Things don’t get any better between Andy and his family. He tries to see Katelyn more and Roe but it just doesn’t happen. He feels bad about it and just doesn’t know what to do.
Chris, Clara and Andy head to the closest city to meet with the lawyers. Chris has the first meeting.
“So there’s another settlement offer?” Chris asks.
“Yes but it is two thirds the previous one.” The lawyer says.
“So why bother with a face to face meeting?” Chris asks.
“We have a court date and need to talk strategy. I want to be prepared although I think that they’ll cave last minute.” The lawyer says.
“If I win, will I get the money? Or will I have to wait for an appeal? I really need to know if I’ll be getting this year’s tuition.” Chris says.
The lawyer goes through all the options and likely outcomes. They talk strategy and come up with their counter offer to the settlement.
“Will you loan me money against the settlement if I win?” Chris asks Clara.
“No.” Clara says.
“What can I do? Seriously it’s no big deal to you.” Chris says.
“I’m not paying your tuition this year. It would be a kick in the teeth to Blue and Gervais. I cannot condone what you did and I don’t think you have any understanding of how big a deal it was. You are lucky I didn’t cancel your internship this summer and gave you somewhere to stay.” Clara says.
“Look I do get it. I just don’t see that your punishment is proportional.” Chris says.
“If Blue wasn’t as smart as he is he would be out of school with very few options to complete his degree if any. You have the option to go back once you can afford to. Have you applied for jobs? Looked into workstudy?” Clara asks.
“No.” Chris says.
“Well maybe you should. I don’t deal well with complainers and whiners who make no effort to better their situation. Unless you make an effort I won’t cover junior or senior year either. In fact the more you moan and whine the less likely it is that I’ll cover grad school. You’re like a 5 year old being told they can’t have any candy.” Clara says.
“I suppose Blue went out and earned money for candy.” Chris says rolling his eyes.
“He fished and exchanged his catch for credit in the store. But he was as likely to get fruit as he was candy.” Clara says smiling at the memory. She so often forgets all the good things about Blue.
Andy and Clara go in to their meeting.
Chris sits outside and worries. He drops an email to Blue to ask for advice. He can’t work out how to bring Clara round. He cannot understand why she is fucking him over like this. He dresses it up admitting he’s with Andy and that its something more but really he wants help with Clara.
Chris gets a bit ansty waiting outside Andy’s meeting. He has no idea what is going on. Everyone has been pretty weird to Andy since they got here avoiding him or being standoffish.
Chris finds it funny that up here Andy acts a lot like Blue. The way he stops and talks to every old person and remembers their grandkids and illnesses. The way he does chores and bakes and basically anything Clara asks without complaint is just how he imagines Blue would be at home.
Andy and Clara are out soon and Andy is looking pensive.
“Why don’t you two take yourselves off for a burger or steak? I’m sure you’re craving meat. Have a good feed and enjoy being in civilization. I’ll meet you at the hotel tonight, don’t stay out late you have to be at the market early to set up.” Clara says handing Andy two hundred bucks.
“Thanks.” Andy says and kisses Clara on the cheek. Even Chris cracks a smile.
“That was to distract us from her having another meeting.” Chris says.
“Maybe but we can go and eat meat so I don’t care.” Andy laughs.
“You and food.” Chris say shaking his head and grabbing Andy’s hand.
“We finally get a proper date. Dinner and a movie?” Andy asks.
“I love the sound of that.” Chris grins.
They find a burger place and Andy orders every topping for his triple patty burger while Chris is more restrained. They order 3 desserts between them and both enjoy relaxing, pushing their legal issues out of their minds as they can’t do much about them.
After a movie they pick up a few things with the rest of the money then go to the hotel. Clara greets them in the lobby where she has been having a pot of tea.
They talk about the movie and their weeks and continue to ignore the reason they are there. Andy and Chris have an early night tired from the early start and knowing they have another one tomorrow don’t even contemplate getting up to anything. They shower together and fall into the king size bed and sleep.
