Murrook Farm

Part 3

By

Lois Kay

Peter Jones was convinced that Trishia's idea had potential, but he was still a bit wary of his partner's initiative. It would be crossing the borders between professionalism and personal life. Not with just a little step, but with a huge leap.

He raked his unruly hair and impatiently drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, waiting for the light to turn. He had known Trishia for a few years now and during that time he had never questioned her actions. He did not plan on doing that now either. The tall policewoman was not only his partner, she had become one of his best friends and Peter just hoped that her unconventional plan would work out.

Slowly Peter steered his car through the afternoon traffic, gradually leaving the city madness behind him. He sighed in relief when he turned into the road that would lead him to his house, halfway up a hill. He was looking forward to seeing his wife and kids again. Dealing with Alice had showed him how much he had changed since he had become a father again, six months ago. His patience and gentleness with the teen had surprised him. Somehow he had not been able to clear his mind from the image of his two infant sons. He knew that most parents, who had runaway kids, at one time had held their children, loved and treasured them. They had probably felt the same way he did whenever he looked at his offspring with pride and a heart full of love.

"Where did things go wrong, huh?"Peter mumbled to himself, not knowing the answer.

What he did know however, was something he had known for a long time, but that was conveniently pushed into the back of his mind. It was something that he tended to forget when he dealt with runaways and homeless people. There was a story behind each and every one of them. And they were never pretty.

After parking her car at the side of the police station, Lucy checked herself in the mirror and playfully wrinkled her nose. Her dark green eyes contrasted nicely with her dark hair, but she realized she would look better, if she didn't have dark circles underneath her eyes.

"I need some serious sleep,"she mumbled, grabbing her purse from the passenger's seat and opening the door."No, I take that back. I need a vacation. A long...lazy....tropical vacation.

Lucy grinned to herself and closed the car door, miraculously feeling better already. Maybe she could talk Trishia into taking a vacation. Heaven knew that the policewoman was over due for one. As long as Lucy had known her, she had never taken a leave for longer than a couple of days.

"Note to self: Nice, long shower, glass of wine and vacation talk,"Lucy promised herself, looking forward to spending the evening at Jody's and Sam's place.

She entered the building, wondering why Trishia was not downstairs waiting for her, something she usually did and a heavy feeling settled in Lucy's stomach.

"Please, God. No working late. Not again. And please, not today."

Lucy waved to a couple of young police officers she had met when they had given her a ticket for speeding, just a couple of weeks ago. She had accepted the punishment with grace and humor and when they had run into her later, accompanied by Trishia, one of their most respected senior sergeants, their mouths had fallen open.

Lucy grinned at them, before climbing up the stairs to the first floor. Everybody in the building knew who she was and she could walk undisturbed to Trishia's office.

The door was open and with a smile Lucy stepped inside, immediately spotting her friend, who was leaning against the window sill, sipping on a cup of coffee, while staring outside. Lucy frowned. It didn't seem like the policewoman was ready to go home yet and with difficulty she swallowed down a snide remark. She had to let Trishia explain first.

"Hey, stranger,"Lucy greeted her with a warm smile. "Are you ready to go?"

Trishia looked up startled and immediately cast a look at the clock.

"Whoa, that time already, huh?"she smiled back, appreciating the sight before her.

"You look tired,"Lucy remarked, stepping closer and putting her purse on Trishia's desk.

"It was a long day,"Trishia answered, rubbing her eyes. "How is your mom?"

"She's a bit shaken up, but you know my mom, she is a tough cookie,"Lucy smiled. "They checked her out and found nothing wrong with her head, so that's good. Thank heavens."

She took the mug from Trishia's hands and took a sip.

"Eww, gross. How can you drink this stuff? "she said, pulling a face."It's way too strong and there's no sugar in it."

"Puts hair on your chest,"Trishia laughed.

"Oooh, I hope not,"Lucy chuckled, wiggling her eyebrows."So, are you ready to go?"

