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Rearview Mirror Saints

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“So. Would you like to know the answer to your question?” 

Harlow, who was seated on the couch facing the television glanced up at Elle with pulled together brows. On her lap was a Penguin Classic novel, though which one it is Elle isn’t sure. She’s taken a place next to the fireplace that separated the kitchen from the living space in order to keep a safe gap between them. After an unpleasant night spent on the couch, she’d woken up just about as sandy and annoyed as when she fell asleep. But, a hot shower and hot coffee had perked her up enough that having to borrow clothes from Dad didn’t bother her half as much as it should. Maybe she could even make an outfit out of a shirt-dress. Those were back in again or so she’d been told. 

As Harlow processed her question Elle made a few judgements about her, locking the thoughts away for later use. She was exceptionally British - not just in her accent but in her slightly better than you pose and the way she carried herself. Her clothing choices were...Not what Elle might have expected but she was never untidy. Her hair was a very fashionable shade of blonde. When she smiled, she had a set of sweet dimples and she smiled a lot. She did not look like Rob - Or Cam by extension. So, her looks must come from her mother. 

“What question?” She asked, frowning. 

“The one you asked me yesterday before I bit your head off. About what Cam would want for me.” 

“I suppose.” She said, sliding her bookmark - of course she had a bookmark - into the novel. “Why?” 

“I don’t want you to think that you can never ask me about him. That if you say his name I’ll turn around and snap at you because that isn’t the case. I want to share Cam with you, he’s your family too. I was just caught off guard yesterday.”

“Okay.” Harlow accepted, “I’d like to hear what Cam would want for you and Dad.” 

“I know what Nineteen-year-old Cam, fresh out of jail and a coma would want. He’d want me to cut him out and keep him out.” Elle let out a small sigh and lay her head against the shelf on the side of the fireplace.  “We promised each other that we’d never have anything to do with him because we hated him.” Harlow looked away, her face sad. She’s probably heard something like this from Dad, the conversation is not going to get anywhere so Elle busts out her second paragraph. “But as for thirty-six-year-old Cam? I can’t say. I’ve thought about it a lot, over the years. You aren’t the only person who thinks I’d benefit from a relationship of some kind with Rob. Mum and a lot of my therapists think that I should reach out properly. I mean. I’m a triplet, right? I’m meant to have two brothers.” 

“What do you think thirty-six-year-old Cameron would want?” 

“Oh, I think he’d want me to do whatever is best for me. Whatever that might be. He was pretty forgiving, and he wanted Rob to love him so who knows. Might have even approached Rob himself. I’m sorry, Harlow. I’m the adult and you’re the teenager. I should have been able to talk to you in a reasonable, respectful way.” 

“Thank you for the apology,” Harlow says, sliding a bookmark into her book, and then placing it on the table. “But I don’t think that’s the only reason you’re here.” 

“No, it’s not.” Elle admitted, “Dad wants me to tell you about Rob and Cam..” 

“He thinks I have unanswered questions.”

“You know when I first arrived in Erinsborough...Oh, about fifteen years ago now basically the first thing anyone said to me was that Paul Robinson was Satan. They didn’t know he was my dad, but that was their honest opinion of him. So, I do know what it’s like. To turn up somewhere and find that no one likes someone that you love. I’m sure Rob has said some...Things about Cam and myself, and I probably haven’t done much to seem approachable in your eyes but having a relationship with my father is a lot of hard work, and loving him is a thankless job but to me, it’s worth it. I dare say you feel something similar for my brother. I don’t want to imply that there’s something that I know about your father you can’t figure out for yourself but if you do have  any questions for me, I will answer them as honestly as possible and never with the intention of convincing you to end your relationship with him.” 

“Which is what Grandad thinks that you’ll do?” 

“No, I think he just wants me to do it because he can’t. I’m covering my bases in case Rob asks.” 

“Fair enough.” Harlow conceded. “You were right, though. Dad has said some...Hm. Some things about you. And Cameron, but mostly you. I figure that I’ve got his side, so if I get yours then the truth will probably be somewhere in the middle.” 