Andy adores the market. He loves talking to people, giving his patter on the vegetables, talking about organic methods and heritage seeds. He sells everything from the farm in record time and most the goods from other people go quickly too. Especially the honey.
“You’ve done a great job. With my boys living at my brothers we think it would be better if you stay at mine for the summer. I know Clara needs you too so how about 2 or 3 paid days a week with me, working on these barmy vegetables. You’ll need to do the market next month too.” Deke’s dad says as they pack up.
“That sounds perfect. I loved today. I can do other markets or summer fayres.” Andy says.
“I could see that you loved it. We didn’t have to reduce anything, we could have sold twice as much.” Deke’s dad says.
“People go nuts for black strawberries, purple cauliflower and carrots.” Andy laughs.
“Such a bloody gimmick but it works.” Andy says.
“Next month the main tomato crops will be out and they’ll be scrambling for the striped ones even if the red taste better.” Deke’s dad says shaking his head.
They finish clearing up and go to a café for soup and bread. Deke’s dad gets away quickly after and Andy and Chris head to meet up with Clara for the drive back. She’s been shopping and the car is pretty full.
Chris and Andy settle back into their new routine when they get back. Andy goes up to the retreat 3 days one week and gardens two days the next. He loves spending time with Ocean who has no idea that he and Blue are on the outs and its always nice to have Willow around.
Willow is whipping the retreat back into shape, helping with the renovations and organizing the classes and rosters. It’s like she was born there. Her enthusiasm and drive are infectious and the renovations are ahead of schedule.
Andy tries to see Katelyn, he gets Willow to invite her to the retreat for some of the events but she is quite tense when she goes, often looking around for her mother.
Chris and Andy fall for each other a little more every day. Chris is still stressed about school and how to get it to work out and Andy is stressed about his family. They don’t tend to talk about their problems too much. Preferring to use each other to unwind.
A couple of weeks later Spence calls and Andy falls apart. He and Chris are doing great together but Spence knows him like no one on earth and Andy lets everything fall out. How unhappy he is with his family situation, how helpless he feels.
Spence is firm with him and Andy soon sees some light from his situation. That he can fix things with Katelyn.
They travel again to the closest city to meet with the lawyer. Andy is nervous. He’s not sure if he’s in control or just a pawn. His mother still hasn’t spoken to him but he’s heard a few whispers and more than that some people have outright told him they don’t believe the lies about him. Which is nice but worrying.
Chris comes along for support. He is sad to take a day off but the thought of a big hotel bed and a chance for some shopping with Clara is more than enough motivation.
As they wait for the appointment Roe arrives. Clara smiles at her and they hug which shocks Andy, he thought they’d been fighting.
Chris paces as he waits for them, not sure why he’s here.
“Chris lets go shopping together. Andy and Roe need some time to talk.” Clara says briskly when they eventually come out/
Chris looks at Andy and he nods, they hug and kiss briefly and Chris heads off.
“Let’s go have a big steak dinner.” Roe suggests and Andy grins.
“Sounds perfect. Let’s order all the sides too.” Andy says.
“Yes. Out of season vegetables smothered in butter and salt. The things I miss.” Roe grins.
“I am so glad you haven’t deserted me.” Andy says as they sit down in the first steakhouse they find.
“I had to keep on your mother’s side so she didn’t hide her plans. It helped to support Katelyn too but it seriously made me sick to neglect you. I’ve been so proud of the work you’re doing on the farm and at the retreat.” Roe says and Andy blushes.
“You think these changes to the trust will work? You think mom is only trying to get Katelyn back to push me out?” Andy asks.
“Yes. Limiting the amount the guardian can draw down each year and strictly forbidding a guardian from becoming the trustee is an extra safeguard. It isn’t unstoppable but it would slow her down.” Roe says.
“After the first meeting I was close to giving up. Spence talked some sense into me. He has been a huge help.” Andy says.
“Yes he spoke to me and he sent a huge amount of clothes and things to Katelyn via Willow. He’s been a big help as a friend to Katelyn. He, Cheryl and Willow have really been there for her and helped her understand her feelings. She wasn’t brave enough to use their sneaky suggestions to see you more, it made her feel on edge. Clara thinks the two of you should take a vacation for a week before you go back to school.” Roe says.
