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Rearview Mirror Saints

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The Waterhole is an entirely different beast to Charlie’s, and the Scarlet Bar before it. Both had been trendy enough in their day, but Steph had modelled Charlie’s off the sort of place she liked to drink at. Not skeevy, per se, but far more in line with the dive bars Elle and Cameron would sneak into as teenagers to drink and play pool. These days, the Lassiters owned bar is bright, modern and exactly the sort of place a businessman would stop to get a drink with his colleagues or before that four pm meeting.

It’s muscle memory that guided her there, her subconscious mind looking for Rebecca. Not like there are that many places one can go in Erinsborough, it’s much more like a small self-contained town than a suburb in that way. Being back in all the old places brings out all the old habits, and all the old wants. A mother figure is one of them. It’s not that Elle doesn’t love her mother, of course, she does but she’s not here. She’s never here when she’s needed, and should just be avoided altogether when the problem at hand was related to Cam and Rob. Rebecca does not live here anymore. Dad had driven her away just like Lyn before her and whatever he’d done must have been heinous. It had to have been. Rebecca had loved him.  

The faux marble was cold and smooth under her hands as she placed them palm down on the facade. The bar was empty, but a few other patrons were scattered around, some she knew but most she didn’t. Her sister in law Chloe is engaged with her laptop computer, long almond-shaped nails clicking loudly on the keys. Her hair, long and brown, is tied back from her face in the middle of her head and falling in gentle waves, her makeup is natural. An otherwise business casual look is interrupted by two enormous ruffles on the shoulders of her white shirt, making her look like either a pirate or a child playing pretend. Toadie is leaning on the bar, potentially the same bar they met at, studying his phone. Close cropped black hair, business shirt with vest but no blazer indicating a laid back approach to his career, one that will attract the suburban crowd that he usually represents, lips pulled back into a customary smile. He’s probably waiting on a takeaway lunch, probably to eat at the office so he can be home in time to see his children. He is probably texting Steph. 

She’d met Riley here, a long time ago. They both got drunk on gin and told each other about their family issues. His inability to connect, her fear of being pushed aside. The charming, long-haired surfer who took himself far too seriously. Actually, that’d be what he’d tell her now, she can practically hear it. He’d be right, of course. There was no need to snap at Harlow like that and the fact that she had was just proof of how tightly wound Robert made her. She’d never spoken about him in great length to anyone since his trial. Not even Mum, Dad and Aunty Lucy. Not even Riley. She can’t quite pick which emotion it is that makes her like that. Could be fear or anger but she doesn’t think it’s either. She’s not scared of him, he’s too pathetic to warrant her fear. But the anger hadn’t been at Robert, it’s been at Harlow for bringing up Cam. For not the first time, she wished there was a book. ‘So: Your triplet snapped, tried to kill you, your dad and your brother before also threatening your mother, kidnapping your friend and had to be lured out by a fake wedding. Here’s how to turn your complex, messy emotions into something palatable.’ 

Maybe she’d pitch it to Dad, who knows. Olivia Bell made a damn killing with her averagely written but unethically produced novel. Who’s to say she shouldn’t turn her trauma into something she can make money off of? 

“You look like you could use a drink and a chat.” Elle looked up to find herself face to face with Roxy Willis. Short, blonde and enthusiastic about life...If a little stupid. It was clear why Dad and Leo had developed a soft spot for her, she was strikingly similar to Donna. In their brief interactions, she came across as someone who never pretended to be anything other than who she was and that was something Elle could respect. She was also an active participant in the local gossip mill, so she’ll have to watch what she says. 

“We might be step-cousins, but I’m positive you have better things to do than listen to a thirty-something mope about family drama.” At the word drama, Roxy’s eyes lit up. 

“I’m a bartender.” She said, matter of factly, “Listening to mopey thirty-somethings part of the job description. “

“Really.” 

“It’s not out of the goodness of my heart.” She produces a glass from under the counter, “They stay longer and order more drinks. I’ll pour you a white wine and we can trade war stories about Paulie.” 

“Paulie? Do you call him that to his face?” Elle asks a barely disguised laugh sneaking into her tone as she speaks. She can’t imagine anyone referring to her Dad as Paulie. Well, maybe Izzy but that was a very long time ago now.

“Of course I do, he loves it.” 

“Oh, I’m sure he does.” 

“So?” 

“So what?” 

“A drink and a chat.”

“I had to give up the drink.” 

“Lemon-Lime Bitters it is!” Roxy announced, putting the wine glass back and pulling out a schooner instead. She drops lemon and lime slices into the glass before attacking them with some kind of tamp. “What happened?” 

