Happily Never After
“Riley! C’mon baby get up and get dressed. Mum’s gotta drop you off at Charlie’s before work,” Joey yelled from the kitchen. After getting no response, Joey shook her head and headed upstairs to Riley’s room. Standing in the doorway, Joey watched quietly as her son sat on his bed putting his shoes on. Joey smiled happily when he looked up at her, “Hey Ry you almost ready kiddo?” Riley nodded his head up and down, and jumped off the bed. Grabbing his bag, Riley placed his favourite toys in it, then walked over to Joey. Joey grinned at him, and ruffled his dark brown hair, looking into his bright blue eyes, “You okay baby boy?” Riley grinned back at her, his smile matching his mother’s, then said innocently, “Can’t wait to see Mama C today. Do you think she’ll let me have ice cream for lunch Mama J?”
“Oh so is that why you love spending time with Mama C Ry? Might have to speak to her about giving you favours like ice cream for lunch,” Joey giggled. Riley scrunched up his face, and grumbled, “No she never gives me ice cream because she says she’ll get a lecture from you.” “That’s more like it. Now you all packed for your weekend away?” Joey asked as she bent down next to Riley. Riley nodded again, his smile fading, “Yes Mum. Do you really have to work this weekend? Can’t we both visit Mama C and spend the weekend together as a family?” Joey sighed and stroked her hand against Riley’s face, “Baby we talked about this. Charlie wants to spend time with you, and I gotta help Aden on the trawler this weekend ‘cause Geoff’s away. But I promise we’ll spend some time together as a family soon okay?” Riley frowned slowly, “Okay...does this mean you and Mama C won’t get into another fight?”
Joey’s smile instantly dropped, “I’m sorry you’ve had to put up with that baby boy, but we’re getting along better nowadays. No more fights...recently, I promise.” Riley lent forward, hugging Joey, whispering, “That’s what you said last time before you started arguing over you going back to work more often.” Joey hugged Riley tighter, “I know Ry, we’re trying.” Riley nodded, letting go of Joey, “But next Friday we’ll spend together right?” “Absolutely Ry, we wouldn’t miss that for the world. C’mon let’s get going or Mum’s gonna be late for work,” Joey reminded him. Riley walked down the stairs with Joey following him after closing his bedroom door.
At the bottom of the stairs, Riley was greeted by Aden who just walked into the apartment after going for a run down at the beach. “Riley Collins my man!” Aden greeted cheerfully, then bending down to pick Riley up, he teased, “Woah Ry did you grow a foot and a half overnight?” Riley laughed, shaking his head. “You sure boy ‘cause you look taller to me. Does he look taller to you Jo?” Aden grinned at Joey. “Hmm I think you may be right Aid,” Joey chuckled. Riley shook his head again. Aden put Riley back down, “Well your Mum agrees with me Ry. How old are you now?” Riley held up three fingers on his right hand, “I’m three years old Uncle Aden, and I’ll be four next Friday.” “Three going on four huh...yeah right more like three going on fourteen the way you’re growing kiddo,” Aden laughed as he high-fived Riley’s hand.
Riley grinned up at Joey as she walked past him to the kitchen, “We’ll be leaving in a sec Riley. Don’t you go running back to your room, sit down on the couch and watch some TV.” “Okay Mum,” Riley sighed lightly. Aden followed Joey into the kitchen, as she poured them both a coffee, “So gonna go see Charlie this morning huh?” “Just to drop Riley off for the weekend, then I’ll catch up with you at the trawler shortly,” Joey dismissed, “Good thing I’m not the only one running late here.” “Mmm hmm,” Aden grunted, “You know if you two want to spend some time with your son I don’t mind working on my own this weekend.”
“And let no work get done, I doubt it. Can’t exactly afford to take time off right now can we?” Joey pointed out. “You’re the boss, boss,” Aden agreed. Joey looked up at him, “Not anymore I’m not. You’re equal partner with me on the trawler now, you know that.” “What can I say? Still can’t believe we both own the trawler now and run our own business. Its great having you be more of the business partner, but I’ve missed having you out there on the sea on the day to day basis. Geoff’s kinda okay at the job but he’s no you. You know as equal partner I could always insist we have the weekend off,” Aden replied.
Joey rolled her eyes, “Quit it already.” “Quit what Jo?” Aden asked innocently. “Quit trying to make me spend time with Charlie,” Joey groaned. Aden wrapped his arm around Joey’s shoulder, “C’mon isn’t that what you really want?” Joey took a sip of her coffee, wincing as she burnt her tongue on the hot liquid, “Aid...you know Charlie and I have tried to sort out our differences, and it hasn’t worked. We just...don’t fit together anymore you know that.” “Is this how you pictured your life together Jo?” Aden questioned thoughtfully. Joey shrugged, “You mean when I moved back to Summer Bay, forgave Charlie, got back together with her, then later married her, and had Riley together...yeah I was completely picturing my life with Charlie turning out like this. Or more specifically my life without Charlie now.”
