Saturday, 29 April 2017

The Miskin Legacy: Generation Six, Part Three - Karma Drama


Before the sun had set on their wedding day, Roxy had whisked Mac away on a plane to the distant mountain resort of Granite Falls. Their residence for the next week was to be a rustic but elegant log cabin on the shores of a crystal-clear lake. 

For the first two days, neither of them saw daylight.

It came as something of a shock to Roxy that Mac, despite his advanced age, was still very much a passionate and enthusiastic lover. In truth, he was undoubtedly the best she'd ever had. After a couple of - frankly, marathon-style - sessions, she felt her conscience clawing away at her to say something, and so, she rolled over in bed to turn to her husband and address him.

"Honey," she asked, "are you sure we should be... you know... so vigorous? It's not that I don't enjoy it, it's just, well, what with your heart, and all..."

Mac merely chuckled in response.

"Roxy, darling," he replied, "if that's how I go out, I want it printed on the front cover of every newspaper on the planet."

He grinned, and Roxy's mouth soon mirrored his. With a growl, he lunged forward to embrace his beloved, ready for yet another round.

Still, after a few "strenuous" days, Mac relented, and he thought it best to maybe see more of the wonderful place where they were staying. He and Roxy took to going on long walks together in the sunshine, taking regular rests at some of the area's best known beauty spots.

In the evenings, when the weather turned cooler, they played games and partook in activities at their cabin - often ending the day with a chat and cuddle by the campfire.

Mac and Roxy had known each other for almost their entire lives... and yet, it was clear they they still longed for one another's company. Now, a romance, long suppressed and finally free to flourish, was drawing them closer to one another than they had ever been before.

There was only one major change to their routine. One that Mac had insisted on. Late at the night, when he and his wife were settling down to sleep, a certain exchange of words had to occur - day in, day out.

"I love you, Roxy."

"I love you, Mac."

Both of them knew the exchange had to happen, and were glad to do it. 

After all - one of them had waited too long to hear those words, and the other had waited too long to say them.


The morning that his parents were due to arrive home, Marcel sat in the living room of his family's now-ancestral home, trembling with nerves and doing his utmost to carefully pick the words he was going to say. The presence of a pile of open letters, each one clad in a ripped brown envelope, haunted him from a nearby side table. The words and revelations every single one of them had brought him felt like a sword hanging over his head.

The front door swing open, and the newlyweds waltzed in - holding one another's hands, canoodling and giggling like teenage sweethearts. Roxy looked towards her son, smiling - but her face froze into a look of shock when she noticed the grim expression on Marcel's face.

"Marcel? Are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost!"

"M-Mum... Dad..." Marcel stammered in reply, "there's - there's something important that I need to tell you..."

Before he could say anything more, he was interrupted by a high-pitched wail coming from the back room. Mac, alarmed, pushed past his son and headed straight for the door, whilst the young artist crumpled onto the sofa with his head in his hands, gruffly one muttering one last phrase.

"Go with him, Mum."

Roxy marched off after her husband, equally confused. Upon reaching the back room - the family nursery - she was greeted by the sight of her aged husband peering down into two small cradles before him. 

Two babies. One of them crying.

Mac, stunned, scooped the wailing infant up into his arms: holding him close in an attempt to sooth him. Roxy, meanwhile, turned her attention to the other child. As the elderly pair looked at each other, not knowing what to do or say, they noticed that Marcel had appeared in the doorway.

"Their names are Mitch and Marius," he told them. "They're your grandsons."

"Grandsons?" Mac gasped.

Marcel nodded.

"And... they're not alone," he added. "I... I have other children, too."

He swallowed nervously.

"S- seven, all together."

It took a few moments for Mac to take all of this in. After a brief pause, he walked up to his son, and handed him the child, smiling.

"Marcel? Would you mind looking after the little dumpling for a moment?"

"Sure thing, Dad," Marcel replied, cuddling his son to his chest. "My pleasure."