"Almost, Trishia answered. "But I need to quickly discuss something with you first."

Lucy's face fell and numerous possible scenarios immediately crossed her mind.

"You are not doing a double shift again, are you?"she muttered.

Trishia sighed, knowing that she had pulled more than her fair share of double shifts lately and she fully understood Lucy's frustration about that.

"No, no double shift,"she hurried to explain, seeing Lucy's face brighten. "But there is something.....unexpected, though. Um...did your mom tell you what happened this afternoon? "

Lucy moved a stack of files and quietly sat down on the edge of the desk.

"Yes, she did and I can tell you it scared the wits out if me. People get killed in muggings every day and today it could easily have been her. Sam was pissed that the owner of that parking garage still has no security people in there."She chuckled. "I think she'll go after him now. Poor guy."

"Your mom was lucky, I guess, "Trishia agreed. "Did she tell you about the girl?"

"Briefly,"Lucy slowly answered, wondering what Trishia was going to tell her, when she saw the taller woman nervously play with a pen. "What's up, Trish? Because I can tell by just looking at you, that something is going on."

Trishia took a deep breath and her eyes traveled up to Lucy's face. Even though they had known each other for more than a year now, she had no idea how Lucy would respond to what she was about to tell her. And that very thought had startled her. Trishia could only hope and pray that the woman who was sitting in front of her, would understand her enough to accept what she was about to do.

"This is the story..., "Trishia started.

In a short, but clear summary, she told Lucy all that had happened during the afternoon, emphasizing the way Alice had responded to Peter's presence.

She could see the emotions on Lucy's expressive face and she knew by just looking at her, the other woman was listening intently. After Trishia had finished her story, there was a long silence.

Lucy stared at the worn out carpet on the floor and tried to organize her thoughts. Her first reaction was a simple "No, way! You are crazy", but she swallowed the words, not wanting to hurt Trishia's feelings. Finally, after a long time, she looked up, to see Trishia's worried eyes glued to her face. She managed a weak smile and pushed back the hair that was falling down her forehead.

"Are you sure that you and my mom are not related?"she sighed.

Trishia chuckled and put her hands in the pockets of her slacks.

"That would be a little....awkward, don't you think?"

"Yes, it would be,"Lucy muttered. "Trishia, listen. I...believe it or not, but I do understand why you want to do this. I do. I know how compassionate and kind you can be. But have you thought about the consequences? Not just for yourself, but your job. You love your job, T., don't deny it. What if all of this has a....negative impact? And what about....us?"Lucy finished, her voice hardly audible. "I am no fool, Trish. We have both been so busy with everything but each other lately. What is this going to do to us?"

Trishia bit her lip and tried to calm her racing heart. The fact that Lucy had brought up their relationship had, somehow surprised her. She had no idea the younger woman had been giving their relationship much thought lately. But Trishia knew what she herself felt, deep down inside. And she was willing to work hard and fight, to keep Lucy McDonnell in her life.

"I don't deny there will be a lot of...stress, "Trishia answered honestly. "And I don't know the 'what ifs' and ' how to'seither, but I do know one thing, Luce. For some reason, I cannot let this go. If I do, I would never forget, or forgive myself. Especially not when, some time in the future, I get a call to go to one of our many parks or beaches, to investigate another rape and murder of a young girl. "

"I...Your attitude is commendable and I so admire you for it, but you cannot save them all, honey"Lucy answered.

The term of endearment had been spontaneous and Lucy didn't even realized she had said it, but Trishia felt a much welcome warmth flood through her body and a small smile spread across her face.

"I know I can't, "Trishia softly answered, covering Lucy's hand with her own. "But in this case I need to try. "

"Why don't you ask Jody and Sam for help?"Lucy suddenly asked.

"W..what? "

"Ask Jody and Sam for help. You don't have to carry this burden by yourself, you know. Besides, where would she stay? "

"I was thinking...I thought....well, at my place, until we found something more suitable."

