Chapter Eighty Three

Monday 21st December



The whole town is buzzing at the moment. We're all gearing up for Christmas. I can hardly believe that it's come upon us so soon. I'm really very eager to get myself to the city to spend time with my family. I want to give Dad a good Christmas and I am looking forward to spending time with Ruby. I can hardly stand the fact that she lives with Irene still. I miss her so much and I wish I could convince her to move back in with me. But I guess it's less likely than ever now that she and Geoff are all happy and in love. She'll want to stay with him. But I suppose I feel like I won't truly be forgiven for letting down as a baby until she agrees to live under the same roof as me again.

But anyway, Leah is rushed off her feet preparing for the Christmas party at the Surf Club. I'm really looking forward to going and I'm mostly disappointed that Angelo isn't going to be around. I'm disappointed because it should be a fun night and it's the kind of evening we would have enjoyed together. But I'm also a little bit relieved. Sometimes with Angelo, I feel like I have to behave in a certain way. I have to be attentive and put him first. And sometimes I really don't want to. Right now, I just want to party. I want to dance and have fun with my friends and family. I don't want to feel like I'm under any pressure.

I wonder what Joey is doing for Christmas. I guess she isn't coming home. Obviously I wouldn't expect her to spend the holidays with me. To be honest, I never expect to see her beautiful face again. But maybe a part of me hoped that she might return to be with Brett. But if not, I guess she's more than happy to be spending the day with this new girlfriend in this new life she's built for herself. I so want to be happy for her. But I can't help feeling a bit jealous. I wish I hadn't messed things up. I would have loved to have brought her home to spend Christmas with me and my family. Why did I have to be proud to call her mine when it was already too late?

Tuesday 22nd December



It's been a particularly long day, although that has had little to do with work, to be honest. I worked all day and then called Dad and Morag about Christmas. It was just to finalise plans but my heart broke pretty badly when Dad could barely remember who I was. Morag said that it was just a bad day but even if it is, I know that it's only a matter of time before this becomes our lives. Soon enough, Dad will completely fade away from us. And it could easily be in prison, which of course would only make things a million times worse. The trial date has been set for 4th January and I'm terrified. I guess Dad, Morag and Ruby must be too.

And speaking of Ruby, we had arranged to go out for dinner tonight but she cancelled on me at the last minute. I feel so disappointed. And I know it's wrong. I know I should be happy that she's got her own life and she's happy. I just miss her so much. She said we could catch up tomorrow but it's not going to work, realistically. Tomorrow is the Christmas party so while I will see her there, it won't be proper quality time for us.

I guess we've got the drive into the city on Christmas Eve. It's better than nothing I suppose. She bailed on me because she wanted to spend the evening with Geoff. I guess he's more important now. I think I've lost my position in her life for good.

Saturday 26th December



Well, it has been one hell of a Christmas. If I thought it was hard to cope last year, the first Christmas without Mum, then this was even harder. Not only do I have no mother, a fragmented relationship with my daughter and a Dad who keeps forgetting my name, I was also nearly killed. Good times, hey? That was sarcasm, by the way.

Okay, so if I don't write it all down now then I won't bring myself to do it ever and I know I have to. This diary has been my saving grace for a long time. It's the one place that I can be totally honest without any fear. It's where I can long for Joey, fret about Angelo, admit the depth of my feelings about Ruby and confess all my sins. So I think writing about what's happened will help. Ruby has been fussing over me for the last few days but she's gone out for a walk with Geoff. Apparently she's coming back with ice cream and movies and stuff so I thought I'd take the time to get everything down on paper.

Everyone was gearing up for the Christmas party at the Surf Club on Wednesday night. Leah was doing the catering and pretty much everyone was going to be there. I had to work all day but I was looking forward to kicking back and enjoying myself. It all started before I left work, really. I was told that Derrick was being transferred to the station in order to be interviewed. I thought it was strange to be honest, I still don't quite understand what happened but the result was that he escaped in transit.

I decided to deal with the transfer (before I knew of the escape) in the morning because my shift was over and I'd been looking forward to the party for days. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, apart from poor Miles. Leah was feeling very positive about romance because something appears to be developing between her and this guy called Hazem. He fixed up the Diner for her before and he's been working on the gym since then, although I gather all is not well between him and John. But then, who does John actually get on with aside from Gina?

