“I don’t want you here long term.” Blue says.
“I don’t want to intrude on your life long term. I am suggesting being here to get it up and running and get a manager in. I presume you are trying to get a manager for the ice-cream plant too.” Clara says.
“Yes. Cheryl has been interviewing people but no one is right yet.” Blue says.
“To be clear you don’t object to me starting the business, just to me being here?” Clara asks.
“Why not start it at home?” Blue asks.
“Too remote.” Clara says.
“My problem is I don’t trust you. I don’t trust my own instincts when around you and I don’t want you to fuck up the relationships I have with people here. And most importantly I don’t want Chris and Bea here. Not ever.” Blue says.
“I understand. I know what it is like to find a haven and not wanting to be found.” Clara says quietly.
“Do you hear from the bio dad? Did Chris never get his settlement?” Blue asks.
“They applied and were granted an extension on the payment terms. Chris might get a dollar a week forever at this rate. I don’t hear from them no, none of them. The whole family closed ranks against your siblings, even their cousins have blocked them. They are brats but they are having a hard time.” Clara says.
“I don’t care. Dylan used to hate me because he thought I was Chris and I knew from his stories that Bea and Chris were awful. I just wanted family so much that I kept letting them back in. I can’t do that anymore. Chris and I were close for a while but the way he treated Andy, took advantage of him, bled him dry and cut him off from his friends. I know that was the true Chris. Whatever we have been through I would never take you to court.” Blue says.
“I know you wouldn’t. Chris had to, to see who his parents really are. I helped him as I was curious as to where all the money went. If it had been on Lana’s medical care I’d have written it off and sorted the kid’s new college funds. Her parents having control totally threw me. Finding out that they really never did see the kids as their grandkids was a shock. It was one think Bea hadn’t exaggerated.” Clara says.
“So why didn’t you sort them out with college funds? Just because the money wasn’t where you thought?” Blue asks.
“You know I like to keep control. I am paying Chris’s tuition and like I said rent money to the level Gervais was offering. I do expect standards of behavior though and they won’t comply.” Clara says.
“Did you know Bea wrecked Andy’s vegetable garden? He’s skin and bones after all his summer money went on dating Chris, stupid of him for sure to leave it so late to start budgeting. But he had put money into that garden and expected it to get him through the leaner times.” Blue says.
“You know I can’t abide waste or destruction. I didn’t know and of course I will help Andy out. Have you seen him?” Clara asks.
“Last week we went to Las Vegas together to watch Will compete. Spence treated us to a nice hotel. Andy ate and ate and ate. It was so funny. He was having four big meals a day. It was like his appetite switched back on and he couldn’t stop. He was back to his funny, charming self in no time. He wasn’t himself with Chris because he was hungry.” Blue grins.
“I cannot imagine Andy going short of food. And you’re friends with Spence again?” Clara asks.
“Yes we cleared the air not long ago. He’s had a tough time. He and I have such a volatile relationship but when we’re friends we’re very close. He has been there for me in the past when others haven’t. When you haven’t. I couldn’t throw all that away. I needed time and space from all four of my friends but I love them all dearly and right now things are great.” Blue says.
Before Clara can talk any more Andy and Spence call.
“Oh hello Clara.” Andy says surprised.
“You could have warned me.” Blue says.
“Sorry she made me promise.” Andy says.
“Andrew why did you not tell me about Bea destroying your garden?” Clara asks sternly making Andy jump.
“You couldn’t do anything, it was done.” Andy says.
“I am going to get you a fruit and vegetable box delivery every week to make up for it. I know it isn’t the same as eating what you have grown yourself but it will encourage you to cook and eat well.” Clara says and Blue sees Spence melting.
“That sounds great. Birch and I have been clubbing together to cook and eat which has worked well this week. I’d really appreciate the extra help.” Andy says genuinely.
“You can make soup.” Blue grins.
“I can. Anyway it’s all kicked off with your siblings again.” Andy says.
“Now what?” Clara asks.
“Grant has kicked them out. Broken up with Bea. They came and asked to move back in to Gervais house. Gervais said only if Dylan, George and I agreed and that the security deposit would double due to the damage they did last time.” Andy begins.
“That sounds fair enough.” Clara says.
“I thought Grant’s family would object to the magazine.” Blue says.
“Grant objected when a photographer turned up to shoot the pair at home for a follow up piece, follow up when the first isn’t out yet.” Spence says rolling his eyes.
“I don’t like Grant much but I know he values privacy.” Blue says.
“So anyway they refused to pay the extra and asked Spence.” Andy says.
