"Urgh!" Charlie sighed, "look at the photo they used." She instructed Finlay tossing him the newspaper.
"That's when I was at the bistro with Eliza, Hank and Mimi." He said.
"Yeah but they've conveniently cut Eliza and Hank out of the shot." She complained, "This just gives Marcus more ammo to fire at you."
"Charlie what can i do?" Finlay asked, "I can't just hide away in the house until the election is over, i have to go on with my life as normal."
"You shouldn't have put us in this position." She yelled slamming the newspaper down onto the breakfast counter.
"Honey, it was just lunch. I didn't realise there was any paparazzi there." He reasoned, "You know that there is no truth to this story."
"I do, but everyone else in town thinks its true. You know how they are they feed off this garbage, our lives are just a soap opera to them." Charlie complained.
"Don't you see Charlie this is exactly what Marcus wants, to drive a wedge between us. We can't let him win." Finlay begged.
"I know you're right but it's not easy Finn when everyone in town thinks I'm some doormat who let's her husband get away with having an affair."
"I'm sorry. I'll speak to Don today and ask him to draft a press release, people will read our side of things and know that we are telling the truth."
"Whatever you think Finn." Charlie replied, looking away.
Finlay sighed, he knew she was frustrated the past two years had been tough.
Since Marcus had quit he had tried to sabotage Finlay at every turn, and now he was running against him in the upcoming election putting even more strain on his and Charlie's marriage.
But Finn had to believe that he was doing the right thing by staying in the race and trying to rise above Marcus's petty tactics.
Hope could hear the girls snickering about the story in today's paper, she kept her head down and tried to ignore their mean words.
By the time she had reached high school she was already used to people gossiping about her, everyone knew that her Mom and Dad weren't married and how her Dad had made some big speech about not being ashamed of her.
Until she had read that she hadn't thought of herself as something to be ashamed of but now she wasn't so sure.
She had gotten used to the nasty comments but her younger sisters were experiencing it for the first time.
"Do you think it's true?" Iris asked her sister.
"What?" Ivy queried.
"Sarah Cline said that Dad is having....." she looked around nervously before whispering, "sex with that woman."
"Eww." Replied Ivy, "So gross."
"Yeah so gross." Iris agreed, wondering if her sister knew what "sex" was. Iris wasn't dumb she knew that when a man and a woman loved each other very much they had "sex" and then a baby came out of the woman's tummy, somehow.
"Do you think this means we're getting another sister?" Iris asked.
"Or even worse maybe a brother!" Ivy guessed, screwing up her face.
"Are you guys OK?" Hope asked spotting the twins deep in conversation.
"I guess." Ivy shrugged.
"Everyone is talking about Dad." Iris complained, "Is he in love with that woman in the paper?"
Hope rolled her eyes, "You know that it's just a story right?" She asked.
The twins looked blankly back. "It's just something that someone made up, you know like in English class when you read a book, it's fiction, it's not real." She clarified.
"Then why are people saying it?" Iris asked.
"Just ignore them OK." Hope advised, "They don't know what they're talking about. Now get home, your Mom will be worrying."
"Are you staying over tonight?" Ivy asked.
"No I'll be there at the weekend guys OK?" Hope said forcing a smile and ushering them both toward the school bus.
She waved the twins goodbye and turned to see Narelle and Conny continuing their little gossip session.
"Are they still bitching?" Neriah asked, sidling up to Hope.
"Forget it, they aren't the only ones." Hope said dismissing her friends concern.
"Watch this." Neriah said laughing to herself.
She sneaked up behind Narelle and yelled at the top of her voice making the other girl jump out of her skin.
"Neri! Get out of here!"
"Quit bitching with your dumb friend about Hope." Neriah lectured before stalking away.
Hope regarded the scene playing out in front of her, which was made more hilarious with the knowledge that Neriah and Narelle Belle were twins.
"That might shut her up for about five minutes." Neriah laughed, "How you holding up?"
"I'm fine." Hope insisted, "I stopped listening to girls like that a long time ago, it's the twins I'm worried about."
"Urgh Mom!" Hope cried as she walked through the door to the sight of her Lycra clad mother working out.
"Hey don't knock it." Cherry retorted, "When you've had three kids you'll need to workout everyday too."
