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Katherine Belmont

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  1. How is it almost term three already?

  2. Just do it. However feels best. There's nothing worse than being left without anything that could possibly have been a goodbye, no.. extra-tight hug, or hand squeeze. It doesn't have to be so obvious, but it does have to exist. Something that feels like a goodbye, even if you can't call it one. Speaking of which. How do you say "hello" to someone you've not seen in years? How do you get back to the way things were before you were separated?
  3. Kate flopped down onto a chair with a long sigh. "Yes, yes," she said. "You're probably quite right." It had all sounded like a very good idea to Kate, who tended to get tunnel vision when she wanted something. She got caught up and carried away, it had been so long since she'd felt anything remotely like physical attraction it had been such a thrill to feel like she might get that part of her life back. Logic and reality, and Boaz's better judgement, took away the last shreds of that wonderful fantasy, and... Kate very suddenly felt empty again. Her shoulders fell, and she tried to stay upright while her body felt like it was collapsing into the aching void that had reappeared in her chest. What if this was her life from now on? Long stretches of feeling nothing, punctuated by bright and then soul-crushing moments of hope and disappointment. Kate didn't attach to people, or trust them easily. She needed that before she could feel attracted to them. She needed to know they would be there, needed to feel secure. Independent as she wanted people to think she was, she didn't let go easily. She couldn't. The hole that people created when they left her life was too unbearable. "I hurt people. And I make them want to go away," the smile on her face was sad, distant. "My sister said that, right before she went. I wonder sometimes if it was a curse she put on me, or just some dying wish magic, or... I don't know. I'm exactly what she saw? And maybe I don't deserve more than I have, because... I haven't been a good sort of person." Kate knew it. She hated herself for it. Sometimes she wondered if Matt's coma was less an unfortunate accident, and more karmic revenge. "What if Hazel realises?" her voice shook suddenly. It was a thought that had always been there, but Kate never dared voice it. "Sooner or later, I'm going to drive her away too, and I don't..." Kate didn't know how to do this any more. Her sadness was dragging Hazel down, was it going to push her away too? How did she stop that from happening? The ache wasn't going away any time soon, and the way that brief hope had crumbled made it clear enough that there was no bright future just there on the horizon. Kate felt she needed to get better for Hazel's sake, to be real again before her daughter grew up without the mother she deserved. "I don't know how to fix me so that she won't get hurt."
  4. Kate listened, a bemused smile on her face. More wine for the wine gods, she poured herself another drink. Her tolerance was so much higher these days, too many nights alone while Hazel was up at the school. She let out a soft sigh, and the look she gave him was (for once) a pure reflection of how she felt. Relaxed, not at all worried about any potential consequences, and with a fondness for Boaz and his adorable little concerns. "Alan is a good friend, yes," she acknowledged. "More a constant pain in my arse, but it is what it is---we have a lot of history. You know that, surely? He wanted to marry me at one point, but... it'd only been a few years since we lost Calinda. Daddy would not have survived the heartbreak of losing me too. Even if that would have been his own choice, I couldn't do it to him," Kate frowned, rolling her eyes at her own past stupidity. "We do such dumb things for the people we think we should love." Kate's relationship with her parents was a rough one. She still spoke to, and took care of them---dutiful daughter that she was, but neither her mother nor father had met Hazel. They had not been invited to her wedding. Kate had been her Daddy's girl, his perfect princess, until the moment it all came crashing down. After Calinda, the curtains had been pulled back and Kate didn't like the family she found herself in. Nothing had been the same after that. "But, you know. We got over it. And the seven thousand times it started and ended, we always come back to where we are. Because I trust him, and... at the end of the day, we're friends. Always have been, always will be." and he would always be a pain in her arse, and she would