DISCLAIMER: This is an Otalia-Uber fiction. The characters in this story portrays the physical and some personality attributes of the characters Olivia Spencer and Natalia Rivera from Guiding Light but they belong to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Blue for her great beta-ing skills!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By damnation



Kristen thought she would go out of her mind wondering what Jack wanted with Frances. It angered her that he had looked Frances up. He was already creating trouble for her even though he hadn't made any contact with her.

She tried to think about what she had with Frances and what Frances had come to mean to her. Whatever this was, she did not want to lose it. When had things become this complicated? Not too long ago, she only had her work and art. Now, she could not and did not want to imagine her life without Frances in it.

Kristen was not used to not being in control. When things had spun out of control in her marriage, she had left. When Benjamin had disappointed her, she had closed up and ceased contact with him. With no facts, however, Kristen had nothing to work on. She could not plan her next course of action, and that shook her.

She was back to square one: what did Jack want with Frances? And when was Frances going to let her in? Knowing Frances, it could be hours--days even. Kristen hated not knowing. It frustrated her. So she did the next best thing. She called her brother.

Benjamin Cameron had always felt charmed in life. Kristen and he had lost their parents when they were much younger and had lived with their Nan ever since. Being five years older than he was, Kristen had always taken care of him. He had travelled around the world before he had turned twenty five.

Benjamin had made fast friends with a much older and worldlier Jack during his travels. Jack had come with Benjamin to Australia bringing nothing but his backpack and his winsome personality. The moment Jack had laid eyes on Kristen, he had pursued her with a single minded conviction that someday, she would be his wife. Theirs was a passionate relationship that had started and ended with the same explosiveness.

When Kristen had left without a trace, Benjamin had felt betrayed. Thinking back, he could not help feeling ashamed. Kristen had every right to never want to see him again. So when Kristen had called to ask for a meeting, Benjamin jumped at the chance to remedy things.

Benjamin finished his double shot espresso nervously. He was early. Just as he was getting up to order himself a flat white, he saw Kristen walk in. He waved her over.

"I was just going to order another coffee," he said by way of greeting. "What would you like?"

Kristen automatically said, "Soy latté."

Benjamin nodded and went to place their order. When he got back, Kristen was playing with a packet of sugar. He sat down and gave her a small smile. "How are you going?"

Kristen replied with a question of her own. "What's going on?"

Benjamin sighed inwardly. It was just like Kristen to skip all the small talk and jump into the heart of the matter. "What do you mean?"

"You and Jack. What's going on? Why are both of you here?" Kristen demanded to know.

"Jack's here?" Benjamin was truly surprised. "I didn't know... I'm here because of you."

Kristen narrowed her eyes. "How did you know I was here? How did you find me? Did Richardson tell you?"

Benjamin frowned. "No. I told you, I was looking for you. I hired a private investigator and he tracked you here. I didn't want to foil any plans you might have at not being found, so I was biding my time before looking you up. My source told me that Richardson located you. That must be why Jack's here too."

"Your source? Who's your source? What the hell is going on, Benjy?"

Benjamin sighed. "Jack's trying to buy me out of the company. Now that he knows where you are, he's probably trying to get your share of the company," Benjamin said with a shrug. "Have you seen him?" Kristen shook her head. "Then how do you know that he's here?"

"He looked up... he looked my girlfriend up," she replied, using the terminology for the first time.

"Frances," Benjamin supplied, nodding.

Kristen frowned. "How the hell... Right. Your source." Kristen added sugar to her coffee and stirred it absently. "What does he want with her?"

Benjamin shrugged. "No idea. Her Dad owns Taters, so he might have a plan to get to you through the restaurant."

Kristen did not know what to believe but she didn't think that Benjamin was lying to her. She felt off balance that he knew so many details about her new life. "I really don't give a shit about my share of the company," she said finally. "I just want to be left alone. I want Taters to be left alone."

Benjamin looked sorry. "Maybe you should just look Jack up and tell him that he can have your share of the company in exchange for being left alone," he suggested.

"Huh. And let him run the company? Isn't that what you don't want?" Kristen asked suspiciously.

"I was selfish. So you have every right to not help me," Benjamin said, trying not to sound sullen. "I know you're mad at me and I am sorry for what I did--or didn't do. But I bust my balls for the company and I hate the way he's turning it into an acquisition firm."

Kristen pinched the bridge of her nose. She was starting to form a picture of what was happening but she still wasn't getting any concrete answers.