"Good. Now, if you'll pardon me, I'm think I'm going to pass out."

Three seconds later, he did.

Fifteen minutes later, when Mac finally regained consciousness and the two baby boys were tucked up asleep in their blankets, Roxy ordered - not asked - that all three adults gather in the living room to talk about the situation.

Moments later, all three of them were sat on the sofas, essentially staring one another down. Whilst Marcel looked very sheepish, Mac was giggling uncontrollably.

"Seven kids!" he cried. "Heh heh - that's my boy!"

Roxy, irritated, elbowed him sharply in the ribs. To her, this was no laughing matter. She rose from her seat and began to pace up and down the room: eager to release the anxious adrenaline that was now flooding her body.

"And you're sure they're all yours?" she asked her son. "All of the babies mentioned in these solicitors' letters?"

Marcel nodded.

"Yes. I've been with all five of the women. I don't deny it. Besides, they've done DNA tests. It's official. All of those children are mine."

"God, I can't believe you could be so irresponsible! Going around town like some sort of - "

"Excuse me," Mac piped up, "but unless I'm very much mistaken, I wasn't exactly the first man you had in your bed."

"That was different!" Roxy snapped back. "I was careful! I took precautions! Marcel, on the other hand, hasn't just left a string of broken hearts behind him - but a brigade of single mothers! Ones who'll be out for money, no doubt! And God knows what else he might have exposed himself to!"

"It'll be OK, Mum!" Marcel told her. "I'll make the payments! I'm going to support these children - I promise! And don't worry... I've been checked. I've a clean bill of health. Well - mostly."


"Don't worry, it's nothing like that! I... I have a stomach condition, that's all! Nothing to worry about! I'll be fine in a few months."

Mac cleared his throat.

"There's another potential issue here," he said. "As my only son, you're the current heir to the Miskin Legacy. But now, in regards to the next generation, it's fair to say that you've muddied the waters, as it were. Exactly how many of your little blessings are sons?"

"Five. So far."

"What do you mean, 'so far'?" Roxy shouted.

"I've... I've another one on the way."

Roxy slammed her palm against her forehead.

"Jesus Christ..." she muttered. "Oh, Marcel, what have you done?"

"Look, I've got it all worked out!" Marcel squeaked. "I've jotted down all of the birth dates and made some notes. The two boys in there are twin brothers - my first-born children. Their mother, Lillie... the black-haired woman from the coffee shop, you remember her? My first girlfriend?"

Mac and Roxy nodded.
"Well... she got in touch with me first, too. She's asked me to take full custody of them."

"Full custody?" Mac cried. "Why would she want you to do that?"

Marcel sighed.

"She's... she's dying."

Roxy gasped.

"What... what do you mean?"

"She only found out two weeks ago. Breast cancer. Terminal. She had planned to raise the boys alone, without me, and to tell everyone involved the truth when they were teenagers, but... well, things didn't exactly work out like she planned. She just wanted to make sure they were cared for. I'm their father. And soon... I'll be the only parent they have."

Roxy fell back onto the sofa - shocked into still silence.

"They... they can live here, can't they?" Marcel asked.

"Of course, son," Mac replied. "They're family."

"One of them will be my heir," Marcel confirmed. "As for who specifically, I'm not sure. The law says that, in the case of twins, one solitary successor has to be chosen. I'll... I'll need time to make such a big decision."


Roxy leaned forward, her elbows resting in her lap.

"And the other children?" she asked. "Who are they?"

Marcel reached into his shirt pocket, and took out a folded sheet of paper.

"I've made a list," he explained. "Here. Read through it."

Roxy took it, and opened it up. Passing it over to Mac, the pair read through the names together.