“Would you come? With Chris, the four of us.” Andy asks.
“What are you thinking?” Roe asks.
“Florida, do the whole Orlando thing. I know Katelyn would pretend she’s too old for Disney but she’d love it. Is it too expensive? Too hot?” Andy asks.
“I think that is exactly the sort of thing Clara would support. Think about just the two of you though. I think it would be good for you to properly reconnect. Could you manage without Chris?” Roe asks.
“If it was Spence it wouldn’t be a question.” Andy point out.
“Well no but Katelyn loves Spence and would be comfortable.” Roe says.
“I guess she barely knows Chris.” Andy sighs.
“It might be good for Chris and Clara to have some time alone.” Roe says.
“Agreed. I could sell it to him that way.” Andy smiles.
As it happens Andy’s proposed Disney dates are the same as the hearing. Chris encourages Andy to go and tells him not to worry about supporting him. He’ll have Clara and his Grandparents and although he could do with the night time stress relief he would be happy not having Andy there.
Andy and Katelyn have made things work and Katelyn is delighted to be having a sibling vacation.
Clara didn’t even blink when Andy suggested it and straight away looked at packages with him. She talked Roe into going, making it easier for them to hire a car when they get there.
“I thought you might say it would spoil us.” Andy says.
“I think it’s a big deal that you asked me and you’ve gone without for long enough. The two of you deserve some spoiling. Look at how Katelyn appreciated every single thing that Spence sent her. How she sent him all those thank-you cards and then went and spent two days visiting the elderly residents and doing manicures for free. Your sister gets my ways and I adore her. No doubt that when she gets her trust she’ll send a dozen kids to Disney world.” Clara says.
“She really does use you as a role model. I don’t like how you treat Blue, I get it sometimes but mostly you’re way too harsh. So I worry about her copying you too closely. But mostly the way you live your life up here, making sure everyone gets what they need without directly giving it every time. The way you pull the community together its amazing and I’m glad it’s the best of you she tries to emulate.” Andy says.
“Blue needs me to be tough and he needs to see my compassion too.” Clara says.
“He’s given me and Chris compassion by offering us a room when Robin and Spence said no.” Andy says and Clara burst in to a huge grin.
“Well I am pleased. He’s still my boy at heart.” Clara says.
“You really think this hotel and not somewhere cheaper further out?” Andy asks.
“Let Katelyn be a kid and have the full experience. You know she’ll love it.” Clara says.
“I’ll stop suggesting cutting corners. I can’t wait.” Andy grins.
“Pack all your things up and we’ll meet you back at school and I’ll drive Roe and Katelyn back here.” Clara says.
“Do you think mom will come back?” Andy asks. Days after the trust was updated Andy’s mom left town with a married man, an agricultural sales rep, they had been having a sporadic affair for a while.
“No, we all tried and it didn’t work. She went back to her old ways. Leaning on a man is what she knows best. I think Katelyn is relieved more than upset.” Clara says.
“What if he goes back to his wife?” Andy asks.
“She’ll have to get a job like any normal person. She planned this escape. Katelyn was plan A and this was plan B. She was always going to find someone and Katelyn would have been shipped back if inconvenient. I am sorry this summer has been so tough for you but I hope you agree it was worth it.” Clara says.
“Of course it was. Katelyn has a stable home and that is all that matters. Yes we missed one summer together but we will have others and its likely move back here after college anyway.” Andy says.
“You’ll not want to be this far from the cities. You’re going to find your niche products and be supplying top restaurants with beautiful produce. You’ll not be wealthy but you’ll be happy with yourself.” Clara says.
“I hope so. I have loved this summer. All my jobs. I love the outdoors. I love growing things. I loved helping at the retreat. All of it. Thank-you for letting me in to this world.” Andy grins.
“Thank-you for being there for Chris. You make a wonderful couple.” Clara says.
“I love him. I have no idea how it happened but it did and it feels amazing. Don’t tell him, I have to keep him on his toes.” Andy grins.