"Why don't you just ask Frances what he wanted?" Benjamin was curious.

"I... Don't say her name like you know her," Kristen snapped.

Benjamin rolled his eyes. "Then what am I supposed to call her? Miss Russell?" he asked incredulously. Kristen did not answer. She did not know what to say. "Well?" Benjamin pressed.

"She won't tell me. She does this hiding thing. It's how she copes," Kristen said finally, remember how Frances had put it when she was explaining about her disappearance after Russell was admitted to rehab. She drank her coffee, feeling deflated. "That's why I called you. I wanted some answers. But it seems like you're just as much in the dark as I am about what Jack wants."

Benjamin shook his head. "Oh, I know what Jack wants, all right. He wants the company. And you."

Kristen threw Benjamin a skeptical look. "Me? Jack doesn't want me. It's over between us." She had never said it out loud before but as the words tumbled out of her mouth, she knew them to be true. She could not even imagine being anywhere close to the man, much less being married to him.

"He says you're the love of his life," Benjamin said.

Kristen snorted. "So he goes out and cheats on the love of his life and tries to buy her brother out of a company that they started together? He hasn't even looked me up. He just wants C&C."

"I don't know, Sis. I just don't want to lose everything that I've worked for all these years. And I don't want to lose you either."

"Well it's too late for that, isn't it?" Kristen said, knowing that she sounded bitter. "Right now I'd give up my share of the company to have my life back. And that means you'll lose everything you want."

Benjamin swallowed and his voice turned hard. "You'd choose a woman over your own brother?"

Kristen looked incredulous. "There is no choice, Benjamin. And I didn't abandon you. You abandoned me when I needed you most," she all but choked out. She was furious. "And now you come into my life again and make all these demands of me? I don't owe you anything!"

Benjamin nodded, his countenance stony. "Fine."

"This conversation is over. Have a good life, Benjy." Kristen got up and threw a five dollar bill on the table. "You can keep the change." She stalked out. Benjamin scrunched up the five dollar bill angrily and slammed it into her half finished cup of coffee.

That had gone well.



Her new room looked sparse. Frances glanced around desolatedly and flopped onto her bare bed. She had moved into Nell's that afternoon, thinking that some physical space might help. In a way, it did. She felt removed from the situation and therefore less panicked.

She wasn't lying when she had told Kristen that she wasn't good at this. The moment she felt overwhelmed, her first instincts were to flee.

Jack Canning had been polite--friendly even, throughout their conversation. His offer was clear and simple. Somehow or other, he had caught wind of the insurance company's reluctance to pay her father out; maybe he even had a hand in it, she wasn't sure. In exchange for Taters to be out of debt, Jack had wanted her to leave Kristen.

He still loved her. And by law, she was still married to him. He wanted to work on their marriage. He did not want to give her up.

Frances wasn't sure how she had managed to get caught up in something like this in the short time that she had been back, but here she was, in the middle of someone's idea of a big joke. She hadn't known what to say to Jack. She could not fault him for wanting to fight for Kristen. She just wasn't sure where she stood in all this.

"Knock knock!"

Frances looked up and her face relaxed into a small smile when she saw Nell. "Hey."

"How're you going, darl? I got us some takeaway for dinner if you're hungry."

Frances shook her head. "I'm good. I... I was just thinking."

Nell nodded. "Should I leave you alone?"

Frances had called her up, asking if she could come over after work to help her move. One look at her friend's face and Nell knew not to ask. She knew that Russell was back but that was it. A part of Nell wondered if something had happened between Kristen and Frances.

"No, actually, I'd love some company. Just not in here, though. Let's go out on the veranda," Frances suggested.

They went out on the veranda with smokes and cups of tea. Frances blew out a breath as she took in her new home's quiet surroundings. Mellow leaped down from the brick wall and walked over to join them on the couch. Frances smiled, reaching out a finger to run through short ginger fur.

"Okay, do you wanna talk about it?" Nell asked finally.

Frances shook her head. "What have you been up to?"

Nell shrugged. "Same old. Work, jam, attend workshops... Oh yeah, Andrea and Teagan just bought a house!"

Frances lifted a brow and smiled. "True! That's a big step. They've been together a while now though, hey." Mellow mewed and went to look for something more interesting to do. Frances sank back into the couch and pulled her knees closer to her chest.

Nell nodded, sipping her tea. "That's commitment for ya." She looked over at Frances. "Did you have a fight with Kristen or did you guys break up or something?" she asked abruptly.

