Johnny arrived home late again, so exhausted that he didn’t spot his new daughter as he made a beeline for bed the moment he got in. Part of Valerie wanted so much to wake him up to let him meet Amelia, but a bigger part really didn’t want to. Now that she’d given birth to Amelia, she’d had enough of Johnny. Frankly, he couldn’t leave soon enough. Hopefully with her garden progressing so nicely, it wouldn’t be long until he’d be able to afford his old trailer again.
When Johnny did wake up, he finally spotted Amelia and immediately went into panic mode. He screamed in terror, and this set Amelia crying. “Val, help,” Johnny cried out, “I don’t know how to stop it! What do I do?”
“You started her off, you calm her down,” Valerie replied without even looking at him, as she made her way outside to enjoy her breakfast and get to work on her garden.
“Oh, Plum,” Johnny said to himself as he tore through the house trying to find something to calm the baby down with. He lasted barely two minutes before racing outside and begging Valerie to calm Amelia down. “Please, Val, I’m desperate,” he pleaded, “I don’t know what to do, I’m not ready!”
Unimpressed and unsurprised, Valerie headed back indoors and rocked Amelia in her arms until the newborn was gurgling happily, then laid her down in the crib. “There is going to be no more yelling in this house, Johnny, do you understand me?” She asked keeping her voice hushed. I know you like to shout about how unfair your life is, but I’ve had it.”
Johnny simply nodded in response, still shellshocked from the sheer amount of noise the tiny thing had made. He sat down on the edge of the bed, head in hands, and sighed as Valerie walked out of the room.
Once outside, Valerie found that the weather had warmed up significantly with the arrival of summer, and quickly changed into a lighter outfit before getting to work researching her plants a little more. She was excited to see how growing her plants would be different with the new season, but no weeds had grown overnight so once the harvest was done, she was out of things to do. It was, at times, incredibly frustrating how long gardening took.
Rather than stand around waiting for her plants to grow, Valerie decided to take the opportunity to catch some more fish. It was a great relief to feel comfortable fishing again; to feel comfortable doing anything again, after becoming so huge in her pregnancy. It was as if giving birth to Amelia had instantly cleared up all of the feelings she’d had for Johnny, and turned her back into the incredibly young woman she had been before. It was nice to feel relaxed again.
Meanwhile, at home, Johnny had largely recovered from his parental panic. He was still a little distressed, but when he texted Katrina to let her know how much he was struggling with his new role as Dad, she offered to come over immediately and “give him some parenting tips.”
“Johnny, are you sure we can’t use the bush? It feels a little weird with your daughter right there…” Katrina gestured her head in the direction of Amelia’s crib as Johnny settled onto the bed.
“We can’t, too risky,” he replied shortly, keen to avoid wasting any time. “Val’s only at the river, she’d see something in the bush and probably try and stick her nose in. It’s a baby, it’s not gonna know what’s happening, is it?”
“Well, I suppose not,” Katrina conceded, and as soon as the words left her lips Johnny was pulling her under the duvet.
Satisfied with the number of fish she’d caught for the day, Valerie began her journey home when a stranger stopped her on her way. Immediately she was filled with an intense desire to flirt; with the pregnancy, she hadn’t had much time to notice how little romance was in her life. “Hey,” he said in a deep, rich voice. “You’re Valerie Newcrest, right?”
“I see my reputation precedes me,” Valerie replied with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she added, as she took his hands in her own and bowed to kiss them without once breaking eye contact with the stranger. “What’s your name?”
“I’m Akira,” he replied, keeping his hands in hers as he spoke, meeting her eyes unwaveringly. “I had no idea the founder of Newcrest would be so charming, or so beautiful.”
Valerie’s smile grew bigger and she felt the heat rising to her cheeks. Finally, someone who appreciated her! “That’s incredibly astute of you, I never knew this area had such intelligent men,” she replied coyly. “I have to go home, I have some things to take care of. Can I take your number?”
Akira took Valerie’s phone from her and programmed himself in. “I’ll be waiting,” he said as he handed it back to her. As Valerie continued on her way home, she could feel his eyes staring at her, and couldn’t help but grin.
Her good mood shattered quickly when she returned home to find Johnny helping a stranger get dressed, a thick musk lingering in the air. “Johnny, what the plum is this!?” Valerie was a little annoyed with herself that she’d broken her no yelling rule, and Amelia immediately started wailing. “I can tell you two just WooHoo’d in here, don’t even think about denying it! What kind of pervert would do that in front of a baby!?”
“I told you we should have used the bush,” Katrina muttered. Valerie glared daggers at her.
Instead of answering, Johnny simply burst into tears as the stress of everything hit him. “I–I’m so–so sorry, Val,” he stuttered out inbetween loud sobs. He tried to say more but all that came out was incoherent wailing. Between him and Amelia, the tiny house was almost unbearably loud.
“Valerie, I assume?” Katrina asked, smiling cattily and extending a hand. “Katrina Caliente, it’s a pleasure.”
Valerie slapped Katrina’s hand down as quickly as Katrina had raised it. “I don’t care who you are, I just want you out of my house,” Valerie growled. Katrina stood dumbly for a moment. “Now!” It seemed being shouted at was what it took to get Katrina to do what you wanted her to. Valerie suddenly understood why she was with Johnny.
“V–Val, please,” Johnny said, struggling to settle his own breathing.
“I don’t want to hear it, Johnny. I’m going to bed. You can do whatever the plum you want.”
Valerie got into bed and aggressively pretended to snore until Johnny comforted Amelia back to sleep. She waited for him to get into bed with her, but he didn’t come. She could hear him moving around the house, but didn’t want to give away that she was still awake. She stayed buried under the covers until she heard the front door gently click shut. She sat up to look around, but he wasn’t there. Thoroughly fed up, Valerie finally went to sleep – actual sleep this time.
Out on the curb, Johnny bit his lip. Was he being selfish? Was this the kind of thing bad people did? But he knew there was nothing else he could do. Being in Newcrest, he wasn’t himself. He knew he was a good man, but he hadn’t behaved like it in a long time. He’d been selfish, moody, and outright cruel at times, and that just wasn’t who he was.
He’d had enough of being forced to behave in a way he knew wasn’t in his nature.
He took every penny, and without looking back, left.
Note from the Author: Slightly longer one this time! I feel like the last few chapters got a bit too drama-heavy so I’m planning on trying to wrap up the love triangle mess and move back to a lighter tone. Next chapter coming on 4th February, 7pm GMT!