A couple of nights before Andy, Roe and Katelyn go on vacation they have a dinner at Clara’s house with Cheryl, Ocean and Willow.
Ocean sits himself on Chris still in total denial that he isn’t a toddler. Chris grins he’s grown closer to the kid this summer and is more than happy to spoil him.
“I guess this is goodbye fora while. Much as it pains me to leave Cheryl I have taken Clara up on her offer to run the retreat full time. I’ll spend this winter travelling learning more about yoga and myself and in the spring the renovations should be mostly complete and I’ll look to hire more staff and get the retreat back to its best.” Willow says.
“I fully support you my love. The second you stepped out the car it was clear you were just as at home as I am up here. If it wasn’t for Ocean I would stay too. I might be a little mad at Clara for making the offer but she had to because you’re made for this place as much as it is made for you.” Cheryl says.
“Why couldn’t you and Ocean live here?” Andy asks.
“We need to live closer to his grandparents, I think it would be too much of an ask for him to stop his gymnastics and I love the café. I love the cooking and customers and the classes. I love Willow very much but I don’t want to be quite so isolated year round.” Cheryl says.
“I’ll miss you.” Andy says.
“You have to have brunch with Birch, keep him grounded for me.” Willow says.
“We can do that.” Chris laughs.
“Are you okay?” Andy asks Cheryl after dinner.
“Yes. Loving someone means you want the best for them. Right person wrong time.” Cheryl shrugs.
“We’ll take care of you.” Andy grins and gives her a hug.
“It has been a long time since I’ve had a relationship and Willow has opened me back up to having someone in my life. I’ll be calling on you boys to babysit when I start dating.” Cheryl grins.
“We’ll be fighting over who gets the job.” Andy grins.
“You won’t be lonely up here?” Chris asks Willow.
“I love it. Cheryl was right I knew it was home the second I got here. I thought it might be in my future when Blue told me about it and I saw Roe’s paintings of the lake. Doing yoga on the shore at sunrise is exactly how I want every day of my life to start. Clara is pushing me out to travel India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. It’s amazing how your mom has given me direction. Do you call her mom yet?” Willow asks curious.
“Yes. She has that ability to hone in on your ambition and push you in the right direction. Directly like with me or indirectly with Andy, putting options in his path and letting him find it. I might never be a vet, I might not be smart enough, or be able to afford college but I will work with animals somehow.” Chris says.
“You’ve calmed down a lot up her. Material Chris has dropped away. You are an awful lot nicer since you and Andy got together.” Willow says.
“He is what I needed. I honestly think Clara paid for Bea’s vacation so I would be alone with Andy. The pair of them have harnessed my ambition and drive without using money. I still want stuff, the best stuff and a big mountain of gold but I don’t want to hurt people to get it now.” Chris says.
“Clara and Cheryl can be sneaky that way. Cheryl getting me to teach English above the café put me in touch with so many women with different backgrounds and needs and that focused me on what I wanted to do and then Clara showed me how I could do that here. I don’t see myself as some savior type but I do want to give people the space to heal and help them move forward. Whether leaving abuse or just a stressful job.” Willow says.
“I never thought I’d love it here. I thought Blue was a chump with his veggie, yoga, spiritual ways but he isn’t, he’s just him. I always thought he was a fraud because we’re twins, we share dna and so he had to have bad in him. I didn’t stop to think that I was a fraud for not displaying the good side. Then I got here and I just got it. This place is in our bones Willow. You, me, Andy and Katelyn we’re not from here but it is home.” Chris says.
“So you’ll be coming back?” Willow asks.
“Yeah for sure. You best keep a cottage for me and Andy.” Chris says with a smile.
“You used to be jealous of Blue for the money. Now you’re jealous that he was brought up frugally, that the desire that is probably in both of you was never ignited in him.” Willow says thoughtfully.
“Ah but I am glad I didn’t have to live with Clara my whole life. She is great to everyone but Blue and I’d not be me if she’d got to me first.” Chris says.
“It might have been easier if she had the three of you. More work for her but less pressure to make Blue perfect.” Willow says.
