DISCLAIMER: All the characters used within this story are the property of Shed Productions. I am using them solely to explore my creative ability.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This fic is an idea I dreamed up that I thought I'd kick off with a Roisin character (nervous look over his shoulder at Joanna), no idea who'll enter the picture and no idea of where it is going

Normal Mothers
By Richard

Part Three

"Tell me how you're getting on with Cassie and your mum." Lauren asked Siobhan one night when Lauren was stopping over.

"well, it's different." Siobhan spoke slowly trying to bring her thoughts together, "Mum's so much happier and not so stressed out. "she said brightly. "It's like a different house, I don't have to tiptoe around so much and get scared in case there's a shouting match...I don't mean mum." Siobhan stumbled.

"You're wondering what to call the person who used to be your dad." Lauren said quietly. "I'm sorry," she added as Siobhan burst into tears, "I didn't know what to call him." Lauren's heart went out to the other girl who underneath her brash exterior had bottled up a lot of confusion.

Siobhan was confused as the man who was her dad had not ever been a real father and always got it wrong and mum was lost out all the time trying to 'keep the peace'. She loved her mum but wished she'd stood up for herself and the children earlier than she did. It wasn't right to talk about an 'ex father' as fathers and mothers are there to be loved, everyone knows that, but her dad..Aiden..her dad..Aiden..hadn't acted in a way to deserve her love, so she explained to Lauren who wisely hadn't pressed the point. If Aiden walks out of her life, then he's to blame because if he really loved her, he'd visit her, and Mary too, despite leaving mum and not loving her. Cassie is a second mum, she got that from Lauren like Nikki was for Lauren.

It was easier in a way for Lauren. ever since she could remember, Nikki and Helen were part of her life and who put her to bed or played with her didn't matter, She loved hearing mum sing around the house and her outgoing fun loving character and equally loved Nikki's quiet way of treating her as a grown up and soothing her if she got frightened. It took her a bit to realise that in one way, her house was not 'normal' but instinctively realised that as long as her family was happy, it did not matter. This wasn't the same for Siobhan.

"Cassie's lovely," Siobhan said with wide open eyes. "She's so different than when she teaches us dance as she's so, so...I can't think of the words," as she smiled.

Then she started crying again as she told Lauren her story. She'd been stressed out that someone had started spreading it around that her dad had left her and didn't he love her enough. She couldn't say what had really happened and she came home in a bad mood with mum and started picking an argument with mum for no reason, I was just saying it. Cassie flew at her saying that you don't talk to mum like that and I told her you're not my mum. Cassie ran out of the room in tears and mum sent me upstairs. I felt so terrible at what I'd done I was crying and felt so bad. There was a little knock on the door and Cassie looked round the door. She was trying to smile but I could tell she'd been crying. I thought she was going to start lecturing me so I went into the corner.

"You were thinking Aiden was still there" said Lauren and Siobhan nodded.

Cassie was lovely as she said we ought to both make a promise, she would try not to act the dance teacher at home and I wasn't going to tell her she wasn't her mum. I gave her a big hug and told her she was the best mum in the world...well as good as Roisin mum. Then we both had an attack of the giggles we couldn't stop. I never knew she could be so sweet that way.

Then mum, mum came upstairs and I told her I was really really sorry and explained what had happened. They were both listening really hard, not when I'd try and say something to.......Aiden....and he'd only tell me what it was like growing up in that horrid Ireland he goes on so much about. They said they'd talk to the school about it.

"They both really mean it, Siobhan" Lauren said quietly.

Mary put her arms round me and said I was the best sister in the world and that set me crying again. Mary was dead cute as she said she wanted me to be happy, not to cry.

Lauren explained that if ever she got confused or stressed out with things, then she's only to pick up the phone and talk to her as she's about the only friend in the same situation as Siobhan. And she'd better watch out for Mary as she won't be a cute little child forever.

"You're the best friend in the world, Lauren." Siobhan told her." Lets go down and watch telly. We don't have to sit through those football matches anymore, Lauren." and Siobhan was back to her boisterous self, pulling Lauren by the arm and nearly off the bed.