“You’re a very reasonable young woman, has anyone ever told you that?” 

“Just about everyone I’ve met on your side of the family.” 

“That’s ‘cause you didn’t get it from us.” 

“So, I guess I’ll start with...What was Cameron like?” Harlow has changed the subject away from her own family. Interesting, but fine with Elle. She didn’t want to accidentally get into another fight by saying something about her deceased mother. 

“Charming. He could dial the old Robinson charm up to a hundred to get just about anything from anyone. He liked the ladies, and dad rock. His favourite song was Talking in Your Sleep by the Romantics. He had good morals. He took everything to heart. He loved me, and he loved Mum and Dad. He was an artist, he loved to draw. His muse was usually old buildings, he couldn’t get enough of them. He was good at maths, but he didn’t have the introspection needed for English.” She stopped and sighed deeply. This wasn’t helping Harlow understand Cam, this was just a list of facts about him. Time for a new approach.  “Oh, here’s a good story. Okay, so did Dad tell you what Cameron did for a living?” 

“No, he’s hardly told me anything.” 

“He wanted to be an architect. He always believed that architecture was the perfect blend of art and maths. Whenever we went anywhere he used to drag me to look at old buildings and you could just see him dismantling them with his eyes. He had this thing with angles. You know how some people have perfect pitch? Well, Cameron had this weird skill where he could look at any angle and figure out what it was just with his eyes.” 

“That’s impressive,” Harlow said, sounding a little surprised. 

“Yeah, it’s what made him such a great pool player. Taught me everything I know. Byron Bay North Club Champion 2001. He could have gone pro with pool, I think. Because of the angle thing. But instead, he wanted to be an architect.” 

“2001? You would have only been like…”

“Fifteen? Yep. Probably around the time you were being conceived.” 

“Gross.” 

“We were a couple of ratbags. From when we were fourteen we were sneaking out and making our way to parties and by fifteen we were finding our way into sketchy bars. Cameron would impress with his pool skills and I’d have the money from whatever cheque Dad had sent for our birthday.” Indeed, Elle’s teenage years had been thoroughly booze-soaked. She could still remember walking home with Cam, since they were too young to drive, and him dancing under the streetlights for her in the purple orange morning sky. The smell of cheap beer, cigarette smoke and the perfume of his latest conquest that clung to his clothes when he lay a heavy arm over her bare shoulders. The sound of his laughter startling the birds from the trees of their sleepy little street, and the way he hitched his jeans up with his other arm. 

“Did dad ever come?” Elle is broken from her recollection by Harlow reminding her of the blight in her otherwise fun, carefree teenage years. 

“Sometimes, but he didn’t like pool and he didn’t like me hanging around the bar trying to get older guys. Or girls, if the right one came along. He didn’t like drinking either, he’d get the worst hangovers and trying to cover them up from Mum was difficult because Robert was just about always at her side.” 

“So like you and Grandad?” 

“I’m not always at his side.” She said, rolling her eyes. 

“Since you’ve been here you’ve had a total monopoly on Grandad’s time.” 

“It’s not like I’m forcing him to spend time with me, but I’ve got time to spare, and he’s not as busy as he used to be since Lucy hired Terese. “ 

“Well, I wouldn’t know.”

“No, I guess you wouldn’t.” 

“Were there...Hm. Dad said Cameron hated him.” 

“When we were twelve, Mum started letting us catch the bus home instead of to the nursery. Robert was always a quick walker, and he’d arrive before us. Mostly because Cam and I were too busy dragging our feet and chatting. Our door entered onto a hallway, and along that wall, Mum had all of our family photos. Cam’s angle thing meant that all the pictures had to be at a ninety-degree angle, and when Rob got home he’d put his hand on the wall and walk, making sure he knocked every picture askew.” 

“Why?” 

“Because Cam would have a conniption fit about it.”  

“So...He wanted to upset him.” 

“Oh, yeah.” 

“Did they fight a lot?” 