“Don’t be like that Jo, you know you and Charlie are just going through a hard time but you’ll work through it all. Maybe you just need a little time away,” Aden insisted supportively. “Aid you’ve been saying that for the past year now and nothing has changed. Charlie’s still as selfish as ever, I honestly can’t even believe she’s the same person I fell in love with all those years back,” Joey said miserably. “You’ve only been officially separated for six months now, give it some time, things are bound to settle down between you. Especially since you and Ry are living here, Charlie’s bound to be missing you both like never before,” Aden said. “Please I doubt Charlie even notices us gone, she’s too caught up in her job which is another reason she hates me right now. Did I tell you about our last argument the other day?” Joey demanded.
Aden shook his head, so Joey continued, “Apparently it’s all my fault that she had to turn down all these big promotions for work in the City so she could stay here in Summer Bay for me and Ry. Of course at the time she never told me she was ever offered these promotions and gave us a chance to decide if moving to the City was a good opportunity for our family, so yeah it’s all my fault that she’s stuck here and...she will probably take off the moment she’s offered another position so what’s the point of trying to fix things?” “Joey, as my bestest bud in the world, you need to stop letting these petty little fights get in between what you and Charlie share. You guys were amazing together, and I get it okay, you’re now parents to a little three-year-old ‘monster’ of a son. Most parents stress out and fight over petty things at this stage. You just got to work through it together. Don’t you want Riley to have both his parents together?” Aden asked lightly.
“Way to use the guilt-trip Aid,” Joey complained, “Of course I wish things could work out for Riley’s sake. But I’m not going to stick around in an unhappy marriage for the sake of my son. Deep down he deserves both his parents to be happy, not bordering on depression. So whether we’re together or separated as long as we’re happy that is what’s best for Riley. Now can we change the subject anytime soon or are you gonna keep hassling me about Charlie?” Aden shrugged, “Fine I’ll leave it alone...for now.” “Thank you,” Joey grinned, “Hey where’s Nic? I didn’t see her this morning.” “Nicole has actually decided to join Geoff and Ruby on their little road trip to the City to visit Annie so she’s gone over to Geoff’s early to sort out some food supplies for their trip and she’ll be gone a couple days,” Aden informed her.
“Missing her already are we?” Joey grinned cheekily. “Just a little...okay a lot, I miss her a lot,” Aden confessed. “You and Nicole are so cute together, I’m glad things are working out for you two, you deserve some happiness too,” Joey told him, then frowned, “Are you sure Nic’s still okay with Riley and me living here with you guys?” “Joey calm down, Nic loves having you two here, you know that. ‘Sides you’ve been here six months now, we’re used to it. We’re all just one big dysfunctional family now,” Aden reminded her, “Okay but I do admit that Nicole is a little worried that having Riley around means I’m gonna start getting clucky for kids of our own. Isn’t that meant to be the girl that get’s clucky?”
“C’mon you want kids Aid. You are great with Riley, he needs a father figure in his life. Okay so Nicole’s not ready for kids just yet, but it won’t hurt her to know that you’ll be ready whenever she is,” Joey insisted. “Yeah I guess, maybe we’ll talk about it when she gets back here. But in the meantime, helping you look after my God-son is pretty much a full-time job on top of my full-time job. Speaking of which we should get going if we want to catch some nice fish this morning,” Aden decided. “Good idea. I’ll meet you down at the trawler in fifteen minutes after I drop Riley off at Charlie’s,” Joey told him. “Sweet, fifteen minutes gives me just enough time for a shower, to get changed, pick up some proper coffees for us at the Diner, and walk down to the wharf,” Aden grinned. “You know it’s not fair it doesn’t take you guys long to get ready,” Joey whinged, “I’ll catch ya down there.”
Joey placed her coffee mug in the sink, and walked back out to the living room. Riley looked up at her, “We going now Mama J?” When Joey nodded yes and picked up her handbag, Riley grabbed the TV remote and turned the TV off, before jumping off the couch. Making his way over to Joey, Riley grabbed hold of his mother’s hand, “Do you know what Mama C has planned for us this weekend Mum?” “Not sure baby boy but I’m sure it’ll be fun and you won’t want to come back here Monday,” Joey laughed. “I never want to come back here,” Riley whispered, “I mean I love Uncle Aden, and Nic’s great fun but...”
“You want us to move back into our house with Charlie and Ruby and be a family again?” Joey concluded, “I wish we could always get what we want Ry. You know that Charlie and I are really trying to work through things for you but it’s gonna take some time. I just...I don’t want you to...get your hopes up if things don’t work out okay?” Riley nodded shyly, “I know Mum. I just miss us being a proper family.” “Yeah I know,” Joey replied softly, “C’mon Ry let’s go see your Mum. I’m sure she can’t wait to spend this extra weekend with you. And I know you especially hate the fact that you only get to spend every second weekend and a night or two during the week with Charlie but we both agreed that it’s what’s best for you.” Riley loosened his grip on Joey’s hand, “I understand Mum. I hate that I can’t always be with both of you but if it’s the only way for us to be a family again...guess it’s for the best.” Joey opened the front door, “C’mon kiddo let’s go get you to Charlie’s.” Joey gripped his hand tighter, and led him out the front door.