Helen sat thinking about her life over a cup of coffee in her kitchen, enjoying the calm before the storm that this day of all days would bring.
Thinking about the journey her own daughter was about to embark made her reminisce about her own voyage of discovery. She'd been studious at school and that she wanted to train to become a nurse but everything had changed when she caught the eye of a young Frank Plum when she'd just turned 19.
She remembered how they'd spotted each other across the floor at a dance she'd been talked into attending by her father, Harry, who wanted her to settle down and have a stable all Burg life, just like his and Edna's had been. He hadn't seen the need for her to get any more education, after all, Edna left school at 14 and it had never done her any harm, he'd argued.
With a bit of encouragement from her father, she'd allowed Frank to woo her and bit by bit she'd changed and eventually had even given up all her childhood hopes and dreams. It had been a decision that took many sleepless nights to reach but she'd made with a happy heart as it was right outcome for her - in the times in which she grew up.
She gave up the idea of becoming a nurse.
She gave up her bookish ways.
She became the perfect Burg housewife.
Hell, she'd even learned to cook pot roast!
In time, she gave Frank two wonderful daughters – Val who was a carbon copy of who she had become, thanks to her own father's influence, and Steph who had turned into the woman Helen had always assumed she would be when she first started day dreaming. Before Frank, before marriage, before responsibility in the form of a house and children.
Looking back in spite of everything, it had been the right thing for her. She still loved Frank fiercely and knew that her life had been fulfilling because of what they had done together, but every now and then she thought back to what might have been and she would smile indulgently as she thought about her dreams of long ago. A little part of her slightly sad that she couldn't have had Frank, the girls and a career.
Swirling her nearly empty coffee cup she suddenly realised how much she'd given up because of her own father. Even thought it had worked out perfectly for her, times were different now, except in the Burg. Did she really want the same limited options for Stephanie that she'd had?
"Goddamnit no!" She hissed as she struck the table with her open hand.
Standing up, a grim look of determination spreading across her face as a light bulb went off, Helen Plum knew what she had to do.
The thought frightened her, but she realised she had only one chance at changing history so that it didn't repeat itself and make Stephanie change into something she wasn't and today was the only day she could make it happen.
And there was only only place she could do it.
Ranger stood next to Tank watching the bride walk up the aisle towards the future he should have had. All of her friends were there, Lula and Connie were bridesmaids, Lester, Ram, Hector, Bobby, hell, half of Rangeman and a few skips were there too, swelling her side of the church.
She looked nervous and tentative, the groom glanced over at him looking smug – as if he had won and his expression didn't alter as he returned his eyes to his approaching bride. Ranger knew that if it had been him standing there the look would have been one of adoration and amazement at the sight coming to meet with him. Steph was not a prize to be fought over - she was flesh and blood with feelings and a huge heart - she was someone to cherish and protect.
His heart broke a little more.
"We don't have to be here, man" Tank whispered softly, breaking into his thoughts.
"Yeah, I do." Came the tense reply. He'd backed out mentally so many times but some masochistic urge had compelled him to be there. To see for himself what he was giving up.
And just in case she'd decided to run away with him instead...
The priest's voice broke into his dark thoughts "And if anyone here present knows of any reason why these people should not be joined in matrimony then let them speak now."
"Go on, Cuz, tell her, run away with her. We've got your back." Lester begged in his other ear. But he couldn't do it – he knew Helen would disown her daughter if he did. That her face would not be welcome ever again in Trenton. No, he couldn't do that to her so he just sat, dejected as the love of his life got ready to say her vows.
He'd had his chance and he'd blown it.
He shook his head sadly and waited for the priest to continue. Just as Father Peter glanced back at his bible and adjusted his glasses a voice rang out.
"I do!" screamed a female from in front of him.
An inaudible gasp swept through the congregation.
Helen stood up. "I don't think they should be married."
The atmosphere was so tense and it hung in the air so heavily that the whole audience forgot to breathe.
"Look at him" She sneered as she pointed at Morelli who looked surprised, then angry, then 'busted' at her accusation. "He looks like the winner of a race, not a man about to embrace his future with the woman that he loves at his side."
"But he" she went on, now pointing at Ranger "looks as if his world has just collapsed, as if part of him has just died."
Ranger blinked in astonishment as all heads turned at looked at him.
"So? You may say" Helen continued "the bride made her choice? Didn't she? Well, yes. But only because she was worn down by a meddling mother and an overbearing boyfriend. She'll never be happy with the life she's about to have. She will die slowly inside as her dreams are eroded by the Burg and its expectations. She was not born for this and I realise that now."
Steph registered what her mother was doing. In front of the whole Burg universe, she was giving her a get out clause.
For years her mother had tried to force her into accepting the life she'd lived and finally she'd caved into the pressure and accepted Joe's hand. Well, that and the fact that the last psycho who'd kidnapped her for three terrifying days had scared the crap out of her.
Stephanie stood facing Joe and let a tear slide down her face as she picked up Joe's hand and kissed his knuckles. Passing him her bouquet she whispered "I'm so sorry, Joe" as she turned and fled into the vestry, her father hot on her heels.
Please reveiw - should I continue with this one?