Bellamy and Octavia stood at the edge of the freshly filled grave with what seemed like half the town with them. Aurora hadn’t been the most liked woman in town, but she had been a fixture in the aged care facility since she had left school and she was also renowned in the region for her sewing skills. Well, she had been renowned. After a drunk driver had hit her on the highway on her way home, she would now have to be referred in the past tense. The thought made Bellamy’s heart clench and he reached for Octavia’s sweaty 12-year-old hand.
People filled out of the graveyard. There was no wake to go to – a 20-year-old boy wasn’t expected to feed so many people. Eventually only Octavia’s year 6 teacher remained with them.
“Bellamy, we need to talk about your future.” Mrs Riley began, but already blood was rushing through his ears. He knew this would happen, knew Octavia would be taken away.
“My future is with Octavia.” He stated gruffly and Octavia held onto tighter to his hand.
“You’re halfway through your fire-fighter training, you can’t be expected to – “ She began.
“I can be expected to. My sister, my responsibility, that’s what Mum always said.” Tears blurred his eyes.
“I’m coming round tomorrow, when you’re calmer. I’m sorry I asked you here.” She picked up her bag and began to walk away before turning back around. “I’ll bring a sponge cake.” With that, she turned and left.
The siblings stayed in the cemetery until the midday sun started browning Octavia’s skin. Bellamy felt guilt that already he was hurting his sister. With little tugs, Octavia followed him away from their mother’s grave to the old Toyota landcruiser. He helped his sister up into the cabin and walked around to start it, heaving himself up and letting the clutch ease out smoothly.
When the siblings arrived home Bellamy could almost feel the love of the place seeping out. It was sparsely furnished but richly decorated. Aurora loved mythology and passed this love onto her children. All the drawings and artwork were of Greek gods. They ranged from the childish drawings Bellamy and Octavia did when they were kids and up to proper, framed art prints that Aurora bought in the big town with her sewing money.
Bellamy silently heated up some of the frozen meals Aurora had always stashed in the freezer for them. It hurt his heart to think that one day, these frozen meals would all the used up. Octavia ate silently and when Bell moved to hustle her off to get ready for bed, the tears erupted. Hugs, kisses, stories wouldn’t sate her and Bell gave up, carrying her to his bedroom and wrapping her up in his doona. He carried her back to the rumpus room, making her a nest out of cushions. She fell asleep quickly as Bell began telling her the story of Augustus and his little sister. Only then did Bell let his tears slide out silently.
Octavia and Bellamy had different dads. This probably added to the town’s disliking of Aurora. Bellamy knew his father was Filipino, but he’d never met him. There was one picture of Bellamy as a newborn baby in the hospital lying in his father’s arms, but that was the last time Aurora saw him. It made Bellamy sad sometimes to think that his father never fell in love with his newborn like most men did.
O had it worse though. She had no pictures of her father. Aurora kept it hush and now O would have no idea who her father was. He doubted she presently cared about that though.
He cleaned up the curry stuck to their bowls and carefully dried the plates. He quietly dragged the spare mattress in to sleep next to Octavia and wrapped her Barbie doona around himself. He fell asleep stroking her fringe away from her forehead and knowing he will never let her be taken away from him.
He made eggs and ham for breakfast and served it to Octavia without toast, just like she liked. She woke up with red and crusty eyes and wordlessly ate. Bellamy knew he should talk to his little sister – he was just so unsure of how to. How do you broach the subject of living arrangements when your mum just died? How do you ask your sister to change her life? When she was done eating she took her plate to the sink before rolling herself back up in his doona.
Bellamy took a deep breath, trying to work out what to say. It was all such a mess in his head. “I love you, O.” He finally said with tears in his eyes. A little murmur of reply came from the pile of doona.
He cleaned up same as last night and only had the kitchen in order when there was a knock at the door. After quickly chewing on his lip and looking in at the soft breaths coming from the pile of doona that was his sister, he answered the door to see Mrs Riley with a perfectly iced sponge cake complete with strawberries.
“Good morning Bellamy!” She didn’t move to hug him like she usually did. He wondered why. Surely the current situation called for hugs. But he knew he would stand stiffly and dislike it just as he usually did.
“Hi Mrs Riley. Octavia is asleep.” He stepped back to allow her into their house and pointed at the pile of doona in the rumpus room. Mrs Riley hummed in response as she put her cake on the table and sat down. “Should I wake her?” He asked as he got three tiny plates, a knife and those little forks his mother always told him to use out of the sideboard.
“Don’t worry about it, sweetie. She needs the rest – and so do you.” She began to cute the cake into dead even pieces. He supposed the practise came from being a primary school teacher. “We need to talk about you and Octavia’s living arrangements.”
Bellamy bristled. “She’s my sister and I have custody of her. Mum and I agreed when I turned 18.” He bit out, taking the plate without a thank you and quickly shoving it into his mouth.
“I’m not doubting your love of, or ability to care for your sister. But you only have one more year of training before you are a fully employed fire fighter. You shouldn’t stop that, you need to continue so you can work full time!” Mrs Riley patted his hand and cut him another slice of cake.
“That’s only if I get a position. There’s only a limited amount of them.” He frowned as he bit into the soft cake in smaller bites.
“You are more capable than you think, Bellamy. It’s unheard of to get this far in training while being so young. I believe you will complete the training and get work if Octavia is not a worry on your mind.”
“What do you mean by that?” His skin crawled at the thought of Octavia in foster care. Of Octavia out of sight. Of her getting hurt and him not being around to protect her.
