“You're doing the right thing,” Mark says, walking myself & Felicity out of the police station after I’ve given my statement.
“Yeah,” I reply with a sigh.
“Hey,” he replies. “There's nothing to worry about. We're going to organise for protection, which will be yours by the end of today.”
“I know, & I appreciate it,” I reply. “I just can't help but worry about what Eddie will do.”
“Call me any time you want, Erin. I’ll answer every time. Even if it's just to reassure you that you're safe.”
I smile. “I don't want to disrupt your day.”
“Well then, we’ll have to call him regularly, won't we Felicity?” I look at Felicity. “Hmmm? We’ll regularly call Uncle Markie!”
He smiles, laughing a little. Sonya walks up.
“Hey Mark,” She says.
“It's lovely to see you again, Erin,” she says.
“You too, Sonya,” I reply, smiling.
“And who is this little girl?”
“My daughter, Felicity.”
“Hi Felicity,” Sonya says.
“Erin & Felicity are staying with us for a while,” Mark says. “Felicity will need to be in childcare. I’d show them to the community centre, but I have to work.”
“Well, you're in luck,” Sonya replies. “I’m on my way over there now, for a meeting with our new director of our childcare. So you can come with me & I’ll introduce you.”
“If it's not too much of a hassle,” I reply.
“I wouldn't offer if I didn't mean it.”
“You're welcome,” She replies. “Are you ready to go?”
I nod, before looking at Mark. He steps over & hugs me, careful not to squish Felicity. He kisses Felicity's head.
“I’ll see you later,” he says. “Have a good day.”
“You too,” I reply, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
He says goodbye to Sonya & we watch as he walks back into the station. I turn to Sonya & smile. We walk side by side as we head for the community centre.
“So how long are you planning on being here?” Sonya asks.
“Haven't decided yet,” I reply.
“You don't want to go back home?”
“There's nothing left there for me.”
“Oh,” she says. “Oh, I’m… I’m sorry.”
“It's fine. I think being here will be good.”
“Yes. Erinsborough is a great suburb. And you have your brothers.”
I nod. “They're the reason I came here. I need them.”
“I… I don't want to pry, but… Mark, as you know, is my friend. And I’m good at listening & giving advice. I actually run the AA meetings at the community centre. So if you… If you ever want to talk…”
I smile. “That's very kind of you.”
She smiles. “I want you to feel welcome here.”
“I already do.”
“That's good,” she says, nodding.
We approach the community centre, & Sonya hurries ahead a few steps to hold the door open for me.
“Thanks,” I say, smiling as I step in.
I walk into Harold’s for lunch, having spent the rest of the morning at the community centre. Sonya’s introduction to the childcare director was great. It's a good team, not too many children, so there's plenty of one-on-one time between the staff & each child. The new director had even offered for me to spend the morning there with Felicity, to see if it works for us. Felicity loved it.
I spot Tyler, Mark & Paige at a table across the far side & I cross to them. Mark’s face lights up when he sees Felicity. He instantly gets up & steps over to me.
“Heyyyy girl!” He says, taking Felicity from me.
“Wow! Dad mode has kicked in very early!” I reply.
“What? Can't I be excited to see my probably only niece?”
“I’d be offended,” Tyler says. “If it wasn't so accurate.”
“Awwww, I’m sure you'll have kids some day,” I reply, as Mark & I sit down.
I place a hand on his shoulder. “You’ll change your mind one day.”
He forces a smile. Lauren walks over.
“Hey, Erin,” she says. “It's good to see you again.”
“Hey Lauren, it's good to see you too.”
“Would you like some lunch?”
“Yes, I’m craving a chicken burger.”
“Well, you're in luck. We're testing out a new burger idea,” she says. “It's kind of like a caesar salad- lettuce, egg, bacon, and chicken, with a mayo based sauce.”
“You know me too well.”
She smiles. “What would you like to drink?”
“I wanna say a chocolate milkshake, but that's probably too much…”
“After what you’ve been through,” Mark says. “You deserve to be cheeky.”
I smile. “Then it's done.”
Lauren nods. “And would you like some mashed veggies for the little one?”
“How do you do that? Read my mind.”
She smiles. “It's just experience. Motherly instinct.”
“Well, yours is spot on. Thank you.”
“You're welcome,” Lauren says. “I’ll be back soon.”
She leaves & I look over to Mark. He's making faces at Felicity, who is sitting on his lap. I grab my phone, snapping a few photos of them. Seeing him with her is worth coming all the way to Erinsborough. I regret not bringing her into their lives sooner.
“How do you do it?” Paige asks, snapping me from my thoughts. “How do you raise her on your own?”
I shrug. “I just do,” I reply. “The first few months were hard, having to manage living on basically savings & the paid maternity leave. But I make it work. I don't regret having her. She's amazing.”
“So are you.”
“You're going to be amazing too.”
“Not as amazing as he is,” She replies, placing a hand on Mark’s shoulder.
“You’ve gotta have more faith in yourself, Paige.”
“Exactly what I’ve been telling her,” Mark says.
He leans towards her, she meets him halfway for a kiss.
“Well, there's a perfect family picture,” I say.
Mark & Paige look confused.
“You two smooching, young daughter on his lap,” I add. “If I was someone else & didn't know better, I’d think Felicity is yours.”
“Soon enough, I’ll have my daughter on my lap.”
Tyler & I look shocked.
“You know you're having at least one girl?” Tyler asks.
“Not yet,” Paige replies. “Mark has convinced himself we’re having one.”
“It's a gut feeling,” he corrects her.
After lunch, Mark takes Felicity & I home- to ensure we get home safely, but also to check that our home is secure. He then waited for the two officers assigned to the first watch to arrive. Once he introduced me to them, he went back to work.
Piper came over after school to wait for Tyler. She’d dropped in to the garage, but he was swamped so suggested she wait here. Felicity loved the company. I even managed to do a bit of online job searching while Piper played with Felicity.
It's 4:45pm, & I can't shake this gut feeling something isn't right. Putting my iPad mini aside, I get off the couch & walk over to the front window. I peer out, finding the street empty. My gaze falls on the unmarked police car out the front, & my stomach flips at the sight. I can just make out the two officers inside- the officer in the passenger seat is slumped over, head on the dashboard. Not the ideal way for an on-duty officer to sit. My eyes snap to the driver's side, & my worst fears are confirmed. He's also slumped over, this time head tilted towards the window.
“Piper,” I say, trying to keep as calm as possible so not to worry Felicity.
“Yeah, Erin,” She replies.
“Pick up Felicity right now & head out the back,” I reply.
“Just do it!” I say, turning to her so she sees my worried look.
Her eyes widen as she looks at me. She picks Felicity up, keeping calm as she stands up. I cross to them.
“Take her through the side gate, & head for your place,” I say, ushering her towards the kitchen bound for the back door. “Call Mark. Tyler. Keep trying until you get them. I need them here ASAP.”
“What's going on?” Piper asks, turning to face me when she reaches the doorway into the laundry.
“My life is in danger right now & I need you to take my baby to safety,” I reply quickly. “I need Mark & the police.”
She looks terrified, but nods repeatedly. She turns around & takes a step towards the back door.
“Move one more step, & I’ll blow her head apart,” That all too familiar voice says from behind me.
It's too late.