“I’m not sure what the usual amount of fighting for siblings is. Cam wasn’t much of a fighter. If he had a problem then he’d write about it in his journals. I was the one who had to do the most standing up to RobRob.” 

“You were more assertive?” 

“I was mean.” 

“Mean?”

“Rude, unkind. Call it what you want. I could give as good as I got, Cam couldn’t. Or rather, wouldn’t.” 

“So he was kind.” 

“Wouldn’t say that. When we were thirteen or so, after years of putting up with Rob’s daily torment of name-calling, him breaking our stuff and snitching to Mum for things we didn’t do...He snapped. I thought he was going to try and kill him. But he didn’t. Just gave him the twenty-minute dressing down of a lifetime. But when it came to people other than Rob, yes. He was… A bit like you.” 

“You wouldn’t say that if you knew me.” Harlow said, with a shrug, “People have said Dad was odd. What does that mean?” 

“It means...That he was weird. I don’t know what to tell you. I had a fish tank in the bedroom I shared with Cam, and he used to fish the tetra’s out with the little net you use for cleaning and watch them try to breathe just to see what would happen. He shaved our cat, Molly and I still don’t know why. He always insisted on long pants, even in summer when he was sweltering, and he let our mother pick his haircut his whole life. He drowned the bear Dad sent me for my tenth birthday and I never slept in the same room as him again. Cameron and I used to keep a diary of all the strange things he would do we called ‘The Freak Files’, I can dig it out for you if you like. And promise not to judge me too harshly.” 

“I’d like that.” 

“Great, I think I left it in my hotel room, so I’ll get it for you next time I see you.” 

“Do you have good memories with him? Or are they all bad?” It’s a valid question. So much of her memories of Rob are tinted with bad it’s easy to forget that she had loved him. Why she had loved him. 

“Sure, there’s good memories. Rob saved up every penny he made from our crappy part-time jobs, and Dad’s birthday cheques for years so he could buy this old bomb of a car. I’m sure that Lucas would have taken one look and had a heart attack, but he was so proud of it. He’d clean it every weekend, and try to fix it himself. I don’t know if he ever did or if he was just making it worse. We used to spend hours just driving around, windows cracked, the three of us screaming Cold Chisel and Queen at the top of our lungs. I tell you what, Barnsey never sounded better than when he was coming through Rob’s broken, staticky speakers.” She paused and then added a second anecdote -  “I used to be a cheerleader until I got dropped in my finals and broke my leg in two places. He broke our video camera he was using to film the performance because he threw it away so he could run to me faster and ream Cam out for dropping me. He held my hand the whole trip to the hospital while I was crying and tried to assure me, in his own way, that my career wasn’t over before it even began.” The strange tenderness of the moment, perhaps the only tenderness Rob had ever shown her, was an oft revisited memory. 

 Harlow’s smile is small and damp, but she looks relieved to hear that Rob was not all bad all the time. And that was the problem wasn’t it? He hadn’t been all bad all the time. If he had been then there was no way he would have been able to start pulling off his ridiculous final revenge against Dad because he’d have been sectioned or something. Maybe given the appropriate help earlier, he’d have been okay.

‘You’re doing the same face Grandad makes when I talk about Dad.” 

“What face?” She asked, putting a hand up to tap her cheeks and lips. 

“A scrunched up smile. Like you’re in pain.” 

“I am in pain. But good pain, like the moment you realize you’re through the worst of a cramp.” 

“Oh. That’s different.”

“He is my brother. Despite what he’s done.” 

“Tell me about your crappy part-time jobs.” Elle sighed and leaned the side of her head against the shelf on the side of the fireplace. Terese has a lot of vases decorating her furniture, it was hard to believe that this was the house she used to call home. With the giant vases, and Dad’s meerkat dogs. There wasn’t even one, weird tacky wall art. It feels clean and bright. Modern.

“Well, when we were sixteen Mum decided that we should learn the value of hard work so she called in a favour and got us jobs at the local mob front.” 

“Excuse me?” 

“You know the kinds of corner stores. You go in, but everything is empty, and the milk is almost expired and the person behind the counter is shocked to see you there because no one comes in?” 