bite back the same way. That's just who they were. Like family. Better family than she'd been born with, that was for sure. "I don't really have much to offer you, Boaz," Kate admitted with a sigh. "You deserve so much more than I can give. A family, for one. Your own children. Less... complications. All I've got is mountains of baggage wrapped in a body too damaged to carry another baby. I was lucky to get Hazel. There's always the minute possibility of Matthew waking up, and then what? What happens then? What if he wakes up and we don't fit together anymore? Or I've moved on to someone else, and suddenly I need to choose?" Kate closed her eyes, exhaling as if she could breathe out the demons and confused thoughts that plagued her. "But going to a bar and picking an opportunity at random was never my style, either. There's no soul in it. No real connection. I miss that more than anything. Trusting someone enough to share your whole self with them, to... let them see you at your most vulnerable. Know that when the world crashes on you in the dark of the night, they're there to hold you down." her smile now was sad, reflective. "Ultimately, once I trust someone like that... I don't let them go. It's a bond for life, no matter what happens. It's why Alan and I always go back to where we are. Why my first husband is still a part of my life. It's not the kind of love they write movies about, but... it's very close," Kate was picky about partners. She was picky about everything. It took a lot for her to let go, to really let go. "I feel like I can trust you like that. And I want to. I don't know what comes next, or how it all works out, but..." Kate pushed herself to stand properly, stepping over to stand in front of Boaz, her wine glass held in front of her, grasped like a security blanket. "I do know that I'd like to be closer to you. Is that... okay?"
  5. "Oh, Boaz, you sweet thing," Kate's laugh came with a shake of her head. He was such a gentleman, it was almost disgusting. Another man--most men, in fact--would have seized the opportunity as it was presented. That wasn't wrong, Kate was a grown woman who knew exactly what she was doing. It was rare that Kate let anyone truly take advantage of her, and only ever offered what she was willing to give. Kate sighed and topped up her glass again. "I appreciate the sentiment, but your concerns are... unfounded. Alcohol as the breeding ground of bad decisions is something of a myth, if you ask me. It's more like a key," Kate tapped her fingers idly against the glass. "You know me well enough to know that... I would never be seen out in public as I am now. Casual, under-dressed, speaking freely. Gods, I forgot my shoes at the apartment and haven't touched up my make up in the last hour. Every aspect of who I let the world see is so crafted, right down to the words I use and the way I move---anything that doesn't fit that, does not happen. It's a lot of effort, and there are very few people I can relax that around. The society I was raised in, live in, work in, it demands that level of perfection. Growing up, and for a long time after that, I really believed it was also who I wanted to be." Kate stepped around the side of the couch, dropping a hand to where Cheeto was sitting, absently smoothing down the cat's fur. "It's not. Not anymore. Maybe it was, but the whole act is so... practiced that it's far easier than letting myself go, and chase after the things I do want. Alcohol melts away the mask, inspires me to act on the truth of who I am. Too much, and yes---like anyone, I make bad decisions. But I'm far from that point. I'm a big girl, I know my limits. And I know it's not the first time I've wondered what it would be like to be closer to you, just the first time I've been free enough to ask for it." "Almost all of the decisions in my life that led to regret, are decisions I made when I was stone cold sober. And usually because I went with what was good for my image, rather than what I wanted deep down. I don't think this is something I will regret in the morning, and even if I did? I can still be proud that I didn't run away from something that I wanted." Kate shrugged. Especially since Hazel had sent that letter, she'd pondered the pros and cons of someone like Boaz to death in her mind. Every negative point seemed to focus on how it would look rather than how she would feel. "If it isn't something you want, or if you think you would regret it in the morning---that's perfectly fine," she added softly. "Just please don't pretend that it's to save me from regrets. Because I'm done regretting all of the things I never had the courage to make happen."