"Your place?"Lucy snorted. "With all due respect, senior sergeant, your 'place' as you call it, is just a little bit bigger than a folded up newspaper, with curly edges. For a police person, you are not very practical, love,"Lucy grinned.

There was an idea forming in her head and every passing second, it seemed to get better and better. Trishia watched the expression on Lucy's face and could not help but smile. What she had been afraid of, a rejection of her idea, had not happened. Instead, Lucy was apparently coming up with a plan to help her reach her goal.

"You are amazing, Lucy,"she softly remarked, earning a sweet smile.

"No, I am not. I respect and...care for you, Trishia. A lot. If I can, I want to help you out. Besides, this girl saved my mother. Where is she anyway?"

"Down in the break room, "Trishia answered. "The girl was starving, so I sent one of the uniforms down with her, to get her something to eat. That bag of food your mother gave her, was trashed on the floor of that parking garage."

Trishia squeezed Lucy's hand and playfully bumped her.

"So, what is this plan of yours I see forming inside that pretty head ?"

"I hope it's a good one,"Lucy answered. "But I need to talk to Jody first. So, do you trust me?"

A pair of dark-green eyes looked up at Trishia with such an intense look, that Trishia understood there was a lot more to the question, than just faith in Lucy's ability to work out a plan.

"Always,"Trishia simply answered.

If they had not been at the police station, where there was a constant coming and going of people, Lucy would have wrapped her arms around the taller woman and kissed her senseless.

Trishia read the desire on Lucy's face and saw the green eyes travel down to her lips. A small smile tugged on the corner of her mouth, while little, dancing lights appeared in her eyes. She brought her head closer to Lucy's and saw that the smaller woman held her breath.

"I will make sure that, somehow, we can give into that today,"she whispered in a husky voice, seeing the goose bumps rise on Lucy's bare arms. "It's been too long since we had a full night of passion, don't you think? "

"Way too long,"Lucy answered, swallowing hard and moistening her suddenly dry lips. "And you are wicked."

Trishia laughed and jumped up from her desk, reaching out a hand to grab Lucy's and pull her along.

"Let's go, "she suggested. "I think Alice has had time enough to eat something decent. Besides, knowing Sam and Jody, there will be good food in abundance this evening. Oh and Lucy­?"

Lucy grabbed her purse and looked up to the tall woman who was standing so close to her, she could feel her body heat.

"Thank you, "Trishia whispered, bending her head and giving Lucy a quick kiss, playfully running her tongue over the other woman's lips.

Lucy softly whimpered when she felt her libido wake up and demand attention. Her appreciative eyes drank in the sight of the woman who stood before her. The tall, muscular body, with the healthy tan. Trishia was in great shape and looked so strong, yet soft.

Breathing in deeply, Lucy shook her head and silently wished there was a cold shower around, so she could jump in and cool off.

"Heck, a bucket would do,"she mumbled, following Trishia out of the door and promising herself that, as soon as they were at Jody's and Sam's, she would corner the woman first chance she got and have her way with her.

"Honey? Do you think we have enough? I 'd hate to think our guests will go hungry,"Jody asked Sam, while they were in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables and fruit that would go into the salad.

Alarmed Sam looked up from skinning a pineapple and when she saw the mischievous smile on her partner's face, she let out a breath of relief.

"You little....troublemaker,"she playfully grunted. "You had me worried there for a moment."

Jody laughed and tossed some pieces of grapefruit in a big bowl. Whenever they had guests, Sam often was the centre of jokes, because the blonde always prepared way too much food.

"You are so adorable when you are cooking,"Jody confessed, stepping closer to her lover's tall frame and pressing her cheeks against a muscular arm.

"Only when I am cooking?"Sam asked with a pout.

"Mmmm...let me think about that for a minute,"Jody teased, while one of her hands started to rub the taller woman's back in slow, lazy circles. "Nope, not only when you are cooking, "she finally concluded with a wink.