“I got myself into an argument with Harlow.” 

“That’s not exactly difficult,” Roxy assured her, 

“It was me being irrational, I’m afraid. I was taking myself...Way too seriously.” 

“What’re you fighting about?” Roxy asked, spraying lemonade from the little gun-like device behind the bar. 

“Has Dad ever told you about my brother Cameron?” She asked, already knowing the answer. 

“No. He doesn’t talk much about his other kids, we had to find out about Harlow’s dad through David... His twin brother, right?” It’s exhausting to think that this will be Cam’s legacy. Robert Robinson’s twin brother. Not his art, not the music he liked or the way he laughed. Not his terrible jokes, or the way he was charming and adoring. Just...Rob’s brother. 

“And my triplet.” She said, instead of voicing it. 

“Were you close?” 

“We were. I loved him very much.” Understatement of the year. 

“He…” She pauses, trying to find a polite way to say dead. She needn’t, Elle knows that he is and doesn’t want or need it sugar-coated. “Passed away. I know that much.” 

“Yes, when we were nineteen.” 

“What happened?” Elle delayed answering by taking a long sip of her drink and swishing it around her mouth. How do you explain to someone who wasn’t there the series of events that led to Cameron’s death? Do you start with him being hit by Max? Is that enough?  Do you begin with the scheme she and Dad had pulling where they were pretending she was terminally ill that led him to storming out of the house that afternoon, swearing to never speak to them again? How about with Robert kidnapping Katya, or his choice to hide in the courtyard to upset the guards or when he sent her a troubling letter in the mail that led to her and Max being on high alert that afternoon? Do you go back even further and start at whatever moment in their childhood where she’d decided she liked Cam more than Rob? Back to the start, when Mum and Dad signed up for the IVF program? 

“It was an accident.” Says Toadie, who is now facing them. He’s challenging her to disagree and while she doesn’t know why Toadie would have even the faintest interest in defending Max these days...He’s right. It was just an accident, a tragic accident. 

“He was struck by a car.” 

“That’s terrible.”  

“I flew off the handle when she told me what she thought he’d want for me.” 

“That doesn’t sound like you.” Toadie said, “You always struck me as the quietly plotting people’s downfall type.” 

“The worst part of doing something irrational is when you calm down and realize you were being irrational.” She admitted, leaning her elbow on the tabletop and then her chin on her hand. “Dad went the full Lucinda.” 

“The what?” 

“My full first name, Lucinda. He’s never done that before.” 

“How do you get Elle from Lucinda?” Roxy asked, curious. 

“Which letter does Lucinda start with?” 

“Oh.”

“Cam picked it out for me. Before I was Elle I was LucyTwo.” Roxy grabbed Toadie’s lunch and passed it to him. 

“Enjoy.” 

“I will. Enjoy the mopey thirty-something.” 

“I’m still here.” Said Elle, in objection. 

“We’ll be right. We’re buddies, me and Elle.” Roxy sounds genuine, and Elle wouldn’t mind if she was. One thing she’d always lacked was female friends. She always had Cameron, and Dad later on but you can’t exactly chat girl problems with your dad and you can’t ask your brother for a tampon. Steph had done her damndest to be a stepsister to her, and Elle had been too depressed to accept her. Rosie had been Dad’s conquest. Pepper was too bubble-headed, Lyn and Miranda too old, Izzy too volatile, Susan too moral and Libby too Lucas’s ex-girlfriend. There was Rebecca, but she’s gone now.

Toadie laughs to himself and heads towards the back door that leads out the back towards Lassiters. She isn’t sure yet if she’s offended by the suggestion that she can’t be friends with Roxy or in agreement with him that she doesn’t have a lot of luck in the friendship department. 

“So..” Roxy leant on her elbows, studying Elle. She’s wearing a shimmery pink lip gloss, it catches the light when she gets close. “What are you going to do about it?” 

“I’m not sure. Can’t hop on the next flight to New York, I left my laptop in the living room.” 

“So you have to talk to them.” 

“I’m allergic to talking to people about my feelings.” She scowled, grabbing a paper straw from the holder on the bar and opening it. 

“If you want that laptop back then you’re going to have to take an antihistamine and get on with it.” 

“I didn’t come here to get into trouble, but that’s all I ever seem to do.” 

“Robinson’s attract trouble like a magnet,” Roxy said, meaningfully. “At least, your dad and Harlow do.” 

“That’s one way of saying we’re not very popular around here.” 