“I’m not suggesting abandoning her into foster care. But until you have competed your training, you should continue to live in Bendigo and Octavia could live here, with me. My husband and I are foster parents, although we haven’t had any kids in a few years. She could stay with us until you have full time work and you know where you’ll be posted. She could finish primary school in her home town.” Mrs Riley was patting his hand so much he was sure his hand was going to be red for days.
“I can support her while I’m being trained.” He said sharply as he took his hand away and shoved half a cake into his mouth.
“Not in a stable fashion. You’re going to be moving around too much, son. Please let my family help you.” She moved the plate out of reach of his fork when he tried to go for the other half of his slice. “Think about it objectively and talk to your sister. She will be safe with us.” She got up quickly. “Return the plate later.” She called over her shoulder and left, shutting the front door quietly behind her.
Only then could he let his shoulders fall in silent sobs. His sister, his responsibility – that’s what Aurora had always repeated. How could he abandon her?
“Bell?” He heard the small voice call for him. “Bring me some cake please.” He knew this conversation was going to happen. Octavia was far too mature for a 12 year-old. A little hand was sticking out of the doona pile in search of cake. When he put the entire sponge near her he heard a little noise of crying.
“Are you okay, O? Did you hear Mrs Riley?” Perhaps Bellamy was being a wuss, but he hoped she had heard what this teacher said. He wasn’t sure he would be able to repeat it all without breaking down.
“Yes, Bell, I did. Can I eat the cake in here?” She stuttered as she slowly slid the plate into her makeshift tent.
“Yeah, I’ll wash it later.”
“Bell, I don’t want to live with you in Bendigo. I don’t like it there. I want to stay here. At least until you have a house, not that gross flat mum always complains about.” He didn’t have the heart to remind her that mum was in the past tense.
“Do you wanna live with Mrs Riley, though? Wouldn’t kids at school find that weird?”
“Nah, Mrs Riley always has foster kids and all the other teachers have kids that go to school. It’d be fine. She has a nice house too, they have a stumpy tail cattle dog that they got from the pound. Oh, and she always makes cake.” Octavia was making some good points.
“What’s her husband like?” He had to be sure of her opinion.
“He’s nice, he’s the librarian you liked who ran the kids book making classes in the summers. He always asks me about mythology and my opinion on books.” Bellamy knew who Mr Riley was and he liked him too. Octavia’s opinions were still the most important.
“Do you want me to call them now and tell them you want to live with them or do you want to wait a bit? I don’t have to be back in Bendigo for another week.” He took to offered empty cake plate from the little hand.
“Let’s just stay like this for a couple more days.” Octavia took his hand and held it with surprising strength.
So they organised for Octavia to live with the Rileys. She fell in love with their dopey dog that would have made an awful cattle dog and learnt how to bake the perfect sponge.
Bellamy saved up lots of money from his training wage. His only expenses were cheap rent, Octavia’s allowance and fuel when he drove over the old ute every fortnight to see his sister. He worked hard and was accepted into a full position a few days after his 21st birthday. His boss said he was surely one of the youngest fire fighters in Australia. His posting would be announced when Octavia would be 14.
Mrs Riley once rang Bellamy to tell him she was worried Octavia exercised too much, but when she was 13 her three guardians took her to a psychologist who helped her respond to her life better. She felt better about going to see the doctor when Bellamy whispered he had to see one too.
It was kind of surprising when Bellamy was posted to the Melbourne Fire Brigade in the northern suburbs shed. It was basically unheard of for rookies to be posted to the city, let alone rookies from the country. Bellamy wondered if they had selected him out of pity for his position. He never questioned it to his boss’ face, though. Better to take the gift of being able to live near work with his sister rather than stay in Bendigo.
Octavia was beside herself with excitement. She had always loved the city, though they never went often. She wanted to live right in North Melbourne, where they could go to the Queen Vic Markets for fresh vegetables and fish every day. Mrs Riley pointed out that they were better off living near a school and Bellamy’s work rather than the markets. All Bellamy could think of was finding a place to rent – the city was pricey!
Mrs Riley’s brother was some high-level police inspector – a Mr Kane. As a favour to his sister, Mr Kane was willing to help Bellamy and Octavia search out a place to live. So in the last school holidays when Bellamy had his week off he and his sister went down to the city, leaving the old ute at the station and catching the 8am train. Octavia was almost buzzing. They had arranged to meet Mr Kane at 1pm. Before that, Octavia needed to go to the market and buy exotic fruit. Bellamy knew his sister would fit in easily in the city. She loved experimenting with things and he liked to think that meant she’d be able to adapt to the city well.
At 12.45pm exactly they arrived to wait under the clocks at Flinders Street station. Octavia had two shopping bags of fruit and was eating lychees at a scary pace. (He hadn’t allowed her to buy any cheeses or fish in case the smell scared off the real estate agent). Bellamy had Mr Riley’s briefcase with 7 different packages of housing applications, ID and letters of recommendation for the seven places they would inspect today. They had left their overnight bags in lockers at the station before buying expensive mykis. Mr Kane was putting them up in his spare room and that evening they were having dinner with Mr Kane at his friend’s place.
His sister tugged on his shirt and pointed wildly at the tall, angular man that was bee lining towards them from the tram stop. “Bell, I think that’s Mr Kane! Mrs Riley showed me - ”
“O, don’t point, that’s rude.” Bellamy reprimanded his sister gently. Only because the angular man looked kind of scary and Bellamy was afraid he would tell O off loudly.
“Good afternoon, Blakes!” O was right. The angular man smiled cheerily and suddenly looked more like his sister.
“Hello Mr Kane!” Octavia said while Bellamy simply put his hand out in offer of a shake.
“How has your day been? I hope the train ride was okay.” Mr Kane shook Bellamy’s hand firmly. “Congratulations on your posting, Bellamy.”