She motioned Sam to bring her head close to her own and positioned her mouth close to a shapely ear.

"You are also very adorable when you are....hot, "Jody whispered, letting her hand travel down to Sam's backside and squeezing the firm flesh.

Sam almost jumped and with a loud clatter dropped the knife she had been holding.

"Are you girls all right?"Joan McDonnells voice immediately sounded from the verandah, where Jody had made her lay down in a big chair.

"Yes, mom!"Jody shouted back, not able to hide the amusement in her voice.

Sam's blue eyes sparkled when she turned to her partner and quickly pinned her against the kitchen counter.

"You are a very, very evil person, "she growled in a low voice, holding the squirming woman in a tight grip. "And if it wasn't for your mom, sitting...oh....five meters away from here, I would....I would.... "

"Yeeessss?"Jody chuckled, taking advantage of Sam's lack of words to lean forward and press her lips against a soft cheek.

"I would throw you over my shoulder,"Sam whispered, nuzzling Jody's neck and feeling the other woman's breathing increase. "Take you into our bedroom...Rip off your clothes....and......leave you there, so I could eat your piece of banana cake!"

Jody groaned and let her head fall against Sam's shoulder, while the taller woman wrapped her arms around her and pulled her close.

"Paybacks, my love,"Sam laughed.

"I guess I deserved that,"Jody smiled. "Although I do like the idea, except for you leaving me there and eating my cake."

"You are unsatiable,"Sam accused, but her voice sounded warm and loving.

"Listen who's talking,"Jody snorted, pushing Sam's body back so she could look the tall woman in the eyes. "If I remember correctly, you were the one who woke me up this morning, hours before the alarm went off, almost begging me to... "

Sam shot a look towards the verandah and quickly clamped her hand over Jody's mouth, who immediately responded by nibbling the palm of her hand.

"Sshh! I don't want your mom to know all about our love life,"she said, feeling herself blush. "Besides, Fiona is around as well and you know we would never hear the end of it if she... "

"Hear the end of what? "a youthful voice suddenly sounded behind them and Sam groaned in frustration, feeling her blush deepen, while Jody threw her head back and laughed out loud.

"Don't you two ever get enough?"Fiona asked, walking into the kitchen and snatching a piece of pineapple from the cutting board. "I should do some research on that. See what it is you two eat that makes you so....horny. I could sell it and become rich."

"Fiona McDonnell!!!"Joan's voice sounded from outside and for a moment Sam wished the ground would open up and swallow her whole.

The expression on Sam's face made Jody even laugh louder and even though she felt sorry for her partner she couldn't help herself, it was just too funny.

"Jody, stop laughing, "Joan's voice sounded again. "Don't encourage that sister of yours."

"Oh, mom, don't worry,"Jody called back, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. "She'll get what she deserves soon enough. Just wait till the brat falls in love herself. I am sure we will all thoroughly enjoy that. "

Fiona threw back her long, dark hair and wrinkled her freckled nose. Her green eyes took in the scene in front of her, where Jody was still pinned against the kitchen counter with Sam's arms firmly wrapped around the smaller body.

She loved seeing her sister so happy and everybody knew she simply adored Sam, but even though she enjoyed the loving interaction between the two, she'd rather die than admit that.

"I will never fall in love,"she stated, chewing on the snatched piece of fruit. "I am too smart for that."

"So, I am not?"Jody countered, her eyes sparkling.

"You are smart, "Fiona answered with a smirk. "Just not smart enough."

"Your time will come, baby sister, "Jody good-naturedly warned her. "And then it's our turn to have some fun. And you know what? I will have a front row seat. "

"And I will sell the tickets,"Sam promised.

Fiona grinned and popped a strawberry in her mouth, contentedly chewing on it.

"Sounds like I will need to copyright my future love life,"she remarked.