Frances looked surprised. "What? No, we... we're not even..." Frances frowned. She had wanted to say that Kristen and she weren't even together, but it wouldn't be true. "No, we didn't break up." She glanced at Nell's questioning look. "We didn't have a fight either." Frances drank her tea and stared at the darkening sky. "A few things have happened, is all. You know how I'm like."

"You're vague, that's what you are," Nell said with a sigh.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you just what's been happening," Frances mumbled. It sounded like a script from a movie in her head.

"Try me," Nell said adamantly. She sidled closer to Frances and touched her cheek. "You know you can tell me anything, right? Cos' I'm always on your side."

Frances smiled as she turned to her friend. "Yeah. Well." Frances took a deep breath. "Dad's restaurant might be in more trouble because the insurance company might not pay him out. Kristen's... soon-to-be ex-husband looked me up and wants me to leave her in exchange for helping Dad out of this situation. And I'm afraid that Dad's gonna start drinking again because of everything that's happened in his absence."

Nell looked incredulous. "Are you pulling my leg?"

Frances saw her friend's expression and began laughing. "No... That's the sad bit. It's all real."

"Kristen was married?"

Frances nodded, exchanging a look with Nell. "I know."

Nell shook her head. "Well tell her ex to go to hell because it's Kristen's choice who she wants to be with. Your Dad will sort his shit out. Otherwise it's just money, really. You guys'll pull through, I'm sure of it. You have friends. And in reaction to fearing that your Dad'll start drinking again, you move out? Really?"

Frances stared at Nell for a moment. "I'm terrible, aren't I?"

"You're an escapist. It's not that I think moving out is a bad idea but really, you could have chosen a better time, darl," Nell said reproachfully.

"There would never be a good time though," Frances tried defending herself. Then she grabbed her head with her hands. "I do this all the time. I panic and I run. But running gives me space and I stop panicking," she tried to reason.

Nell shrugged. "Different strokes for different folks. Some people might think that talking about it with the people involved might prevent a lot of unnecessary angst. And some people might be waiting for you to stop running and talk to them about what's happening? I don't think you stopped long enough to tell Kristen that her ex looked you up?"

"Hey, that I did."

"What about the reason why?" Nell pressed. Frances bit her lip and shook her head to that. "So she's probably freaking out right now. Waiting. For you. To stop panicking and talk to her."

Frances groaned. "Why do you make so much sense? I am such a screw up!"

"Fix it."

Kristen pottered around her flat listlessly. She felt hopeless and useless. Russell had mentioned that Frances had moved to Nell's; she was hurt that Frances hadn't even thought it important to tell her that she was leaving. Kristen drained her glass of red wine and refilled it immediately. She wasn't sure how her life had changed to drastically in such a short period of time.

When the knock on her door came, Kristen was half afraid that it might be Jack on the other side of it. Then she took a deep breath and decided that if it was indeed Jack, maybe she would get some answers from him. She stalked to her door and flung it open. Her breath caught when she saw Frances.

"Hey," she said. All the anger and purpose in her flowed out with the word.

Frances took Kristen's face in her hands and pressed their lips together, pushing Kristen back into her flat. Kristen's eyes widened for a split second at the unexpected action but Frances' lips were so soft and her body was so warm that Kristen could do nothing but reciprocate the kiss.

Frances backed Kristen against the wall, kissing her hungrily, like her life depended on it. She felt Kristen's arms snake around her and she sighed into their kiss. Kristen smelled so good and tasted like wine. Frances lost herself in the kiss and her hands began wandering. She dragged her nails down Kristen's back, thrilling at the hiss that she elicited with the act. Her hands slid under Kristen's white T-shirt and roamed upwards until deft fingers unclasped a bra. She trailed her hands around Kristen's body and slipped them under loose bra cups to mould smooth, perfect breasts.

Kristen moaned into Frances' mouth when she felt Frances' hand on her breasts. She had had so many questions that she had wanted to ask Frances but right now, she could not even call a single one to mind.

Frances steered them towards Kristen's room. She ripped Kristen's shirt off wordlessly before pushing her onto the bed. Emboldened by the look of lust in Kristen's eyes, Frances climbed onto the bed herself and backed Kristen up until she was against the wall. She relieved Kristen of her bra and, with the aid of her hands, took both of Kristen's nipples into her mouth in one swift motion.