  6. As the blush hit Boaz's cheeks, Kate's grin widened. For all her orchestrated politeness, Kate actually had very little shame. She'd never have survived if she did, there were plenty of aspects of her life that she should have been embarrassed by. Perhaps she genuinely didn't care, or maybe she was that well-practiced at distancing herself from the people she'd embarrassed herself in front of, it wasn't really relevant. And seeing Boaz blush was incredibly cute. "I was rather hoping you wouldn't say anything," she replied with a smirk. No point being coy about it. Kate didn't know what she wanted in the long term, but her short-term wants were crystal clear. Boaz was kind and thoughtful, intelligent and challenging in his own way. He was someone she could hold a conversation with, without wanting to shake him. Outside of Alan and Stuart, that made Boaz the closest thing Kate had to a "friend" in Narrie. With a sigh and another long sip, Kate let the grin fade. "I'm... actually serious," she admitted, her voice soft. "I haven't wanted anything like that from anyone in six years. It's... terrifying to feel like that again, but... I do. I did when I first met you, and you were nice to me even though I was horrible to you. You didn't have to help me, but you did. You made me feel like I was more than just the shell I'd become, more than Hazel's mum and Matthew's poor wife. I actually... do like you. A lot. And clearly, Hazel's noticed." Admitting it still felt like a betrayal to Matt, maybe one day that would get easier. Nothing good was coming of denying her wants and needs though, Hazel had shown her that. She needed to be happy again, and real. Herself. Not just a figure in other lives, but live her own life again. "Are you blushing because you're mortified I'd feel that way," she said, only a little awkwardly. Kate tried to pull back that wicked grin and easy confidence. "Or... because you've thought about it too?" It was supposed to be a light tease, make him blush again---but as she said it, she heard the words and cringed a little. What arrogance. She couldn't take them back now.
  7. Kate nodded. Boaz was wise. Very wise for someone who looked (to her) like they were probably homeless. He wasn't saying anything new, or terribly profound---certainly not anything that hadn't already been said to her by Alan or Stuart, even her mother had weighed in on this. Though, that had more been a thinly veiled attack on "that terrible Tallygarunga boy" than it was genuine concern for Kate's happiness. It was so much easier to tell her to go shove it when Matt had been up and around. "I guess the last person to accept that is... me," she shrugged. No one else had a problem with her moving on, least of all Hazel. Kate had always been the one to refuse. Always been the one who felt like it was cheating, unfaithful, that it made her the same sort of wife to Matt that... well. That she'd been to Seth. She wasn't proud of that. They'd all been such dumb kids. She stopped by the table, picking up the wine bottle and topping up her glass---before tilting the bottle back toward Boaz to offer the same to him. "My life has been on pause for years," she said, with a deep and resolute breath. "It's time I pressed 'play' again. And whatever happens... happens, right? Whether Matthew wakes up or... not... I won't have wasted any more years waiting." there was something very comforting about this decision. She felt like she could breathe a little better, stand a little straighter. The future was suddenly less bleak. Hazel would no longer be raised in a grey void of Kate's misery. There was... potential. Possibility. "Besides, I want a lot of things," Kate had always been a woman of ambition. That was no secret. She enjoyed her work at Penrose, hadn't tried to go beyond that for fear of losing her security. "Possibly a career change---do you think I would do well in the Ministry? I think I have the right level of 'ruthless bitch' to own that place. Then Laney can just have the damn school. You know I've been there for... almost my whole life. That's... upsetting..." Kate's voice trailed off as she went into a career crisis. She'd started at Penrose in one of the first rounds of pre-school programs, and only had four years at VMU before she took a job there teaching. "Good thing we rescued Hazel from that," she snorted, raising her glass as if it was a toast. "She's a smart kid. Such a smart kid, she just knows things... but you know that. Of course you do. You're her teacher." Kate had her wagging finger out, pointed at Boaz. "And you're kind of teaching me now. Isn't that fun? But I need it, I do, I'm... it's a difficult crossroads in my life this one, but you're absolutely right. I am allowed to want these things for myself." Kate looked up at him, her lips curling into a devilish grin not seen in years. "I'm allowed to want you to kiss me," she said airily. "You can't stop me."