Entering the break room, Lucy's eyes immediately picked out a slender form, sitting at the far end of the room, away from anybody else. She cast a look at Trishia, who wordlessly nodded and with purposeful strides she crossed the room, until she had reached the teenager.

"Hi,"she greeted the startled girl, extending her right hand. "I am Lucy McDonnell. "

The girl clearly hesitated. Her blue eyes travelling from Lucy's face to her hand and back again. After a moment of silence, she reached out her hand as well and felt the warm, friendly grip of Lucy's fingers.

"Alice,"she softly introduced herself.

"Do you mind if I sit down?"Lucy asked, showing the girl that she respected her boundaries.

A little overwhelmed by the action of the beautiful woman in front of her, Alice shook her head. Lucy sent her a smile and let herself fall down into a chair.

"I am Joan McDonnells daughter,"Lucy explained. "And both Trish and my mom have told me what you did today. That was a brave thing to do."

Alice's eyes traveled to the tall policewoman who was talking to one of her co-workers, before fixing her gaze on Lucy again. She shrugged her small shoulders, while her fingers nervously played with a paper napkin.

"I want to thank you, "Lucy continued with a genuine smile. "My mom means a lot to me and my sisters and brothers. I am grateful that she is all right."

"Is she?"Alice mumbled, clearly not used to talking much at all. "I mean, all right? "

"Yes, she sure is. They checked her out at the hospital and it's just a painful swelling, but nothing serious. My sister took her home with her. "

Lucy's keen eyes noticed the teenager slightly relax, although her slender fingers were still twisting the napkin into something unrecognizable.

She also noticed the empty plate and half full glass of milk on the table.

"Did you have enough to eat?"she casually asked, not wanting the girl to think she was fussing over her. Somehow Lucy felt that Alice would not appreciate that. "It's only a police station, but they make a great sandwich. My favourite is the ham and cheese. "

A pair of blue eyes were raised to meet her dark-green ones and were almost cast down again immediately, but Lucy was convinced she had seen a hint of amusement in that cautious stare.

"It was nice,"Alice answered, barely audible, not used to the attention Joan McDonnells daughter was giving her.

She stared at her fidgeting fingers and wished she would be able to carry herself with the same confidence Lucy showed. But deep down inside Alice knew that was impossible. She knew she had no reason to be confident, her life was too full of insecurities. Most of the time she did not know when her next meal would be, or where or if she would be able to find a place to sleep. And whether it would be warm enough and safe. There had been nights she did not even know whether she would see another day.

An involuntary shiver ran down her spine and Alice's body tensed. The kindness of the people she had met today, made her realize how much she was missing out in life. And how incredibility alone she was.

Sometimes, very rarely, she allowed herself to imagine what her life would have been if....Or how it could be, if.....But she never found the answers. She had watched other teenagers go to school, a lot of them dressed up in their school uniforms, backpacks slung over their shoulders. Talking to each other, laughing. On those occasions the cold numbness was briefly penetrated by envy. How she wished she could go to school herself and to have a place to return to at the end of the day.

But as soon as those feelings surfaced, she pushed them away again, knowing that she would never be so lucky to have that. Her priority in life was to survive, one way or the other. The kindness those people showed, would probably not last long. It would make them feel better to help her out for a little while, until they felt they had repaid her. After that, she would be on her own again.

"Did Trishia tell you that you can come with us?"Lucy's voice interrupted her thoughts.

"It was either that or the shelter,"Alice gruffly answered. "It's not like they left me much choice."

"I have never been in a shelter,"Lucy confessed, keeping her voice neutral. "But Trish has a nice place, you might like it there."

Alice mumbled something unintelligible and Lucy bit back a smile sensing the girl's discomfort. A familiar presence made her aware of Trishia, who was standing behind her.

"Are you girls ready to go?"Trishia asked.

"I am,"Lucy said, jumping up.

Alice didn't show any sign of following her. She just looked at Trishia, with hooded eyes. A picture of caution and distrust.

