"Tess is Stevie around?" Alex asks. Tess replies "No Alex she's gone." "Oh right when will she be back?" Tess glances at Fiona and then back to Alex and says. "She won't be back Alex she handed in her notice last month the day you came back and she left yesterday." He looks uncomfortable and says. "I would have thought she'd come and say goodbye." Beside him Fiona is smiling on the inside, so much for being his best mate. Bye bye Stevie, good riddens Fiona thinks to herself.
Six months have passed since Stevie left and sadly Alex hasn't heard a word from her. Fiona continually pushes Alex to set a wedding date. She's getting annoyed with him and the more she pushes the more distant he becomes. She decides she needs more leverage so she tells him she thinks she's pregnant. He appears excited but still no wedding date has been set. So she fakes a miscarriage that still doesn't entice a wedding date out of him. Fiona begins to feel as if she should walk away. But the idea of being Mrs Ryan makes her heady with desire, the power, the money, she wants it all.
On Drover's Tess has received a letter from Stevie.
I hope this letter finds you and Nick in good health. I'm well and happy. I'm back working as a stock agent and although the money is great I miss Drover's Run and all of you so much. Sometimes I get a bit teary with the way things worked out but I'm certain what I did was for the best. I have to drive through to Melbourne on the fifth and will be in Adelaide for two nights and I was hoping I could catch up with you? I'm staying at The Grand and thought we could have lunch together, my new number is on the back of the page and my address as well... I hope Alex is happy and that my absence helped smooth things for him. I'm sorry I left you without an overseer but I couldn't bare to see them together. Tess I love him so much that my heart aches when I think about him but I hope sometime soon that feeling will fade and I'll be able to move on with my life. I've just reread my letter and it's quite depressing but I'll leave it as it is because I know my dear friend that you will understand.
All my love
Tess walks into the restaurant and spots her friend easily. Stevie remains seated Tess hugs her and kisses her cheek then sits chatting happily. In the same restaurant Alex and Fiona are just being seated when Alex spots Tess walking in the opposite direction. He smiles when he sees Tess stop at a table with a woman already seated it's obviously Stevie he can see her beautiful red hair and he's positive it's her even though she has her back to him.
"Oh Stevie he's gorgeous." Tess enthuses. Stevie chuckles and says "Yes I think so. My own piece of happiness Tess." Tess offers" Stevie why don't you come back to Drover's?" Stevie shakes her head and says "No Tess I can't. I won't keep hurting myself like that."
Alex waits until they've ordered and then he excuses himself with the pretence of going to the bathroom and makes his way over to Stevie and Tess. Tess spots him and says "Oh god Stevie it's Alex." Stevie looks around panicked and says. "Tess where?" A voice from behind her booms "Nice of the two of you to invite me!" Stevie doesn't move. Tess smiles weakly and says "Alex what are you doing here?"
He moves beside the table with a huge grin on his face and then stops. Stevie doesn't look at him she's otherwise occupied but says "Hello." Alex is standing staring at Stevie as she breastfeeds a baby, a boy baby, it's dressed in blue. Alex's smile fades from his face as he says "Stevie you've been busy since I last saw you."
She glances at him and says "Yes I have Alex. How are you?" He stands for a moment still watching her then replies. "Yeah I'm good Stevie and you?" "I'm good thanks Alex. How's Fiona?" Alex inhales and says "She's alright. We've had a few rough patches but I'm trying to work it out." Without thought Stevie scoffs "Rough patches you've only been together for a heart beat isn't it supposed to be sunshine and flowers."
Alex looks uncomfortable. Stevie releases the baby from drinking and lowers her top. Alex glimpses her breast, something inside him stirs but he chastises himself, he's engaged. Alex is still memorized and watches intently as Stevie places one hand under the babies chin as she sits him up then gently pats his back with her free hand. A smile slowly creeps across Alex's face as he watches Mother and child. He glances over at Fiona who has spotted Alex talking to the girls and she is gesturing for him to return. He feels annoyed.
The conversation is stilted but changes rapidly when Alex says "Stevie the baby's mine isn't it?" Tess looks very uncomfortable and stands and says "I'm just going to say hello to Fiona." Stevie stares at him and says "Alex go back to your Fiancé'." She sees the anger in his eyes when he retorts. " I deserve an answer Stevie! If I'm wrong deny it!" Stevie feels cornered and angrily spits her words at him. " Alex just leave me alone, you made your choice and it wasn't me!"