Cassie was downstairs taking a turn to cook dinner while Roisin had a rest which, to her was a novel experience.

"Everything all right, children," she asked brightly. "Cassie's got dinner ready in a little while."

"I'm sure everything is fine, Roisin," Lauren looking at Roisin with Nikki's level gaze with that deliberate emphasis that Roisin found immensely reassuring from someone who acted double her age in maturity and she felt to be a solid force for good.

"I can't believe what happened," Roisin said that night when she lay in bed with Cassie. "you did so brilliantly that night with Siobhan."

"Don't remind me, Roache." Cassie winced at the memory. "I'd thought I'd really messed up with her, bigtime."

"You were great, Cassie, "Roisin spoke from the heart. "the way you came down to the children's level. For years and years, they couldn't talk as Aiden would talk at them, never listen to them, or he'd make me responsible for anything that went wrong. Siobhan's on your side for life....and Mary too. I still can't get over having another mother around, it feels so good."

"I think we ought to have a word with the school. Think how the kids will be if the full truth comes out, we ought to get in first."

Roisin nodded as the worries that she was having about the full implications of things were starting to hit her. They needed to see a solicitor to "end her marriage bollocks" as Roisin put it. It had been limping along for years now she came to think of it. Until she'd met Cassie, she had suppressed everything and kept on struggling through for the present.

"And another thing I've got is the best lover in the world." Roisin smiled. Downstairs in the daytime, she'd seen Cassie as the other person, the parent the same way Cassie saw her, in the way they related to the children. At night time when all was quiet and still and the children were asleep, Cassie became the ideal lover of her dreams. She could see Cassie's tousled fair hair and the faint outline of the body that she could feel and everything felt possible.

"Roache, she's not going to bite you. She's only a headteacher." Cassie said as Roisin as she nervously adjusted her smartest trouser suit and blouse and looked for any specs. She knew that Roisin had this ingrained fear of authority that she grew up. Roisin realised that the headteacher, Mrs Walker, was really young and friendly but she couldn't shake off that ingrained attitude that easily.

They both put on their glassily bright smiles for Di as she put the wheelie bin out, coincidentally at that time. It was only a short way to the school, through a side door and along the narrow corridors to the headmistress's study.

"Come in, take a seat", Claire Walker said to the two women, one nervous and the other, 'look you in the eye' confident. something told her not to question why both were there after years of just Roisin there. The Mr Connor was a shadowy figure that was never seen unlike other parents where husbands realised that it was their job too.

" I suppose you wanted to talk about how your children are getting on or is there anything in particular." Claire said pleasantly and on getting a nod she said that Siobhan is doing well enough in her work but her form teacher has been worried for quite some time how quiet she is and withdrawn. Other children will chatter on about their family and do little stories in their English about how their parents took them on holiday or just an outing for the day but Siobhan and Mary say as little as they can. It was especially worrying about Mary as, at her age, children will chatter away without becoming self conscious. Recently, she had got the feeling that they were being picked on. Claire asked them if there is anything worrying them? She said tactfully that this will help them help the children.

Roisin's anxiety level jumped skywards when Claire Walker mentioned about their children being picked on. If the heasdteacher had noticed this, was Siobhan's wobbler the other night just the tip of an iceberg? If that were the case, she would blame herself for not knowing what she should have done.

"Exactly what's been the trouble," Cassie asked quietly, being equally fearful that she had inadvertently brought trouble on the children, However the scary thing had to be brought out into the daylight. She put her hand on Roisin's seeing her visible distress.

"It's not that bad, Mrs Connor" Claire said in a soothing tone. "It's just that there was some talk of their father, your husband, leaving home. Most of the children at the school are well behaved but there is the occasional bully who'll pick on anyone vulnerable. That sort of bully is the one coming from a disturbed or broken family, not like your two " finished Claire with a reassuring smile.

That last gesture made Roisin think, 'in for a penny, in for a pound'. There will never be a better moment than this. Fighting down the ghosts of past frightening authorities, Roisin gave voice.

"That's part of why we wanted to talk to you, Mrs Walker....." ",,,call me Claire, don't worry...."