"Ah, fuck...." Kristen growled as she arched her back.

Frances grazed her teeth against the sensitive nubs, moaning deep in her throat. She dragged her nails down Kristen's torso, only coming to a halt at the waistband of Kristen's jeans. She made quick work of the unbuttoning and slid herself down Kristen's body to divest the woman of her jeans and knickers. With every additional bit of exposed flesh, Frances' breath hitched. She sunk her teeth into delectable flesh and dragged her mouth down the length of Kristen's leg.

Kristen's head was reeling and her breaths were coming out in short spurts. She wanted Frances to touch her everywhere.

Frances crawled back up Kristen's body and proceeded to unbutton the vest that she had on slowly, not taking her eyes from Kristen's. She flung the article of clothing onto the floor and sank her teeth into a luscious breast, eliciting a fierce groan from Kristen.

Separating Kristen's legs with her knee, Frances covered Kristen's centre with her hand, whimpering at the soft heat. Kristen sucked in a breath at the intimate contact. "Frances..." she husked out, lifting a hand up to let Frances' hair loose. She sighed as she tangled her hand in long, dark, wavy tresses.

"God, you feel so good..." Frances whispered hotly in Kristen's ear as she coated her fingers with Kristen's wetness. "You are so wet... I could take you right now, fill you up and fuck you senseless. Is that how you want it? Hard and rough?" Kristen shuddered and moaned at the sound of Frances' voice. Her mind was split between trying to comprehend what Frances was saying and the sensations that were going through her body.

Frances bit down on the tender flesh between Kristen's neck and shoulder and rammed her fingers into the writhing body beneath hers, smiling ferally at the sharp intake of breath and the loud moans that followed when she started moving in and out of Kristen. She rubbed her thumb against Kristen's intimate spot and Kristen's eyes flew open at the contact.

"Oh, fuck, yes."

Frances had one hand on Kristen's breast and the other moving deep within her. She took Kristen's other nipple between her teeth and bit down gently, making Kristen arch up and into her. Kristen held onto Frances as she moved wildly, wanting more of Frances on her, in her, consuming her, setting her aflame.

Frances lifted her face to watch Kristen. Her heart was racing and she was panting. Her own throbbing centre was rubbing against her shorts and Kristen's thigh. Lust clouded her and she had to stop herself from ripping Kristen's flesh with her teeth.

"I love fucking you," Frances growled into Kristen's ear.

Kristen felt another rush of wetness at Frances' words and she whimpered helplessly as she moved against Frances.

"I want to tear you up and put you back together. I want to rip into you and stay in you forever," Frances rambled on feverishly, caught up in the moment.

Kristen gasped. The combination of Frances' words and voice with the sensations that Frances' actions were causing in her was too much. Her over stimulated body went taut and she felt herself falling. She buried her face in Frances' neck, breathing in her scent as she held onto her.

When Kristen opened her eyes again, she was still breathing heavily and in quick spurts. The aftershocks of her orgasm thrummed through her body. Frances' head was resting in the crook of her shoulder and Kristen could feel a hot dampness on her thigh.

"What was that?" she asked shakily.

Frances lifted her face. "That was me missing you," she murmured softly, stroking Kristen's cheek gently. "Did I hurt you?"

Kristen shook her head and she blew out a breath. "I missed you too." She looked into Frances' dark eyes, wondering what the woman had come to mean to her. When Frances smiled, revealing her dimples, Kristen felt her heart melt.

Frances nuzzled Kristen's neck before placing a kiss on it. She hadn't planned on doing this; she wasn't sure what she had planned on doing when she had come over to see Kristen but her instincts had taken over the instant she had laid eyes on Kristen, looking so beautiful at the door. She wasn't good at D&M's; she hoped that Kristen could know how she felt through her actions.

"I'm just glad you're here," Kristen murmured, combing her fingers through Frances' hair.

"I am too," Frances said finally. It felt right, being here. Her eyes fell shut. "I'm sorry I freak out and disappear sometimes. I'll try and work on that... because I want to be with you."

Kristen's lips curved up and she pulled Frances closer. She trailed her fingers down a warm, smooth back, reveling in the feel of the touch. She could feel Frances' lips moving against her neck. Frances' presence kept her insecurities at bay.

"Touch me."

Kristen's breath hitched at the soft request. "I am touching you."

"Touch me here." Frances pulled Kristen's hand to her breast. "And all over," she husked out, needing to feel Kristen everywhere. She lifted her face for a kiss and was met halfway by Kristen. "I love the way you touch me," she breathed out when they pulled apart.