“The train ride was fine, and thank you sir.” Bellamy said stiffly and politely, just as he his with all his superiors.
“Then we went to the market, but Bellamy would only let me buy fruit because he said the cheese would be too smelly for house inspections.” His sister added. Bell wondered sometimes when she would turn into a surly teenager. Even at 14, she was still the child he knew, only slightly bigger. Although she had eaten enough dinner last night to make him suspect a growth spurt was on the way.
“That’s probably a good idea. Real Estate agents can be really picky. Anyway, we should head off now, the first inspection is in an hour but we might as well be early.” Mr Kane smiled and turned to lead the way to the Swanston Street trams.
Five hours later they had inspected seven apartments and houses. Bellamy and Octavia had agreed on five that they had applied for. The places they had applied for were in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Northcote. They were all right suburbs for schools and were close enough for Bellamy to ride a bike into work. They were as shit as anywhere in terms of cost, but Bellamy would be earning enough to support them. Mr Kane lived in Brunswick, so after collecting their bags from Southern Cross they headed north again to his small house on a little back street. Bellamy made his sister’s bed up in the spare room while Octavia quizzed Mr Kane on his job (particularly if he had seen any gruesome murders or been shot). Bellamy managed to wrest his sister away to have a shower in preparation for dinnertime before she got a detailed answer.
“Sorry about her, I think she watched too much of The Bill at your sister’s place.” Mr Kane just laughed it off.
“It must be hard to have her living away from you.” Mr Kane stated while he sorted through his wine rack for a bottle.
“Yeah, but it’s actually easier. I know she’s safe. She would have hated Bendigo anyway, but she loves Melbourne, so hopefully it will all work out here.” Bellamy shrugged and sat on a bar stool at the marble bench. He was unsure how he would feel living in Melbourne. None of the places they looked at today had the broad living/ dinning space or perfectly polished floors like Mr Kane had. None of them looked over a neat garden of raised beds, either. He supposed some high-level policeman could afford to live here, with a spare bedroom larger than Octavia’s bedroom in their childhood home. But how would he be able to raise a child with no good outdoor space and tiny living rooms? He worried at his fingernails until Mr Kane turned around to lean against his wire wine rack to steadily stare at him. He left his hands alone and stared at Mr Kane as evenly as his nerves could muster.
“It’ll be fine here. You’ll be working in a great place, I know some guys there and they love it. You’ll still have my sister’s support, and you’ll settle into a community. She’ll be fine with you.” When Bellamy didn’t respond quickly Mr Kane stared down the hall to where the water was still running in the bathroom. “As long as she doesn’t run Melbourne out of water you’ll be fine.” He joked and Bellamy cracked a smile.
“I’ll go get her.” He slid off the bar stool and turned left down the hall. He wondered why O was still washing. Octavia was usually so high energy she could hardly wash well enough and she was very strict on energy and water conservation. “O?” he knocked on the door. “Come on bud, Mr Kane and I need to shower too.” The water turned off suddenly and Octavia poked her head out quickly.
“Bell it’s happened.” She said very seriously, wiping her wet tendrils away from her face with the hand not clutching a very rich-person looking towel together.
She took a deep breath and seemed to think for a second. “I’m a woman.” He pulled a face until it dawned on him.
“Oh shit.” He said quietly when he realised he was in a single man’s home. Octavia’s face fell at his reaction. “No, O, this is so amazing! Sorry! Congratulations and all, I just need to figure stuff out. I promise we’ll go out for dinner when we’re back in the country in celebration, I just – I’ll be back soon.” Bellamy wheeled around and went to go ask Mr Kane is he had any pads around (unlikely).
“Bell, you can’t tell anyone!” Octavia hissed behind him. “Just tell me what to do.”
Why was she asking him this? Thank goodness he had lived so closely with his mother when he was little. It took a bit to remember, but he whispered to her to wrap up lots of toilet paper and he would have to (somehow) buy some pads between now and dinner. O remained adamant Mr Kane was not to know, even when Bellamy assured her he’d have to understand her situation.
Bellamy quickly showered while Octavia hid in the spare room. When he dressed and left he shoved about half a roll of toilet paper into the pockets of his jeans. He’d be able to hide the lump with a jumper. Perhaps he was overreacting, imagining these people would have only one roll of toilet paper in their home, but he had been raised to be prepared. Honestly, he was pretty sure he was going to have to let Octavia down and not be able to get to a 7 Eleven before dinner. Maybe these friends of Mr Kane’s would have a daughter or an understanding mother he could speak quietly to.
Mr Kane showered quickly and in 15 minutes they were out the door with a selection of cheeses and fruit (chosen by Octavia from the extensive cheese selection in Mr Kane’s almost comically large fridge) and a few bottles of wine tucked away in a fancy basket that appeared to have padding. Octavia was somehow not waddling. She was wearing black jeans and Bellamy was suddenly thankful for her dark wardrobe. He and the Rileys might have worried she was manifesting her mourning too long, but here it was a blessing.
They took the tram to this friend’s place. In a few stops, with Octavia asking more prodding questions about police work to the surprise of the other passengers, they arrived at a large terrace house on a corner, opposite the university Bellamy had never stood foot on. Bellamy had thought Mr Kane’s house was big – this one was about three times the size just from the front. There was a lush green garden spewing over into the sidewalk and the veranda upstairs was almost bursting with plants. The green doors of the house blended in with the garden under the yellow streetlights.
Bellamy suddenly felt like a kid as he followed Mr Kane up to the doorway. “Sorry, O, I’ll get some in a bit.” He muttered as Mr Kane knocked on the door and cheerfully greeted the tall woman at the door.