Anyway, when I got to the party, I immediately caught up with Ruby and it was really nice. We chatted and reflected on having probably the most life changing year of our lives. I mean, it's been pretty crazy, hasn't it? Angelo was charged and then cleared of murder. I fell in love with someone for the very first time and then lost her through my own stupidity, and perhaps arrogance that she loved me enough that I could treat her as badly as I wanted and get away with it. Ruby lost her virginity to Xavier but then fell in love with Geoff. Then she found out the whole truth about her and me after sixteen years of lies. And subsequently, Dad was charged with the murder of the man who raped me all those years ago. Yep, it's been hectic. And tragic. And there are so many things I wish to God I could have done differently.

I was genuinely having a fantastic time when I got the call from work to tell me about Derrick. I'd made an effort to get to know Geoff and we danced a lot together. I had fun with Ruby and everything felt really good, although John had a go at Hazem and Miles stormed out on his own. I gather that he and Leah had a bit of a misunderstanding earlier in the day and he tried to kiss her. Colleen saw and started spreading rumours of course and apparently the whole thing was pretty mortifying. On the back of everything that happened recently with Kirsty, I really empathise with him.

I arrived back at work and was told that the message in Bambang's toy had been decoded, leading us to shipping container seventeen at Port Heron. I went over to check it out, a decision I deeply regret right about now. While I was there, Avery phoned with a phone number they'd also deciphered and when I rang it, a mobile phone rang in the building. I wasn't sure what to do so I carried on trying to bust open the shipping container. And I honestly don't think I will ever get the image of what I found there out of my head. I still feel sick thinking about it.

Locked up in the container were several half dead asylum seekers, including 'Clint Eastwood' whose real name is Wayan. They were emaciated and broken. They're all still in the hospital and it's touch and go as to whether they'll make it. I feel so sad thinking about them and what they must have been through – and not just locked up, starving and in the dark. What must they have survived to even get there? Is living here really worth the risk of dying? What kind of tragedy were they leaving behind? I just can't bear to think about any of it.

Anyway, I didn't have time to raise the alarm or even try to rescue them. Hugo suddenly appeared behind me and knocked me out with the heel of his gun. By the time I woke up, I was being taken out to sea on his boat. It became morning too quickly and I was trapped and being dragged further into the ocean. Like a proper villain, Hugo explained a few things while we were out there. He admitted to being involved in the human trafficking and I now firmly believe that he killed Lou. He told me that the only two things connecting him to anything were his mobile phone, which he tossed overboard and me, which he also attempted to toss overboard.

He told me that I had to swim over to a nearby island and then he would call someone to tell them where I was when he was safely on his way out of the country. He kept going on about how much he loves Martha and needs to protect her. When I was taking my boots and everything off, I faked a blackout. When he came to check on me, I pinched his gun and finally got the upper hand. Unfortunately, it was only temporary.

I was in the middle of demanding that Hugo take us both back to land when another boat approached. Suzy was on board and I had no choice to work with Hugo to bring her down. I jumped overboard and managed to creep along and attack her from behind. Unfortunately, as we were brawling, she fell into the sea and I had to save her. And the bastard, Hugo, drove off and left us to drown.

I managed to pull her back on board her boat and I restrained her. And I have to thank Joey Collins for teaching me to steer a boat that time because that was the only way I managed to get us safely back to the Bay. I was so fucking scared. I called for help as soon as I could and there were police waiting to take us back to the station. Suzy is in custody and I went home as soon as I could.

In my absence, a lot of things had happened. Xavier had started to get flashbacks during the party and convinced Alf and Romeo to go to Port Heron with him, where they rescued the refugees, which was a real miracle.

Before she'd come to find us out on the water, Suzy had abducted Martha and left her with Derrick who held her in the boot of his car. Fortunately, Angelo was on hand to rescue her. Apparently he'd been working the case on the sly in private all this time and wasn't visiting friends at all. I was pretty pissed off that he lied, to be honest. But at least it had a good end. He rescued Martha, although he did get shot in the process. Fortunately, the bullet only grazed his head and he's okay. I believe it was Martha who saved the day in the end though. She knocked Derrick out by hitting him with a fire extinguisher. He's still in hospital. Good for her, I say!

Angelo took Martha and Derrick to the hospital with him and he got patched up. He told me yesterday, pretty emotionally, that Martha thanked him for saving her life. She also forgave him for killing Jack. When he was telling me about it, he got really tearful. I felt very compassionate. I think even more than getting to the bottom of this case, what he was seeking was forgiveness. And he's got that now. We just have to wrap the case up and hopefully he can close this chapter of his life for good. I don't think he'll ever completely forgive himself for ending the life of a friend and colleague, and nor should he, but I think we can all accept that it was an accident. And I hope we can all move on.