First and second born: Mitch and Marius Sheehan Miskin, twin sons by Lillie Sheehan

Third born: Jonah Hairston Miskin, son by Yadira Hairston

Fourth born: Carla Escamilla Miskin, daughter by Gina Escamilla

Fifth born: Cleo Beauchamp Miskin, daughter by Noel Beauchamp

Sixth and seventh born: Rocky and Ricardo (Ricky) Madden Miskin, twin sons by Aubrey Madden

Eighth born: ?????

"What's with the question marks?" Mac asked.

"The... the details are still emerging on the newest addition," Marcel replied. "It's still very early days in the pregnancy, so I'm told."

Roxy breathed heavily though her nose.

"Marcel," she began, "you are my son, and I love you, no matter what. But... but I'm so angry at you for being so reckless and foolish! For all we know, you may have destroyed these innocent womens' lives! Having a child is a game changer! When I found out I was pregnant with you - I was excited, yes, but I was terrified, too! Scared of all the pain I was going to have to go through! Constantly worried about whether or now I'd have what it takes to keep you alive. I was so paralysed by my fear that, in the end, I left you almost entirely in Mac's care - something I now sincerely regret. But you, young man, have seemed content to go about and sire children willy-nilly... because you'll never understand or have to deal with the consequences!"

Shaking, Marcel slowly clambered to his feet.

"Please excuse me," he whispered. "I'm feeling a bit nauseous."

Sharply, Marcel turned on his heel, and fled to the bathroom. Roxy, meanwhile, feeling utterly overwhelmed by the day's events, broke down into tears, and fell into Mac's waiting arms.

As soon as he reached the bathroom, Marcel found himself hurling the contents of his stomach straight into the toilet bowl. Once the dirty business was over with, he splashed his pale, sweating face with cold tap water, before filling a glass to take a drink.

After a few sips, he put the glass aside, and tightly grasped the sides of the sink, watching his own nervous reflection in the mirror - the Narcissus replaced by a ghostly phantom.

His mother had no idea how wrong she was. Marcel was going to pay for what he had done. Karma had come back to bite him in the ass big time. A mysterious event some weeks prior, followed by the trip to the doctor's office a few days ago, had resulted in a life-changing revelation... something that would completely put him on par with the five women he had so callously used and dismissed. In particular, his heart broke for his dear Lillie - who had been dealt the cruelest blow of all.

All the same, on top of everything else they'd had to take in today, on what was supposed to be a happy return from their honeymoon, how the hell could he tell his parents now that the person carrying the latest Miskin baby...




... was himself?

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Miskin Legacy: Generation Six, Part Two - Make or Break

Over the course of his last working week, Mac did his utmost to forget about the mysterious phone call of Roxy's that he had overheard. He buried himself in his final case - a missing cat - and spent his evenings completing paperwork. He laughed and chatted away when his colleagues held him a surprise party on his final day. However, despite his best efforts, his fear that Roxy was about to leave him once and for all continued to haunt him.

And when he arrived home after his last shift on the Force, he walked through the door to be greeted by a most unnerving sight.

His suitcases - packed and waiting for him.

Immediately, Mac's blood ran cold. The nightmare had come true. Any words he might have said were snatched from his throat by a unknown force. Instead, his felt his body begin to shake, and silently, he broke down before the luggage, his brain unable to process what he was seeing - let alone its meaning.

When Roxy came bouncing into the room merrily, looking like the giddiest, most giggly girl in the world, Mac hastily clambered to his feet, and looked her square in the eye. 

Part of him longed to release his building anger - to scream, to shout, and to stamp his feet. A different part was on the verge of tears, ready to beg and plead to the woman he loved to change her mind. However, it was a third emotion that eventually won out: a feeling of eerie calm, acceptance, and a desire for the one he most cared for to be happy - even if that meant a life without him.

In other words - true love.

Despite her spirited entrance, Roxy had noticed Mac's distant expression, and she turned towards him with concern.

"Mac? What's wrong?"

Sighing, and drawing in a nervous breath, Mac approached her.