“Abby, this is Bellamy and Octavia,” Mr Kane introduced them. Abby shook Bellamy’s hand with surprising force for such a bony looking person. She looked like she might frown too much, but she was still handsome, even with her hair pulled back sharply. The smile she gave Octavia was gracious, but tight.
“Welcome, I’m very excited to have you for dinner. Come in, please.” Octavia slipped her hand into his as they followed Mr Kane inside.
The wealth inside seemed almost lazy. He recognised the paintings on the wall were old and framed in gold. He saw the deep red of the carpet they walked along, but also the lazy leaves that had blown in and escaped notice under a dark wooden sideboard. He noticed the tangle of shoes in front of the worn carpet stairs, including expensive scuffed leather boots and heels. Bellamy wondered how he had got his sister into this – it seemed to rub her nose in her poverty, in her present instability. Her hand felt sure in his, but he was reminded of the child she still was. Bellamy just had to remember that Mrs Riley was kind, her brother is kind, and these people are trying to help his miniscule family. He keeps repeating this as they walk past more lazy wealth into a dining room.
“You’ll have to forgive the house currently, our daughter is going through VCE.” A tall blonde man with lazy stuble stepped forward. “Hi, I’m Jake, very pleased to meet you.” He has calloused hands and a sturdy handshake.
“I’m Bellamy and this is Octavia.” Bellamy said politely. The man – Jake – smiled politely.
“I hear congratulations are in order for your new position.”
“Thank you, sir.” Octavia began squeezing his hand tighter and he knew he had to save her or assure her somehow.
Abby came out of the kitchen holding some sort of dough with salt and herbs on it, and exclaimed over Bellamy’s new job. After a bit of chitchat, mostly aided by Mr Kane, Bellamy managed to ask where the toilet was. Apparently there was two upstairs, but mind their studying daughter. The siblings managed to escape this politeness.
“I’m so sorry, O, I’ll sort this out.” Bellamy tried to say as Octavia huffed and slammed the bathroom door in his face. He cringed – they were bloody guests in this house! Apparently the angry blonde who stuck her head around the corner and glowered at him agreed.
“What the FUCK? Abby said that her guests would be fucking SILENT. And yet here you are you stupid elephant.” She was actually shaking her highlighter-marked fist at him and flipped him off when he started to laugh.
“I’m actually so glad to see you.”
“Me? Why? You perv! I don’t even know you” She started stalking towards him in the most ridiculous outfit that consisted of pyjamas, mismatched socks and a summer doona wrapped around her middle. Bellamy had no doubt this pretty, exhausted looking girl could kill him, or at least kick him really hard. He put his hands up in surrender.
“I need some help.”
The angry blonde girl turned out to be Abby and Jake’s daughter Clarke.
Clarke helped him out by giving him several pads that were floating around her drawers. When she had announced she’d moved on from disposable menstrual items to a diva cup she seemed impressed he didn’t blanch about the concept and had instead asked for the website in case Octavia was interested.
After Bellamy gave Octavia a pad, he went back to thank Clarke and they ended up talking for a while. She asked about his name and she was so excited to hear that he was named for his grandmother’s maiden name. Clarke had been Abby’s maiden name, so she was glad to meet someone else cursed with a last name for a first name. She was studying to get into medicine at Monash Uni. Bellamy decided to ignore the 20ish finished canvases leaning in her room and the two art easels that both had in progress paintings. She seemed really good at painting, not that he had much of an idea about the art world. He supposed being a doctor was a more stable job in the long run. They chatted about lots of things, flitting from one topic to another easily and it felt normal to have Clarke’s hand on his knee. For the first time in years, he had a conversation where his opinions mattered but weren’t super important. It was fun to talk casually about politics, student life, what Melbourne was like versus the country. He felt young again and it was so awesome. When Clarke leaned in to experimentally kiss him he kissed her back hard and let her run her tongue along the roof of his mouth. She pulled back with a wicked grin and squeezed his thigh as she asked him about fire fighting work.
Octavia came to fetch him for dinner and thanked Clarke very politely for her help.
Downstairs the adults ignored the time the Blakes had been missing. Dinner chat revealed Abby was head of Melbourne Uni’s medicine course and Jake was the head of environmental engineering. Bellamy had no idea what either jobs entailed, but Octavia asked lots of questions about their work. Clarke didn’t make an appearance at dinner, although a place was set for her. Bellamy felt disappointed. He had wanted to ask her for her number, but supposed he might see her again.
The next time Bellamy saw Clarke was two years later and her art studio was in was on fire.
He knew that Clarke was no longer talking to her mother because of whispers from Kane and Mrs Riley. He supposed the sudden death of her father in suspicious circumstances had no helped their relationship. (Rumours floated around saying Jake Griffin was assassinated by the companies he had been leading anti-mining and CSG campaigns against). But Kane had suggested once, on their occasional catch-ups at the insistence of Mrs Riley, that Clarke was well on her way to being ostracised from the Griffin family before that.
Now, to see that angry face with her mop of tangled blonde hair that seemed to be 50% pencils and paintbrushes made Bellamy feel something – he wasn’t quite sure what. Of course, he didn’t speak to her until after the fire was extinguished. A few of the other fire fighters were waiting for the call back to the shed and packing up the gear. Bellamy walked to where Clarke was sitting on a buildings step and shrugging off the ambo with surprising force, exclaiming that she was not in shock, she was going to kill that fool Jasper with her own bare hands.
“Hi, Clarke, right?” He tried to play it casual.
“Yes!” She snapped. “Oh, hi, thanks for saving the studio but I suppose you lot got heaps of foam everywhere like last time?” She hadn’t looked at him yet and was still fighting to get the foil blanket off her.
“This is actually the first call out we’ve had here.”