“And I said I’d need the same level of deposit as Gervais asked for. They complained because Birch hadn’t paid it and Birch lied and said he had to have my back. Clara we weren’t trying to make them homeless, just trying to protect ourselves.” Spence says.
“I think you and Gervais did the right thing. They have money at the minute.” Clara says.
“Right but not a lot. Not until the book deal is signed and the TV show goes out. The magazine pay out wasn’t huge.” Spence says.
“So where are they living?” Blue asks.
“In the dorms. Clara had bought them meal cards anyway. They are sharing a twin like Dylan and John had. No clue how that was available. To be honest I was worried that if the story takes off as projected it would be intrusive for all of us. Them being in the dorms is the safest for them and us.” Spence says.
“Thanks for letting me know. I’ll never unravel those two. When they are friends with each other they are awful to the rest of the world. But the damage they do to each other is awful. It will take years to unpick their upbringing.” Clara says.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have interfered. Just let them grow and learn.” Blue says.
“Maybe, but Chris asked for help.” Clara says.
“Did Will call you Spence?” Blue asks wanting to move on from his siblings.
“Yes he did. I’ve sent him emails with my thoughts and he’s thinking about his options. I’ve promised not to tell you anything until he’s talked it through with the national coaches as they will want to have input on his training plan and will have a say in his choices.” Spence says.
“Thanks so much. He needed to talk through with someone who didn’t have a stake in his choice but understand the options. I’m glad you could do that for him.” Blue says.
“It was fun for me. I love coaching and you know I want to be the best, get the most out of kids. Not just those on the college or Olympic track but kids who are not that athletic or have disabilities. I have so many things I want to do.” Spence grins.
“Isn’t he hot when he’s all ambitious?” Andy grins.
“Are you two back together?” Clara asks.
“No but we are the absolute best of friends.” Spence smiles clearly a lot happier with the decision than Blue imagined he would be.
“We can’t throw away everything we had as if it was nothing. We both know it was a huge deal for us to have lasted so long and the love doesn’t just go. It has changed but it is still there and very strong.” Andy says.
“That sounds incredibly healthy for both of you. I was glad you split before it got too toxic between you.” Clara says and Blue is stung by irrational jealousy that his mother has never said anything so nice about him and Gervais.
“We’re in a good place. we best go. we have homework to finish. Thanks again for the vegetables, it will make a difference.” Andy says.
“Talk soon.” Blue says and smiles.
“How can you be so normal to Andy, so supportive and not to me?” Blue asks.
“Andy isn’t my son.” Clara says calmly.
“Do you want the guest room down here or upstairs? There’s a full bathroom down here and you might find it warmer.” Blue says.
“Down here is fine. But I’d like the full tour. It is a beautiful property.” Clara says.
“I knew it was perfect the minute I saw it but I never thought I could afford it. I’m still surprised you’re not mad at me selling up at school.” Blue says.
“I’m impressed. You exchanged that soulless box for a house with character and charm. A house that will last you a lifetime. You would have done it with my blessing after graduation. I trust that you will complete your education later. I’ve never insisted you do everything sequentially. I encouraged you to take time before college but you didn’t want to.” Clara says.
“I guess. I’m still surprised.” Blue says.
“You started college with a credit card that had no limit, you could have gone mad but you didn’t. You spent money, not excessively, on essentials like books, your phone and clothes. Yes you had to replace your phone and computer but it wasn’t your fault. The only non-essentials I noticed were baking goods and meals with friends and those were never excessive. You cost less, a lot less a month than I paid in child support for your siblings. And now you’re on your own and doing well. I budgeted a whole lot more for college than you needed, heck you and Andy together are still well below the budget I put aside, why do you think I splurged on first class last summer?” Clara says with a grin.
“That was awesome. I never even got to tell you about it.” Blue says.
“I understand you don’t want me here too long. And I won’t stop your routine but I would like to stay a little while. A week or so. You can then tell me all about your trip and show me the pictures.” Clara says.
“Who are you worried will find you? Do you have parents or siblings or something? An old business partner?” Blue asks.
“I don’t have parents or siblings waiting in the wings. I promise you that. Yes maybe I’d rather people from my old life didn’t find me. As well as keeping Katelyn well away from any attention. I do not want anyone digging in to Katelyn’s background. It is very, very fortunate you were not in that crash.” Clara says.
“Stop trying to manipulate me. You know I’d do anything for Katelyn. If you want us to weather this together you can say so. I might not say no.” Blue says and Clara sighs and then smiles.