“He can never meet her expectations when to the rest of us he’s too good. She complains he’s unlikeable but holds him to these crazy high standards. Perfect people are never popular.” Chris says.
“I think he’s very popular. Everyone loves him at yoga. Sure all you boys have spats but you live on top of each other, date each other and don’t have space to breathe.” Willow says.
“Clara has written him off as unlikable. It’s weird and I’m just glad I didn’t grow up that way.” Chris says and Willow nods.
“I’m going to miss you while you’re riding teacups.” Chris says in bed later.
“I’ll miss you too. I love you Chris. I don’t know if we’ll work when we’re back to real life but here and now I love you.” Andy says stroking Chris’s face.
“I love you too. You’ve changed me for the better.” Chris says and Andy smiles, proud that for once he’s the one inspiring his man.
“Fuck me, I need to feel that big dick inside me before my trip.” Andy grins.
“You got it babe.” Chris grins. He loves to bottom but there is something so sexy about Andy asking for cock.
Katelyn is fully back to herself. Andy is not letting her feel guilty for choosing their mom and she feels relieved that she can live her life without worrying about whether her mom approves. Clara and Roe are far easier to please.
She is worried about Clara and Roe. Before her mom arrived it looked like they were ready to admit they were a couple. Then they had to separate their lives and then Willow arrived. Katelyn knows that Willow has a major crush on Clara. She could see her falling out of love with Cheryl each time she went to the retreat.
Cheryl knew it was a risk bringing Willow here. She is so like Clara was when she was younger, without the ruthless streak. She knew introducing them would likely end her own relationship. They haven’t slept together but she’s not blind she knows they are both falling.
“Think we both lost our loves this summer.” Roe says to Cheryl who has come down to the lake to clear her head, Roe is painting and doing the same.
“I knew it was likely. I even asked Clara not to go there before we came up here.” Cheryl admits sitting down on a rock.
“It’s a big age gap.” Roe says.
“Willow is an old soul. It won’t happen yet but it will.” Cheryl sighs.
“You’re not fighting for her?” Roe asks.
“No, I don’t want to live here year round and I don’t want to hold her back. The retreat is her dream. Are you not fighting for Clara?” Cheryl asks curious that the couple always seem to stall.
“She would never give up f her married man for me. For all my sister’s problems with her they are not so dissimilar at times.” Roe says.
“That’s still going on?” Cheryl asks.
“Once a week. She says it’s just s. I say he has 4 kids and a wife. She shrugs. I say it hurts me. She says we’re not committed and the circle continues.” Roe sighs.
“Willow won’t accept that.” Cheryl says.
“She’ll give him up for her. They adore each other. It’s like we never existed.” Roe says.
“I know. I hate admitting it. Especially when they haven’t acknowledged it.” Cheryl says.
“You’ll find someone. You’re so beautiful.” Roe says and Cheryl smiles.
“Come on, let’s go have one last roll in the woods before you head off to seduce Minnie mouse.” Cheryl says with a wink.
Chris is nervous on the drive. He hasn’t spoken to his parents in months and doesn’t know how he’ll cope seeing them. He’s grown very close to Clara, despite their differences over paying his tuition and he doesn’t know how she will feel seeing him with them.
He doesn’t feel any remorse cutting them out of his life. The work Clara has done with him and Bea highlighted just how dysfunctional their relationship had become and seeing Andy with Katelyn, Deke with his siblings and even spending time with Ocean has shown him how different sibling relationships can work without setting off competition over everything. Sure Deke’s brothers are competitive but they know when to pull back and are making an effort to separate their issues with their dad from their relationship with Deke and their sister.
They have a final meeting with their lawyer the day before the hearing who goes back through the maintenance agreement and the possible outcomes and the process.
“I thought you said they would offer again.” Chris says not really wanting this to go to court.
“There is still time.” The lawyer says.
“You father loves the drama.” Clara says.
“Wants to rip me off.” Chris sighs.
“Come on lets go back to the hotel and clean up. Your grandparents will be here soon, enjoy lunch with them and we’ll call you if we hear anything.” Clara says.
