In the bright autumn sunlight, a girl stood alone, savouring the fresh air and the world around her. The view was nothing special, and nothing she hadn't seen before, but this time it was different.
This time she was free.
"Sadie, are you coming?"
A voice from the waiting car jerked her back to reality, and she nodded her head, sending the driver a warm smile as she moved to open the passenger side, dumping her bag in the back and strapping herself in.
"You bet." She murmured, closing the door firmly. "I never want to come back here, not ever."
"I'm glad to hear you say that." The driver, her sister Alyssa put the vehicle in gear, revving the engine. "More glad than you know. I was afraid we'd lost you."
"Well, I might have done it the hard way, but I'm gonna be fine now." Sadie's brow set in a determined expression. "I'm gonna be fine here in Birmingham with you and Andrew and Sharita. I'm gonna use what I learnt in prison and get a job...and I'm never going back on smack again, not even if you paid me...I promise. This is the new Sadie Monahue...I'm gonna be a good girl now."
"I hope so." Alyssa grinned. "Because Andrew wasn't all that thrilled when I first suggested you come stay with us. It just seemed a bad idea for you to go back to Kent where all the troublemakers are, and since you were sent to rehabilitate here, it's logical that you should stay. You were born here, after all. I convinced him you weren't going to teach Shari bad ways, so he relented...don't let me down, huh?"
"I swear." Sadie returned the smile. "I know it's gonna be hard, Aly, but I'll do it. I'll be an unpaid babysitter for Shari too, whenever you need...and as soon as I get a job I'll pay board. It...means a lot to me that you're taking me in, after all I've put you through. I don't really feel I can go to anyone else."
"There's Dad." Alyssa pointed out. "And Mark. He cares."
"Mark cares too much." Sadie frowned, remembering her older brother's prior interference in her affairs. "And Dad doesn't understand...if it's not military fashion, he doesn't know how to handle it. Oh, I know he loves me, but since Mum died he's been no use to us, not really. You brought me up more than he did when we were teens."
"And look what a fine mess I made of it." Alyssa said dryly. "Oh, but I'm glad you've seen the light, kid. Shari's been asking excitedly when Auntie Sadie's gonna come...she doesn't know any of the bad stuff you've done, so you've a chance to be someone's hero right at the start. She's thrilled that she's gonna have an Auntie staying." She laughed. "Bless her, when you're five, everything's thrilling."
"I haven't seen Shari since she was born." Sadie's tone was full of regret. "Too busy getting into trouble...getting arrested and getting involved with Neal." She shivered. "I'm glad to be rid of him, too. He scares me, Aly."
"Well, he's in Kent and you're here, so don't worry about him." Alyssa said firmly. "Do you want me to get Mark onto him for you?"
"No!" Sadie shook her head hurriedly. "God, no. Mark will just aggravate things. I know he's defending me, but it causes no end of problems, and then he and I wind up fighting. Again."
"Well, okay. We'll let it lie." Alyssa shrugged, pulling into the front drive of the detached three bedroom house. Situated on the outskirts of Birmingham, not far from Four Oaks station, the area was a far cry from the rough estate Sadie had spent a year living in with her former boyfriend back in Kent. Birmingham brought back memories of her mother, most of them happy, and she smiled. She was going to enjoy life this time. She'd got a second chance.
She pushed open the passenger door, scooping up her belongings and hesitating, not sure what to do next. Alyssa smiled at her, as she headed to unlock the front door of the house.
"It's okay, it's just you and me." She assured her. "We've the place to ourselves. Andrew is going to collect Shari from school on his way back from work, and by that time you'll be settled in the spare room, I hope."
"Oh, I see." Relief crossed Sadie's pretty face. "I kinda hoped that'd be the way. I...am a bit nervous about seeing Andrew. I know he doesn't like me."