“No, we don’t have those in London...And there’s no way Gail has mob ties.” Interesting that Harlow calls Dad by a title and Mum by her name. Elle has never done that to either of them, no matter how angry she was. Is. Though there have been times when she wished Mum was less...Mumsy. And more times when she wishes that she would put her above her dear golden child.  Mostly she just feels bad for being judgemental - Mum had been a first-time mother raising triplets on a strict budget with Step Devil, who mostly slept and was annoying. And Dad was right, she had done a good job with her and Cam. Maybe she should put the word in with Harlow to go see Mum?

“Don’t let those big warm eyes fool you. Mum’s a stone-cold operator - She’s half the reason Dad has what he has now. People forget her accomplishments because she’s Robert Robinson’s Mum, but she’s a woman who puts it up with the best of them.” 

“I didn’t mean to insult her, I’m just saying. She seemed...Um. Well, she was in bed with you over the wedding thing.” 

“Like I said. Stone cold operator. I didn’t get it all from Daddy, you know. Anyway. Rob and Cam were hired as shelf stackers, and I was hired to be a check out chick. But when Cam realized that he was not going to get any girls stacking jars of prunes he asked me to swap and I said sure. Rob and I had a sweet deal - We’d show up at six, work together to stack the new perishables then steal chocolates and hang around the parking lot until closing time.” 

“What did Dad take?” 

“Violet Crumbles.” 

“And you?” 

“Usually a block of dark chocolate, the darker the better.” 

“There’s something wrong with you,” Harlow said, pulling a face. 

“Therapists have been trying to figure it out for years.” She agreed, “After we finished pigging out, I’d sit in one of the trolleys and Rob would push us as fast as he could across the empty parking lot, before jumping up onto the bottom bar and we’d just skate. I was only a little dainty thing. We’d do that for hours, rain or shine.” 

“Sounds like fun.” 

“Yeah. We had good times. Which is the problem - if we had no good times then hating him would be the easy option.” 

“I thought I’d hate you,” Harlow admitted she's studying Elle with a set of intense eyes that are remarkably like Robert. 

“I thought you would too, once Rob got in your ear about his abusive, miserable childhood.” 

“It wasn’t him - It was the court documents. Dad’s not your biggest fan, but he does care about you.” 

“Oh, those. Yes, those have been causing me trouble since the whole charade began. The defence gave it a red hot go.” 

“That’s one way of saying that you were raked across the coals.” Looking back on those days were some of the worst of her life. Sitting sandwiched between Dad and Susan Kennedy while Robert described how she and Cameron had ruined his life until he felt he had no way left to fight back except to lash out. Mum starring at the back of Robert’s head like she could figure out why he did what he did. The cracking of Dad’s voice as he told her to be brave as they left court to fight their way through the hoard of reporters. Robert staring her down from the bench, his eyes cold and impenetrable. 

“It was a miserable time, having your every mistake dragged out for public consumption. Rebechi has always said that it’s the defence’s job to make it personal. I don’t think it was just that, I think Rob just wanted me to suffer.” 

“They had to try.” 

“He could have pled guilty, saved us all the pain.” 

“He’s sick, not evil.” 

“Funny, that’s what his groupies tell me when they email my work address.” 

“He’s got groupies?” 

“And he’s a regular story in many true crime shows and podcasts. Some of them even bother to ask me for an interview.” 

“You’ve never given one. I’d have seen it.” 

“It’s bad for my interview karma.” She admitted, “But the court documents are mostly true. I wasn’t terribly kind to Rob as a child, but he was never kind to me either. I wish I could go back and make a point of that. I was a scared, traumatized, grieving nineteen year old - I should never have been put on the stand to begin with. “ 

“What’s not true?” 

“Hm?” 

“In the documents. What’s not true?” 

“Pretty much everything Rob had to say about Cam. He wasn’t violent, and he wasn’t a ringleader of any bullying campaigns. He was just a kid with a weird brother he didn’t know how to deal with. That’s all.” 

“He was trying to get into a psychiatric facility, which for the record is where I think he should be.” 

