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“Hermione’s light are on again, how many times do we have to tell that girl. She’ll be the first to complain is she can’t go to pick up her junk food later on”

Terese looked over at Paul walking beside her.

“What do you reckon, think we should give Roxy your convertible as a thank you gift.”

“Yeah”

“Paul” she exclaimed slapping him on the arm

“Sorry. You were saying?”

They headed up the drive, Terese stopped for a while and watched him. He looked around before he reached into his pocket for the key. Before he had a chance to even think the front door opened and Ned came stumbling out of the house.

“Whoa sorry Paul didn’t realised you guys were there.”

“Sorry?”

“Mainly Rox and Harlow’s fault.” Ned turn around “They think I need their company to look cool. Whole Street would disagree”

“Yes with you! Harlow shouted from inside before she and Roxy joined him at the door.

As they stepped out onto the drive Paul walked in without blinking an eye. Harlow looked at him and turned suddenly towards Terese.

“Grandad ok?”

“He said nothing. He saw us being loud, had the chance and just didn’t bother. I think he’s just getting used to the fact that he shouldn’t even try to get the better on us” Roxy joked

“I’m being serious Roxy. Terese?”

“He’s just got a lot on his mind. You guys going anywhere nice?”“

“Just heading to the city to see a movie”

“Will you be home for dinner? Fish Barbie I think is on the menu tonight”

“Paul doing some fishy stuff on the Barbie. We can’t possibly refuse that!”

“She’s not wrong there.” Ned agreed “See you later”

Terese watched as they walked towards the car.

“See you around 8” she shouted before heading inside to the sound of the three of them debating over Hermione. She closed the door behind her turned around and was welcomed by an empty house. He was like a chameleon at times, blink and you’d miss him but not the storm he had left in his wake. She headed towards the garden.

“There you are. That was a bit rude at the door just then”

“They were heading out”

“So not curious as to where?”

“They’re all adults, no need to grill them every time they hang out together, and besides aren’t you the one that always tells me to go easy on them?”

“Yeah but a hello or a slight interest wouldn’t go amiss.”

“Why are you getting so worked up about this Terese? I bet they were glad I missed a chance to be the big bad?”

Terese sighed

“Harlow was worried. She’s worried about you”

“And I bet she’s not the only one?”

“And do I need to worry?”

“I’m fine. Listen I’ll apologise to them tonight at dinner.” He walked over a held her hands. “Don’t worry they’ll be too distracted with my fish to even remember what happened.”

Paul leaned in for a kiss just as she pulled away. He looked at her with confusion in his eyes.

“Not good enough Paul, you don’t get to brush this under the carpet not today. You have been distance since we saw the boys, on the way home you were anywhere but by my side and then you brush past Ned, Roxy and Harlow like you couldn’t be bother with them.”

Paul scoffed

And don’t give me that attitude, you know perfectly well what I’m talking about.”

“You are making something from nothing here. I guess I’m just worried about the boys, their involvement with Aster.”

“So this is about what I said to you before.”

"Darling the amount of times I’ve been called the bad guy I’ve lost count. Yours today was one in a long line that will not bother me.”

“So what then. I know you care about the boys and how involved they are with Aster but you have to just let them sort that out themselves.”

“I know. I know. It’s just hard watching them being such naturals knowing that they could one day get hurt. They have been through enough in the past year they don’t deserve more heartbreak.”

“I know”

“This is their future hopefully Terese I just don’t want them to think that it’s already here.”

“I understand it's hard being the one that sees the big picture and can’t do anything about it.”

She paused for a bit

“You aren’t going to do anything about it are you?”

“What, no. Is that what you think I’d do?

“Well”

Paul scoffed and turned his back. He held his head down took a deep breath and turned again.

“New Year same old me. I don’t like something so I deal with it. Is that what everyone thinks?”

“Darling it not a criticism it just who you are”

“Is it?”

“Come on we all know how you can be and while others might not, I understand it. Family is everything they deserve a fighter in their corner.”

Paul looked at her, his face dropped as he looked away. Terese looked at him worried.

“Well this fighter is losing all his battles at the moment.”

“Oh Paul.” She put her arm on his shoulder “Is this about Lassiters”

“Lassiters, the class action, Robert. These were mine to win but time and time again I just back down, let others walk all over me”

“Lassiters was out of your hands as was the other two. I know it not in your nature to lose darling but you need to move on. Concentrate on the important things.”

