Sorry for the lack of update yesterday. I was returning home from spending the week with my Mum so everything was a bit busy and then I was a bit too tired. I hope you enjoy the chapter. I've just finished writing this one so it'll end on chapter thirty three. Love, IJKS xxx

Chapter Thirty

Charlie woke up exhausted the following morning. She and Joey hadn't thought it quite appropriate to spend the night together so, later in the evening, Joey and Ben had gone home. Casey had been horrified that Charlie and Joey were an item and had stormed out to go and stay with his brother, who was apparently staying in some motel. Charlie wondered if it was the same one he had tried to get her pregnant in.

Lying in the bed she had once shared with her husband, Charlie stared up the ceiling, wondering how she would face the day. Everything felt so difficult and confusing. Everything she had ever known, her falsely perfect life was over now. Her husband was gone, her daughter and the rest of the world knew the truth about what had happened to her as a teenager and she had to face potential judgement for her relationship with Joey. She couldn't help but wonder how she had come to this place.

Still, she felt surprisingly close to Ruby now. They had always had a good relationship but her baby girl had shown just how grown up she was by the way she had taken on the news of her conception. Charlie knew it wouldn't be an easy road. How could anyone really deal with the revelation that they were the product of a violent rape? But she was trying.

And Charlie had never thought she would be glad of her daughter having a boyfriend. But Ben had been amazing, not least because he had been the same position as his girlfriend. He had been kind and caring and Charlie fully believed that he had had helped Ruby come to terms with everything.

She felt bad that on top of everything that had happened over the last few days, Ruby now also had to deal with her parents breaking up. That in itself was enough for anyone to struggle with but this situation was even more painful now. But again, Ruby had shown herself to be strong and capable and understanding. She had been gentle with her mother and Charlie hoped she would also be with her father. And she had accepted Charlie's relationship with Joey too. That was most definitely encouraging.

Taking a deep breath, Charlie hauled herself out of bed. She wrapped her robe around her and padded out in her slippers to the kitchen where she was gasping for a cup of coffee.

Ruby appeared just a few moments later, having heard her get up. The first thing she did was wrap her arms around her mother, squeezing her tightly and letting her know that she loved her.

"Today isn't going to be an easy day, is it?" the teenager mused.

She took cereal and a bowl out of two different cupboards and then a spoon from the drawer. Charlie poured milk in her coffee and then handed the bottle over, coming to sit with her at the table.

"Definitely not," she sighed.

"But we'll get through it together," Ruby told her. "We'll be stronger than ever – me and you. And Joey and Ben too. I guess we're like a new kind of family."

Charlie smiled.

"I'm relieved that you're taking it so well," she admitted. "I've pretty much turned your whole life upside down in a matter of days."

Ruby nodded.

"You have," she agreed. "But I can deal. I mean, in an ideal world, of course I'd want my parents to stay together. I love you and I love Dad – biology aside. And I want a relationship with both of you. But I also want you to be happy, you know? If you and Dad aren't happy together…"

Charlie touched her hand.

"We've been trying to be happy for such a long time, I don't think we even noticed that we weren't until recently," she said.

"When you met Joey?"

"It wasn't about her," Charlie said. "It was about there being something missing from our relationship. It was about the resentments that have building up between both of us for so long. And then, yes, I fell in love with Joey by accident and…"

"Are you happy with her, Mum?" Ruby asked.

"Very," Charlie said, although technically they hadn't really had the chance to start properly yet.

"Then that's all that matters," Ruby concluded. "You and Joey can be happy together now and hopefully one day, Dad will find someone to be happy with too."

Charlie nodded. She wanted the best for everyone as well.

Brax woke up with a hangover in his motel room, where Casey had set up a camp bed on the floor. He rubbed his temples and groaned, forcing himself to sit up.

"Are you okay, Brax?" Casey asked from the floor.

"I'm just fucking great," his brother barked back.

"Where did you go in the middle of the night?" Casey asked, choosing not to be offended.


"You got up in the night and left for a bit," Casey told him.

"I did?" Brax asked, genuinely puzzled.

His younger brother nodded, informing him he had been pretty out of it. Brax shook his head and then winced from the pain. He flopped back onto the bed and lifted his hands to rub his temples again. It was only then that he noticed they were red.

"What the…?" Joey muttered.

She had been awake early with a lot – namely, Charlie – on her mind and so opted to go for a walk along the beach. Scrawled across the side of the restaurant, in red spray paint, were the words: 'Ask Charlie Braxton how good Joey Collins is in bed'. She felt sick.

Next time… word spreads about Charlie and Joey's relationship…