“See, that’s the thing though, isn’t it? I know Cam’s death was an accident, and no one set out that day with the intention of killing him. Not me and Dad, not Katya, not Rob and not Max. It was just an accident, and I can...Forgive an accident. But nothing Rob did was by accident. He didn’t accidentally build a bomb and blow us out of the sky. It’s no accident he put Cam in a coma.  Didn’t accidentally gas Izzy, didn’t accidentally kidnap Katya or take a shot at Dad, or leave him to die in a mine shaft. Didn’t accidentally try to kill me. He did all of that on purpose, he made a choice and then followed through. I know I throw the word psycho around pretty liberally when it comes to Rob but if he’d truly been having some kind of episode where he was no longer in control of his actions or suddenly unaware of right or wrong I could have a lot more empathy for him...But it was premeditated. All of it. He told me he loved me, kissed my forehead and all the while he was planning how I was going to die. He covered up what he did because he knew it was wrong. Rob is mentally ill, for sure, but not in any way where he can be medicated and then sent on his merry way. He’s just Rob, and Cam paid the price.” 

Harlow’s expression is no less intense as she studies Elle’s face. She’s traded in the awful fuschia dress for something Donna would probably call an exercise in beige, the only spot of colour coming from her red sweater vest looking thing. 

“You really loved Cameron. More than anyone.” 

“Yes.” 

“How on Earth did Dad trick you?”  And that was the million-dollar question, wasn’t it? To this day, Elle would insist that she knew Cam better than anyone, and he knew her better than she knew herself so how could someone fake that? Especially someone like Rob, who’d done a poor job of it. It’s a question she’d meditated on for years, discussed with therapists and barmen alike. Everyone must have wondered it. And they must have all thought she was an idiot. Maybe she was. 

“He didn’t. Not really. I saw the red flags from the moment he rolled up, the way he spoke - He was articulate. Cameron’s accent was clumsy like his words were tripping over each other inside his mouth. He didn’t remember our inside jokes or what we used to do for fun. He didn’t want to play pool. But I was miserable here. Dad was having a paranoid breakdown, the house was filled with cameras and he was obsessed with viewing them. Someone had just tried to kill him in our home - Someone who wasn’t Robert by the way. He wasn’t the father I’d been expecting in fact he was terrible at fatherhood. Izzy had just slept with my boyfriend, and he left me standing by the curb. I’d survived a plane crash over the Bass Strait where I broke my arm and almost died. I missed my Mum, I missed Tasmania. I wanted...I needed Cam. Subconsciously I knew it was Robert, but I just wanted it to be Cam so bad that I let him lie to me. I let him lie to me. When Dad saw him, on some instinctive paternal level, he knew it was Rob. But I convinced him it was Cam. So what he did to Izzy, Charlie and Katya...That’s on me. And what he ended up doing to Dad, I guess that’s on me too.” 

“No, Elle, what Dad did to those people, that wasn’t your fault. It was just...He was sick.” 

“I ‘spose that’s always going to be the difference between you and me,” Elle said, turning from her side to her back, now facing off against Terese’s large shelf with photos and vases and the like on it. She reached her arms in front of her chest to cross them, her eyes fixing on the middle distance as she tried to picture Serena’s face. “You don’t know the people Rob hurt. I do. Did. I’m not religious by any means but I pray that you never, ever have to go through anything even remotely close to what Rob did to me. I hope you are never on a plane that crashes. I hope your father never holds you to his chest and tells you he loves you in case he never sees you again. I hope that you never spend twelve hours in the ocean, hypothermic with a dislocated arm. If I have my way then you’ll never know the heat of a car bomb on your back, the smell of burning wool as shrapnel catches you through your shirt. Attending the fake wedding of your parents, knowing Katya is out there, somewhere, and he’s doing God only knows to her. I can only imagine what Cam went through, waking up in a weird place, with his brother about to kill him, trying to find help with his Dad and then being sent to prison for things he didn’t even know had happened...His triplet sister turning on him - I - Sorry.” Elle said, realizing she was choked up. 