"I have split up with Aiden and he left home..." and Roisin tried to think was it only that recently he left as Cassie felt she'd been around for ages...." "I's had a marriage on the rocks for years and, Cassie Tyler here, has come into my life.......we're partners."

Time seemed suspended as both of them were hyper conscious of Claire's reaction and she said the best possible thing that so long the children were happy that was the main thing and you did the right thing in coming forward early as together, we can put the lid on any bullying. She said she had strong views about ignorant hostile labelling of people when it wasn't deserved and if you, Cassie, are willing to step straight into this sort of stepparent situation, you must be pretty committed.

Roisin sank back in her chair in astonished gratitude and Cassie let her more brash exterior guard down and gave a heartfelt thank you. Just for once, she was stuck for words.

"It's not a new situation as I've got a friend I've known for yonks, since we were at school in fact, who's in the same situation. She's called Helen Stewart and with her partner Nikki Wade are bring up the stablest brightest child I've known."

"Lauren." both Roisin and Cassie said in unison.

Claire went on to say Helen was her best friend at school at a time when she was shy and easily picked on and Helen stuck up for her, even with fists if need be. It was down to her that she became more confident which is why she will come down very hard on any bullying once she had the full picture. Cassie sat with her mouth open, totally convinced by Claire's sincerity. At the back of her mind, she was prepared for polite nothings and vague mission statements but this was the real thing.

"You did absolutely the right thing in coming to see me so quick. Something like this could go on with teachers not knowing of a child's misery because everything is kept under wraps. So long as we keep each other posted, things will work out."

They were touched by Claire's use of the word 'we' and that they were positively valued. Claire went on to say that in their day, schools were closed institutions with parents kept at bay.

"I hope I see both of you at the parent teacher's meeting coming up shortly. It's for both parents and not just the housewife. We do a nice line in tea and biscuits and I'll make sure that your children's form teacher talks to both of you."

Claire went on to say briefly that Mary had a nice line in English writing and in the past Siobhan had been enthusiastic and energetic but she had been going through a withdrawn stage which she was starting to come out of "That might be your doing, Cassie" Claire said with a smile in her direction. It was interesting to see the 'other side' of their children's lives, they thought.

They look their leave eventually as they could see Claire had other work to do and sneaked down the corridors in case they were spotted.

Once out into the bright sunlight, they were over the moon and, as Roisin had had the morning off, they stole secretly back to their own house.

Once again they smiled brightly at Di as she waved at them and tiptoes upstairs.

"Roache, why the hell are we tiptoeing up the staircase of our own house in case non existent children are around and might be disturbed?"

Roisin collapsed into an attack of the giggles which Cassie joined in as they made their way to the bedroom while their children slaved industriously over a red hot desk. Chances of the two of them being totally alone were going to come rarely which added greatly to them making the best of their chances.

Besides, Cassie said much later in Roisin's arms, we've had the morning off for their benefit, we owe this to ourselves and Roisin agreed, for once her feelings of guilt nowhere to be felt.

"Mum, is it dance lesson next Saturday," Lauren asked Helen who smiled and nodded. There had been a dance class half term break while Roisin's break-up with Aiden had taken place and she and Siobhan and Mary had taken to watching the flickering screen of Saturday TV which was OK to veg out to but all of them liked a bit of a challenge.

Lauren grabbed the tape of the "Music for ballet Grade" music and hunted out her dance outfit and soon the tinkling sounds could be heard and the kitchen was commandeered because it was fairly spacious and had a hard surface. Helen and Nikki tolerantly worked round Lauren (and Siobhan and Mary when they were round).

"Is it true Roisin is taking up dance teaching?" Lauren asked and on Nikki confirming it, Lauren said that was fine for her. Lauren shushed them and exiled Nikki and Helen elsewhere to the rest of the house as she wanted to practice on her own. A half hour later, an exhausted Lauren flopped down on a comfy armchair. She carried on the conversation where she'd left off by adding that Siobhan and Mary were pleased for their mum but glad that she was taking the grade below them in the class before theirs as they would be so embarrassed before all the others in the class that their mum was teaching them.

"What horrible children," Helen said jokingly. "But what about Cassie."

