15. Significant Other and Company

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It had been a week since Elle's trip to Sydney. A week since she'd enjoyed a cup of coffee with Dean Stewart at buzzing chocolate cafe after her meeting with Jared and Tess. Elle had been floating in the air since that day and for once she didn't brood. It was the week of the 'anniversary' as her family had decided to call the event. Her parents had come over for a short stay, with Maya in tow. She wasn't alone anymore. Bree had decided to join Ethan and her back from Sydney after all. Her little house had been fizzing all week, with everyone trying to keep the lid on the inevitable proposal her brother was planning.

The Grace family had needed such excitement since Blake's death. It was no longer her parent's anniversary, nor Blake's that lingered in the air; it was the possibility of a memorable day for her brother. Even Maya had caught the sense of something brewing and kept asking questions.

Elle floated around the house, dusting, vacuuming and tidying up with Trish and Bree helping. The house had never looked better. Bert and Ethan had disappeared with the excuse of shopping for dinner. A barbeque, her dad had declared. They were making dinner for the night and had announced that the women weren't to help out at all. Inspired by the numerous cooking shows on telly, Ethan had declared he was going to attempt a devilishly delicious chocolate mousse. Even Bree had laughed at this.

It was a beautiful autumn day, the house was clean, and the food was being handled by people other than her. Maya was being looked after by many more people than she'd hoped. Biting into a carrot and watching her mother make a batch of lemonade, Elle felt peaceful. More peaceful than she'd felt in the last two years.

"Thanks, Mum." She kissed Trish on the cheek.

"What for?"

"For this weekend. It's been so long since we got together."

Trish stopped squeezing the lemon and stared Elle down. "Sydney seems to have done you good," she smiled kindly. "I never thought I'd see the pain vanish from your eyes."

Elle nodded, feeling like her soul was indeed lighter. Grief had been replaced by acceptance. Maybe she was ready to heal now. "Sydney was great!" she muttered, a grin on her lips. She thought of Dean fleetingly. "I'm going to go take a shower."

Maya was heard laughing loudly out on the patio as Bree told her a story. Elle stopped to look a moment.

"She's good with Maya, isn't she?" Trish observed.

Elle nodded. "She's good for Ethan, too."

"You were like that you know," Trish continued. "Like Maya, talking to everyone you saw, that's where she gets it from, that lively energy," and suddenly her daughter looked a little less like Blake and a little bit more like her.

"She doesn't miss Blake as much now." Elle blurted.

"Maya's a child, honey. Children are resilient."

"She might forget him."

"She'll only forget him if you let her," Trish stirred sugar into the jug of murky lemonade. It sent a pang of guilt through Elle. Trish eyed Elle. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she lied, feeling her cheeks flush.

"You met someone?" Trish asked. "At Chloe's?"

"No," Elle sprang too fast. "Not really."

Trish put the jug of lemonade to chill in the fridge. "What's his name?"

"Who's?" feigning ignorance.

"This man you fancy."

"I don't fancy any man, Mum."

"That's not what Chloe says," Trish turned with a smile.

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