...
And it hurt.
"Mummy loves you, Ellie", Ben whispered, as he cradled the little girl. "She'll never stop loving you".
The house was dark, long after his family had gone to bed. He was back in his childhood home, on the lounge. Wide awake, because there was no way he was able to sleep. The night's events had shaken no one more than him. He had just lost his wife, his best friend, the mother of his daughter.
There was no describing the joy on her face, when she found out she was pregnant. He had been overly excited, rushing into everything. Redecorating a room for their little girl, choosing names and buying everything ahead of time. The room Ellie slept in was painted a pale pink (Retta had tried her hardest to teach them her 'colour therapy', but they weren't having it), a wooden cot in the corner. It was full of toys, both bought and given to her.
Melissa had been hesitant, that she wouldn't be a good enough mother. But she was amazing with Ben's little sister Ruby- who was barely a year old- and was even more amazing with Ellie. There were some things that Ben would never understand- how she knew exactly what their daughter wanted, how she knew what she needed. Even after two days of no sleep, she could be wide awake and gentle with her.
His father had made phone calls that night, phone calls that should have never had to take place. He had called Melissa's parents, telling them that they needed to come to Sydney. No one should ever have to hear that sort of news, he decided. Especially not a parent.
They hadn't seen Melissa's parents since their wedding, a year ago. They had planned to make it down to Sydney for Christmas, to meet their granddaughter and shower her with presents. Ben and Melissa had wanted to go and visit them in Perth, but with a newborn, it was too hard to travel. Melissa wanted her parents to get to know their granddaughter, to see their faces when they first held the little girl.
Now she'd never have the chance.
The next morning, Ben went home. Back to the house next door, the one he had shared with Melissa.
"Hi mate", Carbo said, a little too cheerfully for his liking. "How are you this morning, Ellie?"
"Pat and Linda are coming today", he said blankly, handing over the baby to her beloved uncle. "We're making plans for the funeral today".
Retta almost choked on her orange juice.
"Did you get any sleep last night?" Nathan wanted to know.
"Couldn't sleep". He shrugged.
With Ellie in the care of her Aunty and uncles, he went upstairs, flopping onto the bed. He pulled Melissa's pillow closer to him- it smelt like her. The whole room smelt like her. Every morning, he would wake up to the alarm clock, and would lay there with his wife before Ellie would pull them back into reality.
He lay there for hours, breathing in the smell of his wife's perfume. The smell of her shampoo combined with her perfume made the sweetest smell in the world, he had decided.
"You still in bed, lazy bones?"
The sound of his wife's gentle laugh broke through the silence in their bedroom. His eyes popped open, and she was there. Standing in front of him.
"Come on, get up!" she laughed.
He knew he was seeing things. But there was something about it that made him smile. If he could still see her, he could still hold onto some sort of hope. Hope that she would be there when he needed her. There were things he couldn't do, things that he needed her for.
"Ben?" the knock at his door snapped him back to reality- and made Melissa disappear. "Darling, Pat and Linda are here. They'd like to see you".
"I can see her", he whispered.
Julie was torn. She had lost her mother, but had tried to stay strong for her family. Her father had been the one who had suffered, but had found a way to deal with the loss. She was completely lost when it came to saying something to her son.
"I'll be there soon", he sighed, when his mother said nothing.
"They want to meet Ellie".
"Ellie's with Carbo", he said monotonously, pulling Melissa's pillow closer to him. "Tell then I'm coming".
And he did haul himself downstairs, and out the door. When he arrived at his parents' house, Linda was sniffling about how much Ellie resembled her daughter. Pat was telling- no, instructing- Dave how he wanted the funeral to run.
But Ben knew he had the final say.
Pat wanted an open coffin and a burial.
Ben did not.
Closed coffin and cremation was settled on (after much argument and a lashing out on Dave's behalf), and Ben took his daughter back to his house.
"Ellie, I don't know what to write", Ben sighed to his daughter, the pen and paper in front of him. Ellie was in her cot, gurgling to herself, and Ben was in the chair beside it, a notebook and pen in his hands. "Life wasn't supposed to go this way, Ellie. You were meant to have a little brother or sister- maybe two- and we were supposed to get old and wrinkly together. That's what Mummy said on our wedding video. She told me even when we were old and fat and wrinkly, I was never supposed to change. No one ever factored this in. I don't think they ever do, Ell".
Ellie didn't say anything- she simply kicked her tiny feet against the mattress.
"She was my best friend, Ellie. We went through everything together. She knew me better, some days, than I knew myself! One day, I put a red sock in with the white washing, because I hate doing the washing. I thought that if I stuffed up, your mum wouldn't let me do it again. She caught on- and picked the red sock out of the washing before I could even start the machine". He chuckled slightly, but stopped. It didn't feel right laughing, after an event like that. "Mum says, Ellie, that time fixes everything. But how much time? When Nan died, it took Granddad ages before he stopped hurting. He said he still misses her, but it doesn't hurt any more. I can't imagine it not hurting, Ell. I miss her so much!"
He peeked into the cot, where Ellie lay, smiling up at her father.
"Your mum chose your name, you know?" he said conversationally. "We had a house meeting, to discuss names. Uncle Carbo wanted a Greek name, but Aunty Retta disagreed- she wanted to call you Lilly. I told them they could argue all they wanted, but Mummy and I got the final say- even though Mummy and I both liked Lilly. I suggested Tayah, but no one wanted that. They thought that was a bad idea. Mummy wanted Gracie, but no one wanted that either. I said Rose, and you kicked your mama. But she liked Ellie better. That's how you became Eloise Rose, you know?"
Ellie gurgled, and he stroked her soft hair, sighing at how much she looked like Melissa.
"You're not going to know your mamma, Ell. You aren't going to know what an amazing person she is. She wasn't real good at cooking, but apart from that, she's perfect. She always knew the right thing to say- she always knew what to do. You know, she didn't think she was going to be a good mum. But she's one of the best mothers I've ever seen- Ellie; you are one of the luckiest kids in the world. She loved you so much- when you first came home from the hospital, you didn't sleep. You refused to sleep, little one. We had finally got you settled, when we woke you up, just to make sure you were still breathing". He sighed at the memory, remembering how long it had taken to get her settled once more. "I'm not going to let you forget your mama, kid. She's too special for that".
It was after the funeral the following day that Ben allowed himself to sit down, to escape his family. he fell onto his parents' lounge, Ellie resting on his stomach. He was about to close his eyes when he heard her sweet voice once more. She was walking towards him, looking positively angelic.
"You're exhausted", Melissa said. "You need to get some sleep. Look after Ellie, she needs her daddy. I love you, Ben Rafter". She pressed a kiss to his lips, gently stroked Ellie's soft hair, and, waving, walked back to the yard.
Ben's wounds were still open, but given time, the wounds would heal.