"Well, Miss Tyler's different," smiled Lauren and added on a more serious note. "And it's better they bother about that and not worry about having two mums."

Both Nikki and Helen agreed on that and they were both conscious that Roisin and Cassie looked to them on how to live a life new to them and they were only too willing to help.

"How did you get on last time stopping over, Lauren." Nikki asked her quietly and Lauren said that the house had changed out of all recognition. There was the same sort of warmth that she felt here and Roisin was able to be herself, more relaxed and less apologetic. At last everyone can talk even if Cassie and Siobhan had had a bit of a bust up once.

"Don't worry, Nikki." Lauren said seeing Nikki's concern and speaking in a quietly confident tone. "Siobhan's been getting it at school and took it out of Cassie. Cassie and she made up, she's doing OK. Besides, I told Siobhan if she has any worries, then she's only to phone me."

Lauren smiled to herself as Nikki had that whole souled 'my wonderful daughter' look on her face.

"If I've been such a wonderful daughter, can I stop up late with you and see that programme I've wanted to see." Lauren asked with a grin on her face and pleading eyes. "You can put in a good word with mum who's a bit scarily strict."

Nikki grinned at herself for walking straight into that one and promised she and Helen would talk it over but none of this 'waking the dead' rattiness for school next day. Promise, Lauren?

Later on Lauren was snuggled up between them on the settee in her dressing gown feeling content with life while Nikki and Helen had the unexpected pleasure of watching something they all watched. Lauren better not be a dead lump of wood unable to separate herself from bed the next day though.........

"You'll be all right, children, for the half hour while I take the beginner's class." Roisin asked anxiously while she was changing ready into her recently bought dance outfit. She was nervous that she was able to explain the basic dance routines to the beginners class she was taking on and that her own dancing was up to standard. Right through her life, she had always worried that she was good enough being quite oblivious that when she was first learning dance, all the others wished they were as good as she was. The evidence of the written comments on her grade exams stared her in the face and yet she refused to truly believe.

"Roache," Cassie said calmly. "listen to what the children are saying. They'll be fine in the dance changing rooms and they believe in you like I do."

Exchanged glances between Cassie and the children told them that Roisin had steeled her nerves now with this last bit of little encouragement and she would be fine. Roisin had a natural way with children and the rest would flow naturally.

For the first time now it was the four of them going off to dance and that first day, the brightness of the sun seemed especially radiant and the shadows cast were sharp edged. It was the start of another normal day.

At the dance studio, Roisin introduced herself to the mothers who were busy helping their children get changed and Siobhan and Mary sat a bit out of the way with magazines they were reading so as not to crowd Roisin. Cassie had another lesson to teach in another room and smiled at Roisin to say that, you'll be fine, saying casually, I'll come down and take over the next class when you're done, whenever you're ready. Siobhan was dying to boss her mother and push her into the main studio room but held back as Roisin was there in her persona of 'a new teacher', not a pupil's mum. Roisin looked all around her and felt that her natural way with children would pull her through and all the little children whom even Mary thought were little and cute in comparison, followed her through. They could hear Roisin's clear tones as she spoke and the music start and knew she was well away.

A radiant Roisin burst out of the studio as the little children thanked 'Mrs Connor' to stroll over with Nikki and Helen to the club while Cassie took over the next class and the throngs of children and parents from the two groups went their separate direction.

"No need to ask how the class went, Roisin." smiled Nikki. "As you know. dancing isn't my flavour. I just help carry Lauren's dance stuff and sit around drinking in the club but I knew you'd make it."

Roisin was up high with the thrill of achievement and the magical change from wanting to see her own ambitions of the past realised through her children to doing it herself. The whole half hour had passed like magic and she really was a dancer and to feel that positive about herself was like some heady cocktail.

Nikki was happy for Roisin and for the contrast between the worn out, half asleep Roisin of a short time ago and the magically alive Roisin on such a natural high. She was so obviously finding herself. The three of them were so busy chattering away that they never noticed the man entering the club heading in their direction.

Roisin was the first to see and, mid laugh, the shock was overpowering.