“It’s...It’s fine,” Harlow said, softly. 

“You are Rob’s key to starting over, but I don’t get to start my life again.” Elle turns away again, collecting her thoughts for a second before she releases one arm to point at the carbon monoxide alarm built into the wall.  “Do you ever wonder why Dad had one of those built into every room of this house?” 

“No, I don’t even know what that is.” 

“It detects the amount of carbon monoxide in the air so you don’t suffocate if you leave the stove on.” 

“Oh-Kay.” 

“Charlie Hoyland is the son of Stephanie Scully and Max Hoyland. You might have met her mother, Lyn during my big wedding scheme.” 

“I didn’t, but I heard about her. Max Hoyland was driving the car that hit Cameron, right?” 

“Yes. He did. Charlie was also the nephew of Izzy Hoyland, who was Dad’s girlfriend when Robert showed up. He was only a few weeks old, and Izzy had just barely convinced Max and Steph to let her babysit. Robert turned on the gas, and left them to suffocate.” 

“Why would he do that?” 

“Because he’s evil. Because he values getting revenge on our father by disposing of his girlfriend more than the life of a newborn. Because he felt like it. Take your pick - all the options are bad.” 

“But he doesn’t anymore.” She said, good old cognitive dissonance setting in. “Not anymore. He’s not looking for revenge. You have to believe me.” 

“You can believe whatever you want about my brother.” Elle says, “Whatever you need to believe to sleep at night, to keep visiting him, to make it through the day believe it but I’m his sister. I know him better than anyone - I always have. Robert plays the long game. He played it with Cam, he played it with me and the only option I have is to believe he’s playing it with you, too.” 

“But he’s not.” 

“Then the only person who’s losing is me. Harlow, it’s not your job to make people forgive Robert. It’s not your job to foster their relationships with him, and it’s certainly not your job to convince me to go see him. Me not forgiving Robert, or holding on to anger, whatever you’re convinced I do - It’s not a moral failing on your part. I’m speaking from experience here; you can’t make people forgive your father and you certainly cannot make them forget. We’re both the children of a specific kind of man, and if you start shouldering the weight of his actions you’ll be putting Atlas to shame. Please understand where I’m coming from. I don’t hate Rob - In fact, I love him. But I can’t risk letting him back into my head.”  Harlow looked at her, with big eyes. Her face is unreadable but familiar. Elle gets it. As the silence sets in, she moved across the room in three large steps to the couch and sat, leaving a respectable space between them. Harlow fidgeted but didn’t move away. 

“At least you have the guts to be honest about it.” 

“I don’t believe in lying to spare people’s feelings.”  It had only ever gotten her into trouble. “I think you should maintain your relationship with Rob. But he has hurt people, and it’s your job as his daughter to be sensitive to those people and their needs. You cannot privilege the abuser over the victim.”

"Is he being truthful when he says he loves me?" Harlow asked, fiddling with her thumbnails exactly like Dad does. 

"I think that's one of the very, very few things in his miserable life that Rob is sincere about." Elle sighed. 

"How do you know that?"

"I'm his sister. I just know these things."  

“Do you really think I manipulated Grandad into seeing Dad?” 

“Of course you did. Maybe not on purpose, maybe you thought you were doing the right thing but if he’s only going to see Rob because he’s scared of losing you...Is that a relationship you want him to have?”  

“I didn’t think it was that serious. I just thought he was being stubborn. He was never going to fulfil Dad’s request, so he needed to know that Dad running off wasn't out of malicious intent for David.” 

“If you thought that Dad had that kind of power in the criminal justice system - a system he has been the victim of - then you’re as delusional as your father. The fact that he would risk David’s life is disgusting. He should have given that kidney with no strings attached as soon as he found out he could. David is our brother.”

“David doesn’t even really like you.” 

“If he likes me or not doesn’t matter. He’s my brother.” 

“Would you give Dad a kidney if he needed it?” 

“Yes.” She said, without hesitation. 

“Because Gail would want you too?” 

“Because he’s my brother, it’s the right thing to do and I love him.” 

