Paul breaking down in front of prospective client Peter Llewelyn and sobbing at Helen that Gail's not coming back.
Todd is sitting at the kitchen table, doing his homework, but he crosses something out in apparent frustration and slams his pen down. Nick comes in through the back door and asks cheerily how tricks are, but Todd snaps at him:
TODD: Don't ask.
Nick shrugs that if it's that bad, he doesn't want to hear about it anyway. He goes on that he's got no homework and no hassles, so he, Sharon and Matt are hitting the town tonight. He asks Todd if he wants to come, but Todd mutters that he couldn't even if he wanted to, as he's been grounded for a week. Nick asks him in surprise what he did. Todd just glares at him and retorts that he said he doesn't want to talk about it. Nick presses him and Todd gives in. He explains bitterly:
TODD: It was Melissa's birthday today, right, so we took off just before lunch so we could have a bit of time to ourselves. Melissa's brother followed us home, picked a fight with me and when Hilary caught us fighting, she dobbed us in to Uncle Jim.
NICK: And you copped it, right?
TODD: Yeah. Plus the fact that I called her a silly, shrivelled-up old bag this morning didn't help!
Nick smiles that Todd hit it on the head there! He then tells Todd that he's got learn not to cross Hilary: you get more trouble back than it's worth. Todd sighs sadly that he got Melissa a present, but he won't be able to give it to her now. Nick asks what he got her. Todd replies that it's a music box. Nick suggests to Todd that he pass the music box on to one of Melissa's friends to give to her, but Todd murmurs that it wouldn't be the same: he wants to give it to her today, when it counts. Nick says he's afraid he can't help Todd there - and Jim will hit the roof if Todd doesn't stay put. Todd mutters:
TODD: Tell me something I *don't* know.
Office of the Robinson Corporation
Paul is sitting in his desk chair, staring into space. Helen comes in and hands him a mug of tea. He thanks her as he murmurs that he really blew it this time: there's no chance of Lassiter's hosting that travel agents' convention now. Hilary appears in the doorway to the office, but Helen spots her and closes the door in her face! Hilary looks most put-out! Helen then tells Paul:
HELEN: I spoke to Peter afterwards and explained the situation. I'm sure he understands the pressure you're under.
Paul sighs that it's still not very professional of him. Helen tells him that he needs to get away for a while, but Paul retorts that he can't afford to - not with Jane away; and besides, once word gets around that he's cracking up, business will *really* be on the skids. Helen says she thinks he's jumping the gun, but Paul mutters that he's just stating facts.
Nick joins Sharon and Matt in the lounge room and asks them if they've decided what they're doing. Matt says he wants to check out the Marx Brothers festival. Sharon, however, says she feels like a quiet night at home. She adds that Nick and Matt can still go out. Nick exclaims that it won't be any fun without her. Matt looks shocked and says:
MATT: Nick, are you saying I'm no fun?
NICK: Well, not in the back row of the movies!
Matt grins and tries to cajole Sharon into coming out with them. Nick insists that she'll have a good time. Sharon, however, insists that she really doesn't feel like it.
Todd is sitting at the desk in the lounge room, the 'phone to his ear. It's ringing and is picked up by Melissa. When she hears who's calling, she smiles that she's so glad he 'phoned. Todd tells her that he was half expecting her mother to answer and slam the 'phone down in his face. Melissa, however, explains that her mother has gone out with Sean. She asks Todd how he feels and he sighs that he's been grounded for a week. Melissa tells him that her mum was furious, but she's waiting for her dad to get home before she gets punished. Todd murmurs:
TODD: Some birthday present, huh?
MELISSA (shrugs): I don't care - Sean was asking for it. I just wish I could see you.
TODD: Yeah, I wanna see you too - I didn't even get to give you my birthday present.
MELISSA (excitedly): What is it?!
TODD: I'm not telling- it's a surprise!
MELISSA: Tell me, Todd! You can't give it to me anyway.
TODD: I don't know about *that*. What are you doing tonight?
MELISSA: Mum's got some birthday dinner planned - and I'm sure I'll be sent to bed straight after.
Melissa suddenly hears the front door slam and she tells Todd that her mum's home; she's got to go. With that, she hangs up the 'phone. Todd does likewise and then sits back in the desk chair, looking thoughtful.