“What?” She looked up at him and groaned. “Bellamy, right? And what do you mean first call out? I came back last month to find the entire studio filled with bubbles and that FOOL Jasper said there had been a fire.” The ambo finally left her alone, throwing Bellamy a sorrowful glance.
“It wasn’t us. How have you been, Clarke? Not doing med anymore?” She moved over on the step to let him sit down.
“No med, which annoyed my mother to no ends and she got particularly angry when I started doing fine art instead. Apparently it’s a useless degree, which I agree with but at least it’s fun.” She shrugged and bumped into his arm. That might have been the first time he’s touched a girl in like six months. Octavia may have banned him from bringing back ‘floozies’ since the last one apparently moaned like a porn star and it was really TMI for a 16 year old who just wanted to sleep. The only major negative of the place they have in Collingwood is the grossly thin walls, and he was on the hunt for another place as soon as this lease ran out.
“How’s your sister going?” She interrupted his thoughts. “Get her onto diva cups yet?” Clarke giggled and it sounded stupid coming out of this tough looking girl’s mouth. He peaked at her out of the corner of his eye. Her hair was held up with multiple paintbrushes, more pencils in her lap. Most of her body and hair had flakes of paint on it and the paintbrushes in her hair were drying paint into it. Her thighs each had large tattoos on them, one possibly of a fern and the other of an octopus. She was wearing a loose, once white button down shirt now splattered in paints and other colours that fell almost to the end of a purple miniskirt. Her feet and legs were paint covered and were bare.
“Octavia’s great, and the diva cups were a good gift, thanks for telling me about those.” She giggled again and he grinned at her, encouraged to go on. “She’s going well in school and settled into city life pretty well. She also gets really obsessed with different martial arts every few months….” He trailed off, realising he probably sounded like a dad and also that he needed to get back to the station.
“That sounds rad!” Clarke patted his knee with a smile.
“It’s been nice seeing you, but I need to get back to work now.” He stood up to leave. “Can I… can I get your number or something?” He scuffed his safety boots along the ground.
“Yeah sure! Give me your phone, I’ll put it in.”
“Oh, I’m not allowed to have my phone on me.” She grinned and handed him hers instead.
“Don’t worry, boy, I’ll text you.” She winked and stood up. “I gotta go meet my girlfriend now, but see you soon. I’ll go assess the damage of the studio later and probably start looking for a new studio mate.” She stood on her tippy toes to kiss his cheek noisily before turning on her heel and marching off.
Dammit, of course she had a girlfriend!
She text him that night and they began to meet up for coffees every week or so.
Clarke had found a new studio mate, with Jasper graciously leaving and admitting he should keep welding inside the uni studios. Bellamy found himself more and more attracted to this blonde, even though her casual mentions of her girlfriend occasionally jolted him out of his love haze. Octavia teased him mercilessly and Bellamy let her.
About six weeks after the studio fire, Bellamy is dragged out to celebrate a work colleague, Kyle Wick’s, birthday by Nathan Miller, the best friend he has at the precinct and another young recruit. Octavia chose his clothes and basically pushed him out the door, reminding him that she is almost 17 and very capable of cooking dinner herself.
Miller met him at the bar and bought him a pint of larger.
“Surely this is your first time out since you got here!” He joked. “Though I can understand why.” Miller added quickly when he saw Bellamy begin to glare and open his mouth to remind Miller of Octavia.
“Thanks for reminding me to come.” Bellamy admitted gruffly before scarfing about half of his pint.
“No problem.” They stood at the bar drinking for a bit before Kyle came up, shouting his thanks for their attendance. Bellamy wondered how he could be so drunk already, but he supposed it was 9pm and Kyle was in the midst of his time off. Soon Kyle was trying to convince the pretty bar tender to sing karaoke with him. Miller wordlessly took him away into an empty booth while Bellamy faced the bar tender.
“Sorry about him. His only excuse is his birthday. Is your kitchen still open?”
The bartender rolled her eyes. “He can stay, just. I’ll get you a bowl of chips. He’s cut off though.”
“Understandable.” She laughed and went to poke her head into the kitchen before coming back. Bellamy noticed she walked with a slight limp.
“We don’t even have karaoke, so I wonder what he’s on.” She said before serving some people next to him. Bellamy took a seat and nursed his warming beer.
“Probably just drunk, he’s in the middle of his time off.” He shrugged.
“What do you guys do?” She grabbed the dishes and began drying glasses in front of him.
“Uh, we’re all fire fighters actually.” Bellamy laughed and the bartender joined in.
“Classic, so do you rescue lots of cats?”
“Nah, it’s less American here.” Miller came back over and nudged his shoulder.
“Hate to disturb, but can I get another beer.” Miller asked. “I’m Nate and this is Bellamy.” He introduced them.
“Pleasure, I’m Raven.” She grinned at Bellamy with a wink as she pulled the beer. Miller paid for his beer and left while Bellamy continued looking at Raven. She had big dark eyes and wispy brown roots that had grown out from a lighter blonde colour. He could see the ends of it had once been blue, now a washed out green. Her lips were beautiful and he felt like a giant freak to even think about sex with the pretty bartender.
“Bellamy, come over here!” Miller called from behind him.
“I’ll be back in a sec.” He promised Raven and she grinned and nodded.
Miller was standing with a shorter boy near the entrance of the bar. Bellamy scuffed his boots along the sticky carpet on his way to Miller.
“This is Monty, my boyfriend.” Miller introduced them.
“Nice to meet you Bellamy, I’ve heard so much about you.” Monty smiled kindly and shook hands.
“Pleased to meet you.” Bellamy replied.