“Mom, what’s your room number?” Chris asks in the hotel lobby.
“358.” Clara says smiling at his ease of calling her mom. It started a few weeks ago, without her asking. She hugs him and heads back to her room to rest.
“We need to meet.” Paul says calling Clara on the hotel phone having listened to her telling Chris her room number.
“l really think it’s too late for that.” Clara says.
“We can avoid the whole thing. This has gone too far.” Paul says.
“Yes we can avoid the whole thing is you give your lawyer a decent settlement number.” Clara says
“Let me come to your room.” Paul says.
“No, meet me in the lobby bar.” Clara says not wanting to be alone with the man who wrecked her life.
“Look if we give you an amount. Can you say we’re repaying a business loan?” Paul asks before Clara sits down.
“And mess up my own tax situation?” Clara asks sarcastically.
“This can’t go to court. I can’t put Lana through it.” Paul says.
“It’s not my suit. I can’t do anything to stop it. If you hadn’t noticed it is your children who are suing you for their college funds. Funds you agreed to set up and administer with money from me and Lana’s parents. Money that you happily took for that purpose. You have stolen your son’s future. Do you understand that? He won’t be going to college this year because you stole from him. If you co- sign his loans then maybe he’ll drop the suit.” Clara says rolling her eyes.
“You said you would cover college when we had trouble.” Paul says.
“If Blue didn’t find out. Blue found out. My family is irreparably damaged due to the way it happened. We had an agreement Paul. If I gave you money you would leave us alone, you would all leave us alone. Chris dating Blue’s ex was not leaving us alone. Bea dating Blue’s best friend was not leaving us alone. All our agreements are void. I should have reported you for blackmail right from the start. You’re lucky that you’re not being investigated for fraud.” Clara says and the light bulb goes off.
“So what is it? An audit? A fraud investigation? Money laundering accusation?” Clara asks and laughs.
“It’s not funny.” Paul says.
“It is. You’d rather your kids got the money than the government. For once in your life do it legally. Make Chris an offer, a sensible one, right now and give him his half and Bea hers. Stop this nonsense and expense.” Clara says.
“It won’t work. We can’t just off load the money on the kids.” Paul says.
“I see. I need to talk to my people.” Clara says and sighs.
“Lana needs assurance you’ll let us have them back once this is over.” Paul says.
“They’re 20.” Clara says and heads to the elevator trembling. She has no intention of helping Paul out not even for the kids. She cannot risk being pulled into fraud or whatever other shady mess Paul has created.
Chris and his grandparents knock on her door when they get back.
“Hey Mary, James, its been a long time.” Clara says letting them in, they both hug their daughters college roommate.
“We didn’t know. We had no idea they were taking money from you at all.” James says.
“Chris it might be better…” Clara begins.
“I get it, grown up talk. I’ll go watch TV or call Andy.” Chris says with a smile.
“He’s changed.” James says.
“Just growing up a little.” Clara says.
“Can we meet Blue?” Mary asks.
“That’s up to him. He’s in Australia right now.” Clara says.
“We have an account for him, and birthday cards for each year. We put the same away for him as we handed over for Kit and Bea. We just want a chance to explain and let him know we always thought of him.” Mary says.
“You have cards? He’ll be incredibly touched. He’s found it hard that everyone knew about him but didn’t make contact.” Clara says.
“We didn’t want to risk losing Lana.” James says.
“Blue said you tried to blackmail the kids.” Clara says.
“We never thought it would go this far, we’d never have pulled our support, not really. We were desperate to meet Blue. Kit actually apologized over lunch for going about approaching Blue the wrong way.” James says.
“And we did to Kit for pressuring him.” Mary says.
“What outcome do you want from this? Why did you support the kids doing this, knowing it would cause Lana so much pain?” Clara asks.
“I just want to know what it went on. Are they gamblers? Drug addicts? Have they stashed it for retirement? Is it offshore? I want the kids to win the full amount back and if they have to sell the house to cover it, then good. Pair of free loaders.” James says.