Nick is sitting in the lounge room when Matt walks in with Sharon, offering to pay for her ticket and the cab. Sharon, however, just repeats that she still doesn't feel like going out. Nick declares that *he* thinks Sharon has a bad case of bridesmaid's blues. Matt nods that he might have something there. Sharon comments blankly that she doesn't understand. Nick tells her:
NICK: Come on, Sharon: you were all geared up to be the bridesmaid at Bronwyn's wedding and boom! it all falls through. She takes off with Henry to be with your dad in Narrabri. You're left feeling the odd one out.
Sharon snaps that that's got nothing to do with it. Matt remarks that she admits that there's something bothering her, then? Sharon retorts that she doesn't - and even if there was, she probably wouldn't talk about it with two insensitive people like *them*! Nick insists that she can tell them *anything*. Matt just tells Nick that he thinks he should give Sharon what every bridesmaid wants. With that, Nick gets down on one knee and grins:
NICK: Look, I know this is sudden, Sharon, but marry me. Marry me, my darling - I want you.
Sharon, however, snaps:
SHARON: Grow up, Nick, I'm not in the mood for your stupid games.
She goes to storm out. Nick stops her and says:
NICK: I want you to be my wife - or at least, the mother of my children!
Matt bursts out laughing! Sharon, however, bursts into tears and cries at Nick that she told him to shut up. With that, she marches out. Nick looks at Matt and asks in surprise what he did.
Office/Reception Area at the Robinson Corporation
Helen and Paul are sitting in the office, talking, and Helen suggests they pack things in for the day. Paul tells her that he can't, as he's still got to read through the file on his desk. Helen, however, comments that she's been watching him and he hasn't turned a page in half an hour. Paul sighs:
PAUL: That obvious, eh?
HELEN: 'Fraid so.
Paul gives in and tells Helen to give him a few minutes. Helen heads out to the reception area and tells Hilary that she and Paul have decided to call it a day. Hilary just says witheringly:
HILARY: Oh... so we've decided to fraternise with the hired help, have we?
HELEN (blankly): I haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about!
HILARY (coolly): I saw the way you shut that door on me before, Helen. There's no need for me to remind you that I am a shareholder in this business, and therefore privy to any discussions which take place.
HELEN: Hilary, it was a personal matter.
HILARY: Oh. Well, as Paul's cousin, I may have been able to offer some personal advice.
Helen sighs at Hilary that they do appreciate her, but Paul's had it up to his neck with advice; all he really needs is to get used to the way things are. Hilary asks what happens to the hotel while he adjusts, as the business is bound to suffer. Helen tells her:
HELEN: You and I will just have to see that it runs smoothly - and quite frankly, that includes keeping the peace around here whenever possible.
With that, Helen asks Hilary to lock up when she leaves. Hilary just rolls her eyes and mutters:
HILARY: Very well.
Matt and Nick are in the lounge room and Nick comments to Matt that maybe he should go and apologise to Sharon. Matt, however, points out that when Sharon goes into her room and shuts the door, it means 'keep out'. Nick sighs that she's obviously got something on her mind - and if it *is* because of all the drama over Bronwyn and Henry, then after all that build-up she might be feeling kind of flat; maybe she feels like she's been left out of the family, what with Bronwyn going home for a while. Matt exclaims that that's silly. Nick, however, says he doesn't know - but whatever it is, he just made it worse. Matt tells him that they have to make sure they can cheer Sharon up when she finally emerges. Nick asks him if he has any ideas. Matt, looking thoughtful, says he *might* just have an idea. Nick asks what it is.
MATT: Well... if she's not going to come out with *us*, then we have to do the next best thing, right? But we've got to organise a couple of things...
Driveway of No. 22
Paul climbs out of Helen's car and thanks her for the lift. Helen climbs out as well and asks him why he doesn't come over and have some dinner, as Beverly and Jim are going out and Todd will be going to bed early; she'll be lonely on her own. Paul, however, says he thinks he'll pass, as he's got the reading to catch up on, and he wouldn't mind some time alone. Helen smiles and tells him to come over later if he feels like it. Paul realises:
PAUL: You're worried about me, aren't you.