"Roxy," he began, "I love you more than anything else in this world. But... I know that you and me aren't the most compatible people. I accept that. All I want is for you to be happy, and to be with someone who can make that happen. And, if you've found someone who can do that better than me, then... whoever he may be... I wish you both well. I'll just... pick up my things, and go."

Roxy listened to this statement patiently and attentively, but by the time Mac had finished, she couldn't help herself... and she burst into a fit of mad laughter.

"Mac," she chuckled, "what the hell are you going on about? You're not going anywhere, and neither am I! Not right now, anyway!"

Mac's head popped up like a meerkat's, shocked.

"But... but, the suitcases..."


Roxy looked around. As she spotted the two green cases on the carpet, she tutted in frustration.

"Oh, Marcel, you daft bugger!" she hissed. "I asked him to get those down from the attic for me - but I told him to put them somewhere out of sight. I swear, if the little sod has spoilt the surprise... "

"What surprise?" Mac asked.

Roxy smiled.

"I was worried you might have figured it out already," she said, "what with all the phoning around I've been doing. Johnny's been a real pain in the arse - he almost cancelled my order. Needless to say, I wasn't best pleased with him."

As Mac heard the name, he recalled the strange conversation he had overheard before.

"Johnny?" he said, quizzically.

"The baker on the high street," Roxy explained. "John Stevens and Son."

"But why were you phoning the baker?"

"Well... for the cake, of course."

"What cake? No-one has a birthday this month."

"A wedding cake."

"Why? Who's getting married?"

In response, Roxy slowly got down onto one knee.

"I'll confess," she told Mac softly, "I took a bit of a gamble."

Grinning, she reached into her jean pocket, and brought out a golden wedding band - whilst Mac's hands flew to his mouth as he desperately stifled a gasp.

"Mac," Roxy continued, "I know I've haven't been the best friend or the best partner in the world - not by a long way. All my life, I was so afraid that if I let myself get close to you, something bad would happen."

She sighed.

"Years ago, when we were nearing our thirties, I almost took the leap... but then that damn bullet got fired, and it scared me too much to carry on. But since then... I've had a lot of years to think things through, and I don't want to leave this world with any regrets. I truly am sorry for all the times I hurt you - but I thought I was acting for the best. Now, I realise the error of my ways, and I know what I really want - for you to stay by my side forever as my husband." 

She looked up at him, smiling sweetly. 

"So, would you do me the honour of making me Mrs. Roxy Rhodes Miskin?"

A pause followed. Mac stared at Roxy, his body trembling once again.

"Roxy," he whispered, "are you really sure this is what what you want? I... I can't deal with another false alarm - not now."

Roxy nodded.

"Yes, Mac," she told him firmly. "I know it is. After all... I love you."

Mac's eyes widened.

"What... what did you say?"

Roxy giggled.

"I love you," she repeated.

It was the first time in their lives that she had ever told Mac this. Tears of happiness began to roll down the cheeks of the ageing Miskin - his inner rejoicing too powerful to put into words.

"Well?" Roxy asked, still waiting on an answer. "Do you want to marry me?"

Grinning, Mac snatched up the ring, and slid it onto his left hand.

"I do," he replied, eagerly. "Oh, Roxy - of course I do!"

Quick as a flash, he helped Roxy to her feet, and pulled her into a tight bear hug: locking his lips with hers to seal their new arrangement.


And thus, two weeks later, Mac and Roxy - the childhood partners in crime and the adult partners in justice - were finally joined in that most sacred and special of ways: through the marriage vow.

 As Roxy examined the beautiful ring now on her finger, she found herself chuckling.

"Well," she remarked, "I guess there's no going back now, is there?"

"Geez, you're not regretting it already, are you?" Mac asked.

Roxy shook her head.

"No, love," she told him. "Not now. Not ever. Not for a single second."