‘You have a funny way of showing it.” 

“I’m a Robinson, Darling.” 

“Yeah, you are.” Harlow agreed, “And so am I.” Elle reached out to drape one arm around her shoulders and tug her in for a half hug, kissing the side of her ponytail. 

“Hell yeah, you are. You’ve just been born onto an unfair tightrope, you know? What’s the right amount of compassion for your father, when you know that he has done something evil? I normally advocate for mercy for the mentally ill. I’ve forgiven people for doing the wrong thing when they were sick before.” 

“Grandad?” 

“Yes, him. But also Steph, Lucas and Susan. Why is forgiving Dad a natural impulse and forgiving Rob like climbing a mountain alone, in the winter in bare feet? He did do a net good, by giving David a kidney. David will go on to save other lives, making the total amount of lives in the world more, and the number of devastated families less. Is David’s life worth one of the ones he took? ” 

“Nothing will ever make up for what Dad did, he understands that. So do I.” 

“Well, how about being angry? Or any other negative feeling. Sometimes when I think about the life Cam didn’t live, I get so angry I can hardly stand it. My hands start shaking, my chest gets tight and it feels like someone is filling up my lungs with molten metal. When I used to speak to Harold, I could see it in his eyes, the loss. I know that Dylan used to wake up shaking after dreaming about being in the middle of the ocean. Katya had to leave her siblings because being here, when Rob hurt her, was too much. I should be mad. I should be scathing. And I am, every now and then. I’ve always advocated for people letting anger go, but having residual anger is normal when you experience something unjust. Mostly, though?, I’m sad. It’s easier to be angry, being angry feels good. Anger has a purpose. Being sad is miserable, who wants to be sad? Not me, that’s for damn sure.” 

“Grief is...Grief doesn’t leave.” Harlow said, and she’s speaking from experience. Probably about her mother. 

“If you’re too compassionate, you end up like my Mum, sitting alone in our old place in Tasmania, airing empty bedrooms and waiting for her sons to come home. Too much the other way and you end up like my Dad, accidentally scrubbing a child he loves out of his life because of how much it hurts to think of those days.” 

“So how do you do it? Balance on that tightrope?” 

“I have no idea. But when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.” Harlow laughed slightly, and let her head rest on Elle’s shoulder. She smells like perfume, and the expensive detergent Terese uses to wash clothes. “I want you to have a good relationship with your dad. Just be careful. Know the signs of manipulation. Don’t let him get in your head.” 

“You know what you called Gail?” 

“A stone-cold operator?” 

“He called you that, once. He said ‘Lucinda Anne Robinson is a stone-cold operator. She once ruined our father for fun, and she loves him above all others. So imagine what she’s capable of doing to someone she didn’t like.” 

“What am I capable of? Getting away with it, probably.” Elle had to laugh at the idea of serious, creepy old Robert, telling Harlow that. It’s nearly comical - like most of what Robert does. “That could just about pass for the truth, so who knows? Maybe you’ll make an honest man of RobRob yet. Anyway -” Elle released Harlow from her grip and patted her on the leg twice. “You should get my Dad to show you the Robinson Family Album, there’s some great pics of your Dad in there. And of the most important triplet, me. And...Cut the poor guy some slack, will you? He climbed down a mine shaft in a bushfire to rescue you after you got bit by a snake. I think he’s earned the right to be a little overprotective.”

“Fine. A pinky of overprotective. You gonna stick around to see what are no doubt some amazing mullets and other questionable fashion choices?” 

“I would, I love looking at old pictures but, the apology train has another stop to make. Terese’s office.” 

“Ouch.” 

“Any advice?” 

“You might have to engage in some ego fighting to win her respect. Other than that...I think it’s up to you.” 

“Damn. Wish me luck.” 

“Good luck, if you don’t make it back can I have your pink kitten heels?” 

“No way, those shoes cost Dad’s credit card several thousand dollars. I’m being cremated in them.” 

“Well. I had to ask.” She laughed, and paused, before giving Elle one more hug for the road. Elle hugs back, and she feels pretty good.