“How are - Raven’s here!” Monty exclaimed, looking past Bellamy. “I’ve got to go say hi.” He walked past Bellamy and Miller up to the bar. Miller shrugged at Bellamy and sipped at his lager. They stood silently waiting for Monty to return. Bellamy noticed that their friendship was very silent and it suited them well. They relied on each other steadily when they worked together and it had never failed either of them.
Monty returned after a few moment.
“How do you know the bartender?” Miller asked, rubbing Monty’s shoulder.
“We’re both part of the queer engineers society at uni.” Monty replied, taking Miller’s beer and drinking a sip. “She’s great, probably the best mechanical engineers of her age and I’m not even exaggerating.” He laughed.
“What do you study?” Bellamy asked.
“Environmental engineering and science.” Monty grinned. “I’m majoring in conservation too. Probably going to end up working in agriculture, I reckon.” Bellamy envied Monty’s loose plans. He was on track to be a fire fighter. Well, he was a fire fighter. And he’d always regretted not getting an education higher than year 12. But he knew that getting a job, especially such a good job, was what his mother had wanted and what Octavia needed – still needed. Sometimes he wished he’d be able to go to uni, learn about ancient Rome and let his hair grow out. The short buzz cuts he had to wear for work always annoyed him.
“That nice. Uni must be better than working full time.” Bellamy joked and nudged Miller.
“Yeah, I’m pretty jealous of him.” Miller smiled softly at his boyfriend.
“Where did you guys meet?” Bellamy asked, leaning back with his elbow on the table behind him.
“Actually at a gay bar. We might be the biggest stereotype around.” Monty laughed. “It was my 19th birthday and it was terrifying! Miller managed to rescue me from this very handsy guy and we danced a bit, got fries, and then got hangover coffees the next day, then the day after that just got normal coffees. I’m not even sure he ever agreed to it, I told him where I’d be for coffee the next morning and he always came.” Miller scrubbed the back of his short hair and almost blushed.
“And then I asked him out and now I think my dad likes him more than me.” Miller finished with a rush, the blush curling over his neck. Monty laughed and nudged his boyfriend.
“No worries honey.” Monty kissed Miller’s cheek.
“Monty, tell that cute boy to come over here!” Raven called.
“This one.” Monty called back, pointing at Miller with a cheeky grin.
“Nah, the other one.” She slid from behind the bar and strutted over to them. Bellamy noticed she had a leg brace over her leg, causing the slight limp. Her confidence seemed to mask it though. “Monroe and John are on shift now. So Bellamy, want to get out of here?”
“Uhhh.” Bellamy stood up straight and was suddenly tongue-tied.
“Finish your pint and let’s go.” She winked and he knew he wanted to go.
“Sure.” He sculled his pint while texting Octavia that he wouldn’t come home tonight. When she replied quickly he sent her a snappy text about being awake at 10pm.
“Octavia all right?” Miller asked quietly while Raven and Monty chatted.
“Yeah, she’s pretty independent and it’s only a weekend tomorrow.” He swallowed a burp when he finished his warm beer. “See you next shift.” He clapped Miller on the arm. “Nice meeting you, Monty.” Raven grabbed his arm with a squeeze.
“See you at uni, Monty.” She grinned and pulled him out of the pub. “We’re not allowed to go to another pub. I spend too much time in them.” She announced as they walked out the door, Raven shuffling slightly down the step. The bouncers winked at Raven and Bellamy blushed.
“I hope you’re not a serial killer. I’ve got responsibilities.” He said as she slipped her hand into his.
“What, like fighting fires?” She jostled his shoulder with a grin. Perhaps being a fire fighter had finally paid off…
“No, a little sister.” He muttered. He wondered if he should even tell her. He’d generally avoided it with every other girl that came into his life because he knew he wouldn’t want them sticking around.
“Hmm, nah, I’m not a serial killer. Just missing dick and I’m presuming you have one.” She shrugged. “So, there’s a cool hidden cocktail bar in the city if you want to make the trip, or we can just go back to my place? I’m damn good at mixing drinks.”
“You make a good point. Have you got mint? I’m a fan of mojitos.” He grinned down at her, settling into the idea of going home with this loud girl while she pulled forward on his arm.
“I actually live down this way so we’re all good!” They walked under the railway bridge plastered with gig posters while a train headed over, drowning out their conversation. They crossed the road next to an empty pub in silence.
“Are the trains annoying?” he asked suddenly. Two years in the city and he could hardly deal with the rattling trams a few streets over.
“Nah, I grew up near the trains in Footscray so I’m pretty used to them. Where are you from?”
“In the country. Do you want me to give more details?” He laughed at the slight fear on her face.
“I’ve been to the country about twice. Does Werribee count as country?” She laughed back. “My mum was… a pretty shit mum, but my neighbours took me to the Werribee zoo once.” She frowns and scuffs her shoes along. Bellamy carefully chooses to ignore the mum comment.
“I’ve never even been to the zoo. I think my sister went once with primary school.”
“You’re not missing out on much, but the meerkats are really cute.” She smiled and grinned up at the grotty building next to them. “This is my place. Well, the top floor.” She lived above a very seedy looking nail salon, in a building directly across from the station. The lock looked almost rusted over and the security door was industrial looking. The door swung cleanly, though, and Bellamy closed the door behind him before following Raven’s narrow swinging hips up the worn stairs.
Bellamy stood near the door and gazed about. Her little flat was barely sized above a bedsit. The kitchen/ living room area had way more wire and wheels in it that was safe. He looked around and saw her red bedspread through the open door. He was unsure about how he ended up here so quickly, but new he wanted to be here.
“So, mojitos is it?” Raven brought him out of his stare-fest as she started slapping her cocktail maker on the table. She gestured at the seat next to the table. “Sit.”