Still, the last few days hadn't been smooth sailing. Roxy's ongoing debate with the baker's shop had been showing no signs of a resolution. It was only when Mac insisted on being handed the phone and him mentioning the words "police officer", "connections" and "lawsuit" that Johnny Stevens revealed that the cake would be ready for them to collect the next day - and it was, allowing the newlyweds and their gathered guests to enjoy it.

As the ceremony slowly drew to a close, Roxy kissed her new husband on the cheek, wanting to catch his attention.

"I've told Marcel to get our cases ready," she said.

"Why? What do we need them for?"

Roxy laughed.

"Not very perceptive for a detective, are you?" she muttered.

Taking hold of Mac's hands, she pulled him towards her, and whispered seductively in his ear.

"You and I, Mr. Miskin, are having a honeymoon."

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Miskin Legacy: Generation Six, Part One - Rising Up, Standing Down

Over the next fifteen years, Marcel Rhodes Miskin grew from a sweet, innocent boy into an passionate, ambitious man. His childhood creations had sparked a lifelong love of art, and he devoted the majority of his schooling to mastering the crafts of painting and sculpture - even getting caught doodling in his Calculus textbook on more than one occasion. 

Mac, pleased to see his son pursuing a passion, bought him a professional easel for his thirteenth birthday. From then on, Marcel devoted many an hour to enlivening the canvases he placed upon it - even working into the small hours of the morning. After graduation, he found a job in a local art studio: originally as an apprentice, but soon enough, he was becoming well-known in his own right, and earned a modest income by selling his pieces.

However, although his sensibilities and love of creativity were clearly hallmarks of his Miskin heritage, Marcel also inherited several of his mother's traits. Canvases and paper weren't the only spaces he chose to fill with art. Within a few years, the various tattoos that covered his body outnumbered Roxy's significantly.

Energy and high spirits were another gift of the Rhodes genetics. Having grown up seeing his mother working out and staying fit for her work in the police force, Marcel himself decided to give the gym equipment a try when he hit high school. By the time he turned twenty-one, his slender frame had gained some significant bulk: a combination of a regular exercise regime, and a healthy appetite - courtesy of his father. He was well on his way to becoming an Adonis.

Not only did Marcel look like a Greek god - he loved like one, too. Like Roxy before him, Marcel was brimming with self-confidence. In rare moments when he was lacking artistic inspiration or suffering from sore muscles, he would spend some time in front of the bathroom mirror, practising his best pick-up lines and flirting with his own reflection, like a modern-day Narcissus.

Then again, it wasn't as if Marcel needed to keep himself company. Whilst Mac had always been unlucky in love, there was no shortage of girls willing to spend some quality time by Marcel's side. If his handsome looks weren't enough to win them over, his openness and willingness to discuss the arts and more sensitive subjects were the cherry on the cake. Marcel had more than his fair share of admirers... and indeed, he was eager to get to know as many of them as he could.

As his twenty-fifth birthday drew near, Marcel, after much thought, came up with three key goals he wanted to achieve in life.

Firstly, he wanted to love to excess.

Secondly, he aspired to be one of the greatest artists in history.

And lastly, by either the first method or the second - he intended to become immortal.


As he sat in the office of the Chief of Police, a silver-haired Mackenzie Miskin sighed contently, his head bowed in a modest fashion. The current Chief, Tucker Roberts - Mac had worked under several police chiefs in his time - looked at him from across the desk, his expression a mixture of disappointment, and yet, understanding.

"So... you want to retire."

Mac nodded.

"Yes, sir. I've been on the Force for a fair few decades now. Let's face it, I'm no spring chicken... and my health isn't the best these days."

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Mac pulled out a small bottle of tablets. Beta-blockers.

"Heart's been giving me gip," he added. "The doctors think it might be time for me to call it a day."

"And you trust their judgement?"

"Absolutely, sir. My father was a doctor, after all."

He chuckled.

"Still... you have to laugh. I've survived being shot at point-blank range, and it's a bloody dodgy ticker that takes me out of the game."