He looks hurt and says "You made your choice long before I did Stevie you're the one that only wanted to be friends!" Her demeanor changes and she whispers "I was confused Alex. Your friendship was the most important thing in my life it was all I had. One bright piece of goodness and I didn't want to risk that by telling you I was in love with you." Alex is speechless and shocked, no words come, so much is spinning in his head but the words won't come. Tears fall down her face as he moves away from the table back to Fiona.
Tess and Fiona are chatting about the weather and general small talk when Alex returns. "Hey Baby your meals here. How's Stevie?" Alex doesn't answer her but glares at Tess and says. "Tess why didn't you tell me?" Tess looks at him and says "We're not in high school Alex we don't pass messages and notes between each other." Alex scowls and says. "You're supposed to be an adult. Adults tell it how it is." Tess scoffs "Take a look at yourself Alex, try accepting the truth about yourself before you offload on me!" Briefly he stands thinking, taking in what Tess has said. Then he looks at Fiona and says. "I don't love you Fiona I thought I did but I don't. Our engagement is off. Stevie has a baby and it's mine. I love her and I have for a very long time" He then looks at Tess and says "I thought we were friends Tess? Stevie has my child and you kept that from me I don't know if I can forgive that. Does Nick know too?' Tess stands but doesn't reply and walks back to Stevie.
Fiona rises up and slaps Alex's face "You bastard Alex. You nasty cold hearted bastard." His face is red from the slap and she sees fury in his eyes as he snarls." You can talk. Right from the moment you knew I had money you've manipulated ever move I've made. Do you love me at all or just my Father's money?" She can't answer because he's too close to the truth and she's shocked, so she says." I wouldn't marry you if you were the last man on earth." "Well I'd say thats makes me the luckiest bloke I know." She storms off. Alex is amazed that he doesn't feel sadness as he watches her go; he feels relief a huge relief. How could he have been so blind.
He moves to the counter and orders a glass of wine and sits watching Tess and Stevie. Tess says. "He's watching us Stevie, you have to talk to him. I can understand why he's angry." Stevie replies "Yes I can too Tess but I never kept the baby from him as a punishment. You know that don't you?"
Tess nods and reaches over and squeezes Stevie hand and says. "I know you did it to protect him Stevie, but the secret is out now. He deserves the truth."
Alex watches as she walks towards him. "Alex I'm sorry I hurt you would you please come up to my room so we can talk privately."
He glares at her and gulps the last of his wine and snarls at her. "Sorry! You hid my own child from me! You said you love me if that's the truth how could you do this to me? Can you fix this Stevie?" She doesn't reply but turns and moves back over to Tess. They hug and Tess hands the baby back to her and leaves the restaurant. He watches as Stevie kisses the child then bends to pick up her bag and moves towards the foyer. Part of him wants to run after her, kiss her, tell her he loves her, the other part is too angry to talk, so he sits and orders another drink.
The afternoon passes and Stevie feels sadder than she thought possible. Alex hasn't bothered to take up her invitation to talk. Downstairs he has finished an entire bottle of wine. His thoughts swirl around his head he wants to speak to her but he's angry, so very angry and wants to calm down first. Stevie has his child a little boy and he doesn't even know his name or how much he weighed. Did someone go with her and help her when she gave birth to him. It should have been him.
He thinks back to the night the baby was obviously conceived. His skin prickles with goosebumps just thinking about Stevie. He'd wanted her for months, wanted to hold her, kiss her and make love to her and finally she let him and it had been so much more than he was expecting. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat aroused by the thought of her. Nervously he glances around the room it's almost empty and outside the afternoon is dimming as nightfall looms. Angrily he thinks of Tess and the lie she helped keep. Why would she do that, she was supposed to be his friend ? Why would Stevie not tell him she was pregnant? He needed to see her and speak to her. He wants answers and he wants to meet his son and hold him. He stands and walks towards the elevator.
The baby is awake and fretful, Stevie wonders if he senses the tension in her. As she walks the floor with him the tears begin to flow freely down her cheeks. She was already sad but seeing Alex today just brought it all back to her. She loves him so much it makes her heart ache just thinking about him and the pain she's caused.