Bellamy never thought making a cocktail could be so seductive. She slid behind him and touched his chest before grabbing mint and limes out of her fridge. Shaking the cocktails only made her hips swing almost seductively and Bellamy noticed how toned her stomach was. He lifted her shirt slowly to trace her hipbones and stomach while she poured the drinks.
“Thankfully my girlfriend loves these cocktails so I have all the ingredients.” She joked. He dropped his hand.
“Is it weird you bought me home?” He asked bluntly, going to take a sip and almost groaning at the best home made cocktail he had ever tasted.
“Nah, we’re very open. Honestly we love each other, but dicks are great too and we’re very good at communicating. Like I told her I was taking a guy back tonight and she just said she wants the details tomorrow.” Raven shrugged, running her fingers over his buzz cut and looking intently at his face. She was still standing above him, with her sharp hips near his mouth.
“That sounds nice.” He mused and sipped at his drink. “As long as I’m not … being that guy.”
“We actually met because we were dating the same jerk guy who thought he could get away with juggling two girls and not telling us.” She finished her drink quickly and he knew these cocktails were just an excuse. “Hurry up with that drink, I want to see how good you are at eating pussy.”
Bellamy almost chocked on a mint leaf.
The next morning Raven made him tea and tried to make them breakfast out of one banana, yoghurt and those breakfast biscuits. It was surprisingly successful. She told him the story of her leg – her stupid ex-boyfriend, the one that had cheated on both her and her girlfriend, had managed to flip his motorbike on both of them, partially paralysing her when her spine was crushed. She has most feeling back in her body now, just her knee and below was the issue.
Octavia text Bellamy at around 10am telling him she was going over to a friend’s place. Raven took that as a sign to make out some more after such a depressing discussion. Bellamy was in the process of going down on Raven while she lay on the couch when the front door creaked open.
“Clarke!” Raven squeaked, shoving Bellamy away. “I didn’t think you’d come over so early.” Raven laughed while she stood up and pulled her shorts up. Bellamy tried to wipe is his face off on his discarded shirt while wrapping his mind around Clarke being here – being Raven’s girlfriend.
“No worries babe. Oh my god, is that Bellamy?” Clarke laughed while kissing Raven loudly. “He saved my studio when it was on fire! And he’s the one I’ve been having coffees with. Bellamy, come give me a hug.” Clarke walked over and embraced him softly. He tried to angle his body to keep his rapidly reducing boner away from her.
“This is to close for home.” Bellamy admitted when Clarke released him. He sank into the couch. “I know you two are really open and all but I feel like… a dog truly.”
Clarke and Raven laughed. “No! Don’t feel like that!” Raven exclaimed and moved over to sit next to him.
“We’ve been through that all before and this is nothing like that.” Clarke patted his short hair. “Trust us, we know each other very well and we know the boundaries.”
“I was going to ask Raven out though,” Bellamy sighed and dropped his head into his hands. “And I would have asked Clarke out ages ago if she didn’t keep casually mentioning a girlfriend. I thought I was platonic.” Raven and Clarke kept rubbing his head and shoulders.
“You could… probably still ask us out.” Raven said. Bellamy could almost feel them exchanging looks above him. Clarke hummed in agreement.
Bellamy mused it over in his head while they continued to massage him. He had never entertained the idea of a polyamorous relationship. Of course he’d had fantasies about threesomes – who hadn’t? But as far as he was concerned, having a relationship with more than one person belonged in weird Mormon marriages. But he did like both these girls and he was very attracted to each for different qualities. Although he didn’t know them too well, he did want to know them better. He was definitely leaning towards asking them out.
“If you do ask us out, we’ll talk everything through. Set boundaries and stuff.” Clarke added.
“Okay.” Bellamy sat up. “Would you both like to go out with me?” He said, starring straight ahead. He was unsure which one to look at.
“I would very much like to go out with you.” Raven laughed. “Although not if we’re pretending to be in high school again with all this ‘going-outs’.” Clarke laughed along.
“I agree, I would like to go on some dates with you.” Clarke kissed his cheek. “We could all go together.” He smiled at that idea of them walking along, taking up the footpath with them all holding hands.
Octavia left home when she was 18, moving in with school friends and planning on working fulltime in an art store Clarke set her up with to save up some money for university. It took months of arguments before Bellamy finally relented and gave his permission, to which he would always remember her sharp response of ‘I don’t need that’. She planned on studying primary teaching, and eventually got her degree after another gap year travelling with her boyfriend through South America. Bellamy was originally unsure of Lincoln, Clarke’s studio buddy after Jasper, but Lincoln turned out to be the best person for Octavia, especially with their similar pasts of absent fathers and dead mothers. The way they were able to support each other was beautiful but realistic, such as Bellamy, Clarke and Raven’s relationship was. Octavia loved both of Bellamy’s girlfriends and had accepted their relationship with great ease, which Bellamy was always thankful for.
Bellamy kept working through Octavia’s gap year. He saved money for her years at uni by living with Monty and Miller (they needed a housemate because they were frightened of co-dependency).
Clarke, Raven and Bellamy celebrated their third anniversary in the same dodgy flat Raven still lived in. It was that night, lying amongst blissful breasts and fully sated, that Bellamy decided he wanted to go to uni too. By this stage, both his girlfriends were finished with their schooling and starting their careers, Clarke as anything she could get her hands on (mainly children’s illustrations and medical drawings, as well as dressing galleries). Raven was working at an electrical engineering company sorting out water dam levels until she found work with engines. Bellamy was always jealous of their learning – not what they were learning, because engineering and fine art sounded horrible – but the whole university experience. Plus, Bellamy’s love for ancient Rome was famous and people from every avenue of his life teased him regularly.