"I am so crazy about you," Kristen murmured, kissing her way down Frances' neck.

Frances moaned when Kristen's lips touched her nipple and her eyes fluttered shut. She stopped thinking about what was right and wrong and simply... felt.



They lay wrapped up in each other. Frances smiled even before she was fully awake, feeling safe in their tangled limbs. She knew that there were things to be said but right now she was content.

Her eyes fluttered open and sought Kristen's face immediately. She trailed a finger down a smooth cheek and pressed her lips to Kristen's full ones softly. "I love you," she whispered to the still slumbering Kristen.

Kristen was having the nicest dream. Her skin was tingling. Whatever was happening to her, she was happy to let continue. She released a soft moan, half fearing that the sensations would disappear the moment she opened her eyes, so she left them closed. When she felt a comfortable weight settle on her as she was pushed onto her back, however, she knew that she wasn't just dreaming.

"What are you doing?" Kristen murmured huskily, her voice heavily laced with sleep.

"Just trying to get comfortable," Frances answered, trailing soft kisses down Kristen's body.

"Mm. You're making me very uncomfortable, though," Kristen said, smiling. Frances stopped what she was doing and rested her head on Kristen's chest. "I didn't say to stop," Kristen said, opening her eyes finally.

Frances smiled. She traced Kristen's shoulder with her finger. "Maybe we should talk."

Kristen lifted a brow as she peered at the dark head resting on her chest. "Talk? You? Never!" she teased, chuckling when Frances scratched down her waist in response.

"I know 'sorry' is just a word," Frances started haltingly, jumping straight into it before she lost her nerve or changed her mind. "And words don't have to mean anything. I can't even promise that it'll never happen again because, knowing me, it would. But I'm going to try and let you in... when I panic... or feel overwhelmed." Kristen was silently stroking her hair. "And if I can't do that, I hope you can trust that I just need time and space, that it's got nothing to do with how much you mean to me. And that... I'll... I'll always come back to you."

Frances lifted her head so that she could see Kristen's face. She always felt uncomfortable broaching on sensitive topics. She took a deep breath. "And you do, you know, mean a lot to me. I just wanted you to know that."

"Thank you," Kristen murmured, smiling when Frances kissed her cheek. "I think I needed to hear that."

"And for the record, I don't like talking about how I feel all the time so..." Frances trailed off, biting a tender spot on Kristen's neck and smiling wickedly when Kristen yelped softly. "Whatever you've heard about stereotypical lesbian relationships, get it out of your head now."

"Oh, is this what it is? A relationship?" Kristen asked, unable to keep the full blown smile from invading her face. "I have to think about this."

"Too late, Chef. It is what it is," Frances murmured, catching an ear lobe between her teeth.

"Your last relationship," Kristen rasped out, trying to pull away from Frances and keep her talking, "Tell me about your last relationship." Frances had been vague when she had asked her about it what felt like so long ago, at Gordons Bay.

Frances blew out a breath. "Um. It's Nell, I guess."

Kristen lifted a brow. "You guess?"

Frances smirked. "Yeah, well, I dunno, I've been with people since then but... I don't think I'd call any of them my girlfriend or anything," she mumbled.

"Okay. Tell me about it then. You and Nell," Kristen said, shifting so that she was in a more comfortable position.

Frances scratched her face. "There's not much to tell. I love her to death. She's my best friend." She shifted when Kristen did, sliding off Kristen so that most of her weight was on the bed. "We would still hook up from time to time after we had broken up."

"Why did it end?"

"Oh, I don't know. There's never just one thing, is there? Well, it wasn't just one thing with us anyway. It was the way she was, the way I am... there never was any real ending. Does that make sense?" Frances wrinkled her nose. "It's easier to try and speculate what wasn't right about it now, but it wouldn't mean anything. It just didn't work."

"So it still might? One day?"

Frances frowned. "One day I might marry a man. One day I might strike the lottery. One day I might decide that I look better blonde."

Kristen began chuckling. "You are so good at not taking responsibility for anything, aren't you? Just let life take its course. You're not responsible, no."

"No, I..." Frances bit her lip and rolled her eyes. "Fine. You wanna know why it didn't work? We were younger. We wanted to see more of the world. We wanted to experience things independently. We wanted to sleep with other people. We loved each other... still do, and I guess a part of us thought that we'd always find each other again, somewhere down the track."