HELEN: What are grandmothers *for*?!
PAUL: Look, I'll be OK. I'll drop by later just to see if you're OK on your own, OK?
Helen smiles that she'll look forward to it.
Todd is sitting on the couch in the lounge room, looking glum, when Helen comes in through the front door. He follows her into the kitchen and asks if she heard what happened today. Helen nods that Jim 'phoned her: she's very sorry about it. Todd asks:
TODD: Do you think it's fair?
HELEN: I can't think what else he could have *done*. I mean, you know that fighting isn't the answer - it only *adds* to the problem, if anything.
TODD: Yeah, but I couldn't *help* it; you have to believe me.
HELEN (tersely): Todd, there is nothing I can do. You've been grounded for a week; you'll just have to wait it out.
Todd exclaims that it's Melissa's birthday today and he can't even give her her present. He adds that he was speaking to her on the 'phone before: she really wants to see him and it would only be for a few minutes... Helen, however, retorts that she can't give him permission to go over there. She then adds:
HELEN: Do you think you're the *only* one with problems? Spare a thought for Paul and count your blessings. *Your* situation will blow over.
TODD (grumpily): How do you know?
HELEN (tersely): Trust me. Just put Melissa out of your mind for the time being - you'll save yourself a lot of trouble.
Sharon walks into the lounge room of No. 30. She doesn't notice Matt and Nick creeping up behind her from the hallway, Matt dressed as Groucho Marx and Nick as Harpo Marx! Matt taps Sharon on the shoulder and says:
MATT: I'm Matto and this is Nicko! We figured, seeing as you wouldn't come to us, we'd come to you!
SHARON (sighs): Sorry, guys, this isn't going to work.
MATTO: Work? Work? We never work - it's against our relaxation ethic!
Nick squeezes a hooter! Matto then says:
MATTO: I have a complaint. Who was it who crept into my room at three o'clock this morning?
SHARON: I don't know. Who was it?
MATTO: No one. That's my complaint!
Sharon smiles and asks the guys where they got their outfits. Matto tells her that that would be telling - and they never tell on the neighbours! Sharon grins that the two of them are idiots! Matt, glancing at Nick, tells Sharon that they weren't sent there to be idiots...:
MATTO: ...we were sent here to give you the therapy. *Tickle* therapy!
With that, Matt and Nick both grab Sharon and start tickling her! Sharon is in fits of laughter as Hilary arrives home and demands:
HILARY: What on earth is going on?
A short time later, Nick, Sharon and Matt are sitting on the couch as Hilary stands in front of them and lectures that theirs is exactly the sort of behaviour she'd expect from *five-year-olds*. Matt sighs that they weren't doing anything wrong. Hilary, however, mutters that something easily could have been broken - and it looked quite improper. She goes to sit down in the armchair - but lands on the hooter Nick was using, which lets out a honk! Everyone except Hilary bursts out laughing! Hilary snaps:
HILARY: Now that is quite enough. I do wish the three of you would invest as much energy in your homework as you do on these silly pranks.
SHARON (smiles): We don't *have* any homework tonight, Hilary!
Nick adds that they only did this to cheer Sharon up. Hilary asks why Sharon should need cheering up. She asks the girl if there's something wrong. Sharon shrugs:
SHARON: No. Nothing. Nothing at all.
She doesn't look as if she's being honest, though. Hilary mutters that she'll go and make a start on dinner. With that, she leaves the teens to it. When she's gone, Nick looks at Sharon, who's looking glum again, and comments that she's not going to get all funny on them again, is she? Matt presses Sharon to come out with him and Nick. Sharon just murmurs:
SHARON: Sorry, guys.
Paul is sitting with Helen in the kitchen. He thanks her for inviting him over, adding that he was starting to go crazy staring at the walls at his place. Helen tells him that he should have come earlier, as Todd hasn't been much company: she feels sorry for him, actually, as she's sure he believes his life's coming to an end; it's just so hard to know where to draw the line. She goes on that Jim and Beverly came home and went straight to bed, refusing to enter into any discussion - so, needless to say, they're not very popular at the moment. Paul says suddenly:
PAUL: Tanya Reynolds.
