It had been a couple of days and Charlie was rather enjoying spending time with Joey and getting to look after her. It felt like the old days, except that Charlie was no longer afraid of her feelings. And except for the fact that Joey had displayed no signs of still being interested in her.
"Is everything okay?" she asked when she ducked back into her friend's hospital room.
She had taken her for an appointment to get her stitches checked.
"Yep," Joey said brightly, climbing off the bed and pulling her t-shirt back down.
She had been relieved when the Doctor hadn't needed her to take it off. Getting dressed and undressed was still a problem.
"I can get my stitches out tomorrow and then I get to go home," she said.
Charlie forced a smile. In reality, she was heartbroken at the thought of her leaving.
"Great," she attempted to enthuse. "That's great."
Charlie had been subdued for the rest of the afternoon and Joey had also seemed in a world of her own.
"Do you know when you'd like to go home?" Charlie asked, the question shooting out of her mouth rather bluntly.
Joey immediately assumed her ex-girlfriend was relieved to be rid of her. And it hurt because there had been snatched moments over the last few days where she had almost felt the same spark they'd once had.
"Um, my appointment is at ten tomorrow morning so any time after that," she said, looking at the television she wasn't actually watching.
"Okay, cool, well maybe Ruby and I could take you home after school," Charlie ventured, still upset to have to say goodbye. "She's pretty keen to eat at your restaurant."
She grinned but Joey wasn't looking.
"Fiona said she'd come and get me," she told her. "Save you a trip."
"I really don't mind," Charlie said. "I'm happy to…"
"You've done loads for me already," Joey said, finally meeting her gaze. "Don't worry about it."
Charlie sighed quietly and pretended to watch the TV. She had no idea how she was going to cope without her.
"Well, thank you for everything," Joey said awkwardly as she waited for Fiona to come and collect her and for Ruby to get back so that she could say goodbye to her too.
She had said her goodbye and thank you to Leah and VJ earlier in the day.
"It's no problem," Charlie said sincerely. "I've enjoyed spending time with you."
They smiled uncomfortably at each other.
"I've enjoyed spending time with you too," Joey said stiffly.
She was utterly confused about how things stood between them. For a while there, they had been really close but ever since she'd mentioned going home, things had been weird between them and Joey couldn't quite work out why.
"Maybe um… maybe Ruby and I could come and see you sometime?" Charlie suggested.
"Yeah," Joey agreed. "That would be good. I'll have the fishy soupy thing ready for when you get there."
The both laughed softly before awkwardly reached out to hold each other.
They both spoke at the same time and laughed in the same way they had that day down on the docks when the same thing had happened. They were interrupted by Ruby arriving home.
"Joey?" she called.
She appeared in the doorway and smiled.
"Good," she said. "I didn't miss you."
"I would have waited," Joey assured her.
They were interrupted again by a tentative knock on the door.
"That'll be Fiona," Joey said, heading into the kitchen to answer the call.
A few moments later, Fiona, Joey's employee, appeared, ready to take her bags to the car. Charlie cringed as she found herself under scrutiny and wondered what this woman knew about her.
"Thank you for everything, Charlie," Joey said sincerely.
She felt sad and regretful and like she was missing something. She would never admit it to anyone but she'd had some hope for the week that perhaps she and Charlie might find their feelings reignited. But although Joey still found Charlie intoxicating, she doubted she felt the same way. And she couldn't help but be a little disappointed with that, even if she wasn't sure she could go with it anyway. Charlie had broken her heard repeatedly, after all, and it had taken a good long time to build herself back up again.
"It was my pleasure," Charlie said, hugging her again.
They both held tight but released each other quickly. Charlie stepped back as Joey and Ruby said goodbye and then followed to the door. Joey waved as Fiona took her bag out and Charlie and Ruby waved back until she was gone.
"So, why exactly is she leaving?" Ruby asked.
"Because she got her stitches out," Charlie replied, her face blank.
"And why is she leaving without knowing that you're still in love with her?"
"Because she doesn't love me back."
"So, there's some history between you guys, right?" Fiona asked as she drove Joey out of Summer Bay and back to her normal life.
"Some," Joey agreed, leaning against the window and looking out at the world around her.
"Good, bad or ugly?"
"All of the above."
Fiona frowned and focussed on the road ahead.
"You don't really seem like you want to leave," she remarked.
"Whatever I want, I can't have," Joey said. "So there's no point really thinking about it."
It was night time and Charlie was pondering bed when there was an urgent knock on the door. For a brief moment, she hoped it was Joey. But considering the time, Charlie was sure that she would be more polite than that. When the pounding noise came again, she hurried through to the kitchen to open up. Leah, Ruby and VJ were all in bed already.
"Brax!" Charlie exclaimed in genuine surprise.
She'd thought he had given up on pursuing her now. Before she could speak again, he grabbed her and dragged her out to his car.
Next time… Brax's intensions become clear and Joey misses Charlie…