"Aiden. What are you doing here"

"Roisin, love. We have to talk."

Aiden was looking at Roisin with a pleading look in his eyes, that made Roisin very stressed out. Her first thought was to fall into the line of thinking that he was trying to enmesh Roisin in and had done when there were previous arguments and, on the rare occasions she stood her ground, she felt sorry for him, they'd made up and everything would be better. And it was...till the next time. and that's how Mary came into this world. However, it was just that bit too late and she flashbacked to the last time she saw him and to the present with Cassie's face in front of her.

"I don't have to do anything, Aiden. I have choices."

Nikki and Helen looked anxiously at each other wondering what to do at this minute. Nikki and Helen had had a run in with a drunken abusive Aiden when he called at their house but this Aiden was showing another side of him and the expression, 'Irish blarney' jumped into her mind. Because of this, they held back from their first instinct to give him a piece of their mind. Besides, it was for Roisin to stand up to him, they couldn't do it for her.

"I know you don't have to see me, Roisin love but we were made for each other. We were put into this world to be with each other." And right there before the others in the club, he started to spiel away till Roisin stopped him.

"No no no, Aiden, this isn't going to happen. We don't have to be together. Our marriage was over years ago. Come on, we're going into the quiet room and talk, not in front of everyone else but I want you Nikki and Helen to be with me."

"Do we have to talk about our private affairs before your friends," Aiden started to raise his voice. "Can't I get a private audience?"

Nikki Helen and Roisin's hearts were racing. Roisin was so very nearly agreeing out of ingrained politeness, 'to be fair', to let Aiden talk to her on her own when she thought, why does he deserve fair treatment? He'd been gone weeks now, no phone call (apart from his mother) no offer to give his children money, no nothing and now he decides he wants her back and she is supposed to fall in line. She has the right to make terms and somehow she'd grasped and held onto the courage to confront Aiden and in so doing, all the past authority symbols that she had learned to be afraid of. Roisin was almost perversely grateful for him turning up so she could confront him, and at the same time all her fears.

Helen and Nikki had hesitated that fraction of a second from offering out of politeness to let Aiden and Roisin talk in private but Roisin took that out of their hands in the nick of time. They felt dizzy with the magnitude of the colossal mistake they were teetering on the edge of falling into.

Nikki saw with increasing contempt how quick to anger Aiden was when his spiel had failed.

"Looks like we're along for the ride, Aiden. You heard what Roisin said." There was a menacing smile on her face as though Nikki was calm, there were hidden fires about her that were dangerous to rouse.

Once in the private room which was quieter, Roisin told Aiden that she'll be honest, she has the love of someone who treats her as she should be and more honest than he could ever be.

"Who is this other man. I demand to know who's taken my wife and children. Surely I have a right to know?"

"Keep your voice down, Aiden. Does the whole club have to hear you shouting at the top of your voice."

Aiden turned with anger to Nikki asking why such an interfering woman has to be around and Nikki said, remember, we've been the ones that Roisin's kids have stopped over at the same Roisin has done for ours.

"What have you got to do with it? The only woman that has done that has been someone called Helen."

An instinct dormant in Nikki to shock and provoke urged her to tell this obviously mind blinkered man to say they were a pair of dykes each bent on getting off with any woman they fancied but she fought that back and mildly said they were partners, in the non business sense.

"You mean you're lesbians," he said in a shocked tone, looking at Nikki in that blindly judgmental way that will never learn. He was taken totally aback from what he had seen as the 'normal looking' Helen in particular. Nikki thought she had wasted her words in being tactful.

"Indeed I am glad I stopped your daughter from staying over that night with my daughters." Aiden went on to say." I knew I did the right thing at the time the sort of family your daughter comes from."

That was a big mistake as, at that point, Helen asked him angrily how dare he talk that way about their daughter and that they are ordinary respectable people who don't come home totally drunk and trash the house as he did, last time they saw him.

"Ah, that was lads night out, you wouldn't understand that sort of thing being the sort of unnatural women you are."

An icy Nikki said, yes she had some experience of men, not close up but she couldn't remember her brother ever being as an out of control drunk as he is and he should grow up, get a brain cell and he'd see that she and Helen are a perfectly normal couple .