“I would very much like your company during this time. The magazine comes out on Monday and the TV interview later in the week, there may be more if the news channels run with it. I’m not trying to control your reaction or stopping you from giving your side. But I would appreciate it if you warned me.” Clara says.
“I had enough talking to the press freshman year and that was just the college paper. Come on lets do this tour.” Blue says.
“So is this your study?” Clara asks upstairs.
“No this is for Gervais, Robin too, mine is downstairs. Those two are small enough to share.” Blue says.
“You have a lot of rooms and the bathrooms are beautiful.” Clara says.
“Gervais got a bit carried away. It was all done so fast. I have a great friend who managed the whole thing. He’s the one who painted the house. I gave him a lot of the old furnishings from here that I didn’t want and he reduced the bill for them. But he made so much on a couple of pieces his wife insisted he did me a good turn.” Blue laughs.
“Sounds like my kind of people.” Clara says.
“Yeah, I’m worried you’ll really like it here. With Willow to run the retreat and not many challenges for you at home I could see you looking for something new.” Blue says.
“I’ll stay until Katelyn finishes school, college maybe. She’ll need me and Roe to help her with the money.” Clara says.
“Did you and Roe break up?” Blue asks.
“We were never fully together. I had someone else I wasn’t willing to let go and by the time I realized what I had done it was too late.” Clara admits to Blue’s surprise.
“So you’re also here to recover?” Blue asks and Clara shrugs.
“Maybe. Though it was also easier to tell you in person. None of your friends would have given me a number for you.” Clara says and Blue grins.
“So this is the downstairs guest room, the bathroom is next door. The tub is terrific for soaking in. Do you want oatmeal for breakfast? There are eggs but I was going to make a nice eggy cheese soufflé for lunch.” Blue says.
“Are you putting the oats on now?” Clara asks and Blue nods.
“That would be wonderful.” Clara says.
“Same house rules as your house, help yourself in the kitchen and if you are first up put coffee on.” Blue grins and Clara pulls him into a hug. It’s the first contact they’ve had in a long time and Blue is surprised but hugs his momma close for a second.
He can’t let go yet. He can’t forgive or lose his grip on his grudges. He needs more time and more reassurance.
Blue gets into bed and calls Will.
“Be careful and call me as much as you need to.” Will says.
“Thanks. I love you. You look so cute tonight.” Blue says.
“You too. Everything will be okay. Gladys will run your momma out of town if she puts a toe out of line.” Will says.
“l know. Thank-you for not putting us on hold while you chase your dream.” Blue says, his mother making all his insecurities come to the fore.
“It would be pointless without you. Don’t get down babe. In a few weeks I’ll know what I’m doing and we can make firm plans. I know it’s hard right now.” Will says.
“Sorry. It’s been a long weird day.” Blue says.
“It’s okay. You can let it out to me.” Will says gently.
“Thanks baby. Sleep well. Surgery Monday?” Blue asks.
“Tuesday. It was confirmed today. I’ll be fine. Don’t you dare hold back worrying I can’t take it.” Will says.
“I won’t and you shouldn’t hold back from me. Take it easy tomorrow.” Blue says and they whisper sweet nothings until they drift off.
Blue wakes up confused by the noise downstairs. Then remembers Clara is there. He pulls on some old sweats and a sweater and heads out to deal with the chickens. When he gets back in Clara has the coffee on and is stirring the oatmeal.
“I’ll shower two minutes. There is dried fruit and honey in the cupboard above. Uh sugar in the baking cupboard, just root around.” Blue says and flies upstairs to shower.
Clara is looking out the window, drinking coffee when he gets back down.
“You were right, that tub is wonderful for a soak.” Clara says.
“I love it.” Blue says and serves up breakfast.
“The walled kitchen garden is like something from a story book. Was it very overgrown?” Clara asks.
“Oh yes let me show you.” Blue says grabbing his tablet and taking Clara through the renovation pictures of the house, garden and land.
“And you’re well on the way to fully restoring it, the house they did so fast.” Clara says.
“I was lucky. I’m still being lucky, so many people have brought by plants for me.” Blue says and there is a knock at the door and Claud one of the farmers pokes his head in.
“I’ve 4 types of seed potato here for you. Mike thought you might be able to use them and if you give me a hand we’re over run with parsnips. Though you could use them for soup.” Claud says and Blue grins and follows him.
“How much for the parsnips?” Blue asks.
“Oh now, I mean it we’re overrun. Got rid of a lot at that market but well we missed a whole row. Don’t ask me how. I have a buyer for some and the rest I’m giving away.” Claud says.
“I’ll let you know what day you’ll be on the board. Though we’re using your potatoes on Monday too.” Blue says.
