Alfie was welcomed into the Starr family with opened arms. Once Carter and Anna found out that Esme was pregnant, they had no choice. If they were being honest they were just relieved that she was not pregnant and behind bars.
Alfie’s ex-wife did not take the news nearly as well. She refused to grant him a divorce meaning that him and Esme could not get married. And worst of all, she denied him any access to his daughter, Ronny. Being separated from his little girl nearly killed Alfie. Esme would wake up in the night to hear him crying, hunched over pictures of Ronny at happier times. They had always been very close and being separated from each other was heart-breaking. Esme did her best to comfort him but at the end of the day there was only one person who could help and she was not here. They tried to take Joan to court but each time she never turned up and it just seemed to drag and drag and drag.
To fill the hole left by Ronny, Alfie devoted all his time to Esme and their new arrival. They would take long walks together in the park, relishing in not having to hide their feelings for each other anymore.
Sometimes they would just sit about in the gardens of Bridgeport breathing in the fresh air that only freedom offered. As Alfie cradled Esme’s swollen belly Esme could not believe how different things could have turned out. Once upon a time all she wanted was to be a master thief, living day to day, chasing the thrill that only stealing brought her. Now the only ambition she had was to be a good mother to her unborn child. Her life of crime was well and truly behind her!
It was while Alfie was at work each day that Esme started to get itchy fingers again. This time instead of going and doing something about it, she talked to her mum. Anna told her she needed a new interest until the baby was born and she had just the thing – cooking! At first Esme did not take to the idea. It seems so messy and housewifely. But after much badgering from her mother, she soon relented and cooked her first Beef Stew – under the supervision of her mother’s watchful eye.
Esme never would have thought in a million years that she would have taken to cooking, but she did just like a duck to water. She loved fusing flavours together – experimenting with spices and recipes from her mother’s old recipe book.
When she had mastered them, she begun making up her own dishes, adding in another condiment here and some secret ingredients that. Being pregnant and having her senses on over-drive only assisted her skills. She found that she could anticipate what a dish lacked just by its smell. Anna was impressed by her daughter’s culinary talents – but she was more relieved than anything that Esme was putting her efforts into some legal for a change.
As Esme’s pregnancy progressed, her tummy grew bigger and it became harder and harder to cook and bake big elaborate recipes. Instead, she ordered every recipe book she could find off the internet and spent hours in her bedroom devouring them. She would make notes in the margin on how she would adapt and change each formula so to put her own personal slant on each one.
The day Esme went into labour she was in the middle of making a Key Lime Pie! It had started with a ripple of pain across her belly. It was over before it had really begun so Esme assumed they were just false labour pains and carried on.
By the time the pie was in the oven she was almost doubled over with pain. They were coming short and sharp and when her waters suddenly broke – she knew this was no false labour!
“Mummmmmm,” she shrieked, at the stop of her lungs, the crippling pain prohibiting her from being able to move.
Anna was in the basement hanging washing when she heard her daughter’s cry for help. It was a distant sound but the memories of her own dealings with childbirth were still in her head and she knew instantly her daughter was in labour. She dropped everything she was doing and ran to her daughter’s side.
“I’m coming darling,” she called. “Just hang on. I’m coming!”
Not wanting to repeat her own experiences of having her first child at home, Anna wrapped an arm around her daughter and instructed that after the next contraction she needed to start walking as quickly as possible to the car. The two ladies hobbled out and had to stand on the sidewalk when another contraction rushed through Esme’s body, immobilising her.
“Call Alfie,” Esme shrieked. “Please mummy – call Alfie. I need him here. He should be here.”
“We’ll call him on our way darling,” Anna replied hoisting her daughter into the passenger seat of the car. “Right now we need to go.”
Anna started up the ignition and just before they were about to roar off, Esme let out another shriek. “The pie,” she screamed letting another contraction race through her. “The pie’s still in the oven!”
“Good heavens,” Anna puffed, taking off her seatbelt, rushing into the house and pulling the pie out the oven just in time. A minute later, they were finally on their way.
Georgia Starr was born nineteen hours later. There had really been no need to rush as it seemed Georgia was in no rush to come out but Anna was glad she had anyway so her daughter could get her pain meds. Both Anna and Alfie had been by Esme’s side throughout while Carter chose to stay in the waiting room. There were some things dads did not need to see!
Esme had never felt such pure unconditional love before. She would sit for hours in the nursery just staring at Georgia shocked that such a beautiful thing had come out of her. She was a dream child really. She slept through the night and hardly made any fuss. Anna would regale Esme with stories about what a horror she was at Georgia’s age and Esme counted herself lucky Georgia had not taken after her.
One afternoon when Georgia was a few months old, Esme had the house to herself for the first time since bringing her bundle of joy home from the hospital. Alfie was at work and Carter and Anna were away on another holiday. Since their retirement they had been travelling the world bit by bit. Right now they were someone in the Australian outback; Esme could not believe the stamina of her aging parents.
It was lunchtime in the Starr the household and Esme was giving Georgia her baby food when there was a tiny knock on the door.
It was so faint that at first Esme had thought she had imagined it. But then the sound came again – a gentle knock like a mouse was trying to get her attention. She decided to check it out and opened the door to find small girl on the other side, so shy that she could not look Esme in the eye. She recognised her instantly. “Ronny,” she gasped widening the doorway so the small child could come in.
