"Rubz what are you doing here?" Charlie asked as she opened her arms for a hug from her daughter.
Staring at the three women whose shock was written all over their faces, she entered the lounge room and approached Charlie. The hug was a little awkward. Three years was a long time. As Charlie held her daughter in an embrace vowing to never let her go again Joey was pulled out of the room by Pepa. Her long legs moving twice as fast as Joey really wanted to. As Joey disappeared from view she smiled at Charlie and mouthed I love you and blew her a kiss. Charlie was elated.
Ruby was the first one to break the embrace. Looking at her mother, she said "Grandma told me some serious changes were happening and that I needed to come home."
Charlie breathed in, knowing Ruby would probably be the least welcoming of Joey and the girls into their family but she hoped there was a chance everything could work itself out. "have you talked to your father at all?"
"I have no father you know that" Ruby snapped.
Exhaling with deep regret, Charlie reached out for Rubys hand. She didn't pull away which was a good sign. "Brax will always be your father you know"
Ruby shook her head "no he's the man that raised me then threatened me with my own paternity and bought my world crumbling down. No father would truly do that to their daughter. Now spill whats going on? You have 3 gobsmacked women in the house with you when I arrive. Spill" Ruby spoke out assertively.
Charlie took a deep breath and began at the beginning, how she met Pepa and Silvia many months ago at a café; and having met them through work and knowing they were on their honeymoon had offered them a place to stay. She went on to tell of Joey moving in next door and being kicked out of home; and how they had come together that night after much talking.
"Are you telling me you're gay Mum?"
"I'm not attracted to women Rubz, just Joey. I suppose you could call it Joeyitis. I cant imagine my life without her. She completes me in ways Brax never did" Charlie acknowledged regretfully.
Ruby took a moment to ponder her response. She had missed out on so much this last three years. This latest change in her Mum, it seemed a positive one. Ruby reflected on times gone by where she thought Brax would walk all over Charlie and she never challenged him or made him see her reasons . This was a different woman standing before her; a more determined, know what she wants woman. Gutsy and more head strong. "are you happy now Mum?" Ruby asked
"Yes I am Rubz. I regret everything that happened with Brax but he walked out on me when he cheated with Ricky. I picked up the pieces and one by one, year by year, month by month, things worked out. Having Pepa and Silvia here has been great for Will too. He has learnt so much from them."
"How did he react to you and Joey?" Ruby asked curious of exactly how Will was so accomodating to the changes in his family.
"Actually I was surprised, given everything that happened with Ricky I expected Will to hit the roof but he told me to go for it and that I deserved to be happy".
"WOW! And you believed a little kid, you followed a childs advice" Ruby snickered.
"Believe it or not Rubz, Will has grown into a wonderful young man. Having Joey around with Pepa and Silvia, he always has someone to turn to when I'm at work. They love him as if he were their own."
Ruby was jealous of her little brother. For all the changes that had happened in the last 12 months or so, he had been there to see it happen. He had the chance to speak up if at any time he was unhappy. He could mould the future so to speak. Finally she dared to ask "So how do I fit into this family or don't I belong anymore?"
Charlie got up off the sofa and walked over to her daughter. She wrapped her in a hug and gently reassured her "You're my daughter Rubz and nothing will ever change that. If you want to come back home then all of us will be here with welcome arms. We will all want the same thing, to see you and Will happy and to give you the family environment you both deserve."
Ruby was in tears. For all the grief she had caused her Mum three years ago and the fact that she abandoned her own family to move to a boarding school, none of this was held against her. Charlie had forgiven her in a heartbeat for all the troubles she had caused as though there was nothing to forgive. Charlie held her daughter in an embrace for a long time after that, both women reflecting at what they had lost these last three years. Finally Charlie broke the silence and told Ruby of the impending move to Summer Bay with Joey. Ruby didn't reply. She just sat there in shock that this was happening so fast. Charlie recognized she had shocked her daughter, and in doing so went to make some tea for them both allowing Ruby to have some space to think things through.
She didn't hear the front door open and the trio of women return home. Pepa was the first one who saw Ruby alone on the sofa, she pulled her wife in behind her. Silvia grabbed joey jokingly along for the ride. Pepa being the bold, cheeky woman she is instantaneously introduced herself and her wife proudly. Ruby politely said hello, her eyes wandered to Joey who had remained quiet. Silvia took the opportunity to break the ice and giving Joey a hug she smiled as she said " and this is our baby girl Joey".
Ruby looked Joey up and down, and it dawned on her she could understand why Charlie was attracted to the woman. "So you're Mums girlfriend?"
Joey could nothing more than nod. She was scared of saying the wrong thing and not knowing how much Charlie had told her daughter, she decided to keep quiet.
Pepa was delighted that Ruby hadn't lashed out at Joey and noticing tension in the room she did the one thing she could only think of "group hug" she yelled out and pulled all 4 women into a hearty embrace. Charlie hearing the voices ran in and at the sight of Ruby being pulled in an embrace she got teary eyed. "Come Carino, join in" Silvia coaxed. Charlie didn't need to be asked twice. She joined in the embrace and in that moment all the past wrongs were forgotten. The heartache of three years of not seeing or talking to her daughter were gone. Now only the future awaited them. Decisions still had to be made but all that could wait for another day. For now Charlie Buckton had her family reunited and she was determined to keep everyone together and united for good.