"Do you always take in strays?"she finally asked, not able to hide the hostility in her voice.

Lucy held her breath and looked from Alice to Trishia, wondering what the tall woman's response would be.

"Not really, "Trishia calmly answered. "Only when I think they are worth it."

Alice cast down her eyes and felt her cheeks grow warm, not able to fight the rising blush that covered her pale features. Though a nagging little voice in the back of her head reminded Alice that the tall policewoman did not even know her, a tiny little spark flamed up in the depths of her soul, spreading a warmth that was pleasant, but alien to her.

Not knowing what to say or do, the blond teenager stared at the table, feeling very uncomfortable. Slowly she pushed back her chair and stood up, shooting the two women a shy glance.

"Let's go!"Lucy beamed. "I can hear a banana cake calling my name."

"You and food,"Trishia teased, well aware of the fact that Alice was taking in their every word, even though she still displayed an indifferent attitude.

"You are just jealous that my sister makes a better cake than you do,"Lucy smirked.

"Hey!"Trishia responded, holding the door for Alice to walk out. "Anyone makes better cake than I do and I will be the first one to admit that."

"Just remember that, Alice,"Lucy called over shoulder, while opening the door of the car. "Whenever Trishia cooks or bakes anything, and I mean anything, make sure she is the one who tastes it first! "

Alice cast a nervous look at the policewoman, noticing a relaxed smile on her tanned face. Trishia winked at her and motioned Alice to get into the car.

"Just ignore Lucy,"she advised. "She's insane! "

Trishia's eyes noticed the shadow of a smile on the young girl's face, but decided to ignore it. She did not want Alice to know that she was being observed, but she didn't want the girl to feel ignored either and that's why Trishia was pleased with the way Lucy had been approaching the teenager. Which had been with a sense of equality and kindness, laced with Lucy's typical sense of humor.

"Try not to get a speeding ticket today, will you?"she asked Lucy, while buckling her seatbelt. "I am off duty and can't bail you out this time."

"Ha! Like you have ever done that in the past,"Lucy answered, with feigned hurt. "Sometimes I think you sic your friends on me on purpose. Ever since I met you, I get pulled over at least once a week."

Trishia chuckled and shook her head in denial, glancing aside to see a pair of sparkling green eyes.

"I would never do that, "she grinned. "I think my coworkers just want to meet you in person, to see for themselves if all the stories they hear from Peter are true."

"And what stories might that be? "

"You know Peter,"Trishia shrugged. "He likes teasing you. And I never hear what he tells the others, I swear."

"Sounds like I need to have a word with him soon,"Lucy answered. "Although I have to admit it's nice to have....", she smirked and shot a glance at Trishia. "..friends ...in the police force."

Alice was staring out of the window, creating the impression that she was not aware of the gentle bantering that was going on between the two women in the front of the car, but that was far from the truth. Her ears followed the teasing with keen interest and rising curiosity.

She wondered what the exact nature of their relationship was. It was clear to her that they were good friends, but Alice sensed something more, something she could not put her finger on yet, but she was determined to find out by keeping a close eye on Trishia and Lucy.

Joan McDonnell was dozing off, enjoying the breeze that gently ruffled her hair and provided some relief from the afternoon heat.

On the table next to her was a big glass, full of freshly made lemonade with happily floating ice cubes. Jody had made sure that her mom's glass was never empty.

The sight of the green hills, now rapidly acquiring a brownish tint because of the hot sun and dry weather and the forest that seemed to stretch out on the horizon, had made Joan sleepy and with a sigh of contentment she had finally given up the fight to stay awake.

The sounds from the kitchen had slowly faded out and softly snoring Joan lost all awareness of her surroundings. She did not hear nor see the slowly approaching car and even the sound of a car door being slammed shut did not wake her up.

Only when somebody kissed her softly on her cheek, Joan's eyelashes fluttered and she sleepily opened her eyes.