“I didn’t mean it like that. Just that...Bad things happen. But they happen to your family more than others.” 

“Not just us, but those who associate with us too.” Elle sat back in her chair and tore a long shred from the paper packaging of the straw that was now sitting discarded on the countertop. “We’re cursed.” 

“If you’re so cursed then why come back?” 

“Ever since I was a little girl, the only thing I’ve ever wanted is to be where my Dad is. That hasn’t changed, as pathetic as that makes me.” 

“Ah. See, there’s your problem with Aunty T because that’s what she wants too.” 

“To be where my Dad is.” 

“They’re practically attached at the pinkie toe.” She says and produces a water bottle from under the bar. She uses her teeth to pop the top and take a sip. “You being here and monopolizing Paul’s time is the most they’ve been apart since they got married.” 

“I do not monopolize his time.” 

“How long have you been back?” 

“A week and three days.” 

“How many of those days have you had lunch with your dad?” 

“Nine.” 

“How many of those nights did you have dinner with him?” 

“Ten.” 

“And how many -” 

“I get it. I’m needy.” 

“Robinson!”  Toadie re-entered the bar, a smile best described as ‘mischievous’ plastered over his face. It was a good thing that someone was feeling upbeat because Elle was beginning to deflate from the inside out as she spilled her guts to Roxy over the bar. She had a strong suspicion that his upbeatness was directly linked to her being miserable, if not the cause. 

“Oh, God.” She said punctuating it with a sip of the drink. 

“You going to tell Lucas you’re back in town by the way?” 

“I’m sure he’s got a clue.” 

“Are you going to catch up with him?” 

“Wasn’t planning on it.” 

“Why not? I’m sure he’d be rapt.” He says, voice lingering on the last word, pronouncing it with enunciation on the last two letters like a drumstick on a cymbal. 

“As much as meeting up with Lucas would be…..” Like pulling teeth? “Fun, he’s married with three kids. I’m sure he’s got much more important things to do than visit his ex-girlfriend. Besides, I’m pretty sure said wife has had more than enough ex-girlfriends coming into her life.” 

“I’m going to forgive that dig at Steph only because you’re looking so utterly pathetic right now,” Toadie warned, but his tone didn’t change. It’s like being threatened by a golden retriever. As the local lawyer, and someone who can and has shown how dangerous Robert is, he’s someone she does want to keep on side, so Elle figures it’s best to drop this one. “Beer and football at my place.”

“Doesn’t like half your extended family live with you?” 

“They’re out.” 

He leans in close, one arm around her shoulders and the other in front of him as if he were displaying his idea for her to see. “Beer and football at my place. Some snacks, too. I invite Lucas, and then boom! Power goes out at your place, so you come over to see if I -your hero- can flip the fuses for you -” 

“Why wouldn’t I just get Ned to do it?” 

“Ned’s out with Yashvi.” 

“Okay, why don’t I get Dad to do it?” 

“He’s out with Terese.” 

“Why don’t I just do it myself?” Toadie fixed her with a look that says ‘Really, Princess?’ She rolled her eyes and then said - “Okay, Mister Hero, you go to flip my fuses.” 

“So I go to flip your fuses, and I send Lucas to get you a towel from the bathroom -” 

“Why do I need a towel?” 

“Because you’re soaking wet.” 

“Why am I soaking wet in your fantasy story?” 

“Because it’s raining.” 

“So, on a rainy night, I go to your house in the night because I need someone to flip the fuses. Lucas is there, having a beer and watching football with you and you go to twenty-two to fix my power while Lucas gets me a towel.” 

“So you are paying attention!” Elle reached into her breast pocket and grabbed her cell phone and held it to her ear 

“Hello? Triple zero? Hi. I’m at the Waterhole at the Lassiters complex, there’s a deranged man here threatening my life.” As she removed the phone from her ear, the screen lit up, showing three missed calls from Andrew. Upon leaving the house Elle had put her phone into Do Not Disturb mode, and there were only three people who can get through. Donna, Andrew and Riley. 

“Why’ve you got three missed calls from your brother?” Toadie asked, sounding curious. 

“Why is he in your phone under his full name?” Roxy followed on, eyes downcast at Elle’s screen where ‘Andrew Robinson’ is displayed. 

“It’s not his full name.” She replied, “His middle name is Benito.” 

“No nickname?” 

“His name is Andrew. I call him Andrew.” 

“Are you going to call him back?” Toadie asked, as Elle reflexively cleared the screen so she could see the image used for her lock screen. 

“Probably not - Dad’s called him to call me no doubt. It’s like 3 am in Berlin. He probably got the call from Dad, called me a couple of times and then turned his phone off.” 