Tucker leaned back in his chair.

"What about Rhodes?" he asked. "You're the same age, I believe?"

"Oh, don't worry - she's staying on," Mac replied. "You'd need a string of wild horses to pull her away from this place. Just ask my boy... I brought him up so she could stay here. I think a life of peace and quiet would drive her completely crazy. She's fit as a fiddle, in any case."

"All the same," Tucker said, "it'll be hard to break up such a great team. Professionally, at least."

Mac nodded in agreement - but deep down, he wasn't sure how accurate that statement was anymore. Officially, he and Roxy had been a couple for about fifteen years now, but recently, her behaviour towards him had changed. She seemed to grow nervous whenever he entered the room - although he'd never given her any reason to worry or to fear him. She seemed jumpy - on edge. There were hushed, whispered conversations between her and Marcel... along with strange phone calls at all hours of the day, ones he was never permitted to overhear. 

Whatever was on Roxy's mind, it was clearly something that Mac wasn't meant to be a part of. 

And that terrified him.

Mac was snapped back out his worrying thoughts by the sound of Tucker clearing his throat.

"Oh - sorry, sir," he said. "Just... things on my mind."

Tucker rose from his seat, and approached Mac.

"Well... it's a shame to lose you, Miskin," he told him, "but I respect your decision. This will be your last week with us. You've given years of your life to this department, and to the safety of this city... and we thank you. You'll be greatly missed, I know."

He reached out his hand. Mac grasped it, and shook it warmly.

"Goodbye... Tucker."

"Farewell... Mac."

As Mac stepped through his front door, he heard the sound of Roxy talking to someone in the kitchen. However, it seemed to be a very one-sided conversation... and Marcel, he knew, was out at his city studio.

"Look, Johnny," Mac heard Roxy say. "I'm trusting you here. You promised me that this would all be sorted out."

Mac was on edge the moment he heard these words. Nervously, he moved towards the kitchen, and peered carefully around the doorway, doing his best to stay out of sight. Out of the corner of one eye, he watched Roxy pacing up and down the tile floor, mobile phone to her ear.

"No," Roxy continued. "I told you... he doesn't know anything, and I'm not telling him. He'll find out when he needs to, understand?"

Mac wasn't sure if this was a side effect of his medicine, but from his hiding place in the other room, he was certain he had just felt his heart stop.

"Listen," Roxy added, "You know how much this means to me. I need to know that you're ready. I'm not a gambling woman, and I don't like screw-ups. Either we do this right, or we don't do it at all. You got it?"

Mac's hand flew to his mouth, stifling a shocked gasp.

"Good," Roxy told her unknown caller. "Look, I've gotta go - he'll be back soon. I'll phone you tomorrow. Take care of yourself."

As Roxy hung up and headed upstairs, Mac felt himself crumpling up into a pile on the living room floor - his heart ripped in half, his soul destroyed. Once again, the actions of Roxy Rhodes had caused floods of tears to flow down his cheeks. Only this would be the last time.

After all, it was obvious to him. 

Despite everything they'd been through together over so many years... despite the strong bond of both friendship and love he'd believed they'd shared... Roxy Rhodes was going to leave him.

And he didn't know how the hell he was going to live without her.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Miskin Legacy - Generation Five, Part Eight: Maternal Instincts

As time went on, Roxy continued to spend most of her time at the police station, and paid little notice to her son. On Marcel's first morning of school, it was Mac who fussed over him and took the numerous photographs: Roxy merely said a hasty goodbye as she ran out for the carpool. 

Unfortunately, as opposed to living in blissful ignorance, Marcel was all too aware of his mother's absence in his life. As a means of comforting himself, he spent his evenings and weekends in a creative trance - drawing, painting, and crafting various pieces of artwork. 