“Baked potato or potato and leek?” Claud asks.
“Potato and leek. Baked potato is always on a Friday.” Blue says.
“Love them both.” Claud says and they take the two big boxes of parsnips inside.
“Thanks so much.” Blue says.
“How on earth do you manage your ordering if people bring random vegetables by?” Clara asks.
“We blanch and freeze some things and others keep well. Whatever keeps best we shift to the next week and order less. Usually we have some warning that someone has a glut of something. Its pretty informal. You’re thinking about the soup business.” Blue says.
“Yes. Obviously on a larger scale 2 extra boxes won’t make that much difference. You’d have to have set soups and specials and incentivize the specials.” Clara says.
“Yes and a difference between local buyers and those further afield. Locals will be more flexible on type. The deli would be happy to have some flavors as exclusives.” Blue says.
“Right. So you have put a lot of thought into it.” Clara says starting on the dishes.
“A little.” Blue says grabbing a cloth.
“Do you need to do much prep for lunch?” Clara asks.
“Not yet. Lets relax a bit. Thanks for starting the fire.” Blue says.
“I love it, started it before my bath and everything was toasty when I got out. I take it you don’t use other heat?” Clara asks.
“Just for the water. I use the two fires. I’ve no shortage of wood. And I’ve usually a pot on the stove. I love how cozy it is in here despite being a big room.” Blue says with a smile.
“You’ve not bought a dog.” Clara says.
“No, too much responsibility if I’m away a lot for Will. I have the chickens but enough people are okay to sort them when I’m away and I could always put them in the barn if I was to be away a while.” Blue says.
“What barn?” Clara asks.
“The one Gervais accidently bought me. He didn’t realize it came with the land but it is awesome and will be very welcome as a store for my produce.” Blue says.
“You are up and running a lot faster than I was when we first moved.” Clara says.
“You had me to take care of. And you would have wanted to do more of the work yourself. Gervais gave me the gift of time when he paid for upstairs. I would have done most of it myself or gone for a minimal fix.” Blue says.
The sit and chat about Australia over coffee. Blue talks a lot about the vineyards he visited and the sights he saw.
“You had an entirely different trip to Bea.” Clara says.
“Yes, they were partying and sleeping on the beach. Robin and I did a lot, saw a lot and met loads of people. We had a great time.” Blue says.
They talk and prep the lunch and Blue keeps his guard up but enjoys the time too. Feels like before he left for college and everything changed.
Heidi arrives first and Blue helps her put the parsnips into her car. She laughs at the story of Claud
Mike arrives shortly after with Abby and Gladys and things get frosty.
“This is Heidi you briefly met in the bakery. Mike who I worked for when I first arrived, Gladys who I lived with and Abby who sold me this place. Everyone this is my momma, Clara.” Blue says and the look at her furiously.
“I’d say it is nice to meet you but I’m not sure that’s true. Had you been looking for Blue for long?” Mike asks bluntly.
“I knew where he was, I hired an investigator when he left and found out where he was when he bought this place.” Clara says.
“And you didn’t bother to come and see him? To let him know you did actually care and hadn’t replaced him with his no good twin.” Mike says.
“Mike it’s okay. She’s here now.” Blue says calmly.
“I don’t know how you could do it. We all thought you must be dead and he was spending his inheritance.” Gladys says, she knows much of the story but is still tied to her beliefs that someone as lovely as Blue wouldn’t just up and run from trouble.
“Oh she gives up children left and right.” Mike spits.
“Please, that isn’t fair. She didn’t give up her kids she was a surrogate, that’s a pretty big gift now can we have some lunch.” Blue says.
“Could you please fill me in?” Abby asks calmly.
“We might as well. It’ll be on newsstands tomorrow.” Clara says.
Blue shrugs and Clara tells their tale.
“Now heres the thing. Blue told me his background recently and you haven’t deviated much from how he tells it. You are a cold hearted monster. How can you make him sit here with you after everything? He’s doing well without you. Let him go.” Mike says angrily.
“There has to be more to it. Blue is such a lovely young man, she must have done a lot right first.” Gladys says.
“Clara hasn’t always been bad, having those babies for her friends was incredible. I don’t think I could have done it and I never wanted children. Along the road she forgot what a gift Blue was and let her loss take over. Blue had to take the place of two others and he had no idea that was why there was so much pressure on him. A lot has gone wrong but there is so much good in both of them that they can find it again.” Abby says.
“I don’t think I can let her in again. She has Chris and Bea now and Katelyn. I can’t forgive only to be let down again.” Blue sighs.