  8. "You need to speak with Matthew?" Kate's incredulous voice rose a little with her surprise. Who was this kid? Not one of the Penrose girls, she knew that much. Her lips thinned against each other as she tried to guess where this was going. Someone who wasn't aware of Matt's situation? That didn't make sense. The girl looked scared, too. Try as she might, Kate couldn't work it out. She felt off-balance here, aware that something was not within her control. Which of course meant she just had to control every other thing that she did have power to control. "I'm afraid that won't be possible," she said after a moment. "My husband has been in a coma for several years now. He won't be attending to any business, urgent or otherwise. I'm sorry." Kate gave the girl a tight smile, her hand on the door ready to close it. What was this nonsense? Urgent business with Matt? It was probably a scam of some sort, that was all that made sense. Someone who just had a name and address, like a door-knocking Nigerian prince. Did she want money? Was that it? Curiosity got the better of her. The sky was darkening and rain beginning to fall. Before she sent this miserable kid back out into the weather, she could at least stop long enough to find out why she was even here. "What business do you have with him?" Kate asked, turning her head back a little as small bare feet slapped up the tiles toward them. Hazel's frizzy-haired head poked out from behind her, uniform disheveled in a messy chaos so opposite to her mother it was almost hilarious. She had stickers on her face. Kate's hand dropped, resting atop her daughter's head, smoothing down some of that wild woolly child, a subconscious gesture of comfort. "Mummy! I caught the sticker-pox!" Hazel giggled, before looking at Holly. "Are you staying for dinner? I'm Hazel!" fast as a blink, Hazel darted forward and poked a sticker onto Holly's leg. "And you've got the sticker-pox too!" "H, sweetheart," Kate said softly, the gentleness at odds with her sharp appearance. "Let the girl speak."
  9. Kate wasn't long home from work, still impeccably dressed in the severely professional uniform that was forced upon the staff of Penrose. Hazel, on the other hand, had left shoes and socks, a jumper, her hat, and a scattering of books in a trail down the hall as she made her way inside. The items were covered in dirt, grass stains, and though Kate was certain that she'd sent her daughter to school with her hair neatly braided, some of it was still half-held together... while the rest frizzed out around her like a fluffy curtain. The kid was a chaotic mess, the exact opposite of her parents. Their apartment wasn't big, but it was in a good area. Her parents had bought her the place, right after she promised not to marry Alan. A wedding gift to herself and Seth, and even though the marriage had no chance... she rather liked the place. It was also her last remaining asset, the majority of her savings sunk into endless specialists to find the answer to Matt's coma. None of it had been successful, and of late she'd had to pull back on her trying. Any more and she would soon be in danger of losing the house, and that was where she finally drew the line. "H, are you out of your uniform yet?" she called back to Hazel, knowing full well that her daughter would need at least three more reminders before she changed. And Hazel did not respond, which meant she was either lost in a book---or some other fantasy world that she had invented. At least she kept herself well occupied, Hazel was a very social girl but also enjoyed time to herself. Making up stories, or holding elephant tea parties. The knock at the door was a puzzle though. Kate got very few actual visitors, it was generally easier for her to visit Narrie than it was to have anyone come here. Her heels clicked ominously against the tile floor, unaware of the sharp and intimidating nature of her appearance as she opened the door. "Yes?" she asked, raising a single eyebrow. "What do you want?"