“Is that Cameron?” Roxy asked, her eyes fixed on Elle’s phone screen. Toadie turned his head down to look as well. It was a picture of her, Dad and Cam, one of the very few she had. She’s in the middle, naturally, both hands one atop the other under her chin while she looks up with an open-mouthed smile. On one side, Dad is pressing a kiss to her cheek. On the other, Cam is doing the same thing, but more of his white shirt with blue flowers is visible since he’s the one holding the camera in front of them. 

“Yeah, that’s him.” 

“Cute picture.” She says, “He doesn’t really look like Harlow’s dad.” 

“It’s the fringe. Cam always liked to have a fringe, Rob told him he had a big forehead once, and of course, he took it to heart, didn’t he? RobRob always had short hair.” 

“Think about my Lucas offer.” Toadie says, changing the subject, “You can hang out with him and it won’t be weird.” 

“You don’t have somewhere else to be? A client to harass maybe?” 

“None that are as fun as you.” He assured her before standing. “But you’re right, I should get back to work, hoping to knock off early tonight. A big Friday out on the town.” 

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” She grumbled, as Toadie stepped away, and headed out the back door. Hopefully for real this time. Leaning onto the bar, she placed her forehead against her arms as her phone began to vibrate loudly near her. 

“Are you going to answer that?” 

“No, but I would like another lemon lime bitters.” 

“Coming right up,” Roxy said, as she grabbed Elle’s phone off the counter and declined the call. “Sorry Donna - Elle’s too busy mopping to take your call. Aside from this fight, are you having fun being back home?” 

“Fun? No. Not really. I mean, I’m not exactly Janae Timmins. People aren’t rushing into the street to greet me.” 

“Who?” 

“Never mind.” Elle let out a long breath against the countertop.  Roxy placed the drink down in front of her and cleared the shredded straw paper off the counter with her hand. 

“Paul would be ecstatic to have you back. Every time something you write comes out he starts telling everyone who’ll listen how amazing his daughter is. As far as David I can’t help you but...Well...You did try and break up Aunty T’s wedding.” 

“I did not,” Elle said, sitting back up to narrow her eyes at Roxy who held her hands up in a surrender pose. 

“Call it what you want, but your actions affected her wedding. She thinks you hate her.” 

“Why would...I don’t hate her. She deserved to know the truth about Dad and he wasn’t going to tell her and she wasn’t interested in hearing it from me seeing as I didn’t even get a courtesy call of ‘Hi there, I’m marrying your dad’. I found out they were engaged over Facebook! So someone had to tell her. Might as well be the horse's mouth. If anything, I did what I did out of respect for her. If it had anything at all to do with her.” 

“Does she know that?” 

“What?” 

“Does she know you don’t hate her and want her to break up with your dad?” 

“Well, I would assume so seeing that I’ve been hanging around her house like a bad smell.” 

“Yeah. To compete for Paul’s attention. You should try just being honest with her. Drop the Elle Robinson American Journalist act, and just be with her like how you’re being with me.” 

“How am I being with you?” Roxy shrugged her shoulders and picked up a lemon wedge and stuck it on her tongue. When they were kids, Mum would take the three of them, Ian and Step Devil to the local RSL every week on Saturday night. When they were twelve, she let them order ‘grown up’ drinks. Read: Lemon Lime Bitters.  Robert would collect everyone’s lemon slices and suck on them, trying to pick the little cells of juice to pop like boba.

 “Normal.”  

“I think I need to go clear my head.” This was Izzy all over again - except this time it was all her own fault. And since Dad was apparently in remission from evil she was quite sure putting antidepressants in his new wife’s food would end up with a lot more than a stern scolding. Was this a sign he loved Terese more than Izzy? Maybe. She struggled to imagine anyone more suited to Dad than Izzy. Getting Terse out of the way wasn’t an option, so she’d have to go the long way.

“You haven’t finished your drink.” 

 “Here.” She put a twenty down on the counter, “Does this cover it?” 

“I guess.” 

“Can I leave my shoes here?” 

“Here?” 

“In the backroom, or something. They’re not great for walking in, and they cost me like three hundred dollars.” 

“I guess so.” Roxy blinked, as Elle handed her a pair of black low heeled sandals. She put them under the bar on the floor as she swallowed the last of her drink. 

“Thanks for the chat. I see why Dad’s got a soft spot for you.” 

“Um. Thanks?” 

Exiting through the big door she had only one goal. To get as far away as she could from anything that Dad owned.