“I worry the kids will just end up with bills. That this has triggered an investigation into Paul’s businesses and I suspect that his assets will be frozen and the kids will be in line behind the government.” Clara says.
“Shit.” James says.
“He wanted to give me money and say it was repaying a business loan. I said no, I later said I’d ask my people but I had no intention of saying yes it is too risky for me.” Clara says.
“I’ll do it. I have given him loans for his businesses before, not this size but he’s never repaid a penny.” James says.
“Make sure it’s enough. More than that first offer.” Clara says.
“Go and talk to him love. I’m going to catch up with Clara.” Mary says.
“You want to see pictures? He looks just like Chris.” Clara says.
“I want to know how you are. We haven’t seen you in twenty years, you and Lana were inseparable, and then pouf you were gone. We never got to thank you for what you did. You’ve given us three fine grandchildren. We always thought of them as ours, loved them just as much as the others that came along. You did something so wonderful.” Mary says.
“Thank-you.” Clara says.
Chris knows something is up, knows his dad is up to something. Neither of his parents have called him and if it wasn’t for his new family he’d be feeling pretty rejected. He feels bad for treating Clara as a bank when it’s clear that is how his parents saw him and it feels rough.
He tells Clara he’s having an early night and calls Andy to talk it all through. They’ve avoided talking about their troubles when together somehow Chris is finding it easier now they’re not in the same room.
“Have they spoken to Bea since she’s been away?” Andy asks.
“No but she can out that down to the time difference and Bea moving around so much.” Chris says.
“I don’t know what to say. Clara and Roe have become my parents and while I would have loved my mom to give me an apology and tell me she loved me it wasn’t exactly on the cards given she has let 2 men try and kill me. If yours want to lose you over money then they’re not worth having.” Andy says.
“They went to all that trouble to have me and have just let me go without a word.” Chris says.
“I’m sure they still want to see you. It’s just awkward right now.” Andy says.
“They’re in the wrong stealing from us. I know Clara was stirring telling me how much she gave but it was fair enough, they fleeced her.” Chris says.
“Adults baffle me.” Andy smiles.
The next day Chris doesn’t get an answer from Clara so goes ahead to the courthouse, messaging her to meet him there, he wants to be early to be sure he knows where he is going. His lawyer isn’t there and neither are his parents. He calls his lawyer.
“Clara said it was all off. All settled.” The lawyer says.
“You’ve not come to me with a settlement and I haven’t agreed one.” Chris says.
“I’m about to cancel the hearing.” The lawyer says.
“Not on my instruction.” Chris says.
“I’ll be right there. Call Clara.” The lawyer says.
Chris tries both her cell which it seems is dead and her hotel room, no answer. He’s trying again as the lawyer arrives.
“They are giving the money to your grandfather. I thought you’d be pleased.” Clara says.
“I don’t trust them.” Chris says.
“I’ll be right there.” Clara says feeling like an idiot and totally played.
“So you won?” Andy asks.
“We did but we’ll have to chase for it. Still feels good.” Chris says.
“What did your parents say?” Andy asks.
“Nothing, they didn’t show, just their lawyer who clearly hated them.” Chris says.
“So what about school this year?” Andy asks.
“I’m loaning him the money with strings and ropes and conditions.” Clara grins.
“They nearly scammed us. They really played Clara, Paul tried to get her to agree to another fraud and made out he was about to get audited or something. Then the grandparents pretended they would help get the money back and she almost fell for it.” Chris says.
“You did?” Andy asks.
“They really pushed my buttons but the second Chris said he didn’t trust them I knew I didn’t either. They were too nice. They had never been that nice to me before. I fell for it because I was flattered they thanked me for given them grandkids.” Clara says shaking her head.
“Well any human people would thank you. If someone has a baby for me I’ll send them a thank you card every year. So why did your grandparents agree to help you? If it was all a scam?” Andy asks.
“Maybe they are scamming my dad too, once they found out he had money they decided to take it. I’m done with all of them.” Chris says.
“How is your trip going?” Clara asks.