"Lucy!"she croaked. "I...What...My goodness, I must have fallen asleep. What time is it?"

Joan shot upright, immediately regretting that move, because it made her aware of the heavy, pounding in her head. With a groan she rubbed her still painful skull.

"Hi, mom,"Lucy softly greeted, her eyes uncharacteristically soft and gentle. "I didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry. How are you feeling?"

"Pretty good,"Joan answered, feeling the pounding slowly subside. "I must have dozed off."

"You must have needed the nap,"Lucy concluded. "We brought a guest."

"So I heard,"Joan smiled, looking at the blonde teenager who seemed reluctant to climb up the verandah. "Hello, Alice, it's nice to see you. I am glad you could make it."

Alice nodded, just in time remembering whom she was talking to and quickly swallowing the remark:"Like I had a choice."Instead she stared at her shoes, uncomfortably shuffling her feet.

The door to the kitchen opened and Jody appeared, followed by Sam and a curious Fiona.

"Girls, this is Alice,"Trishia introduced the young girl, who was still standing at the bottom of the steps and did not show any intention of coming up on the verandah.

"Alice, this freckled redhead is Jody, the tall blonde is Sam and that copy of Lucy is called Fiona."

Alice eyes had widened at the sight of the three women and Jody could tell the girl was on the verge of panic. Quickly she stepped off the verandah and grabbed Alice's hand in a warm grip.

"Hi, Alice, nice to meet you,"she smiled, her green eyes holding the frightened blue ones. "And thank you so much for helping our Mom this afternoon. Are you thirsty? "

Alice took a deep breath and decided to concentrate on one thing and one person at the time. She could not remember ever being in the company of so many people at the same time and it scared her. But a part of her craved some company and kindness and when she looked into the red haired woman's eyes, she detected nothing but gentleness.

"A glass of water would be nice,"she softly answered, casting down her eyes and feeling a blush coloring her cheeks.

"Sure,"Jody smiled, sensing the girl's discomfort. "I'll get you some water. Unless you are game to try Sam's home made lemonade. It's pretty good,"Jody finished with a smirk.

"Of course it is,"Sam remarked, having joined her partner.

She extended her hand and grabbed Alice's.

"Nice to meet you, Alice. It's good to have you here. And just for the record, I make the best lemonade ever. Want to try some?"

Alice looked up at the tall woman and could not help but answer the genuine smile that was directed to her.

"Yes, please,"she whispered.

"Great, Sam smiled. "I will get you some. Just grab a chair and relax, all right?"

Sam jumped up on the verandah and disappeared in the kitchen, leaving Alice and Jody alone again.

Alice was aware of the scrutinizing look the dark haired teenager gave her and suddenly she wished she would be somewhere else. Anything would be better than the judgmental looks she was too familiar with.

Fiona slowly descended from the verandah and stopped in front of Alice. The two teenagers looked at each other wearily and just when Alice decided that nothing would be lost if she would turn around and run off, her hand was grabbed in a firm grip.

"Hi, I am Fiona, Jody's and Lucy's sister,"she introduced herself. "They refer to me as their 'baby sister', but you will soon find out I am the most sensible one around. Oh, and thanks for helping Mom,"Fiona casually added. "I really appreciate it. That was a cool thing you did."

"No worries,"Alice answered, while she cast a look at the young girl in front of her.

"And I really have to warn you,"Fiona continued with sparkling eyes. "My family is a bit....different. But they are okay. You just need to get used to them."

"Oh, well, thank you,"Lucy's voice sounded in response to Fiona's remark. "You are a treasure, Fi!"

Alice couldn't help but smile, hearing the bantering between the sisters and for the first time she felt herself relax a little. Her head was still spinning with the things that had happened that day and she was still trying to come to terms with the past events. But a little voice in the back of her mind, told her it was alright to let down her guard. Just a little. Enough to try and enjoy herself. Tomorrow would be another day.

To be continued in part 4

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