“Move on. That is so easy to do isn’t it?”

“I managed just fine.”

“Exactly. Everyone seems to have moved on. David and Aaron have forgiven Kyle and are happy playing happy families. Amy left for a better life on the other side of the world. And you, starting a new chapter at the Foundation without as much as a dread.”

“And what, you wish that everything just stayed the same, everyone to be reliant on you?”

“No. I just wish I could.” He turned to look at Terese. “I feel like I’m stuck Terese. Everyone else has moved on but me. I’m still holding on to battles that I know are done with. I’m jumping at my own shadow. I’ve lost all of the fight in me and it scares me. Just look at Lassiters, me this time last year would never have let them win, for goodness sake I got distracted earlier because I heard a shuffle inside the house. That’s why I ignored the kids, not because I didn’t care it’s because I was embarrassed. It like my mind is drifting back to the same place all the time and I can’t escape the feeling that something is coming for me and I can’t do anything about it. I’ve always been in control but I’m becoming someone I can’t be.”

“Oh Paul. You know Robert is not a threat to you here don’t you.”

“I should do Terese. Yes he seemed different at the Prison, but that doesn’t mean a thing does it. Anyway it’s not all about Robert. It’s just me at the moment. I worry about the boys but they seem to have moved on just fine, so why can’t I?”

“Darling you went through so much before Christmas and it’s been non-stop since. There no shame in admitting that you’re struggling to balance everything. You’re scared you’re becoming something you can’t be, well why not? I didn’t marry you because of your fighting spirit or the fact you win every battle. I married you because I see the different sides to you. I love the fighter in you but when you let your guard down that's when I see the real you. You don’t have to fight everything on your own, please let me take some of the weight."

Terese raised his hands and placed them on this face.

“You need to share with me, let me be there for you. Just like I promised.”

Paul nodded his head as tears filled his eyes.

“I’m sorry”

“Hey come here”

She pulled him close and gave him a hug. He held her tight and closed his eyes.

“See there is always a safe place here, you just need to remember that.”

He stepped back and held her hands.

“I know. And you know it goes both ways don’t you. I will always be by your side not matter where we are or what happens. Might not be smooth sailing, but when has it ever been with us”

They looked at each other and laughed.

“Now we promised a Fish Barbie tonight, yours to be precise and I don’t know if we actually have fish. Do you fancy a cup of tea while I’m inside?”

“Why not.”

Paul watched her walking in with a smile on his face.”

“Terese” she turned around “Thank You”

She smiled at him before heading in. Suddenly his face turned from happiness to despair. As he rubbed the ring on his finger his thought once again drifted. Terese was the one that kept him on his toes but also kept him safe. But she wasn’t there all the time and when she left it felt like he was once again alone. This feeling of being lost and scared was haunting him every hour and while he felt happier having shared part of his burden he couldn’t put it all on her. I have to have a handle on this he thought, I can’t let her shoulder any of it, it’s not fair. Today a simple comment from her made him feel isolated and that wasn’t her fault but it drew attention and made her think it was about her. She was his anchor, kept him grounded so he needed her on his side otherwise his world would crumble. And while today was not all good he always felt safe by her side. As long as she was there he was safe. It was only the rest of the day he needed to handle now. He sighed as his thought once again drifted.
…………………………………………………………………………………

As Paul sat down with his plate the rest of the family were tucking into their dinner.

“Guys before I start I’d like to apologise for this afternoon. It was bought to my attention that I was possibly rude.”

“All good Paulie, this Fish is plenty of an apology”

“You know what Roxy’s right, this is more than enough. We just hope you’re ok?”

“You know me.”

“Yes we do.” Ned butted in

“Ha ha.” He paused “We talked a bit, we sorted stuff out.”

He looked at Terese and smiled. She reached her hand over the table , held his and smiled back.

“Yes we did. Everything is just fine”

“Good cause there is a special day coming up, are we prepared.” Harlow jumped in

The conversation faded into the background as they all joined in. Paul smiled as he watched them. He was struggling but one thing was for sure when he needed something to take his mind off anything he knew he had home. He was far from ok but this was all he needed tonight to keep him smiling.