So a new story from me tonight. This story goes to a place I've not got before for EE... but although it's a darker subject matter, I won't be going into it in great detail - it's just a mechanism to get them where I wanted them.

A Lesson Learnt.

Chapter 1.

There was a row of shot glasses lined up before her on the table. Two of these were already empty, placed upside down on the tabletop and Lauren Branning was just about to start on the third. She tipped her head and knocked back the contents of the glass, the liquid tasting bitter as she swallowed it but she kept going. She was hoping each drink would make her forget the drama she'd gone through today. Tears pooled in her eyes as she reflected on the blazing row with her parents this morning. It hadn't been the first but it could very well be one of the last, given how it ended.

"Lauren, what time of day do you call this to get home?" Tanya said as Lauren walked through the door.

"I stayed at Whit's..." she said. "I sent you a text..."

"We didn't receive it, Lauren. We haven't known where you were all night." Max said angrily.

"Well that's not my fault. I sent it to you. How was I to know you wouldn't receive it?" she protested.

"Lauren, it's time you put all this silly drinking business behind you," Tanya said.

"What silly business? I'm just being like everyone else my age. I go out with my friends and we have a good time. Yes, I have a drink or two. What's so wrong with that?"

"It's a lot more than a drink or two, Lauren. You're out of control. You spend far too many nights out. You drink too much. No days start for you without a hangover. Getting drunk seems to be the only thing you put any effort into these days. Do you need me to carry on?" Max shouted at her. Lauren stared at him, her mouth open in shock, "You have a problem with alcohol and you need to realise this, accept it and stop." Her father said firmly, staring at her intently.

"I have no such thing!" She protested, turning and walking towards the front door of the house.

"Lauren, if you leave this house..." Max warned her.

"What dad? Don't come back? Is that what you were going to say?" She asks them, outraged at how this conversation was going. Neither of her parents responds and she takes that as the confirmation she needed, "I see... well, if you feel that way, I won't bother you anymore." She said, resignation touching her voice. She opened the door and ran down the stairs, the door slammed shut behind her. The door to the house opened again and Lauren could hear both her parents crying out for her to come back but she ignored them, needing to get as far away from them as possible. They didn't run after her any further and she hadn't looked back.

*JL*JL*

Lauren hadn't gone very far after leaving the house and to say she was disappointed that someone hadn't come to find her was an understatement. She was currently sitting alone in the Queen Vic. It was just after lunch time and she was ignoring anyone who dared approach her, not that many had tried. The last glass was emptied and she slammed it top down on the table in front of her. She got unsteadily to her feet and made her way to the exit of the pub. It felt like everyone was watching her as she walked through the square but maybe she was being paranoid. She didn't care. She was out to have fun. She was going to drink until she forgot her troubles. Sighing she walked into the tube station, grabbing a ticket and making her way to the platform, having decided to go into town and get wasted.

*JL*JL*

Joey Branning would soon be finishing work. It was the early hours of the morning. All he had left to do was clear away the glasses and cash up and lock the money in the safe, only then could he leave for the night. It had been a busy night and it was the middle of what had already been a hectic week. He was knackered and he just wanted to go home. No rest for wicked, wasn't that the saying?

Joey had only been living in Walford for a few months but he was finally beginning to settle into the area. He'd unexpectedly found some new family since moving here and he was getting to know them too. The only cloud on the horizon was Derek... his father, in name if nothing else. His relationship with Derek had always been strained. Even as a child they'd never been close. Joey had no idea what bad thing he'd done as a small boy but whatever it was had been enough to make Derek hate him with vengeance in his eyes each time he looked at him. It used to bother him as a child but now it really didn't. Despite having not seen him since he was seven he'd hated the man for most of his twenty three years. He could barely stand being in the same room as the man. Joey remembered only a few things from the first seven years of his life and a large element of those memories weren't good ones and all the bad ones heavily featured his father. There was no love lost between the two men and that was never going to change.

When he'd arrived in Walford, following after his sister, Joey was somewhat stunned to find there was this whole new branch of the family he hadn't even been aware of. He'd been a little hesitant in meeting them, not knowing what he was going to find if they were relatives of his father and he could only wonder what they were expecting of him. He was sure Derek would've only painted a bad picture of him to them all... not that Derek really knew anything about him, good or bad. He would never admit it out loud but he was relieved when he'd met them as they'd been better than he'd expected. And they hadn't judged him because of who his father was. It had also surprised him to realise Derek wasn't as well liked among the family as he'd thought. Maybe he wasn't the only one to see the bad things in Derek Branning.

What had struck him most about these new people in his life was one Lauren Branning. Daughter of his uncle Max and highly publicised wild child. Derek wasn't too fond of her and encouraged Alice to have little to do with her. However Derek's thoughts about his cousin only enticed Joey towards her further. Anything his father couldn't stand seemed like a pretty good thing to him.

TBC

A/N: So there you go. What do you think? Next chapter later tonight maybe... it's a good one!

So pleased that David won his award this evening (and well done to him for calling out the people who booed his girlfriend!) Fair play to him.