Speaking of moving on, we're a little uncertain about the future right now. Angelo was brought back to the Bay to bring the human trafficking ring down. The chances are that he'll be moved on now and stationed somewhere else. He said he doesn't want to go but thinks it is likely. He's very keen on us spending the time we have left together and I know he's contemplating long distance relationships and the like. I don't really know how I feel. I knew from the start that this whole thing was probably temporary. A part of me wonders if that was part of the attraction. I know that I don't want to be with Angelo for the rest of my life. I know I'm not that girl. The only person I could and would ever contemplate spending my life with is/was Joey and that can't happen now. So honestly, I do see myself living out my days alone. But I also know that if Angelo does get transferred, I will miss him. More than anything else, he's my friend. And I've always been terrified of being alone. He's not 'the one' but he's better than nothing. But that, in itself, is completely unfair on him so maybe the least selfish thing to do is just to let him go.

Anyway, at the hospital, Wayan woke up after surgery and spilled the whole story about Hugo and what he has been involved with. He filled in a lot of gaps, which was helpful and Martha was quick to reunite him with Bambang.

Hugo then made the mistake of going to see Martha at the hospital. She was not pleased to see him. And on his way out, Angelo caught him and dragged him to the police station where we're holding him in custody. We're heading back to work tomorrow and I'm taking the lead with interviewing him then. I'm going to hit him with every fucking charge I can. I hate him for what he did to me. I hate him for hitting me, abducting me and trying to throw me overboard. I hate him for turning on me and leaving me to die with Suzy. I hate him for all the evil he's been involved with.

And I hate him for being there on that awful night on the beach when I was fucked up, drunk and vulnerable. I hate him for letting me kiss him, for taking me to bed. I hate him – and myself – for not realising the terrible mistake we were making. I hate him for not putting a stop to it when I couldn't seem to. I hate us both for costing me one of the two most precious things in my entire universe. I go back to that night in my head over and over again and I wish to God that I could take it all back, that I could do things differently. If I had realised in that moment exactly what I stood to lose, exactly how I was destroying my life then I know I'd get things right. I know I'd stand up and face the world that was calling me gay. I'd push Hugo away and pledge my love to Joey. I would do every single thing it took to keep her. I would love her with everything I am and everything I have.

She texted me yesterday morning, thanking me for the necklace. Unfortunately, I was with Dad, Morag, Ruby, Angelo, Irene and Geoff for Christmas so I couldn't find any private space to either text her back or open the gift she sent me but I made sure I did it as soon as I was alone this morning. She got me the most beautiful wind chime I have ever seen. It's stunning. And with it, came a note to say that she'd started going to a craft course one evening a week and this was a piece she'd been working on all term. Subconsciously, she'd been thinking of me when she was working on it and it turned out to be my favourite colour – purple – and decorated with my favourite animals – dolphins. She said that every time she looked at it, she thought of me and thought perhaps I might like to keep it. I think it actually means more to know that her love and care has gone into creating it. And to know how much she thinks of me both breaks and lifts my heart all at the same time. I just wish she'd come home. I wish, if she does care about me this much, she'd give me one last chance. I know I wouldn't stuff it up this time. I know I'd make it work. I'd give that girl my whole heart and I would never take it back. And if she offered me her heart a second time, I would never break it. I'd keep it close and safe. Always.

Those were all the things I wanted to say to her when I thanked her for the gift. But I didn't. I know she's trying to move on with her life and I know that she's with someone new. And that person probably deserves her far more than I ever did. So, I just thanked her and told her that it meant so much to me. I told her that I would put it up in my room and think of her every time I saw or heard it. And I have.

I haven't quite figured out who to tell Angelo it came from. The truth isn't an option of course. But I don't want to hide it away in my box. I want to have it on display. That's what it was meant for. It's beautiful and doesn't deserve to be hidden away – much like the person who made it. I made the mistake of hiding her and I never should have. She should have always been allowed to live in the light. Even without all the horrible cheating, I know I behaved badly. I treated my love for her as something shocking, something to be afraid of. I never should have done that. I should have been so damn proud that someone as incredible as her could love someone like me. I failed. I just wish it hadn't been my last chance.

Anyway, I've skipped a day. Christmas was kind of weird. Everything was so raw and I'd spent Christmas Eve sharing a bed with Ruby who clung to me like her life depended on it. She apologised so many times about all the arguments we've had this year and says she can't bear the thought of losing me. We made a pact that we would never drift apart again, even with the current situation. She said she can get used to me being her Mum if I want her to, which I very much do. It was lovely to share that with her. I ended up crying myself to sleep in a fit of joy and sadness that all overwhelmed me all at the same time.