If there was anything capable of firing Roisin up, it was Aiden's insult to her friends, their child and the memory of her own children's tears when Aiden stopped Lauren coming round, and how Lauren had stuck by her almost as a friend and not just as a child.

"No way am I ever coming back to you, Aiden. I want a divorce. And I'm seeking custody of the children and maintenance."

"And I suppose with the company you're keeping in turning you away from our marriage that you're the same as these two...women." Aiden trumpeted though careful not to use 'that' word again.

"You can suppose what you like, Aiden, see you in the divorce courts."

Roisin was in mid flow when the elderly barman came into the room and asked 'the ladies' to keep their voices down. He knows they are from the dance class across the road and are welcome guests of the club but this man, pointing less approvingly at Aiden, isn't known to him, unless they can speak for him, at which point, Roisin said he's no more welcome to her than he is to him, and as far as she is concerned, he can go and there will be no more trouble, she can assure him.

"I'm sorry, mister, you're going to have to leave."

Aiden, sensing his public image being endangered, in his most slippery fashion apologised 'for being hasty' and, under his breath muttered 'don't worry, I'm not coming back' and stomped off.

"There, I was all set to proclaim to the world that I'm a.........." Roisin started and then she peered round at the still open door and the gathering crowd kicked up by the argument.

"It's all right, everyone. The show's over." Nikki called out light-heartedly.

No one was up for being spokesman so the crowd hung around for a bit and gradually dispersed as the room went quiet and resumed their normal conversations about getting their husbands to do the latest home improvement job, they have to keep badgering them as 'men are all the same, you know.'

"Do I have to get at you to do jobs round the house or do you do it to me,, Nikki?" Helen said with eyes twinkling. Then in a more concerned voice she asked if Roisin was all right.

"Never felt better," Roisin replied having slain her most ancient dragon that had long frightened her, her fear of authority.

Cassie came up to them with the children asking who was the lumbering elephant who had nearly knocked her and the kids over when they were just coming into the club. She had a very puzzled expression on her face.

"That will be Aiden." Roisin said.

"Hey Cassie, guess what?" asked Nikki with a huge grin on her face." That guy behind the bar actually called us 'ladies'. When I was growing up, out and proud, little did I think my real destiny in life was to be called a 'lady'. You can't beat the brilliant middle class respectability act Helen did in front of Aiden, just then" to Helen's grinning mock denial.

Cassie grinned back but added more soberly." Well it's better than being called a 'lezzie' or a 'dyke' bitch when I was at school. I think 'lady' isn't so bad in comparison even though I'm pissing myself laughing at that one, sorry kids." she lamely tried to backtrack to the equally grinning faces of the children who delighted in Cassie's periodic failures to stop herself swearing.

Then with eyes shining, Roisin, still dressed in the dance outfit that Aiden had never noticed, offered to get in a tray-full of drinks, at which the children stuck in their order for universal coke. On the way, one of the mothers said how much her little girl enjoyed the new teacher 'Mrs Connor' and asked if she was to be the regular teacher. Roisin assured her emphatically that she had enjoyed herself so much wild horses couldn't keep her away.

Then everything in the way she moved proclaimed an 'on top of the world' Roisin as she brought a round of drinks back to those she was closest to, her friends, children and her lover.

The sun shone brightly through the windows. Sat in a comfy armchair with Mary on her lap and a glass in one hand, Cassie's hand in the other, who was struggling under Siobhan's growing size and the smiling faces of her closest friends, what could be better? She drank from her glass but to her it was from the sweetness of life and she had come home to herself.


I must give credits due to this fanfic as follows.

1. BG and the MB whom I owe so much for the inspiration.
2. The very kind hearted supportive MBers who have been so encouraging on the 'fanfic chat' thread, not least of all Joanna whose own fanfic is doing very nicely.
3. Hermann Hesse from whom I stole a few lines from his book "steppenwolf" a book about self discovery.
4. The real life dance teacher who would be horrified at having her character stolen to become Cassie and who will not associate the anxious parent bothering her with questions with this MBer.

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