The next morning, over a breakfast at a café down the street, Bellamy announced his decision to start university. Clarke and Raven were beyond excited for him, and they pointed out that Octavia didn’t need all of his savings. She was earning her own money on her gap year and could get government support when she was at uni. And they were still renting out their childhood home for extra income after the mortgage was paid off a few years ago. Really, Bellamy and Octavia were comfortable, which was a bizarre concept coming from their poor beginnings where the down payment on that house took years of scrapping together and their mother buying a sewing machine for her work took months of overtime at her shitty supermarket job.
Octavia made him enrol at a different university than the one she had gone to so he could be more independent. He was fine with that. Raising a little sister while he was still young had been difficult too. That didn’t mean the siblings didn’t have coffee mornings and movie nights together at least every week, though. He decided on an ancient history major in his second year and his marks were better than he could ever have hoped for.
Raven and Clarke thought the highlight of his university days was his long mane of hair. After years of having to crew cut it he just let it grow out and each of them liked tugging on it when they were in bed.
He easily found interning jobs showing kids around the humanities section at the Melbourne Museum after his degree was finished. Raven and Clarke encouraged him in every way and soon he was hired at the Museum as a curator. Around this time, Raven found work with a sustainable energy company, which she loved, and Clarke was hired as an illustrator for an entire series of fantasy novels. It was all running smoothly. They began to save money for a down payment on a house together. With three incomes, it was easier than usual. However, where to buy a house was an issue. Raven had never imagined herself in the country, Clarke really didn’t care and Bellamy couldn’t imagine raising kids in the city. Not that he ever loudly stated this fact, but whenever he muttered it Clarke melted a bit and agreed with him. Raven glared and said he was cheating. She knew Clarke wanted babies more than she did.
Eventually, by the time his 32nd birthday rolled around and he knew he wasn’t going to get far with the curator job, he convinced his girlfriends to move to the country for a year. There was a yearlong contract available at a local newspaper in a little town filled by the ocean a few hours from the city. Clarke’s work was transient and Raven only had to physically attend her job two days of the week. So for a year they settled into the routine of seeing Raven off every Sunday evening on the late train and seeing her again Wednesday morning. She stayed with Miller and Monty when she went to the city. Raven softened towards the country, mainly because she could swim in the ocean all year round like the fitness freak she was. Towards the end of this year, they found out Clarke was pregnant. Raven finally accepted that going back to the city would suck and they could stay here, by the sea, for their family.
Octavia and Lincoln moved to a town an hour away, which made Bellamy very happy. They all had dinners together quite often. Lincoln and Clarke discussed opening an art gallery together while Raven looked for different work in this area. Bellamy’s journalism job was extended to a permanent basis and he volunteered part time with the local museum association. Clarke’s mum began communicating with her again and visited them sometimes, bringing Mr Kane and Mrs Riley along for a seaside trip. None of them mentioned the non-traditional relationship between Raven, Clarke and Bellamy, and the trio weren’t keen on bringing it up unless someone asked them about it.
The townspeople were quite accepting of these strange kids from the city who all seemed to be married to one another. When Raven got a job as a manager at a start up solar industry in the area they became a lot more accepting, as she was more willing to hire local people as workers and teach them skills than hire in outsiders.
Raven, Clarke and Bellamy’s first daughter was born in the local hospital about an hour away from their home. Raven and Bellamy had both trained as doulas to reduce any suspicion or annoyance from the nurses, but thankfully their midwife who had been visiting them towards the end of the pregnancy had already warned the staff not to say anything upsetting about their relationship.
The midwife settled the baby onto Clarke’s bare chest and wrapped them up in a soft blanket. Clarke began moaning about the fresh contractions for the afterbirth while Bellamy and Raven kissed her cheeks and tried to peek at the baby. The midwife waved them away and began to settle the baby onto the nipple, encouraging Clarke through her final contractions. Bellamy and Raven stood together with their hands joined, almost vibrating with exhaustion and excitement.
They didn’t name the baby for days after her birth. They were going for a walk down the beach, the baby wrapped up in wool blankets in a sling on Bellamy’s chest when he suggested that the baby’s middle name could be Aurora. Clarke and Raven loved that name, but the issue of her first name was still present.
“Pip.” Clarke suggested that night as she fed the baby and the wind rattled the windows of their newly purchased home.
Phillipa Aurora Reyes Blake-Griffin had the longest name in her school, but she wore the history of her names proudly. When Clarke next had a baby they called her Harriet, also known as Hattie, and left Reyes as the only middle name. Years later, when Bellamy was nearing 40, Raven decided she wanted a baby too. Gabriel Griffin Blake-Reyes was born two days after Bellamy’s 41st birthday. Monty and Miller agreed to be the children’s guardians in case anything happened to Bellamy, Clarke and Raven. The pair spent every long weekend with the growing family and looked after Pip and Hattie while their brother was born. Mr and Mrs Riley, Kane and Abby also filled the house out while this birth happed.
Octavia mocked Bellamy for his domestic bliss, although she with Lincoln on their little farm with two babies could hardly talk.
He had come a long way in 21 years, from his mother’s graveside to a seaside town and three babies and two partners. He was beyond lucky and he whispered it into Raven’s hair that night as she snoozed with her hand over the baby in his crib next to her. Clarke squeezed his hand and Bellamy’s heart swelled until tears of happiness sprung out of his eyes. Clarke hugged him and Raven rubbed his back while he tried to explain he was just happy. They started crying quietly with him, not enough to wake the baby.
“We’re just happy too.” Clarke blubbered. Raven laughed at her and the baby woke with a squawk.
“Here we go again.” Raven laughed, wiping her eyes and getting the baby out for a feed.
“Another adventure.” Clarke kissed Bellamy’s hand and rubbed the back of the feeding baby’s head.