HELEN (smiles): Now *that's* a name I haven't heard for a long time! Who was she again?
PAUL: Oh gran! Only one of the most important women in my life!
HELEN (recalls): Ah yes - one of your first girlfriends; *and* a bad egg! She encouraged you to skip school so you could spend the day smooching at Lassiter's lake!
PAUL (fondly): Mmm!
HELEN: I remember the day we told you to stop seeing her: you swore you'd never speak to any of us again.
PAUL: Yeah - and then the day I broke up with her, I caught her snogging with Sam Kaufman!
Paul's face drops and he says more seriously:
PAUL: You knew exactly how to handle that, gran - so how do I handle *this* one?
Helen doesn't respond. Paul murmurs that Gail's not coming back - the 'phone call to Des made him realise that; he's tried burying himself in paperwork to make it easier, but it's not working: everywhere he looks he's reminded of Gail and what's happened; he feels like he's losing his grip. Helen suggests gently:
HELEN: Darling, why don't you go off somewhere where there *aren't* any memories? You might think that seeing the office and the house every day proves how strong you are; that you constantly need to prove it to yourself to get through it - but it doesn't work like that: it only makes it harder.
Paul insists that he can't spare the time; there's too much work to do. Helen tells him that she's not saying he should go tomorrow - but just bear it in mind, and if things get too much just walk away: she and Hilary will keep things going. Paul sighs:
PAUL: Yeah, I suppose I'm not much good around the office these days. I cannot believe what happened at that meeting with Peter Llewelyn today. I really thought I was hanging onto things until then.
Sharon is sobbing as she sits on the lounge room floor, looking at a black-and-white photo of a couple on their wedding day. Hilary comes in and asks Sharon sharply what she's doing up so late. Sharon murmurs that she couldn't sleep. Hilary asks her if there's something on her mind, but Sharon retorts that she'd really rather not talk about it. Hilary, realising that Sharon is upset, says more softly:
HILARY: Sharon, I know we have our differences, but I don't want you to think you can't talk to me if something's troubling you.
SHARON (sniffs): I'm fine - really.
HILARY: *I* think you're *fibbing*.
Sharon pauses. She then cries:
SHARON: I miss my mother. She died six years ago today. Maybe if she'd been here, Bronny would've had her wedding. I wanted to talk about her to dad, but he doesn't like remembering her. I couldn't mention her to Bronny - she's upset enough as it is - but I miss her so much...
Tears stream down Sharon's face as she says:
SHARON: I want my mother back...
Hilary crouches down to Sharon's level and says softly:
HILARY: Sharon... I know I could never replace your mother - but I *am here*, and I want you to think you can talk about anything at any time, just as you have now.
SHARON (sniffs): You haven't exactly been the easiest person to talk to in the past, Hilary.
Hilary looks down at the floor before then turning to Sharon again and saying:
HILARY: I'm going to tell you something I thought I'd never mention again. At school, my nickname was 'Cactus' - because I was tall for my age, and thin, and prickly. I hated it, and I used to cry about it at home.
Hilary puts her arm around Sharon as she goes on:
HILARY: My mother used to put her arm around me, just like this, and say, "Don't worry, dear. When you get close to a cactus, you find out it's soft in the middle."
Tears start to well-up in Hilary's eyes as she tells Sharon:
HILARY: I miss *my* mother, too.
Sharon leans her head on Hilary's shoulder, gratefully.
Melissa is lying in bed when she hears a quiet knock on her bedroom window and Todd calling her name. She gets up, pulls back the curtains and opens the window. She asks Todd in surprise what he's doing there, and he points out that he *said* he'd give her her birthday present and he meant it. He hands over a gift and Melissa tells him to come inside. Todd climbs into the room and he and Melissa go and sit on Melissa's bed. Melissa unwraps the music box and smiles that she loves it. Todd opens it and it starts playing its tinkly tune. Melissa beams that it's beautiful. The two of them kiss and Todd then says he'd better be going. Melissa pleads:
MELISSA: Don't go yet.
TODD: I have to.
MELISSA: Please? I love my present, Todd, but not half as much as I love *you*.
TODD: I love you too.
The two of them kiss again - but are interrupted suddenly by the bedroom door opening. They both look round in horror...