“Great, you see this room, its crazy! We’re just resting up before going back for the fireworks.” Andy grins.
“Katelyn is enjoying it?” Clara asks.
“Loving every second. I have taken loads of videos so you get to see her happy face.” Andy says.
“Thank you. We’ll see you in a few days.” Clara says.
“Love you both.” Andy grins.
“Are you sure about paying my tuition?” Chris asks over dinner.
“Yes. Blue has given the two of you a room. You’ve had an exemplary report from Angus. I just needed you to really and truly understand how you made Blue, Gervais and George feel. However difficult he is, any more bust ups with Blue and you’ll be cut off and you know it.” Clara says her eyes twinkling.
“Blue isn’t difficult and we’re good. Once he and Andy make up it’ll be easier.” Chris says.
“I’m sorry I tried to go over your head, with the settlement and lawyer, I was wrong. Well done for standing your ground. Funny that your parents didn’t call their own lawyer.” Clara says.
“I was shocked he didn’t ask to delay or reschedule or whatever. He was clearly pissed.” Chris says.
“Do you have many things you want to collect from your parents?” Clara asks.
“My car. The rest doesn’t really matter. I know Bea has things she wants though. School work, journals and things.” Chris says.
“Do you have the keys? Should we go now? Load up what we can and drive back here? Is the car in your name?” Clara asks.
“Yes the car is in my name. I kind of want to get Bea’s car too. I have the keys for that too.” Chris says.
“I’ll call Spence. Lets do it now. Before they have a chance to sell them.” Clara says and off they go.
Spence is more than happy to help and so are DeShawn and Magnus who surprise them getting in the back.
“In case you need some muscle.” DeShawn grins.
The house is in darkness when they get there, both Chris and Bea’s cars are still there and they make short work clearing out their bedrooms. Chris hesitates for a moment and then leaves a note saying he took their things back to school. He doesn’t mention the money.
Chris takes his car, DeShawn and Magnus take Bea’s and Spence gets in with Clara.
“You could have gone with your friends.” Clara says.
“I just wanted to thank you for what you’ve done for Andy and Katelyn. They look super happy at Disney.” Spence says.
“I care very much about those two. Thank-you for sending the clothes and things. Did Andy tell you she went straight off and did free manicures on all the elderly residents? She’s a really good kid.” Clara says.
“Chris seems really different.” Spence says quietly.
“Andy is in safe hands. If I thought Chris was still the boy who pulled that stunt on Blue and Gervais I would never have encouraged the relationship. They’re good for each other. You can let go and stop worrying.” Clara says and Spence grins at her.
“I’m so obvious. All the time I thought I’d made a mistake ending it and I didn’t. I knew he and
Magnus weren’t right and when that ended I guess I felt responsible again.” Spence says.
“Have you met anyone?” Clara asks.
“Yes and no.” Spence says.
“Ocean told me all about Will.” Clara smiles.
“I am half glad we haven’t been anything more than friends. I just miss having a boyfriend.” Spence admits he can’t believe he is finding Clara so easy to talk to again.
“You’ll find him.” Clara says.
Chris decided to drive past his Grandparents house on the way back. As expected his parents cars are there along with his aunts and cousin’s cars. The lights on and music is blaring. They obviously haven’t spoken to their lawyer yet.
He feels a huge pang of regret for starting down this path at all. For ever talking to Gervais in the club last year. Then he thinks about Andy and all Clara has done for him in a short space of time. Whipped him into shape and given him a dream. No supported his dream.
She’s given Bea a trip to Australia that would have been expensive. Still he doesn’t feel like Clara is buying them, certainly this summer wasn’t about money for him and for Bea it was the first time someone has encouraged Bea to step off the academics and pressure and have real fun. For the first time he isn’t jealous of Bea having money spent on her that he didn’t have. That is worth everything.
He finally has self-respect and a healthy relationship with his sister. Yes he’s lost his parents and probably all of his extended family. But he has Blue and Clara, Roe, Katelyn, Cheryl and Ocean. They are his new family and he has Andy. His Andy. Chris can’t stop grinning as he thinks about his man.