Hope tutted in disgust at the sight of her.
"Can you feed the girls for me please?" Cherry asked.
"Mom i have homework to do." Hope whined.
Slinging her backpack on the floor, Hope fetched the twins their formula from the fridge.
Annie and Brooke had come along to disrupt her world two years earlier, which had meant that her Mom and Don definitely couldn't afford to move to a bigger house. This left Hope sharing a bedroom with the two babies.
She retrieved her school books and closed the door to her room firmly, enjoying the peace and quiet of having it to herself.
She opened up her history text book and began the quiz on Henry the Eighth her teacher had set.
Why she needed to learn about some old dead British guy was beyond her but she started reading through the questions anyway.
Not five minutes had passed when the bedroom door was flung open and Don walked in carrying Annie.
"Don't mind me Hope I'm just putting the little ones to bed." He called.
Hope threw down her pen in frustration, was it too much to ask for a little alone time to do her homework?
This would never happen if she was allowed to live with her Dad full time, at least he bothered to knock before coming in her room!
"Whatcha working on there?" Don asked, peering over her shoulder, "Ah Henry the Eighth, you know he had six wives right? One's enough trouble if you ask me!" He quipped, laughing loudly at his own joke right in her ear.
"Do you mind, I'm trying to study." Hope said through gritted teeth.
"Your Mom needs help with dinner." Don said.
"Then why don't you get out of my room and go help her?" Hope asked.
"I told you I'm putting the girls to bed, come on Hope help out please?" He begged.
"That is it!" Hope exploded, "I'm not some sort of slave you know!"
"OK Hope calm down." Don said.
"No i won't calm down, I'm sick of this place!" She yelled before storming out of the bedroom and past her mother who was drying off after finishing her workout.
"Hope where are you going?" She called.
"Anywhere but here!"
Hope had walked them to the bus but Ivy had grabbed Iris's hand before she could get on board.
"What are you doing? Hope said we should go straight home." Iris protested.
"I've got a better idea." Ivy confided, "Hope says that the story about Dad is made up, but everyone else thinks it's true right?"
"Right." Iris agreed cautiously.
"Well i say we find out for ourselves."
"I don't know Ivy, i think we should listen to Hope."
"Come on don't be such a wuss." Ivy coaxed, "If we're gonna get a new sister then we need to find out."
"OK but what are we going to do?"
Ivy sported a large grin at her sisters question, "Follow me." She challenged.
The pair of them headed away from the school on foot towards the City centre.
"Ivy, do you know where we are?" Iris asked after they had walked around for what felt like hours.
"Don't you remember?" Ivy asked, "Look over there, it's Aunt Eliza's detective agency."
"Oh yeah!" Iris said, recalling how they had been forced to camp out there several times while Eliza was babysitting.
"Look, that's her!" Ivy said pointing at the woman from the paper walking out of the building.
"How did you know she'd be here?" Iris asked.
"Duh! The paper said she worked here." Ivy retorted, tutting at her sister.
They watched as the woman from the picture walked out of the agency towards the metro station.
"She's going to the subway, come on!" Ivy said.
"No way! Dad said we're never to go down to the subway, it's dangerous." Iris warned.
"Well maybe we shouldn't be listening to what Dad says." Ivy replied, "Maybe everything Dad says isn't true."
Ivy started running towards the subway calling out "Come on scaredy cat!"
Iris sighed, she couldn't let her sister go into the dangerous subway all alone, she reasoned, she had to follow her.
"Wait up Ivy!"
The girls followed the woman onto the subway train and did their best to keep out of sight.
Although the subway wasn't the most pleasant place they had been, and it did kind of smell like a drain, they managed to stay away from any danger and made it to the next station unscathed.
Once again they trailed the woman until she came to a stop outside an apartment building.
"This must be where she lives." Ivy concluded.
"So what?" Iris asked, "This doesn't tell us anything."
"Shh!" Ivy said dramatically placing her finger over her lips and grabbing Iris's wrist, "Look!"
They watched as the woman greeted a boy, who looked to be about their age.
"That must be him!" Ivy stated.
"Our new brother!" She replied.
As the woman headed into the apartment building the boy noticed the two girls watching him.
He regarded them curiously for a moment before turning and following his mother inside.