Why couldn't she get this right? They'd been friends for years, best friends, she was ready to tell him she was pregnant and that she was in love with him and then Fiona had turned up. She felt like a snail, each time she ventured out to see the world someone poked at her and she retreated back into her shell, hurt and defeated. She holds the baby close and kisses his cheek. "At least I have you my gorgeous boy."She coos.
She is alerted to the door by a loud knocking. Grabbing a tissue she quickly wipes her eyes and nose and opens the door. Alex's heart flops with sadness when he sees she's been crying. She stands with the baby pressed to her shoulder and as she looks at Alex, her chin trembles and tears cascade down her cheeks again.
He steps forward and holds her and she sobs. He inhales deeply, the scent of her wafts into his nostrils evoking memories from his brain. The smell of the baby so new and soft, smelling of clean washing and baby powder and Stevie. Alex kisses the baby's head and a tear slides involuntarily down his cheek followed closely by a second and a third. He kisses Stevie's head, again inhaling her perfume as he does more memories flood through him. The baby has quietened. Stevie regains some composure and steps back so Alex can enter the room.
Stevie says "Alex I'm glad you came. Would you like to hold your son?" He smiles and nods. He sits on the couch and Stevie places the baby in his arms. Alex smiles down at the little blue bundle in his arms and says."Stevie he's a big baby but he's beautiful." She smiles and replies. "Well yes, his sire is quite a majestic beast." He chuckles, lifting the baby up to his face he kisses the baby's cheek. He whispers "He's so very soft Stevie. What's his name?" She answers "Alexander." Alex glances at her and says "Really?" She nods and says "He's all you Alex, he looks like you, he has a temper like you, so he might as well have your name too."He smiles at her and says "How old is he?" She grins and says "Six weeks tomorrow. I have to take him for his health check in the morning would you like to come too?" Gazing at his son he replies "Yeah."
Alex looks at her sadly and says "Stevie why didn't you tell me?" She inhales deeply then exhales and says " It took me a long time to work out I was in love with you Alex and even longer to work up the courage to tell you but you went away and I had no idea where you were. I was already a few months pregnant and when you came back I was so excited. I finally had the courage to tell you but you brought Fiona with you and said you were engaged. If I'd told you I was in love you, it would have put you in a difficult place. I didn't want you to choose me out of a sense of duty plus your fiancé wouldn't have been impressed so to save you the embarrassment I left."
He looks at her and says "If I hadn't seen you today would you have told me?" She smiles and says "Alex I was so hurt by your engagement, all I thought of was getting away so I didn't have to watch you, hugging and kissing her. I didn't really think much past relieving my own pain. I'm so very sorry I hurt you. I never meant to. I was trying to do the opposite but you know me I always get in wrong." He smiles at her then at the baby and says "You don't always get in wrong Cowgirl." Again he kisses the little boys cheek.
Stevie says quietly. "Alex please don't be angry with Tess she wanted me to tell you. In fact she begged me to tell you but I swore her to secrecy. Nick doesn't know and neither do the girls. At this point in time only you and Tess know." Alex says "And Fiona!" Stevie pulls a face and says. "Oh that can't be good!" He is looking at the baby when he replies. "I told her I don't love her and that it's over. She wasn't happy called me a cold hearted bastard." Stevie looks shocked as he continues. "I was actually relieved when I told her and she walked away. That really tells you something doesn't it."
The baby begins to cry and Stevie sits beside Alex and he hands the baby to her as she's about to lift her top she glances at him and he's watching her. She says "Are you right?" He smiles and says "Can't I watch?" She drops her top back down and bites her lip and says "Is it really necessary?" He chuckles and says "I've seen em' before Cowgirl." She stands and grabs the baby's blanket from the other chair and drapes it across her shoulder blocking Alex's view.
He quips ."You're no fun since you became a Mummy." She giggles. The baby suckles and she feels the tingling sensation as her milk lets down he guzzles and gulps and coughs and splutters. Alex looks alarmed and says "What are you trying to do Steve's drown the poor little fella?" The baby lets go and milk squirts onto the coffee table in front of them Alex laughs loudly, the baby coughs a few times then Stevie reattaches him and his sucks vigorously.
Alex says "Well that was entertaining." Stevie smiles at him and says "It's so nice to hear your laugh Alex." He touches her face and says "I've missed you too." He moves and pulls her too him and kisses her softly and she lets him. Moving back he says. "Stevie while you're in Adelaide can we spend some time together?" She smiles and says "I'd really like that Alex."