Mac, who was pleased as punch with his son's obvious artistic talents, hung these masterpieces up in the nursery - believing that Roxy might eventually notice them and comment on them. She never did. Still, Marcel never gave up hope, and he continued to colour and sketch away... until, within a few weeks, every wall of the nursery was covered with his creations.

Mac did his best to keep Marcel happy - chatting with him, playing with him, and devoting almost every waking moment to his well-being - but in the end, even his best efforts were no substitute for a mother's affections.

With her husband now gone, Zara's loving heart took a firm focus on her grandson... and it was clear to her how much Roxy's actions - or rather, the lack of them - were hurting Marcel's feelings. She knew that her own time on Earth was running out, and she was determined to get this problem sorted before her appointment with the Reaper.

Thus, she concocted a plan.

One evening, Zara and Mac sat together in the living room - both watching the front door, their demeanour cool and determined. After a few minutes' wait, it swung open widely as Roxy strode in following another day at work.

"Hey, everyone! I'm home!"

Suddenly, she spotted the stone-faced mother and son glaring at her from their seats on the sofa. Bemused, she stopped dead in her tracks. 

"What's up with you?" she asked.

"Sit down, Roxanne," Zara told her bluntly. "We need to talk."

"''Roxanne', huh?" Roxy chuckled. "Ooh! Must be something serious!"

"She said 'sit down'," Mac added in a cold tone.

Roxy stopped laughing at once. Immediately, she took a seat opposite Zara and Mac.

"OK," she muttered, "so you're not playing around. What's going on, then?"

"It's Marcel," Mac told her. "Look - when we had him, we said nothing was going to change between us. That we would stay equals."

"Yes. And?"

"Well, how the hell are we equals now?" Mac snapped back. "I've all but given up my career to take care of him! I've practically raised him single-handed! Once you gave birth to him, that was it as far as you were concerned!"

"I wanted a career. You've always known that, Mac."

"Maybe so - but still! Bringing Marcel into the world was your idea in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I thank God that he's here everyday, but you shouldn't have suggested such a thing if you weren't ready for the responsibility!"

"You wanted a child! Besides, I work my butt off to bring in money for this family! If that's not responsibility, then what is?"

Mac groaned.

"Well, anyway, this isn't about me," he said, hastily changing the subject. "This is about him. You need to start paying attention to Marcel, Roxy. He's heartbroken. He simply doesn't understand why you don't love him."

"I do love him!"

"Then why don't you show him that love once a while?" Zara chimed in. "Never in my life have I seen a mother who ignored her own child so much. You barely even acknowledge he's alive! Why? There must be a reason!"

"You... you just wouldn't understand..."

"Here we go again!" Mac uttered. "That's all you ever say! How the hell will we ever understand if you don't talk to us about it?!"

Roxy had had enough. Scowling, he pointed at Mac in an accusative manner, and yelled her emotional response.

"I am sick of losing everyone I've ever loved!" she cried. "My mother and father doted on me when I was little. Look what happened to them. My aunt and uncle took me in. But I can't stop them ageing. Their time will come soon. You and I became best friends. I nearly lost you to a bloody bullet."

Her shoulders began to shake as she spoke. Tears formed in her eyes, which she hastily blinked back.

"Everyone I get close to ends up getting hurt. It's a curse. A vile, hideous curse. Marcel's doing fine because I'm not involved in his life. He's safe. I want him to stay that way. Yes, he may not understand. Yes, he may hate me when he's older. But as much as I love him, and as hard as it is for me to ignore him... I know I'm doing the right thing. I'm not keeping my distance because I don't love him... I'm doing it because I do."

Slowly, she broke down - her voice cracking with sobs as she clenched her hands into tight fists in her lap.

"And it's so goddamn hard!"

Mac immediately dropped his stone-cold act. Rushing forward, he knelt at the feet of the weeping Roxy, embracing her as tightly as he could.

"Oh, darling... why didn't you tell me?"

Roxy couldn't answer.