“Hello,” Ronny said so quietly Esme had to lean down to hear her speak. “I’m sorry to turn up like this but my mum thinks I’m at soccer practice and well. Well I wanted to come and see my dad.” Esme’s heart went out to the little girl – she could see why Alfie loved her so much.
“Ronny sweetheart your dad is at work right now but I will call him. I’m sure he will race home if she knows you’re here. Hold on two ticks.” Esme pulled out her cell phone and hit speed dial for the Gallery. “Alfie darling it’s me,” she shrieked down the line when he answered. “There’s someone here to see you. I think you should come home right away!”
“He’s on his way home honey,” Esme said turning back to Ronny. “Would you like to sit down? Would you like anything to drink?” But Ronny was not looking at Esme, she was starring across the room at Georgia who was hysterically giggling after throwing her bowl of food on the floor.
“Is that my sister,” Ronny asked shyly
“It sure is,” Esme replied. “Would you like to hold her?”
“No,” Ronny gasped. “I don’t know. I’m real clumsy and my mum is always telling me off for it. I’m scared I might drop her.”
“Well why don’t I put her on the floor and then you can have a little play?”
“I would like that,” Ronny said smiling at Georgia.
Esme hoisted Georgia out of her highchair and tried to wipe down her sticky hands as much as she could before she placed her on the floor where Ronny was eagerly waiting. She then settled herself on the sofa and watched as Ronny cooed and played with Georgia.
It was such a momentous moment that she wished Alfie would get home quickly to see it. She could see Alfie in Ronny. She had his eyes and smile but she was also definitely her mother’s daughter with her long dark hair and colouring.
Twenty minutes later, Alfie eventually burst through the front door like a speeding tornado. He locked eyes with his daughter and called out her name. For the first time since she had arrived, Ronny’s eyes shone with animation. She raced into her father’s arms and the reunion bought tears to Esme’s eyes.
“Darling what are you doing here,” Alfie asked frantically. “Does your mother know you are here?”
“No mummy thinks I am at soccer practice. I’ve missed you so much daddy,” Ronny said bursting into tears. “Why can’t I see you?” Do you not love me anymore?”
“Oh Ronny my darling. Of course I loved you. It’s just your mother thinks it is best for you not to see me at the moment. But I want you here with me no matter what. I love you so much.”
Alfie pulled his daughter into another hug and let her weep in his arms. Tears also trickled down his cheek as the reunion with his daughter finally hit him.
Eventually they let go of each other and settled down on the sofa. Alfie demanded Ronny tell him everything about what she had been up to for the last year. The chatted together like time had stood still and amused each other with stories of their lives since they had been apart.
Esme watched this display of love between father and daughter and hoped that in years to come Georgia and Alfie would be just as close. As Ronny chatted to her dad, Esme also noticed that she kept watching her belly. Eventually the question came that Esme had been waiting for – and slightly dreading. “Dad, is Esme having another baby?”
Alfie turned and looked at Esme and she nodded her head in approval.
“Yes she is baby girl,” Alfie eventually replied. “There will soon be another brother and sister for you to play with.”
Ronny looked down at her hands that were clasped in her lap and let out a large sigh. “What’s the matter darling,” Alfie asked.
“You’re having more children daddy and soon you are going to forget about me.” Esme could hear her gulping back the tears and all she wanted to do was hug the little girl.
“I would never forget about you my darling,” Alfie replied his voice also quivering with tears. “You are my baby girl and I love you just as much as I love Georgia and the new baby.” He pulled her close and held her for a second of two. “Now I am going to call your mother and let her know you’re here.” Alfie stood up and walked out the room. “This needs to be sorted once and for all.”
The room fell silent for a spilt second with Ronny shyly looking at her clasped hands and Esme watching her. “Hey Ronny,” Esme said breaking silence. “Would you like to feel my tummy? You might be able to feel the baby kick.”
“Yeah really,” Ronny squealed jumping off the sofa. Esme rose and settled Georgia on the floor allowing Ronny to cup her belly.
“I can feel it,” Ronny gasped stroking the stretched skin and listening in to see if she could hear anything.
By the time Alfie came back in the room, Ronny had claimed that she had felt the baby kick three times. “Daddy daddy,” she shrieked running over to her father. “I felt the baby and Esme says that it kicked because it knew it was its big sister touching it.”
“That’s wonderful darling,” Alfie replied mouthing a thank you to Esme.
“Daddy, is mummy mad at me?”
“I think she is just a little upset that you lied to her darling, but she is glad you are ok. She is on her way over to get you and should be here in a few minutes. Why don’t you play with Georgia and her new dolls house before she gets here?”
“Ok daddy,” Ronny said skipping across the room and landing herself next to her baby sister.
Alfie went and joined Esme on the sofa and the two of them watched the two girls playing like they had known each other all their lives. Esme was just about to turn and tell Alfie that they had to keep seeing Ronny not matter what when Joan burst through the front door.
“Ronny get in the car right now,” she ordered.
Ronny sluggishly pulled herself to her feet and made her way over to her mother. “Bye daddy, bye Esme,” she waved.
“By darling,” Esme waved back.
“I’ll see you soon kiddo,” Alfie said.
They watched as Ronny disappeared outside into the darkness and Esme could not help but wonder if they would ever see her again. Joan was staring back at them with daggers for eyes, there was about to be a showdown.
Alfie could feel it to. So before Joan had a chance to shout her mouth off he stormed over to her and got right in her face. “Before you say anything Joan,” he hissed, “you need to listen to me!”