Angelo ended up spending Christmas with us. I wasn't keen exactly but what with everything that happened, it seemed wrong to reject him. I wasn't in a physical or emotional state to drive into the city so Irene invited us all to her place. She said it was just her and Geoff this year and that she would like to have other people round so me, Ruby, Dad, Morag and Angelo all piled in and considering the circumstances, we had a lovely day.

I let Angelo come and spend the night with me last night and he left early this morning to go back to work. I've taken an extra day off. I just can't face it yet. He's promised not to interview Hugo until I'm there though and I hope he's aware that I'll kill him if he doesn't. Interviewing Hugo is very personal to me right now. I both need to do it and am terrified of doing it. And it's no problem for me if he has to languish behind bars for an extra day. Actually I'm taking a lot of pleasure in it. I hope the staff are spitting in his food. And I know I sound like a terrible person but I can't even begin to start analysing what happened to me – what that bastard put me through. I hate him.

Sunday 27th December



I went back to work today and to say it was emotionally draining would be the understatement of the Century. I led the first interview with Hugo but the bastard wouldn't admit any kind of involvement in anything that happened – not even the things that I can testify to like, you know, nearly killing me.

Anyway, it was hard to sit across from him, all smug and disgusting. Our basic understanding of the situation is that he and Suzy have been operating from Indonesia for years before Hugo moved here on the pretence of reuniting with his family. Instead, he was just settling himself to receive the poor refugees on the other side.

Derrick has been the person shipping them over and he ended up on the island with Geoff and Nicole after his boat – and the poor people on it – sank. I also believe that on the night that Hugo got 'bitten by a shark', he was actually hurt after an encounter with Lou DeBono. Hugo is the person who killed him.

Anyway, when things got a bit much for me, Angelo took over and I believe he showed him pretty compelling evidence. I just hope we nail the fucker forever. I never want him to be allowed to see the free light of day again.

Okay, I'm getting all bitter and angry down so I'm going to have to change subjects. I'm just finding this whole thing so hard right now. I'm being plagued with nightmares and I feel like I can't breathe anymore.

I did have a nice day with Ruby yesterday though. She was very sweet and very caring and it made me really happy to be with her. If anything good has come from all the horror of the last few days then at the very least, I feel like it has brought us closer together again. She was full of news, just like the old days – including the fact that Nicole and Liam have split up and Nicole thinks she might be in love with Aden. I can't say that that's a shock. To be honest, I'd be surprised if he didn't feel the same about her, although I can't imagine what that's doing to him – bearing in mind Belle only died this year. It really has been a long year though – for everyone – including me.

I'm also pretty proud of myself for not freaking out on Ruby yesterday. She told me that on Tuesday, she and Geoff slept together for the first time. I had hoped that she was planning to wait. I don't want her to rush into anything. I mean, she and Xavier only slept together once (as far as I know) before she dumped him. I don't want her to enter a serious relationship if she's only going to get her heart broken. I don't want her to turn out like me.

But I was really supportive and encouraging (I hope). I'm sure she'd be the first to tell me off if I wasn't being good about it. She told me all about it and it seems like it was really special for them. So eventually, I hope to stop panicking. Geoff is a nice boy, after all. I mean, I actually did like Xavier and look at all the mistakes he made, what with him getting stoned, dealing drugs and then all the Freya stuff. Geoff certainly doesn't have the same reputation as Xavier so if Xavier was a good kid at heart then presumably, Geoff must be. He's very attentive and he's also very sensible, especially with Ruby's diabetes, which is encouraging. He doesn't generally rush into things head first so maybe he can help rein Ruby's impulsiveness in. I hope they'll be a good match. She deserves someone who'll love her. Maybe that's the difference between us.

Speaking of 'love', Angelo's phoning.

Sunday 27th December



Hugo's dead. That's what Angelo was calling about. I can't quite process what I feel. I mean, I hate the guy for what he did to me. I hate that I made the biggest mistake of my life with him. Thinking about it makes my skin crawl more than ever now. But death... it's so final. He's dead. Gone. Lying in a morgue. It's weird.

He was being transferred into formal custody after his interview but Angelo let him stop to say goodbye to Martha who showed up at the last minute. I guess it was more for her sake than Hugo's. But as they were saying goodbye, an Indonesian man in a motorbike helmet showed up and shot him right in the chest.

Angelo said he died instantly and Martha was obviously upset. Who can blame her? He's heading round to see Gina and Xavier now to break the news. It certainly is a happy Christmas and New Year in Summer Bay, isn't it? That was sarcasm, by the way.

Next time… Charlie lies about the wind chime and struggles in the wake of everything that happened with Hugo…