  10. "I see," that made sense. Kate nodded slowly, wandering around the tiny living quarters and peering at knick knacks and other curiosities. Normally she would never have been so impolite, normally her strict upbringing would have forced her to stand still and poised, show no interest in anything until it was offered to her. Boring. Kate was naturally curious and liked to see how people lived, what they loved, who they were. She'd spent hours poking around Matt's apartment while he was working, which he'd been very angry about. Especially when he discovered she'd beaten all his best scores on all his favourite video games. "Am I ready to let go?" Kate repeated his question with a sigh. It was the question she'd been asking herself for years, and some days the answer was clear. Most days it wasn't. Marie, in an odd fit of kindness, had said that if she still needed to ask the question, she probably wasn't ready. Lately Kate had come to wonder whether she would ever be ready and if the solution wasn't just to jump back in and see what made sense. "Depends on what "letting go" means, really. Am I ever going to be able to stop wishing this hadn't happened to us? No... and am I ever going to be able to fully leave behind my truest best friend and deepest love? No. Am I ready to look for a new, serious relationship and rebuild my life? Not... yet." Kate circled back around to lean against the back of a chair, comfortable and relaxed. Boaz was easy to talk to. Mostly because he wasn't interrupting, and she'd had just enough liquor to say what she felt. She looked down at Cheeto, and gave him a shrug. "I have worked so hard to do this right," Kate murmured. "I've been a dutiful wife, a mother, a headmistress. You know what I haven't been? A person. Doing the right thing should be enough to make you happy, Boaz, but it doesn't. Doing the right thing doesn't... take away the loneliness. I'm never not going to miss Matthew, but I'm still.. I'm still a person. And I think that I want to be treated like a person again. And I think that I don't want to be alone anymore." Kate sipped her wine, her outpouring a little awkward now. Refreshing and liberating to say it out loud, the thoughts that gnawed away at her soul. Did they make her a terrible person? She missed physical contact, closeness, intimacy. Kate had always had a strong need for it, and the years since the accident had been torture. And yet, she'd been good. So very good. Maybe it was time to stop and give in. Let herself be happy for once, if Matt ever woke up... he would understand.
  11. Kate stood in the doorway, bottle of wine held up in one hand---and two crystal glasses in the other. So they were the very special wedding present ones that she'd refused to let Matt use, who cared anymore? Glasses existed for a purpose. To drink out of. Why be so hung up about these ones just because they were given to her on a particular day? She looked down, realising now that she'd left her shoes back at the apartment. That's why she felt short. Meh, whatever. Kate walked in as he made the space, a smile twitching across her lips at the cramped teachers' quarters. Ah, she remembered those days. The Tally ones really weren't so bad, but Penrose---for all it's class and money---they were almost prison cells. Kate had been very glad that she kept her own apartment, most of the teachers did. Maybe that's why the rooms sucked? "You mean you've not let her try, or she can't get the set up to happen? 'Cause I can see the first, but the latter I imagine it's hard to find a woman that doesn't look your way and go 'yes please'... maybe your sister just has awful taste?" Kate shrugged. She'd drunk enough that she was free. Still competent and in control, but with far less care for holding her tongue. Kate sat the glasses on a table, pouring them each a very generous drink. "Didn't need to, no," Kate agreed. "Doing it anyway. You know, it's not the students at Penrose that are trouble. It's the other teachers. Laney's making a move for my job. Again. Third time since the accident, and now she reckons that sending Hazel to Tally? Hah---symbolic of my "growing disloyalty" to the school. She ought to learn a thing or two about loyalty, I taught that little witch, mentored her while she was a new teacher, and then bloody well put her where she is now." Kate rolled her eyes with disgust, but stopped before taking a sip of her drink. "All's fair though, I suppose I did the same to the woman who hired me, but..." Kate snorted and waved off the idea. "I was more of a terrible person then. Point is, Laney is still a terrible person. Alan and Stu don't get it, or they wouldn't... even if they weren't so preoccupied with everything else. They have whole teams of people loyal to them, I can't even tell my deputy what I want for lunch without her crafting it into an attack." "Do you think the wine is good? I don't think it's that great, really. I expected... better," she lifted the glass to stare at the liquid as if that would answer her question. "Gods, it has been so long since I had a good Friday night. I don't feel like I should be allowed to? I spend most of them at the hospital. Being a good wife to a man who can't be a good husband in return. Not his fault, no... but. I'm tired of being this good. Tired of being sad about a situation that hasn't changed a bit since it first happened. Zero improvement in all this time, Boaz. Zero. And Hazel..." Kate drummed her fingers against the crystal wall of the glass. "I mean, I think Hazel wants a full family. The chance to have siblings, and for me to be happy, and..." Kate took a sip. Her throat was getting dry with all this overtalking. "What do you think I should do?"