"He promised to give you a chance to prove yourself." Alyssa said gently. "Now, listen, Sadie...while we're alone. This isn't a game...this is pretty much your last chance to make good, so don't blow it, okay? You've spent the last two or three years in and out of juvenile detention or prison, and I dread to think what was in that stuff you kept injecting yourself with. But that's the old you...the Sadie Monahue who got in with the wrong crowd, okay? This is the new you...the you who's going to see her probation officer when she's asked to, who's going to go down to the job centre with her credentials to find a good steady job and who's going to make her family proud. All right?"
"I know." Sadie said impatiently. "Really, Aly, I've had that drummed into me by the counsellors since the day I went into rehab. The new start. I do know. And I'm not going to mess it up. You don't seem to realise that I want this chance pretty badly too, you know. I want to make good."
"I know you do." Alyssa hugged her sister tightly. "And I'm sorry to fuss. It's just...well, I can't help it. I was frightened."
"I...guess maybe I was a little too." Sadie returned the hug. "And I'm kinda sorry that I screwed up so much and caused you all so much trouble. But as you say, it's over and I'm starting again now."
"Then let's go help you unpack." Alyssa suggested, taking her sister by the hand and pulling her towards the stairs. "You've not seen our house since we redecorated upstairs...I'm afraid your room is also the room with the internet point...Andrew suggested it was better there than in our room, and downstairs there was no room for it. You're welcome to use it of course...we have quite a good flat rate for the line, so don't worry about the bill too much."
"You're way too nice to me." Sadie dimpled, following Alyssa into the bedroom and stopping dead. "Wow...Aly, this room is beautiful!"
"You like it?" Alyssa looked hopeful.
"I really do." Sadie nodded, dropping her bag onto the bed. "I totally don't deserve all this."
"Perhaps you don't, but we're gonna give you the chance to anyway." Alyssa dimpled.
"And I almost threw it all away." She murmured wistfully. "For Neal...and smack...and god knows what. Man, what was I thinking?" She opened her bag, tipping out the contents and eying it ruefully. "Not much, huh?"
"Most of your stuff is still at Dad's. Andrew or I'll go pick it up for you this weekend." Alyssa promised.
"I can go!" Sadie protested.
"No you can't...you have to spend the next six months in the Birmingham area unless you have permission from your probation officer, and in any case, you had your license revoked for drink driving eighteen months ago." Alyssa scolded. "You know full well you can't afford to go bending any laws right now!"
"Oh, yeah. Forgot." Sadie looked sheepish.
Alyssa reached across the bed, scooping up the box of cigarettes.
"This is the next thing to go, I hope." She said pointedly. Sadie shrugged.
"Tisn't against any laws." She said carelessly. "I can smoke if I want, Aly. But I promise I won't smoke here or around Shari if it bugs you."
"Well, okay." Alyssa looked doubtful, but she nodded, dropping the cigarettes back down onto the duvet. "I guess you're right and it's not against any law. I just thought with it being a new start and all..."
"One step at a time." Sadie's cheerful expression became serious. "Aly, listen a moment, huh? Just because I'm off the heroin doesn't mean it's easy and I'm cured...it's not and I don't know that I am. But I'm trying...and I mean to go on trying. You can't expect me to be an angel right away, though...Im not sure I even can be."
"All right. I guess I'll just try and understand." Alyssa sighed. "I know it's not clear cut and simple, Sadie. I mean, I know you've had a torrid time and have things to still deal with. But...well. We'll see, huh? Like you said...one step at a time."
Chapter One: Jewel In England
Chapter Two: Lovesick
Chapter Three: A New Sensation
Chapter Four: Cameron
Chapter Five: Sadie Gets A Warning
Chapter Six: A Little Love Advice
Chapter Seven: Topaz Makes A Friend
Chapter Eight: At The Halfway House
Chapter Nine: A Shock For Sadie
Chapter Ten: A Family Encounter
Chapter Eleven: Copper Gets A Fan
Chapter Twelve: A Burns Family Secret
Chapter Thirteen: Thicker Than Water
Chapter Fourteen: A Phonecall