"Our son will always be safe," Mac told her, stroking her hair comfortingly. "Safe and happy. I promise you that, Roxy. But one thing I know for sure is that he'll be a lot happier with you in his life."

"But... but..." Roxy stammered.

"Nothing bad will happen to him," Mac added. "I swear it. Yes, fate has done some very cruel things to you... but none of it was your fault. You mustn't blame yourself for any of it, and there was nothing you could have done to change things. Right here, right now - your son needs you. And it's clear to me now that you need him, too."

Wiping away her tears with her jacket sleeve, Roxy looked up at Mac, and nodded.

Smiling, Mac took her hand.

"Come on," he said. "Let's go and have a chat with him."

As Roxy hovered in the open nursery doorway, she was memorised by the sight of several dozen drawings all over the orange-papered walls.

"Marcel drew all those?" she whispered to Mac.

"Yes. He's a very talented little boy."

At that very moment, Marcel was seated at his little art table, slaving away and shaking glitter all over his newest project. Anxiously, Roxy cleared her throat, and stepped into the nursery. Hearing the noise, Marcel put down his stationery, and turned to see what was happening.

"Oh," he said, surprised. "Hi, Mama Roxy. What's up?"

Roxy had no idea how to begin.

"I.. I was just looking at all of your lovely artwork," she told him. "It's... it's very pretty."

"Really?" Marcel replied excitedly. "You really like it?"

"Of course I do. It's great."

Marcel grinned from ear to ear. Sighing, Roxy slowly got to her knees on the nursery floor, allowing her to speak with Marcel on an equal level.

"Look, Marcel," she whispered, "I know I haven't always spent as much time with you as  should have. I know you probably think that I don't care about you very much."

Marcel hung his head sadly, remembering those feelings of rejection.

"Well, I want you to know that's not true," Roxy told him. "I love you, Marcel. Ever so much. It's just that, sometimes... well, I struggle to show it. But from now on, I'm going to do my best. I promise to be there for you whenever you need me."

She outstrecthed her arms slightly.

"Will you forgive me?" she asked. "For hurting your feelings?"

Marcel instantly launched himself into his mother's arms. As they held each other tightly for the first time, both mother and son thought their hearts would burst with happiness.

Mac shed a tear as he watched from the doorway. Zara, meanwhile, nodded contently, thrilled with what had happened. Now, she could leave this world in peace.

She did so three weeks later.

Her death was sudden, but swift and peaceful. She had gone out for a walk in the garden, as she often did in the evenings, and had stopped to pick an apple from Mordecai's old tree. After taking one bite, Zara felt overcome by a strange coolness, and swooning, she tumbled onto the dewy grass beneath her... the apple rolling away across the lawn. 

When Mac discovered her there some moments later, his scream was heard by both his friend and his son - and all three of them were suddenly plunged into overwhelming grief.

The inquest would later reveal that the apple had in no way contributed to Zara's death. She'd simply suffered a major stroke at the exact same moment. Still, for a woman with such a colourful history and character, it seemed rather fitting that she had died in the manner of a fairytale princess. 

Her final resting place was not a glass coffin... but at the side of her dearest Milo - her intergalactic Prince Charming - in the Miskin family graveyard. The tale of their unique, sparkling love had finally come to an end... and Mac could only hope that, somewhere, they were playing out their own Happily Ever After.

After all, that was something he knew he and Roxy would never have.

Still, at the very least, Roxy was finally spending time with their son... and she was as good a friend to Mac as she had ever been. Following Zara's funeral, Mac spent the days moping around the house, unsure of what to do with himself. When Roxy saw his sadness, she asked him if there was anything she could do to help him.

"Not really," Mac told her. "I just need to... you know... get used to being alone."

"You're not alone," Roxy told him. "Marcel's here with you. And I am, too. Don't you worry... I'm not going anywhere."

Grinning, she took hold of his hands.

"After all... we belong together."

Leaning forward, she graced his cheek with a gentle kiss.