  12. When confronted with the mystery of the empty perfume bottle, and Boaz's tidbit of information through QuillBook, Hazel had come clean. She wasn't a liar, and Kate could tell that although she knew she'd done the wrong thing---Hazel wasn't especially sorry about it. In fact, she seemed more hurt and angry that Kate was upset by it, insisting through tears that she just really wanted Kate to go out with Boaz. Or someone. Or anything. And just not be sad anymore. It was that heartbroken look that played on Kate's mind after she finished work. Adam was collecting Hazel from school that night, and normally she would spend this time at the hospital. Instead, she made her way to Narrie---of half a mind to surprise Hazel at the school gates and take her out to do something fun. She arrived early, and whiled away time in the Drunken Roo, admiring the half-done renovations and a red wine Matt had cellared from their wedding. The afternoon came, and went. Kate let Adam pick up Hazel, she'd forgotten to let him know she was in town. He had plans for the kids anyway, and Hazel had been looking forward to those. She finished the bottle of wine, and ordered another. Was Hazel right? Eight years she'd been married to Matt, and more than half of that he'd been in the coma. She missed him every day, but this wasn't a way to live. It wasn't a way for Hazel to live. Kate frowned, and picked up the bottle of wine from the table. She headed upstairs to their old apartment on the top floor, and stood for a while in the dusty space. She should probably apologise. That.. felt like it needed to be done. She changed into a dress long forgotten, fixed her makeup. Made sure that no hint of earlier tears was visible, and apparated to the edge of the Tallygarunga school grounds. At this late hour, most of the teachers would be in their quarters. Did Boaz spend nights here? Some did, some didn't... some stayed only when they were on night duty. Kate wandered around until she found a door with his name on it. All the teachers were allocated rooms, even if they didn't use them. Maybe he would be here? She knocked on the door. "Hey, it's um. It's me," she called, more than a little awkward. "Wanted to say sorry about Hazel, I---I hope you like wine?"
  13. (The letter is written upon the best Wiggles stationery, letters alternating in pink, blue, purple and a hard to read yellow pencil. Some of the writing has been smudged by what appears (and smells) to be half a bottle of perfume, and a pair of stick figures are drawn holding hands at the bottom of the page. In poorly spelled, and awkward writing, unmistakeable to Boaz as that of Hazel Belmont, it reads:) deer MisTeR IzeM I aM HAZEL's MuM. I thikn yoo AR verie niss. WilL yoo go owt with mee? I pormisS thaT I can stey up lat bicOz my beDTim iz vere lat tooo. iT is 10 at niGt. pliSS say YES!!!! love (this adorned with hearts and butterflies) kAt BeLMonT ps. pliss reely say YES!! pps I mene it! ppps i wiLL cry if yo say NO
  14. "Oh what? No!" Kate whined upon hearing the news about Alan and Audrey. Given Audrey's knack for organising Alan's life, Kate had assumed that Audrey had things handled in areas that Alan never did. Clearly she'd been wrong. Kate knew all about Alan and his "lack of preparation" so to speak. Now it had cost her fifty bucks, and she'd been so sure she was going to be right. Flipping the long, blonde braid over one shoulder, Kate folded her arms. "Damnit, there's no way I can win now. How long you reckon before he proposes? I've got ten bucks that says he's already bought a ring." Kate's smile was one of dry amusement, but Hazel's words were still ringing in her ears. She was happy for Alan, but she also couldn't deny the gut-wrenching jealousy that came with it. Why did it get to be so easy for him? He'd been able to end his relationship with Rachel. Losing Lauren had been a tragedy, but he'd been able to try again. Kate had been advised not to try again. Hazel really wanted brothers and sisters, she'd asked Santa for them every year since she knew who Santa was. It broke Kate's heart every time. "Hazel reckons I should go out with someone," she laughed softly. "She suggested you first, actually. So she can be Jezebel's sister. You, or her teacher. She really likes that guy. It's good. I like him too." and immediately after saying it, Kate began to hope that Stuart didn't remember any of the less-safe-for-work comments drunk!Kate might have made about her daughter's teacher. And especially not her devious plan that involved turning up to the school ten minutes before pick up time, in the hopes that Boaz had decided to teach his classes shirtless that day. Her cheeks began to flush red all the same. Great. Now she looked like a blonde tomato.