Frances took a breath and tried to look for the right words. "Maybe I'm a little older now. Maybe I've learnt how it feels like to lose someone important to me." She pushed her hair over her shoulder as she considered her next words. "I love Nell, but we can't go back anymore. Because... whatever I might have thought I wanted with her... I now want with you."

Kristen was rendered speechless by Frances' declaration. When she finally found her tongue, she said, "Don't go blonde. I don't think it's your colour."

Frances snickered, nuzzling Kristen's neck, relieved by the change of topic. "Oh, I don't know. I think I'd look pretty hot no matter what colour my hair is."

"Like the rainbow coloured hair you used to have?" Kristen teased, laughing when Frances stared at her in surprise. "Your Dad mentioned it... some time ago."

Frances narrowed her eyes. "I'll have you know that I pulled a lot of chicks during that time."

"Ooh. Maybe they were just attracted to someone who could give absolutely no regard to how they looked."

"Hey!" Frances scrambled onto a grinning Kristen. "You're having way too much fun taking the piss outta me."

Kristen was chuckling when she combed her fingers through Frances' dark hair. "I love your hair," she said, smiling indulgently at the petulant look on Frances' face. "It is hot and sexy. You are hot and sexy."

Frances lowered her face to Kristen's. "Good answer. Keep on going."

"I love your smile, your dimples, your scent, your body, your skin... I love that you're a smart mouth..." Kristen yelped playfully when Frances bit her gently for the comment. Then she could not think anymore because Frances was kissing her way down her body, distracting her with the sensations that she was creating with her lips. "Oh..."

"Keep going if you want me to keep going," Frances murmured.

"You're trying to kill me," Kristen protested weakly.

Frances paused and smiled wickedly. "About that..." She climbed up Kristen's length, grabbing her wrists on her way to hold over Kristen's head. She loved how Kristen's eyes were dark with arousal. "I think we should try something that I've been fantasizing about."

"What's that?" Kristen breathed out, her heart racing.

"How do you feel about... being tied up?"

Russell stared at the papers strewn all over his table. He was definitely in some trouble financially if the insurance company decided not to pay him out. Taters had lost a fair bit of money staying shut for over a week and he wanted to compensate the crew for their time spent on cleaning up and renovating Taters. There was also the hefty drink driving fine to think about.

Russell sighed. When it rains, it pours.

Taters was reopening the next day and he did not want this hanging over everyone's heads longer than it had to.

The knock on his door surprised him out of his reverie. "Frances?" he called out before rolling his eyes at himself. Of course it had to be Frances; she was the only person other than himself with keys to the house.

The door pushed open. "Hey Dad."

"What are you doing here?" Russell asked, then cleared his throat. "Not that it's not okay," he mumbled gruffly.

"I was wondering if you wanted to grab a bite to eat. With me."

Russell wasn't hungry at all but he could not reject spending time with his daughter. "I'll get changed."

"I'll be downstairs," Frances said with a smile that made Russell sigh. "Don't take too long, Dad! I'm starving!" she called out on her way down to the lounge room. Russell shook his head, smiling.

"Where are we going?" Russell asked when Frances and he strolled down the street.

"I was thinking of having Thai," Frances said, biting her cheek. "I know this place in Glebe. Shall we go there?"

"All the way to Glebe for dinner?" Russell asked, frowning. "How do we get there?" He hated not having his car. He had had his Volkswagen for longer than he could remember. The thought of it all smashed up made him sad.

Frances smirked at her father. "There is such a thing called public transport, Dad. Come on. You won't regret it. They have this stuffed king prawn entreé that's to die for," Frances said, getting more and more excited about her choice. Russell smiled indulgently at his daughter but did not comment. "Oh, and Dad? I found a job teaching English four days a week."

"That's good." Amidst everything that had happened, he hadn't had the time to fully absorb the fact that Frances was going to be around. The knowledge heartened him.

"So, uh, if anything happens to Taters, you'll have me to support you," Frances said half jokingly. This was the first time she was bringing Taters up with her father since his return from the rehab program.

Russell frowned. "You don't have to worry about my wellbeing. Just take care of yourself," he said gruffly. He was her parent, after all.

"I will, Dad. I just want you to know that you can count on me too. You're not on your own," Frances said, feeling slightly awkward but wanting her father to know that she was there for him.

Russell did not answer but for the first time in a long time, he did not feel alone.

Part 39

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