  15. Hazel was home for the weekend. She seemed out of place now, in their upscale city apartment, dressed in her Bilby uniform and still with dry grass woven through her hair. She leaned across the counter, watching intently as Kate tried to sew frosty flower decals onto an Elsa costume. The unwedding was this weekend, and Hazel couldn’t wait to dress up. “Guess what, Mum?” she asked with a cheeky grin. “Mnn?” Kate swore under her breath, pricking herself with the needle for the umpteenth time. “I can’t guess, you tell me.” “Cameron says his Dad and Miss Audrey are going out now,” Hazel delivered the gossip with an excited wiggle. “He saw them kissing, but it’s a secret.” “Not as secret as he thinks it is,” Kate murmured with a grin. Typical Alan. She wondered if she was allowed to take credit for this. Sure, it would have happened anyway---but hadn’t she set the wheels in motion for it to happen now? The few times she’d seen Alan since Conference he’d been happy. Happier than she’d seen him in a long time. “You already knew, didn’t you Mum?” Hazel sighed, a little sad. Kate shook her head. “Of course not, sweetheart,” she replied, reaching across the counter to tuck a stray bit of hair (and grass) behind Hazel’s ear. “You bring me the best secrets.” Hazel’s smile returned, and that’s what it was all about. Keeping her happy. In no other universe would Kate be caught dead as a blonde, except in the one where Hazel asked her to be Elsa for a day. Perhaps she should have glued these stupid things on, though. Her fingers were getting sore from the repeated stabbings. “Why don’t you go out with someone, Mum?” The question was so innocent. So simple at face value, and so complex beneath that. Kate wasn’t an idiot, she knew that Hazel could see her sadness. Had grown up with it. With Alan practically dancing every step he took these days, having someone to “go out with” looked like a very easy solution. “Because I’m married to your Dad, you know that.” “Well, yeah…” Hazel shrugged. “Kind of. But he’s not really there, is he?” “Hazel, please…” Kate frowned, putting the sewing down as she watched her daughter. “Cam says it’s like with his Mum. Still married to his Dad, but not really there in the family anymore. He said Tavi doesn’t even know what she’s like, but… it’s okay. Cause they have Miss Audrey, and Miss Audrey is a good mum to them.” Kate looked away. Bloody Burdetts. Always saying things. Hazel had been too young to remember Matt before the accident, and every day it became more and more certain that she never would know. For all the most wonderful friends and family they had, Hazel was still missing her father. “Well, who do you think I should… go out… with?” Kate decided to humor the conversation. Hazel perked up, swinging her legs against her chair. “Oh! What about Uncle Stuart? Then I could be Jezebel’s sister, and that would be so cool! Could you imagine, Mum? And you would be like the first lady of wizarding Australia!” Hazel wiggled her head from side to side as she thought. “OH! What. About. Phil? No---he’s too grumpy. Or…” “Haze…” Kate laughed, and shook her head. “Mr Izem!” Hazel declared. “Your… teacher?” Kate’s eyebrow rose as her daughter nodded enthusiastically in reply. “He’s really nice and really smart, and he didn’t even hate you when you decided he was homeless and called him Bozo,” Hazel said pointedly. She’d heard the story. Like most kids her age, who enjoyed school, Hazel hero-worshipped her teacher. It wouldn’t be weird if he became part of the family, no. It would be awesome! “Please Mum?” Hazel asked, her eyes wide and pleading. “Please please please? It would be so fun! And then you could even move to Narrie too, and Mr Izem could teach me all the things we don’t get time for in class and please Mum?” Kate laughed. “I’ll think about it, sweetheart,” she promised. It was an empty promise, she knew that. But Hazel was so caught up in the idea it was hard to let her down. “You better go get changed before you get your uniform dirtier than it is.” “Okay Mum!” Hazel jumped back from the counter and onto the floor. With a wide and happy grin, she sprinted upstairs, leaving Kate to continue sewing and wonder what on earth just happened.